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Sunday, October 23, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Hope this post finds you all content and cozy!   It's starting to get pretty out there.
Just some pictures of our little corner of the world.  The Fall foliage hasn't reached its peak yet. How can anyone not love Autumn?


Soups and stews are synonymous with cooler weather.    There's nothing as cozy as a nice bowl of soup.  As many of you that read this blog and particularly the comments may have surmised, I hate to cook.  That is why I love soup; make one big pot and you're good for three days.  Plus it's thrifty and depending upon what you make it with, low in calories and healthy.  As my pastor  told me years ago when we were going through a rough financial patch, "you can always add more water to the soup".  What else can you make that can feed a dozen people on less than a pound of meat and fill them up? 

Some of the thriftiest cuts of meat can be used to flavor your soup; soup bones, ham hocks, bacon ends and pieces,  chicken legs and thighs (29 cents a pound this week) and of course, leftovers.  When Ran and I were first married, we had a grocery budget of $17.50 a week.  One of our thriftiest meals was a simple soup made with the smoky sausage links that you find near the hot dogs at the grocery store.  One small package  was used  for two  batches of soup and we always kept out two to have with eggs.  I think they cost under one dollar back then.  You really don't need a lot of meat to flavor your soup.  A little goes a long way.  Many times I make the soup completely  meatless and just use those smoked peppers and salts to give them a nice smoky flavor.  As a matter of fact, I just made a meatless  soup this week with vegetables from our root cellar and pantry.   One of my "secret" ingredients to make flavorful vegetable soup is Margaret Holmes seasoned lima beans which makes a quick soup.  Just saute up some onions, celery and garlic, add some potatoes,corn and carrots and maybe  a can of tomatoes and a can of these beans and of course water.  That's it.  I don't even add any more salt and pepper. 

I always have celery, onions, garlic and potatoes in my pantry.  They are staples for practically everything I make.  And they are the usually the cheapest things in the produce aisle.  Here's a list of items for a good soup pantry:

cans of tomatoes (fire-roasted are especially nice)
those jars of instant bouillon  (preferably low sodium) in various flavors. Tomato bouillon gives a richness to both chicken and beef soups. They just add flavor to a flat tasting soup.
Cans of broth
Dry beans
Smoked salt and pepper


Bone broth has become quite trendy.  Of course, homemade broth is always better than store bought and it certainly is easy enough to do.  To make bone broth you simply roast meat bones in the oven for several hours.  Once the bones have roasted and gotten good and brown and caramelized, scrape the bones into a large pot.  Add some hot water to the roasting pan and  deglaze it.  Put this water into the pot with the bones, along with a carrot, onion and a stalk of celery. And more water, of course. Also add a tablespoon of vinegar as this leaches the calcium out of the bones.  Add any herbs or seasonings you may like. Bring to a boil then simmer until a nice rich broth develops.  Strain and cull any meat from the bones and add to the broth. 


Noodles really make a filling soup. Homemade ones cost a fraction of  the cheapest ones you can find in the stores and they are easy to make.  Here's how:

In a bowl  beat together:

1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. milk

Stir into egg mixture:

1 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

to form a dough.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface to desired thickness.

Cut into strips and hang on a dowel suspended between to cans or jars  until they are dry or use fresh.
It really isn't rocket science!


We planted garlic this week.

Garlic is one of those self-propitiating  crops. Once you have planted it, you simply save a few bulbs for the following year, separate them into cloves and plant them in the fall.  We always lay down a liberal amount of wood ashes in our rows before planting.  Garlic  and onions love wood ashes.

We also harvested our bird house gourds and tied them to the beams in our basement to dry. 
Once the begin to dry you have to monitor them for mold.  Every once in a while, washing them down with a solution of bleach and water.  The must have a very dry place to cure and can't be exposed to frost.  Last year we put a basket of them out for sale at our garage sale and the all sold.  Only later did I realize that I hadn't saved any for myself! 


I finished a pair of  Apothecary Cuffs , a free pattern that can be found here using some yarn from my stash.  I knitted them on smaller needles than the pattern called for  because I thought the were too big to be practical.
It's a quick weekend knit and has an interesting way to attach the cabled border to the cuff.  Enough of a challenge to make them interesting.  The yarn has an interesting story behind it.  Here's an excerpt from Pinetree Garden Seeds that explains it:

We continue to offer Peace Fleece worsted weight wool yarn in a variety of colors. Peace Fleece, located in Maine, is not your typical yarn company. In 1985, a local sheep farmer had a mission to foster peace between the Soviet Union and the American people.  The family began spinning yarn with a combination of the two countries’ wool to cultivate cultural understanding, fair trade, and provide a truly beautiful and unique yarn.  The owner continues to search for farmers who are willing to set aside historic enmities in exchange for new opportunities. 

Kind of neat, huh?  I have a lot of Russian readers, as a matter of fact, on any given day, I'll have more Russian readers than Americans.  I just want you all to know that in spite of what  our leaders our saying, I have no dispute with you wonderful people and I am sure you feel likewise.  Seems that our leaders are leading us down a path and we are at a lost for what to do.  Now more than ever, I hope everyone is praying for peace.   Amen!


Planted garlic from our own bulbs.

Made a kimono from a too-large thrifted skirt I had. (have to wait until I can get to the big city to find the trim for it)

Made a big pot of soup and ate from it for three days. Cost was under a dollar for the entire pot.

Harvested the birdhouse gourds.

Began knitting some Christmas gifts.

Ran made some cutting boards for gifts from some left over maple he had from the countertop project.

Watched The Good Fairy on YouTube for free. One of my favorite movies.  I love Margaret Sullavan.

Listened to some old time radio programs on YouTube.

Heated  the house with wood.  No furnace usage yet!

Made homemade noodles  and dried them for the soup pantry.

So that's it for another week at the old Zempel boarding house!  I hope you all have a beautiful week. I leave you with peace.  And hugs!


Sunday, October 16, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Can you believe that we have already reached the mid point of October?  Tempus Fugit!  The Harvest Moon was so hauntingly beautiful last night, with it's streaks of clouds.  It looked just like a vintage Halloween postcard and it was so close to the Earth that I felt I could walk across the fields and reach out and touch it.  It gave me a cozy feeling just to see it.

Which leads me to what I want to say today, that fine living has nothing to do with your bank balance, life is what you make it.  The other day I noticed a twig of a money plant that had blown into my yard, now I'm sure many would just view it as just another thing that needed to be raked up, but to me it made a beautiful centerpiece for the dining room table.
I think the silver of the pods complimented the pewter of the jug wonderfully.  To me it is lovelier than a bouquet of those dyed carnations that you find in the stores.  And you certainly can't argue with the price!  Many have accused me of having too many silly romantic notions, but I'd rather live life with my head in the clouds than feeling angry and deprived all the time.   You may be having a very frugal meal of waste not, want not soup but  it can be a wonderful dining experience if you serve it by candlelight and in pretty thrifted bowls and maybe some nice music playing in the background.   Instead of paper napkins or worse yet, paper towels, pretty napkins can be made from cast off cotton clothing.  Plus think of all the money you'll save with reusable napkins. As  matter of fact, when the thrift stores have their semi-annual clearance sales when everything is 95% off (around 17 cents an item) I look for pretty patterned shirts just to have for little projects such as this and to make patchwork pieces with.  Woolen pieces can be made into pretty rugs and mats and let's not forget warm woolen quilts.  I have no patience for people that are always whining about how unpleasant life is just because they are poor.  All the better excuse to use your creativity.  How dull life would be if you had everything handed to you on a silver platter!

And whilst I'm on the subject, it seems a lot of people these days just have no sense of self-respect or dignity. Almost daily I spot someone out in public in their pajamas.  When did that happen? It may seem shallow, but I'm sure they'd feel better about themselves and the world, if they would take the time to comb their hair and put on clothes, preferably clean and pressed.  Did you ever notice that most of those people are grumpy?

"The way we dress affects the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act, and the way others react to us."
~Judith Rasband~

   I'm pretty sure that you can buy clothes just as cheaply as pajamas, especially at the thrift stores. . If I had my druthers and could only buy one set of clothes, I'd buy clothes and sleep in them not vice versus. Wouldn't you?  At one point of my life we could only afford very few things and I think I only had about three changes of clothes, but I still managed to get dressed every day in something that was clean and pressed.  It's really not that hard, unless you are homeless.  And I've met some homeless people that are better dressed than some of the people wandering around in their pajamas.

Thoughtful Gifts

The holidays will soon be upon us and so will the mad gift giving spree.  I have a sister who always spends a king's ransom on presents then complains about how in debt she went for the remainder of the year.  If she spends $100 on one person than she has to spend the equal amount on everyone else, lest they think she is showing favoritism.  Even if the person is a baby and doesn't  have a clue of the cost of things.  I've watched her buying just plain junk so that the gift will tally up to the same amount as the others.  It's just plain madness! All the emphasis is on the cash value rather than what a gift should be; a thoughtful gesture given because you wanted to make someone happy.  This week my oldest had a birthday (can't believe my baby is 37!) and while I could have given him a shirt or tie,  instead I gave him something that only I could.  A tin of his favorite childhood cookies with a message that he didn't have to share with anyone unless he wanted to. He got a kick out it, and told his wife "my mom says I don't have to share" (she was very supportive and told him she'd eat the pumpkin donuts instead :))  This may seem like a very miserly gift to some, but I assure you that he is quite affluent and anything that he may have wanted that could be purchased, he would have bought for himself anyway, so why squander money just to say I "bought" something?

I did go the extra mile and used mini Reese's Pieces and those mini peanut butter cups to make the cookies festive, lest you think I'm a complete cheapskate!  Here's the recipe, just in case:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 C. butter
1 C. peanut butter
1C. sugar
1 C. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 C. chocolate chips

Cream together butter and peanut butter.  Beat in sugars.  Add eggs, beat well.
Stir in flour, baking soda and salt until well blended.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
Bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes until they are done.
Hint:  I always slightly underbake my cookies for a softer cookie.


The butcher had turkey breasts on sale this week for $1.19/ lb. so I canned up nine pounds. I can mine by cutting the raw meat into cubes, then taking the carcass and make a broth by adding the carcass, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper to the pot.  I cold pack the raw meat in the broth.  When cold packing meat always start with the water in the canner  just being hot but not boiling or the jars may crack.   Process at 10 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes. I find the broth makes for a much more flavorful  canned good.


Canned 9 pounds of turkey.

Cooked one 4 pound turkey and ate the leftovers the next day, made a pot pie for another day (2 days worth of meals), made a quart of broth from the carcass for soup for several days and culled the meat from the carcass to be frozen for turkey burritos.  Less than $5 for 6 days of meals.

Harvested pears from our trees.

Baked cookies for a birthday gift.

Used a found branch for a money plant for a floral arrangement.

Darned a hole in some black tights.

Bought a Pendleton blanket at a church rummage sale for $1!  I also found 8 skeins of mohair for $3 and a pretty kilim rug type vest made for the Smithsonian Institute for $1.50.

Melted some of the candles that I bought this past Summer at garage sales into pretty teacups that I purchased for as little as a dime at garage sales to make some pretty tuck-in gifts for the holidays. You can purchase pre-made wicks at craft stores.

We stopped at the bulk food store on the way down to see my son and purchased a 2 pound bag of deli ends and pieces.  There were some salami type pieces that I cut into cubes to have with cheese and crackers.  Plus lots of  lunchmeat. $1.49/lb.

Also bought baking powder in bulk.  A lot cheaper than those little cans of it, and aluminum free.

So far we haven't had to use the furnace.  We did have a fire in the morning twice to warm the house.

So that's it for tis week at the old Zempel boarding house.  Always remember that life is what you make it.  Have fun and live well!


Sunday, October 9, 2016


Hello dear friends!  I hope this post finds you all safe and dry.  We went from people asking, "is it hot enough for you?" to "do you think it's going to snow?" all in a twenty-four hour period.  Tonight we will probably  have a fire, it's a very chilly in the house as we speak.  I'm sitting here wrapped up in quilts with tights and sweaters on.  It will take some getting used to the cooler weather that's for sure!  I tried to find something Fallish to photograph but the leaves haven't changed yet, the best I could do is a picture of some of our Japanese maples, which is kind of cheating since they are red all year round.
The leaves on the grape vines are starting to turn a pretty wine-y color. 
Befitting of a vineyard, don't you think? 


A comment made by Dana last week, reminded me of the phrase "passive saving", a term I believe Amy  Dacyczyn of Tightwad Gazette coined.  So much of our savings comes from what we don't do.  I'm always slightly amused by thrift blogs that begin with what they spent money on for the week.  I recently discovered that there's an entire genre of YouTube videos on thrift  and dollar store hauls.  I guess one man's thrift is another man's folly.  When I post about thrifty things I did this week, it is often hard to come up with anything because most of my savings is in what I didn't do, i.e.; I didn't go out to eat, I didn't  spend any money on gas because I didn't go anywhere, I didn't go grocery shopping. etc' ..  In other words the easiest way to save money is not to spend it in the first place.  Not to say that all spending is bad. Hey, no one enjoys a good thrift "haul" more than I, but if it becomes something to just spend money on, where's the savings?  When something is a great buy, it is better to spend the money now, rather than pay more for it later.  This week I intend to buy some turkeys to can because they are on sale for about half the price I usually see them.  And if I ever find a great deal on butter, I intend on stocking up.  Ditto for ham. The clothes I bought at the thrift store last spring on the great end-of -the-season sale for seventeen cents  and put away are nice to where now, rather than paying regular prices.  When it comes to spending I guess you have to ask yourself, "Is it thrift or is it entertainment?", then decide if it is worth it.  I dare say, yours truly included, that shopping can be  a form of amusement.


It was time to for the semi-annual switching of the wardrobe here.  Our house has very limited closet space so, we must pack our clothes away in the attic and bring them out each season (we really only have two, Winter and Summer).  Just seeing everything laid out and taking stock of what I do have is enough to put the brakes on any clothes spending.  Where did I get so many scarves?  Every time  I'm at a garage or estate sale and spot a pretty scarf, I buy it, after all they usually cost less than a dollar, but now I've discovered I have an entire bin of scarves and shawls.  Not to mention all that I've knitted with left over yarn.  I needn't look at another scarf for at least a decade.  I'd encourage anyone that's a recreational shopper to lay out all their clothes on their bed and take a good look.  Get rid of all the things that you never wear, all the unflattering things, all the things that are not "you", the things that don't "go"with anything and the things that are too big or too small.  What you'll probably end up with is a nice basic wardrobe.  Figure out from what remains why you never have anything to wear.  Perhaps it is because you don't have the right shoes to wear with your pants or maybe your missing an entire category of clothes.  I discovered that while I have plenty of skirts and sweaters I have very few tops to put underneath those sweaters.  Make a list of what you need and then don't even venture into the aisles of things you don't need (like the scarves).  Personally, what I discovered is that I tend to wear the same three or four skirts and rarely wear the others.   I discovered that having some tops and bottoms in just basic colors is enough.  To add interest I have a wardrobe of vests and scarves.  The vest can tone down a too wild print or add a little pizzazz to boring basics.  Ditto for scarves and shawl.  But then again, I dress very strangely, so I'm not sure anyone would take my advice. Ha!  I was Bohemian before it was a style trend,  it's  definitely not for wallflowers.  I've noticed that most the ladies in my area wear either jean or yoga pants and tee shirts.  Ah well!  At my age I can be eccentric.  I wish more people had the courage to be who they truly want to be. What a fun colorful world it would be!  Why do we have to take something as silly as fashion so seriously? I think it's one of the reasons Halloween is so popular, it's the one day out of the year when you can truly express yourself in the way you dress.  For me, every day is dress up day.


OK, so enough of that prattle.  Last week I wrote about my Australian Butter squashes, they were delicious, but they're a lot of squash for three people, particularly  when two of those three are not overly fond of squash.  So I had some of the puree left over which I made into these wonderful biscuits;
Squash Biscuits

2 C. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 C. cold butter
1 C. pureed squash
2 tsp. honey
1-4 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the butter until it is a coarse crumb.

Mix honey into squash puree and stir into flour mixture.  Add enough milk to form a soft dough.  Use alight hand and don't overwork the dough, just enough to combine the ingredients well.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a square approximately 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into biscuits. Place close together on a greased baking sheet. (placing biscuits close together forces the biscuits to rise up instead of spread out) Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned.

Ran and Jamie love these biscuits served the "southern" way with some butter and brown sugar while they are hot out of the oven.  They do taste almost like a pumpkin cinnamon roll that way.


We foraged for hops, red clover and red raspberry leaves this week.  The hops are growing up the wall on an abandoned building near by and the clover is in the vacant lot a few houses down.  The raspberry leaves come from our neighbor's humongous  raspberry patch.  We dried all of these plants and ground them, along with lavender and  bay leaves to make a sort of incense that we burn for those times when we can't sleep. Hops  and lavender are also good to make a pillow from.  This is an herbal remedy so please do not write to tell me that you are allergic or have some other health reason why you can't use it.  As with all herbal remedies, do your own research and use with caution.  What works for us, may not work for you.


Carrying on with the same vein of not taking things too seriously, I thought I'd share with you the "lovely" selfies I took for this post.  I was trying to get a picture of my hat that I just finished.

Too high!

Too low and I have cracker crumbs on my lips.

   Then there were a bunch of pictures of the wall, up my nose, the ceiling and the floor.  I guess Kim Kardashian is smarter than she looks.  What a horrible life it must be to earn your keep by taking selfies!   Anyhow, the hat is an easy pattern from The Gentle Art of Knitting that knits up quick.  I used a ball of yarn from my stash. One more down a million more to go! I used size 4 needles instead of size 5 because I have a smaller hat size, but it's not as slouchy as I'd like, so next time I'll use the smaller needles for the rim and switch to the larger ones for the crown.  And I won't take any selfies!


Ran made some spoons from the black walnut our neighbor gave us.
They will be part of our Christmas presents this year.

Made sauerkraut  from our $1.49 cabbage. (about 8 pounds )

We made a big pot of red beans and rice and ate that for three days.  Making a big pot of food and not cooking again for three days is my style.  Did I ever confide in you that I hate to cook?

Our neighbor was cleaning out her garage and gave us a bunch of nails and screws that she no longer used.

Foraged for hops, red raspberry leaves and red clover.

Made the aforementioned herbs into a remedy for sleeplessness.

Attended our local farmers market and visited with a lot of people for entertainment.

Another neighbor gave us a gallon of soon to be expired milk for the strays.  They are becoming a neighborhood project.

Started knitting a Christmas present from my never-ending yarn stash.

Basically just passively saved by spending a quiet week at home.

So that's it for this week at the old Zempel boarding house.  I truly hope you all are well and safe.   There's so  much bad news in the world right now, we must remain confident that this too will pass. I hope you enjoyed my bit of  fluff today.  I thought after last week's seriousness, I would just post something light-hearted. Here's a hug for courage!


Sunday, October 2, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Happy October!   This is my second attempt at writing this post, I was fairly far along  in writing it, when my finger slipped and hit a button and the entire thing disappeared!  Did anyone else's blog list disappear this week?  Oh  my computer woes!  Anywhoo, we're having a beautiful Autumn day today.  It's what I call a Benediction day, you can feel God's face shining down on you and giving you peace. 

And peace is what I need, as I read about what is going on in the world economic-wise.  As of October 1st, the Chinese Yuan is now a reserve currency.  (If you are unaware of the significance of this, you can read my post about the meaning of the petro or reserve currency  which explains it pretty easily.)  Deutsche Bank is teetering.   Just before the elections in November, the Federal Reserve will vote on and probably raise the interest rate and many of you recall that the stock market dropped like a stone the last time they tried to raise it forcing them to rescind the action.  And oh yes, we've been riding the biggest bubble of all, the stock market bubble, for far too long, which will make the tech and housing bubbles look like child's play in comparison.  All of which makes for a rather gloomy forecast for the near future. Just saying, that it doesn't hurt to have some bags of beans and rice stocked in the pantry and some cash hid under the mattress.  You'll have to decide for yourself what to do, but I do know that no one was ever hurt from having some extra food stashed away.  You can always eat if nothing happens.

Recently a comment left by Sharon, reminded me that I have lived through a major recession before.  It's funny how time has dimmed the memories of those worries and fears. In the late 70s and early 80s when Ran and I were just starting out, unemployment was high, inflation was even higher and if  we were going through an oil embargo, that significantly raised the cost of living.  If you were fortunate to have a job, it was likely that your wages were frozen and even if you did get a 3% raise it didn't keep up with inflation.  So basically each year you were getting poorer, unless you had lots of money in the bank, then you could earn 13% interest on your savings account, unfortunately we and many people didn't have any savings.  I remember friends that were lucky enough to have both spouses working, spent their money like it was water, because next year the same money would  buy 20% less. It was a fearful and hedonistic time back then, depending upon which side of the ledger your fortunes fell.

Yet through all the gloom, it was one of the happiest times of my life.  So much of what I learned about thrift stems from that period.  I have to laugh now at some of the measures I took to put food on the table back then.  I remember making a soup with one pork chop.  I boiled the meat to make the broth, added the vegetables, then took the meat out and reused it to make another batch.  Now that is extreme tightwaddery!  And I won't mention the many, many meals of potato pancakes. When times are really hard, there are only three main concerns for your money; food, shelter and transportation to work.  And I dare say, many times food was given up in favor of gasoline and rent.

So what's to be done about hard times?   First give up everything but the essentials.  You know, you really don't need a fancy schmancy phone.  I still manage to communicate with others with my cheap little pay-as-you-go phone and MagicJack.  You can still create happy memories for the children without spending money on vacations and elaborate  parties.  You don't need cable TV.  I live without it, and still manage to know what's going on in the world. When you get down to just the basics, figure out how to cut down on them.  Right now, I'd be scouring the thrift stores and estate sales looking for good woolen blankets, so I could cut my heating bill this winter.  I'd stock up on beans, rice, potatoes and flour.  I'd be searching the internet for recipes for meals made from inexpensive ingredients.  Oh!   And by the way, when you find those recipes, copy them.  Who knows if you'll be able to afford the internet in the future.  Back in the day, I made a simple notebook of recipes from the pantry, culled from sources such as the Grit and Cappers (back when they were good magazines), old church cookbooks, and family  and friends.  I still turn to that booklet when the budget is tight.  Many of the recipes that I write in my Recipes From the Pantry posts are pulled from those pages. Use the internet while you have it, to learn how to do things for yourself, such as; haircutting,  sewing, food storage, foraging etc.  YouTube is a gold mine, there are so many tutorials on it.

But most importantly, strengthen your faith.  To quote Abraham Lincoln, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day."  The best lesson I learned from that time period was, as a Christian, I was to live in this world and not be of it.  I'm sure the other major faiths have a similar outlook.   That is why I can be content and joyful, in adversity.  Things such as a big house, fashion, the latest gadget, a new car, etc. are only ephemeral things,  my treasure is not in this life.  This is going to sound very strange, but from a very young age, I felt that when it comes to thriftiness, God has whispered in my ear and told me to pay attention.  That is why, since my first memories, I have been studying how people lived through hard times.  When older family members spoke of the Great Depression, I listened.  I read novels such as The Grapes of Wrath and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn like textbooks, studying how the characters survived.  I've read and still prefer to read biographies and autobiographies of people that suffered through wars and famines.  And pioneer tales also.  Anything to squeeze one more bit of knowledge out of the pages.  And I can tell you the two main concerns were always food and shelter.  So if the economy takes a tumble that would be my main focus.  Just always remember others have lived through times of trouble and you are just as strong as they are, you'll get through them also.


Even in the hardest of times, there is joy.  Hard times can either bring people closer or pull them apart.  One of the ways to draw family closer is by creating your own traditions. We have a few Autumn traditions here, one is that we get out our Fall decorated mugs.  They are just cheap mugs that we bought at the dollar store, but every year we look forward to the first cool day, to bring out the Fall mugs.   The other tradition is that we hold our own Oktoberfest on the first Sunday in October.  I always serve Alsatian pork roast made form our homemade sauerkraut and dress the table in our finest.  Pork is always cheap this time of year.  I bought a lovely sirloin roast from Aldi's for $1.99 a pound.  Never having bought meat from them before, I was impressed.  It was one of the most tender roasts I've ever had.
The carrots, onions, herbs and potatoes  all come from our garden, so it is also a true harvest  and thrifty meal.


As a side dish we had one of our Australian Butter squashes.  This is a new variety to us this year and we'll definitely be growing them next year.  They are a squash-haters squash,  very mildly flavored.  Except for leeks and some flowers, our vegetable garden is now put to bed for the winter.  While out cleaning and tilling, Ran discovered  a cluster of grapes that I had missed when I was harvesting them for juice.  It was just enough to make three little grape tarts, which we had for dessert.  I wrote the recipe in a reply to Vickie, but thought you might like to have it also:

Concord Grape Pie

Unbaked pie shell
4 1/2 C. Concord grapes
1 C. sugar
1/4 C. flour
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
streusal (recipe follows)

Wash grapes and remove skins by pinching at end opposite stem. Reserve skins

Place pulp in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook a few minutes until pulp is soft. Push pulp through a strainer to remove the seeds.

Combine the pulp and skins. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Pour into the crust. Top with streusel and bake at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the fruit begins to bubble.


combine 1/2 C. oatmeal,, 1/2 C. brown sugar, 1/4 C. flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cut in 1/4 C. butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the pie.


Made vegetarian chili from the last of the tomatoes and peppers before we pulled them.  This made a huge pot, enough for three days of meals.  And it cost us nothing as everything came from the garden.

Ran cut Jamie's hair.

Our friend Mary brought us a bunch of fruit.  Has anyone heard of cotton candy grapes?  They were wonderfully sweet.

A thrift store in the area had a sale on all their clothing for 99 cents.  I found several skirts and a few tops to put away for next Summer, which I really needed.  My Summer clothes are deplorable.

Bought a 10 pound head of cabbage for $1.49.  The price was the same no matter what size of head you picked, so I picked the biggest.  Will make sauerkraut from it this week.

Made up some spaghetti sauce from the last culled tomatoes.  Froze it as there wasn't enough to bother canning.

Saved the seeds from the Australian Butter Squash.

Started knitting a hat from my never ending yarn stash.  I'm hoping it will be enough, otherwise I'm going to have to get creative!

Made grape tarts from the last of  the Concords.

Ran made some spoons from the free black walnut wood our neighbor gave us.

So that's it for another week at the old Zempel boarding house!   I hope that you all have a wonderful golden Fall week!


Sunday, September 25, 2016


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


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


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

Amish Grape Juice

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

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


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

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


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

garam masala
a good curry powder
chili powder

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


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

Apple Oat Muffins

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

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

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

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

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


Harvest grapes, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers and herbs.

Dried peppers and herbs.

Canned grape juice.

Made a spice cupboard from free pallet wood.

Mailed in a rebate from Mennards.

Made a gate from pallet wood.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, September 17, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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


Dried peppers and tomatoes.

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

Harvested and dried bay leaves.

Harvest, tomatoes, peppers, peaches and pears.

Darned a hole in Ran's favorite shorts.

Mailed in a rebate.

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

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


Monday, September 12, 2016


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Harvested peaches, peppers, and tomatoes from the garden.

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

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

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

Dried more peppers.

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