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Sunday, August 28, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, August 22, 2016


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

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

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

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

Canning Crushed Tomatoes

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

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

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

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


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

Dehydrated a half-bushel of peppers.

Sewed a table runner from some fabric scraps.

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, August 14, 2016


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Turkey Joes

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

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


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

Carrot Nut Brownies

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

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


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


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

Sunday, Today

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

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


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


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

Canned more tomatoes.

Bought some antiques at the garages sales.

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

Packed our lunch rather than dining out.

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

Made icebox pickles.

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

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


Sunday, August 7, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Hope you are having a wonderful start to the last month of summer!  When we go outside we can feel a cool breeze coming off the lake.  Autumn is on it's way.  In the garden the russet and golden flowers are making their appearance and the pinks and whites are ebbing away.
In the vegetable garden, we are harvesting things daily.  Lack of rain has caused our onions to finish up early. 
Not our best harvest, we usually get about one hundred pounds, but we are thankful for any this year.  We are picking our beautiful Turkish eggplants, and eating lots of eggplant Parmesan.
BTW, in between tasks, I've been weaving those old-fashioned cotton  loop potholders shown in the picture.  The best potholders ever!  And so easy to make.  They are a great craft to keep the youngsters busy.

We're picking lots of berries too.  They're on the smallish side, but still wonderful.  Time for a mixed berry pie.
A simple recipe for a berry pie is to fit a pie plate with a pie crust and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour and 1/3 C. sugar. Add enough berries to make a nice rounded pie and sprinkle with another tablespoon of flour and 1/3 C. sugar.  Sprinkle with some cinnamon,  if you like, and dot with some butter.  Cover with a top crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until the juice from the berries starts to bubble through the top.  We like to top our pie with a thin icing made from confectioners' sugar and a bit of cream or milk.

Pie isn't the only thing keeping me busy in the kitchen this week.  On Friday and Saturday I had a massive canning session; 24 pints of corn, 32 pints of carrots, 8 quarts of crushed tomatoes and 8 pints of yellow wax beans. 
Whew!  Carrots are a lot of work!  Usually we root cellar them, but because they had to be harvested so early this year, do to the drought killing their tops, we had to can them all.  They simply wouldn't last in this heat.  We bought the corn from a very generous gentleman that gave us 14 ears for the price of a dozen.  Truck farmers are some of the best people in the world!

Speaking of carrots, here's one of our favorite recipes for them:

Honey Glazed Carrots

1 lb. carrots, cut up
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. lemon juice
salt to taste
pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan bring water to boil.  Add carrots and cook until tender. Drain and add back to the pan.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the glaze coats the carrots.

Even if you don't grow your own carrots, they should be on your shopping list.  They are one of the cheapest and readily available vegetables out there.  And so good for you too!  Around here, the carrot farms sell big 10 pound bags of "deer" carrots for cheap.  They are perfectly good carrots, just misshapen or small that can't be sold commercially because consumers must have straight large carrots.  Heaven help us if we eat a crooked one!

Anyway, that's a good start to restocking the pantry.  Just thinking of all those chowders, soups, stews and pot pies I'll be able to make with those jars, makes the effort well worth it.  Happiness is a well-stocked pantry.   One thing that helped this year is that I bought a steam canner.  Heats the house up a lot less than the old-fashioned water bath canner, with it's gallons and gallons of boiling water.  Now though, I sterilize my jars in the oven by heating them to 225 degrees for 10 minutes. 

Less you think I'm all work and no play, on Thursday two local villages were holding village-wide garage sales.  Although, I must confess, I do take my garage sale-ing very seriously, for me it's an opportunity to purchase things to make our home a quiet little respite from all the craziness out there.  I've discovered over the years that the more content I am with my home, the less I desire to be away from it spending money on dining out and entertainment.  I purchased these lace-edged curtains for $3.
They're a nice change from the linen insulated ones that I use in the cold months.  Another thrifty little buy (50 cents) for the sitting room were these pillow shams that I intended to make into a valance for the kitchen, but couldn't bear to cut, I love the prints and the colors are perfect for the sitting room. 
So I sewed them together to make a cover for a chair.   I don't know what possessed me to upholster that chair in white fabric!   A very impractical color for gardeners.
But the best buy of the day was this antique green wire planter that will be used for our bay tree.

These things are so expensive in the antique stores and the reproductions look so shoddy, so I was happy to pay ten dollars for this one. Other items I purchased were 3 vintage white tea towels with tatted edges for 75 cents each, a pair of 1928 jewelry company earrings for a dime, a pretty hanging oil lamp for $5, two antique pieces of door hardware (so beautiful) for $3 each, and an antique hand crochet lace panel for 50 cents.  

Not all my "treasures" came via garage sales this week.  I framed the cover of a catalog that I got  in the mail with a picture frame I had for the bathroom. Thank you Victorian Trading Company!
Makes a very striking picture for free!  So you see, I live the good life on a pauper's budget.  One part imagination, one part inspiration, one part perspiration equals a very good life indeed!


Harvested about 25 pounds of onions.

Harvested blueberries, blackberries, raspberries,carrots, yellow wax beans, eggplants, zucchinis, peppers  and tomatoes.

Canned 32 pints of carrots, 24 pints of corn, 8 quarts of tomatoes and 8 pints of yellow wax beans.

Bought things for the house at garage sales.

Framed a free "print" with  a picture frame I already had.

Ate from the garden, and the pantry.

Made a batch of refrigerator pickles.

So that's another week at the old home place!   Hope you all have the loveliest week!


Sunday, July 31, 2016


Hello dear friends!  You won't believe it!  We finally received some rain!   Can't tell you how exciting it was to see wet pavement when we awoke.  I'm sure the plants must feel the same way.  It's been a very strange year garden-wise; everything was so slow to germinate and now everything is ahead of schedule.  At this rate, we'll have everything harvested by the beginning of September.  Our phlox and stargazer lilies are in bloom at the moment.
They usually don't bloom until mid-August.  And look how big and orange our pumpkins are getting!
We harvested our garlic this week, which never happened this early before.
Ran made these lovely drying trays from pallets and a window screen we found in someone's garbage when we were out for a walk. We're more observant  when out on Sunday night aka garbage day eve. I tell you garbage day is like Christmas to us!  We found so many incredible things over the years, from antique doors,windows and lighting fixtures to furniture.   Early in our marriage we found a wonderful old headboard that we used for many years. We did shabby chic before shabby chic was a style.  People throw out some amazing things, just for the sake of getting something new, I think.  That's why creativity is the best superpower a person can have.  What a pleasure it is to make something from nothing.  Speaking of, one of the projects I'm currently working on, is making a crazy quilt shawl.
I got the idea from an old movie I was watching.  I thought it was a shawl, but it turned out the character actually had a crazy quilt wrapped about her.  No matter.  A shawl sounded like a fun idea.  It's a slow process.  Whenever someone gives me a present tied in a silk ribbon, I add it to the shawl.  Sometimes I find old stained linens at garage sales for a dime and remove the lace and add it.  There's old ties in there, too. I even reused the chintz pocket of an old threadbare jacket.  Whenever I'm bored I get out the many skeins of floss that I've collected and do some fancy stitching on the seams.  When will I finish?  I don't know, just enjoying the process.

One work-in-progress is fine but two drives me to distraction.  So I am diligently working on finishing my knitted shawl.  I had hoped have had it finished this week to show you, but canning got in the way.
I canned sweet pickle relish, jalapeno peppers and my somewhat famous oven roasted spaghetti sauce (judging upon the number of readers of that post).  Also made up a couple bottles of garlic-dill vinegar.  See the bottle on the left-hand side?  That was a tequila bottle that some party-goer had thrown out in our yard last week.   It's a dandy bottle that looks a lot like an old apothecary jar.  I'm a major bottle collector. Whenever someone gifts me with an expensive store-bought jam or condiment, I'm typically more pleased with the jar then the contents.  On the rare occasions when I need to buy something from the store, such as artichoke hearts and maraschino cherries, I  buy the one that comes in the most interesting jar even if it cost a few extra pennies.  I use them for my homemade  herbal concoction and  mixtures.  So how's that for crazy?

In last week's comments, we were brainstorming on ideas to use up zucchini.  I forgot one of our favorites, mock crab cakes.  It's an old recipe that's been around for a while.  If you don't think of them as actual crab cakes and just a pleasant meatless meal, I think you'll be happier with them.  Here's how I make mine:


Zucchini Crab Cakes

2 medium zucchinis
1/2 tsp. salt
 1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 C. bread crumbs (I use Italian seasoned ones)
1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (or any other seafood seasoning)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. pepper
dash of hot pepper sauce (optional)
oil for frying

Shred the zucchini.  Place the shredded zucchini in a colander and stir in the salt.  Let stand for one-half an hour to drain out the water.  Take your zucchini and place it in a tea towel and squeeze out the excess water.  You should end up with  about 2-3 C. of zucchini.  Stir in the remaining ingredients except the oil and form into patties.  Fry patties in the oil until golden brown.  Serve with tartar sauce.

I do so love reading your comments and suggestions.  One person asked how she subscribe to Hope and Thrift, so now there's a link at the top of the page for doing that.  I think that's the correct term, "link".  I 'm terribly ill-equipped to write a blog, I'm afraid.  I never learned  how to link back when blogger didn't make it easy for you and my pictures sometimes don't appear where I want them to go.  It took my son and husband to get the "subscribe" button up there on the page after I made a mess of it.  I never would have been able to, that's for sure.  That's  why all your suggestions on how to make this blog better are appreciated.  I do truly love to read your comments also.  So if you have a suggestion, an idea, a question, or just want to stop by to say hello,  you are most welcome to do so. 


Harvested garlic

Harvested peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, green beans,  blueberries, raspberries and zucchinis.

Canned sweet pickle relish, jalapenos and spaghetti sauce.

Saved the seeds from the tomatoes for next year's garden.

All of our meals this week came from the garden and pantry.

Baked our own bread to make panzanella  Delicious!

Received a rebate for some dog medicine.

Bought some pantry  staples such as brown sugar, bread flour and rennet in bulk at the bulk food store.

Bought coffee and tea and the scratch and dent Amish store for a few dollars.  What a blessing that store is to us!

Dried our clothes out on the line. One thing a hot dry summer is good for.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I hope you all will have a terrific week!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Sorry I've been absent lately, between gardening and canning and working on some personal goals, there simply aren't enough hours in a day.  Missed you all. 


This has been a very dry summer.  And hot!  But it hasn't deterred the garden any, thanks to Ran's never ending watering.  Going to hate to see  our water bill.  Those free little raspberry canes I wrote about earlier have really produced and we picked, ate and froze several quarts  and still managed to have enough to make up half a dozen jars of jelly.  Now we are moving on to the blueberries, with blackberries soon to follow.  And would you believe it?  We already are picking tomatoes!  For years we have been crossbreeding a special tomato that is a mixture of German Strawberry and Opalka.  Each year we pick the earliest ripening, meatiest and largest to save the seeds from, and it looks like it's paying off!   It appears the garlic can be harvested early this year too. We finally got through the cauliflower, which is a blessing as we were running out of ideas on what to do with them.  And of course there's zucchini.  Isn't there always?


Canning must be done in spite of the heat.  That's life!  I canned several half-pints of zucchini relish, raspberry jelly, and some broth from some lamb that was in the freezer.
There was a great sale on pork loins, so I canned nine pints of that.  We are freezing berries and peas as they ripen.  Our freezer is full.


Which brings me to my main point, that of  organization and planning; two things a  person needs to win at the thrift game.  I have several old family friends that love to can; every year they can hundreds of jars of green beans, tomatoes and pickles.  Hundreds, not dozens.  And a quick peruse of their pantry shelves will find jars that are at least a decade old that haven't been touched.  To my thrifty way of thinking it is folly to can when you already have more than enough on your shelves at the present.  You always must allow extra  just in case you have a bad year and your garden doesn't produce, but such excess is just wasting valuable time and energy.   Personally, I've had to toss jars of jams that just weren't being used, and I know the temptation to can because you don't want to waste anything.  But what good does it do to have jars just sitting on the shelves , wasting space and gathering dust?    Really, how many jars of pickles does a family eat in one year?   Each spring I take stock of our pantry and note what we are getting low on, and what we eat and don't and plan my garden accordingly.   Some things, I've discovered will never be eaten unless I make a concerted effort to use them, such as eggplant, so I'm not going to can that anymore.  I try to figure out how many times a month we eat certain things an plan accordingly.  For instance, in the fall and winter I know we go through at least one jar of carrots a week, so each month that equals 4 time the months of October through April, which is 7; therefore 4X7=28 jars of carrots, plus a few extra, just in case.  We only eat green beans about once a month, so I only need a dozen.  During the cold months we can go through several jars of those little half and quarter pints of jams and jellies a week, as toast with jam is one of our favorite thrifty snacks, so I keep a good supply and try to have a lot of varieties, but sometimes I get carried away.  How I hate to throw out old canned goods!  I know that the extension office has done research on home canned goods and discovered that even after decades they are still safe to eat if prepared  and stored properly, but psychologically,  I don't think I could eat anything that is over three years old.  That's my limit.

Been thinking about planning ahead recently because someone that stopped at our garage sale made the comment it was too hot to think about winter clothes when looking at some we had for sale.  Well then, he can pay higher prices for them come winter!  Such nonsense!   It's been in the nineties here, but that didn't keep me from buying a like-new Eddie Bauer down coat for $4.  I know I'll need it come November.  I'd much rather pay garage sale prices now and store it away, then pay higher prices in season.  There's so much children's clothing at these sales and most of it's like-new.  I swear children now days must wear their clothes only once.  A wise mother would buy now, while clothes are under a dollar, which is a far better price then even the cheapest of thrift stores or bargain centers, and store different sizes for when her children grow into them.  It's easy enough to keep a box marked with the sizes in the attic.  Planning ahead saves us a lot of money.  Whenever we go to an estate sale, we always head for the workshop, where we can buy lightbulbs, nails, screws, etc for pennies on the dollars.  We know we are going to use them eventually.  At one estate sale I bought enough lightbulbs to last us a lifetime for $3.  For almost a decade now, whenever a light burns out, I simply go up to the attic, rather than drive to the store.  How much does a pack of  lightbulbs cost?  Plus it's a lot more convenient.  At the beginning of garage sale season, we make a list of things to be on the lookout for, and it's amazing how many of those things we find. Organizing and planning ahead has saved us a boatload of money over the years!


Bought firewood from the village. Because we are loyal customers, they gave us almost an entire cord free!

Canned relish, jelly and pork.

Froze berries and peas.

Harvest peas, the last of the cauliflower, raspberries, blueberries, peppers, zucchinis, and tomatoes from the garden.

Made and canned broth from a lamb shank that was given to us.

Saved the seeds from our tomatoes for next year's garden.

Made all of our meals from garden produce and pantry items. In other words, didn't buy any groceries.

Received a $15 rebate from the vet's office.

Bought some clothes for less than a dollar at garage sales for the winter.

Used an offer for free shipping to purchase some things to be put away for Christmas presents from a catalog.

Sewed a purse from fabric from an old jacket that I was going to toss.

Reorganized our attic and found enough things to have a second garage sale.

Well, that's about it for this week!  Sorry if my writing has been spotty lately.  Just not much excitement going on at the moment and I think you can tell that my writing hasn't been up to par in the last few posts.  Hopefully, I'll get some Divine inspiration and have something more interesting to write about soon, but just wanted to post something to let you know that I'm still here! :) Have a good one and stay cool!


Sunday, July 10, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Staying cool?  I won't rub it in by telling you that the weather here has been delightful.  Could do with some rain, but pretty perfect overall.  We've been staying up late to study the stars.  Below are two pictures that my son, Scott, took of the night sky.
  The pictures weren't photo-shopped, that's what the sky  actually looks like.  One of the many reasons I love it here.  These are pictures of our little guest shed that Jamie and Ran built.   I think it looks like a fairy tale illustration, as does the delphiniums and hollyhocks growing by the door.
If you want to have a big impact in your garden, grow hollyhocks.  We have some in the backyard that are over nine feet high.


We're a finally starting to harvest vegetables in the garden and are relying on it for most of our food once again.  Been a bumper year for peas, which I blanch and  freeze because no one likes the canned ones.

So far we've frozen about a gallon of them.  I first freeze them on cookie sheets so they don't stick together before putting them in freezer bags, then it's easy to just portion out as many (or as few) that we need for soups and pot pies.

Other crops that are being gathered are broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, green onions, and soon we'll have zucchinis.  Getting rather tired of cauliflower, but we had this interesting recipe today for cauliflower cheesy bread to use some up.  It was very good and great for those of you that are trying to eat gluten-free.  We served ours with some of our home-canned spaghetti sauce.  It was a hit.


Well, the birds are just taunting us by eating all the cherries on the bottom branches and leaving those that we can't reach at the top.  I finally gave up.  Cherries were on sale for $1.79/ lb, so I bought about 15 pounds and canned 8 pints of cherry juice (it can be diluted to make more)  using my steam juicer.  Once the juice was extracted, I had a lot of mash left over that I couldn't bear to waste, so I plopped it into a jelly bag and extracted enough juice to make six half-pints of cherry jelly.  BTW, cherry juice is very good for inflammation, particularly gout. People always tell me that they wish they knew how to can.  Well, no one taught me.  I learned by reading how-tos and by following the instructions that came with the canners.  How I would have loved to have had YouTube back then!  Just to say, that if you really want to learn something, there's no excuses now days.  Most wishes can be fulfilled by dint of hard work, I've discovered. 

Basic Jelly Recipe

3 1/2 C. fruit juice
5 1/4 C.  sugar
3 Tbsp. pectin

Place fruit juice and pectin in a large pot and bring to a hard boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down)  for 1 minute.  Add the sugar and bring to a hard boil.  Boil an additional 1 minute.  Place in sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Place lids and caps on jars.  Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Oh!  I almost forgot!  Eggs were 60 cents a dozen, so I bought five dozen and froze them for future baking.  To freeze eggs, you simply whip them up and pour them into ice cube trays and freeze.  Then just pop them out and place in a freezer bag.  When you want to use them for baking (I wouldn't recommend them for eating)  just thaw out and use as you would any egg.  The trays I used were a bit smaller than a large egg, which is ok, because most recipes will work with smaller eggs, or use two  cubes for one jumbo egg. Now I'm all set for eggs for the rest of the year for just three dollars!


After last week's craziness of entertaining family and friends, I'm happy to get back into our thrifty lifestyle (we spent more on going out for ice cream then I spend on two weeks of groceries!).  Rarely do we have a day where there's a monumental savings or a windfall, like buying a scarf for a dollar and selling it for $179, or saving several thousand dollars on a car purchase, but every day we make an effort to save.  It can be as small an effort as using one egg in a cake recipe instead of two, or sitting a while longer in the evening before flipping the light switch on.  I believe it is all those small economies, that in the long run have enabled us to put our children through college without them being indebted to school loans, and retire early.  We definitely  weren't born with a silver spoon in our mouths! Some of the things we did this day to save money were to eat a simple meal from the garden rather then give into the temptation to buy something at the grocery store or go out to eat, open the windows and use a small fan, rather than use the air conditioner, hang our clothes to dry out on the line. (and reuse the wash water for plants), baked two things in the oven at the same time so the house wouldn't be heated twice and use half the electricity.  You get the picture. It the little things in life that have the biggest impact.  Once you start doing them, they become second nature and before you know it, you have built nice little nest egg!  Every day we try to do at least one thing to save a dollar. Some days the savings comes from not giving into the temptation (there's a lot of temptation out there!) to spend money and making do with what we have; mending small holes in nightgowns and work clothes, settling for a meal comprised of pantry and garden items when I'd really rather have fish, walking to the post office when it would be faster and a lot cooler to take the car, etc.  Basically trying to differentiate between a need and a want. I've discovered over the years that thrift and hard work are synonymous.


Canned cherry juice.

Canned cherry jelly from the left over mash.

Frozen about a gallon of peas from the garden.

Bought eggs for 60 cents a dozen and froze them.

Turned off the air conditioner and used a small fan in the window instead.

Harvested cauliflowers, broccoli, lettuce, peas and spinach from the garden.

Cooked over the fire  outside to keep the heat out of the house.

Amused ourselves by star-gazing. 

The usual things of eating from the garden, washing our clothes in the old wringer washer, reusing the water,  hanging the clothes to dry, walking rather than driving, etc.

Well, that's it for another week at the old Zempel boarding house!  I hope that  you all have a delightful week filled with thriftiness!