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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


As I stood in line at the grocery store yesterday, these wise words from Beatrice Vaughn reverberated in my mind.  The more things change, the more they stay the same!

In these days of soaring food prices, it's imperative that each homemaker keep a wary eye on her shopping cart, weeding out the non-essentials.  It is fun, as well as thrifty, to pass by glamorous ready-made food products in favor of materials that will better answer the same purpose, and with only a little more time spent in their preparation.

I recently stood at the checkout next to a young housewife who I knew was in fairly straitened circumstances.  Her one cart load totaled $48.30.  I could see why, when I noted the packaged cookies, the frozen meat pies, the refrigerator biscuits, the mixes of all kinds.  I'd rather have seen, in her basket, cuts of cheaper meat that could have been prepared to serve several delicious meals, instead of  the smaller and relatively more expensive pre-packs hardly large enough for one meal.  I'd like to have seen a sack of flour, yeast cakes, raisins and spices to make loaves of bread and dozens of cookies.  I'd like to have seen a bag of pie apples instead of a frozen pie or two.  I'd like to have seen a package of chicken wings  and backs -costing less than fifty cents- that would make many times as much good soup as  she could get from the cans of soup in her cart.

It seems to me that it's high time for women to free themselves from the bondage of standardization, rigid conformity and dependence on packaged , dried, or frozen  quick-and-easy cooking.  It's time to face the fact that what is gained in convenience they lose in individuality and in savings with good nutrition.

~Beatrice Vaughn , The Ladies  Aid Cookbook, published 1971

By the way, I did a bit of research and that $48 would be about $260 today.   Isn't the internet amazing?

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Bountiful harvests make for busy days.  Everyday there is something that needs our attention.  It does our hearts good to see the pantry shelves filling up with colorful jars of produce.  You can't help but feel thankful and a bit proud that your hard work has resulted in staving off the wolves at the door for at least another year. At one time, a tour of the neighbor's pantry was a requirement when you visited.  Ah!  Life was so dear back then!

Anyway, you are probably  wondering what the title of this post means. Well, I've been making up batches of my oven roasted spaghetti sauce (24 pints so far),  and my roaster is starting to look pretty rough.  Scouring wasn't helping much as the all those little nooks and crannies were really getting blackened.  So I used this thrifty, easy trick to clean it.  Pour a generous amount of ammonia into the pan.  I used about a half cup.  Place the pan  in a black garbage bag and let it sit out in the sun for a few days.  After a few days, take it out of the bag and hose it off, then wash as usual.  Looks brand new.  This works great for cleaning the grill too.  Now I need to figure out how I can stuff my stove in a garbage bag and use this method.  Sure would beat standing on my head to scour it out!

The above picture is of the double cosmos in my cutting garden.  I love the unexpected color combination of the orange and pink too.  Starting to look like autumn around here!

PS:  Ammonia is a very caustic chemical, so use caution when using it.  Read the back of the bottle and never, never, mix bleach and ammonia.  It can cause a fatal vapor.  But don't be afraid to use it.  It's been around for ages and is still one of the best cleaners penny-wise! I bought it for 99 cents for two quarts  two decades ago and this latest jug cost $1.12.  Compare that to the price of oven cleaner that I've used in the past to clean the grill.  And this method does a much better job!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Last night there was a beautiful pumpkin of a moon hanging low in the sky.  Jamie, Georgie and I went out and stood in silence gazing at it.  The air was cool and you could feel a tinge of autumn in it.  The world was so hushed you could hear the cattle lowing from the dairy five miles away.  These are the days that I treasure above all others.  The days of quiet joy.

The bustle of summer is abating.  There's no longer the urgency to get everything done before the heat makes chores unbearable.  We have waved the white flag to the weeds and the garden still produces, even if you have to untangle the vegetables from the binderweed.  Now is the time we start to turn our attention to making the home a home again, rather than a holding station for garden and canning tools.  We consider hanging new wallpaper in the dining room, or maybe just paint the walls?  The antique tea table get a good paste wax finish, rather than a swipe with the dust rag.  The dining table is set properly.  We feel civilized again.

One thing I've been doing is washing all the linens and hanging them out to dry.  For decades, I've purchased pretty crocheted and tatted linens at tag and estate sales.  Rarely do I pay more for a dollar, usually twenty-five cents is the going price around here.  I love to think that some dear lady made these treasure to beautify her home and now I am doing the same.  Because I have a dollar limit on what I'll pay, often times they are not perfect.  I will darn or patch the holes and wash and starch.  If an item is beyond repair, I'll cut it down and use the good remnants  for pillows or patchwork.  Or maybe a pretty pocket on a child's dress?  Or an apron?  Often times they are yellowed.  After trying all the experts advice about soaking in one concoction or the other, I've discovered that the best way to remedy this is to give the a good soak in a very liberally laced bleach solution.  Maybe you wouldn't want to do this with Granny's Edwardian christening gown, but for these treasures it works fine.  If something has a stain that doesn't come out with that, I'll use Rit's  color remover.  Also have had some luck with Fels Naptha soap, takes a bit of elbow work, but usually gets the job done! Simple days.  Simple joys!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


It's a busy time here at Sweet Briar Cottage.  The garden is producing and we are kept hopping harvesting and preserving.  It is such a joy to go out and pick our dinner.  One day a meal of sauteed  summer squash,onions and tomatoes  all fresh from the garden.  The next day a tomato sandwich warm from the sun. Another day new potatoes just dug minutes before popping them in the pot.  Not to mention the corn and melons!   Life is good.  You can't help but believe in miracles when think back to the fact that just a few months before we were planting seeds,some no bigger than a grain of sand, that are now food that nourishes both body and soul.  You'll never take your food for granted if you have labored over a plot of land weeding and hoeing, harvesting and preserving.  I'll guarantee you that!

We make a lot of this oven roasted spaghetti sauce.  As a matter of fact, I can't make enough of it.  So good!  It uses a lot of tomatoes, but that is what makes it taste so delicious.  The good thing about this recipe is that you don't have to peel the tomatoes, so if you do what I do and plant too many of those cherry tomatoes, you can use them in this recipe.  And since those are usually the sweetest ones, your sauce will turn out especially good!

Oven Roasted Spaghetti Sauce

7 lbs. of tomatoes
1/2 dozen garlic cloves (or more if you really like garlic)
1/2 dozen onions
1/4 C. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 C. fresh  herbs (I use lots of oregano and basil. And rosemary, thyme, fennel and chives.  But feel free to use what you like best)
1/4 C. sugar
3-4 peppers, seeds removed and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat a large roasting pan with the olive oil.  Wash and remove the stems from the tomatoes.  Roughly chop the onions.  and wash the herbs.  Place all the ingredients in the roasting pan.  It will look like this:

Roast for a half hour.  Give it a stir.  Roast for an additional half hour and stir again.  Roast for another hour, watching it carefully that last half hour so it doesn't burn.  The top will start to brown and the liquid will evaporate.  The tomatoes will become soft and the herbs and onions will start to meld together.  It will cook down quite a bit.  Here's how it will look:

Take it from the oven and put the mixture through a food mill.  Now you can freeze the sauce or do what I do and  pressure can it.  Pints are processed at 10 pound of pressure for 35 minutes.

BTW, yes that is a plastic bag drying in the background.  I never thought I'd become one of those people (i.e. an old fuddy duddy), but they've become so expensive, I do now.  I have purchased a lot of covered containers from garage and estate sales and rarely use plastic wrap anymore too.  Of course, I recycle a lot of containers too for that purpose, like Cool Whip containers. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011


Been really busy here with canning, drying, weeding and harvesting, but I won't bore you with the details.  On Saturday Ran was cutting some branches when a branch scratched his cornea, so he can't see well enough to drive himself back to Wisconsin  for at least a few days.  He also can't be outside in the bright sunlight.  So today he was pacing around the house.  I wonder what he'll do when he retires?  Anyway, he was driving me batty so I suggested that we take a drive down the shoreline to Lexington sixty miles away. Usually I don't like to drive with him because he is a bit of a back seat driver, but I figured since he would have his eyes shut for most of the time it would be bearable.  Every once and a great while he'd pop his eyes open and say "Brake lights!"  or something like that, but for the most part he was pretty silent.

These little day trip are so pleasurable.  There's plenty to see in our own back yard.  I think we often take the wonderful local attractions for granted, thinking it isn't a real vacation unless a lot of time and expense  is involved. There's quaint little towns with charming little shops. Several lighthouses with museums attached. 

If you're a fan of the movie Summer Stock wouldn't it be fun to attend a play at this theater held in a barn?  This month's play is Arsenic and Old Lace.

  Smackwater Jacks serves the best barbecue chicken or Greek pizzas.  We give up being vegan for the day just so we can enjoy one.  And there's plenty of pretty Victorian architecture to see when you aren't enjoying   looking at the beautiful lakeshore!

Well, I couldn't get away without giving you a recipe or how-to.  Raspberries are ripe right now.  I submitted this recipe to  Taste of Home a long time ago and won. Goodness!  it was three houses ago.  I don't add the pink coloring or mint leaves, that was something that the editors added.  I like mine a pale lime green!