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Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: Month of Lean Edition

Hello dear friends!  I hope you are keeping warm.  This coming month is our month of lean.  Car insurance, doctor's bill, lab fees, car repairs, etc,, after we pay all our bills we'll be fortunate if we are not in the red.   But that is the life of a retiree.  I do earmark my savings for such events, but the strange thing about me, is that when I put money into our savings account, I'm very reluctant to take it back out.  That's how we were able to retire at age fifty-five.  I was thrifty before thrifty was cool!  So we'll be eating from the pantry and not going anywhere this month, which is fine with me because it is too darn cold!   But the snow is very beautiful, and if we didn't love snow we wouldn't be living in Northern Michigan.  So here's the second edition of Sweet Briar Cottage Journal, hope you enjoy!


Kidney Bean Joes are a recipe I invented when we became vegans.  We are no longer vegans because we became bored with it, but we do eat 85% of our meals meatless and when we do use meat, it is sparingly, (less than a couple of pounds for the three of us a month) ditto for cheese.  BTW, did you know if you choose the sharper varieties of cheese you can use less because it gives you more flavor than the milder cheeses?   So given the choice go for the sharp or extra sharp Cheddar and cut back on the amount.

Kidney Bean Joes

1 (1lb.) can kidney beans, undrained
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 C. catsup
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the onions in a small amount of oil.  Add the catsup, vinegar, brown sugar and chili powder.  Stir in the undrained beans.  Add 1/4 C. water if you don't have enough "juice" from the beans.  Simmer until hot and sauce is thickened.  Season to taste.

You may have to adjust the vinegar to your taste.  Some catsups are very vinegary.  And of course there's always the matter of personal preferences.  When I make this my son always says it needs more brown sugar and my husband always says it needs more vinegar!   You can also add chopped peppers and/or celery if you like.  I just didn't have any handy when I made mine.

BTW, have you looked at the labels on kidney beans?  It's really hard to find any that do not contain corn syrup.  That's why I went back to canning my own.  Plus it's a lot thriftier.   You might want to read a  post I wrote about beans here.


 Bob-bob- bobbling along!  This weekend I knitted a cover for our hot water bottle, heavy with knitted bobbles.
The pattern is a free one on Ravelry.  Isn't  Ravelry wonderful?  Who would buy a knitting magazine or book when there are so many wonderful free patterns out  there on the internet?  Many yarn companies offer free downloadable patterns also.   The yarn is Coats and Clarks Royal Mouline Knitting Worsted in China Rose.  I don't think they make this yarn anymore.  I picked up a couple of skeins at the thrift store for fifty-nine cents each.  So the cost of this item was $1.18.  

Thrifty hint:  Hot water bottles are a wonderful old-fashioned way to keep warm.  And thrift and low-tech too! We fill ours before bedtime and slip it between the sheets.  When we climb in the bed is nice and toasty.  We find that if you can keep your feet and hands warm, you can sleep in quite cold rooms.  Our winters can be brutal here, this month we have hardly had any days in double digits and many days where the mercury has dipped below zero, so we have quite a arsenal of ways to keep warm. Here's a post I wrote about ideas for staying warm and cozy.


We love the flatbread sandwiches at Subway, but at $7 a sandwich , it's a bit rich for a thrifty ways.  Especially since we get the veggie ones and they have about a quarters amount of ingredients in them.   For seven dollars we can make eight of our own.  And the bread is so much better than any we can buy in the store.

Soft and Fluffy Chewy Flatbread

Mix  1/2 C. yogurt  with  2/3 C. hot water to make a warm mixture.  (The reason you use hot water is because the yogurt is cold).  Stir in 2 tsp. yeast  and 1 tsp. honey.  Set aside to proof (yeast mixture is bubbly).

Once yeast is proofed add:

2 tbsp. oil (we use olive oil)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. rosemary (optional)
2 crushed cloves garlic (optional)

Next add:

1/4 C. wheat gluten (make the bread soft)
1 C. spelt (or whole or plain flour)

Mix well.  Then add:

approximately  2 3/4 C. flour to make a soft dough.
knead 5 minutes.
 Cover and rise in a warm place until doubled.

Then punch down and divide into 8 pieces.

Rest dough 15 minutes.

Preheat a griddle to medium heat and light oil.  Roll out your dough one at a time to an 8 inch circle.
Place on griddle and grill for about a 1-1/2 minutes on one side until you see bubbles appear in the dough.  Turn over and grill an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until dough has some dark brown spots on it.  Should look like this after you first flip it:


There you have it!  Perfect flat bread.  Delicious warm off the griddle.  If you save them for later it is best to rewarm them .


We've been making our own facial moisturizer and it's really pretty terrific.   We use aloe.  Every house should have an aloe plant ; they are so handy for burns, bug bites, itches, rashes, etc. (although it's not the most lovely of house plants).
To make the moisturizer just combine;

 1/3 C.  Aloe Vera gel (the stuff you squeeze out of the leaves
1 tsp. vitamin E oil
2 tsp. jojoba oil
1/8 tsp. citric acid
a drop of your favorite essential oils for scent (we used lemon)

Put in a food processor and whip it up.  We keep a small jar next to the sink and apply it after washing our faces.  The rest we keep in the fridge.  Lasts a couple of weeks.  I've found this to be gentler than the much more expensive moisturizers I had been using and it really does make your skin soft and smooth.  Seems to minimize the pores also.  As a matter of fact, I like my skin so much now, that I've given up using foundation that I used to use to cover up redness.


Have you heard about   It's a site where you can view magazines for free.  And there's lots of wonderful ones on there, such as British Period Homes, Mollie Makes, etc. , including many foreign magazines I've never seen before.  Aren't magazines expensive now days?  I used to have quite a magazine  addiction during the heyday of country magazines, but now with the advent of Pintrest, why would I buy a decorating magazine when I view thousands of images for free.  Why would I buy a cookbook or magazine when you can Google any recipe?  That's money I'll just keep in my pocketbook!

So that's this weeks edition of Sweet Briar Cottage Journal.  Hope you enjoy!



  1. What a great post, packed with ideas for living frugally and well.

    It's so good to have you posting again. I missed you.


    1. Thanks Rainey! Hope you are keeping warm!



  2. dear jane,
    your blue ceramic pots in the first photo are beautiful.your meal sounds good.thanks for the flat bread
    recipe. yes a aloe vera plant is beautiful. i have a few issue of mollie makes, it was a gift from a friend. i have never buyed again,because is to expensive for me. thanks for all the informationen to frugal living.
    today we have sunshine. i feel me a little bit better now.
    have a wonderful week,
    hugs and love regina

    1. Good to read that you are getting better Regina! The spice jars are Meissen. I suppose you see a lot of them in your country? You'll love then, because they have lots of issues of Mollie Makes . Once you look at one magazine it suggests others, so it can keep you busy for hours.


  3. I tell people that the warmest I've ever been in winter was the last time I went visiting in Michigan. The homes there are made snug against the cold. Nobody has proper insulation here in New Mexico so when it gets cold we shiver! Haha! I'm sure that is not universally true, but it feels true. I have been craving beans lately, but I love pinto beans with green chili. I didn't know about the corn syrup in kidney beans. I'm not much of a meat eater myself. I hope you enjoy blogging again! Nice to know that you stopped by!

    1. Hello Jacqueline! Thanks for stopping by! Been a reader of your blog for a long time, but that was the first time I left a comment. Yes, you have to have a well' insulated house and a good furnace to survive here. We always laugh when our friends complain about the cold in the South, but I'm sure that find it funny that we whine about the heat when it hits the upper 70s!

  4. Hi Jane! Your flatbread looks beautiful! I think the bean mixture would taste good wrapped inside the flatbread. I love your beauty trick...I will jot it down and next time I see an Aloe plant I will try out growing it. Yours looks so healthy and green. If it is a succulent I have trouble with those.
    I will look up the care.

    I mostly just look at pictures anyway, in magazines. I appreciate you telling me about the women with long (grey) hair pics. It helped me decide (so far) to not get mine cut. I'm tempted though....
    I will try to persevere.

    I have to admit, snow is beautiful...especially when it glistens at night. We are getting really close to retirement and my husband keeps reminding me that I will have to learn to stop spending! (We have our sewer bills based on a year's water consumption, minus the summer months, due this month...always a biggie...a hidden "tax" really. It has been going down since my kids moved out, but was a little over $700 this year still). Keep up the good work; I love your format and all your ideas. Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea! I had just typed out a long reply when my computer went kaput. Ugh! Computers are the most frustrating things in the world!

      You're so fortunate to have blonde hair. You can go grey gracefully. With my reddish hair, it just looks really bad. But I'm trying hard not to dye it. I foresee a future with many hats in it. Ha! Really aren't some of those woman with long gray hair just beautiful? I think of Carmen Del'Oreffice who's stunning at 80+ and she's never had short hair. I always thought you looked very nice with your bob that you had in your son's wedding pictures.

      Our sewer bill is included with our water bill and between the two of them it costs us over $100 a month! And we don't have a washing machine or a dishwasher. Every time the water bills arrive in the mail yo can hear people groaning in the post office. I always ask them, "Got your water bill"? And they always answer "yeh" in a shell shocked sort of way. The water source is only a few feet from the treatment plant, you'd think it would be cheaper around here.

    2. I know your frustration. I have a new computer and when I bump some key somewhere here it erases everything! Crazy. Ha...I'm thinking ahead to when I am real old and maybe shorter hair might be easier. I also change my mind depending on the season. Our water bill is about $250 every three months My husband needs to quit watering our grass. But I do wash clothes/sheets/towels a lot and run my dishwasher daily, so after seeing your bills, maybe I shouldn't complain!

    3. We don't water our lawn or garden either, so yeah, I guess water is expensive everywhere. Just got a letter from our tax assessor yesterday and our property taxes are going up! Yippee! At least I shouldn't complain because they are pretty low compared to when we lived in Wisconsin (about $6000 a year). Couldn't afford to retire there. These are all things you need to consider when retiring.

  5. We used to not water our grass. Now, I guess as my husband is near retirement, grass is getting to be his hobby. We just voted down a big school tax increase. People finally woke up and came out to vote against it, as earlier they always won. But they are going to try again in a couple of months! (Seems unfair they can try again so soon, as the increase was supposed to be a 3 year plan of increases). But other than that, DE has low property taxes compared to other states. But we have a fairly high income tax. So there are all kinds of tricks in each state. Not counting my high sewer tax, my property and school taxes are only $1600/year. I just wrote a reply on your comment on my blog and gave you my camera info. Andrea