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Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal

Hello dear friends!  I've missed you.  Recently I've received a few sweet notes from some of my blogging friends and decided that I'd like to reconnect with you all once again.   I've decided to make change the format of this blog into a sort-of, kinda-like magazine.  Hopefully published twice a month.   We'll see how it goes, if anyone out there's interested, etc.  So here it goes .....


This week we are enjoying hearty meals as the temperature has dipped below zero.  Cabbage is always cheap around here, about 20 cents a pound.  It seems like it has been this price for decades, so stuffed cabbage is on the menu.  But stuffed cabbage is such a piddly recipe with it's boiling the cabbage and then wrapping it.  I always burn my fingers, so here's the flavor without the fuss:

Unstuffed Cabbage

Half a head of  a small cabbage, shredded
1 lb. Italian sauasge
1 onion
1 1/2 C. rice
1 quart V-8 juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

Brown the sausage and onion in a large pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the rice is cooked and the cabbage is cooked down.  About 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Now of course, you know this is just a rough idea for a recipe.  You can add more cabbage to make the meal stretch.  I added carrots to mine because I have lots of them in the root cellar.  Plus they add more nutrition.  You can use less brown sugar if you like; we like ours on the sweet side, just as it was from our childhood.  I didn't have any tomato juice but did have some home-canned tomatoes so I used them  and added more water and some fennel and green peppers to spice it up a bit.  The key to thrifty meals is to be flexible.


Baby it's cold outside!   Here's what I'm wearing to stay warm:

Thrifted Eileen Fisher 100% merino wool skirt  $3.50
Thrifted cable knit sweater $3.50
Garage sale vintage Trifari pin $1.00
Belt $5.00 on sale from Meijers
Underneath heavy cotton tights.

I wear this with my old brown riding boots, but since I haven't been going anywhere, I usually wear this with my slippers. 


My son loves pancakes, but maple syrup is expensive and if you look at  the label on pancake syrup, you see that it is mainly corn products, which we avoid because of the GMO issue.  Almost all corn products made in the USA are GMO, unless labeled otherwise.  So we make our own syrup with organic cane sugar and cane syrup (we use Lyle's Golden Syrup).

Imitation Maple Syrup

4 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 tblsp. cane syrup (or corn syrup if you want)
2 C. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple extract

1.  Combine sugar, cane syrup, and water  in large pot.  Stir until sugar dissolves; bring to boil.  Cover and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Do not stir while boiling  (causes the sugar to crystallize)

2.  Remove from heat.  Cool slightly.  Add vanilla and maple extract. Stir until extracts are mixed in.


My husband calls me the queen of substitutions.  I can find a substitution for just about any ingredient in a recipe, but here's one time I might have taken it too far.  My children wanted some chocolate chip cookies but I knew I was out of some ingredients because  it was getting close to pay day.  I definitely knew  I was out of chocolate chips but that wasn't a problem because my husband had received a large chocolate bar as a gift from a supplier, so I just chopped that up.  So I started to make the cookies.  First obstacle was I was short 1/4  C. of butter, so I made up the difference with shortening.  Next I discovered I was out of brown sugar, so I made some using 1 tbsp. molasses and 1 C. sugar.  I was sure I had eggs, but nope.  Had to use 1 tbsp. flax seeds mixed in 1/4 C water.  Fortunately, I did have baking soda.  But not enough flour, being about 1/4 C. short.  So I emptied out my oatmeal container and used the fine oats on the bottom, plus some of the regular oatmeal to make up the difference. Guess what?  The cookies turned out great and the only ingredient that was in it's original form was the baking soda.

Knowing how to make substitutions is very valuable thrifty skill.  Here's some common substitutions for eggs  (all are equivalent to 1 egg):

 1 tbsp flax seed in 1/4 C. hot water (let set until it starts to gel)
1/4 C. applesauce or 1 small banana
2 tbsp. water plus 1 tbsp. oil plus 2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 C. tofu


Some of you have inquired to what I have been knitting lately.  Recently finished up this shawl in Paton yarn in sea green.
I like the cabled edging.

 Currently on my needles is an Irish Aran style afghan.


I have waist length hair so the ends can look a little unhealthy and um, let's say rough.  This is a hint I heard on an old timey radio show I was listening to on YouTube.   Put Vaseline on the ends and wrap your hair in towel for half an hour, then shampoo out.

The first time I tried this I used too much Vaseline ( go light on the application) and it was really hard to shampoo out.  The next time I did it, I used less and I really shampooed the heck out of the ends.  It really did make the ends smooth and soft.  To tell the truth, I couldn't stop touching my hair it felt so nice.  BTW, another tip I read about long hair care in a Victorian era magazine was to treat your hair like fine silk when washing it.  Never pile it up on top of your head and treat the ends gently.


This month we are enjoying  studying animal tracks  in our back yard.  You can find all the information on line.  It's a good old-fashioned skill that children of yore used to know.  Through tracking we discovered that our resident fox lives under the brush pile in the area of the yard we call The Fen.

We are also watching the Coal House series on YouTube.  One of those wonderful BBC series where families reenact the past. This time it's coal miners living in 1927 Wales.  Makes me grateful that I live in the present era!

So that's it for this edition of my little magazine.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Let me know what you would like to see in the next edition.  Love and Peace to all!



  1. What a hap-hap-happy surprise today! Angela

    1. Thank you Angela! It's good to know I not "talking" to myself. Hope all is well with you!


  2. Dear Jane,
    welcome back!!!!! thanks for all the recipes and tips!!! your shawl looks gorgeous, i love the colour!! your outfit is beautiful....... i wish we had stores like yours here in my part of the world.
    i like your little magazine!!! I look forward to the next issue!!
    have a nice week my friend,
    love and hugs regina

    1. Well, since you're selling you house, you could relocate up the street Regina! Thanks for your sweet comments.


  3. Dear Jane ~I can't even express in words how 'happy' I am to see a post from you. I will say this though, I am THRILLED!!!

    Great tips and recipes. Your shawl is lovely.

    I look forward to seeing more from you. You have been sorely missed ~ FlowerLady

    1. Thank you dear Rainey! You always say the kindest things. Hope all is well at Plum cottage.

  4. Jane, I enjoyed this installment immensely and loved seeing your thrift store finds. And, your shawl is beautiful!

    1. Thanks Deb! I'm working on my throw that is similar to yours today. It seems to be a never ending project!

  5. Good to see you back, Jane!
    That's a lovely outfit. I like your magazine concept!
    Sometimes a coyote will 'borrow' the fox dens around here. The fox make the dens and usually live there long term, but coyote just squat there as they are passing through.
    I see you've got plenty of snow too. It came late this season, and I would be happy if it left early!
    Have a blessed week~ Lisa

    1. Amen to that Lisa! I hope coyotes don't take up residence in our fox's den! We are enjoying him because he keeps the groundhogs at bay. It is so good to hear from you!

  6. oh Jane! I am so happy you are back! Your blog is the most informative! And now you will give us more to read! I just commented back to you on my blog, and then went back to say I love your new header picture...and then I hopped over here just in case, to see if you added anything else, and here you did! I will read it now. I just browsed over and wanted to comment right away. My neighbor always did the unstuffed cabbage recipe like you. I bought cabbage the other day and was going to make stuffed cabbage. I used to use V 8 but now use tomato soup. (I love the brown sugar in it too!) On to your other topics....I've been tempted to get my hair cut. I have been growing it all year, and have had people compliment me on my white/gray hair (I guess people aren't used to seeing natural white/gray much!) I have to admit, I never got compliments when it was shorter. Now that you say how long yours is, it gives me a reason to keep on growing...not to mention I hate to spend money on haircuts and I feel the longer length is easier to style (or not style!). Your knitting (and choice of colors both in your knitting and in your sweater above) is beautiful! And finally, my mom always made brown sugar syrup for pancakes...I'm glad to see she wasn't alone! I will check out that Coal series (my grandpa was a coal miner and so was my town). Now that I read over your post quick, I will come back and read it more until you post again! Andrea

  7. Thanks for the tomato soup suggestion, Andrea! I've been using up all my home-canned goods so I use whatever's on hand.

    I think white hair is so beautiful. I;m waiting for the day mine is all silver, it's just beginning to turn gray. I don't know if you do Pintrest or not but there's lots of examples with woman with long gray/white hair on there. I usually wear mine in a braid or coronets. When I want to look dignified (which isn't often, Ha!) I do a French twist or chignon. I've never been able to style mine much so it works for me. BTW, I agree, your hair is very becoming in your picture.

    Well, I have to hand it to your grandfather. After watching that series I'm in awe at how hard the miners labored, I think you'd really enjoy the show.

  8. Dear Jane,

    Yay, a post from you! I love all of your ideas. We've been tracking animals, too, which is much easier in the snow. Now I know where all my birdseed disappears to (sneaky squirrels!).

    The shawl you made is absolutely drool-worthy. It looks so soft and comfortable. Just like something from Victoria Magazine.



    1. Those squirrels are quite the rascals, Marqueta! There's quite a cottage industry around here building squirrel-proof birdfeeders. Thanks for the lovely compliment on the shawl!


  9. What a wonderful surprise to see you blogging again! I've always enjoyed visiting you and reading your posts. Your outfit is just lovely and the shawl is beautiful. Thanks for the Unstuffed Cabbage...I love cabbage rolls and this sounds so much easier. Can't wait to try it.

    I look forward to your next "issue"...great idea btw. Have a great week!

  10. Thanks Sandra! It's so good to hear from you again!


  11. I am new to reading your blog, and I really am enjoying it... especially your tale of the cookies!
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage