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Sunday, December 6, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you all are having a jolly time.   Today we awoke to a heavy frost and yesterday we had a freezing fog, but no snow yet.  The weather  forecast, which is about as reliable as a dime store barometer,  isn't predicting any for the foreseeable future, either.   Bah humbug!  I just wish it wasn't so green out.  Looks more like spring than winter.  Green can become tiresome after a while.   Oh!  But we did spy several flocks of swans flying overhead and spotted a flock of about thirty grazing in a farmer's field.   That always gives me a thrill.  I'm so happy to live where swans stop by for a visit from time to time. Rejoice in the little things!


Another little thing I'm rejoicing in this week is that I found some great bargains at the grocery store.  At our bulk food store they had a bag of ends from the deli meats for $1.49/lb.   I took them home and sliced them with my handy-dandy  extra-sharp paring knife and we had enough for a dozen sandwiches from a two dollar purchase.  It was a mixture of different flavors, so we had fun with the different varieties.  Soup and half a sandwich is a grand meal.

The point being, be adventurous in your grocery shopping.  Don't just stick to the normal big name stores, whose names begin with a W. and  a C., if you catch my drift.  I find the best bargains at independently owned grocers, the big stores never have anything that is reduced-for-quick-sale except for bakery items, I've found.   Don't know what they do with the deli ends but they sure don't offer them for sale for $1.49/lb.  I always look at grocery shopping as a fun game.   It's exciting to see how much I can buy for the least amount of money.   It's time consuming, for sure, but since it has to be done anyhow, might as well make it fun!

Try different places, too.   The Middle Eastern grocer has the best price on rice, chickpeas and lentils.  The little Mexican grocer has wonderful prices on pinto beans and corn meal.   Big Lots has bargains on pasta, canned vegetables  and coffee.   Nobody beats Aldi's for cheese.  There's also the bakery outlets for inexpensive bread.  We practically lived off of that bargain bread when we were first married and budgeted $17.50 a week for groceries.  We'd buy those cheap meat pies (back then they were 4/$1 when on sale) and sop up every last bit of the gravy with outlet store bread.  We survived!  And didn't have any weight problems back then either!

Be adventurous!  Make a day of grocery shopping.  Take only a certain amount of money with you and see how far you can make it stretch.  Plan your menus on the fly, by what bargains you find.  You'd be surprised at how much fun it can be! Thriftiness can be a fun adventure or drudgery, it's all in your attitude!


Today we had one of those make-do meals, using up a lot of things in the fridge.  I commented to my husband that it tasted and looked like one of those meals that you see in vintage war-time rationing cookbooks.  Was it a gastronomical wonder? No, but it filled us up and was nutritious  with its brown rice and vegetables.  And isn't that what food is supposed to be after all?   Something to keep you from being hungry and supply you with fuel to keep you going?   With all the TV shows and magazine emphasizing  how grand food is, we sometimes forget  the purpose of food.   No wonder we have such obesity problems in this country.  Food has become our entertainment, companion and medication.  I shudder to think of what would happen if something catastrophic happened here and we had to start eating like  many people in third world countries do. I fear some people wouldn't be able to cope with a diet of rice, beans and vegetables from the garden.  I know one thing, I'd be a lot skinnier! Ha! Sometimes, good enough is good enough!


Soup is one of the most economical meals you can make; one large pot can last for several meals and it can be as soupy or as thick as you want.  My pastor used to tell me all the time, "you can always add more water to the soup.".  Plus it's a great way to get the kiddies to eat their vegetables.  We try to make at least one potful a week.

I saw a recipe for Lasagna soup, but couldn't locate it when I needed it, so I came up with my own recipe.  Oh!   That's another thing about soup, it's very adaptable to whatever you have on hand.  So I just guessed at the ingredients, judging them to be whatever goes into a nice vegetable lasagna.  I started by reconstituting some of our dried peppers and  mushrooms (whenever I find a good buy on mushrooms, we buy as many as we can and dry them), which I sauteed with some onions and garlic.  I threw that in a pot of home-canned vegetable broth along with some diced carrots.   I had a can of spinach that was reaching its expiration date and some cannellini  beans, so I tossed them in too.  Then I added a jar of my own spaghetti sauce and tomatoes.  Added some homegrown oregano, rosemary and basil for flavor.  By this time it was looking like a lovely soup, but then we decided to kick it up a notch by adding some stealth health by the name of dried kale.  Well!  That made for some ugly brown soup!  It tasted great but wasn't the prettiest, so I didn't take a picture.  We served it sprinkled with some Parmesan cheese on top and garlic toast made from stale bread.   You can leave off the cheese, if you prefer to make it fully vegan.  BTW, I never was much of a cheese eater until I became a vegan for several years.  It was the only thing I really missed and now I love the stuff!  Guess my Swiss and Dutch genes kicked in!


Can you believe it?  We're already one week into December!   I'm finishing up making goodies for Christmas packages, as they need to be sent off this week.  Candy has always been  part of our celebration because when my father was a youngster, during the Depression, the only treat he got was candy in his Christmas stocking.   To him, Christmas wasn't Christmas without a big box of chocolates.   Fudge is part of our traditions too.  My sisters and I would make it by the ton to give to everyone; teacher, pastors, neighbors and boyfriends.   It was our "go-to" present.  There were only two things my oldest sister learned to make in home economics class; Spanish rice and fudge. 
I've become quite an experienced fudge maker over the years and have picked up quite a few tricks on how to make the creamiest old-fashioned fudge ever.  This is one of the more economical recipes for it;  most things  can be found in a well-stocked pantry, with the exception of the buttermilk.  I always keep buttermilk in my fridge for baking bread and biscuits.  We buy ours from a local dairy and it has beautiful flecks of butter in it.   Great for making salad dressings too.  Anyhoo, here's the directions.  Make sure you have some strong arms available!

Old-Fashioned  Chocolate Fudge

3 C. sugar
1 1/2 C. buttermilk
1/3 C. cocoa
dash of salt
1/4 C. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C. chopped nuts (optional)

1.  Combine the sugar, buttermilk, cocoa and salt in a pot that is twice the size of the ingredients.
     (The boiling mixture will expand)
2. Stir over med.-high heat until mixture comes to a full rolling boil.
3.  Stop stirring (important or your fudge will turn out grainy) and lower heat to low-medium, maintaining a full boil.
4.  Cook until temperature on  candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees or  soft ball.You can test by    dropping a bit into a cup of cold water.  If the mixture forms a soft ball by rolling between your fingers without falling apart, it's done. Start testing around 235 degrees.  I like mine to be just slightly under the 240 degrees on the thermometer, hence the 238 degrees.
5. Put butter and vanilla into mixture.  Do not stir.
6.  Place pot in a pan of cold water to cool.
7. Once the bottom of the pot has cooled enough to touch the bottom but is still very warm, begin  beating the  mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. (No metal spoons)
8. Stir in the nuts.
9. Beat until the mixture loses some of its glossiness and becomes thick like frosting.  If you pinch some together, it should hold together. (This is a long and labor intensive procedure.It's good to have help.)
10.  Pour into a well-buttered 8 inch pan.  Cool before cutting.


Getting my  gift knitting finished up.   Hopefully these mittens will be the last red thing I have to knit for a while.   This mittens knit up quickly, using bulky yarn and only two needles.  So if you have to make a quick last minute gift, these are for you.  It only took me a couple of hours to run them up. Here's the pattern:

1 skein  bulk weight yarn
1 pair size 8 knitting needles
2 stitchholders

Gauge: 4 stitches= 1 inch

Right mitten:

Cast on 28 sts.
1st row: P14, K2, P8,K2, P2
2nd row:  K2, P2, slip next 2 stitches to an extra needle and hold in front, knit next 2 stitches,
                 Knit the 2 stitches from the extra needle, slip the next 2 stitches to an extra needle and hold         in back, knit next 2 stitches, knit 2 stitches from extra needle, P2, K 14
Row 3:  Repeat row 1
Row 4:  K2, P2, K8,P2, K14
Repeat row 3 and 4 once more than repeat row 2
Continue to work this way until 3 cables have been made, ending with 3rd row.
Increase for thumb:  Work across 15 stitches, increase 1 stitch, K1, increase 1 stitch, K to end
Work stitches on back as they come
2nd increase:  Work across 15 stitches, increase 1 stitch, K3, increase 1 stitch, K to end
Work stitches on back as they come
Continue to increase this way on every K row  having 2 more stitches between increases  until there are 9 stitches on thumb gore.
Work across 15 stitches and place them on holder
Knit across the 9 thumb stitches, increase 1 stitch on last stitch
Place remaining stitches on holder.
Work the 10 stitches in stockinette stitch for 10 rows, ending with a purl row.
K2 together across next row.  Break yarn
Thread a tapestry needle and and run through the remaining stitches twice.
Sew up thumb on wrong side
Back to mitten:
Place first 15 stitches from holder on needle, pick up and knit 4 stitches across thumb base.  Place remaining stitches on needle and work across.
Continue in pattern until 8 cables are made, ending with 3rd row.
First decrease:
K2, P2 together, K8, P2 together, K2, K2 together, K8, K2 together, K2
Work back as they show
2nd decrease:
K2, K2 together, K6, K2 together, K2, K2 together, K6, K2 together, K2
Purl back
3rd decrease:
K2 together across
Break yarn and finish as thumb.
Sew mitten on wrong side

Left Mitten:
1st row:
P2, K2, P8, K2, P14
Finish left mitten to correspond to right mitten.


Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas.
~Peg Bracken~


Knitted mittens for a gift from my yarn stash.  Been knitting for almost half a century, I have an awesome yarn stash!

Made fudge for Christmas packages from pantry staples.

Bought deli ends for $1.49/lb.  For $2 I had enough for 10 sandwiches.

Made a casserole from things that had to be used up in the fridge.

Attended some Christmas doings in town for free entertainment.

Bought some woodworking supplies that we needed at an estate sale for $3.

Made a big pot of soup that lasted for several meals.

Ran made a cute Christmas sign for the house from some free pallet wood and paints we already had.  Got the idea from one we saw one in a store for $18.

Only used the furnace for heating the house during the night.

Decorated our window box from clippings from trimming our evergreens.

Bought a beautiful sweater ($3.50) from the thrift store that came from the Sundance catalog. Expensive stuff in that catalog!

So that's it for this week.  Hope you have a jolly and bright week!  A happy Hanukkah to my Jewish  and Torah observant friends! Get out there and enjoy yourselves!

Hugs to all!


  1. Hi Jane! All I can think of is your fudge right now....ha! I haven't had fudge for a long time. There is just something so special about the texture of fudge. What a neat recipe! I should be concentrating more on all your healthy meals. It is so true that you have to find the best buys at each store. I tend to stick to one; yet to be a truly smart shopper you have to do your "homework" and go to several. I haven't ever seen the deli meat ends for sale...but I think I've been stuck with ends in my full price deli meats! I've learned to only get deli meats at the Amish farmer's market now. We don't eat deli very often. Just because it is a drive to the market!

    Beautiful mittens. Red is the best color! Your stitches look perfect. And neat about the swans!
    Nature's show for you! Andrea

    1. Well it's only fair, Andrea! You're always tempting me with your recipes!

      I love making fudge, but a little sure goes a long way! That's why I send it out the door right away. Too bad we live so far apart or I'd bring some over for you. Fudge is always better when shared!

      Red just says "Christmas" doesn't it? But I'm tired of knitting that color. Maybe next year I learn to spread it out a little.

      Love what you said about keeping Christmas. Hope you have a merry week!


  2. Sounds like a wonderful, busy week, Jane! We ate a lot of soup from our canned goods this week with cheese and crackers on the side. I made a lot of veggie soups this summer, so it is my go-to these days. I love the flavor of our tomatoes, potatoes, and such... Yum.

    We've had heavy frosts this week; so much so that it looked like skiff of snow. It was cold enough all that in the shade lasted the day! Last night it was 17-degrees. Mister had a gig below the mountain and, when we got ready to leave, our car was encased in frost!

    Finally started decorating the house for the holidays. I am doing a lot of "house shopping" for my decor this year to change it up. It has been fun to change up the decor with our things reimagined!

    Have a terrific week!

    <3 M

    1. Hi Matty! It's so strange that you have colder weather than we do up here. All around, I'd say this has been some of the oddest weather this year that I've ever seen.

      Buying new things for the house is so much fun! I gave most of my Christmas ornaments away and the ones I have left just don't go with our decor. So next year I want to make some. We're constantly redecorating here. If I can't have my off-the-grid cabin at least I can make this place look like one!

      Have a happy!

  3. Jane,
    I can't knit. I admire those who can. Your mittens are lovely. I have to say that they would take me WAY more than 2 hours! The few times I've tried to knit, it went very slowly. The only thing I can do is dish cloths where I just go back and forth, back and forth. They are pretty, though.
    I have to say, our one experience with dried kale wasn't favorable. Our friends passed it off as chips, but it didn't taste like chips to us. I'm sure we are not as healthy as they are. I know it's supposed to be very healthy. I have had some in soup before, and it wasn't bad.
    My sister always makes fudge for the family. She uses my Mom's recipe, which uses chocolate chips and marshmallows. It's way too good, though, so I don't dare make it myself.
    It looks like you've had a busy and productive week.

    1. Hi Becky! Those mittens are pretty basic knitting. If you can knit a dishcloth, you can probably knit them.

      We dry our kale then grind it into powder. It makes it very concentrated. We just sneak a tablespoon at a time into soups and casseroles. Hardly noticeable.

      That's the thing with fudge, you have to make it and then give it away immediately. Ha!


  4. Great post Jane. You've got my mouth watering for some homemade soup.

    I made some homemade candies this weekend too.

    I'm also working on a felt beaded angel ornament for an ornament exchange this Wed.

    Have a lovely week ~ FlowerLady

    1. Sounds great Rainey! How's the water coming along?


  5. Fudge is the word of the season for me too. I made a 9 x 13 pan, mailed some to my daughter's family and trying to keep the rest away from Hubby :) until Christmas. We were going to have our neighbor's over for dessert this evening but 2 of their kids got sick so we are postponing until they are well. They were going to get some of that fudge along with some cookies. I've got all my cookies baked and sent some of those to my daughter's family too. Way to warm for Dec. here in Nebraska. In the 50's today. I definitely wore to warm a coat when I took the dog walking. I'll know better tomorrow. I am going to ask at our deli if they have meat ends. I always buy our lunchmeat from the deli as it is so good and gluten free. A pound lasts us a week or two. And I like to buy it on sale and freeze it. My grandson (10) painted a small board for me last time he was out. I wanted to make him feel good about it so I glued a Christmas card and verse on it. The paint was red on one side and gold on the other. Found a card with gold and red and it looks so nice. He'll love it. Take care. Nannie

    1. Hi Nannie! I shipped mine out today too. Best not to keep the stuff around. Doesn't hurt to ask the deli. Deli meat can be so expensive, but it sure is handy! That was a sweet thing you did for your grandson. Those things made by youngsters are the sweetest. We once again have "artwork" on our refrigerator. Grandchildren are such a blessing! Have a nice week!


  6. P.S. Just wondering what frugal laundry detergent works well for you. I have tried making my own but don't care for it or I am just too lazy! If you care to share I would like to know. Nannie

    1. Hi Nannie~
      I once did a price comparison on the homemade laundry soap and found it it actually cost more than laundry soap I can get on sale. We usually buy the cheap Sun brand (the kind you get at the dollar store) and we use less than recommended. If something is really dirty, we pre-soak it in a plastic bin with some washing soda. Hope that helps!


    2. Thanks Jane. I have used that too. Actually it's what I have right now. Seems to work fine but doesn't have much fragrance. I guess I'll live with that :)

  7. Well we've been making up lots of fudge here too! I finished wrapping up a bunch in order to hand it out and mail. My fourteen yr. old daughter is really getting good at making it. I laid out the ingredients and she just took over. So nice to have a bored homeschooler around...they want to be useful. ;)
    We enjoyed some Vegetable Beef soup (with pearl barley) for lunch along with some toasted waffles and pancakes. The latter work great in place of regular bread.
    Looking forward to a little shopping with girlfriends tomorrow while my husband watches the children. Hope to pick up a few items at the Dollar Tree to round out my gift-giving.

  8. Love your woodland Christmas scene in the last post,so pretty, I love woodland Christmas decor. Your recipes and tips for frugal cooking are really helpful, I have been going through my freezer cooking up all of the meat that is left from this year so it doesn't go bad, it definitely saves to be creative with meats, it is shocking to see how high the meat prices can be, so I definitely don't want to waste any! :) Your red mittens are so pretty, I love the vibrant red color! Hope you have a wonderful week! :)

    1. Hi April! I wish I could have found some of those deer like you found at Target to add to the scene. You have some fun stores around you. Been watching you YouTube channel. Looks like you are having fun.

      Meat really is getting costly. I've discovered that we live in a pretty inexpensive part of the country compared to other, such as your west coast. That's something to be thankful for! Don't know how you do it!

      Have fun (and I know you will)

  9. Hi Leslie! I sure could have used a strong arm of a 14 year old when making that fudge. The best thing to do with fudge is to give it away. Sent out my packages yesterday. Discovered that those one-postage-ships-anywhere boxes are no bargain. Shipped two large boxes for less than the post offices largest one. It was $5 less, too.

    Love beef vegetable soup and the barley is a good filler. Whenever we have leftover pancakes, my son slathers a little butter on them and eats them for snacks. He says they taste as good as McGriddles!

    Enjoy your shopping fun and your day out with the girlfriends!


  10. That chocolate fudge looks amazing. I don't think I've ever made it, I must have a go sometime. Your shopping looks fun. I love shopping in Middle Eastern or Oriental's like going on holiday.

    We used to tease my mum about her concoctions of left over food and after an episode of Upstairs Downstairs where Mrs Bridges made 'win the war pie' we kept calling supper, win the war pie. Everything would go in, even cold oatmeal... I'm probably just as bad (or good) with some of my concoctions.

    Hope the adventures keep on coming, oh and that you get some wished for snow.
    Take care,

    1. Hi Debby! Fudge making is a common activity among us country folk. We make it then give it away. Ha! It's so rich and tempting, a little goes a long way!

      Don't know about oatmeal in the pie, but I'm know they did during the war. I guess you could say it was filling. Everything you make looks wonderful! You do such a great job with vegetables. They say to eat all the colors in the rainbow, and you certainly do.

      Everyday is an adventure if you use your imagination, isn't it? Of course some of us have to imagine harder than others. We can't all live in a place that looks like it comes out of a storybook!


  11. Hi Jane! I agree shopping at bulk food stores is often an adventure. Ours is over an hour away, but it's always a nice trip that I count as entertainment.

    I love soup, but Goodman doesn't so we compromise as in I make it anyway, and he eats it anyway and even has seconds. ;) I think he just thinks he doesn't like it.

    Love the mittens - I saved a copy, thank you! Wow, you've been knitting longer than I have, and your stash must be something to behold. I crocheted for years then learned to knit about 15 years ago. My stash is behind my catty-cornered dresser and on a shelf unit. I do love yarn.

    Hope you have a lovely week!

    1. Hi Toni! We used to be amused by our visitors from other countries astonishment of our supermarkets. After a decade of living in the sticks, I now understand. The produce section is like a fairyland to me! Guess it doesn't take much to amuse me!

      I guess I'm fortunate that I have a husband that will eat whatever I serve. I'm the one that doesn't like soup, but I experiment with different recipes until I've found a few I like. Besides, I don't have to love everything I make.

      You'll love that mitten pattern. 28 stitches and bulky wool knits up fast. I keep my stash in a bin in the attic. A few years ago, I gave a huge bin away to charity. I'll probably have to do it again, soon. Trying to use it up on little projects, but there's only so many things you can make! I'm going to try and knit at least one pair of mittens for the Girls Scout's mitten tree this year. Maybe doll sweaters for Toys for Tots? Do they take handmade items, I wonder? I love knitting doll clothes, wish I knew some little girls.

      Well, hope you are having a fun week!


  12. Wow, I'm sure the sight of the field of swans was amazing! Would love to see a picture if you get a chance sometime.
    Great deals at the store. Thank you for the fudge recipe and tips. I haven't been able to make good fudge, so I'm anxious to try your recipe.
    Love the mittens!
    Hope you have a great week!

    1. Unfortunately Kathy, my photography skill aren't skillful enough to capture them. I so wish I could capture some of the beauty around here; the sunsets over the lakes, the starry nights, the great waves crashing over the breakwall. It's a wonderful and wild landscape I live in!

      Fudge is very tricky. Hopefully, I've given enough directions to help you make a good product. But the best thing about fudge is if it doesn't turn out, you can always pour it into jars and give it as a gift of fudge sauce! The main thing is not to stir while boiling and not to overcook it. That plus a couple of volunteer strong arms! Ha!

      Hope you are enjoying these weeks before Christmas!


  13. Oh your part of the country sounds beautiful. I think you shared some pictures of the ice, and I have never seen anything like it before. I would so love to see it someday.
    I live in the mountains of Virginia. We took a week and traveled the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, camping and exploring along the way. I do love the mountains, but I would like to visit other places too. His creation is beautiful, isn't it!
    Thanks for the tips; I can see several mistakes that I have made in the past. How long do you think that you need to beat it to reach the right consistency?
    Wishing you much joy this Christmas season.

    1. Hi Kathy! I've been to Virgina before, I love the mountains. Last year it looked like Siberia. So cold! I think every part of America has it's beauty. Well, except for the desert, I don't really get why so many are attracted to it. Guess it's like art, so many different views on it. Good thing we don't all like the same thing. How boring would that be.

      You'd probably need to beat the fudge for at least 15 minutes. depending upon the how long you let it cool. It should get to the consistency of fudge when you pick a take a pinch with your fingers and roll it around. I know! Like duh, right? But that was something I just discovered! Ha! Always learning!

      Have a nice weekend!