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Monday, March 30, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you all are enjoying your day, wherever you are!   On Friday, I awoke to this:
Arghhh!   But it isn't unusual for our area to have snow at the end of March, so it isn't to be unexpected.  It's just that I have so many southern blogging friends that tease me with pictures of apple blossoms and daffodils.  This is Spring in northern Michigan.  I have plenty of pictures from childhood of us girls dressed in our Easter outfits, standing in the snow.   But in spite of having six months of snow (it started snowing here in October), I still find it pretty. 
And I know come next winter, I will be anticipating it's return.  So I won't complain anymore. Winter is on its way out.  I can tell because the ice is beginning to break up on the lake.
BTW, that  blue is the true color of the ice.  There's been talk about the blue ice phenomenon. Scientist say it is caused by the frigid cold combined with the extreme wind.  Something about it quick freezing.   I don't know.   I don't remember "blue ice" when I was a kid.  But then maybe I just wasn't paying attention back then.

My grandparents have been on my mind lately.  They all had important lesson about thrift to be learned from them.

My Grandmother, Alice W. :  Find a way to make it special

I never met my maternal grandmother, Alice W., she died in childbirth when she was thirty-two, but my great aunts have told me several stories, so I do know some things about her.  The one thing I have heard from them all is that she loved to laugh and that she always managed to bring a carmel-frosted  date cake to any celebration even during the deepest depression when everyone was struggling to put food on the table.  By sacrificing a little bit here, putting more water in the soup, skipping a meal here or there,  serving smaller portions, she managed to eke out of her tiny food budget enough to make those cakes, knowing full well that would often be the only thing to mark a special occasion.  But more importantly, I  learned that you can't let life defeat you, even when life seems one burden after another, there is always something to rejoice in, even if it only that you are here to see another day. Celebrate!

My Grandmother Hazel A.:  Surround yourself with beauty

My grandmother, Hazel A, was an artist.  She was always sewing, painting, arranging flowers, or doing some other artistic endeavor.  When my grandparents built their stone house, she handpicked all of the stones for the facade.   When they gardened, she would plant every third row with zinnias. Even though it was the depression, she used her talents to make her home a pretty sanctuary.  One of the thing she did was to make quilts from scraps of fabric.   She made many beautiful ones, but the ones I remember best are her woolen scrap quilts.  I wrote recently that I bought a lot of woolen goods at the 85% and 95% sale at our local Thumb Industries Thrift Store in Bad Axe (somebody wanted to know where they had such sales), here's the quilt I made from them:
Here's a closer look:
 How to make a woolen scrap quilt:

1.  Prepare your fabric by cutting away all seams, interfacing, buttons, etc. from your scraps. Press the wool, using the highest setting on your iron and a pressing cloth.  Hint:  you'll get much more fabric from a skirt or pair of pants.

2.  Cut the fabric into squares.  I used a three inch square for mine, but my grandmother used a 4 1/2 inch square for hers.  I used the traditional template method of making my squares but you can use a rotary cutter and mat if that's your style.

3.  Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance sew your patches into strips.  Mine was 15 patches wide by 21 strips long, but you can make yours any size you please. Press the seams open.

4.  Sew the strips together, matching the seams to the desired length.  Press the seams open.

5.  Sandwich a layer of batting between your quilt top and backing with the right sides facing out.

6.  With  a double strand of yarn, tie the layers together centering the knot in the middle of the squares.  (None of which I did because I was making this quilt as a duvet cover for a down throw).

7.  Finish by sewing quilt binding around the edges.

There you have it, really an easy- peasy  basic sort of quilt.  A good beginner one.  Not the most lovely, but certainly a very fine utility type, to keep you warm during the winter.  This quilt cost me about $4 because I used a down throw I already had for the batting and an old gray linen shower curtain for the backing.

Now back to the grandparents:

My Grandfather William A.:  The Most Important Lesson, Charity

One of my earliest memories was of attending my grandfather William A.'s funeral.  The church was packed to overflowing and there were people standing out on the steps and the lawn, paying their last tribute to him.  For years after, people would come up to me and tell me stories about his charity.  I often heard them say that he had the biggest heart in all of Montmerency County.  Although the Depression hit him just as hard as the next person, he had the advantage of owning a farm that became a refuge for family and friends.  He just planted a bigger garden, raised an extra hog or two, hunted a little harder and kept those people fed.  Oh!  And did I mention that he did all this while on crutches, having been crippled by shrapnel in World War I?  So whenever I want to give up, I think of my grandpa, and how hard-working he was and the legacy of love he left behind.


Began my Spring cleaning, so stains are on my mind.  Here's how to make your own oxy-type stain remover from items you probably have on hand.

Homemade Oxy-Cleaner

2 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp.  dish soap
3-4 tbsp. peroxide

Combine and scrub into the stains using an old toothbrush.  Wash clothes as usual.


Shelled the heartnuts that we foraged last Autumn,
We ended up with about 4 1/2 pounds, which we vacuum sealed and froze.
 I went to the thrift store to look for more canning jars.  Unfortunately they were charging 99 cents for them so I didn't buy any (new ones cost about the same) but while there, my husband found two pairs of Wrangler jeans in his size new with the tags still on for $4 each. Plus I found a cute vintage Ralph Lauren skirt.

As the temperatures warm up into the upper 20s, we've been heating our home with wood.

Unraveled a sweater that I bought from the thrift sale for 17 cents for yarn to knit a pair of mittens for a present.

Our credit union gives you a refund on your credit card at the end of the year.  With the credit I bought 10 pounds of non-GMO cornmeal and hemp hearts (which I have read are even better for you than chia seeds)

Although being sick is never a saving, we paid cash at the doctor's office and received  a 5% discount off the bill.  (Our dentist offers the same discount)

Re-upped our Magic Jack subscription. At 5 years for $99 that slightly less than $20 a year for phone service. 

So that's it for this week.  I hope that you all will have a blessed and peaceful Easter!


Monday, March 23, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Hope you are enjoying a lovely Spring wherever you are!  Even though it's still cold here, the snow is slowly ebbing away and the earth is waking from it's slumber.  We started our seeds this week.  Hard to believe that in eight weeks we'll be planting our garden.  Someone asked us if gardening pays.  Well, for around thirty dollars (we save most of our seeds, but have too short of a growing season to collect some) we canned over five hundred jars of food, stored several hundred pounds of potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins.  Ate for several months from the garden, starting in April with asparagus and ending in October.  We also dehydrated bushels of tomatoes, beans,  peppers, garlic,herbs, onions, etc.  So does gardening pay?  You bet! What can you buy for thirty dollars?

Every time I wash up one of my canning jars, I think to myself, "Well that's a dollar I didn't have to spend.".  Preserving the harvest, is one of the basic principles of thrift that people throughout history have lived by.  Only in the last one-hundred years have people had the luxury to go to a grocery store and buy whatever strikes their fancy.  Notice I said "luxury" because that is what it is. And luxuries are always expensive.  Always on a quest to learn new frugal skills, I read many blogs and watch many YouTube videos on frugality.  Something that strikes me as odd, is that many of the most popular thrift blogs talk about going to the store and buying things.  Which leads me to the very first principle of the pantry mindset:


Recently I was reading a blog where the woman was bragging about the great price she got on cocoa mix.  The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking to myself, "Well she could have made it better and healthier (no preservatives) from basic items every pantry should have, after all cocoa is just sugar, cocoa, and milk."  As I walk about the grocery store, I notice all the convenience  foods such as; cheese cut into cracker-sized squares,  hamburger helper,  packages of some seasoned breadcrumbs and a few tablespoonfuls of cheese called meal starters,  an entire aisle of frozen pre-packaged  dinners.  Why would anyone buy these things?  They are often loaded with sodium and preservatives and in truth how convenient are they?  How long does it take to cut your own cheese, or to season some breadcrumbs with your own herbs?   You still have to boil the noodles and fry the hamburger for hamburger helper, so what are you really saving in time to buy it pre-packaged?

This past week, we made our own English muffins, yogurt, granola (cereal), bread, noodles, mini-pizzas for the freezer, cookies, hand soap, pie crusts and chicken bullion. Did it take time? Sure.  But I didn't have to spend any time in the grocery store hunting for great bargains either.  I didn't spend any time clipping coupons and driving around to get the best deal.  Thrift is my hobby vocation and I would rather spend my time  doing for myself than other things I could be doing  such as watching TV, talking on the phone, texting, reading novels, etc.  Besides, while I'm waiting for the bread to bake, I can knit or sew and listen to podcasts about subjects I like, such as eschatology, history, and economics. BTW, when you study those three things, you will understand the importance of thrift and preparing for the worst case scenarios.  Just saying!


Because we buy fewer things, we can focus on buying better quality, like non-GMO cornmeal, organic cane sugar, non-bromiated  unbleached flour, fresh organic vegetables.

The other day, I was in the grocery store buying a twenty pound bag of flour.  We buy a locally milled, unbleached non-bromiated flour.  The cashier asked me what did I do with it!  At first, I was confused, "What do I do with flour?"!  But then I realized she didn't recognize flour as flour unless it had the Gold Medal or King Arthur logo on the package.  So I started to say well, I bake bread  and cookies and yesterday I made noodles.  Which lead to me explaining how to make noodles.  "Are they cheaper?" she asked.  About twenty-five cents for as many as you get in this two dollar bag, so you tell me!  This is becoming a common thing with me, evangelizing the virtues of thrift.  I always wanted to be of some service to God, and maybe this is the way He is using me.


We had been searching for peanut butter without hydrogenated oil in it.  After reading many labels we found some at a good price, at Big Lots no less!  So we bought enough to last us an entire year.  Now we do not have to shop for peanut butter anymore this year.  BTW, when it comes to peanut butter, read the labels carefully, a lot of "natural" ones still contain hydrogenated oil.

This past year we have purchased twenty pounds bags of orgainic cane sugar at a very low price, which saw us through half of the year.  Making jam takes a lot of sugar!

I even buy my hearing aid batteries in bulk from Amazon.


Living out of the pantry, does take time and forethought.  While I'm working on my meals for the day, I'm thinking about the meal for the next day.  Do I need to defrost something?  What's in the fridge that I need to use up?  What can I substitute for an ingredient that I don't have?

Our meals are based upon what we have on hand, not what we desire to eat.  You know the old saying, "Eat to live not live to eat".  We have TV networks and blogs devoted to food, it seems  our country is obsessed with food.  Really a pot of homemade soup can be just as nutritional (maybe more so) than some expensive gourmet extravaganza.


I often cringe when I see someone toss a half eaten apple that their child took a bite out of and then decided not to eat.  Or a bowl of soup that they ate a spoonful of soup of before rejecting it.  I so want to tell them to refrigerate that apple and then they can grate it into some meatballs or dice it and bake it with some cinnamon and sugar.  That they can throw the soup back into the pot.  When you reheat it, it will kill the germs anyway.  Make it a goal to reduce your food waste.  Don't buy things and then don't use them.


I know many economists insist that making a menu and sticking with it is the best way to save money, but I beg to differ.  What if you get the grocery store and find an unadvertised special?  What if the soup you made lasts for two days instead of one?  Menus are fine as a general rule, but you need to be flexible.  Improvising is one of the foundations of thrift.


Made our own English muffins (really easy)

Made peanut butter granola

Bought six woolen garments for my quilt for the thrift store for $1.50 (95% off)

Knitted a sweater for my grandson for a present from yarn I unraveled from a 50 cent thrifted  sweater

Made a large batch of pie crusts and froze them for future use

Heated our house with wood since the temperatures have reached above freezing

Started our seeds from saved seeds (peppers, tomatoes, onions and perennial flowers) we don't       buy plants

Learned how to make a heat exchange system for our guest house from a YouTube video

Canned 12 lbs. of corned beef  which was purchased after St. Pat's Day for $2.50/lb.

Made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies from some chocolates that I bought at the after Christmas sale at 75% off (about $1/lb.). Froze half for future snacking.

Made chicken boullion

Made homemade Greek-style yogurt.  Here's how:

Greek-Style Yogurt  (1 quart)

1 quart  milk (we use 2%)
1/2 C. non-fat dry milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

1.  Combine milk and non-fat dry milk in pot.  Heat slowly to 180 degrees.

2.  Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees.

3.  Add yogurt.  Pour into pint containers.

4.  Store yogurt at 110 degrees for 5 hours.  Our dehydrator has a setting for this.  When we were younger and poorer we used to wrap the yogurt in pile of woolen blankets and set it near a heat source (such as a radiator).  There's also yogurt makers available if you are interested.

5. Refrigerate.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Happy St. Patrick's Day, a day early!  I was trying to get my projects done to post this on time, when I realized it was the 16th and not the 17th.  Hope you are all enjoying Spring weather! We took a trip to visit our sons and their families and it was 70 degrees in Chicago.  Of course, as usual, I was dressed completely wrong for the weather, when we left it was 30 degrees, so we carted around coats and heavy sweaters for nothing.  This is one of the many reasons I don't like to travel.  Even inland it can be 20 degrees warmer than it is at the shoreline.  Such are the trials of living in the sticks!

Anyway, here's what we ate for our "early" St. Patrick's Day meal:

Corned beef hash, made completely from home-canned foods (except the eggs).  I was hoping that the grocers would have a good sale on corned beef so that I could can some more, but unfortunately, it is not to be.  Maybe after the 17th it will go on sale.  The recipe can be found here if you are interested.  Boy have prices gone up since 2011!  Anyway, one of the strangest comments I hear often when people learn that I can, is  "I used to can , but we don't eat those kinds of foods anymore."  What?  You don't eat carrots, peas, corn, potatoes, meat, green beans, etc. or make a piece a toast and jam, or drink any fruit juice?   I guess I'm old fashioned and when I go to the store I see why people consider me so.  Almost every cart I see is filled with frozen or boxed meals, cereal, lots of snacks and lots of soda pop.  I rarely see any fresh vegetables in the carts and even rarer to see fresh fruits. 

I also am almost finished with my Irish style throw I've been knitting the last three month.
I have to finish putting the fringe on.  (that brown "thing" on the right hand corner is Georgie's hind quarters. He has to get in every picture!).  Anyway it's a very simple pattern that I found in an old circa 1940s magazine.  I used 6 skeins of  Red Heart Super Saver yarn in Buff Fleck.  Here's the pattern:

Cast on 233 stitches using 36" size 7  circular needles.

ROW 1: (right side)

  Knit 5 place marker
   Slip 1, Knit 1, slip slipped stitch over knit 1
            (Yarn over
            slip 1, knit 2, slip slipped stitch over the 2 knit stitches)Repeat twice more
           Yarn over
           slip 1, knit 1, slip slipped stitch over knit 1
           place marker,

         knit 8, place marker.

Repeat   lattice and cable section 9 more times, placing a marker between each section.
Repeat lattice section once more, place marker.
Knit 5

ROW 2: (wrong side)

Knit 5
Lattice section:
Purl 2 together, yarn over,
(purl 1 purl 2 together, yarn over) repeat twice more
purl 2 together
Slip  marker

Cable section:
Purl 8. Slip marker.
Repeat lattice and cable section 9 more times.  Repeat lattice section once more. Knit 5.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 for 8 rows.

Row 9: (right side)
 Is the same as row 1 except at the cable section slip 1st 4 stitches to a cable needle and hold in back.  Knit the next 4 stitches, then knit the 4 stitches on the cable needle.

Rows 10- 12:

Repeat rows 2 and 1.

Repeat these 12 rows until your work measures 49 inches.  Bind off.  Add fringe if desired.

By placing the markers between each section, it makes it easy to keep track of your knitting.   It really is an easy mindless sort of pattern.

Speaking of yarn, here's a great site for finding substitutions for yarns: yarnsub.  Sometimes companies discontinue yarns or they are just outrageously expensive.  I was once smitten with a pattern for a pair of socks, but when I looked into the yarn featured in the pattern, I found out that it would cost over $40!   For a pair of socks?!  I'd be afraid to wear them. Sometimes I wonder what these knitting designers are thinking of.  Probably  they get the yarn for free and never take into consideration the costs.  So anyway, it's a nice site to explore cheaper options.


One of the questions  I get asked the most is how do you learn to be thrifty.  I was always fascinated by thrift, even from a young age.  When all my friends were dreaming about living in castles, I was studying the pictures of Hansel and Gretel's cottage in my picture books.  My favorite book when I was in elementary school was The Moffats by Eleanore Estes, about a poor family that lived on love.  Anyway, so how do you learn to be thrifty?  By listening to the old-timers talk about the depression, by reading history books and biographies about the days gone-by. By observing thrifty people and seeing what they do.  By reading blogs about thrift.  By going on YouTube and watching preppers and homesteaders.   Then taking that information and applying it to your life.  You must want to become thrifty to be successful at it.  You have to look at it as a fun challenge and not like it is deprivation.   I'm always reminded of this quote:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

  And that pretty much sums it up doesn't it?  (Sorry for some reason after I pasted this quote the font changed) We can learn to live within our means or go around hiding from the debt collectors.  I know what I'd rather do.


One of the things I read over and over again in stories about the Depression and Appalachia, is that they ate a lot of cornbread.   They'd wrap it up and carry it with them.  Sometimes it was all they had.  Cornmeal is the easiest grain to grow and process, so perhaps that is why it was so popular.    Here's one of our favorite recipes for it:

Molasses Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

1/2 C. butter, melted
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. pumpkin
1/4 C. molasses
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C. flour
3/4 C. cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 C. buttermilk 

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Beat together eggs, butter, molasses and buttermilk.  Combine with dry ingredients until just blended
3. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

BTW, did you know that you can substitute buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp, vinegar to a 1 cup measure than adding the milk to make 1 cup.  But we use buttermilk all the time, so we always have some on hand.  You can also add plain milk to about 1/4 C. of buttermilk and make more buttermilk.  

These muffins are good for breakfast too.  When we were kids, people use to add cornbread to some warm milk to make a sort of cornmeal mush.  Very tasty with a bit of maple syrup or honey on it.  An old-fashioned French Canadian dish that people in our area used to eat was called Por-Doo, which was cornbread crumbled up and added to sauteed onions, celery, or whatever you had on hand.  Sometimes a bit of leftover sausage or meat. Add some broth or milk to thin it down,  heated up, sort of like a very thick pea  soup.


One of the things we've been doing this winter, while we are eating a lot of citrus fruits is to make our own orange cleaner.  You simply stuff as many orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime peels (any citrus peels will do) into a mason jar and pour enough vinegar over them to cover the peels.  Let it set for a few weeks and add more peels as they become available.  After  about a month strain it and there you have it, your own orange cleaner for sinks and tubs.  Works great at getting the soap scum off.

So I leave you with an Irish toast this St. Patrick's Day Eve

May your mornings bring joy
and your evenings bring peace...
May your troubles grow less
as your blessings increase!


Monday, March 9, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Yay!  We've finally had a day above freezing.  Even Georgie is hopeful, digging in the asparagus patch looking for the first signs of green.   It's been a good week to watch the birds bathe in a puddle, they were really enjoying themselves.  I suppose the winter has been a long one for them, also.  Poor little dears!  The sun porch was warm enough to sit in and soak up a few rays.  Ah! Bliss!  We have been putzing about the house and enjoying our hikes without the bitter wind stinging us.  Life is good!

We find that more and more often, we would rather do for ourselves than pay others.  When it comes to food, it just makes sense.  Have you ever read the labels?   Almost everything has some sort of corn or soy product in it.  Or an artificial flavoring or color.  Really, if you want to enjoy your retirement, you need to take care of yourself and the best place to begin is with what you eat.  Plus it's cheaper too, so it's a win-win situation.  We aim to always buy groceries in their most natural form.  A bag of potatoes is certainly cheaper than potato chips!  I always ask myself why would I pay to have someone package up something like a pancake mix when even the most meager pantry has all the ingredients to make them?  Or cake mixes?  They're just a bit of flour, sugar, baking powder, and a whole lot of stuff you don't need. Did you know that they use silica as an anti-caking agent in those mixes?   Who needs that?  One of the things we do for ourselves is bake our own crackers.  They cost around  fifty cents to make as opposed to the two or three dollars for a box.


 Honey Cornbread Crackers

1 C. flour
1 C. cornmeal
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 tbsp. cold butter
1/4  C. honey
1/3 C. milk (we use buttermilk)
some butter to brush on finished crackers

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter into the mixture until it looks like fine crumbs.  Stir in the honey and milk to form a dough.

Roll out the dough  very thinly (about  1/8") on a floured surface .  Cut the crackers into squares or desired shapes.  Prick the crackers with a fork.  Sprinkle with coarse salt if desired.

Place crackers on parchment paper  lined baking sheets.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown.  Remove  from pans and brush with melted butter.  Allow to cool. We made ours in chicken shapes just because they're cuter than squares.
This week our local thrift store has their big final winter clearance event.  All the clothes are 85% off, which equals fifty-two cents an item.  So I leave the menfolk at home and head out for the big hunt!  I'm searching for good quality sweaters that I can unravel for the yarn, blouses with interesting buttons to be used on my sewing projects, and anything made of gray wool for an old-fashioned woolen quilt I'm making. I got a garbage bag sized bundle for $12!  I even found a pretty winter white sweater for wearing that I had to buy because it had a Hudson's label on it.  Trips to the big city and the Hudsons department  store bring back many happy childhood memories, but unfortunately Hudsons no longer exist, so I bought the sweater just for the label.  I know, it's silly! I've already unraveled one of the sweaters and started knitting a cardigan for one of my grandsons for Christmas.  It's never to early to start Christmas presents, especially when it involves knitting!

So that has been our week at Sweet Briar Cottage.   Hope you had a pleasant one at your little corner of the world!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Michigan Easter Bonnet

Hello Dear friends!  I thought you might get a laugh out of seeing what passes for an Easter bonnet in Northern Michigan!
My husband uses this picture for his computer screen.  That's one way to guarantee that it won't get stolen!

We used up the last of our apples from the root cellar.  And the potatoes too.  Root cellaring is the lazy man's way of preserving food.  That is how we store all our potatoes, apples,  pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes and onions for the year.  We simply store them in heavy bags that keep the sunlight out, in the garage until we get a heavy (or as we say around here a killing) frost.  Then we move them into our unheated enclosed porch and finally when the weather really gets cold and the temperatures are consistently below zero, we move them to a uninsulated closet in the house.  The only work involved is culling out the bad fruit from time to time.  We mainly eat either fruit cobblers or pies for desserts in our house, using the fruits and berries that we grow on our little plot of land.  Here's a very easy recipe for apple crisp:

Apple Crisp

            6 C. apples, peeled, cored and sliced
            1/2 C. sugar
            1 tbsp. flour
            1 tsp. cinnamon
             1/3 C. water
           Combine apples, sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Put into a greased  9 X 13 dish.  Pour water over.

      3/4 C. oatmeal
      3/4 C. flour
      3/4 C. brown sugar
      1/4 tsp. baking powder
      1/4 tsp. baking soda
       3/4 C. butter

    Combine until crumbly.  Pat over apples.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Been busy canning this weekend.   They had some really good prices on pork loins ($1.49 a pound)  and boneless ham ($1.79 a pound)  so I canned 16 pints of the pork, 18 pints of ham, and 18 pints of broth made from the roasted bones. 
This is about all the meat we use in a year.  We find canning it easier than freezing it because it is already cooked and ready to be added to soups, hashes and pot pies.  Plus up here, we can always count on the electricity going out, and it usually happens right after I've stocked up the freezer.  I like this way much better, as there's no defrosting involved and it lasts a lot longer canned than frozen.  Guess I'm just a prepper at heart!  So what did you do this weekend?