Hello dear friends! I hope that all of you living in the northern hemisphere are keeping warm. It's amusing to read that many living in the southern states have more snow than we do up here in the "winter wonderland". It's been a strange winter so far, such swings in temperature! Right now, it's in the single digits, but we're used to that, it wouldn't be so bad, except for the wind, which blows directly off of Lake Huron straight down our street. Oh well! In the summer we appreciate it. Can't have everything in life, nor would we want to.
DOWNSIZING AND ORGANIZING
The cold keeps us inside, so it's the perfect time for organizing and just getting rid of stuff. Lori wanted to know how we downsized from a 4000 square foot home to our current less than 1000 square foot one. I always quote William Morris on this;
"Have nothing in your house that you do not find to be useful or beautiful."
The useful part is pretty easy, I don't think too many people hang on to non-working TVs or broken appliances, if you do, well, then you have more work to do before getting to decluttering and organizing! We always leave anything that has scrap metal potential out in front on garbage day for the man that collects such things to sell for scrap. Don't know if he makes much money from it, but perhaps it is enough to keep the wolves from the door for him. I like the scrap metal man, he's a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps sort of fella.
A note on appliances: reassess what you really need. I've never had a standing mixer, and I dare say, I've baked more than the average bear in my lifetime. They take up a lot of counterspace. A hand-held mixer works just as well, unless you are making pound cakes on a daily basis. Find appliances that do double duty; our pressure cooker, which is necessary because we use so many dried beans, also has a setting for slow cooking, thus eliminating a crock pot. I don't own a slow cooker, just use my Dutch oven on a low setting (300 degrees) in the oven to get the same results, although I'm sure they are nice for those of you that are away from home all day. A cast iron skillet does just as good job as one of those gadgets for deep frying. My kitchen is tiny 13 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet, yet I manage to can enough food for a year, feed large gatherings holiday meals, and cook everything from scratch, so if I can do it, anyone can do it. As a matter of fact, a small kitchen makes life easier; less steps to make and everything must be organized. We have an old family friend that has what many would consider a dream kitchen; huge and so many cupboards and drawers, but every time she wants to cook something or find a gadget, she has to rummage through drawers and cupboards for the item. It takes forever. Plus a lot of times she just gives up and buys another, which is not thrifty. Which is another reason to be organized. If you are replacing things because you can't find them, it's time to get organized. Organization and thrift go hand-in-hand.
LOSE THE SENTIMENTALITY
A lot of times we hold on to items for sentimental reasons. Trust me, having cleaned out my parent's home and helped clean out several other homes after the people have passed, no one appreciates those old birthday cards and photos of your new car circa 1967. How often do you look at those things? Probably never. Even old family photos. This past year, Ran and I went through all the family photos and chucked a bunch of them. The kids are never going to look at old photos of scenery from trips, and pictures of people we don't remember, so how would they? We just kept a few photos of each child at each age, and tried to choose the ones that were the cutest. Now all our family photographs fit in one shoe box. We never saved our children's art work either. We displayed it on the refrigerator for a while then had no qualms about tossing it. They were always making more. And I've never heard any of them say they regretted that I didn't save any of these things.
Many times we get "stuck" with furniture and such that family member pass down to us. First, if it isn't to your taste, say "no thanks", and eliminate the problem to begin with. Unless the treasure is a valuable antique, I have no regrets with donating it to a charity, and even then, if it's just going to be stuck in the attic, it is better to pass it on to a family member that would enjoy it, give it to a charity that could use it, or sell it to buy something that you need (or raise funds to buy down your mortgage). After all, a 1970 Mediterranean dresser made from press board will never be valuable. In other words, you don't need to keep things to keep the memories.
One of the reason I have no misgivings about getting rid of furniture is that I never pay a lot for it to begin with, having purchased most at estate and garage sales and auctions. When my tastes change it is of little consequence to get rid of things or to paint or re-purpose them. Get rid of things that you don't like, it will just make you miserable looking at them day to day.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
This past few months I got rid of all my DMC embroidery floss. It was driving me crazy, thinking about organizing it, and I had to be honest with myself that I probably never would make a sampler anymore, and if I did, it doesn't cost that much to buy new floss, a small price to pay, to be rid of the anxiety and clutter. I also had to be honest with myself and admit defeat when it comes to quilting; I'm never going to make one that I'd be satisfied with, so out went all those cotton scraps I've been saving and the quilting hoops. It was actually quite liberating to be done with those things.
I've gotten rid of lots of books over the years also. I know I'm not going to re-read a lot of them, so out they went to the library book sale. Many times we hold onto cookbooks for one recipe. Who buys cookbooks now days, with zillions of recipes available on the internet? I just copy the recipe and donate the book. My friend, Laurie, was appalled when I told here this, but I cut up old decorating and craft books and just keep the pages I want. The craft patterns go into sleeves that are in a three-leaf binder. The decorating pages are glued into a notebook on decorating ideas. Bibliophiles may find this sacrilege, but nothing is sadder than old craft and decorating books, tastes are continually changing and after while they become so dated, that you can't even give them away. At the end of each month I gather up all my magazines and catalogs and cut out what I want from them; fashion and crafting ideas from the catalogs, articles from the magazines, etc. and glue them into notebooks.
Old DVDs are another thing to get rid of, are you really going to watch that movie a second time? The movies that I love and want to hold onto, I remove from their cases, and put into those DVD/CD organizers. Saves a lot of space. I always enjoyed watching old movies and I thought it would be nice to have a large selections, since we don't have TV, but I find that I watch the same few shows over and over again, and rarely watch any of the movies. I rarely watch any of the shows either, except for when it really is cold out and have the time. I've discovered that there's quite a few old movies on YouTube, sometimes I discover a real treasure. Veterans Hospitals and senior centers are often looking for donations of movies, so there's a good home for the unwanted ones. Or you could donate them to the thrift stores. BTW, the series I watch in the winter are: Christy, Road to Avonlea, Newhart, and All Creatures Great and Small. There are plenty enough episodes to keep me busy.
ORGANIZING MY WARDROBE
We only have one closet in this old house and that is used to store our winter coats, my little black dress (that I use for funerals and formal occasions) and Ran's suit, so maintaining a small and practical wardrobe is a necessity. I have two wardrobes; one for warm weather and one for cold, when one is not in use, I pack it away in the attic for storage. The first thing I do when I get them out of storage is to lay everything out on the bed. This way I can see the "clinkers" as I call it; you know the sweater that doesn't go with anything, the really dated looking skirt, etc. Into the charity box they go. Next I get rid of everything that is uncomfortable, whether it's because it's too large, small or too immodest, or made of a material that I don't like. Then out goes all the impracticals; the skirts that don't allow me to move freely, i.e. pencil skirts, the ones made from fabric that take too much care, such as linen and the ones that just don't mesh with my lifestyle. I try to keep everything in a color scheme, for me it's cream, beige, gray and grayed down blue and green. Then it comes to personal style. For years I tried to "fit" in with others. I tried wearing the velour jogging suits of the mommy crowd in the 80s and the yoga pants and hoodies that seem to be the current style, even jeans and t-shirts, but I never felt comfortable in them. I'd wear those things for a while and then revert back to my old self. I had to realize that although my personal style sometimes makes me stand out like a sore thumb, it is who I am. After a while people get used to your eccentricities, and you just become part of the atmosphere, so go for it.
To thine own self, be true.
By the time you've narrowed your wardrobe down, to comfortable, well-fitting clothes that convey your personal style, you should have a much smaller wardrobe, but if you still have too much, go through it a second time and keep just the very best; i.e., the very best example of a gray cardigan, the most flattering denim skirt, etc. I usually end up with too many gray sweaters, I must confess. As you well-know, I love to shop thrift stores, so I have a rule, every time I bring something new into the house I must get rid of something plus one.
I hope by now, we all can agree that getting organized is a thrifty thing to do, but how do you get started at it? People often get overwhelmed by a huge project, but as the saying goes, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." the same is true with organizing. Pick one room per week or month and go through one drawer or closet at a time and be ruthless about getting through with the things you don't need or want. As soon as you have a box filled with things for charity, drop it off. Don't keep them around to second-guess it.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
I'm trying to make more meatless meals this year and try some of the many recipes that I've clipped throughout my thirty-eight years of being married. This recipe met both criteria. I'll give it to you the way it was written, then I'll illustrate how I will make it the next time to utilize pantry staples and my time.
8 large cabbage leaves
1 can reduced-fat unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 C. pineapple preserves
1 C. cooked orzo
1 can black beans drained
1 onion chopped
1/3 C. raisins
1/3 C. cashew pieces
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, cover cabbage leaves with boiling water. Cover; let sit 10 minutes or until limp.
Meanwhile coat 3-4 qt. slow cooker with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix coconut milk and preserves. Spread 1/2 mixture in bottom of slow cooker; set aside remaining mixture.
Combine remaining ingredients, except cabbage. Place 1/3 C. mixture at stem end of each leaf and form into cabbage rolls.Place as many cabbage rolls, seam side down as will fit in slow cooker. Cover with 1/3 C. of remaining coconut mixture.Repeat with remaining rolls and pour the remaining mixture over the rolls.
Cover; cook on low heat setting 7-9 hours, or on high setting 3 1/2 - 4 hours.
Now for the thriftier version, I'd use plain white rice in place of the orzo, since that is not a pantry staple in our house. I usually have a carton of coconut milk for making oatmeal, which I would replace with the canned stuff, or I'd use plain old milk and add some coconut from my baking pantry. I happened to have some cashews left over from Christmas, but if I didn't I would just leave them out. Instead of pineapple preserves, I would thicken a small can of crushed pineapple by combining the syrup and some cornstarch and simmering it with the pineapple until it thickens. And of course, I would use reconstituted dried beans for the canned ones. I also wouldn't bother with all the fuss of making the rolls, I'd just shred the cabbage, stir everything in a pot and throw it into the oven to simmer at 350 degrees for an hour and a half. I'd also add more beans and rice to make the meal stretch further. Jamie said this would be excellent on our homemade flat bread.
There was one more thing that I wanted to write about; several people had suggested a certain book that I might like, so I went to Amazon to check it out. Right off the bat, I could tell it wasn't a book for me, because in the description it had an entire chapter on boiling. Boiling? Really? There's not too many things I hate in this world, but those phony lifestyle books where people presume we are all so stupid that we didn't know it was cost-effective to re-use your leftovers, is one of them. I'm always offended for all those that have come before and things like thrift are just a natural part of life, these writers always act as though they're the first to discover it. It also makes me bristle when I see authors that write about "the simple life" in their new LL Bean clothes and their fancy chicken coops that cost more than our new car. Or the pretentious ones that are always having sit-down dinners for an unusually attractive family in their million dollar decorated-to-the hilt homes. No sir, give me a blog any day, where the people look like real people and aren't afraid to say, that today we ate at Taco Bell because I was just too tired to cook. Just wanted to get that off my chest.
THRIFTY THING WE DID THIS WEEK
Our crisper drawers in the refrigerator were starting to crack and the manufacturer has discontinued our model, so Ran made wooden handles to keep them from cracking any further. Funny story: On another refrigerator the plastic parts that hold in the milk, etc. on the door cracked so Ran made some wooden ones. Everyone thought they were so neat that we matched our cabinets, thinking that we had done it on purpose.
Started knitting a pair of mittens for next year's Christmas presents.
Spent a grand total of $7 and some change on groceries this week, for 2 heads of lettuce, a fresh pineapple and a small jug of milk.
Made banana pudding with some of the bananas that needed using up. Saw a recipe for peanut butter banana pudding, but the ingredients were so ridiculous, that I ended up making my regular banana pudding and stirred in a good dollop of peanut butter. BTW, I hope that's the last time I need to type "banana" for a while, it's a challenge for someone mildly dyslexic.
Painted a piece of furniture to fit in better with the decor.
Made bread crumbs from some leftover hamburger buns.
Roasted up the remaining pumpkins, pureed them and put them in the freezer.
Well that's it for the old Zempel boarding house this week! Hallelujah! My computer has been acting up since I started writing this and it's been a real challenge to my patience, which isn't the greatest under the best of times! Hope you all have a wonderful week!