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Saturday, December 31, 2011


Here's a fitting poem as we approach the new year.  If you love old movies, perhaps you are familiar with it, as it's read at the end of The Mortal Storm.  It's known as The Gate of the Year, but it's actual title is God Knows.

God Knows
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still: What need our little life Our human life to know, If God hath comprehension? In all the dizzy strife Of things both high and low, God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will Is best. The stretch of years Which wind ahead, so dim To our imperfect vision, Are clear to God. Our fears Are premature; In Him, All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until God moves to lift the veil From our impatient eyes, When, as the sweeter features Of Life’s stern face we hail, Fair beyond all surmise God’s thought around His creatures Our mind shall fill.
~Minnie Louise  Haskins~

Wishing all my dear friends a happy and hopeful New Year!


PS:  Blogger isn't working at the moment.  Just want to let you know that I've read your current posts and will respond once Blogger allows it. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Hello dear friends!  First, I want to thank all that sent me cards, e-mails, and warm wishes via the comments.  It really did my heart  good.  Bloggers are some of the kindest and sweetest people on Earth.  Hope you are enjoying your holidays.

 Which me leads me to the subject of how we spent the last few days after Christmas, laying new vinyl flooring in the dining room and adjacent kitchen.  Isn't that what normal people do during their holidays?  They do if their names happen to be Ran and Jane!  After all, relaxing is so passe (yawn).  But of course, why stop at just laying flooring?  While we have the opportunity to splatter paint, might as well paint the walls, using a colourwash technique that is very messy.  We like the slightly decrepit look of imperfect walls  (and good thing too, since there's not a smooth  surface in the entire house) and beside it ekes out the paint we have left over from other projects.  When we were finished, we discovered that the paint dried to a more bluer hue than we had anticipated (we were looking for more of a pale teal), so the curtains didn't match.  So we had to exchange them with some curtains in another part of the house.  Hanging curtains is on of my least favorite jobs. With the new colour and curtains the room was starting to look more tea-roomish  than colonial, so the electric sconce had to be switched out to a white one that I've carried with me from all of my past houses.

The second biggest job, was moving the china cupboard from the kitchen to the dining room.  Yes, I really do use all that china!  Just not all at the same time.  Lots of good memories tied up in that frippery.

Today will be picture hanging day. The walls look so empty.  Then maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to put our feet up and read some of the books Santa brought us.  But it's doubtful, as I write this Ran is out chopping wood.  We never sit for long!

Friday, December 23, 2011


I Will Keep Christmas

I will keep Christmas in the cold hedgerow,
With red shining holly and winter snow.
I will keep Christmas far from any town
On the frosted side of the windswept down.

Stars will be candles of sweet silver fire,
Swinging at midnight over tree and spire.
Waves will be booming bells and break the air,
With glory and greeting and winged prayer.

I will keep Christmas alone and away,
Praising the Lord of all on Christmas Day.
~P. A. Ropes ~

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends!


Thursday, December 22, 2011


My mother sent me my birthday card with a ten dollar bill inside. :)   She instructed me to spend it on myself. So per instructions, I bought two  pairs of sherbet colored socks from the dollar store and a pair of pretty hair bobs (hair's been out of control lately).  A beautiful vintage Pendleton wool skirt , ballerina pink sweater, and  a happy vintage floral scarf from the thrift store.  And a bean burrito fresco style from Taco Bell.  For a grand total of  $9.00.  The remaining cash , I dropped in the Salvation Army pot, although I must confess, I thought hard about spending it on a donut with  green, white, and red sprinkles.  Oh well, I got more enjoyment out of hearing the ringer say  "Merry Christmas". I think I did that ten dollar bill justice!  Who says it isn't fun to be thrifty?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Hello!  Happy first day of winter!  Now the days will begin to grow longer.  Hurray!  Seems like we've been mole-people going around in the dark lately.  Maybe it's just me getting older, but this year, it really seemed like the darkness fell unusually early.  Anyway, to commemorate  the first day of winter, I thought I'd post some thrifty tips for staying warm through the cold season.  I wrote a similar post on my earlier blog and it became one of my most popular posts.  An advertiser even linked to it.  Life is strange! My apologies to those that have read this already!

I used to have a neighbor that always complained about the high cost of heating her house in the winter, but she was always dressed in shorts and light cotton blouses when she was  at home.  So the first tip is to dress for the weather.  Duh!  But you'd be surprised at how many people I see out dressed in shorts even in the winter.  Don't automatically turn up the heat when you feel chilled, instead reach for a sweater.  During the winter I wear corduroy or wool skirts, a light sweater with a bulkier sweater at hand if I feel cold.  Under the sweater I wear a t-shirt  or one of those silk longjohn shirts and I always wear tights even under pants, and boiled wool slippers.  Tights are a good value.  They keep you warm and they last forever.  About two decades ago, I bought some expensive for the time (around $20) woolen ones and they still are doing duty.  At about a dollar a year, that's a bargain! My son wears flannel lined jeans and hoodies.  My latest little trick is to iron and fold my clothes the night before and place them near the radiator.  It's quite a luxury to slip into toasty warm clothes in the morning.

Inside the house, I made little draft stoppers for all the double hung windows.  Even with the newest and best construction, a lot of heat is lost through windows.  Just put your hand by yours and see.  To make the draft stoppers, just sew a cylinder the length of the window and fill with cheap white rice. Here's how the look:

Also hang thermal lined curtains.  You can find the old fashioned pinch pleated ones at thrift stores without a big output of money.  If  you can't find any that you like, you can always sew them fairly inexpensively made from  plain onsaburg fabric backed with outing flannel or you can buy the thermal backing to make nice simple curtains.  Curtains are the easiest thing in the world to sew.  They are basically just large rectangles (make them 1 1/2 - 2 times the width of your windows) with a channel sewn on the back to accommodate the curtain rod.  Hint:  I use that wide blanket edging that you can find in any notions department for the channel.  A don't forget the door!  By nature, doors are drafty, so we hang a long thermal curtain across ours and pull it shut during the night.  We also roll a rug across the bottom.  Or you could make one of those draft stoppers for that purpose too.

Go around and check your house for drafts.  We discovered that we were getting quite a chill from our attic door.  So we tacked a heavy piece of carpeting across the   door on the inside and again another rug rolled up against the bottom.  Shut off the registers to rooms that you don't use, such as guest rooms. 

Don't overlook little ways to add warmth either.  When you are finished using your oven, leave the door ajar.  I check the forecast and do my baking on the coldest day of the week.  Ovens generate heat!  Ditto for your dryer.  When you get older, you find that you use less and less of your house.   My parents closed off the upper floor of their home by putting a false wall and a door at the stairs.  On the rare occasions that they had overnight visitors, they used a small electric heater to warm the room. Why heat a living room that you never use? Do you only use your bedroom for sleeping?  Then close the register up.  Heat will travel to the room.  We have one of those cute little electric fireplaces for our room, bought for $80 at Meijers.  Just running it for an hour in the evening warms the room up.

Speaking of bedrooms, I dress the bed with flannel sheets, wool blankets, and a down blanket and top that with a quilt.  Down blankets are a good investment although costly.  I found some nice ones made by Woolrich at Target that didn't cost an arm and a leg.  Sometimes you have to spend some money to save some.  Shop around, the prices vary greatly. I purchased some nice heavy woolen blankets for my friend's son mission at the thrift stores, so I know you can find them.  If they look a bit ratty, you can always sew new silk binding to the top.  Or how about a cute calico from the scrap bag?  I used to think the toastier the better for bedrooms, but have discovered that I actually sleep better in a cool room.  Which is good, since our old house's upstairs is unheated.

That's another thing.  Experiment with how much cold you can tolerate.  Set the thermostat down a degree and see if you notice any difference. Once you get used to the temperature, turn it down another notch.  Pretty soon you'll wonder how you ever tolerated all that heat!

Friday, December 16, 2011


I love to ice skate.  Some of  the best times of my life have been spent at the skating rink, so when I saw this pattern for a skating bonnet, I knew I would have to knit it.   This is truly a quick knit that can be made up in a weekend.  What I love about it, is that it's snug around the ears.  Did you know that I'm a medical miracle?  When I was fifteen I contracted the German measles and my eardrums burst because of the infection.  Most people that this happens to die, but not me.  Though it was quite touch and go for weeks and as a result I'm profoundly deaf.  My deafness has been somewhat corrected with high power hearing aids so that is why I need a snug fitting hat to wear outside when the wind blows.  The wind really wreaks havoc with hearing aids.  My eardrums are quite fascinating to every doctor I've ever come in contact with.  How many people can say they have fascinating eardrums?  I think I'll leave them to science!

So there you have it.  If you'd like the pattern, just e-mail me.

Monday, December 12, 2011


What do I love about Christmas?  That it is a time to put away petty arguments and silly fears.  It is a time that belongs to Mamas and Papas and all their little bears.  It is a time to sit in laps and listen to stories  about "when I was little".  It is a magical time to sit quietly and listen for sleigh bells and reindeer's hooves. It is the time to celebrate love. Many times in our marriage, my husband and I  would look at our  bank balance at the end of the year, and realizing that the amount would not keep the wolves from the door anyway, decided to spend the meager amount on a Christmas celebration.  One Christmas in particular, it was as though fate was not with us.  Following the happy occasion of our son's birth, I developed a massive blood clot and had to spend ten days in the hospital.  So we had some major medical bills. I had no sooner been released from the hospital, when  my husband awoke to discover that he couldn't walk.  After many doctor visits (and many doctor bills) he was finally diagnosed with what we had thought all along - a rare form of arthritis.  Fortunately, we found an excellent doctor, who prescribed a treatment that sent his arthritis into remission.  On top of all that stress, our area had not the one hundred year, but the one thousand year flood.  Our property became a lake overnight, ditto for the basement. Oh!  Did I mention that all this happened during a time of high inflation and wage freezes? 

 So you see, I know about hard times too.  But we were determined to give our sons a merry Christmas even if the bank book said zero ( probably negative).  My husband and I would conspire late into the night after the boys had been tucked into bed.  He made blocks and little push toys from wood scraps.  I knitted mittens, sewed stuffed animals and made candy for Christmas stockings. We poured so much love into these meager offerings. Outside our "lake" had frozen, so my dear husband swept off the ice and made a skating rink.  He turned some buckets upside down and placed boards on them for benches, then made ice candles to set around the perimeter.  On Christmas Eve, instead of our usual smorgasbord after church, we went outside and skated and roasted hot dogs (79 cent turkey franks) over a fire under the starry Christmas sky.  And do you know it was one of the most memorable Christmases we had ever celebrated?  Can't say the most, because  one of our sons was born on Christmas and we became engaged on that day too, but it was certainly one of the dearest.

Lessons Learned

Children really don't know the value of things, so you don't have to feel guilty about how little you spend.

After a few gifts, small children become disinterested, so it's really a waste of money to have presents stacked to the ceiling.  If you can't bare it, then buy the things they need like socks and underwear and wrap them.

Babies really do not care if the receive a present at all. And they will not have any memory of their first Christmas.  So don't be silly, buying lots of toys.  Whatever the grandparents or godparents give will suffice.

Older children can be very understanding.  Have a frank talk with them about your money situation.You might find it brings you closer together.

Spouses should be on the same page.  A moratorium on gift-giving  to each other should be obvious.

Don't be shy about telling your relatives that you can't afford to send them presents this year.  You might be surprised  to learn that they are in the same boat.

If you feel you must buy for relatives, consider a family present instead of lots of individual gifts.  A board game, puzzle, a tin of cookies, or a box of chocolates, are all inexpensive gifts.

Pay attention to the gift wrapping.  It can make a simple gift look like a million bucks. Use gift boxes and tissue wrapping to make a pretty presentation.  Look for pretty ribbons in the thrift shops. Buy fancy gift wrap at the after-Christmas sale.

Lastly, but most important, besides the main reason for the season, Christmas is about family.  All the time saved by not going out shopping,  wrapping  gifts, attending parties and concerts, gives you more time to spend with them. Tell stories, play games, just cuddle and watch a movie on TV. 

Praying that your Christmas is filled with love, joy and peace. All free for the taking!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Just in case you didn't have enough things to do this December, you might want to spruce up some of your furniture.  Inspired by James Cramer, I've been painting my chairs in different shades of white.  With these tips,  you'll have that authentic, old-fashioned "grandma" look.

How to "antique" a chair

1.  Lighting is  important.  Choose the poorest lit room in the house for your project.  After the sun sets is the optimal time.

2.  The right tools are important also.  Purchase  your paintbrush from a dollar store, to ensure that many bristles will fall off while painting.

3.  Forget sanding.  The paint will stick to the varnished spots  won't it? This will give you the desired alligator effect that is so en vogue at the moment.

4.  Ditto for using a tack cloth.

5.  Have a small dog that sheds a lot (like a corgi) keep you company while painting.  Dog hair gives the paint job character.

6.  Slap the paint on in a lackadaisical manner.  Don't bother to catch the drips.  This will give your chair that old-timey  look just like Grandma used to have.

7.  Move the chair before the paint dries.  This guarantees that some paint will lift, replicating years of wear.

8.  Be ready to soak in the compliments that you receive from friends and neighbors, who marvel at your good fortune to find such a lovely "antique" chair with just the right amount of wear.   

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Along with the gift buying, baking and tree trimming, another annual event is the "I don't celebrate Christmas because it's a pagan holiday."  sermon.  I wouldn't mind listening to it, if the preacher was truly telling me these things because he/she fears for my soul and on occasion I have heard some very sincere pleas,  but on the contrary, usually those people are using their argument to show us how better of a Christian  they are compared to us.  Sort of like measuring us up with a spiritual yardstick and pridefully  (what does the Bible say about pride?)showing us that they are much more pious. Of course, they always preface it, by saying "I'm not making any judgements, but...", but of course they are judging you, and rather harshly, I might add. By the way, if you hear the phrase "I'm not judging you", you can be assured that they are.  I have to laugh, because it is almost comical, like Dana Carvey's  Church Lady the way they like to make you feel small.  Oh!  The church ladies I've run into in my lifetime.  And friends, I am telling you now, that if you think you can evangelize by being one of these holier-than-thou, I'm-a-better-Christian-than-you type people, you have another think coming.  I know, because for many years, I was one of those running away from such people.  I've talked to enough non-believers to know that when they see this  judgmental example of a "good" Christian, they want nothing to  do with our faith. After all, are we all not sinners? This being said, if you truly believe that celebrating Christmas is sinful and you believe it is your duty to warn others, do it in a loving concerned manner. 

So yes, I celebrate Christmas for many reasons.  First, my family is spread out over the country.  Usually Christmas is the only time that we all have vacation days at the same time.  Secondly, there are a lot of traditions involved in Christmas. Those old ornaments on the trees have been in my family for generations.  Some are the only tangible things I have of  my grandparents.  Traditions and memories are  what sustain us when times get rough.  Thirdly, what's wrong with celebrating?  Even in the Bible there were celebrations. I truly do not believe that God gave us life so that we were to go around acting joyless.  On the contrary, being cheerful and kind can be two of the best example of being a Christian.  I once  had a substitute teacher, Miss Schmidt, that was the very personification of joy and patience.  I learned more about what it was to be a Christian from spending one day with her, then I learned in a year of sermons.  As for some of the customs being pagan, well the devil likes to take all that is good and make it his own.  I even read that putting a candle in your window is a pagan practice.  Really? How about it just looks pretty and I like the idea that it's lighting the way for anyone who is lost to come and I will feed you and give you a place to lie your head?  These things are just symbols anyway, what matters is what is written in your heart.

The finally argument is that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th.  What does it matter?  If God had wanted us to know the date, He would have given us it in the Bible.  What is important is that we acknowledge that "God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son to die for us. That he that believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.  As a Christian, everyday should be a Christmas celebration and Thanksgiving!

Friday, December 2, 2011


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, inside and out!  Woke up this morning to the soft diffused light of snow.  I defy anyone not to feel happy and childlike  with the first snow fall, it's so magical and fairyland-like.  As you can see in the second picture, just yesterday the grass was green.What a difference a day makes.  It certainly puts you in the Christmas spirit!

So I'll be in the kitchen today baking Christmas cookies.  Every year I say I'm not going to bake any, being zaftig (Ha!  Spell check  didn't recognize this word and suggested softie! That too!) I certainly could do without the temptation, but then someone will say, "just our favorites"and pretty soon I've baked up dozen upon dozens.  But it is nice to give away tins of the goodies.  They are nice to have on hand for unexpected gifts, too.  Plus they've become part of the Christmas traditions  for many of my family members.  Been hearing from some relatives that have been silent lately.  Of course they always mention the tins that I send them.  Hmmm?

When my sister and I were girls,we made batches upon batches of fudge to give away.  We had quite a long list; grandparents, friends,teachers, the vicar, Girl Scout leaders, and of course that cute boy in class. Does anyone make fudge anymore?  You never hear of it.  Probably gone the way of crinoline slips and sock hops!  Well, here's a recipe  that we used:

Mamie Eisenhower's Fudge

Boil for 6 minutes:

4 1/2 C. sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1 can evaporated milk

Pour over:

1 bar German Sweet Chocolate
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 small jar of marshmallow topping
2 C. cashews, chopped

Stir until blended.  Pour into a 9" greased pan and refrigerate until set.  Cut into small squares. A little goes a long way!

I've talked myself into it.  I'm going to include some of Mamie's fudge in my Christmas tins. Hope my sisters will enjoy this blast from the past.

While all of this festivity is fun, let us not forget the real reason for the season, the birth of our Savior!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


April of has given me an award.  Thank you so very much! It called the Liebster Blog award.  Even with my rather rudimentary grasp of the German language knows that liebe is German for love as in Ich liebe Dich (I love you).  How's that for sweet? Here's the rules:
  1. copy and paste the award on your blog
  2. thank the giver and link back to them
  3. reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  4. hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers 

 It's really impossible to choose five blogs.  Sort of like choosing your favorite child, but I must according to the rules,so here's the five blogs that I've chosen:

Dances with Yarn
...and He shall direct  my paths
Sweet Felicity
Morning Minion
Sassafras and Winterberry

Hope you'll have fun visiting those blogs.  I do! You all know of  linking problems. but you can find the links to the right.

Monday, November 28, 2011


BAh! Humbug!  Just got back from doing a bit of Christmas shopping.  I know, some of you think it's a tad bit early, but since my family is spread out all over the nation, I have to have the gifts wrapped and ready to be sent out the first week of December.  Anyway, while I was standing in line waiting for an incompetent clerk to scan the bar codes  (Heaven help us if the scanner breaks!) of the customer in front of me, my thoughts went back to Christmas shopping of my childhood.....

The day after Thanksgiving marked the official beginning of the retail shopping season.  Every little community of three-thousand or so people was self-contained in the days before Wal-Mart and Target.  There were hardware and drug stores,  jewelers, clothing shops, and butchers, mechanics, small little groceries and gift shops all owned by local citizens  that we knew and respected.  The crowning glory of the business district in my child's eyes was the five and dime, an emporium of all things wonderful. 

When the Christmas toys arrived there, my friends and I would walk downtown to give it a good study.   We examined all the dolls and debated which was the prettiest.  Looked over the new sleds and books.  Then we would walk up and down the aisles making a mental list of presents for family and friends.  Would mother like that rhinestone brooch shaped like a candy cane?  Or maybe that pretty little vase?  It looks like grandma would be getting another pair of hand knit slippers this year again.  Maybe the variegated yarn would look snazzy.  The store held everything anyone's heart could desire.  On and on we would debate and calculate how far our budget could stretch.  Such joy and anticipation in the giving! People really did seem to have goodwill towards their fellow man back then. So unlike now days when everyone seems harried and grumpy.  And the money being spent!  If you ever want proof that money cannot buy happiness, have a good look at today's Christmas shoppers.

The following week, my mother would return with me to the store and I would show her the doll that my friends and I had scoped out.  Hoping against hope that come Christmas morning she would be under the tree.  Then we would go to the fabric department and my mother would select the fabric for our Christmas dresses.  She was a master at making a pattern fit on selvedge pieces, sometimes it seemed she could make a formal gown out of a handkerchief! To this day I still remember those Christmas dresses.  After her sewing needs were met, she stopped in front of the glass cased candy department.  You have to understand that my mother was rather tight with a nickel.  So tight that we said you could hear the buffalo squeal from her pinching it so tight, so it truly did seem like a Christmas miracle to us girls that she would actually buy some sweets.  And what wonderful candy!  Little chocolate stars, nougats with candy canes on them that could be stretched into funny shapes, cream filled drops, and my favorite seafoam, which squeaked when you bit it.  

And then we'd make a trip downstate to the big department stores like J.L. Hudsons and Jacobsens (they had valet parking!).  To us country kids, they seemed like the final word in sophistication.  Just thinking about those good old days when clerks knew their stock and cared about the customers, is enough to send me into a nostalgia swoon.  Trying to explain department stores to the younger generation is impossible.  The invasion of big box and discount stores have ruined the entire shopping experience.  Sometimes progress (if that's what it is) isn't a good thing.  We even had a small department store in our little town. There were a few racks of clothing, but most things were held in boxes inside drawers.  You would ask the clerk for a slip size 34 and she would pull out lovely little tissue lined boxes containing the desired apparel.  First a cheap cotton one that would be too plain for a nun, then next a costly one festooned with crystal pleats and a silk rosebud at the top.  She knew her customers, so it usually took only a few tries for her to come up with the perfectly pleasing one.

Speaking of department stores, I remember reading advise on how to decorate  your Christmas tree from a department store window dresser ( remember the beautiful windows?) and used the tips for years.  Now I use a pre-lit tree, much to my family's happiness, since I used to drive them crazy with the lights.  Here's the tips:

How to trim a Christmas tree

Wrap the trunk in garland so the lights will reflect outward.  Beginning at the bottom of the tree, wrap the lights from the back to the tip and back again from each branch. ( It will take a lot of lights, but does it ever make the tree glow!) Place the larger ornament closest to the trunk. When placing garland do not make the loops too even, it should look like icing dripping.

I used to follow all this advice and would get lots of compliments, but now I'm too lazy.  I've even gone to a tabletop tree.  Never thought I'd become one of those people.  Always thought they were kind of Scrooge-like!

Whew!  I made it through this entire rambling post without writing a recipe!  Although I did consider writing the recipe for seafoam.  Of course that might change tomorrow, as I just received my shipment of dates from  They really do have the nicest dates, so much better than those woody, dried up ones I find in the grocery store.  Also people are starting to return their Christmas tins with hints about they'd like to see them returned filled.  So tomorrow I'll be in the kitchen baking away.

Monday, November 21, 2011


June 6, 1888:  A Michigan girl had found 2,125 four-leaf clovers and isn't married yet.  An Omaha girl who found out how to make a pumpkin pie was married in three months.

~Quote from Prairie Farmer magazine, cited in A Prairie  Kitchen: Recipes, Poems and Colorful Stories from the "Prairie Farmer" Magazine, 1841-1900 ~

Well, you didn't think I'd let November pass without posting something about pumpkins did you?  Especially since they are my favorite thing to grow in the garden.  So easy!  I just pick out promising seedlings growing  in the compost and replant them.  Of course, I do plant some the traditional way also!

Pumpkins are high in Vitamin A, which promotes healthy eyes, skin and bones.  That deep orange color is high in beta - carotene, so enjoy it!  Beside the traditional pies, breads and muffins, you can use it any way that you would a traditional winter squash.  You would have to have a pretty sophisticated palate to tell the difference!  I like to add cubed pieces to stews and soups.  Anything to add more nutrition!

To prepare fresh pumpkin:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a jelly roll baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut the pumpkin in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Place the pumpkin cut side down on the baking sheet  and bake for 1 -1 1/2 hours or until the flesh is tender.  Scoop out the flesh and mash until smooth. You could use a food processor for this, but I don't own one so I couldn't tell you how.

How to can pumpkin:
Clean pumpkins,  Remove seeds and pulp.  Cut into 1-inch cubes.  Cut off the rind.  Place in a large pot and cover with water.  Boil a few minutes to heat thoroughly.  Pack into sterilized pint jars leaving 1" headspace.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt to  jars.  Ladle the boiling cooking liquid over the cubes, leaving 1" headspace.  Wipe the rims and place a sterilized lid on top.  Screw on the ring and process for 55 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure.

Of course, I couldn't write a pumpkin post without including a recipe for pie.  Here's the one we use:

Amish Pumpkin Pie

1 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 C. pumpkin puree
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. flour
2 eggs, beaten
9" unbaked pie shell

Mix together the sugar, spices, salt and flour.  Stir in the pumpkin, then the eggs.  Lastly the milk.
Pour into the pie shell.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the filling is firm.

With this recipe you'll have enough pumpkin left over in the can to make our family's favorite; pumpkin pancakes.  Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Pancakes

2C. flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 C.  milk
1/2 C. canned pumpkin
1 large egg
2 tbsp. oil
oil for the skillet

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl combine the milk, pumpkin, egg and oil; stir into the dry ingredients until the dry ingredients  are moistened.  The batter will be thick.  Pour  1/4 cup batter into heated, lightly oiled griddle.  Spread batter into a 4 inch circle. Cook as you would any pancakes.

Or maybe these muffins would be more up your alley:

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

1 1/4 C. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. soda
1 egg
3/4 C. brown sugar
2/3 C.  pumpkin
1/4 C. oil
1  3oz. pkg. cream cheese
3 tbsp. sugar
1/3 C. chopped nuts

Combine  the dry ingredients.  Mix the egg, brown sugar, pumpkin and oil together.  Add to the dry ingredients.  Mix until combined.  In another bowl combine the cream cheese and sugar.  In lined muffin cups spoon 1 tbsp. batter, top with 1 tsp. of the cream cheese mixture.  Spoon another 1 tbsp. of batter over top.  Spread evenly and sprinkle with the nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Well!  This has certainly been a long post!  But before I go, I want to wish you all a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving.  Here's my favorite poem on the subject:

He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.
~J. A. Shedd~

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Sandy!  I wish you all could have won.  Guess Ill just have to keep on having giveaways until you all do!The nicest thing about this giveaway is that you all are blogging buddies, so I would have been happy no matter who won.  So if you'll e-mail me with your address, Sandy, I'll get the package out to you tomorrow AM.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Do you call the traditional Thanksgiving meal side dish dressing or stuffing? It seems to be a regional thing as is pop versus soda, mowing or cutting the grass, lunch versus dinner, etc.  Seems there's a lot of diversity in this big old country.  When I was a child, we would occasional be subjected to a young, idealist of a teacher, from one of those elite universities out east.  They always thought it would be an interesting anthropological experience to come to our northern Michigan village and teach the children of absent sailors, impoverished lumbermen, and hard scrabbled farmers, some culture and refinement.  They never lasted through one of our notoriously harsh winters, but anyway to bring me back to the stuffing/dressing debate, as I was going off on a completely  different tangent; one such teacher taught us that the word "stuffing" was vulgar.  Oh dear !  We country hicks must have been quite a challenge to her!

Well anyway, so much for that.  Now on to Frankenmuth and it's stuffing.  When I was a child, my parents took me  there.  It was as though I had stepped into one of those Grimms  Brother's storybooks, with it's Alpine buildings, twinkling lit trees, horse drawn carriages, and even a covered bridge suitable for Billy goats gruff.  I was instantly smitten.  Then we went into the castle-like fortress and ate.  My goodness!  What a wonderful meal!  I've related before, that my mother was a terrible cook, and her stuffing was probably one of her worst dishes.  It resembled and tasted like wallpaper paste with raisins.  So I was surprised when I tasted the restaurant's stuffing and loved it.  After years of experimenting, I've come up with a pretty good facsimile of the wonderful recipe I first tasted as a child.  I know that you probably have your own ideas and traditions of the perfect Thanksgiving dish, but just in case you've been using Stove Top stuffing, here's the recipe:

Frankenmuth Stuffing

1 loaf stollen ( a traditional German fruit bread, without icing of course)
1/2 C. grated onion
1/2 C. grated celery
1/4 C. oil
2 tins of chicken (found next to the canned tuna in the grocers)
3 C. chicken broth
grated rind of 1 orange and the juice of half of an orange
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. chicken seasoning (I use Zehnders)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. sage
1/4 C. chopped  fresh parsley

Cube the bread. and combine  with all the remaining  ingredients.  Place in a greased casserole (I use a souffle dish).  Refrigerate overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  This stuffing inflates like a souffle, hence the use of a souffle dish.  Usually, I cube the bread, stir in the chicken, onions, celery and spices then freeze this to get a jump on the preparations.  The night before Thanksgiving, I defrost the bread, then combine the broth, oil, juice and eggs and  stir into the bread mixture.

So there you have it, Frankenmuth stuffing.  This fruity type of dressing goes well with goose or duck also.  Now, I'd like to thank you all for your positively winsome comments on the giveaway post.  There's still time to enter, in case you haven't already.  Go ahead!  Don't be shy.  I won't bite.  At least I haven't bitten anyone in over half a century!

Speaking of giveaways, our dear friend Marqueta at is having a giveaway also, for her newest Ebook.  It's a fascinating story of the births of her adorable  children.  Marqueta has so much wisdom to share, especially about the use of herbs, I know you will find her little book very interesting.

Update:  Here's the recipe that I use for Christmas Stollen.  It comes from an old recipe book put out by our Lutheran church's Ladies Aid Society (circa 1950s)

Christmas Stollen

1 pkg. dry yeast
1/4 C. warm water
1/2 C. milk, scalded
1/4 C. butter
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. mace or nutmeg (traditionally they use mace but who has that spice in their cupboard anymore?)
1/4 C. each - candied cherries, citron, golden raisins, and almonds
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 C. flour

Proof the yeast in the warm water. Combine the milk, sugar and salt.  Cool to lukewarm.  Add the egg, peel, vanilla, nutmeg and yeast mixture to the milk mixture.  Beat until smooth.  Add the fruits and nuts.  Hint:  dredge the fruit in some flour first to keep them from sticking together.  Add enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.  Punch down dough.  Shape into a 14 X 9 inch oval.  Brush with melted bitter and fold in half lengthwise  (sometimes we braid ours).  Place on a well-greased cookie sheet.  Let rise until nearly doubled.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Cool.  Frost with a thin vanilla icing and sprinkle with some almonds.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Brown paper packages tied up with string.  These are a few of my favorite things!
~ lyrics from Favorite Things by Rodgers and Hammerstein ~

Hello everyone!  The other day I received a package in the mail wrapped in brown paper.  I think I was more excited about the packaging, than the actual contents; our favorite sage cheddar from Vermont. Anyways, I wanted to share the fun  of receiving a brown paper package (though it won't be tied up with string.  I'll be suffering the wrath of the Postmistress enough with the brown paper!), so I decided to have a giveaway of some of my favorite things.  Sorry, I can't offer you a car like Oprah, but my giveaway is easier to get tickets to attend.  Just leave your name in the comments and next Sunday I'll draw a name.  So what's in the drawing?  A vintage English Brown Betty teapot made by Alcock, Lindley and Bloore. I've been collecting these adorable little teapots for decades.  What is a teapot without tea, right?  So a tin of Harney and Sons tea, which is about the only tea I can tolerate.  A pretty Royal Albert teacup and saucer (vintage of course) in the Winsome pattern.  Don't you just love the name?  I need to use the word "winsome" more often.  Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber, one of my favorite authors.  Who doesn't love Gladys?  A vintage Christmas apron, all freshly laundered and starched, so you won't splash any tea on your clothes when pouring the tea.  And a pretty sparkly vintage Christmas pin.  Perhaps you can spy it on the apron?  Madame the Bust is being very uncooperative in modeling the apron today.  Plus a few other little trifles that I'll let be a surprise.  So enter your name, tell your friends, the more the merrier!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


A multitude of small delights constitutes happiness.
~ Charles Baudelaire~

Purchasing a house is like finding your spouse;  you just know when it is the one.  Our little cottage was by no stretch of the imagination anyone's dream home, the fact that it was on the market for several years is testimony to that.  But the second I stepped inside, I knew it was the place for me.  It was the odd little angled nooks, the rough old horsehair plastered walls, the little open landing on the second floor, even the sturdy old-fashioned clothesline that sold me.

Lately I've been thinking about what attracts one person to something and another person  finds it ugly.  You have a lot of time to think when you are painting lots of  bumpy surfaces!  Whether it's the clothes we choose to wear, the way we decorate our homes, or even the people we are attracted to, it all harkens back to our childhoods.  At least I know it is true in my case, and it is true in most of the people I know.

For instance, I have always wanted to paint the bannister red.  Why red?  If you asked me to name my favorite color, red would not be counted among my  favorites.  Why have I always wanted a little open hallway?  Then it occurred to me, that when I was a very little girl, my grandparents had such a bannister in their farmhouse.  My grandfather died before I started kindergarten and my grandmother sold the farm soon afterward, so I have few recollections of the old place.  Couldn't even tell you what any of the interior looks like, except that upstairs in their hallway, my grandmother kept her hope chest, filled with dolls and sock monkeys that she had made.  And that is where my sisters and I spent many happy hours.

I've always felt most comfortable in small dark spaces.  I call it cozy, but I'm sure that to those that love the open beachy or the all-white shabby chic rooms, would call it something else. LOL!  Conversely, while I can see the beauty in those rooms, after a while I feel cold and uncomfortable in them.  Why do I love small dark little rabbit warrens of rooms?  Because as a child, I spent many enjoyable afternoons camped out in the den closet.  My mother stored the blankets and extra bed pillows in there.  It was the perfect place to wile away a rainy afternoon, trying to imagine myself into the cottages illustrated in the Little Golden Books, like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. For me, small and dark, signifies happiness, safety and love.  I was always attracted to the cottages, not the palaces in my storybooks.  Guess I was thrifty even as a child!  By the way, that is why I have that rather gaudy wallpaper that you see on the walls.  It looks very much like the stenciled walls in Elizabeth Orton Jone's illustrations in Little Red Riding Hood.  That, plus the fact that I bought the Brunschwig and Fils  wallpaper for fifty cents at a thrift store. (Another story for another day!)

Once a year, I go shopping with my sister.   Recreational shopping is certainly not a thrifty thing to do!  She always asks my opinion about what purse, dress , teapot, etc.  that I prefer, then always picks the opposite!   Although we grew up in the same home, our tastes are completely different. We have different experiences.  If it has sequins, beads or something shiny, she loves it; I love tweeds, dressmaker's details, and somber colors.  Reminds me of that old proverb, "In matters of taste, there is no dispute.".  I used to come away with things I knew I would never use, after a day of shopping with her.  She can be very persuasive!   But after I learned what makes me tick, it was a lot easier to say "no" when she tried to talk me into the Barbie pink sweater or the Kathy Van Zeeland handbag.  Pretty, just not me.   Knowing who you are and why is one of the easiest ways to stay within your budget. Once you get that figured out, you won't be so influenced by fads, thus you won't have  to cringe when looking  back at old pictures and exclaim "What was I thinking?!".

What do you think? Has your childhood influenced your tastes in decor,  fashion, and relationships?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Hello everyone!  Can you believe it is already November?  Seems like just yesterday we were  anticipating the beautiful autumn leaves and now they are gone.  Some people think November is a bleak month, but I love it.  Now is the time to really study the trees.  Isn't their construction amazing?   And have you ever noticed how many different shades of gray there are?  From the steely storm clouds  to the pretty lavender tinted evening shadows, there's so much to observe.  It reminds me of this quote:

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.
 ~Vincent Van Gogh ~

November is also the month of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  At Sweet Briar Cottage, Thanksgiving is truly a harvest meal  as much of the food that graces our table will have come from our own dear garden.  We do indeed have much to be thankful for and the bounty of our garden is just one of the many blessings.  I wish I could share our meal with you, but since I'm sure you will be spending that day with your family, I'll share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes throughout this month instead.  Today I am making cranberry chutney.  It freezes well, so I can get a jump on the preparations. A nice activity for today as I'm kind of stuck in the house while  the plumbers are here installing the new boiler.  Hurray!  So turn on some Nat King Cole (what a voice!) and simmer away. Here's the recipe:

Cranberry Chutney

4 C. fresh cranberries
2 C. sugar
1 C, apples, chopped, unpeeled
1/2 C. golden raisins
1 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 C. orange juice
1/2 C. chopped walnuts

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer until the cranberries start to pop and mixture becomes fairly thick.  Cool.  Pour into glass jars and refrigerate or freeze until Thanksgiving.

This smells so wonderful!  I  would make it even if I didn't like cranberries just to scent the cottage.  Did you know that I tried to grow cranberries once?  It was quite a failure, but I haven't given up on them. Who knows?  Maybe one year it will be our own berries gracing the table!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Oh dear!  What a week we are having here at Sweet Briar Cottage.  I do believe some little gremlins have taken up residence.  The week started out with me noticing a small leak in our boiler.  Some small leak!  We ended up replacing the entire heating system.  Then in the middle of doing the laundry the washing machine just up and quit.  Followed by the vacuum cleaner.  Now I understand what it is like to live in the golden olden days before the advent of modern technology.  I can tell you that even though it sounds romantic to sit by the fireside, it's another thing entirely to live by heating your home the old-fashioned way.  Give me central heating any day.  And now I can truly appreciate what wonderful machines washers and vacuum cleaners are.  How did people keep their homes clean before them?  Probably didn't have corgis for pets, that's for sure! It's also a good reminder that an emergency fund is a very nice thing indeed.  Otherwise, you would have to add heart attack to list of mishaps when Jake, the plumber, told me the amount for the new boiler!  I love my plumber!  He's the only contractor that I've ever hired that does his work without a lot of drama.  BTW, had to fire my siding contractor this month too.  Just was not getting the job done.  So unfortunately, there won't be any pictures posted of my "new" cute gray shingled cottage.  So here's our "central" heating for the present:

Glad we decided to install this little woodstove this past spring, even if I had to give up my pretty little pantry for it.  Well, on the bright side, the cold house was a good excuse to can up my carrots.  Canning really heats up a house! So you see there's always a silver lining to those gray (is it grey or gray?) clouds.Actually there's several, the other boiler was a real lemon, so it will be nice to have a reliable one, the vacuum was really heavy, so it was nice to replace it with a lighter one.  And it is nice to toast your toes next to the fire in the evening! Especially if you can have a spot of tea or cocoa and something nice like this pumpkin bread:

Pumpkin Tea Loaf

1 3/4 C. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 1/3 C. sugar
1/3 C. oil
2 eggs
1 C. pumpkin puree
1/3 C. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1/3 C. raisins or chopped dates (we prefer the dates)

Sift the first six dry ingredients together.  Beat oil and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then beat in the pumpkin.  Alternate adding the dry ingredients  and the water and vanilla.  Mixing well.  Fold in the nuts and raisins/dates.  Pour into a greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (as if I have to tell you that!).

Speaking of pumpkins, if you can have the kiddies hold off carving theirs until the day of Halloween, they will stay fresh enough so that you can then take it inside after the trick or treating and roast it to get a nice puree  to freeze for your Thanksgiving pie.  Of course the day after Halloween is a good time to purchase pumpkins for canning and freezing, as they usually go on sale.

I wish I were young enough to go trick or treating!  What fun it was to get dressed up in some outlandish costume.  The treats were never much of a treat when I was a girl;  usually  peanut butter kisses and popcorn balls with some candy corn thrown in for good measure.  No, what I loved about Halloween was walking about in the dark, crunching through the piles of leaves, and just being free from parental constraints.  What a jolly good time my friends and I had!

We usually ended the evening with a walk through the cemetery (I lived next door to it), and it was a good spooky one too.  Several blocks square with a pointy wrought iron fence, lots of lichen covered headstones, massive old elms and a huge mausoleum  in the center of it.  It had glass doors so that you could look in on it.  Oh!  the wonderful ghost stories my oldest sister told me about that!  Spent many a night sleeping with the lights on thanks to her stories.  She was a master of the macabre.  Although we hoped to encounter a ghost, we never did, but the many bats that kept house in the  trees gave us a good scare.  Of course, this was long before the world got so crazy and people started thinking it was fun to vandalize cemeteries.  So  if we don't meet again before the 31st, remember to keep a lookout "er the gobble-uns 'll git ya, ef you DON'T WATCH OUT!".

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Hello dear friends!  I've had a lot of thoughts swirling around in my little ole head and I was trying to figure out how to make a cohesive post about them, but there's just no way to make them all come together, so this is just one of those random posts.

Above is a picture of our garden after it has been put to bed for the year.  Well almost, I still have carrots  and leeks to harvest.  I keep saying I'm waiting for a good frost to make the carrots sweet.  That's as good as an excuse for procrastination as any!

People are always telling me they admire my simple life.  While this is very kind and flattering, I cannot take any credit for it.  I give all the glory to God!  All I did was to be smart enough to recognize what He was trying to tell me.  And  even that was God's doing! I am indeed blessed.

Speaking of being blessed, yesterday  Jamie and I went to the "big" city.  It saddened me to see so many homeless and unfortunate people.  I am always reminded "that except for the grace of God, there go I." One thing to do is send a prayer up when you see the unfortunate.  Some mornings I spend a  good amount of time as I read the news, offering prayers for those I read about in the paper.  But of course, "Faith without works is dead." James 2:14, so if you can afford it, give to homeless charities. Maybe volunteer at one.  One time I was with a friend when I gave some money to a homeless man.  "Oh", said the friend, "he'll just spend it on booze."  Well, maybe, who knows?  Maybe not. That is not important.  It was important for him to know that at least one person recognized his suffering and cared.  What is the good of money anyway?

On a lighter note, while we were in a store the song  Celebrate came on the public address system.  You know the song?  I just want to celebrate another day of living.  I just want to celebrate another day of life.  When I was younger and had more burdens, sometimes I got caught up in all the seriousness of life, that I forgot to enjoy it.  So everyday I try to do something completely frivolous.  Like wear a silly hat (you should see the reaction I get from my Dr. Zhivago fur (fake) hat), read a childhood favorite book (for me it's Eleanor  Estes), or go for a moonlight walk.  Yesterday I purchased some lace tights.  I wanted some when I was in fifth grade.  They were all the rage.  But my mother didn't think the were practical.  So fourty years later, I finally have my lace tights!  Only the area between my boots and skirt will be seen, but I'll know they're there! Some people might say that a fifty year old woman is too old to be wearing lace tights, but who cares?  If there was ever a sillier idea in the world, it is fashion.  So have fun with it!

Speaking of marching to your own drum, as I drove down the winding lakeshore  road, I was thinking about the path less taken, as this road is definitely a  road less taken.  Well, I have certainly done that.  From being thrifty in the conspicuous consumption era, to having more than the regulated 2.4 children, to being a stay at home mom when society was telling the world that you were nobody unless you had a fulfilling career.  Hope that my stories of having "been there, done that", give courage to others that are contemplating  going the same route.

Speaking of rubbish that the media tries to hoist upon us, the whole idea that we must have this great journey of self-discovery by going  out a sampling different cultures and lifestyles before we can be fulfilled and become successful wives and mother, is just  nonsense.  I dare say, it has a bit of "New Age" philosophy behind it, you know, the whole "do what you want" theory. What did people do before travel was easy?  Were they all unfulfilled?  Want to "find" yourself?  Spend time in prayer and quiet contemplation.  Be curious about life. Read.  Be selfless rather than selfish.  Listen more, speak less.

Well here's something silly to end this post with.  This past week I was watching some of those  spooky movies that were made in the 70s on YouTube. When I was a youngster, my girlfriends and I would have pajama parties every Friday, pop some popcorn and watch the movie of the week.  Titles like Crowhaven Farm,  Something Evil (an early Spielberg movie), Daughter of Darkness, etc.  They were really goofy and not very scary.  Here's some lesson learned from them: 1) That beautiful bucolic  farmhouse  that you inherit from some aunt that you never met,  or bought for a song is probably not the great deal you first thought it was. 2) Wear something warm to bed the first night spent in your "new" farmhouse.  That way you'll be ready to go outside and search for that mysterious crying that you hear coming from the barn or the woods. 3) Befriend the crazy looking neighbor that's also a local historian.  He'll have all the answers to solving your problems at the end. 4) Those cliquey friendly neighbors?  Probable a coven of witches. 5) Beware of too angelic looking children.  6)  If you hear harpsichord music, you know your goose is cooked. 7)And finally don't worry in the end the solution to the problem is just standing in a very windy room and saying a little rhyme!