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Monday, January 30, 2012


Hello everyone!  First, I'd like to thank everyone that left me kind words of encouragement when I had my hissy fit on the last post.  You are all correct, I need to focus on the positive and eliminate the negative.  Latch on  to the affirmative and don't mess with Mr. In-Between!  Oh sorry!  That's a fun song isn't it?  And a lot of truth in it also!  Here's a Bible verse that all you dear hearts remind me of:

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
~Proverbs 16:24~

Now I will focus on all things sweet and dear because February will soon be upon us, and as a hopeless romantic, I just cannot resist a month dedicated to love and romance.  It is a month all wrapped up in rosy taffeta ribbons and pink sugar cookies.   Plus I plan to give lots of thrifty tips so tune in if you're interested in such things.

First, above is a picture of the settee that Ran and I reupholstered this weekend.  Slowly, we are redoing all our old furniture into neutral colors because part of the fun of owning a home is decorating it for the various different seasons and having a plain background makes the job a lot easier.  We used plain old natural cotton duck.  Made in the USA at the grand cost of $6 a yard.  I found this little beauty years ago at a little gift shop in Fontanna Wisconsin.  It was part of a window display and wasn't even for sale.  When I asked the shop owner if it was for sale, she looked surprised.  "You want that?" she asked.  Rule number  one in life is that it never hurts to ask!  (And this applies  to asking  God, also.) At the time it was upholstered in a a very ugly lime and turquoise brocade that was riddled with stains.  She was using it to display a plethora  of pretty pillows and throws.  You really had to look hard to find it under all the pretties.  So the first thrifty tip is to keep your eyes open.  The second is to learn to recognize treasures when you see them.  As they say, this little loveseat had good bones; hardwood frame, eight-way hand-tied springs, nice proportions, etc.

Well anyway, back to the story, she offered it to me for sixty-five dollars, which I snapped right up.  You have to know when to dicker and this wasn't the time.  I hate to haggle, but here's a tip for bargaining that I've found effective.  Say you are at an estate or garage sale and you see something you would love to have but the price seems high to you, what do I do?  First I ask the price.  Even if the price is clearly displayed. This opens up the dialogue.  Then I say something to the effect, "Gee it's a beauty, but I wasn't planning on spending that much money today.  I'll have to think about it."  Then begin to walk away.  Fifty percent of the time, the seller will offer a lower price right then.  But sometimes they will say that come back tomorrow and the prices will be reduced to which I reply, "Oh I don't live around here."  Usually they will then offer you a lower price.  Unfortunately, sometimes sellers just don't budge and you really do have to walk away.  But on the other hand, if it's really something that you would love to have,   it may mean juggling the budget, putting more water in the soup, forgoing that morning cup of coffee  to get it.  I rarely regret making the sacrifices.  Our entire cottage is furnished in those little indulgences.  Rarely have we stepped inside a furniture store.  Rarely have we spent over one hundred dollars for anything, except the mattresses.  A good mattress is crucial to  a good night's sleep.  A good night's sleep is crucial to a healthy life.  A healthy life is crucial to a happy life. Etc., etc., etc.

Once we purchased the settee, the next challenge was to get it home. You see, we always pay cash for our cars and buy them used, so that means we often have small cars like Geos, Kias, and now an Aveo.  Not exactly  heavy-duty hauling vehicles!  But our motto is there is nothing that you can't haul, given enough rope, bungee cords, and duct tape.  So another tip is to always be prepared.  It's not just for Boy Scouts! You never know when you'll come around a corner and find that someone has tossed a lot of leaded glass diamond paned windows that would look perfect in your shed (which happened to us BTW), or there's an unadvertised estate sale at the pretty house that you've been driving past and admiring all these years. Estate sales are fun even if you are broke.  You get to see inside of houses that you drive pass daily and it seems that the people that hold them always have wonderful stories. I just find it fascinating to see how people furnish their homes, don't you?  I think it says a lot about the people residing inside.  You can tell at a glance if a person is practical, or a romantic, or a history buff, or an artist.  It's so interesting.   A good old country auction is a fun cheap way to spend the day also.

On another tangent completely, the other day Ran called to ask if he needed to pick anything up at the store on the way home. We needed some lettuce so I asked him to pick some up.  Well!  he showed up with one of those tubs of mixed greens that took up just about the entire refrigerator space.  It was just marked done to $2.50 so he couldn't resist.  In the past he has come home with an entire grocery bag of bananas reduced for quick sale, or carton of cereal that was going for cheap because the stock boy accidentally cut the tops off the boxes when he opened the carton.  It's been good practice for learning to go with the flow and use your creativity!  BTW, I baked banana bread and cakes and froze them, plus made banana pudding, plus just froze some for later.  We used them up!  The cereal was poured into Ziploc bags and the boys ate it until it was gone.  Fortunately teenage boys can eat a lot of cereal!

Anyway, we are eating a lot of salads so I thought I'd share one of the ways we love to make them.  Take about  1/4 cup of pepper jelly (we use Dickinson's, I really need to make my own this summer) and heat it in a small saucepan until it starts to melt.  Add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.  Pour over your greens.  It makes a slightly wilted lettuce salad.  Yum!  Extra good if you add some Feta or Gorgonzola cheese and some pine nuts, but tastes good on it's own too.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


OK, not minds, plural, but one mind wanted to know about my scrapbooks, so I'm glad to oblige.  As a blogger, I'm quite uncertain what direction to take my blog.  When I look at the statistics, the most popular posts are a jumble.  One is a simple how-to, but the next is one of those rambling jobbies, where very little information is shared.  I know it would be easier if my entries were just straight forward little how-tos for those looking for the information and I do have those. But I know a lot of you already know these things and are just friends visiting, so there's those for you dears.  Guess I'll just amble along writing what I feel at the moment and not analyze it too much.  Maybe Hope and Thrift won't be the most popular blog out there, but who cares?  Didn't start this thing to become the next Pioneer Woman anyway.  So when someone writes and requests some information like how to can water, or how to make sauerkraut, I'm  all but too happy to share.  So today it's scrapbooks.

As I've mentioned about a gazillion  times, I live in a tiny house, so I don't have room to store all those pretty magazines.  So instead I snip out all the information that I want to keep and paste them into cheap little photograph books or even notebooks.  I divide the clippings into several categories; decorating ideas, handicrafts idea (including sewing and fashion), winter, spring/summer, and autumn.

Above is the decorating one.  It include pictures for little vignettes, interesting room arrangements, and sweet little quotes about home.  One of the things that I've noticed is that by having all those clippings in one spot, I was able to get a real sense of the  style I like in decor.  Which in turn saves me a lot of time, because  now when I see a pretty design that I'd like to replicate, I know that  while it's pretty, it's just not my style, so I needn't waste my money on it.

Here's the winter book:

Lots of  toasty recipes and gift-giving ideas in this one.  Plus lots of pictures of snowy scenery and poetry.

The autumn notebook is my favorite.  So many beautiful images of trees and cozy rooms.  And the poets wrote some of their best  thoughts about this season.  Guess everyone is enchanted by it.

spring/summer notebook
In this one there's lot of garden design ideas,  planting information and recipes that use all the fresh produce that we grow and is available during those seasons.

These scrapbooks are like having a compendium  of all your favorite pages from the best magazines.  It's a nice little hobby for a quiet winter's day, when ennui sets in.  Plus they take up very little space.  And people enjoy them.  Whenever I leave them out around visitors, they inevitably will sit downand start perusing them.

My favorite magazines are the old Victorias, Mary Englebreits and those rare Mare Emmerling issues.  I'm fortunate that our local thrift store has a good selection of these old magazines.  Magazines are so expensive now days!  I get just as much satisfaction from the old ones.  And it's fun to see how the tastes have changed over the years.  Some of those old Country Living and Country Homes magazines!  Oh my!  Seems that the way we used to decorate was to hang everything on the walls.  There wasn't an empty wall space.  But now it seems the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.  The rooms look so sparse that they'd make a Shaker shudder!   Oh!  Another surprising source of good cheap reading  material is your local antique store.  You can purchase back issues of those great old magazine there for a dollar or two.  A lot cheaper than the five or six a brand new magazine cost today.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Well, another winter's day has come and gone.  Cheer up!  Soon it will be spring!  We finally had a tad bit of snow.  Not much, but enough to give us a change of view.  Yesterday, Jamie and I  headed out to do our marketing, but we only got to the first big curve in the road before we had to turn back.  The roads were as slick as bear grease!  So we had to stay at home and make-do.  Which wasn't such a hardship anyhow.  Sometimes I think we just feel the urge to go out for the change of scenery.  So instead I've been working on changing the view inside.  Made these pillows up from some crewel pillow shams that I purchased for the princely sum of fifty cents at the thrift store a while back.  I'm crazy for crewel, so when I find something with it, I buy it if the price isn't too dear.

The fabric behind it is some linen curtains that I'm thinking about re-purposing into upholstery for a sweet little chair I have.  Soon I'll  be busy with reupholstering a small loveseat that we had to move from the landing to make room for the linen cupboard.   One thing always leads to another.  How can anyone be bored?

Another thing that I've been working on is putting all my clippings into  scrapbooks.  I love magazines, but do not have the room to keep them, so every month, I clean out all of the old, clip the articles and pictures and paste them into scrapbooks.  Looking  at them brings me a great deal of pleasure.  Mine are divided by the seasons, another for decorating ideas, and another for creative endeavors with interesting color combinations, patterns, and ideas for interesting ways to pull outfits together.  Living in small quarters always exercises that creativity muscle trying to find attractive yet practical ways to store things.  You have to question everything you bring into the house.  I even had to give away a fluffy robe that someone gave me because it took up too much space in the closet!  But on the upside, you end up with only the things that your truly treasure.  Reminds me of this William Morris quote,“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Now just to figure out what is useful and beautiful!

Friday, January 13, 2012


The first thing I did when I heard the forecast of snow was to put a pot of beans on to soak.  Coming into a house  redolent with the smoky goodness of beans bubbling away in the oven  after spending time outside in the sparkling crisp air is one of the simplest of country pleasures.  

Of course, as with most things that bring us pleasure, baked beans remind of us times past, when neighbors were closer, before the advent of TV.  Back when church suppers and potlucks were considered grand entertainment on a winter evening.  Still to this day, the aroma of baked beans brings me right back to my childhood, when the cousins and aunts, grandparents and neighbors would bring scalloped potatoes, baked hams, lemon meringue pies and buttery rolls and share the evening chatting and just enjoying each other's company, the young ones listening to stories from the older generations, learning their history.  Perhaps now would be the time to revive the old custom?

Baked Beans

Wash and pick over 1 lb. of navy beans.  Put into a large pot and pour boiling water over them to cover plus a few extra inches.  In the morning drain.  Replace the water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, adding more water as needed and stirring once in a while to make sure they don't stick to the pot.  Drain.  Put into a small roaster or a 13 X 9 casserole.  Add 2 C. ketchup, 1 tbsp. dry mustard,  1/2 C. maple syrup, 1/4 C. brown sugar, 1/4 lb. diced bacon and 1 large onion diced.  Bake in a slow oven (325 degrees) adding water as needed, until the beans become soft and start to meld together and they develop that nice dark color (several hours).  These beans should be thicker than the ones you buy in the store. They make wonderful sandwiches made up with a layer of the beans and a slice of cheddar cheese on nice homemade bread, grilled. So there you have it, baked beans worthy of a lumber camp cookie!

As with all my recipes, it is a rough guideline.  You can use any combination of sugars (brown, molasses, maple syrup or sugar).  Sometimes if I have an apple that is beginning to look a little shriveled in the fridge, I'll peel and dice that and add it to the pot.  Some Southern recipes use cola for some of the liquids.  Add more onions and bacon if you like.  Experiment with what you like.  Usually, I don't add salt because the bacon is salty enough but you be the judge.

Speaking of bacon, the other day I got a great deal on bacon ends and pieces.  Only $2 a pound!  Be on the look out for it.  We don't eat meat very often, but baked beans, wouldn't be baked beans without it. A little added to a plain vegetable soup or fried up and sprinkled  over a potato with some cheese sauce and broccoli  makes inexpensive meals when the pantry  and checkbook are bare!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Actually, I haven't been really working all that hard, but it was a good excuse to post a picture of Georgie, our little dog.  He feels left out because I never show him off like other Corgi moms.  He's practicing his survival skills by scavenging in the garbage can for butter wrappers.  Where did that saying "working like a dog" come from anyhow?  Most dogs I know sleep and eat.  Don't see much hard labor coming from their camp.

While Georgie has been sleeping and eating, I've been busy organizing.  After offering Matty (hello Matty!) some yarn, I had to locate it, which led me to the realization that I have skeins of yarn hidden all over the house.  There was a bin in the attic, some in a basket on the landing, more in my yarn bowl, some tucked away in a knitting bag and I even found a bunch that I had shoved into a blanket chest when  I was trying to clean up a mess quickly before some unexpected visitors arrived. Speaking of unexpected guest, my grandmother's one piece of domestic advice was to always make your bed first before doing the breakfast dishes.  That way if an early visitor should stop by you can always be filling the sink and look like you were about to do the dishes, therefore avoiding looking like you spent the morning lollygagging  about which is what you truly had been doing. Now back to the yarn and organizing, after all was gathered I was horrified to see that it filled an entire trunk!  You know how it goes, better buy an extra skein just in case.  My stash was no longer a stash, it was a hoard!  I slightly assuaged my guilt by giving a huge boxful to charity.  There's plenty of charities that do knitting for the homeless and chemo and premies that are happy to take your extras, so if you find yourself in the same predicament you might consider it.  You can find them on the internet easily enough. Now that I have it all in one place, I'm excited about knitting again.  Seeing it all together, I see possibilities.

As I mentioned earlier, I also organized my clothes and put them all in one wardrobe.  Having everything in one place, helped me see why I can never seem to put an outfit together.  Problem was, that while I have lots of nice cardigans and skirts, I have nothing to wear under those cardigans.  And there lies the problem; it's hard to find a decent t-shirt as they are either all cotton and lose their shape after a few hours or they have so much Lycra in them, they feel like your wearing a girdle all day long.  Blouses have always been a problem, to get them big enough so the buttons don't pop, they are too broad in the shoulders and the waist area.  Have taken a few in at the shoulders and added darts to make the waist more fitted, but boy that's a lot of work! Does anyone else have such problems getting dressed? Nothing like seeing all your possessions in one spot to make you realize that enough is enough. Like the little kid that gets too many things at Christmas, after a while the excess becomes overbearing.  Organizing is a helpful tool for being thrifty.

Well, I'll come down from my soapbox now, to bring you a recipe that I made today.  The new year means back to eating vegan again and I would like to post at least one vegan recipe a month.  Here's what we made today:

Picadillo with rice and beans
Used to make Picadillo as a young bride, but had forgotten all about it.  It's a great recipe to use with those meatless crumbles because they are a bit bland on their own.  You can also make this with ground beef for those that are inclined.   The reason I made it today, was to use up the last of the olives in the jar, left over from Christmas.  Use it up!  One of the thrifter's mottoes to live by.

Picadillo with rice and beans

1 pkg. meatless crumbles (or 1 lb. ground beef)
1 med. onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp.  cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2  sweet pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes with jalapenos, drained  (or the ones with chilis if you don't like it too hot)
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 C. raisins (golden or regular)
about a dozen olives chopped (green or black)
2 tbsp. tomato paste (didn't have any, used ketchup, worked fine)
salt and pepper to taste
rice and beans (recipe follows)

Brown the crumbles, peppers, and onions  in a stockpot with  a small amount of oil.  Add the cinnamon and cloves. Add the remaining ingredients.  Simmer while you make the rice and beans:

Rice and beans

Saute  the other half of the sweet pepper and 1 clove of minced garlic in a med. sized saucepan.  Add a pinch of turmeric and 2 C. water.  Bring to boil and stir in 1 C. rice. and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook until all the water is absorbed  and rice is soft.  Stir in 1 can of drained and rinsed pinto beans.  (I skipped the rice step and just made some packaged saffron rice and stirred the beans in.)

So that's about it for today.  Later Tater!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Hello everyone!  Hope you all are enjoying 2012 so far!  Here at Sweet Briar Cottage, we've been putzing around organizing things.  When you live in a teeny tiny house it doesn't take much to make a mess.  One thing I've been doing this week is downsizing  my wardrobe.  There are only two closets in our entire house and neither are walk-ins, so I simply cannot be a clothes horse.  We purchased a wardrobe for the upstairs landing and after folding and placing all my clothes inside, it was clear to see what things were clinkers.  I'm trying to get my wardrobe down to five outfits for everyday, something to wear for church, weddings, and funerals (unfortunately there are more funerals than weddings when you get to be my age) and a couple of grubbing around outfits.  The guidelines for each outfit is that it must be comfortable, washable, feminine and flattering.  Oh yeah, and they must blend with corgi hair!  With that criteria I might have a hard time finding five outfits! I'm at the crossroads in dressing, where I really have to take my age into consideration, don't want to look like I'm trying to look like a youngster but I don't want to look like I'm ready for the nursing home either.  It's really not as easy as it sounds.  I know that it sounds pretty shallow compared to many that are resolved to living simpler, getting out of debt, growing their own food, becoming healthier and other noble goals. I feel kind of out of synch with others because I haven't made any of these resolutions, but we don't have any debts, we already grow most of our own food and if our lives get any simpler, we'll be living in a cave! Although we can always be healthier, so one of my goals is to exercise an additional 30 minutes a day.  I didn't exercise at all the past couple of weeks, except for climbing ladders and moving furniture and it's surprising how quickly you start to feel jiggly.

One thing I'd like to do this year enjoy more creative endeavors and especially work at using up my stash of yarns.   Last year I kind of got stuck working on a couple of projects I wasn't enjoying.  Didn't want to start a new project until I finished those but I didn't want to work on them either.  So I basically did nothing.  It's a joy to finally work on a project again. These little owl mittens were so much fun to knit.  And they worked up quickly too.  Here's the free pattern:
I used some yarn I had on hand.  These really do knit up in a weekend and are easy enough for beginning knitters. They had an interesting thumb gusset too.  Plus now I already have a Christmas present finished for this year.  Another goal for the year! Until next time, enjoy your day!