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Sunday, December 27, 2015


Hello dear friends!  I hope this post finds you all safe and rested.  Did you have a jolly Christmas?   The week before Christmas we traveled downstate to visit with our son and family.  And wouldn't you know it? It snowed so we had a very slow and slippery trip back home.   Hazardous driving is becoming part of our Christmas tradition. Ha!  But in a way, I got my white Christmas.   Strangely, I found it very peaceful edging towards home on the icy roads in the warm and toasty car, confident that my dear husband would deliver us safely to our doorstep.    On Christmas eve, we attended a free screening of It's A Wonderful Life at our local theater.  I've watched  that movie dozens of times but I always shed a couple of tears at the ending, sentimental old fool that I am.  What a treat to see it on the big screen! Christmas itself, was a very quiet and nontraditional affair; lots of conversations via the phone and Skype, no presents (we're saving for a new car), and our meal was a Cajun fish dish that we really love but rarely have because fish is not usually in our price range.   You know what?  It was a perfect day! But now it's back to our normal thrifty routine.


 Ran has been warding off a cold by making a tea of pine needles and rosehip syrup .  To make the tea, just steep the chopped up  needles from a  red pine tree (the red pine has two needles) in boiling water.   Strain and drink.


We rarely eat meat, and even more rarely eat red meat, but every once in a great while, my body tells me I need some.  I can't explain it except to say that I start to feel very fragile.   It's taken me almost half a century to become attuned to my body; I abused it for many years eating processed foods and sweets, but one of the greatest benefits of our thrifty self-sufficient lifestyle is becoming more healthy via all the organic and wholesome foods we now grow and eat.  Also, now that we can't afford to run off to the doctor whenever we feel ill, we've had to study natural and alternative remedies.  Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying that my body was telling me that I needed some red meat (probably iron).   Fortunately our local butcher had a cheap cut of steak on sale that was cheaper than hamburger, so I made this:
Boarding House Ragout

a few rashers of bacon, diced
4-6 med. potatoes, sliced
3-4 carrots, sliced
3 medium onions, sliced
1 lb. round steak (or any other cheap steak) cut into strips
1 C. beef broth

In a Dutch oven or large cooking pot, layer bacon, steak, onions, carrots and potatoes  Sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper.  Pour broth over top.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat until meat is cooked through and carrots and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. 

This is one of the old recipes from the 1920s or 30s, back when there were boarding houses.  People weren't  supposed to cook in their rooms, but often they'd sneak in a hot plate to make soups and dishes such as this.  Where have all the boardinghouses gone?   I think in these days, when people are really struggling, it would be a perfect solution for the young single working poor. Guess we've all become too independent. BTW, I think some cabbage would be good in this too (plus add more filling).  Probably wasn't included in the recipe because the smell would have alerted the boardinghouse owner.


When we were out for our Christmas walk, we discovered a pile of lumber that was been thrown out at a home undergoing renovations. Well, Merry Christmas!  Beautiful old pine boards and pretty trim, some 16 feet long.   We have so much fun making cupboards, such as the one I wrote about here, and shelves from salvaged materials.  We also keep all the nice hardwood boards from free pallets.   Our garage is getting full. So many possibilities! At the very least, we can always burn it for heat, but that would be a shame.   We only half-jokingly remark that we have almost enough free wood to build a house.   More and more we talk of selling this place and building further away from everything.  Someplace where we can have a well and keep a few chickens and bees.   We always see windows and doors being thrown out, not to mention beautiful old porcelain sinks  (the old-fashioned kind with the built-in drainboards).   I bet if we put our thinking caps on, we could build a very nice little cabin very cheaply with salvaged materials.  That's when you know you are a true thrifter; when you see a home in somebody else' junk pile!


Speaking of salvaging, my dear friend Mary, gave me a large bag of Ralph Lauren woolen samples from an upholstery shop.(She also gave me four skeins of that very expensive Madeline Tosh merino yarn that she found at a thrift store for 99cents each, but more about that another day).  

Such beautiful woolen pieces!   There are several samples that are large enough to make the front of a vest or maybe pillows, I haven't decided yet.  With the smaller pieces, I'm making another penny rug.

 This time in quieter tones.   I might make a table runner in the same manner as I made my woolen quilt  that I made earlier this year or perhaps pillows.  So many ideas!  Anyway, one of the life lessons  I've learned from Mary is that it doesn't hurt to ask. What's the worst that could happen?   Perhaps you know of an upholstery shop that would be glad to give you their  samples that they are getting rid of?

I also knitted  this cap for Ran, using this free pattern from Lion Brand yarns and Red Heart fleck yarn.

I call it the cosmic brownie hat, after those Little Debbie brownies. It's chocolate brown with colored sprinkles.   Jamie and I can't eat dairy so we freeze them in the summer for a special frozen treat.

Another thing that I always do after Christmas is to cut up the Christmas cards that we receive  into small rectangles and glue a piece of plain white paper on the back.  Then punch a small hole on the top and tie on a ribbon.  These I use for next year's gift tags.


The after-Christmas sales are great for getting wrap and decorations for next year, fortunately I didn't need any. But I did need wrap and ribbons for other occasions, so  I found some very non-Christmasy  wrap in silver and some spools of ribbon that were not red or green.  I also bought those nice white gift boxes and packages of tissue paper that makes hand knit or sewn items look special when giving them as presents.   Besides that I found some little stocking stuffers to put away for the shoe box Christmas charity next year.    In the past, I've bought the plain solid chocolate (the ones shaped like Santa, reindeer, etc.) and chopped them up for baking with throughout the year.  Cheaper than chips!  I also have purchased Christmas cacti and repotted them in pretty pots for next year's gift giving.  I was unsuccessful in finding any battery powered twinkle lights, which was my main mission.   Oh well!  I guess I've gotten along this far without them!


Attended a free showing of It's a Wonderful Life

Bought wrap and ribbons at the after-Christmas sale.

My son in Wisconsin sent us a gift box of assorted meats from a well-known Wisconsin meat packer and another son gave us some of his home raised turkey and lamb so we are all "meated" up for the next several months.

Started a penny rug from free woolen samples.

The fruit market is closing down for the winter and they had some great sales.  I bought  bags of chocolate chips for  99 cents a bag!  So I bought six bags, enough for the entire year.   They also  had bags of shredded cheese for 99 cents, which I froze.

We ate soup  this week using the small ham that was included in my son's gift.  That lasted for several days.  The rest of the ingredients came from the pantry and cold storage.

Salvaged a large pile of lumber.

Foraged red pine needles for a home remedy.

Took advantage of Ebay's no-fee listing to sell five items on Ebay.

Skyped with long distance relatives.

Made macaroni and cheese with all the leftovers in the cheesekeep, the remaining cream cheese and sour cream from holiday baking.  It made  a very rich dish, but now we can enter the new year with a clean  and healthy slate.

In spite of it being the Christmas week, we did pretty much what we do all year long; heat with wood, hang our clothes to dry, bake our own bread, eat from the fruit cellar and pantry, etc.

Well, this has been quite a year, with the birth of a granddaughter, friendships made and other rekindled, and new knowledge learned.  There have been some financial setbacks, but that's small potatoes in comparison  to all that we have gained.  We are looking forward to the new year, once again to face a clean slate.  One of the biggest blessings of this year has been the support of you dear friends.   May you go into the new year confidently and joyfully.



Monday, December 21, 2015


Hello dear friends!  I wanted to take a moment to wish you all the most joyful and peaceful Christmas.   I hope the day will be filled with all the things you desire.

As you may know from reading this blog, and I hope it is no secret, that I am a Christian.  For me, Christmas is more a holy-day than a holiday.   I try to get all the baking,  wrapping, decorating and celebrating out of the way in the beginning of the month, so that as the day approaches I have plenty of time to reflect upon what Christmas means to me. 

I ponder about the humble beginnings of our Savior, born in a lowly stable.  I think of His mother, Mary.   Was she thinking of what He was destined to be as she gazed upon her newborn babe?  I think of the great sacrifice of God the Father, who loved us so much that He gave His only begotten son, to die for us.  Just think of that. As a parent I can't even imagine such a sacrifice.  I remember that the very first to hear the Good News of the birth of the Messiah, were the shepherds in the field, not royalty.  My heart is full.

There may be wars and rumors of wars, pestilences, earthquakes in diverse places, famines and economic collapses, but I am at peace.   Because I know that whatever may befall me, this mortal world is only temporary.  That everlasting life is waiting for me on the other side all because of a tiny baby born in a stable over two thousand years ago.  So I'll go out into the cold December night, look up into the starry heavens and send up a prayer of thankfulness.  Then go to bed and sleep in heavenly peace.

 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

~John 14:27~

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
~John 16:33~

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful
~Colossians  3:15


Peace and hugs,

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Staying dry?   I can't believe it!   We actually had a thunderstorm today.   If I had known it was going to be this mild, I would have planted more lettuce!   I suppose we'll merrily glide along this winter with balmy temperatures and on the first day of spring we'll get a blizzard.   It never fails.   Winter always does show up.   I just discovered one benefit of snow, it brightens up the short dark days.   I feel as though we are living inside a coal mine these days.  Now I understand why the Druids brought evergreen boughs into their huts.   Anything to add a bit of cheer.

Here's a bit of greenery I made for our side porch:
A wreath I made from the rosehips I gathered this fall.   More and more I find that I want to decorate with handmade items and less store bought things.  It's funny, but when you are young, you want so many things, but as you get older, the less you want.  I was watching an old TV program the other day and one of the characters summed it up so well.  Happiness is within oneself.  It isn't what we have or how much we have that counts,it's how much of what we have that we actually enjoy. It's a gift to enjoy what you have, even if it is meager, and to share it.  I was reminded of this the other day when I saw the uproar on social media about a woman that posted a picture of her Christmas tree stacked to the top with presents.  I really have to wonder how many of those presents her children will enjoy.   After a while too many things becomes tiresome, like eating too many Christmas cookies.  The first is good, the second is nice, but by the time you bite into the third one, well, you start to feel a little ill.


Speaking of Christmas cookies, I've discovered that any cookie recipe becomes a Christmas cookie, if you frost it and add some sprinkles.
Put them in a tin with a doily or tissue paper and you have yourself a gift.   Long ago I learned presentation is everything.  I never spent much on presents, but taking care  in wrapping them and tying  on a nice ribbon (bought at the thrift store) impressed people. If you are going to be thrifty, you have to be clever!  A mug of hot cocoa is extra cozy if you add whipped cream and crushed candy canes (free from the local Santa).
Bonus points if your mug has a Grandma Moses illustration on it! (Or whatever you love)


Another homemade item that says "Christmas"  are homemade pomanders.  
I make a few each year from those oranges that get shoved to the back of the fridge and aren't discovered until they have become wizened.   All you need is a darning or knitting needle and some cheap whole cloves from the dollar store to make them.  Just poke holes in the rind and poke the cloves in.  Then just let them set out until the dry and harden.  I make a few each year, and store them in a plastic bag in the attic.   I also add dried oranges, pinecones from the yard, star anise and cinnamon sticks to the mix.   Boy does it ever smell wonderful!   They never seem to lose their scent.


I finally got my nativity set glued back together.  It is one of the focal points of our Christmas decor.   The stable was built by my grandfather during the Depression from scrap lumber he had lying about his farm.

Growing up, it had celluloid figurines from Woolworths that my grandmother had painted, but eventually they all broke and had to be replaced.   We were always allowed to play with the creche.   It's a wonderful way for children to learn the Christmas story, acting it out with the figures.

Years ago, I used to spend days decorating for the holidays but now I just do little touches here and there like this tannenbaum candy mold hanging from a ribbon with a sprig of red berries.
And I place small nativity sets and angels   here and there; reminders of the spiritual aspects of Christmas.


Another homemade decoration is paper snowflakes.  Here's  how to fold and cut them:

Step 1:  Fold a regular sheet of copy or writing paper to make a triangle, like this:

Cut off the excess paper at the top and save for making lists.

Step 2: Fold the paper into a smaller triangle.
Step 3:  Now take one corner and fold the paper to the halfway point of the triangle.
Step 4: Fold the other corner to match the edge of the fold on the other side.
Step 5:  Now cut across the paper at an angle.
You'll have this shape:
Step 6:  Cut shapes along all the sides.  The more shapes you cut the lacier your snowflake will be.
Step 7:   Unfold and behold! you have a snowflake!

This was one way we used to entertain the boys.  If you don't want to waste paper and are more techie, here's  a site for a fun on-line game for making snowflakes.  Warning!  It can become addictive!


Heated our house with wood.

Washed our clothes in the old wringer washer, saving on water and detergent.

Reused the rinse water for flushing toilets.

Hung the clothes in the woodstove room to dry, thus putting humidifying the air.

Baked cookies for inexpensive Christmas gifts.

Discovered it was cheaper to ship presents in our boxes, then those pre-paid ones at the post office.

Re-used Christmas card from the past (there's always a few left in the box, rather than ditch them, just put them away with your decorations at the end of the year.  In a few years, you'll have enough so you won't need to buy any)

Walked almost everywhere because we thought our car was having a problem.  Today we figured it out on our own saving us mega bucks at the mechanics!

Ate from the pantry.

Started knitting a hat from my yarn stash.

Watched a Christmas movie on Hulu for free.

Used our cash-back incentives at Walgreens to get our items (cashews on sale) for free.

So that's it!  Not the most exciting week, but that's OK, because sometimes we just need quiet!   Hope everyone is enjoying this Advent season.  Always remember that joy is within your reach!


Sunday, December 6, 2015


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

Old-Fashioned  Chocolate Fudge

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

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


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

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

Gauge: 4 stitches= 1 inch

Right mitten:

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

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


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


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

Made fudge for Christmas packages from pantry staples.

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

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

Attended some Christmas doings in town for free entertainment.

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

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

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

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

Decorated our window box from clippings from trimming our evergreens.

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

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

Hugs to all!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope this post finds you all well rested and contented.   My! the days are shortening, aren't they?   The other day it was pitch black at five in the afternoon.  Now I understand the phrase, "make hay while the sun shines", because they're so many things that need to be done by the strong daylight, such as fine knitting and sewing (threading the needles), once the sun starts it's journey to the western horizon, those things have to be put away.   This little cottage was built for keeping out the winds which it does admirably, but at the same time it shuts out a lot of the sun.   I can understand why some people get depressed during this time of year, frankly, it can get a little gloomy.  So to counteract the effect of long gray days, we decorate the inside and make a cozy little sanctuary for ourselves.   This week I started to bring the winter decorations down from the attic.  First, I set up a little woodland tableau on the mantle. 
The felted celluloid deer and the vintage bottle brush trees all came from the thrift stores back in the 80s,   back then you could pick up vintage Christmas items for a dime or a quarter.  I used to find quite a few boxfuls of those Shiny Brite ornaments from the thrift stores , unfortunately I threw the  boxes out.  Now they are worth a fortune!  I also brought out my grandparents ornaments and gave them a place of honor on the china hutch.  They are getting too fragile to hang on the tree.  Some are almost a hundred years old.
They represent the only tangible things I have from some  of  my grandparents.  Looking at them brings back  many wonderful memories.  I also brought down the creche, unfortunately many of the pieces need repairing.  Joseph completely lost his head! The figures are newer  but the stable was built by my Grandpa A back during the Depression.  It's seen a lot of hard knocks over the years.  When I was a little girl, I played with it throughout the Christmas season, reenacting the Christmas story.  I love it all the more for its imperfections.


On the other spectrum of our quiet country Christmas, there's Black Friday.  To my friends in other parts of the world, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, when the stores have sales to help make the final push for a profit.  In the olden days, ledgers were kept with red and black ink.  The red ink indicated that you were losing money and the black  meant you had a profit, thus the term "Black Friday" means the store has turned from a losing year to a profitable one.  Anyway, the people go nuts for these sales; camping out all hours in the cold to be the first in the doors and stampeding when the doors open.  People have even been crushed to death.  I wouldn't go near one if my life depended upon it.  Fortunately, there are many offers over the internet and I don't have to leave home.   I took advantage of the sale at Pinetree Gardens to get my seeds for the spring. They have the best prices for non-GMO heirloom seeds I've found.  The sale isn't much, just 15% off your order and free shipping on $50 (who buys that many seeds?).  Anyway, if you want to take advantage of that sale, it's still going on until midnight Sunday (the 29th) and the code is BlackFri15.

I also stocked up on vitamins and supplements at Swansons .  They have some good deals.  We use turmeric with pepper (everyone should) and I take cranberry tablets everyday.  We also buy glucosamine  for our dog.   So that was our big excitement  for the sales! Ha!  By the way, I am not being compensated in any way for endorsing these companies.  They are just two companies that I've found to have good prices and service.


By the way, lest anyway  shake their heads and mutter about Christmas being too commercial these days; it's been this way for a long time.  One of my favorite things to do in during the Yuletide season is listen to old Christmas radio programs from the 30s and 40s  on YouTube.  Almost all the story lines  center around how much to spend on gifts and who is giving what to whom.  Some things never change!

Another "blast from the past" is making Russian tea mix  for gift giving. I hope my dear Russian readers are getting a good laugh at this one!   It was a popular winter drink in the 1960s.  And it is nice and cozy, partly due to it's nostalgia.  This is the sort of thing that passed as sophisticated and urbane way back when. Ha! We bottle up jars to put it in our Christmas hampers.  It makes a lot! I would caution, though, the directions say to use two tablespoonfuls, but we only use one.  Two is just too strong. 


Well, I'm at it again!  The butcher had hamburg at it's reduced-for-quick-sale bin at $1.79/lb.  Unfortunately, she only had a little less than a pound.  So to make it the meat stretch into several meals, I added our stale bread, which had me thinking of all the ways you can use stale bread:

Add it to ground meat to make a meatloaf, of course.
Make a bread pudding.
Toast it  with olive oil and herbs to make your own croutons.
Toast it and make your own breadcrumbs.
Make an impromptu  stuffing by adding celery, onions and herbs.
Make French toast.
Make a hole in the middle and fry an egg in it for a cheap breakfast.
Use it as a thickener for soup.
Make toast points. (triangles of toasted bread)

No wonder Rachel Lynde told Anne Shirley that a sign of a good homemaker was seeing that there was no wasted bread in the breadbox!


Toast points reminded me of a meal that was popular with the boys growing up.

Mount Clemens Rarebit

1/2 lb. American cheese
1/4 C. butter
2 C. canned kidney beans
2 med. green peppers, minced

Melt the cheese in a double boiler.  Add the butter and when well-blended add the beans and green peppers.  Serve over toast points.

We served this with a big green salad.  I'm a big advocate of eating green leafies, daily.


I'm knitting mittens for the North Carolina grandchildren.  They rarely get snow, but it's good to be ready.  This is an old pattern from the 1940s and it knits up quickly, without a lot of nonsense.

Children's Mittens

size 2-4.  Sizes 4-6 and 6-8 are in prenthesis.

2 oz of worsted weight (#4) wool.

size 2 and 4 double pointed knitting needles

Gauge: 5 stitches= 1 inch

With smaller needles cast on 28 sts. (32 sts. - 36 sts.)
Join and work in ribbing K2, P2 for 2 (2 1/2) inches.
Change to larger needles and knit plain for 3/4 (1) inch.
Slip next 4 (5-6) stitches to holder.
Cast on 4 (5-6) stitches.
Join and work  and knit plain for 2 (2 1/4 - 2 1/2) inches
Decrease for tip:
K2, K 2 together. Repeat across round'
Knit 1 round.
Next round: K1, K 2 together for round.
Knit 1 round.
Next round: Knit 2 together across round.
Break yarn and leave a 7 inch end.  Thread a tapestry needle with this end and run twice through the remaining stitches. Pull stitches together and fasten off on wrong side.


Pick up 4 (5-6) stitches from holder and 4 (5-6) stitches from cast on stitches.
Divide stitches on three needles (size 4) .
Work even for 3/4 (1 inch).
Knit 2 together across round.
Finish off as mitten tip.

Work other mitten the same way.

By rearranging the furniture we were able to fit my favorite chair in the woodstove room.  Now I can sit by the fire and listening to old radio  programs on the internet and knit.   Heaven!   The best thing we ever did was to get rid of our cable TV.  I used to be quite a news junkie and would fret and worry about the world's woes.  There was  little I could do about the situations, but still it left me anxious.  Until I stopped listening to the national broadcasts, I never realized how much propaganda there is on the news.  Now, I just read several news sources from several countries, some liberal, some conservative, and I think I get a pretty picture of what's going on in the world.  I say my prayers for those poor people that are in the middle of conflicts and those that are experiencing tragedies, then I leave it to God.   Never been more at peace in my life.


Made meatloaf from reduced-for-quick-sale hamburg.

Bought our seeds for the spring at the Black Friday Sale

Stocked up on vitamins at another Black Friday Sale.

We've been trying to clean out the pantry, which makes for some interesting meals.

Made Russian tea mix for the Christmas hampers.

Restyled a $2 wreath from the thrift store and objects I had on hand to make a pretty wreath for the front door.

Made some window decorations from twigs we found in the yard.

Knitted mittens from yarn in my stash.

Heated our house with wood.  The furnace has only come on once this  season.

Cleaned out my closets for more clothes to be put aside for our annual garage sale.  Some are going to charity too.

Played board games in the evening.

Mainly, just stayed in and did a lot of putzing.

SO that's it, again!   I just wanted to tell you all, that when I count my blessing, every last one of you dear readers is among them!  I so appreciate all your support. You know, I started this little blog long ago to help others, but I've discovered along the way that perhaps the person it has helped the most is myself.  Your kindness has renewed my faith in the world!  Hope you all have a beautiful, peaceful and cozy week.

Hugs to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope this post finds you all warm and safe!   We got our first measurable snowfall of the season.  Hurray!   I hope I never grow too old not to find wonderment in the first snow.
That's a picture of grandson, Felix, at my son and daughter-in-law's farm in southeastern Michigan.  They got about a foot of snow.  We weren't so fortunate, only about an inch, it snowed all day but was too warm and it melted as soon as the flakes hit the ground. The lake giveth and it taketh away!  There's a lot of traditions involved with the first snow; we get out our mugs that have Grandma Moses scenes on them and have a cup of our ultra-indulgent cocoa, we listen to this song, we also have a fire , go for a hike, and make soup.  If we get enough snow, we make snowbears.  Homemade traditions are the best!


Did you know that thirty-one percent or 133 billion pounds of the food available in the United States goes uneaten every year?  That's shocking!   Not at our house!   From that one little six dollar turkey we got twelve meals and several snacks.   First we had the Thanksgiving meal, then since no one was very hungry later in the day, we just nibbled on some of the turkey for dinner.  The next day we had leftovers. I always make a potpie from all the leftovers; layering the stuffing and potatoes, then the vegetables and meat, then top it off with some cranberry sauce and gravy.  This goes into the freezer for sometime in January.  Makes the best meal.  After two days of leftovers, we are ready for something different and by then the potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole are usually gone, so I make turkey burritos or King Ranch casserole.  This is enough for two meals.  We always make broth from the carcass by throwing the bones, some celery, carrots and onions and a splash of vinegar (it leaches out the calcium in the bones) in a big pot water and boiling the living daylights out of it. (That's directions for making broth that you won't find in a Martha Stewart cookbook!)  I throw in any leftover gravy too.  This makes several quarts of broth and there usually quite a bit of meat to be culled from the bones. Enough for a batch of turkey noodle soup and one pot of white chili.  Again each is enough for a couple meals. Plus we put some of the turkey in the freezer for topping on our barbecue chicken pizzas.

Nothing gets wasted at our house, not even the cranberry sauce.  We made cranberry English muffins with some.  Ended up with sixteen hefty muffins. We froze half.  Cranberry English muffins and orange marmalade is the best breakfast ever!  It tastes like the holidays!  

I also baked a cranberry gingerbread from the leftover sauce.  The pie never lasts long in our house so everyone was looking for something sweet after a few days.
This is a very nice light gingerbread.

Cranberry Gingerbread

1 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. sugar
1/3 C. whole berry cranberry sauce
1 egg
1/2 C. molasses
1/2 C. hot water

Grease and flour an 8-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the dry ingredients; set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the cranberry sauce and egg. Blend in molasses.
Gradually stir in dry ingredients, alternating with the hot water.  Stir until smooth.
Pour into baking pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

I made a thin icing of powdered sugar and some of the leftover eggnog from making the pie, but this cake can be eaten plain or with whipped cream.  BTW, I used up the remaining eggnog making French toast.


I'm sure some of you are curious about making English muffins.  Homemade ones are very economical plus you can customize them however you want.  I'm thinking date and walnut would be tasty!

English Muffins

2 tbsp. water (105-110 degrees)
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 C. water
1/2 C. milk, scalded
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 C. flour
3 tbsp. oil

Dissolve the yeast in the  2 tbsp. water.  Put aside until it becomes bubbly.
Combine the water, milk, sugar, salt, oil and yeast together. Gradually beat in 2 C. flour.
Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
Knead in remaining flour.
Pat dough to a 1/2" thickness and no thicker!   Or they muffins will be too thick to cook all the way through.
Cut into circles.
Let stand on greased cookie sheets until dough has doubled in size.
Transfer muffins to a low to medium heat  well-buttered griddle.Cook until light brown, turning them once. 
I found that it is hard to get them cooked all the way through without burning the outsides so I finish them off by baking in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until done.

BTW, did you know one of the secrets to baking good bread is having one of those probe thermometers for baking?   You can insert them into the center of the bread to tell that it has reached  190 degrees, insuring that your bread (or English muffins) is cooked  on the inside.  One of the perks of living with a chemist! He brings science to the kitchen.


I finally finished Ran's vest. 
Six, well actually twelve, covered buttons to make; the pattern called for  1/2-inch buttons but after I made them I decided they were too dainty for a man's vest, so I  made 3/4-inch ones.  Six hand-sewn buttonholes. Jeepers!  Next time I'll make something with a zipper!   It's a very heavy and warm vest, made from wool flannel on the inside and out.  All told, it cost less than $10 to make, having found the fabric at the thrift store.  We study history books and documentaries on how to live a simpler and more frugal lifestyle.   Vests were an important part of a man's wardrobe over a hundred years ago and are just as practical today.  They add an extra layer of warmth but allow your arms to be unencumbered.  I have several for myself, also. A t-shirt, a vest and a cardigan is a very cozy combination.  I even add an undershirt  when it gets really cold for an added layer.  Layering is the key to warmth.  The heat is bound to get trapped in one of those layers!

We feel like the shoemaker's brownies around here.  While I was busy sewing, Ran made this knife for our honey man (doesn't everyone have a honey man?), Shane.  He had given a broken knife to Ran, knowing that he loves to remake them.  So Ran polished and reshaped the blade and made a  new handle for it.
Then as a little added special touch, he woodburned  a little bee skep on it complete with the bees.
Hope Shane likes it!  The two became friends over their love of knives and hunting and all those manly type things. Sorry about the crumbs in the picture, I didn't notice them while taking the picture!   We only have about fifteen minutes of good light for picture taking this time of year, so we have to work quick.


"I am grateful for what I am and  have. My thanksgiving is perpetual."
~Henry David Thoreau~


The other day we picked up two pounds of Swiss cheese at the grocery store for $2.50 a pound.   It was on the reduced-for-quick-sale  rack because it had reached it's expiration date.  So of course the grocer had to discount it. The thing is, people have become so foolish about these expiration dates on things, they've completely lost common sense.   Anyone can see that the cheese was still good.   There was no mold on it, and cheese is supposed to age, the longer the better.  This is going to sound terrible to you younger people, but growing up, people never threw out cheese because of a little mold, we just cut it off.  Never heard of anyone dying from cheese mold back then.  On the whole we were a lot healthier, I think.  Long before expiration dates on food, when you had to use your nose and eyes and good old-fashioned common sense to tell you if something was good or not. We have a family friend that throws out all her canned good on the day they reach their expiration point.  The day before it was fine, but the day after, it's poison to her.  So silly!  As if those canned goods have little micro chips in them telling them to rot precisely on that date!  Oh well!  I suppose it's good for me that everyone doesn't think as I do or there would be a lot more competition for discounted cheese!

The other thing that people turn up their nose at, is the cheap cuts of meat like the ham hocks, oxtails, and pork necks.   We just made a wonderful batch of soup from eighty-eight cents a pound pork necks.  There was a lot of meat on them.  What difference does it make what part of the body it came from.  Why is a neck  less desirable than say the rib?  If you're going to be squeamish about it than why eat meat at all?   After all, meat is not pretty.  Of course one of the reasons is because so many of us are so far-removed from the farm, we haven't got a clue.  I dare say, if you raised an animal and butchered it and only had what you raised to live on, people would be singing a different tune. It all goes back to that wasted 133 billions pounds of food.  Bet people living in third world countries would be glad to have a nice meaty ham hock and expired cans of peas!


Well now, I'll come off my soapbox to finish this post!

Bought two pounds of Swiss cheese at $2.50/lb.  Shredded and froze it.

Made turkey broth from the Thanksgiving turkey.

Had lots of leftovers.

Attended an estate sale where I purchased some graniteware for $1 and several beautifully bound books for $1 each.

Made soup from 88 cents/pound pork neck bones, potatoes carrots and onions from the root cellar, herbs from the herb garden and a jar of tomatoes from the pantry.

Made 16 hefty English muffins for about 1/4 the cost of a eight store bought ones.

Found a wonderful movie on YouTube called The Good Fairy with Margaret Sullavan, very Ernst Lubitsch-esque. I love old movies and there's a treasure trove on YouTube for free!

Finished sewing Ran's vest from thrifted fabric.

Skyped with the North Carolina grandchildren.

Filled up the cars with $1.87/gallon gasoline.  Can you believe how cheap gas has gotten?

Well that's it for this week!  To my American friends, I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving filled with joy and love.  To my friends in other corners of the world, I wish you peace and joy and safety!

Have a good one!


Sunday, November 15, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Well!  Hasn't this been a horrible week?  The tragedy in France, and the ongoing tragedies in the Ukraine and Syria, plus all the rumors of war, one can hardly sort them all out. Seems there's hardly any corner on earth that's at peace.  People always ask at times like these, "what can I do?".  Well, there's always prayers,  first and foremost,of course.  Become more compassionate, merciful, kind and generous.  Who knows?  Perhaps if we all work at it, we can become a counterbalance to all the wickedness in the world.   Maybe we can even outweigh it.  Well, that's my thoughts on it anyhow.


Guess what we did today?  We celebrated Thanksgiving!   It all started because the turkeys were on sale this week for fifty-two cents a pound ( our little-under-12-pound turkey ended up costing $6.11).  Who could pass that up?   But we don't have a big enough freezer for a turkey and what little space we do have  is used for storing bargains on cheese and butter and our foraged nuts.  Plus there were so many bargains that were pointing us to celebrating this week, it seemed that it was meant to be.   We even found a Oreo cookie crust on the reduced for quick sale rack for a dollar, so we could have our traditional chocolate eggnog pie.  Cranberries were ninety-nine cents a package, so we bought several  for  juice making later.  And finally butter prices have come down!   $2.39 a pound, so we stocked up, lately it had been creeping up to almost $4 a pound around here.

So we are celebrating Thanksgiving almost two weeks early.   It really doesn't matter, after all, Thanksgiving just a day on the calendar.  Our true thanks giving comes when we have gathered the last apple from the orchard, dug the last potato and canned the last green bean for the year.  Then we give thanks for the bounty of the earth and to our Creator for being so benevolent to us, undeserving as we may be.  We have enough food put by to see us through another year and plenty to share.  God is good!

To tell the truth, I hate the holidays.   Some years I would be quite content to go to sleep on the eve of Thanksgiving and not wake up until January 2nd.   All my children live too far away to share in the celebrations except for one son who chooses to spend them with his in-laws.  You know the old saying about a son being a son until takes a wife?   But even before my children grew up and left home, coming from a family of drama queens, holidays were always tension filled.  So I started to feel the blues come on when I saw a sign at a local store announcing there were only 46 more shopping days until Christmas.  I knew I needed to readjust my attitude quickly, reminding myself that I don't really like entertaining and  I'm not overly fond of spending all day in the kitchen either.  I also had to remind myself, while it's a lovely fantasy that we'll all gather together and be laughing and reminiscing, the reality is far from it.   As my sister used to tell me, "We're not the Waltons.".  Or a Hallmark movie either, for that matter.  So what's to be done about the holiday blues?

First, focus on what you do love about them.  If you like to decorate, decorate.  If you like to bake  do so  and give it away.  If you like to give presents but don't have anyone to give them to, there's plenty of charities that would be glad to take them.   One of the most enjoyable things we do every year, is buy toys for the Toy for Tots program and there's also a giving tree at the local grocery store.  Don't be a baby Pathetica, focusing on how lonely and sad you are, think about how you can help others. Visit shut-ins, volunteer at a soup kitchen, babysit the neighbor's kids for free. If you have a job that stays open during the holidays, you might consider volunteering to work on the holidays so that others that have family can spend it with theirs.  There's so much pressure on being happy during the holidays, but has anyone seriously recaptured the joy they felt on Christmas when they were nine years old?  Life gets in the way.  Lower your expectations.  As Benjamin Franklin said, "I'd rather be a pessimist, because then I can only be pleasantly surprised.".

If you really can't bear the thought of holidays, just ignore them, keep your head down and plow through  them.  If it means staying in your pajamas all day and eating chips and drinking pop while watching old movies, so be it.  Be kind to yourself.  If the sight of the neighbor's family gathering together makes you bitter, draw the curtains and turn off the TV movies all filled with Norman Rockwell images of the "perfect" holiday.  Don't answer the phone if listening to family tell you what a wonderful time they are having without out you feels like a stab in the heart.  You're human after all, most of us aren't cut out to be Stella Dallas. I speak from experience!  Just think of it as  having a bad cold.   Just something to bear with for a short while, things will be better tomorrow.  After all, it's only just a day!

For my part, I like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the day.  And now I finally have the time to do it.  I also love to make homemade presents for my husband, it reminds me of when we were first falling in love and I hadn't any money for gifts.  And it's nice that he appreciates them too, for there's nothing  worse than to spend hours upon hours making a gift that isn't appreciated. We were just discussing how when we were young, we would have given our eye teeth to just be alone during the holidays, there were so many obligations back then; it was rush-rush -rush, with hardly time to catch our breath. Now we have the golden opportunity to do it! There will be lots of watching the snow fall (we're expecting several inches later this week!) with Nat King Cole crooning to us in the background and  moonlit walks along the snowy lanes and  quiet talks beside the fire.  It will certainly be different than the busy holidays we had when the boys were all home and every day on the calendar was filled with activities.  But hey!   Who says things have to remain the same?

But most importantly, remember to count your blessings.  If you have food in your stomach, a roof over your head, you are blessed.   An extra bonus if you have someone special to share it with.  We've been desperately poor at times, but we discovered that usually they were our happiest times.  Here's a true story of a particular trying time and how we managed to have a joyous Christmas in spite of  our pocketbooks.


All right, enough of that!  I've rediscovered the joys of sewing this week.   I used to sew a great deal when I was younger.  Before the advent of thrift stores, sewing was an economical way to build a wardrobe, but now sewing has become an expensive hobby.   My mother was a wonderful seamstress, but a horrible teacher.  She basically just left us to our own devices and would occasionally yell  into the dining room, where our sewing machine was a permanent fixture at the end of the table, that there was something wrong with the tension on the sewing machine, which she could tell just from the sound of it.   But I did learn quite a bit just from watching her.  We also had 4-H and everyone learned to sew an apron in Home Economics  class.  While most of my sewing these days consists of pillows and an apron or two, what I really want, is to become an expert tailor.   This week I'm sewing my husband a vest, which sounds simple enough, except this pattern has a tricky pocket like the ones in men's suits.  So now I've learned how to do that and discovered some tricks along the way to make the next one easier.  I also had to redraft some of the pattern because the measurements were way off on the vintage pattern. I think it's going to turn out alright.  It will certainly have a hand crafted look to it, which I think is good.  Don't want it to look mass-produced.  Anyway, it's slow going as my machine is in the same room as the woodstove and the heat blasts me out of the room quite often!  Speaking of which, here it the middle of November and we still haven't used the furnace!  But this will probably be the last week for that as the temperatures are supposed to plummet this week.


There isn't much gardening going on around here anymore, but we are experimenting with growing lettuce in our unheated enclosed porch.  We planted the seeds in an old galvanized trough-like chicken feeder that we picked up at a garage sale for a quarter.  The seeds have come up, so we'll have to see how successful this experiment is.  Will keep you posted.

Inside, all my Christmas cacti are in bloom.  Here's a picture of a rare yellow one that I've been babying along.
I used to pick up Christmas cacti during the after-Christmas sales for $1.  Then I'd repot them into pretty planters that I found during the garage sale season.   For less than two dollars I have a nice hostess gift.  Now I have a quite a forest of them as they need to be divided from time to time and it costs me nothing for the plants.  I always have good luck finding old McCoy planters for less than a dollar around here, often for a quarter.   Now that's a thrifty gift!


Chocolate eggnog pie has become a Thanksgiving tradition at our house.  It not the most economical of recipes (why is eggnog so expensive?) but here's the recipe for those that are curious:

Chocolate Eggnog Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 C. cold water
1/3 C. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 C. eggnog
1 1/2 squares baking chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. rum extract
2 C. whipped topping

In a small bowl, soften the gelatin in the water, set aside.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Gradually stir in eggnog.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat, add gelatin, stirring until dissolved.

Divide filling in half, setting half aside to cool.  Add melted chocolate and vanilla to one half ; stir well.  Pour into pie shell and chill.

Meanwhile add rum extract to the remaining filling.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spoon over chocolate layer.  Refrigerate overnight.

Well this is turning into a long-winded post!  Best be getting on to:


Bought turkey for 52 cents/lb, cranberries for 99 cents/lb. and even got the stollen for the stuffing for $1.50 (it was crushed and on the discount rack of our Polish butcher).  The rest of our Thanksgiving meal came from our garden and pantry, making the total less than $10 for the three of us plus plenty left over for the rest of the week.

My dear friend, Matty, sent me a book that was several nights amusement.

Sewing a vest for my husband from wool that I purchased at the thrift store for $3.

Still heating with wood from free pallets.

Found a free internet security site to replace the $80 a year Norton security we have on the computer presently.

Watched several old movies on YouTube.

Kept the car parked in the driveway, saving on gas.

Well that's it for this week!  Hope you have a wonderful day and an even more lovely day tomorrow!


Sunday, November 8, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope this post finds you all safe and sound.  We experienced a true Indian Summer this week, when the temperatures reached into the 70s.  We even had to sleep with the windows open.  Strange weather for November! The next day it was so cold and chilly that my light winter coat wasn't  warm enough. We  even spotted a few snowflakes.   I think we are finally settling down to what is normal weather for this time of year, thank goodness!    Winter weather is one of the reasons I live where I do.


We had the simplest of meals today for lunch, vegetable soup and biscuits.   Vegetable soup is certainly easy on the pocketbook and quick too.  I always start with a base of onions, carrots and potatoes; the most inexpensive vegetables you can buy.  Then I add a can (or in my case,jar) of tomatoes.  Next I add a bean for protein, any old type will do; kidney, pinto, Great Northern, etc, but my favorite is the good old lima bean.   After that I add whatever on the pantry shelf needs using up, this week it was a can of corn that was nearing it's expiration date. For seasoning, I add some minced garlic and some smoked pepper and salt.  I find that what we miss most in vegan foods is the smoky flavor, so by using smoked salt and pepper, we don't miss the meat at all. And there you have it, vegetable soup!   To make the meal feel more special, I made an herb butter for the biscuits.  Serve your humble meals in pretty serving dishes and your family will feel like they're royalty.  How you serve your meals  is just as important as what you serve, in your contentment, I've found.  You can eat a can of soup right out of the pan or over the kitchen sink and feel "I'm poor" or you can serve it in a pretty bowl by candlelight and feel privileged and content.  An added plus to sitting down to a table properly set is that it slows you down, you have conversations, and you feel fuller with less. 


I knitted another baby sweater from the pattern in the last post.  This time in red with a hood and a pompom on top.
I used Patons Classic Wool in Bright Red (the picture is a little washed out).  I think it turned out pretty cute.  I also knitted these  socks
I'm not too happy with how they turned out and don't think they are gift-giving worthy.  The yarn was too soft for the cables to really stand out, I think.  Oh well!   They are warm and soft.  Good for winter.   I really liked the pattern so I'm trying them again in a different yarn.  If a first you don't succeed ......


Now is the time to mulch your berries.  We take advantage of the many leaves and just run them over with the lawn mower with the bagger attachment.  Then we place them around the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.  Free mulch!   I never rake the leaves from the flower garden.   It adds another layer of insulation.   Plus it's the lazy man's way of doing things.   By the time we can rake them out in the spring, many have composted adding nutrients to the soil.   Gardening can be as easy or as hard as you make it.


Just as Capote's sherry-eyed cousin Sook  knew it in her bones it was time to make the fruitcakes, we know there's a day here, too. And that day was this past Friday.   Many of you, I'm sure think fruitcake is plain old nasty, but Ran and I look forward to having a slice in the evening throughout December.   I even receive requests for them from my mother and sister.  You have to start in November to have a proper fruitcake for December, they need time for the flavors to develop.  My recipe differs from the traditional ones, it doesn't have the spices or gummy green citron in it.   It's a variation on a fruit and nut cake that was quite popular in our hometown for weddings way back in the 1960s.
We like to have ours with cherry preserves, Ann of Green Gables style.


2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 C. butter, softened
1 C. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1/2 tsp. brandy extract
1/2 C. orange juice
1/2 C. maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 C. candied pineapple, diced fine
1 C. golden raisins
1 C. nuts, chopped

Combine 1 1/2 C. flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
Toss cherries, pineapple, coconut, raisins and nuts with the remaining 1/2 C. flour.  Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together.  Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in extracts. Mix well.
Stir in flour mixture alternately with the orange juice. Mix well.
Fold in the fruit and nut mixture.
Pack into a well greased and floured Turk's head mold or a large loaf pan.
Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Once cool, wrap in tin foil and store in a cool dry place. (Like a refrigerator).
  Wait several weeks before slicing for the best flavor.

You can also sprinkle a little rum over the top before storing if you are so inclined.

I make a batch in those small loaf pans.  You have to adjust the time for smaller pans.  Check after 45 minutes for doneness.


There's plenty of free activities this time of year to enjoy.   Local churches offer free concerts and for a small sum there's many harvest suppers being offered. Almost every weekend until the middle of December there's a craft fair to attend.   All the small villages offer holiday open houses, cookie walks, and tree-lighting ceremonies.  So you see, even us peasants can have fun this time of year!   There's no excuse to stay at home and be bored!


  Once a week we stop into our local grocery store and check out the reduced for quick sale meat, and that determines what we eat for the week.  So far we had hamburg at $1.89 /lb. that was very good.  We made hamburgers, which are a rare treat for us, and meatloaf.  Another time they had those  seasoned pork loin roasts, which we used for sandwiches.  One week, there wasn't anything too good, so we just used what we had in the pantry


I rescued an old skirt from the rag bag.  I was going to use it for the wool because it had a small pin prick moth hole, but instead darned the hole.  It's the pretty plum one you can see the edge of in the picture of the socks.  I love it.  It's very vintage and the wool is such good quality.  And it's a circle skirt so it has just the right amount of swishy-ness. And I only paid $2 for it!


We ate out of the pantry and freezer.
We're still hanging our laundry outside. Can you believe it?
We still haven't used the furnace, relying on wood to heat the house.  Maybe we'll make it to Dec. 1st!
Knitted Christmas presents from my yarn stash.
Attended a holiday open house at our local Ben Franklin store.  They had a sale of 20% off everything, so I bought supplies for knitting and sewing.
Sewed a curtain valance from two tea towels that I bought at the open house sale.
Used leaves for free ground cover.
Watched several old movies for free on YouTube.  We're rewatching The Edwardian Farm.
Rescued an old skirt from the rag bag.
Just enjoyed the company of my husband and son.  I'm so glad just to have a home and people that love me to share it with!

Here's hoping that you all have the loveliest week ahead of you!