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Sunday, May 31, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Hope this post finds you rested and safe.  Can you believe that tomorrow is June?  How time flies!  Today the weather doesn't feel very June-like, had to wear my winter coat for our walk.  But the previous days it was  almost too warm.  The weather certainly is toying with us, but there is no frost in the foreseeable future, so we finished planting our garden this week.  

As you can see, the lettuce is ready to be picked, thank goodness! Buying lettuce was becoming quite an expense.  It is such a joy to go out to the garden and pick our meal.  One new salad for us, is a Big Mac Salad.  Here's the recipe.  I used 1/2 lb. of  hamburger and that was plenty.  It rates right up there with our other kid/man friendly salad, Taco Salad.  To make taco salad, just top your lettuce with crushed taco chips (the broken ones left in the bag), cheese, and chili.  Here's a quick chili, that only takes a few minutes to prepare:

Quick Chili For Taco Salad

1 lb. hamburger
1 med. onion, diced
1 can chili ready tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 pkg. taco seasoning

Brown the meat and hamburger.  Add the remaining ingredients and heat through.  You can easily make this vegetarian by skipping the meat and adding a second can of beans.  Also, I find that it helps to add a tablespoon of sugar to store bought tomatoes to bring out their flavor.

You can get more elaborate with this salad by topping it with a dollop of sour cream or guacamole.  Or drizzle it with some salsa.

Don't Buy It, Make It

Most kitchens have the ingredients to make your own taco seasoning.  Here's the recipe:

Taco Seasoning

1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine ingredients.  Equivalent to one package.

A picture of my favorite lilac, Beauty of Moscow.  It is wonderfully fragrant, somewhat more exotic then our common dooryard lilacs.

Cheap Beauty Trick

Speaking of fragrances, my favorite perfume  has become entirely too expensive for our poor little budget, so I've discovered that many perfumeries make  matching scented candles and soaps.  If you put them in your drawers, they will lightly scent your clothes for a fraction of the cost.  And the scent will be subtle, so not to annoy your neighbors!

Thoughts  On Gardening

We try to be good stewards to our land and one of the ways we do that is to continuously  enrich our soil.  We have two compost bins.  One that is in the stage of composting and the other that we throw all our grass clippings, leaves, vegetable scraps and wood ash into.  Twice a year we empty the composted bin onto the garden and till it into the soil.  Our village also composts all the leaves it picks up in the fall and gives it away for free to whomever is willing to haul it away.  They make sure we know that there are no grass clippings that might be contaminated with pesticides in their compost.  They also have free mulch, village life is wonderful.  We also make sure to rotate our crops every year. Our goal is to have lovely rich soil the color of coffee grounds that is friable to our elbows.  We're getting there!

Quote of the Week

"To be poor in order to be simple, to produce  less in order that the product be more choice and beautiful, and may leave us less burdened with unnecessary duties and useless possessions ."

I don't know if making strawberry-nectarine jelly is a necessary duty or not, but that is what I did this week.

 Our bulk food store had a deal on nectarines and I already had strawberries, so this jam was a logical choice.  By the way, I buy my pectin in bulk.  For what it costs for a few packages of Sure Gel, I have enough pectin to last me a lifetime.  One way we keep the wolves from the door is always to be on the lookout for a good deal in the produce and meat department and either can or dehydrate them.  How many times have I said that a well-stocked pantry is like money in the bank?  I also canned more asparagus, but let's not talk of asparagus!

Free Entertainment

Most libraries offer summer reading programs for the youngsters.  They really encourage the children to keep reading during their vacation.  There's also vacation Bible school, for those inclined.  When I was a youngster many moons ago, my friends and I would go to all of them, we were very ecumenical! The Baptists had the most fun one with puppet shows and cowboys but I'm afraid my Lutheran one was a snorefest.  Fun isn't in the Missouri Synod vocabulary!

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Cut down a  dead tree in our yard.  Sawed up enough wood to last for a month this winter.

Canned asparagus and strawberry-nectarine jam.

Cleaned a thrifted purse with saddle soap and it looks like new.

Harvested lettuce, spinach, and asparagus from our garden.

Ate from the pantry and hung our laundry on the line, as usual.

Bought 3 Le Creuset saucepans and one frying pan for $30 from an estate sale.

Mended some pillows that were coming unsewn.

Painted our guest cottage with paint that we bought at the Re-Use It Store and from leftovers in the basement.

Finished planting our garden.

So that's it for this week!  Hope you all have a lovely week ahead of you!

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Hello dear friends!  First, I would like to thank all those that have served and are serving our country and to all their families.  Your sacrifice is never forgotten here!

Well!  Spring has finally arrived in all its rosy and violet glory!  One day the trees were bare and stark, the next the lanes are canopied in soft yellow-green fronds.  As long as I live, I will always be in awe of nature and of spring. The lilacs have begun to bloom, just as they have every spring, cold or not.  How do they know that it is May? 
Lilacs are my very favorite flower and my very favorite lilac is Beauty of Moscow, a pretty double white.  It is acting coy, just popping open one bud at a time, slowly, like popcorn in a warming pan.  Perhaps next week it will bloom.   I guess anything worthwhile is worth waiting for is the lesson I am to draw from it. In the meantime I will enjoy the anemones blooming in the white garden.

Memorial Day weekend is also the official opening weekend of the tourist season around here.  Oh my!  So many people, so much  traffic and noise!  Jamie set out for a walk, but came back after waiting fifteen minutes to cross the street.  Only last week, you could have shot a cannon down Main Street and not hit a soul.  So we retreated to our orchard for peace and quiet.  We have procrastinated in digging a fire pit  for eons, but decided this weekend would be it.  It only took about 15 minutes!  Why did we put it off so long? 
I plan to do a lot of campfire cookery this summer because  a.) it's fun and b.) it saves on electricity.  It also just tastes better.  Even if you can't afford a vacation, you  can vacation in your own backyard.  When the boys were little, we would make up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sit on a blanket under a tree and read all day or study the clouds.  In the evening we would look for shooting stars and  UFOs  :).   You see, children don't really care about the money you spend on a vacation, what they really want is your undivided attention.  So  never feel sad or guilty because you can't give your children some expensive trip to Disneyland, I couldn't, and I don't think any of my children grew up any worse for not having those things.

Two nearby villages, Caseville and Harbor Beach, held their village-wide garage sales this weekend, also.  We found a few things, not much that was remarkable, just practical.  Ever since they put shows like American Pickers on TV, people have an unrealistic idea of the value of their junk!  But it was fun just to drive around and soak in all the beautiful scenery.  We turned down one country lane and I spotted my dream home!  It was an old farmhouse, silvered and sun bleached.  The old tin roof was falling in.  But I could envision taking all that old wood  and  perfectly rusted tin roofing,   and building my dream home.  After the furnace incident and dealing with zoning laws, I really have a desire to chuck it all and go live in a cabin off -the-grid.  It would just be one big harvest room with a big wood cook stove for heat.  And it would be far away from everything, especially  building inspectors and tax assessors!  And no big flower gardens, just big banks of orange day lilies and of course a lilac bush or two.  Ah well, one can dream can't they?

I said I wouldn't but I did (!)  can asparagus.
I just couldn't see it go to waste.  Plus this year has been a real bear, financially and I'm not about to waste free food!  We still haven't received the bill for the furnace, so we stopped in the plumber to ask for it but it wasn't prepared yet.  But the receptionist was rather cryptic, stating that there were some pretty expensive parts that needed to be replaced.  Sigh!  Then, this weekend our car's "check engine" light came on.  When it rains it pours!   I'm always so thankful for our bountiful gardens and well-stocked pantry to help see us through tough times.  We haven't bought a cartload of groceries in months.  Thank goodness! So don't let anyone dissuade you from stocking an emergency pantry.  You never know when your "times of troubles" may come!

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Got free compost from the village for our garden. (They mulch and compost all the leaves in the fall and the villagers can take it for free.)
Canned eight pints asparagus.
Bought more canning jars at the garage sales.
Ate out of the pantry.
Hung the laundry out on the line.
Planted corn, potatoes and  pumpkins that we had saved the seeds from last year.
Vacationed at home.
Picked lilacs for floral arrangements.
Gathered things for a garage sale.
Harvested asparagus and yes, rhubarb from the garden (hopefully next week, we'll have lettuce.)
Killed the weeds growing by spraying vinegar with dish soap.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you had a lovely weekend!  The last few days have been beautiful and it looks like today is going to be another perfect spring day.  I'm overjoyed because it means that we can take down the plant light system and reclaim our dining room.  Which means, today I will be cleaning and rearranging.  But before I start on that, I'd like to take you on a small tour of our urban homestead, or farmette, as I like to call it, so many people have asked about it in the past.

We start at the front door.  As you can see leaves are just beginning to sprout on the bushes here, everything is so late because of the brutal winter we had.  Trying to get anything to grow here is a challenge because this side of the house receives the full brunt of the wind directly off of the lake.  This is just a humble little house, less than 1000 square feet.

The south facing side is in another climate altogether.  Protected from the wind, the flowers bloom several weeks ahead of other areas in our yard.  Unfortunately, there isn't much yard on this side, or my vegetable garden would be planted here.

Through the arbor to the back yard.  This arbor is planted with New Dawn roses.  Unfortunately between this year's winter and last year's even harsher one,  the roses have died back to almost the ground and need to be pruned back.  I'm through with roses!  Even the hearty rugosa roses are struggling after the last two winters.  You have to be tough to survive in the north, and that applies to people as well as plants!

Here is an overview of the garden plots.  We have an herb garden, a strawberry plot, a blueberry plot (that's the ugly fencing to the left. The deer love tender blueberry shoots!), a fenced in garden to foil the groundhogs, another plot that isn't fenced, an asparagus patch, grapes and blackberries growing along the fence, and a potato/corn plot. Oh!  and a small orchard with apple, apricot, pear and peach trees.  Our beehive is operable, but the village doesn't allow bees, so for now, it is just a garden accent.
Here's the garden from another angle.  As you can see, the tomatoes are growing out of their cold frame and the onions  and garlic are coming up.  That's my favorite pie apple, Rhode Island Greening, in the foreground.  Along with a meddlar and a Smokehouse  (good keepers) apple tree, these trees have a place of honor in our garden.  The others grow here:
In the orchard!  Altogether, we have about fifteen fruit trees and a hazelnut bush.  When we bought this property eight years ago, there was nothing here, just an vacant lot and a ratty old house (it had been on the market for years).  By working slowly but steadily, we have changed this property into a productive piece of land.  And my husband commuted  here every other weekend for most of those years, so if we can do it, so can you!

A Nice Spring Meal

Strawberries have been inexpensive and plentiful this spring, so we had one of our favorite springtime meals.  Balsamic Strawberry pizza.  I know it sounds strange, but it is really good! (And it uses up some of that jam that you preserved, too!)
Balsamic Strawberry Pizza

1/2 C. strawberry jam
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 prepared pizza dough
a few rashers of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 med. red onion (or any sweet onion)
1 C. cooked chicken breast (diced)
1 C. strawberries, sliced
1 -1 1/2 C. mozzarella cheese

Spread your dough out onto a pizza pan.
Combine the jam, vinegar, and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook until thickened.  Spread on the dough.
Top with half of the cheese, then the bacon, chicken, and onions.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese  and top with the strawberries.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the bottom of the pizza crust starts to brown.

Makes a wonderful meal if you serve it with a nice spinach salad or go totally springtime and forage some dandelions and make a salad from them.

 We always keep some fried crumbled bacon and prepared chicken breast in the freezer.  It's a quick and easy way to prepare a meal when you are in a hurry.  Just take out and heat in the microwave or toaster oven (we don't own a microwave), add it to a salad to make it a main dish salad,  or use them in casseroles or to top a potato.

Don't Buy It, Make It

Pizza Dough

1 C. semolina flour
2 C. flour
1 pkt. dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 C. olive oil
3/4 C. warm water (approximately)

Proof the yeast with 1/4 warm water and the sugar.
In  a large bowl combine the semolina flour, 1/4 C. water, 1/4 C. olive oil and the salt.   Add the yeast mixture and 1 C. flour. Stir. Add the remaining flour and add enough water to make a soft dough.  Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it starts to fight back (anyone who has made bread knows what I'm talking about).  Cover and let rise until dough is doubled in size.  Punch down and  spread dough into pizza pan.  (makes 2 pizzas) Semolina is the secret to a good crust.


Besides gardening, we painted our garden chairs with a mixture of paints that we had in the basement. 
Use it up and make do!  Love those old-timey chairs.  My grandparents had some on the farm, and I remember many a warm summer afternoon  sitting in them under an ancient willow tree.  A few years back, we drove past the old farmstead and the willow was gone.  Everything was gone, except an old chicken coop that my grandfather had built out of stone found on the property and some Model-T car windows that my great uncle had left there during the depression.  Now there's a big grand house on the land and it isn't a farm any longer.  Such a shame,  it was a wonderful farm!

I realized that we are almost half way through the year (can you believe it?), and I haven't finished any of my Christmas knitting projects yet this year!   So I locked myself in my room and didn't come out until I finished this sweater:
Ragg wool doesn't photograph very well.  You'll just have to take my word for it when I say it's adorable. You can't even see the two little pockets that are just the right size  for little toys.  The pattern is from one of those vintage knitting pamphlets and the buttons were salvaged from a blazer that I used for my woolen quilt.  It's a sweater for grandson, Ezekiel. Only took two skeins of wool. If anyone wants the pattern, just let me know, and I'll e-mail it to you.  Haven't figured out to attach the instructions to this post.


I know, I know, you are getting tired of my rhubarb recipes, but we eat what is in the garden here, so that is what I have.  So here is one last and my favorite recipe for rhubarb.  You can use other fruits, if you wish and I think peaches would be wonderful.

Rhubarb Flip

5 C. diced rhubarb
1 1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. cornstarch
5 tbsp. water
2-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/2 C. coconut
1/2 C. nuts, chopped
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted

Place rhubarb in a greased  13X 9" pan.
In a small saucepan combine the cornstarch, sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until thickened.  Stir in food coloring.  Pour over rhubarb.
Sprinkle cake mix over the rhubarb. Top with the coconut and nuts.  Drizzle the melted butter over top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
I added strawberries left over from the pizza to mine.  And don't forget the whipped cream!

Also eating lots of this:
Harvested six pounds today!  Yes, you can get sick of asparagus! But we are thankful for it, all the same.  Sure beats starving!  I will be glad, though, when the lettuce gets big enough to pick


.We received our electricity bill and it was $20 less (usually $60) since we began turning off all the cable boxes, computers, dvd players, etc. at night.  So we will definitely continue to do that! Just plug them into a surge protector with a on/off switch, then you only need to flip one switch to cut the electricity for all.  We've noticed how little we use the TV, because some days we forget to turn it back on.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Attended an estate sale and bought 3 dozen canning jars for $4.
Cut Jamie's hair.
Painted the lawn chairs with a mixture of paint we had on hand.
Finished knitting a sweater for a Christmas present.
Harvested and ate rhubarb and asparagus
Transplanted herbs from the garden.
Started some free Chinese cabbage seeds.
Hung the laundry outside.
Started cross stitching a baby gift from materials I had on hand.
My husband got his cholesterol  checked for free at a medical fair.
Sent away for the parts to repair our car's gas latch.
Since the weather has been nice, we've used a lot more leg power and a lot less gas.

By the way, I got the idea to list my thrifty things list from Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker .  She has a beautiful and inspiring blog.  If you haven't already, you should check it out.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Hope everyone had a jolly Mother's Day!  We are having our April showers a month late here, but we can't complain when we compare it to all the storms other parts of the country are experiencing.  The weather has been all over the map this week; one day the quintessential spring day, the next as hot as an August afternoon, another day so foggy you couldn't see across the street, and today it is so cold we need our lightweight winter coats.  Didn't stop the tulips from blooming, though!
Bright aren't they?  Don't know what possessed me to plant them, as I am not a red flower person. I thought they were pretty  pink Angelique  tulips, so you can only imagine my disappointment when they bloomed.  But at least, as you can see, they are very hearty.  I just might take a liking to them after all!

Indigenous Eating

John B. Wells has a saying, "If you don't like what they're selling, quit buying it .".  And the really applies to food as well as propaganda.  By buying from local outlets, such as farmer's markets, roadside stands, and independently owned grocers, you not only saving money and being healthier, you are taking a stand against those gigantic corporations whose only objective is  the bottom line.  You never see Walmart  sponsoring a little league team! We buy from a local butcher  that has a sign stating that no meat comes from China or is mass produced.  Our honey comes from a local aparian.  There are numerous signs along the road for eggs, with the chickens happily rooting in the farmyard.  We eat from our garden.  At this time, the only thing it is producing is rhubarb and asparagus, so that is what we eat.  We've had asparagus roasted twice, sauteed with garlic  and once on a pizza with mushrooms.  Plus we've given away several pounds to the neighbors.  We never can or freeze it, because once spring is over, we are quite content not to see it for another year.  Trying to come up with creative ways to use rhubarb is a challenge.  This week we made strawberry-rhubarb iced tea, and although I'm not much of an iced tea drinker, I found it quite agreeable.  Here's the recipe:

Strawberry-Rhubarb Iced Tea

2 C. rhubarb, diced
1 C. fresh strawberries, chopped
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. water
6 C. brewed black tea

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, water  and sugar in a saucepan.  Cook until the rhubarb is soft.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Add to the tea. Refrigerate.  Add ice if desired.

Because we are tired of sweets, I found this savory way to use rhubarb (sorry about the poor picture):

Curried Lentil Rhubarb Stew

2 C. lentils
6 C. water
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. salt
2 bay leaves

2 C. carrots, diced
2 C. sweet potatoes, pumpkins or winter squash, cubed
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 C. rhubarb. diced
pepper to taste

Combine all in a large saucepan and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Was this the most wonderful thing we ever ate?  Probably not.  But it wasn't bad and it used  up some of the rhubarb.  It's good served  with flat bread  and coconut chutney that we buy from the Indian food store, which is  also a wonderful source for buying lentils.  You can also find lentils cheaper in the foreign food aisle than in the aisle with dried beans usually.

Bare Bones Pantry

Someone asked me what I would buy if I only had $100 and needed to feed a family of four for three months.  Lentils would be on my list, they are very filling.  I'd also buy a 25 pound bag of flour, several bags of dried beans; such as navy, Great Northern, and pinto.  A big container of oatmeal and cornmeal.  A bag of sugar  and a jar of yeast.  A dozen cans of evaporated milk and tomatoes.  A big bag of potatoes and carrots.  A box of bacon ends and pieces.  Oh! And a  can of shortening . And assuming you were starting with nothing, I'd go to the dollar store and get some baking powder and spices such as chili powder, cinnamon, garlic powder, a seasoned salt and pepper.  With that you could make lots of soups, baked beans, homemade bread and biscuits, pancakes, bean burritos, tortillas, hashes, pot pies, bean burgers,  etc.   It wouldn't be the most inspiring meals, but it would keep a family fed.  If I had any money left over, I'd buy some sprouting mixtures so we could have something green once in a while.  I would look under the cushions and dig up some change and go to the dollar store and buy a packet of lettuce seeds, also.  Even if I had to dig some dirt from the side of the road and plant it in an old pan, I'd have a garden! What would you buy?

Food Storage

Regina of My Simple Life asked how I store all my our home-canned goods.  Believe you me, storage in a tiny cottage that was built before the advent of closets can be challenging!  We store bulk purchases of sugar, flour and oatmeal in food storage buckets that we hide under a large drop leaf table.
No one even notices them.  We put shelves up in a small space under our stairs.
Ran also built  a nice jelly cupboard that holds a couple hundred jars.  And If we run out of room, we store the jars in plastic bins that we slide under the sofa and under the beds.  There's always space to store things, in closets, under furniture, in chests, etc.  as long as it's cool and dark. Be inventive, no one has to know that the antique blanket chest holds your year's supply of pickles!

My clever  blogging friend at Mornings Minion left a comment that she was making pillowcases from worn out sheets.  You know how I love to repurpose things, so it got my wheels turning on ways to use worn sheets.

10 Ways To Use Worn Sheets

1. As Sharon suggested, you can make pillowcases from the good parts.
2.  Since sheets usually wear in the center, you can cut them in up the middle and sew the good parts   together.  Hem all around the sides.
3.  I made a nice  petticoat from an old flannel sheet.
4.  Make an apron.
5.  Use the good parts for a binding on blankets.
6. Make valances.
7.  Scraps can be used for patchwork.
8.  Some of the patterns are very sweet.  Here's some cute pillowcases that I picked up from estate    sales for 10- 25 cents.
Baby and toddler sized clothes can be sewn from them.
9.  You can make little totes and pouches.
10.  If they are badly worn, you can always use them for rags.

I also tear them into strips and set my hair in rag curls.  They're easy to sleep on and gives you soft waves.


Talk about earthquakes in diverse places!  Last weekend I was sitting up in  my bed, knitting, when it began to vibrate.  I kept thinking to myself, " This is how people describe earthquakes, but Michigan doesn't have earthquakes."  Well low and behold!  Michigan had a 4.2 earthquake!  A very minor one to be sure, but pretty major for our state.  The poor people in Nepal,  weren't so lucky.  Please keep them in your prayers and if you can, make a contribution to  one of the relief organizations.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me
~ Matthew 25:40~

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Ran bargained for a very good deal on a used truck. (our old truck is 16 years old and has over 250,000 miles)
Bought canning lids in bulk.
Harvested and ate asparagus and rhubarb.
Planted potatoes that we saved from last year's harvest.
Painted an ugly wooden knifebox  with some craft paint I already had to make it look country-ish.
Cut out an apron from some yardage I bought at an estate sale for $1.50. (maybe this week I'll get around to sewing it)
Bought some children's books that look brand new from a yard sale for Christmas presents.
Washed all our quilts and hung them on the line to dry.
Bought some pretty  pale yellow columbines for half price at Meijer's garden center.
Made rhubarb-strawberry wine for our Christmas hampers.
Walked, rather than drove to pick up the mail this week.

I leave you with a bouquet of daffodils.
And the hope that you had a wonderful Mother's Day filled with love and family!  'Til next time!


Sunday, May 3, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you all are doing well.  May has arrived, and with it, the daffodils!
Each year we buy one hundred bulbs from the big box store and plant them in long furrows.  We are hoping that eventually they will spread and our entire orchard will be covered in them.  The lungwort (ugly name isn't it?) has also blossomed.
Poor baby was trapped under the woodpile, so I'm tickled pink that it has survived.  For years I have been trying to plant some pale yellow primroses with the lungwort, a combination  I saw in  The Cottage Garden, one of my favorite books for garden inspiration. Unfortunately, between the guys stacking wood on them and Georgie napping on them all summer long, they haven't had much of a chance.  But maybe some day!  Isn't the sky a pretty blue?

We had our first batch of asparagus for lunch today.
  I think the best way to eat asparagus is to roast it.

How to Roast Asparagus

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  spread you stalk on a roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil (be stingy with it, it doesn't take much) .  Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes until the stalk are tender.

"Happiness is making the most of what you have and riches is making the most of what you've got."
                                     ~Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers~

In the spirit of making the most of what I got, I baked some Rhubarb muffins today.  One of the principles of a simple thrifty lifestyle is to use what you have and be grateful for it.  No use longing for some exotic imported fruit when there's plenty of rhubarb in your own garden! (Now if I could only learn to love black currants!)
Rhubarb Muffins

2 C. diced rhubarb
1 1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp.  baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 C. buttermilk
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Stir in the buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla until just combined  (batter will be lumpy) . Stir in the rhubarb and nuts.  Divide batter between 8 greased muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

I wasn't expecting to like  these muffins as much as I did. After all,  I usually like to combine strawberries with my rhubarb, and in truth it is the strawberries you are mostly  what I enjoy tasting,  but these were really quite lovely.

Speaking of lovely things, I was the winner of my dear friend Rainey's  giveaway.  A sweet little embroidered heart.
It goes perfectly with all the zinc and tin that I collect.  Thank you Sweet Rainey! (The picture doesn't do it justice)

On Friday the annual M-15 garage sale trail was held.  We left at 7:00 AM and didn't arrive back home until 6:00 in the evening.  We packed our lunch and a thermos of water and the only costs besides the goodies we picked up was $16 for gas.  Where else can three people have so much fun for  $16?!   Here's a picture of some of the treasures we found:

A cute little zinc bucket that I plan to plant white geraniums in and place on a bench next to the door. Some really nice enameled pieces with measurements in grams and ounces that we will use for making soap.  The pieces were made in Austria.  The Austrians and Germans make the nicest enamelware!  Also found a cute prim basket for fifty cents and an adorable small yelloware  bowl. The old quilt came out of "free" box, it has some holes and stains, but I plan to make a runner and pillows with it.  An old marmalade crock to hold spoons on the sideboard and a nice smallish cast iron Dutch oven.  I want to do more campfire cooking this summer, so we have been on the lookout for cast iron pieces.  This one isn't too bad, it had just a tiny bit of rust that came off when I washed it with a scrub pad, but if you find rustier pieces, don't be afraid to by them. Here's how to revive old cast iron:

How to Restore Old Cast Iron Pots and Pans

With sandpaper, sand the rusted spots until you get down to raw metal.  If you have a really  rusty piece, you can use one of those attachments that fit on your drill.  Wash and dry your piece well.   Coat the piece inside and out with a thick coat of shortening.  It's essential that you get the shortening into all the pores of the metal.   Next, make a good roaring fire in you firepit  (some people do this step in a hot 450 degree or hotter oven, but the pans get really smoky so do that at your own peril and make sure you put something under it to catch the fat or you will have a fire).  Throw the pot in the fire  and let it get all smokey (it might even start to catch on fire, that's ok) After it stops smoking, remove from the fire.  Let it cool.  Clean out the ashes with a pot scrubber.   Wash  and dry well. Pour some vegetable  oil on a rag or paper towel and coat the surfaces before storing.

Cast iron is a good investment.  It wears like, well, iron!  I have a frying pan that came from my grandparent's  that is almost ninety years old, (one of the things that they rescued from the farmhouse when it burnt down in the 1920s) that I've used almost every day of my married life and it will probably be working long after I'm gone.  The more you use cast iron, the better it gets. Some people say you shouldn't wash it, but I do. Just make sure it's good and dry before putting it away.

How To Use Paint

I love old things!  I guess you could say that my decorating style is primitive/Early American.  The more chipped up and weathered looking the more I love it.  Here's a picture of an old piece of junk that we found at a garage sale, that we made look even junkier! Ha!
Paint is a wonderful  inexpensive way to make your home your own.   Like I said, I like primitive, so I use a lot of milk paint colors and sand away for the worn old look, but if you like shabby chic or cottage style, white and pastel colored paint is all it takes to transform garage sale finds into treasures. We also mix all the paint colors for our walls, using paint we have on hand, the discounted mistinted ones from the hardware store, those we can find at estate sales and the Habitat For Humanity stores, and sometimes people will give us their old paint.  When you mix your own colors, make sure you make enough to do the job plus extra for touch-ups.  Start out lighter than you think you want, paint always dries darker.  If a color is too bright, you can dull it down by adding a touch of color that is opposite on the color wheel.  Once Ran came home with some paint that he said was sage green.  I took one look at it, and instantly thought of Kermit the Frog.  So we kept adding red to it, to calm it down. Eventually we ended up with a mystery color.  Everyone that saw it, thought it was a different color.  Some thought it was blue, others green and still others saw it as gray.  It was a really soothing color and went perfectly with the soft yellow draperies and the yellow pine floors and furniture.  I just loved it!  Too bad, we'll never be able to recreate it. Here's a picture of the walls in our bedroom that we "custom" mixed. 

 My photography doesn't do it justice, but it is the nicest country cream color.  You'd be surprised at how many colors besides white went into the mixture!  By the way, one of the rites of spring is to replace all the lampshades with these vintage bird ones.  All garage sale finds.

Make The Most of What You Got

Patchwork is one of the coziest things in the world.  This week I made this little patchwork pillow for the living room, from scraps in the good old scrapbag.
I delight in using up the tiniest of scraps.  Of course, I never make anything bigger than pillows and runners because I like complicated patterns with a gazzillion pieces.

Last summer Ran and Jamie built a little guest/storage cottage.  It's a basic little box shape building.  So we wanted to gussy it up a bit. 

One day, I spotted an old house with cute little overhang, so we took pictures and Ran copied it.  Really don't care for the orange door but Ran loves it, so  I plan to plant tiger lilies at the foundation to tie it into the landscape.  An inn around the corner has tiger lilies and Shasta  daisies planted by the entrance and it makes a really sweet plant grouping.  Always keep your eyes peeled for new and inexpensive ways to add your own touch to your home.  If your are fortunate enough to have a home, enjoy it! 

"But a wife's ministry of mercy reaches outside her own doors.  Every true home is an influence of beauty in the community where it stands."
~ J.R. Miller~

Let's Get Serious

I got so mad the other day.  I was reading a very popular blog, and the lady was ridiculing people for being prepared.  Basically, she said we had been all fooled by Y2K and the Inca  December 21st prophecies, so we should just stop preparing for disasters.  Obviously, this woman has never taken an economics course or she would know that not everything is fine and dandy in the world.  But I have lots of friends that figure that if the stock market is fine,  the economy is too.   So I thought I'd write a brief history of money, what it means to us and what we can do about it.

Back in the ancient days, men bartered for what they wanted.  But this became problematic, because what if what you wanted  the other person didn't want to barter with you for?   So man devised little tokens out of metals, such as bronze, silver and gold and traded these for things.  Which was a good thing because an ounce of gold is an ounce of gold no matter where you go.  Then came the middle ages and people started to travel to pilgrimages.  Lugging around all the heavy metal was burdensome and besides the poor travelers kept getting robbed.  So, some say it was the Knights Templar, that figured out that people could store there their metal money at their fortresses and they would give them paper vouchers that stated they had so much gold and silver stored there.  The creation of the first paper money.  Then they got really clever and discovered that people were trading the paper money and leaving their gold at their fortresses.  So they figured they could just print more vouchers and make loans and use other peoples money.  Now the printed money wasn't as valuable because the gold and silver backing it wasn't as plentiful.  But no one noticed because never did all the gold and silver holders ask for theirs back at the same time.  Today's banks only have on hand about 20% of the money they loan out.  That is why when things get a little scary, banks call a holiday, which is anything but a holiday, and close down for a week or two.  When they reopen, the people discover that their money is worth a lot less than before the holiday.  This happened recently in Cypress.

Anyway, soon bankers discovered that they didn't really have to have anything to back their money.  People just accepted their little vouchers as real money.  This is called fiat currency.  Fiat means "let it be so"  as in the king decrees that little piece of paper is worth ten dollars, so it is.  I like to call it "faith based" money.  The value is based upon the faith the people have in it.

This takes us to 1971 when Pres. Richard Nixon declared that we would stop backing the dollar with gold.  No, folks, there is no gold in Fort Knox backing your money.  The following year Henry Kissinger, concerned that our money's value would plunge like an anvil being thrown off the Empire State building, brokered a deal with oil producing nations (OPEC) that in exchange for us being their allies and protectors, they would never sell any oil to other nations without using American dollars.  Pretty clever of old Henry.  This is called the petro dollar. And from then on out, every nation that wants to buy oil from the Middle East has to exchange their money for the American dollar to pay for the oil.  It keeps the U.S. dollar strong but is pretty darn annoying to other nations.

Other nations have tried to break free of the petro dollar but it hasn't been to healthy for their leaders.  In 2000 Sadam Hussien tried to buy oil with the Euro, but  the following year the Bush administration declared war  on the Wacky Iraqi.  So there's your answer to why we went to war with Iraq when the 9-11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.  Qaddafi of Libya tried also, and the next thing you know we are warring with them.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Whose next?  Let's see?  Russia ring a bell? Ever wonder why we seem to  get involved in one conflict after the other?

But the powers that be are losing their fight.  In recent history  India and China have tried to broker deals for oil for gold.  The U.S. is losing its prestigious  petro dollar status.  And when it goes, the dollar goes.  The canary in the coal mine is the lower gas prices we have been experiencing lately.  Those that  think it's wonderful, fail to see the big picture.  The Saudis are intentionally keeping the oil prices low to drive any other avenues out of business.  Sort of like when Wal-Mart comes into a town.  First, they sell things at lower prices until all the mom and pop businesses go out of business, then once they no longer have any competition, they raise the prices.  Once the other companies go out of business what do you think is going to happen to the price of a gallon of gasoline?  But here's a problem, sources say that the Saudi oil is drying up and that they are pumping more water than oil.  And that a good majority of the derivatives market is pegged to oil.  Derivatives are just bets on stock. Those bets are riding on the price of oil being realistic and the current oil prices are not realistic.

And then there's QE1 and QE2 and QE infinity.  QE stands for quantitative easing and basically means that the  Federal Reserve (which isn't federal by the way, is as a matter of fact a private banking collective that prints money and sells it back to the U.S. )  is printing money and we all know the more money in circulation the less valuable it becomes. The more rare something is the more valuable it is, and the U.S. dollar isn't rare.  Has anyone seen the picture of the big bales of American currency on the docks?   Inflation is currency deflation.

Besides, can we really say the economy is doing well when we have 50 million citizens on food stamps?  And that 1 in 4 households has no one earning a paycheck?  Did you know that if we all paid 100% income tax, we could not pay for our future liabilities?  There are 420 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. Holey smokes!

When the petro dollar goes, the U.S. will plunge into a depression that makes the Great Depression look like a day at the kiddie pool. When, I don't know, but I do not that all the Feds efforts to kick start the economy is having little effect.  It might be next month, it might be ten years, but it's going to happen.   So what can we do about it?

1. Learn to be as self-sufficient as possible.
2.  If you have a flower garden dig it up and start a vegetable garden.  Along with inflation, the droughts in California are going to have a major impact on your grocery bill.
3.  Form alliances with neighbors, friends and family.  Maybe you can't do it all, but together we can.
4.  Learn the skills now, while you can afford books and lessons.
5.  Yes, stock the pantry.  Let people make jokes about beans and rice. It's filling cheap food.
6.  Most importantly, don't let fear dog you.  If you take care of your little corner of the world, and the person in the next corner does the same, we can have a big ripple effect.  As Ghandi said "Be the change that you wish to see in the world"

Lest you think I'm some kind of conspiracy nut, here's what the Bible says on the subject:

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and  the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed.
~Psalms 2:1-2~

Now, if you have stuck with me or skipped over the money part, here's a list of some of our thrifty activities this week:

Cut Jamie's hair.
Harvested asparagus and rhubarb from the garden.
Made a pillow from fabric scraps.
Hung the laundry on the line.
Bought some essentials at the garage sales (a grater, knitting needles, a Pyrex casserole) for pennies on the dollar.
Painted a piece of furniture with paint I already had.
Reclaimed a cast iron Dutch oven ($4 at a garage sale).
Bought hearing aid batteries in bulk from Amazon.
Cut some daffodils for floral arrangements.
Studied campfire cooking by watching YouTube videos.
Packed a lunch and brought a thermos of water for our road trip.