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Sunday, October 25, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you are having a glorious week!   The leaves are finally changing and the weather is cool and crisp.  As much as I enjoy visiting other parts of the world via all of your blogs, during this time of the year there is no place on earth I'd rather be than home, sweet home.
A country lane we happened upon when out adventuring.   There's a lot of golden leaves this year.  And yes, that is the true color of our skies.  We used to live in an urban area and the skies always had an orange cast to them. The first thing I noticed  when we moved here was how blue the skies and how bright the stars were.  When was the last time you looked up?


This week we gathered wild rose hips from our favorite foraging spot.  Whew!  It was like Grand Central Station there!   Well, actually there were about ten people, but when you're used to having the place to yourself, it seemed like a horde,  so we got our rosehips and got out as quickly as we could.   Most will go into making rosehip syrup, but I couldn't resist using some to fill a basket.
I also made a wreath, a prickly process if ever there was one,  Ran said it looked like Christmas, so I'll show you that when it get's closer to winter.   Rosehip syrup combined with red rooibos tea is a wonderful way to get your vitamin C, and if you take some at the very onset , will wipe out a cold.. Or at least that is what we have discovered.   Maybe it works because it just tastes healthy!  I'm a firm believer in being responsible for our own health, instead of running to the the doctor's office every time you catch a sniffle. After a while all those antibiotics catch up with you, although, I'll be the first to point out, they do have their place and am profoundly grateful to whomever discovered them!


I finally finished my penny rug that I made using woolens that I picked up during our thrift store's winter clearance sale last year (17 cents a garment).  I didn't follow my own advice and start small when learning a new skill, figuring how hard can it be?   Turned out a little wonky!
It's far from perfect, but as my art teacher told me, "You can see the humanity in the flaws".  Well, in this case, it is a very "human" penny rug!  I was so happy to be finished with it, that I started immediately after on knitting a sweater for granddaughter Violet for Christmas.
She's such a little peanut, that it take no time to knit a sweater for her.  The tweed yarn is a silk and wool blend that I bought at an estate sale.  The buttons came from our Bethesda thrift store.  The ladies cut off buttons from damaged items and card them.   A package of five buttons is only fifty cents.   Whenever I can't find the right buttons in my button box, I always check there first before going to a fabric store.  This  is the pattern I used and an easier pattern probably never existed. It's great for beginners.   I've also knitted this pattern in blue with wooden toggle buttons for the grandsons when they were babies.  Very Paddington Bear-ish.  I'm thinking about knitting a red one with a hood and toggle buttons and a pompom on top,  Little Red Riding Hood style.

Christmas has been on our minds.  When you make your own presents, you have to start early.  We don't really celebrate very much, focusing mainly on the spiritual aspects of the holiday, but we do like to give a small token of affection to friends and family this time of year.   One thing we do enjoy is giving Christmas hampers, filled with cheeses, sausage, homemade cookies, breads and jams.  We needed something to put the goodies in, so Ran has been making these carriers from the free pallet wood.
Right now, I'm using one to display our Long Island Cheese pumpkins.  As Kitty Bartholomew would say, "It's not what you don't have, it's what you do with what you do have."  BTW, do you see our tiny butternut squashes?   For some reason they were stunted.   They're cute but not very practical.  


Our new neighbor asked us to till up her garden area, she said that we could have the raspberry canes at the end of the plot.   We thought that there were only a few canes, but were pleasantly surprised to discover that there were about twenty!
An instant raspberry patch!

We are also experimenting with planting our potatoes in the fall.   Every year we discover a few plants from potatoes we missed when digging them.  So we read up on it, and yes, you can plant potatoes in the fall.  We'll have to see how it goes.  We are saving some of our seed potatoes for the spring, just in case it doesn't work.   Never put all your eggs in one basket! We're always experimenting here.   No one will ever know it all!


A couple of people wanted to know about our phones.   We use a Magic Jack for our home phone.   They used to plug into your computer and would take forever to load onto the computer but now they plug into the modem, so they've eliminated that problem.   It works great for us and you can't beat the cost at less than $3 a month ($33/year when you buy service for 3 years). You can call anywhere in the world with them at no extra charge.  I don't know how well this works, the farthest I've called was Bermuda.  It worked fine there.  We had a problem with ours after we had it for several years, so we called the company and they ran some diagnostics over the phone, discovered the problem and sent us a free replacement part.  We're happy with the company.  We used to have a cell phone, that we carried just for emergencies while traveling.  We got rid of it and bought a pay-as-you-go Tracfone for $15 at the dollar store.  You have to reload the minutes every three month at the cost of $15.  So between the Magic Jack and the TracFone, our phones costs are less than $10 a month.   Of course it's all very low-tech, we don't text or tweet or do any of the other things so many people do now days. We just use it to make a rare phone call.  We also use Skype for talking with the grandchildren. 


Some of the things we do to save money, may seem a bit over-the-top for some of you, such as using a wringer washer and  reusing the gray water, or using a Magic Jack, but all these measures enable us to retire young and live on very little money.   Plus we find them to be fun.  As they say, your money or your life.   You can choose to work for someone else or you can work for yourself, it's up to you.   So many comment, upon hearing that we retired young, that they wish they could do the same, but we have to wonder if they really mean it.   You have to give up a lot of ideas that society has led us to believe is what constitutes happiness and success to live frugally.   An important question to ask yourself before you retire is:

Do you know who you are?

Quick!   Name who won last year's Pulitzer prize?   Or who won the Nobel prize in physics?  Or last year's Oscar?   Can you?   I can't.  And I bet most people can't either.  And this may sound harsh, but most people don't care.  So you see, all the accolades and awards, the letters behind your name, the balance in your bank account, mean very little to anyone else but you.   Don't even think about retiring if it's important to you.  Because once you retire, you will no longer be defined by a job title.  You have to be secure in who you are as a person.   It takes a bit of courage to not have anything define you but your own character.   I often tell the tale of my grandfather, who was a plain dirt farmer.  He never amounted to much, if you consider success in things such as wealth or education.  But when he died the church couldn't contain all the mourners. For decades after his death, people, once learning that I was his granddaughter, would tell me stories of his generosity, kindness, compassion  and courage.  So many books on retirement preparedness focus on budgets and where to live,  and quite frankly, quite a bit of foolishness, but very few point out the mental and spiritual aspects.   Can you be content and fulfilled just being you?


Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.
~Henry David  Thoreau~


Here's a quick meatless (the cost of meat now days is outrageous!) soup that is also hearty enough for a brisk fall day.

Vegetable  Cheese Chowder

2 medium potatoes, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 large stalks of celery, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 C. water
4 tbsp. melted butter
4 tbsp. flour
1 3/4 C. milk
1 1/2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 can cream-style corn

Cook vegetables in salted water for 15 minutes.  Do not drain.
Blend the melted butter and flour until smooth.  Add milk, stirring over low heat until smooth and thick.  Add cheese and stir until melted
Add corn to undrained vegetables then add to cheese mixture.  Heat but do not boil.

I've made this in my vegan days with soy milk and cheese.   To be honest, I don't care for the taste of vegan cheeses, but if you are accustomed  to the taste, you might like it.   Also, after reading that almost  all soy products in the US are GMO, I prefer to use the real thing, and not worry so much about cholesterol.


Planted a raspberry patch from free canes.
Cleaned out a neighbor's gutters for a bit of cash.
I can't believe it, but it's almost November and we still haven't turned on our furnace!
Heated the house with wood.
Ate from the pantry.
Knitted a sweater for Christmas from wool purchased for $1 at an estate sale.
Mulched the leaves and used them for protection around the bushes.
Made trays for Christmas presents from free pallet wood.
Hung the laundry outside. In October!
Decorated the house with our own pumpkins.
Got a great deal on cheese from the bulk food store,so we bought a bunch and froze it.
Painted a bench with leftover paint.
Foraged for rosehips.  Made a wreath for Christmas from them.
Planted potatoes.

Well that's about it for this week.  Can you believe the next time I post something it will be November?  How time flies when you are having fun!  I hope you all have a blissful week!


Sunday, October 18, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you all are staying warm.  How quickly the weather changes!   Last week we attended an auction and it was too warm for a sweater, this week we spotted the first snowflakes.   I wish we had more of the sunny 50 degree weather, but as they say, "If wishes were horses, all men would ride.".   Thanks to our woodpile, we haven't had to use the furnace yet.   I think a well-stacked woodpile is a thing of beauty.
Keeping Warm

Although we have newer windows, our house being so old and crooked, has a lot of drafts.  We use that plastic weatherproofing  over the windows in our unheated mud room and on the upstairs windows.   We also use bubble wrap as added insulation on the north side facing windows in the upstairs.   These windows face the neighbor's house ( in these old neighborhoods the houses are very close together), so we don't care about obstructing the view.   Just put the bubble wrap up on the windows, the static makes them cling, then we put the plastic weather proofing over that.  We've already noticed that the rooms are staying warmer.  BTW, we always buy these weatherproofing kits from the Goodwill store and from estate sales.   They only cost a couple of dollars there and are well worth it.   Last year our highest heating bill was around $100.   I wrote this post almost four years ago on tips for staying warm and cozy, it's become one of my most popular posts.

Auctions And Estate Sales

This past week we attended two auctions and three estate sales.   We won the bid for this washstand:
We needed more storage in our bathroom and this fit in perfectly.  It costs the same as a particle board one from the store and it's solid wood and will retain it's value because it's an antique.   Auctions are a wonderful way to furnish your home.   If you like antiques, they are a lot cheaper than antique stores and if you just want furniture and don't care about it's pedigree, furniture can be bought for pennies on the dollar.  I've seen like-new sofas go for less than ten dollars.  Many  auctions are to settle the estates of elderly people that  are not very hard on them.  Just be sure to set a limit, lest you go "bid crazy".   Never bid on the first few things, either.  Usually the bidders get excited and bid too high on them.  As the day wears on the crowds fall away, having spent all their money, and the things become cheaper.  Lucky you, if the items you want is at the end of the auction, when the auctioneer is tired out and the crowd just wants to get it over with.  Another tip is never to make the first bid.   The auctioneer  always starts out with a high amount, hoping to catch a newcomer.   I always wait until the bid comes down to one or five dollars, or for furniture, ten dollars. Even if you don't bid on anything, auctions are free entertainment.

Estate sales are wonderful places to get tools and household items.   This past year we've bought boxes of paintbrushes, sandpaper, drill bits, light bulbs, paint stripper, paint, yarn, cloth, etc.   for just a few dollars.  The prices on antiques seem to be on the high side, but if you go at the end of the last day, you can usually make a deal for 50% off the price.  Sometimes they have the last day as a half-price day.   Two places to find auctions and estate sales in your area are and  I wish I had known about auctions and estate sales when we were young and setting up house.   The cheap furniture that we bought (it was all we could afford)  fell apart within a year.

Ran bought me this beautiful Westmoreland milk glass swan compote at one of the estate sales.
It's a sweet reminder of one of the most memorable moments in our lives.   One day we were out for a ride when we came across acres upon acres of swans in a farmer's field.   There were thousands perhaps hundreds of thousand swans, as far as the eye could see.  The sound was deafening.  It was one of the most awesome things I ever experienced.  We live in the migration path of swans and sometimes we spot flocks of several dozens, but never did we see that many ever again. Our happiest memories have never been when we spent money.  Just goes to show you that money doesn't buy happiness.

Thrifty Meals

People always joke about eating beans and rice, but in truth they are two of the cheapest foods you can buy, especially if you buy them in bulk.   And they are filling.   Today we had bean burritos.
We make our own "refried" beans, they're cheaper  than the ones in a can and healthier too.  To make the beans we start with dried beans that we cook in a pressure cooker or ones that I have canned.  But you can make them on the stove top. Just wash and pick over the beans.   Place in bowl with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches.  Soak overnight.  In the morning rinse the beans and put in a pot with enough water to cover them by several inches.   Bring to a boil.  Once boiling turn down to a simmer and cook until the skins start to burst and the beans become as soft as you desire.   Sometimes old beans never seem to soften up enough, that's why if you are planning to make a lot of beans and rice, a pressure cooker is a good investment. (You might find one at an estate sale!)

On to the refried beans:   Once the beans have been cooked, mash them with a fork.   Add a clove of minced garlic, the juice of half a lime, salt and pepper to your liking, and about 1/4 C. salsa.  Heat through.
The rice is 1/2 C. rice cooked with a can of tomatoes and 1/2 C. water.  Add 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, chili powder and cumin.  Add salt if desired.   Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the rice is tender about twenty minutes.

To make the burritos, spread some beans and rice on a tortilla.  Spread some salsa in a 8 X 10 inch pan.  Roll  the tortillas up and place in the pan.   Pour a can of enchilada sauce over and top with a handful of cheese.  Or leave off the cheese to make this vegan.   Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the burritos are heated through.

To tell the truth, this is just as good as just the beans on top of the rice with a bit of cheese sprinkled atop.   I don't think that the tortillas add much to the flavor.   So to be extra thrifty, skip them.  I just happened to have some that I bought on the reduced for quick sale aisle.

For more tips on cooking with beans, I wrote this post.

Thrifty Baking

We're still working our way through our bushels of apples.   This applesauce cake is  wonderful  on a chilly evening with a cup of tea or better yet, a mug of cocoa.  (This is the recipe from the book, The Homecoming, cut down to practical proportions and I added the raisins)
Applesauce Cake

1/2 C, butter
1/ 2 C. sugar
1 C. applesauce
1/2 C. chopped nuts
1/2 C. raisins
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 C. flour
1 egg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg

Cream butter until soft.  Add sugar a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.
Beat in the egg.
Alternately stir in dry ingredients and applesauce.  Beat until well-blended.
Add nuts and raisins.
Pour into a well greased loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Frost with a thick white frosting.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Refinished an auction find with refinisher purchased at an estate sale.
Traded our labor for a quart of honey.
Used our Subway card for a free sub.
Got rid of our cell phone and went with a "pay-as-you-go" phone. 
Bought a grocery bag full of clothes and woolens for crafts from a church rummage sale.
Used our wood stove to heat our house.
Got more free pallets for firewood.
Watched free TV on Hulu.
Picked a bushel of pears (the last harvest of the year).

That's it for this week.   Hope you have a lovely week ahead.  Stay warm!



Monday, October 12, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Sorry about my absence!   Life just got in the way of all things bloggy.  Thank you to all who have checked in and inquired about my whereabouts.  It really means a lot to me.  I'm glad I'm back because autumn is my favorite time of year and I want to share it with all you dear people.  Here's how the front garden looks in October:
It's been a very strange year.   Usually by now we have seen our first frost, but this year we haven't yet turned on our furnace.  Yesterday it was in the seventies.  Although summer got off to a slow start, it was a perfect growing season, everything was so bountiful.  We dug carrots this past week. 

An entire wagon full.   See? You don't need acres upon acres of land to provide food for your family.  A normal sized yard with a well-planned garden will provide plenty.  This was only two rows about two feet long.   The secret to growing nice straight plentiful carrots is to dig down a good eight inches of soil, making sure to remove any rocks, then combine the soil with plenty of compost to make a nice soft friable soil.   You really don't need a lot of land if you use the land intelligently.  Adding compost to your soil is so important to growing healthy and health-filled vegetables.  You're replenishing the minerals.  That's why so many of the vegetables you see in the groceries stores, may look beautiful, but that's about it.  The large commercial farms use a lot of chemicals to make their food grow, and years upon years of farming the land have depleted the minerals.  It's important to let some of your garden lay fallow for a year and give it a rest, add compost, and rotate your crops. One of the things that has been keeping me busy has been canning these carrots.   Carrots are a lot of prep work!

Oh!  Miracles of miracles!   We planted a hazelnut bush several years ago, but it never produced any nuts.   Last fall I had a talk with it and told it that if it didn't start producing, I would cut it down.  Well!   This year it gave us these

five little nuts.  So I've granted it a reprieve.  I'll have to study up on how to prune it.  Has anyone out there ever grown hazelnuts and have any tips for me?


Another reason I been absent is that we have been doing a lot of rearranging of the house.   Being an older home,  it really lacks in closets.   Last year it just about drove my son and me crazy with all the winter coats hung on a rack in our dining room.  We both have a tinge of obsessive-compulsive syndrome and disorder makes us uncomfortable.  Anyway, something had to be done with the coats and boots before another winter came, so Ran built us this coat cupboard:
He used a piece of plywood left over from another project, free pallet wood, and old door that was in the cottage when we bought it (it didn't fit any of the door jambs) and the hardware was picked up at various garage sales for pennies on the dollars and the paint is the same paint we use throughout the house for most of the trim (Olde Century paint ind Olde Pewter), we always keep a gallon on hand for touch-ups.  The total cost was around $5 for the project.  What a difference!  BTW, we have been picking up free pallets from a farm down the road.   Some of the wood is oak and heart pine.  We keep the nice wood for building projects and the ugly stuff we cut up and use for firewood.  Free heat!

Anyway, another thing we did was rearrange our rooms. The dining room was always so small and has five doorways in it, we were always banging into something.  So we made it into a small sitting area, which works much better.
It's a pleasant place to sit and talk, works much better for us, this way.   The living room was always too big and boxy.  We never could figure out how to arrange the chairs.  Every year we would move the dining room table into it for big holiday meals.  So we decided to just keep it as a dining room,especially since we got rid of our cable and no longer watch the TV (we still have one and I'm trying hard to convince Ran to get rid of it, I don't like how it looks).
The table is an antique Sheraton circa 1820.  When you have both leaves open, it take up most of the room!   I bought it ages ago when Ebay was just starting out for $50 and I think it was another $50 to have it shipped.  Boy!  I sure do miss the old days when you could get a bargain on Ebay (and the old postal rates).  Speaking of bargains, here's my pretty Halloween-ish  vintage coverlet that I found at a garage sale for $5!
Can you believe it? It's full sized and in perfect condition.   When I got it home, I discovered that it had a Depression era label on it stating it was woven by the Tennessee Weaver's Guild.  That's the sort of thing that keeps me on the hunt at garage sales.  See that little sampler  behind the chair?  Another bargain I picked up at a garage sale.  It was an old stamped linen from the thirties that I embroidered with floss I picked up at garage sales. Total cost was one dime.
Most of these old linens have Spring-time themes so I was thrilled to find one with a Fall-ish  scene.


I also cross stitched this little crow tuck-in. 
We no longer have any cross stitch shops in the area.  Remember when every little town had one? So I buy old linen napkins and linens form estate and garage sales, which can be picked up for a dime or a quarter.  Then I use waste canvas which I have very good fortune of finding at our local thrift store to make sure that the crosses are all even.  I also buy all my floss there.  It's an inexpensive hobby.  BTW, Ran refinished this cupboard, the dining room table and the little Cushman's Colonial rock maple chair in the sitting room since I last wrote.   Did a beautiful job.  The chair was a $5 purchase at a garage sale.  I love those older maple pieces from the 40s and 50s.  The really knew how to make furniture back then!

We also laid this little flagstone path under the trellis.
The picture doesn't do it justice.  All the stones came from our yard and and empty lot.  The cost of this project was free.  See?  you can do things to make your home more valuable without spending money!


I have wanted a ringer washing machine for ages.  They are so economical and save so much water.  You only need to fill the basin once for all your loads.  You start with the light colors and the least dirty and move on down to the darker and dirtier clothes.  Another tub is used to rinse the clothes.  You can agitate the clothes for as long as you need.  So it can take as little or as long to do the laundry.  And the machines are low tech, just a pump switch and a motor switch.  When we get done with the laundry, we siphon the water into a wash tub and keep the "grey" water for flushing the toilet and watering plants.  Saves gallons of water.  How many times does the average washing machine fill and empty during one wash cycle? 
 Also, just being mindful is a great way to save water.   Our experiment earlier this year has taught us to to turn off the water while getting our teeth brushed and getting washed up.   But the other day I was rinsing off a spoon and I had a wash basin under the faucet.  I noticed that I had used almost a gallon of water just to rinse off that one little spoon!  How many times a day do I rinse out a coffee cup or spoon?  How many gallons do I waste?  Now I'm mindful of those things.  It's far better to fill a small wash basin with water and wash several things that just a "quick" rinse.  Even if it means, I have to get out a second spoon.   How many times do we mindlessly just go over and turn the heat up, when we could just as easily put on a sweater?  How many times do you walk out of a room and leave the lights (or TV) on instead of switching them off?   It all adds up.  If we had to go back to the olden days and lug our own water or chop our firewood, I'm pretty sure we would be more mindful!   But in truth that is what we are doing.   Instead of chopping the wood, we are working in offices and factories to pay for those things.   As I always say, the only true path to freedom is self-sufficiency.


Two thing that it seems we always need to "use up" are bananas and milk, so an old-fashioned southern banana pudding is always a great way to use them.

Southern Banana Pudding

3/4 C. sugar, divided
vanilla wafers (bought for $1 at the dollar store)
3 tbsp. flour
dash of salt
3 eggs, separated
2 C. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4-5 bananas, sliced

Combine 1/2 C. sugar, flour, salt in a saucepan.  Separate eggs and beat the yolks into the sugar mixture.  Stir in the milk.  Cook over low heat until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. (I also stir in 1/2 tsp. of banana extract, optional).

Spread a small amount of custard on the bottom of a 1 1/2 quart casserole.  Cover with a layer of wafers. Top with a layer of bananas then the custard.  Continue to  layer, ending with the custard.

Beat the egg whites until frothy.  Gradually add 1/4 C. sugar.  Beat until whites form stiff peaks.  Spoon on top of pudding.  Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or until the meringue's peaks begin to brown.


Thought I'd never get to it, didn't you?

Harvested and canned carrots.
Harvested blackberries and made jelly.
Laid a flagstone path under our trellis with free stones.
Refinished a table, hutch and chair with stripper that we bought at estate sales and  a thrift store.
Built a cupboard from repurposed wood.
Heated the house with free pallet wood.
Collected and cut up free pallets for firewood and building.
Made a cross stitch piece from thrifted items.
Attended two auctions for free entertainment.
Traded bushels of carrots, apples, pears and garlic and herbs for a lamb roast and some venison.
Used that venison and our vegetables to make chili which I canned.
Attended a moonlight madness sale where I bought a pork loin roast for 89 cents/ lb. and roasting chickens for 69 cents a pound.
Prepared the chickens, one which we ate and used for sandwiches the other I froze the meat.  Ditto for the pork roast.
 Saved all the bones and meat scraps from the lamb, pork and chicken and made  a good bone broth that I canned.
Bought a wringer washing machine at an estate sale.
Used the gray water from washing clothes for flushing toilets.

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