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Sunday, September 25, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Good-bye Summer,  hello Fall!  The first thing I spy every morning upon awakening  is the lacy bronze-gold foliage of the neighbor's tree and it fills my heart with joy.  There's so much beauty this time of year, I can scarcely take it all in.  I dare anyone not to feel happy at the sight of pumpkins!  Even our strays, Binks and Hissy can't resist them.
My flower box is their favorite sunning spot, so I guess I can save money on the mums I usually plant there this Fall.  Even lowly old mushrooms seem magical this time of year.
It's fun to imagine that there are real-life fairies living within the ring. 


We had the chimney sweep out this week, another important step in battening down the hatches.
Ran said that he would watch him and learn how to do it himself, but after watching the sweep climb up the ladder leaning against the chimney on our very steep roof, he decided there is such a thing as being too frugal.  It's not very thrifty to save $130 on a chimney sweep only to pay out thousands of dollars in hospital bills when you fall off the roof! This is one thing we'll gladly leave to the professionals.


As October approaches we are finally pulling up the last of the tomato plants.  I suppose we might get a few more tomatoes, but the truth of the matter is we are sick of them, I can't think of one more thing to can  and we have had tomatoes in one form or another every day since July.  We also harvested the pumpkins and yanked their vines.  And look at the beautiful harvest of Concord grapes!
Almost a full bushel.  Harvesting grapes is such a joy, they  smell like Autumn.  I'd advice anyone that owns even the smallest plot of land to plant a few vines in a sunny spot.  You really don't need much land, and just a few posts strung with some heavy gauge wire.  When we lived on a much smaller piece of land, we trained them to grow up a trellis.  Just a few vines yields enough for several jars of jam and juice. 
I made juice and Ran made wine.  I use a steam extractor to make my juice, but a simple method that I used to use, is to make it the Amish way.

Amish Grape Juice

Stem and clean grapes.  Place 1C. of grapes and 1/2C. of sugar into clean sterilized quart jars.  Pour boiling water over both, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.  Wipe the jar's rim. Place prepared lids and caps on jars.  Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

We also harvested and dried more peppers.  I love how drying peppers concentrates their flavor.  And they look beautiful sitting on the shelf!
We also dried some herbs and replaced last year's.


Speaking of herbs, look at the cute spice cabinet Ran made from some pallets made from hardwood and a piece of scrap lumber.  The trim was purchased at an estate sale for 50 cents. The paint was left over from another project.

The HL hinges and latch were purchased ages ago at a garage sale.  We bought a large box of circa 1940 wrought iron hardware in their original packaging for $5 and have been using them ever since.  Ran has used them to build many cupboards and even the kitchen cabinets.  All for the price of just a few knobs at the hardware store.  I adore my clever Buffalo Bill look-alike!
We also needed a gate to keep the grandpuppies in the man cave when babysat them, so he used some pallets to make that.  There's no end to the uses of the free wood!


Writing of spice cabinets, reminded me that I wanted to do a post about veganism.  I was a vegan for several years and still make at least half of our meals that way.  Not buying meat is a real money-saver and it probably pays dividends in the health department.   A lot of my vegan recipes are ethnic foods and require different spices than the usual  sage, thyme, parsley, etc.  Here's some I'd suggest for the beginner vegan:

garam masala
a good curry powder
chili powder

I like to experiment with making bean patties, using chick peas adding a combination of those spices.  Just plain sauteed vegetables with some curry powdered for flavor, served over rice is a quick and healthy meatless meal, particularly if you use brown rice.  And have you ever tasted roasted chick peas?  Make a nice healthy alternative to chips. 


Well, I couldn't let September escape without posting at least one apple recipe, could I?  Here's one for a quick muffin, that uses pantry staples:

Apple Oat Muffins

1 1/2C. flour
1 C. oatmeal
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs
1 C. milk (I use buttermilk)
2 tbsp. oil
1 1/2C. apples, unpeeled and chopped

Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar,salt, baking powder and spices.  Set aside.

In another bowl beat together  eggs, milk and oil.  Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.  Fold in chopped apples.

Portion into 12 greased muffin cups.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Muffins make a great breakfast-on-the-go and they also make a simple meal of soup a little extra special. 


Harvest grapes, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers and herbs.

Dried peppers and herbs.

Canned grape juice.

Made a spice cupboard from free pallet wood.

Mailed in a rebate from Mennards.

Made a gate from pallet wood.

Purchased sugar and spices in bulk from the bulk food store.  Enough to last the year. Pure organic cane sugar is $40 for 50 pounds.  And their spices are a fraction of the price of store-bought ones.

One the way back from dropping the grandbabies off, we stopped into a thrift store to stretch our legs and I found a beautiful tweed jacket for $1.97 (it was half-off because a button was loose and dangling)  and a Scottish made cashmere scarf for $1.76.  Both in like-new condition.  I've been looking for such a jacket for ages.

Decorated the house for Fall with items I already had and twigs from the yard.
It always amazes me how by simply rearranging the furniture and a few tweaks, this house looks completely different each season.

Our neighbor, Connie, gave Ran a bunch of black walnut lumber free for hauling it away.

I still cooked a lot from garden produce: a middle-eastern pepper stew, chili  and scalloped potatoes.

That's about it.  I really need to write down these thrifty things daily because I always forget by Sunday.  I hope you all are enjoying these last days of September.  Hope to meet you here again in October! Until then go outside and enjoy the show!



Saturday, September 17, 2016


Hello dear friends!  This will be an abbreviated post, as I'm squeezing it in between my granddaughter's naps.  Babysitting the grandchildren and two grandpuppies this week while their mom and dad are celebrating their tenth anniversary.  First, I'd  like to thank you all for your wonderful words of encouragement.   I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald that said that life begins anew in the Fall, and I always felt that way.  The beauty of the season always fills me with hope.

  This week we've spent many hours at the park and beach, making up bedtime stories, playing pretend and chasing a toddler.  We sing Old MacDonalds very loudly in the car and tell knock-knock jokes.  Felix, who's three, makes up jokes.  When I queried him where does he "get" them from, he said that they are just in his body and come out his mouth.  Isn't that a wonderful way to be?  It seems the older we get the more we over analyze and riddle ourselves with self-doubt, when all all the time what we really need is just in our body. Call it discernment, spidey-sense, gut instinct, or whatever, I believe that we all truly know what we need in our heart.

Lately my spirit is telling me that I need to stock up.  For the longest time it wasn't, in spite of doom and gloom the news was relaying .  Long ago, I stopped listening to financial news, it seemed we were always on the verge of collapse.  I discovered that is just the nature of news, they profit in making people fearful and worried.  The news is equally as horrid, always traumatizing it's viewers.  How many times do you need to see rioting or war scenes?   Can't do a thing about them anyhow.   Scare tactics keep people tuned in, though, and more viewers mean more money for the networks.  I often wonder what life was like before TV, when people just got their news via the newspapers.  It's quite a different thing to read about events then to watch the events over and over again all day long.  They don't call shows "programs" for nothing. That is why I always advice my fretful friends to turn off the TV.  Go outside and talk to your neighbors.  Spend time reading a good book.  Watch an old movie.  You'll soon find your outlook on life changing.  Truly, in spite of all the wars and rumors of wars, the world is really a wonderful place it you care to seek it.

So this week I canned.  I thought I was finished and was glad to pull up the plants, in spite of the fact, I could get more produce from them.  But then that little small voice starting prompting me to put up more.   We still had lots of peppers (it was a whiz-bang year for peppers) and tomatoes so I canned 15 jars of chili.   I couldn't find anyone else to give the extra peaches to, so I made up a batch of maple-vanilla peach jam.  The recipe I had  was outrageously expensive with a quart of maple syrup and a vanilla bean,  but it sounded delicious.  So I just made regular peach jam and stirred in a teaspoon of maple and vanilla extract.  Turned out wonderfully.   Then a local store had their annual sale of  sirloin roasts at $2.99/lb, if you bought a large one weighing over ten pounds.   I couldn't pass that up.  This is one of my favorite things to can.  I cut the meat into strips and season them with salt and pepper, brown them with a minimum amount of olive oil, deglazing the pan as I brown each batch.  Pour the meat and the juices into a stockpot and simmer while  preparing the jars.  Then pack the meat and juice into pint jars, about a pound of meat per jar and process at 10 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes. This makes the moistest, tenderest meat you could ever imagine.  Great for stews, potpies, soups and heated with some sour cream and made into a stroganoff.

We also dried peppers and tomatoes. Our dried peppers and tomatoes taste better than the fresh ones in the produce aisle in the winter.   We just pour boiling water over them in a bowl and let them set until they soften up.  These are used in soups, casseroles, and pizzas.  We also grind the tomatoes to make our own tomato bouillon.  I used to buy the Knorr's brand, it adds so much richness to chicken and beef soups.  Also, we grow paprika peppers that we dry and grind to make our own paprika.  You can do this with chili peppers to make your own chili powder, too.  We grind ours in an old coffee grinder.

Speaking of drying tomatoes, here's the old-fashioned way to make authentic sun-dried ones:   Cut your tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.  Place them cut-side down on a large clean board.  Cover with cheesecloth and lean the board someplace sunny outside, slanting the board enough so that the juices flow downward. Must have a hot dry spell of weather for this to work.


Dried peppers and tomatoes.

Canned chili, maple-vanilla-peach jam, and sirloin.

Harvested and dried bay leaves.

Harvest, tomatoes, peppers, peaches and pears.

Darned a hole in Ran's favorite shorts.

Mailed in a rebate.

The usuals: hang the laundry to dry outside, wash with our old wringer washer, ate from the pantry, etc.

Well, that's it for this abbreviated post!  Can you believe we are already half-way done with September?   I leave you with this quote by Oscar Wilde, "We're  all down here in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars". Hope you all find something truly magnificent every day!


Monday, September 12, 2016


Hello dear friends!   Sorry that I'm a day late.  Just didn't want to post on 9-11 because I would have felt obligated to say something about the day.  This week I had jury duty and convicted a  man to life in prison, I did not take any pleasure in doing it, it didn't seem like justice prevailed. Quite the opposite actually, I felt that in a way I had helped lead a man to his downfall.   Oh, he was definitely guilty by the guidelines of the court, but I felt he didn't have the mental capacities to understand the consequences of his actions.  So to make a long story short, I've been going about with a heavy heart the past few days and just didn't want to focus upon any more doom and gloom. 

When the world gets too burdensome for me, I always find solace and peace in my home.  It was such a joy to go out into the garden and pick herbs, the strays keeping me company.  For some reason, Ran and I have become a refuge  for ailing cats.  They just show up on  our doorsteps.  First it was a couple of kittens with a bad respiratory infection and something wrong with their eyes.  We washed out their eyes with an antibacterial and put silver in their water and they got better.  Next came a kitten with a large wound on its face.  Really nasty with maggots burrowing into it. My dear Ran dug out the maggots and we treated the wound with various concoctions until it got better. The sore healed and now the sweet little kitten looks normal again.  I really didn't have much hope for that one.  A result of saving their lives, the kittens have become the most loyal and loving animals ever.  Never in all my life have I seen such affectionate cats.  When I go for a walk, the little black one we call Binks, keeps vigil on the sidewalk in front of our house, when I'm within his sight, he comes running at break-neck speed, to have me swoop him up in my arms.  The little one with the face wound we call Jolly, always puts her little paws on our face and stares into our eyes when we hold her.  Perhaps they were sent to me, not for me to mend, but to mend my broken heart.  It has been a very rough year for me emotionally.  Most days I go about feeling like I'm made of the most brittle glass.


Well, enough boring you with personal things!   While I'm writing about cats, I thought I'd show you the cute little shelter Ran made from free pallet wood and cedar from the Christmas day find.
The bin next to it was also made from pallets.  We use it to hold all our tinder.  We also used one to prop up our peach tree.

They are so heavy with fruit this year without a prop, they would be uprooted.

Aren't they beautiful?   We've picked over two bushels so far. 


Cat shelters aren't the only thing Ran has been building.  He built the countertop  in our kitchen from maple.
It always amazes me what this wonderful man can do!  We're a good team, I think up the ideas and he executes them. Ha!  The new undermount sink needed replumbing to fit and he did that also.  BTW, if you are in the market for a new sink, check out the restaurant and bar supply companies, you can get a better quality and more affordable one than those you'd find at a Lowes or Mennards.
He also installed this weathered barnboard type flooring.   I used a method to paint the walls to mimic old plaster.

I know it's not the style, but I don't care for modern grays and light teals that are en vogue at the moment, so I'm content to be out of fashion. 
A shelf that I found at a garage sale holds some of my dried herbs and concoctions. 
A view of the kitchen from the other direction.  It's a small room, only about 13 feet long by 6 feet wide, but it serves it's purpose.  Sometimes I have to laugh when I watch those house hunting shows and the people always say the kitchen isn't large enough or doesn't have a professional cook's stove.  I cooked enough food to serve over twenty people in my little kitchen and you all know how much canning I do.  I wouldn't trade my sweet little kitchen for the world!


Harvested peaches, peppers, and tomatoes from the garden.

Ran froze about a gallon of peaches while I was on jury duty.

Made a gallon of peach juice, that has yet to be canned.

Painted the kitchen walls with paint we had on hand and some that we bought for a dollar at a garage sale.

Dried more peppers.

That's about it for this week.  It wasn't a very frugal week, as we were so busy.  It takes time to be frugal! The weather has been lovely here this week, hope you are experiencing the same.  Always remember to find something beautiful in each day!


Sunday, September 4, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Hope everyone is having a safe and relaxing Labor Day weekend!  We've been experiencing the most delightful weather here, and have spotted a bit of scarlet tinge to the top of the trees.  The garden is winding done (thank Heavens!) and about the only thing remaining is this rather grand stand of cosmos.

  It wouldn't be a holiday without us having a project going and this one is no different than any other. We're remodeling our kitchen.  It all started with a big ugly chip in the sink.  We couldn't find another sink the same size, so we had to replace the countertop, which meant we had to tear out the stone backsplash, which snowballed into removing the wallpaper. Then we contracted a case of the "might-as-wells" and decided we might as well replace the flooring, while we had everything removed from the kitchen.  By the end the only things left standing were the faucet and the cupboards.    There's a long-standing joke in our village that to reach Port Austin, you must drive to the end of the Earth then drive ten more miles and you'll arrive here, and today we learned just how true it is;  we needed a simple two-dollar piece of plumbing  to finish installing the sink, but had to make a one-hundred and thirty-six trip to the big city to get it.


It wasn't a  very good year for the wild grapes, but we uncovered  enough to make a batch of wild grape jelly.  We grow two kind of of domesticated grapes: Gewurztraminer, a sweet variety .
that Ran uses for wine-making  and are very good for eating out of hand, and seedless Concords that I use  for  grape juice.   Grape juice,  more peaches and potatoes, and perhaps pumpkins are all I have left to do this year, then I can put my canners away for a while. 
Can you believe these shelves were nearly bare this Spring? And this is only one of my two pantries.


The other day I had the "pleasure" of standing in line behind a woman that must have watched one too many episodes of Extreme Couponers.  It took three-quarters of an hour for her to check out as she had a coupon or a matching-price-from-a-competitor for almost every item in her cart, which was filled to overflowing.  In the end, she was quite pleased with herself as she watched the total drop from over $1200 to around $700.  She turned towards me as she left, grinned and exclaimed "not bad!". Guess she thought I'd be impressed.  To be honest, I think if my grocery bill ever totaled $700, I'd probably faint dead away, or expect that I'd have enough food to last half the year.  I so wanted to pull her aside and explain to her that she could have saved even  more money if instead of Lunchables, she had bought a box of store-brand crackers and a chunk of cheese and packaged them in a reusable plastic container from the dollar store.  Instead of those packages of juice boxes, she could have bought frozen juice concentrate and reconstituted it herself with her own tap water and put that into a thermos that she could have bought at a garage sale.  Instead of lunchmeat at $8/lb, she could have bought two roasting chickens and made more sandwiches and the bones could have been made into soup  that again could have went off to school in a thermos.  Instead of those little cups of fruit, why not just fruit? You know?  From the produce section? I think I could have whittled her grocery bill down to approximately $200 without using a single coupon.  Sigh!  Sometimes it's hard to bite your tongue when you're a master of thrift. Ha!


Well, school days are here again and it's always nice to have a little something sweet in the old lunch pail.   Here's a recipe that's as old as the hills, for a simple moist brownie that's a real kid and husband pleaser.


1 C. butter
2 C. sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 C. cocoa
2 C. flour
dash of salt
1/2 C. chopped nuts  (optional)

Beat together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the cocoa, salt and flour  until just combined.  Fold in the nuts.  Put into a greased 13 X 9 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until just done.  Hint:  Brownies should always be just a tad bit underbaked if you want fudgey ones.

Once cooled, frost.


1/4 butter, softened
1/4 C. milk
1/4 C. cocoa
3 C. Confectioners sugar

Beat together all ingredients until smooth.
I overbaked mine  (got distracted reading) so they weren't as moist as they usually are, but who needs a picture of brownies anyway?


Since the kitchen is in shambles, I have had time to do some other chores besides canning, cooking and washing dishes.  Time to get caught up on mending.  Ran tore a rent in his favorite jacket so I darned that.  Darning is an old-fashioned skill, seldom used today in our throw-away society, but I like to give it a turn from time to time, just to keep the art alive.

To darn a sweater, you run long lines of yarn (hopefully matching) the length of the hole, catching the loops of the unraveled yarn.  Then it's simply a matter of weaving the yarn over and under that yarn you just sewed lengthwise, crosswise like weaving a basket.  For cloth, put a piece of material behind the hole if it's a large one, and then weave it the same as for knits. catching some of the backing fabric as you weave and tucking in the little frayed edges as you weave the thread. Here's the end results:
The Shroud of Turin it aint!  But I think darning gives the old jacket a nice homey look.  Just as a scar gives a face some character.  Darning and patching are nice ways to extend the lives of clothes, perhaps you wouldn't want to do it to your Sunday-goes-to-meeting outfit, but for work, play and bed clothes, it does the job.  Or perhaps just a simple patch would suffice?


Harvested grapes, peaches, blackberries and peppers.

Foraged wild grapes.

Made them into jelly.

Stopped at the grocery outlet and bought 2 pounds of Hersheys cocoa for $1/lb.  Also bought a pound of loose tea for 45 cents/lb.  Gotta love those scratch and dent grocers!

Bought a gallon of paint for the kitchen at a garage sale for $1.

Bought a years supply of canning lids at the bulk food store. They're around  7 cents a lid as opposed to the 12 or 13 cents a lid if you buy those packages of 12.

A neighbor gave us enough soup for 2 days as a thank you for all the produce we've been giving her this year.

Canned  mostarda di frutta made from our own apples, peaches and pears.

Darned Ran's jacket and a pair of shorts.

Ran made up a batch of grape wine.

Bought a dozen canning jars at a garage sale for $3.  I ran out! There were some very interesting ones.  Only a canner can understand the excitement of discovering a new style of canning jars. Ha!

I finally found a  black top that is both modest and pretty at the thrift store and a basic brown cardigan.  Two things that have been on my shopping list for over a year.  One was Banana Republic and the other was Lands End brand.  Total of $6 for both.

Knitting a pair of tweed wrist warmers from my tweed stash and a free pattern found on line.

Well, that's another week at the old Zempel boarding house!  I hope all of you are safe and enjoying your holiday weekend!