Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Looking Forward and Glancing Past

 Hello dear friends!  Happy New Year!  I hope that all of you that had that horrible weather the past week are thawing out.  It was cold and windy here, but hey, that's winter.  For those of you that found the weather unusual, I hope that you can use this little episode as a lesson in preparedness. Was there anything you need to buy or do to survive cold weather?  Do you need to find a way to cope with anxiety or disappointment?  I read this funny saying the other day:

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.  Except bears.  Bears will kill you.

We celebrated a lovely Christmas here.  It started when I was struggling to put some green and red chair pads on the dining room chairs.  Then the thought popped into my mind.  Does anyone even care if I don't switch out the chair pads for Christmas?  So, into the donation box, they went. Then I got out my Christmas garland.  I always struggle to hang it, so much climbing up and down ladders and searching in the attic for the decorations, so right then and there, I decided that I would never again hang another strand of garland, into the donation box it went.  Soon I was down to just some greenery tucked in here and there and a few samplers and family keepsakes.  Just enough to look festive, but not enough to be a chore.  Then it came time to bake the Christmas cookies.  I always bake too many and heavens knows we do not need to have so many sweets about the place.  So, this year I baked just three varieties that are everyone's favorites and as soon as they were cool, packaged them up and sent them off to the children, grandchildren   and neighbors.  We only kept a small tin for ourselves.  Ran and I had decided earlier that we wouldn't buy each other Christmas gifts, there's just nothing that we really want that would warrant spending money upon and just to spend money for the sake of spending money is foreign to us. So, I had very little gift wrapping to do. In other words, I ridded myself of all the things that I find tiresome about Christmas (as I am the one that does most of these things) and only kept what we love.  

I spent one lovely Sunday listening to Handel's Messiah from start to finish.  Usually, I just skip to a few choruses.  While I listened, I worked on my woolwork project, which was one of my goals to finish before the end of the year.

It's from one of those Maggie Bonanomi books.  I have so many craft books, I'm trying to work all the projects from each book that I want to do, so I can then donate the books to the thrift store.  If you ever wonder what my home looks like, this pretty much sums it up, a combination of primitives and folk art.  Anway, whilst the pillow says "simplify" it was far from a simple project, as after I had worked all the buttonhole stitches around each of those "tongues", I thought they were too floppy, so I then had to sew backing onto each and every one.  Ended up being a very heavy mat, but I'm glad I made it, and even happier to have finished it.  It's a pretty good size and fits perfectly across the back of our antique buggy bench.  

Anway, back to the Messiah and Christmas.  I grew up in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and they sing many parts of it in the Advent liturgy, so it was like revisiting an old friend. The church has modernized, but oh, the music was so beautiful back when I was a child.  I found this version on YouTube. You can use the closed caption and read the verses, and it even gives the corresponding Biblical text.  What a brilliant, inspired work!  If you are curious about Christianity, it's a wonderful place to start as it sums it up, beginning with the prophets of the Old Testament through Christ's walk on earth, His death and resurrection, through His second coming.  

We spent a lot of time reminiscing about loved ones that have passed, listening to old fashioned Christmas hymns and carols, none of the obnoxious Blue Christmas, Run Run Rudolph, or Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. And watching the classic Christmas movies, ending up with It's a Wonderful Life, which is our Christmas Eve tradition.

Christmas day, we read from the Gospel of St. Luke instead of what was scheduled on our Bible rotation (We, as a family, are reading through the Bible together each day.  It's very casual, we read until we get tongue-tied, and stop and discuss things and then go off and ponder them.). I can't remember what our meal was, just your ordinary meal.  Since we didn't have any sweets in the house, I made a bread pudding from stale panettone and some eggnog that had been purchased on sale at Aldis earlier in the month.  I baked it on the woodstove.  That afternoon Jamie and I worked a winter-themed jigsaw puzzle that he had given me for Christmas, and we called and chatted with kids and grandkids.  In other words, it was the perfect Christmas!

To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"Happiness consists in a little fire, a little food and an immense quiet."

Today is not only the last day of the year, but also my birthday.  To celebrate Ran baked me a cake.  He used my plain white cake recipe and add chopped maraschino cherries and nuts to the batter.  It has become a tradition.  So, it is a good time for me to reflect on the past year and plan for the future.  I spent an enjoyable afternoon, going through all my crafting supplies and planning projects.  I set one goal to tackle all my mending and sewing projects in January. But for the most part, I just plan to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

Today also marks the forty-ninth anniversary of the day the doctors moved me from the intensive care unit to the room set aside for people that have no hope.  The minister was called, and I was given my final communion.  The family was gathered to say their final good-byes.  I know that many of you have a lot of anxiety about what the future holds.  Indeed, each day the news becomes more fearful and hopeless.  But dear friends, do not become hopeless!  As long as there is a breath inside you, there is hope.  Just as those doctors were wrong, no one is ever without hope.  Just take each day as it comes, and if you can't do that, take each hour as it comes.  I learned a lot of lessons about fidelity, love, and perseverance from that day forty-nine years ago.  At that time, I thought that it was a cruel joke of a fifteenth birthday present. But what I learned most is that there is always hope!  Have blessed New Year, dear friends!




Thursday, December 15, 2022

Thrifty Thursday

 Hello dear friends!  Hope you all are doing well!  Since the blog posts most of my readers are interested in are the strictly thrifty ones, I decided that from now on I would write a post once a month of what I am doing each month to save money.  We are a family of three adults, and we live on basically $1200 a month. (From a pension, we don't take Social Security, in spite of paying into it for over 40 years, so save your hate You-Know-Who) We have another fund that is set aside for emergencies, but that is rarely touched and is for real dire situations, like a windstorm blows off the roof, or an unexpected medical emergency. All other expenses come out of the regular $1200 a month fund, including property taxes, doctor office visits, car insurance (that's 1/10 of our monthly income), car repairs, etc. We don't have a mortgage, as we made sure to have that taken care of long before we retired.  Our house was a very cheap fixer-upper and we put a good-sized down payment on it when we bought it and had been on the market for around five years before we bought it.  So that is the first handy thrifty hint; many can now work from home since the whole lockdown thing, so perhaps you can find a home in cheaper area?  A lot of homes have gone way up in value, maybe you could sell your home and make enough from the profit to pay for a home entirely, in a less expensive area?  Not having a mortgage is not only a real money saver, it also is a nice piece of security.  

In spite of the food inflation, we still spend less than $200 a month on groceries.  We buy staples, such as flour, sugar and oatmeal, cornmeal and beans in bulk from an Amish store.  We avail ourselves of another Amish salvage grocery store, which is where we buy our coffee and whatever else we find an amazing deal upon. We use every scrap of our food.  Very little goes to waste.  For instance, when I fry bacon, I will drain the fat and use it to sauté onions, grease bread pans and even for the fat in some breads.  When I can turkey and chicken, I will boil them unseasoned, let the broth set overnight, skim off the fat, then I will take the broth and season it to use to can the meat.  I use the fat in baking and have in the past made soap from it.  (I still make soap, but now I use coconut oil, which is expensive, but still cheaper than the quality bars of soap in the supermarket,).  We only buy (and eat) what is on sale, except for a few staples, and even those we try to find a bargain on.  This month we bought 20 pounds of bone-in ham at 89 cents/ lb. (Meijer stores) and Aldi's had butter for $2.68/ lb., limit 4 per visit.  I bought four pounds and Jamie bought another four pounds, which we froze. Since I don't bake much anymore, that will suffice for a year, if we ration it.  We don't use butter on our bread, but use jam or jelly, which I make from berries in our own yard, it is strictly used in baking. While I was in Meijer's I noticed that they had canned goods for 33 cents a can.  I can my own vegetables that we grow in our garden, but if I didn't, you can be sure I would have used that sale to stock my pantry shelves! AND no, groceries are not cheaper in my area, these are all national grocery chains, and their prices are pretty much universal. What I DO, is take the time to read the weekly sales ads. It seems that every month there is some sort of special sale, this month it is ham, last month it was turkey.  I will figure out how much I need for a year and buy accordingly.  Are we going to eat twenty pounds of ham this month?  No.  I canned about twelve pounds of one ham, and when I was through, I had some nice ham broth with some chunks of meat in it. Wasn't going to waste that, so I used that broth to can an additional nine pints of soup beans.  Ended up with nine pints of ham and nine pints of beans, both will be the basis for some nice meals, such as scalloped potatoes, pea soup, bean soup, sandwich spread meat pies and hash.  And since each meal will be enough for two meals, that thirty-six meals for less than ten dollars.  And of course, the ham bone went in the freezer for soup.  More meals. And of course, most of the other ham will go into the freezer, for more meals, too.

We eat simply and we live simply.  We don't own a lot of things that people think are necessities.  We don't own any sort of fancy phones. We use MagicJack and have a Cricket phone for emergencies.  We don't have cable TV, we either watch something on YouTube or watch something on DVDs, which we buy at garage sales and thrift stores.  We don't travel.  We only go "out" to the thrift stores and grocery about twice a month. But when we do go out, we make it count and it's an all-day affair. We don't use credit cards and pay cash for everything.  We buy used cars and haven't had a loan in decades.  As soon as we buy one car, we start saving for the next, putting aside money each month, just as you would a car payment. I definitely don't get my nails done or even haircuts. We keep ourselves healthy by eating nice organic vegetables we grow in our garden, not eating too many sweets and fried and processed foods, drinking lots of purified water and by exercising every day.  I walk at least three miles every day even in the coldest of winter.  If the weather is really bad, I will jog on a rebounder for half an hour.  (Which I purchased at a garage sale.)

We have natural gas for our heating, but mainly use wood to heat our home. Our thermostat is set at 60 degrees and rarely switches on, except for the coldest days. Our wood is purchased locally from a man that cuts it to length, but we must split it to fit into our rather small woodstove.  The last truckload of firewood cost us $1200 but will last for three years. We augment the wood, with branches and limbs that we gather from the neighborhood.  We gathered enough this year to heat our home for the month of November. Speaking of gathering wood, rather than spending $40 on a Christmas wreath, we gathered enough pine boughs and white birch branches to decorate our window boxes and door while on our walks. They held a Christmas tree sale at the village green and left all the trimmings. And the wind blew quite a few branches into our yards.

The basket was a dollar from a garage sale.

I try to spend only $1 for each item of clothing, which I buy at a church thrift store and garage sales.  Obviously, there are some things I cannot find for so little, but you'd be surprised what you can find, if you are willing to look.  Some stores are better than others.  I like the Ralph Lauren and April Cornell brands and a vintage brand called Susan Bristol (the best woolen skirts).  I might not find something every time I shop, but that's okay, the fun is in the hunt.  Another local thrift store always seems to have tights, new in the package, for fifty cents.  As a matter of fact, I just bought a pair there, this week and they were on sale for 50% off!  What do people do?  Buy tights and then decide not to wear them?  Jamie had a brand of sneakers he loved.  When K-Mart went out of business, he bought five pairs for $5 each at their final clearance and put them away.  When a pair wears out, he simply goes into his closet and pulls out another pair.  We are not hard on our clothes.  I wear aprons and wash my sweaters by hand.  And I'm a stickler for natural fibers, which I think last longer.

My hobbies are sewing and knitting.  Whenever I find nice yarn or fabric at the thrift store, I buy it.  I love the Civil War fabrics that the quilt designers were coming out with a few years back, and it seems like we have some nice quilters in the area that donate generously to one of our local thrift stores, so I make lots of little scrap quilts.  Our local Ben Franklin's has an open house a couple times a year, and they also give you a discount for spending so much money.  When the sale comes around, I will use the discount to buy some of my yarn and also, they have nice things for Christmas presents.  I get 50% off. I use it to stock up on yarn, when I need larger quantities, for sweaters and shawls and such. I recently finished this shawl:
This is a sontag type shawl and the pattern is in the Fall 2021 Piecework magazine. Here's the back:
I don't know why that last picture turned out so weird.  I was trying to crop out the curtain all bunched up. Anyway, I spend less than $10 a month on my hobbies. There's a lot of lovely designers on the internet that offer free patterns.  Bless them!  Every once in a while, I try to buy something from them as a "thank you". In other words, hobbies don't have to be expensive.  And if you like to sew, get creative!  There's pretty tablecloths and sheets that can be used for fabric, instead of paying the high prices at fabric stores.  I've made the nicest skirts and petticoats from vintage linen tablecloths purchased for a few dollars at estate sales!  Right now, I'm looking for a red flannel sheet to make a petticoat.  Did I mention I dress strangely?  Probably not too many people wear petticoats these days.  When at home, I like to wear denim prairie skirts.  They are so comfortable. 

Speaking of knitting, here's some of the Advent mittens that I knitted a few years bag from this free pattern:

Well, this post is getting long!  I hope it was helpful to someone.  I know a lot of you already know these things, but as I am always getting new readers, sometimes things need to be repeated.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment and ask me.  



Thursday, December 1, 2022

A Cozy Day

 Hello dear friends!  Happy first day of December!   I had every intention of writing another post in November, but life got in the way.  Last weekend we drove downstate to watch our grandchildren, Felix and Violet, in a community play.  I'm so thankful that they are growing up in a community that still treasures things like community playhouses and children participating.  They did a wonderful job!  And the next day our son, Erik, participated in a local craft fair.  Were there ever a lot of people there! And he made a lot of sales.  We are so proud of him; he's become quite the woodsmith. On the drive down everyone was so friendly wherever we stopped. I think it was the snow, it put everyone in a sort of "merry gentlemen" sort of mood.  On the return trip we meandered our way back home and stopped at some antique and thrift stores.  And at Tim Horton's for the last pumpkin donut of the year. It was a nice trip.

But today we are having one of those cozy days, I wish you all could experience.  It started with a spectacular sunrise; they have been particularly dazzling this winter.  There was just a skiff of snow on the ground, just to give the place atmosphere.   And oh!  How I wish you could smell our home right now!  Between the fire in the stove and the meatloaf in the oven, it is pure heaven!  Hamburger was on sale for $2.99/lb. this week, pretty unheard-of price of late, so we jumped at the chance to make one of our favorite meals.  The recipe is my variation of the meatloaf recipe from the Jimtown Cookbook:


2 pounds of lean ground beef

1/2 lb. bacon

1 1/2 C. oatmeal

2 eggs

1 med. onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 C. sour cream

1/4 C. milk

1 tsp. thyme

2 Tbsp. dried parsley

2 Tbsp. dry mustard

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. maple syrup (I use my imitation maple syrup)

1 Tbsp. of a good mustard (not that cheap yellow mustard) I'm a mustard snob

Dice a couple of rashers of bacon (reserve the remaining bacon for the meatloaf top) and fry in frying pan.  Take the bacon from the grease and sauté the onions and garlic, drain. Combine with all the remaining ingredients except the syrup, mustard, and remaining bacon.  Put into a baking pan that fits the amount of mixture you have.  Top with the remaining bacon.  Stir together the maple syrup and mustard and pour over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the center of the meatloaf reaches 165 degrees and is cooked through.  You all know when meatloaf is ready!  Drain the grease and serve. 

 Oh my! Tastes like the best Christmas sausage and even better the next day! We always serve ours with baked potatoes, since we are using the oven. No sense in wasting the heat!  And I always bake an extra potato to make my refrigerator potato rolls for sandwiches the next day.  I even use the grease from that was drained off the meatloaf for the fat in the roll recipe.  Waste not, want not!


As this blog is in a way, my personal journal, please bear with me whilst I capture a few of the projects I worked on this month.  I started the Bright Be Thy Christmastide sampler last year but didn't finish it in time for Christmas, so I tucked it away with the decorations.  Nothing bores me more than working on holiday projects after the holidays have passed.  And the Holly Bears the Crown Sampler was just a little something that a whipped up whilst waiting to make the journey to the craft store to buy more yarn for a shawl I am knitting.  I'm trying to knit down my yarn stash, but I ran out of this yarn with a few more rows to go, so much for not adding to the stash!  Anway, I just used materials that I had at hand for the little sampler.  Most of my flosses and cross stitch fabric comes from the thrift stores and I dye them to come up with my own unique colors.  Some of those cross-stitch linens are outrageously expensive, and when it comes to these little samplers, whatever difference does it make, if it's not the exact same materials given on the charts? 

As I wrote, I dye my own linens as I like a primitve look to my works.  Here's how to make a dye for fabrics:

Onion dye

Gather as many onion skins as you are able whenever you are using an onion in cooking.  When you have around two cupfuls, put in a saucepan with enough water to cover.  Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer around ten minutes on a low heat.  Remove from the heat and allow the "tea" to steep overnight.  Strain.  Store in a jar in the refrigerator.  You can either reheat the "tea" and dip your fabric into it, allowing it to steep until it dyes to the color you desire, rinse and dry.  Or you can brush the dye onto the fabric and then dry it, without rinsing it.  Remember the fabric will look darker when wet then it will be when dry.  

BTW, one of the things I'm always on the lookout for during summer garage sale-ing and at thrift stores are interesting little frames to use in my needlework.

As I mentioned earlier, we stopped at some thrift stores on our return trip downstate and I was fortunate to find a stack of vintage The Workbasket magazines from the early 1950s for $1!  What a treasure.  While most of the patterns are pretty dated, it's a pretty sad statement about the condition of the world that today's children would not be thrilled to receive a bean bag or homemade doll dress in the Christmas stocking, but that has what the world has become, sadly.  Anway, what I do love about the magazines is that they have good old-fashioned, no-nonsense recipes.  I'm always on the lookout for recipes that use basic pantry supplies.  This year we had a windfall of apples, which I couldn't bear to waste.  We are not big fans of apple juice or sauce, but I canned a lot of applesauce, nonetheless.  I figured I can always use it for half, the fat while baking as I wrote about in a few posts back, or we can just learn to like it. Ha!  I also use some for  applesauce cake. It wasn't until recently that Jamie confessed, he doesn't like any types of spice cake. So, I guess I'll have to come up with other ways to use my canned applesauce.  So, I was thrilled to find this recipe:

Baking from the Pantry

Applesauce Icebox Cookies

3/4 C. shortening

1 C. sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 to 2 1/2 C. flour, or enough to make a stiff dough

dash of salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 C. applesauce

1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)

Cream together shortening and sugar.  Add egg.  Stir in the dry ingredients, alternately with the applesauce, using enough flour to make a stiff dough.  Stir in the nuts.  Form the dough into a roll in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. Slice thin (I slice mine about 1/3" thick) and bake on greased cookie sheets at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until edges begin to turn light brown.  The recipe says this makes 7 dozen cookies, but they must have been sliced paper thin.  I got about 3 dozen.

  The dough was softer than most icebox cookie doughs I have made, but they did turn out nicely. And surprise, surprise! Jamie loved them, even though to me, they tasted exactly like a spice cake only in cookie form. To fancy them up for the holidays, you could add a dab of icing to top.  Maybe caramel or maple flavored?  Or maybe add some chopped dates. Or just make them plain as they are. There's something about icebox cookies that have such a homey and nostalgic texture and flavor.  Perfect with a cup of coffee or tea in front of the fire on a cozy December day. The sort of day, I am wishing for all of you, dear friends!



Monday, November 14, 2022

Thanksgiving Is When the Turkey Defrosts!

 Hello dear friends!  I hope this post finds you all well!  Well, after a very long Indian summer, we are really starting to experience the onset of winter.  Already had snow and this morning was a balmy 22 degrees (Fahrenheit).

I keep reading and seeing YouTube videos about the high cost of Thanksgiving this year.  What?  Thanksgiving dinner is one of the cheapest meals you can make for a crowd any time of the year.  A long time ago my husband was met with a rather harried worker that he managed, that wanted to talk to him in private.  What could it be?  Some harassment charge?  Was she quitting?  Had she made a major mistake on one of the formulas?   Nope.  What she wanted to know was how we managed to feed four teenage sons and still save money with two in college.  You'd never guess his response.  "Turkey is not just for Thanksgiving"!  Back then you could buy a turkey for around 37 cents a pound.  I think I made one almost every month.  Even this year, with inflation and everything else going on, I bought a nice store brand one for 55 cents a pound and even Walmart had the high-end Butterball and Honeysuckle Whites for 99 cents a pound.  The 55-cent turkey came from Meijer, a national chain of stores throughout the Midwest and there's Walmarts everywhere, so I don't want to hear it from those that whine that prices are sooooo much lower where I live.  And even our smaller grocery store had them for 50 cents a pound with a fifty-dollar purchase.  You have to be a little proactive and seek out bargains.  People are always skeptical when I say how little we spend on groceries, so here's a breakdown of this month's expenditures:

A 15# turkey for $7.86 (Meijers)

4 12 oz. pkgs fresh cranberries at $1.50 (Walmart)

A bunch of celery for 99 cents (Aldi)

A `14 oz pkg of golden raisins for $3.69 (Meijers)

A dozen free-range eggs that I bought at a church bake sale for $2

A half-gallon carton of Lactaid milk for under $3 at Aldi (for Blackie the cat)

That's our total grocery expenditure for this month.  I think it totals to something under thirty dollars.  I can hear the skeptics saying, "But that doesn't make meals for a month!"   It doesn't, but I don't need to buy enough to make 30 meals because I always stock up when prices are at their lowest.  For instance, at our local Amish scratch-and-dent store, we purchased Starbucks coffee beans in a five-pound vacuum sealed bags for $15.  That's $3 a pound!  We bought enough for year; I doubt we'll find it at a better price.  Last Thanksgiving, Meijers had butter for $1.79 a pound, so we bought 12 pounds (enough for a year) and froze it.  We live very simply and really only need to buy staples, which we buy in bulk at one of two stores, a Mennonite bulk food store or an Amish store.  We grow all our own vegetables, herbs and fruits (I really didn't need to buy that celery because I had some canned and dried from the garden, but it was just too tempting) and Ran is an avid fisherman that supplies us with most of the meat that eat, enough to have at least one meal a week of fish throughout the year. And truly that is all the meat we need, but whenever there's an amazing sale, I will buy meat and can it. Like those roast I wrote about in the last post. I'm considering buying another larger turkey and canning it at these prices.  I can the meat because we only have a small freezer that is filled with fish. Which is why we celebrate Thanksgiving when the turkey defrosts! No room in the freezer!

When our children grew up and moved away from home, I used to get depressed during the holidays since we were alone during the holidays. But gradually I learned to love celebrating the holidays whenever we choose to celebrate them.  After all, holidays are just another date on the calendar.  I don't need the government to declare s special day to be thankful.  Every day our little family of three bows our head and gives thanks. Christmas and Easter are focused on the meaning of the day, a day of quiet contemplation.  It is very serene and in concert with how we live our lives all the remaining days of the year.

BTW, I calculated how many meals we will get out of that $7.86 turkey.  Day1: Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, squash and brussel sprouts.  Day 2: leftovers.  Day 3: soup  (made from the carcass) with lots of homemade noodles and some of the turkey diced up with barbecue sauce on homemade rolls.  The remainder turkey was put into 5 quart-sized freezer containers for meals at a later date.  These meals will include turkey burritos, casserole and pot pie.  Each of these meals will make enough for two days.  So, what is that? Thirteen good meals for under $8?  And that doesn't include lots of snacks.  BTW, we only eat two meals a day, breakfast (usually oatmeal) and lunch.  Three meals are too much, and we don't like to eat late in the day.  If someone is hungry later in the day, they can always eat leftovers and we keep cheese and homemade crackers on hand. 

Later in the day on our Thanksgiving I made cranberry gingerbread from the leftover cranberry sauce.  Warm gingerbread with a cup of Russian tea by the fire is one of the coziest things in the world. Especially if you are wearing a pair of handknit socks.

These are a pattern that I just made up.  I've been trying to knit down my yarn stash.  Lately, been enjoying the creativity of making up my own designs.  Once you know the basics of knitting socks, mittens, hats and even sweaters, you really don't need all those knitting patterns and books.  Since most of my yarns come for thrift stores, garage and estate sales, most patterns that require specific yarns are impractical for my use. Some knitters may pooh-pooh using vintage yarns, but I've found most to be pure delights to work with, just look for skeins that say 100% wool. And being the oddball that I am, I really love making and using something no one else has.

So anyway, I suppose that I prattled on here long enough.  For all my American readers I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  And to everyone else, I wish you a very merry week!



Sunday, October 16, 2022

Cooking From My Pantry

 Hello dear friends!  Often when I tell older folks that I can, they will say, " I used to can, but we don't eat those types of foods anymore."  And I'm always thinking, "What? you don't eat carrots, green beans, beets, potatoes or corn?  You don't eat beef, pork, chicken or turkey?"  Because I can everything, I can get my hands on.  And that is why my grocery bills are so low.  While canning is a very labor-intensive task, once it is done, it takes nothing to assemble a soup or stew, simply by opening a few jars and heating them through.  Recipes like this borscht, which is one of our favorite cold-weather meals.

Teaching someone how to make soup is sort of like trying to teach someone how to be thrifty, I can tell you how, I can give you a recipe and ideas, but at the end of the day, you just have to go with your imagination and instincts.  Anyhow, I   will tell you how I make it, but of course, it won't be a straightforward recipe, because you probably won't have the exact same ingredients.

Firstly, I begin by sautéing up some onions and garlic.  I use beef tallow that I render when I can my beef, but of course you can use any oil or fat, you desire to sauté yours.

Next, I use a jar of my home-canned beef.  You can use any leftover beef roast or stew meat, or if time are really hard just use a can of beef broth, or if times are really, really hard use some of those beef granules and some water, or if you are a vegetarian, just leave the beef out altogether.

Then I stir in a jar of tomatoes, and jar of carrots drained. Save the drained liquids for a base for another soup. And an undrained jar of beets. Of course, you can use any combination of fresh, canned or frozen vegetables that you desire, if you don't have home-canned.

Then I add cubed potatoes and maybe some turnips, rutabagas or parsnips, depending on what I have available. And some shredded cabbage.  You can use and combination you want.  If you are making this for a crowd, you might add lots of potatoes or cabbage, which can often be purchased quite cheaply, to make it stretch. At this point, if I need to add more liquids, I will add some of the reserved drained liquids from the vegetables.  Again, if you are stretching it for a crowd or for lots of meals, add more water to the soup.  That was my pastor's advice when I was young and wondering how we would feed our growing family.  Add more water to the soup!

To flavor the borscht I add dill, either fresh or dried.  BTW, even if you don't have a vegetable garden you can grow some dill in your flower beds, it's just as pretty as any other filler plant. A pinch of thyme and paprika (we grow paprika peppers, dry and grind our own) a splash of balsamic vinegar, or some homemade apple vinegar. Sometime if I have jar of pickles in the fridge, I'll add some of the brine to the mixture. Salt and pepper to your taste.  If it is too acidic for you add a bit of sugar.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt if you have some. So, that is my thought process when make soup.  You really don't need a recipe, just follow your instincts.

Borscht is so healthy, with all those beets, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage, if I could only make one meal for my family, it would be this.  Plus, it's very filling. If we only had a small garden, the only things I would grow, would be the vegetables that go into it: beets, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, dill and rutabagas.  Is it any wonder that it was such a popular peasant food in Eastern Europe?

Notes on Canning

When I can my beets, I add 1 tablespoon of sugar and vinegar to each pint jar, then can as usual. Gives you a sort of pickled beet flavor without the spices.

When canning beef, I cut all the fat of and render the tallow, which I use in sauteing, greasing pans and even for baking. And of course, any bones go into a pot for making broth.  Cube and brown the meat in batches, deglaze the frying pan, and boil in in a pot of water, while prepping the jars.  This makes its own broth, which gives the cheap cuts of beef added flavor. Sometimes, if it doesn't look beefy enough, I'll stir in some of the beef granules, but just a bit because it tends to be very salty. I use the cheapest cut of beef roast, around here they are called English roasts.  They are usually tough as old shoe leather, but when you can them this way, it tastes like the finest roast.  As a matter of fact, our store is having a sale on them this week for $3.99/ lb.  Cheaper than hamburger!  Guess what I'll be doing this week?

Well, I hope that this post gives those that are timid in the kitchen some encouragement to experiment a little.  Your kitchen is your kingdom, and you make the rules!



Sunday, October 9, 2022


 Hello dear friends!  I pray that you all are well and safe and sound.  Jen, a frequent reader of this blog, lives in Nova Scotia, that was hit pretty hard by hurricane Fiona.  I pray that you are safe, Jen.  And likewise, all my dear readers that took a hit from Ian. 

A little while ago, Jamie said to me, "Mama, you haven't listened to your Little Women soundtrack yet!" You see, listening to that soundtrack is one of the first things that ushers in Autumn for us. Traditions are so important to family life.  Every Autumn, as soon as the first nip in the air is felt, we bring out our orange coffee mugs, tidy up the back room where the woodstove stands, lay in a supply of coffee and tea and get ready to nest.  Especially now days, when so much of the world is in turmoil, keeping traditions and making our homes a refuge is so important.  Wouldn't you agree?  I'd love to read what some of your Autumn traditions are, if you wouldn't mind leaving them in the comments.  Ever since the pandemic, the outside world has become so unwelcoming, places we used to love to visit just haven't the same "feel", there seems almost a depressing atmosphere in the outside world. Have you felt it? Maybe because so many people are anxious now days.  That is why creating a nurturing atmosphere in our home has become so important to us.


Well, I finally finished that cardigan that I had been knitting on forever.  I love to watch those "flosstubes" that are on YouTube.  The ones were ladies show their handiwork they've been working on for the past week or month. They are always working on so many projects!  And the money they spend on their hobbies is staggering.  Well, someone has to support designers and craft shops, so cheers to them! Not to mention, donate their expensive yarn stashes to thrift shops.  Thank you very much! But I do not have that kind of income and love the challenge of using up what I already have. That is why little projects, such as scrap quilts, give me so much enjoyment.  Anyway, I'm a strictly one-project-at-a-time crafter. As much as I get bored with one project, I won't move on until it's completed, because I know I will never go back to it, if I don't stick with it.  So, after I finished that dreaded cardigan (never again will I knit a top-down sweater), it was finally time to do something fun. So, I made this table runner:

I used some instructions that I had cut from a magazine way back in 1996!  I used the same pattern, way back here. Now here's the funny thing about it, the author of the article was Jo Morton, and I didn't discover until I had finished it, but the fabric was also from Jo Morton, so it all had come full circle.  BTW, the fabric collection is called Lancaster, which I had purchased a charm pack of on impulse several years ago. I'm fond of anything with the name Lancaster because my Grandpa A's family settled that area in the early 1700s. Anyway, no sooner than I had lain it on the table, Blackie, our cat, decided it was a splendid place to sunbathe, so off it came from the table and has now come to be displayed on the back of the loveseat.
Blackie is such a spoiled cat.  He has pretty good life for a little stray we found living in a groundhog's abandoned dugout underneath the neighbor's shed and eating out of the compost bin. It took us weeks before he would let us approach him and even more before he would trust us enough to touch him.  He's still a bit wild, but look at him now, the lord of the manor! I do not approve of cats on tables, BTW, but he rules the roost.

Other Business

There was an entire slew of things that I keep forgetting to post.  I promised to show Angela the lentils I was writing about for sprouting, but unfortunately, I haven't had any available. But if you'll just Google black lentils, Angela, you'll see what I'm talking about.  They are so much cheaper than those sprouting mixtures.

On a comment left by Julie T, I had mentioned using applesauce in baking.  Did you know that you can substitute half the fat, whether it be butter, shortening or oil, for applesauce when baking?  This was an old trick we learned back in the day when everyone was counting their fat grams consumed. So, say, a cake calls for 1 cup of butter, you can use 1/2 C. butter and 1/2 C. applesauce. With the costs of fats going up (I recently bought some cooking oil and it had doubled since the last time I purchased some) it might be time to bring this old trick back out.  Especially since we have plenty of apples!

Right before I quit blogging the last time, ha!, someone had requested a home tour.  And while I'd like to oblige them, I too am curious how others, especially those I have become to admire, live, I have decided that it wouldn't be a good idea.  You see, our home is a very personal space to us, almost everything inside it either Ran or I have made or has a special meaning to us.  So, any criticism, would be very hurtful, almost akin to criticizing our child, and I still get the hateful comments, so I'm sorry, I hope the glimpses that you catch from time to time will suffice.  

Let's see, I've read that they are predicting a cold winter this year.  You learn many things by studying art, and one of those things is how people dressed before central heating.  One of the things I discovered over the last few years, is wearing a scarf (particularly a woolen one) wrapped around your neck and upper chest area really helps you keep warm. So maybe it's time to bring all those infinity scarves that have fallen out of fashion back into your wardrobe?

I'm sure there's more that I have forgotten, but maybe I'll remember next time.  But I wouldn't count on it! And perhaps next time I will be true to my blog's name and share more thrift tips.  Is there anything in particular that you would like to know?  So, keep safe, and keep your spirits up!



Sunday, September 11, 2022


 Hello dear friends!  Today our family is celebrating our version of the old Harvest Home festival.  I guess it has its roots in some pagan theosophy, but for us it is just a celebration of getting the final things harvested and gratitude for the good Lord seeing us through another gardening year.  This has been a rough year; I will not lie.  The drought had added many hours of extra labor, things had to be planted several times before they came up, and the yields were sometimes spotty, but in the end our perseverance and diligence were rewarded.  Many a time I wanted to throw in the towel, particularly the last few weeks, as we all came down with a bad case of the flu, and the most labor-intensive crops needed our attention.  I must confess I had several pity parties. Ha!  You learn a lot about life when you garden.  So today in celebration of picking the last apple from the tree (they finished up early this year), harvesting the last hazelnut from the bush and digging the last carrot, we are enjoying a meal of Alsatian Pork Roast and an apple pie made from our own heirloom apples.  We had planned on having a bonfire last night during the harvest moon, but the weather did not cooperate, so that is something we can look forward to later, when it gets to sweater weather.  And when we are more rested!  Getting old and it's hard for us to stay awake until it gets dark. Ha!

This is a little sitting area in our kitchen dooryard.  The village cut down a maple tree in front of our neighbor's house and Ran brought home a log, planed it down and made a bench from it.  The Joe Pye weed is a mystery.  I planted them there about six years ago and they never came up until this year.  I also had planted some mystery lilies (Jung's mystery lily) around back and had forgotten all about them, this year they decided to make a showing!  Maybe because this year with the drought other things died and they had room.  For all the years I've been gardening, there will always remain mysteries. I will tell you one thing, though, between the Joe Pye weed and the Russian sage, the honeybees were busy all summer.  I wish I could have figured out where their hive was, it must have been massive with all the nectar they gathered.


Besides thinking of old ways of Harvest Home celebrations, I have been giving a lot of thought to the "old ways" and how people survived before the industrial revolution. I correspond with a few friends that reside in Europe, and it is getting quite dire there.  A winter without fuel is becoming a reality for many across the pond and hyperinflation has already arrived.  They cannot afford to use electricity to dehydrate or can their produce, so how does a gardener preserve their crops?  We need look no further than to pioneer days.  First people grew different things than the perishable crops such as tomatoes, peppers and such that we do now days.  They grew a lot more root crops, such as potatoes, rutabagas and turnips, things that could be put into baskets and burlap bags and stored in a cool dry place.  You can store carrots by placing dry ones in a barrel or even a box with holes punched in it and layering them with sand or sawdust. Again, keeping them in a cool dry place.  Or if your area is mild enough you can layer them directly in the ground with straw.  Or place an old cooler in the ground and cover it with straw. Growing up, many people made sauerkraut and just kept a crock in the back room. We had plenty of hot, dry, windy days this summer, perfect for laying out fruits and vegetables on screens (made from old window screens) and letting them dry that way.  There're old leather britches, which is just green beans strung on string and hung in a dark dry area of the house to dry naturally.  Apples can be dried similarly.   Did you know that you only need to run your freezer for one to two hours a day to keep things frozen in your freezer?   And make sure it is full, even if it means freezing some jugs of water.  The bigger the mass of frozen goods, the longer it is going to stay frozen. BTW, this is why I always advocated canning, rather than freezing your produce and meats. You really don't need to have a lot of equipment plugged in all day long, as even when it is not in use, it is still using electricity, especially all the "smart" appliances. One year, when we were having a difficult time, we even experimented with just plugging in our hot water heater every other day just long enough to heat the water.  On the unplugged days the water was tepid, but not intolerable.  Here's a post I wrote over a decade ago, about how to stay warm and cozy during the cold months.  I know from whence I speak, having lived through several episodes when we were without electricity for over a week in the middle of winter.  (We lost our electricity over 20 times last year, one of the pitfalls of living in a very windy climate.) Even now, we set our thermostat at 60 during the winter, our upstairs of our very old house is unheated, one morning we woke up and it was 42 degrees upstairs.  We slept well, but it was quite an eye-awakening experience climbing out of bed in the morning. Ha!  A long time ago some squatters were living in an old, abandoned church at the end of our street.  We didn't know what they were up to, but we always wondered why every noon, when the sun was at its highest point, they were sitting out in their truck.  Well, you know how warm your car gets when it is sitting in the sun?  They would go out there and take a nap and use the natural heat to stay warm.  They would spread all their blankets out to let them get heated by the sun too.  Actually, it was a pretty clever idea.  I've used the heat of the car to dry herbs and proof bread.  If you have a really sunny window, arrange your furniture to capture the sun's rays.  People used to do these things instinctively, but now days we've become so accustomed to just cranking up the heat when we are cold, we have lost all common sense. So, you see, there's lots of ways to cope, you might even find some of them enjoyable.  


I haven't had much time for crafting lately, but I did find time to cross stitch this cute little bowl fillers:

They are a free pattern from Create and Decorate magazine (I loved that magazine; wish they still published it). Here's the link.  For some reason, I love growing gourds and squashes, each year I pick a different type; last year it was spinner gourds, the year before birdhouse and this year it's luffas.  I think I drive Ran nuts with them, he's suggested I throw some of them out, but I treasure each and every one. Just one of the many ways we are peculiar here at the old Zempel boarding house.  I hope you have lovely week and a golden start to the loveliest Autumn season!



Sunday, August 21, 2022


 Hello dear friends!  Well, we've been busy here at the old Zempel boarding house, the garden is finally producing, and every day is filled with preserving and cooking. Been putting in twelve-hour days in the kitchen.  People like to romanticize the cottage lifestyle, but it's a lot of work.  Really, it is a lot easier to just grab a bag of frozen vegetables from the store's freezer section, than it is to pick, wash and prepare them from a garden.  And lately I have been wondering if I was just starting out at canning, if it would be worth it; jars run about a dollar each and the cheapest lids are running about 30cents each so just with those two items you have $1.30 into those jars, plus if you were to buy your vegetables at a fruit stand or farmer's market, there's that money too.  I think it would be more cost effective for the time being (and just for this time) to just look for a good sale and stock up on canned goods. The big caveat being, if you were just starting out at canning, but for me it makes sense because I've been canning for almost half a century, and we garden from saved seeds, basically all I have to pay for is lids.  When I started canning wayyyyy back in the 1970s, no one was canning.  Women's lib was in its heyday, and anything that had to do with a woman being "chained" to the kitchen was considered unfashionable. Which was a wonderful boon for me!  People were all too happy to give me all those old canning jars.  It didn't hurt that I looked about twelve years old although I was nineteen.  Many a time I would visit with an elderly neighbor and tell them that I was canning and the next thing to happen they would look astounded that "that little girl knows how to can!  Edna! We have a bunch of old canning jars down in the basement, don't we?" And the next thing you know I had an entire carload of jars. People were just happy to get rid of them.  

Vegetables aren't the only things we grow.  Here's a picture of a bouquet picked from the "meadow" that we started last year:

I'm really enjoying it, because no matter how many flowers I grow in my flower gardens, I hate to pick them, less the garden looks sparse, but I have no compunction about picking from the meadow.  In the spring I was disappointed to discover that is consisted almost entirely of asters, but once I yanked them out, the pretty wildflowers started to emerge.  Sorry about the quality of the photo, my camera has a scratch on the lens, it seems. And I am not a photographer. 


Every once in a great while, I replace my canning and pickling spices.  Not wanting to waste them, I asked Ran to plant the mustard seeds in the garden to see what would develop.  Although they were probably eons old, within days we had the loveliest row of mustard greens coming up. Now I'm eyeing the bags of green peas (organic) that have been sitting in my soup pantry.  Will definitely give them a try this coming spring. During the winter months we sprout seeds for our "greens" rather than buy store lettuce and such, we discovered that organic black lentils, which are a fraction of the price of those sprouting mixtures, worked dandy for sprouting.  Oh!  And you all the know the Bible verse about the "faith of a mustard seed"? Well, nothing will make that verse come more alive than planting a row of them.  I think it could be a good lesson for children (and maybe a few adults, too).


Almost everything reminds me of a Bible verse lately, I guess it is the way God speaks to me.  I'll see an old man driving down the road in convertible and I'll think of "when I was a child", when the president announced that there wasn't any inflation, I thought of "a loaf of bread for a day's wages, but do not touch the wine or the oil".  Although I no longer belong to the church I grew up in, it did prepare me.  I am so blessed to have that upbringing.  It seems to me a lot of people are anchorless these days.  


Some dear person, requested the recipe for the orange rosemary marmalade that I had mentioned in the comments in the last post:  The recipe comes from The Herbal Pantry by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead:

Rosemary Orange Marmalade

5 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 C. boiling water

4-5 oranges

3 C. sugar

3 oz. liquid pectin

Steep 1 sprig of rosemary in the boiling water for 3o minutes; discard the herb sprig.  Peel the zest from the oranges, removing as little pith as possible; julienne thinly and place in saucepan with water to cover. Simmer, covered, about 1/2 hour or until tender. Drain and reserve.

With a sharp knife free the orange sections from their membranes.  Seed the oranges and dice coarsely, then transfer to a non-aluminum saucepan with the rosemary infusion and the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 35 minutes.  Add the pectin and boil for exactly 1 minute. Place a sprig of rosemary in each of 4 half-pint jars and pour the marmalade over them. Seal.  


I read or heard somewhere, that with the economy being what it is, people are turning to the dollar stores as their main source of groceries.  While there may be some healthy items at these stores, most of it is cheap processed foods that you could probably buy just as cheaply at your regular grocers, except for dried beans, $1/ pound is about the cheapest I can find, unless they are the reduced-for-quick-sale rack.  Here's a list of things that you can find a regular grocery store, that usually cost $1 or less, that would be far healthier: a pound of carrots, cabbage runs about 69 cents a pound, cans of tuna, a pound of regular oatmeal, a bag of onions, rice, pinto beans, most canned vegetables are still less than $1, potatoes, split peas, and check out the day-old bread rack.  The point being, you have to shop wisely these days, and pay close attention to the sizes of packaging (shrinkflation).  You really need to take your time and poke around.  The other day I was in Walmart and needed some salsa, I found some in cans on the bottom shelf for 98 cents a 16 oz can, half the price or less than the jarred salsas displayed at eye level. 


I'm always recommending people keep actual books or print out things from the internet that they want to keep.  You never know when the internet is going to go down and you'll need that information.  Or when your favorite blogger or Youtuber is going to shut down and all that information will be lost. Ha! Not to mention, what if we really do plunge into that deep depression that they are always predicting, and you cannot afford internet or smartphone fees?  No, it is good to have real honest to goodness books. Some basic titles on gardening, canning, a good basic cookbook, herbology, foraging, home repair, basic medical, sewing and mending, bushcraft and some nice ones just for entertainment.  I would include a Bible and an older book of US history (pre-political correctness).  The good thing is that most of these books can be found quite inexpensively at thrift stores and used, on-line. Here's a list of some of my favorites:

The New Self-Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour

Jackie Clay's Canning Book

Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar

The Boy's Own Handbook

Betty Crocker's Kitchen Gardens by Mary Mason Campbell

Gold Medal Century of Success Cookbook

The Farm Journal Cookbook

Historical Documents by the Harvard Classics

And I prefer the New English Translation of the Bible rather than old King James 

Well, that's a start, maybe every post I should give a book recommendation?  Anyways, I've prattled on long enough, off to get some work done.  Hope you all have a terrific week!



Sunday, August 7, 2022

July Came and Went!

 Hello dear friends!  Is it just me or does the time seem to be passing more quickly?  Hope you are all doing well and that you are enjoying your summer.  Several times I attempted to get a post out, but instead had to attend to gardens and preserving.  With this terrible drought I am amazed at how well the garden is doing.  Jamie and Ran spend about an hour every day watering it, but there is nothing like good old ozone-filled God-given rain for a garden.  Still, there are plenty of things flourishing.  We finally just had to pull the cucumbers and yellow squashes because I ran out of ideas for what to do with them.  There's only so many jars of relish and pickles a family can eat in a year!  And we had our favorite Summer Squash Casserole at least once a week for the last six weeks, and although we love it, we had enough for this year, thank you very much.  We also dehydrated plenty for soups this winter and made fritters and pizza casserole.  I am a firm believer in using what God has provided for us.   Remember that universal tuna or bean patty recipe I wrote about a few posts back?  Well, we discovered you can use it to make a patty from shredded cabbage also.  Today I am working at making and canning a batch of my Oven-Roasted Spaghetti Sauce ,as Ran picked a half a bushel of tomatoes this morning. Yesterday, I spent the entire day canning beets.  What a job and mess beets make!  When I can mine, I add a tablespoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar to the jars, then pressure can as usual.  We love borscht and eat it about once a week during the winter, it's so good for you, so we go through a lot of beets.  And look at our onion harvest!

The smaller onions on the top tarp to the right are the ones we started from sets and the rest are from seed.  That's a garlic on the bottom right.  Ran discovered the secret to growing large onions this year.  During the first month of planting, fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer (40-0-0) then for the rest of the season use 12-12-12 fertilizer.  And water, water, water.  We also make our own fertilizer simply by putting our grass-clippings (obviously nontreated) in a barrel and fill it with water.  This makes a very concentrated fertilizer that you need to dilute 10 to 1, the longer it sits the more you have to dilute it. Warning, hold your nose when you dip into it!


Life is funny, I had been thinking about getting a new braided rug for our dining room, but was reluctant to do so, a good wool rug is so pricey.  The very day, I decided to just do it, I went for a walk and found this one in the neighbor's garbage! 

It was the perfect colors for that room too! We carried it home and spent a good day scrubbing it, then hung it over sawhorses to dry.  The weather even cooperated in the process, as the temperatures were in the 90s, and it was very dry with high winds.  It virtually was like a dryer outside and only took a few days to dry.  See the mustard-colored Hitchcock chairs?   Always wanted some.  One day I just happened to stop by the Habitat for Humanity thrift store and there they were.  For $30!  And I got a senior citizen's discount to boot!  And they are Heywood Wakefield as an added bonus.

Only a few days later, Jamie was out for his daily walk when another neighbor was putting this light fixture out to the curb for the garbage man to take.

Just my primmy style!  And I needed a light in that very dark corner.  Couldn't have been more perfect!

Our garbage pick-up day is Monday and early in the morning Ran takes a ride around town and looks for usable wood for woodworking projects. He made me this pretty little cupboard from wood people were throwing out.

It's amazing the things people throw out.  And I don't feel the least embarrassed about admitting that, yes, I pick through the neighbor's garbage. Ha!  I'm on friendly terms with some ladies that run a food pantry and wouldn't believe the food people reject.  You'd think if you were dire enough need to get free food through a charity, you wouldn't be so particular, but people are.  It is mainly fruits and vegetables.  They offer me some, rather than throw it out and you should see the lovely jams, breads and desserts, I've made from the rejects. People really are spoiled in this country.  I hope that times never get as truly bad as the economists are predicting, because I don't think a lot of people will be able to cope. How many times have I written about eating beans or some other budget saving way to only read comments about "my husband expect meat three times a day" or "my children won't eat", or "I only eat organic" or any other such reason?  I tell you it gets tiresome.  One of the reasons I quit blogging so often.  I dare say, if you are starving, a banana with brown spots on it or a misshapen apple is going to look pretty good to you! Take it from, I've been there!


Every time I go to the Amish scratch-and-dent store I look to see if they have any dried fruits.  Dried fruits last forever if stored properly in a jar in a cool dark place.  They are just handy things to have on the pantry shelf and a handful of raisins or cranberries in your morning oatmeal can take the place of some or all of the sugar. So, here's an easy recipe that I got from the Good Old Days magazine about thirty years ago, when they used to have lots of stories about the Great Depression:

Radio Pudding


3/4 C. brown sugar

2C. boiling water

2 Tablespoons margarine (or butter)

into a 9 X 13 baking pan

Mix together:

3/4 C. sugar

1. C. flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 C. milk

1 C. raisins

Pour over the brown sugar/boiling water mixture.  Do not stir the two together.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired or affordable.


My dear friend Matty, is reorganizing her garden and wanted to know how our is planned out, so here goes:

The working garden starts at this green fence, that regular readers have seen often in my posts.

 To the left are the compost bins, and two large rhubarb plants.  Directly behind it the herb garden that about 8 feet by 8 feet.  We also put trees and bushes inside there until they get big enough to brave the orchard and fend for themselves.

To the right we have two cold frames and in this narrow strip of land that's about 8 feet X 60 feet we have a strawberry patch, some early lettuces, spinach and herbs, along with perennials that are later transplanted into the flower gardens.  There are three of our heirloom and most favorite apple trees planted to the right of that.

Behind the herb garden there is the main fenced-in garden which is around 30 X 40 feet.  On the north side of the garden there are several grapevines and blackberries bushes planted along the fence.

This is a view looking westward toward the garden.  Directly behind the main garden we have an asparagus bed and then another plot about twice the size of the main garden.  In this plot we have a raspberry patch.  Here is also where we plant our potatoes, squashes and corns, things that take up a lot of space. BTW, these pictures were taken early in summer, just never got around to posting them.

This isn't a very good picture, but we have a bit of lawn, then an orchard with pear, peach, plum and apple trees.  There's also a very large hazelnut tree (?) bush.  And a bit of and that is just tilled without any perimeters for another type of squash.  On the right I have a plot of meadow land with native grasses and flowers.  And in front of the orchard area, we grow elderberry bushes (that the deer eat down to nubs every year). And that is how this family of three adults lives very well on a little 1/2-acre plot of land, supplemented with fish from nearby Lake Huron.

Well, my spaghetti sauce has roasted while I wrote this post.  Now I have to can it!  Which reminds me, that my dear friend Regina, reminded me about dehydrating the skins that are left over from canning tomatoes.  I've done that in the past, but the powder from grinding them is always sticky, so I abandoned the practice, but she suggested adding salt to powder and using it to flavor soups.  What a smart idea!  I sure have made some wonderful friends through this blog.  So anyway, this has been a very long post, so from the old Zempel Boarding House, I hope you all have a lovely week!



Sunday, June 19, 2022

Little and Big Foxes

 Hello dear friends!  Sorry for being gone so long.  Seems like the past month has been one thing after another.   Big and little foxes.  Plus getting the garden in.  Are you having strange weather this summer?  It's 58 degrees today, but only a few days ago it was in the 90s.  We go from one extreme to another.  I guess that is what the Grand Solar Minimum is supposed to be all about, but it certainly makes for unusual gardening.  Even the plants are confused.  Phlox usually blooms in late summer here, but here is a patch that bloomed in late May!

Even stranger is that I didn't plant them there, they simply reseeded themselves from elsewhere.  My flowerbeds have a way of recreating themselves.  I can never tell what or where things are going to appear, but one thing I am none too happy about is that I have asters everywhere this year.  I have spent more time pulling them along with forget-me-nots than I ever have before.  But one thing I have discovered about myself that yanking weeds is very therapeutic.  Unawares to me, my husband snapped this picture of me in the garden:

It seems to be a very familiar sight these days.  Well, anyway the garden is in! Yep, we still have to wear heavy sweaters here.
Now the hoping, praying and weeding begins! You may not believe it, but we have peppers and tomatoes already appearing.  But on the other hand, I do not believe our corn will be knee high by the Fourth of July, as I said, it is a strange year. 

Jam Making Time

We are in a battle to beat the birds, rabbits and deer to gather our fruit before they get ahold of it.  Managed to get enough strawberries for a batch of jam.  And the other day we spied blueberries on sale at our Walmart for $2/lb. Unheard of! Couldn't resist picking up enough to make a batch of jam.  It was so good, I decided to make a second batch, but unfortunately when I returned to the store, they were now $4/lb.  We will have to treasure what we made.

Jam making is my least favorite canning chore.  Too sticky!  But we love our jam.  Rather than have baked goods, we eat a lot of jam on toast or graham crackers.  Jam making is an imprecise science, so many variables.  If you want to get good at you have to learn about sheeting.  When you are boiling your fruit and sugar let it drip off of the spoon, if it drips quickly and one drip at a time it isn't ready.  When it starts to drip off of the spoon two drips at a time and slowly, it's getting close, so start paying closer attention.  When those two drips sort of merge together, that's sheeting and the jam is ready to be bottled.  You can double check if it's ready by putting a plate in the freezer  and dropping a bit of the jam on it. Pop it back into the freezer for a few seconds, then run your finger through the jam.  If it doesn't try to run back together, but stays separated it's ready.  Anway, here's my recipe for Strawberry Preserves:

Strawberry Preserves

1 quart of stemmed, firm red-ripe strawberries
5 cups sugar
1/2 cup  of real lemon juice (do not use that bottle stuff)

Leave small berries whole, but cut up larger berries into rather large pieces
Combine berries and sugar and let stand for 3-4 hours.
Bring slowly to boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly for anywhere from 10-15 minutes, until thick.
Add lemon juice a continue boiling  until jam sheets.
Process 15 minutes in sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace in a boiling water bath.

Or you could go the easy route and just use pectin and the recipe that comes with the instructions. Ha!
These are preserves.  Preserves are larger pieces of fruit suspended in jelly.  Jam is crushed fruit and jelly uses only the juice of the fruit to make a clear, well, jelly.

On The Creative Front

In between being on the phone to banks, credit card centers, and post offices(sigh) I've managed to get a few, but not as many as I'd like, projects finished.  

I knitted this shawl, which was a kit from 

It's a super easy pattern, that any beginner could knit. And a great take-along project because the pattern is so easy to remember.

The skirt is a simple gathered skirt, but of course I can't make a simple skirt, can I?  I have to complicate it by adding pintucks that you can't see at the bottom, felling the seems, making lined buttonholes and covered buttons (they are my  signature).  I also made the waist higher and rearranged the pleats so they were more gathered at the back, because even though I'm ample enough from behind, these style of skirts tend to give me a very flat big bayview, as father used to call it. Here's a close-up of the back (mind you I haven't pressed it yet):
I love this fabric.   Reminds me of the early Laura Ashley fabrics, way back when her shop was a little cottage industry.  I still have to hem it.  Then I want to get back to finishing a quilt and work on some autumnal things.  There's plenty more I could write, but shan't bore you any further. Just wanted to write a little something to let you all know I hadn't forgotten about you.  Hope you all have a lovely week ahead and please remember to take time everyday to do something you enjoy!