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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!