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Sunday, December 31, 2023

Thank You!

 Hello dear friends!  I just wanted to come on here and wish you all the happiest new year and to thank all of you that have contacted me either via comments, e-mail, or by post, this past year!  It is so kind of you to remember me!  I'm still here on earth and still kicking. Ha!  Today I became officially a senior citizen.  Oh boy!  But even at my advanced age, I am still looking forward to setting  goals for the coming year.  I have an exciting challenge set, and that is to live almost completely from my pantry for 2024.  You know how other bloggers and vloggers have a "no spend" month?  Well, I intend to do that for an entire year.  Of course there will be times I will have to make a foray into the grocery store, Blackie our cat, is not willing to give up his daily saucer of milk, and I am sure at some point I will run out of flour, but mainly I will use what I have.  I assure you this is no hardship, as the past few years I have worked feverishly to stock my pantry.  I don't know how much of an aid it would be to you for me to record the weekly menus and my thought process behind the choices I make, but if it is of interest to you, just let me know and perhaps I will post my weekly progress.  

This past year has also been an exciting time of spiritual growth for me.  Our little family has been studying the Bible together and for some reason, many of my questions have been answered, where before they have eluded me.  Everything old is new again as each passing day I realize that the faith of my Puritan forefathers is the faith for me.  

It has also been a time of great creativity for me.  Whether it is taking scraps from the old rag bag or bits and bobs of leftovers, nothing gives me greater pleasure than taking those things and creating something if not wonderful, at least passable from them. Ha!

So that's what I have been up to in a nutshell.  Thank you again for all your kindness!  If there is any way I can be of service to you, just let me know! I do so hope and pray that the coming year will be kind to you and that each day will be the loveliest one.



Thursday, April 20, 2023

Purging, Prioritizing, and Parsimony: AKA Thrifty Thursday

 Hello dear friends!  Hope you are well and safe.  I used to feel I needed to address each and every tragedy that was happening in the world, but it seems so many horrible things are happening to so many people worldwide, that I can't keep up. My news source doesn't even mention a lot of tragedies that would have been headlines for days just a few short years ago. We are living in crazy times my dear friends!  That is why I just hope that you are well and safe.  Even in my own quiet life, I was thinking nothing happened since my last post and then I remembered we had a trip to the emergency room, a court hearing and a tornado watch in those few weeks!  

Well, we had a few days in the upper 70s and lower 80s, followed by two days of snow. I was watching a little robin outside of my kitchen window while washing dishes and he was just standing there staring at the snow on the ground in disgust.  I think I could read his mind.  He looked pretty perturbed. Ha!  But the warm days made the daffodils bloom.

And we harvested the first of the asparagus.
And a few days in the eighties reminded me that I really hate summer.  I know that the warmer weather is necessary for the garden to grow and that is necessary for our lifestyle, but it only took two days for me to long for the quiet days along the fireside. I've noticed that most people that enjoy summer spend most of their days inside their air-conditioned homes or lazing about beaches and golf courses. To me, summer means days of work, often from sunrise to sunset.  And the noise!  Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, motorcycles, and sirens. Most people have seasonal depression in winter. I would have to be different. Ha!

In order to cut down on some of the work, I been purging and prioritizing my garden. I cut down several rose bushes, they are just too fussy.  And Ran dug up my herb garden.  We will still have an herb garden, but it will just be in practical straight lines in a rectangular plot instead of anything fancy. Sometimes practical has to take priority over pretty. Last fall Ran pruned my hydrangeas, and they don't look like they are coming back to life.  Can't say I'd be heartbroken if they didn't.   If they don't, we will replace them with something practical and evergreen. And easy to care for!

In The House

We are still trying to make room in our freezer, so we've been having some rather unusual meals.  Each day, we just grab something out of the freezer and try to figure out a meal from it combined with what needs using-up in the refrigerator.  We've also been going through our pantry and trying to use all the things that have been sitting there too long, or that were purchased to make a specific meal that we have long forgotten about.  One day we will have Mexican food, the next Asian and the following German. It's a good thing we have cast-iron stomachs!

We did have a wonderful meal for Easter, however.  I bought a leg of lamb for a price I haven't seen in years.  The rest of the meal was typical "Jane" thrifty, however, with the remainder of our root-cellared  potatoes and winter squash roasted and we had banana cake made from bananas that needed using up for dessert.   I had forgotten all about this recipe.  It was the one recipe that people most requested, way back in the olden days before the internet, when people used to swap recipes instead of googling them:

1890 Banana Cake

1/2 C. butter
1 1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C. sour cream
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 C. mashed bananas
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 C. chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, sour cream, lemon juice, vanilla and bananas; beat mixture well.
Add flour, salt and baking soda; combine well.  Stir in nuts.
Pour into a lightly greased 9 X 13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.   Especially good if frosted with a cream cheese frosting.

It's very important to use very ripe, brown bananas when baking with this cake.  And sometimes, if I have it, I will use a 1/2 tsp of banana extract.  As with all my cake recipes, this makes a very moist "country" cake.

While cleaning out the freezer, I found quite a few bags of cranberries, so I canned six jars of relish and eight jars of cranberry catsup.  We love our homemade grape catsup, so I thought I'd give cranberry a try.  It's a winner.  Weren't cranberries inexpensive this year?  I also had bags and bags of pecans in the freezer, so I canned pecan pie filling.  I love having pie fillings on hand, it makes for a quick and easy dessert.  Just toss the filing into a lightly greased pan and make a quick crumble like the topping in this apple crisp and bake it up while dinner is being served.  Although, I must confess that more than likely I just use the recipe on the side of the Jiffy yellow cake mix for a quick dessert.

Fruit Magic

1 pkg. Jiffy yellow cake mix
1 can pie filling (21 oz.)
1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)
1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Select your favorite pie filling and spread into an ungreased 8" square pan. Combine cake mix and nuts. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over top of pie filling. Bake 45-50 minutes.  (I think I bake mine less, about a half hour, just until the top is lightly browned and the filling is hot and bubbling.)

Even someone that doesn't know how to bake can handle that recipe! It's a good "starter" recipe for children. Did I ever tell you the story of my first attempt at baking?  I was five-years old.  I had a gotten a cute little recipe booklet from the grocery store for free.  It was a tie-in for the Wizard of Oz, which yearly airing around Easter time, was a big event for us kiddies back in the early 60s. Anyway, I informed my mother that I was going to bake some cookies and back then children were pretty much ignored and unsupervised, my mother just said something like "That's nice".  So off to the kitchen I went!  At five, I could read but I hadn't gotten to fractions in school, so when the recipe called for 3-4ths cups of brown sugar, I figured it meant 3 to 4 cups of brown sugar! Well, you can imagine how the cookies turned out!  They ended up more like peanut brittle and were quite a chore to scrape off the cookie sheets.  But they weren't wasted, my sister's boyfriend ate them all.  After the first batch, my mother finally came into the kitchen and discovered what I was up to and sent me out to play while she tossed the batter. You'd think that first foray into baking would have discouraged me, but after learning fractions (ha!) I became quite the little baker, winning many a blue-ribbon at various fairs.  By the time I was ten, my father preferred my baking to my mother's (not the accomplishment that one might think) and I became the chief baker in the family.


Whenever someone asks me what I've been up to, I always answer, "cleaning out the freezer or cleaning out the attic" You'd think that one day it would come to an end!  I keep all my crafting items in the attic and my fabric stash is immense.  My problem is that I love fabric, particularity the pretty reproduction fabrics put out by quilting companies. I can't bear to waste a scrap.  So, I began this scrap quilt last winter.
I was thinking of making a quilt for our bed, which is a two-hundred-year-old rope bed and an odd size, but quickly into the project I decided that it was too busy for my taste.  So, I tucked it away and forgot about it. It was a shame, since I only had about five more squares to finish it into a nice lap-sized quilt.  Guilt got the better of me and I had to take it out and finish it.  I am glad to have it behind me, so I can get on to something more enjoyable.   While I was quilting and quilting (did I mention I hate quilting?) Ran kept me company by whittling these two adorable spoons: 

The larger spoon is a coffee measure, the tiger maple came from our firewood pile. And the little spoon is a little scuttle for salt. He used a dye I made from rose galls to stain the tiger maple piece.  I also used the rose galls to dye some cross stitch fabric for this picture on the left:
The little picture to the right is made from a scrap of fabric that was used in some strapping for an antique chair that I had saved.  We never waste anything! I used the oil some fancy olives were packed in to roast our asparagus in this week.  And to sauté some onions and peppers.  Rose gall dye, olive oil from a jar of olives, old upholstery used as cross stitch fabric, may seem like carrying thrift to extremes and some might think it is downright miserly, but to me, it is a fun adventure.  

So that is it for this Thrifty Thursday.  Stay safe and stay thrifty!


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Small Scale Maple Sugaring and Other Thrifty Doings

 Hello dear friends!  Happy Springtime!  Several of you have written and told me that you have had problems with subscribing and commenting on my blog.  I'm sorry about that, unfortunately, I am the least techie person on the planet, bordering on full-on Luddite status, so I cannot fix those problems, but I do appreciate you making an effort to let me know. I truly do appreciate all feedback, even the negative as long as it doesn't get abusive.  Anyway, with that out of the way, here's what springtime looks like in my neck of the woods:

Not the prettiest season.  No forsythias, no daffodils, no green grass, those things won't come until May, just mud and the remainder of the snow. It always looks so bad this time of year.  So that is the reality of living "up North".  But on a happier note, the robins have returned, and the morning was greeted with a cheerful chorus of birdsong.  They are surviving on the wild grapes and crabapples left on the trees until the ground thaws and they can get at their worms. 

Small-scale Maple Sugaring

I just read a news article that this year has been one of the best maple sugaring seasons Michigan has had in a long time.  We are gathering a gallon of sap a day from the one tap on the maple tree in our front yard the past few days. We already boiled down enough to make a quart and a half of syrup. This year was just an experiment to see how we could do this efficiently, but next year we will tap more trees and put more than a single tap in each.  Here's how our tap looks:

We inserted some tubing into the tap and then into a pop bottle, then Ran rigged up some wire to attach the bottle to the tap. Then when the bottle is three-quarters full, we put the sap in an enamel-lined pot and put it atop our woodstove, where it evaporates down to one-tenth of its volume. This way we are not wasting any energy, as the stove is being used to heat the house anyway.  After that, Ran takes the evaporated sap out and finishes the evaporating process on our rocket stove.
You can get all fancy-schmancy and measure the temperature of the sap to see if it is at the syrup stage, but we just eyeball it.  When it is the right consistency to run off of a spoon slowly and it's that maple-syrupy color, we bottle it.  I will probably "can" the syrup for long-term storage in pint jars.  I use the term "can" but it more like bottling the jars.  Sterilize you jars in a 275-degree oven for ten minutes, .  (Normally I do not recommend sterilizing jars this way, but you want the jars to be dry inside, so that the syrup doesn't mold.)  Heat you syrup to the boiling point, pour the hot syrup into the hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Place a lid that has been simmered and then wiped dry atop each jar and the screw the band on tightly, none of this fingertip tight business here, really jam the rings on.  Place the jars upside down on a soft dishtowel.  This should seal the jars. After the jars have cooled, turn them upright and check to see if the jars have sealed.  Any that haven't should be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months. I'm sure there's many articles on exactly how to do this out on the internet, if you want to do a bit of research, but it really isn't rocket science. Speaking of rockets, these rocket stoves are a wonder.  They take very little energy to get a large pot of water up to the boiling point.  We just use twigs we find in the yard and scrap lumber.  We've used our countless times when we have lost electricity for the umpteenth time every year. This is a purchased one, but again, there's lot of information on the internet on how to make one.  They are definitely a valuable tool to have on hand.

Taking Stock

March is the month that we take stock here at Sweetbriar Cottage.  We go through all our canned goods and see what we need to grow and preserve for the coming year.  More tomatoes for catsup and salsa but we are good on beets and carrots. (I'm still having nightmares about having the flu while canning those bushels and bushels of carrots.) And we definitely need to make more sauerkraut this year.  All the oddball canned goods and those that are reaching their expiration dates are put into a basket to be used for meals this month.  It makes for some interesting meals; I can vouch for that.  And we try to eat down our freezer, in anticipation of the coming fishing season.  My goal is to use only the freezer compartment of the refrigerator and not even use the small upright freezer we have (a goal I have yet to achieve). 

 It is finally warm enough to go up into the attic and straighten things up.  I can truthfully say, I needn't buy another skein of yarn or scrap of fabric for the rest of my life.  I will need to live to be a hundred just to use what I have, and that is after donating bags and boxes of yarn and bolts of fabric to the local thrift store.  I also go through my winter wardrobe and donate all the clothes that I have never worn all season and the ones that do not suit my lifestyle any longer.  There's no point in having pretty clothes that are not practical, I never go anywhere to get dressed up.  They are just taking up space and in a small home space is more valued than hanging onto things for sentimental value.  My thoughts on the whole matter are that it is better to pass on these pretties on to someone who might enjoy them, then it is to have them sitting in drawers going to waste.  Taking stock from time to time is a thrifty thing to do. After seeing all that I have, I can honestly say "enough is enough"!

But yet....

I say all that, but yet, it didn't keep me from taking a jog through the thrift store yesterday when I dropped off some donations. Ha!  I had this beautiful piece of an old overshot coverlet that I wanted to frame, so I was looking for a frame to cut down to fit the piece. And there it was!  For $5, less than what I'd pay just to have the glass cut.  I was going to paint the frame, but I thought the color brought out the golden browns in the fabric.  It took less than a quarter hour, for Ran to have it framed and hung.  

Even the mat worked out (it appears more bluish here than it actually is).  The only other thing I bought was a twiggy wreath for my door.  I toss my wreaths at the end of the seasons.  Usually, they look the worst for wear after a couple of months being battered about by the wind and the thrift stores always have more.  The one I bought cost 75 cents.  Speaking of twiggy wreaths, here's a woolen candle mat I made from some of my big box of wool scraps:
That was a fun one-day project.  And here's a penny rug I finished this month:

I am through with making those woolen tongues for a long while.  In March I decorate in a lamb and lion theme.  I don't decorate for Easter; all those bunnies and chicks are too cutesy for me. And I am not fond of pastels.  Besides, the lion and lamb have a Biblical connotation. Or so I thought.  I had a real Mandela-effect experience when I discovered that the Bible actually says, "The wolf will lie down with the lamb".  I thought it might be some modern interpretation, but I checked my grandmother's Bible that was published in 1911, and yep, it says wolf there too.

March Sales

March is a wonderful time to stock up on some items.  They've had great buys on corned beef.  At Aldi's I bought the cheaper cut for $2.99 a pound.  I would have bought some to can, when you can your meat it tenderizes the cheaper cuts, so don't be afraid to buy them for this purpose, but I still had plenty in my pantry from the previous year, so I didn't.  But I did buy two roasts, one we ate on St. Patrick's Day, and the other I roasted and cut into slice for sandwiches.  I still see corned beef on sale at Walmart.  

I saw lamb for less than $4 a pound at Meijers.  Unheard of price for lamb!  If I weren't being so lazy, I would buy some to can for stew.  Lamb is a rarity in this house.  I used to grind it and make gyro meat which I sliced and froze.  So nice when the cucumbers and dill are ripe for tzatziki sauce.  Oh, oh!  I'm talking myself into a chore!

And of course, ham and eggs are usually on sale this time of year.  I haven't checked the prices, but just a quick glance, I have noticed that the prices on eggs are going down. You can really make a ham stretch.  One of our favorite ways is with this ham and egg pie. Then there's always ways to use it in soups and omelets. Take all the little scraps and grind them up add some onion, mayo, and dill relish and make a sandwich spread.  And when you get down to the soup bone there's always a nice old-fashioned boiled dinner (with lots of cabbage which is on sale this month).  Goodness!  A family could survive an entire month on one bargain Easter ham!

A Question Posed

Recently, someone posed the question is self-sufficiency and preparedness Biblical?   This is usually followed by the verse about the lilies of the field.  I'd say, yes, while we depend on God to provide for us, He also give us knowledge and discernment.  I can point to just as many verses and parables about preparedness. We all read the news about bank closures and interest rate hikes; they should be telling you something about where the economy is heading.  It would be foolhardy to not watch your pennies a little more closely, in my opinion.  My attitude is not to go at preparing for hard times in a fearful manner, by going to grocery store and hoarding up enough food and making your home into a bunker, but it won't hurt to have some extra things put aside.  These days, no one can be truly self-sufficient.  Even centuries back, people were still dependent on others; millers to help grind the grain, neighbors to help shuck the corn, threshing teams at harvest time, not to mention most had large families that pulled together.  I dare say that a lot of those "preppers" I see on YouTube will find that all their well-laid plans are just that, when they have to grow enough feed for all that livestock and harvest it with a scythe because fuel and parts are not available for their tractors. Or if they have to haul buckets of water from a stream for that herd of cows.  They'll be downsizing their gardens when they have to turn over the soil with a shovel and till it by hand.  And what does one do when a drought occurs?  Or a flood wipes out your crops?  Then I dare say, we are not as self-sufficient as we thought, so we needn't be so smug about it.  Self-sufficiency is a goal, but I'd say we still need to have God's blessings to ever achieve any facsimile of it. Yet, I still say it is better to at least try attempt to live as independently as possible, rather than to rely on the good graces of others, or worse yet, the government, to provide for you, realizing that every tomato you pick, every piece of firewood you stack, every drop of water you drink, is a blessing and should be treasured and not wasted. What say you on the subject?

So anyway, that's it for this month's Thrift Thursday at the old Zempel boarding house.  Dear Regina, I hope this helps, and thank you for urging me to write a post!



Thursday, February 23, 2023

Thrifty Thursday

 Hello dear friends!  We are shoveling out from our snow "storm" today.  Why is any measurable amount of snow considered a storm these days?  Afterall, we live in Michigan, it's winter, we should expect snow in February.  Our son and family that lives downstate are without electricity, but they are prepared with a backup generator and a wood pellet stove, so no harm there.  Most of the people that live in this neck of the woods, know enough to be prepared for such things, it's just common sense.  Which leads me to a dilemma; what to write about for Thrifty Thursday.  I assume that you all have common sense too, and much of being thrifty is just common sense.  So many of the YouTube "thrift and prepping" channels have such nonsense, such as how to wash your hair without running water or how to hang your laundry on the line.  Well, I assume you know how to do those things or if you don't, you'd figure it out pretty quickly on your own, after all it doesn't take a Philadelphia lawyer.  To me, it is kind of insulting to think people are so dull that they need instructions on such things.

The other thing that bothers me about many of these channels is their clickbait like "I saved $1000 a week, and you can too!" Then proceed to show you something they purchased on sale or used for fifty dollars, then show you the retail price from some fancy-schmancy catalog.  No, they didn't save a thousand dollars, they spent fifty.  Unless it is something you are truly in need of, say a refrigerator because yours went kaput and the food is spoiling, you are just spending money.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good thrift store buy as much as the next person, but I am not under any illusion that no matter how cheap the thing is, it is still spending money.  The biggest thrift tip I can give anyone is to learn the difference between a "want' and a "need". 

Practicing what we preach is hard though.  Ran and I have been trying to practice that we will eat only what the good Lord provides for us.  He does a pretty good job of it, too. Our small bit of land provides us with all the fruit and vegetables we need and Ran, an avid fisherman, catches enough fish to supply us with all the meat our little family needs.  Technically, about all we really need to purchase is flour and oil and a bit of sugar.  And this year we are tapping our maples, which if we needed to, could be done on a larger scale to provide us with a sugar source.  It would be meager, but enough to bake a loaf of bread every few days.  Our friend Shane supplies us with honey also, and neighbor Anna's son, Tyler, gives us eggs in return for plowing her out and helping her till her garden in the spring and fall, so we are provided for. But yet, on payday, we still go to the store and buy groceries.  This month the only thing on our shopping list that we need is salt, but of course, if there's a good buy on something else, you know I'm going to pick it up.  Lately our little Amish cheese factory has been selling it's ends and pieces for $1.68 a pound, so we've been restocking our cheese "cave".  Is cheese a need or a want?  I suppose with our German, Swiss and Dutch ancestery, it's a need. Ha! Well, we'll just justify it by saying cheese is our source of calcium.  Coffee is a luxury I need to remind myself.

Speaking of which, we love history, so are always experimenting with what the early settlers did to get by, so we collected, dried and roasted dandelion root for a substitute for coffee.  It looked like coffee and had a pleasant smell while roasting, but at the end of the day, I would rather go without rather than drink that.  But then I don't like tea so don't let me dissuade you from trying it. It tasted like a very earthy green tea to me, so if that is something you think you would like, there's plenty of dandelions out there, so enjoy!  

Well, in spite of getting snow yesterday, we have begun our gardening.  Last year we had very good success with our onions, as a matter of fact we still have a bushel in the root cellar.  The one thing we figured out is that you have to start them very early, much earlier than the seed packets instruct and instead of going under the grow lights, they grow stronger just by being in our south-facing windows. We are also starting some gourds this week.  Each year I attempt to grow a different kind of gourd.  Last year it was luffas.  I only managed to harvest one!  So much for the idea of growing free scrubbies!  I'll have to stick to my old standby of using the netting from store-bought turkeys and hams for pot scrubbers.  


I've been cleaning out my bookshelves and came across a few books that are wonderful resources for prepping and living the thrifty lifestyle. The First one is The Home Workplace, a compilation of how-tos put out by the Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine. It has all sorts of information on how to build structures for self-sufficiency. The other book is, How To Do Things, published by the Farm Journal.  What a gem!  Everything from how to garden and build things, to how to raise livestock and process them.  Even has ideas for how to have fun without modern conveniences.  Love that book!

A YouTube channel I really enjoy is Three Rivers Homestead.  Her thought process is very similar to how I come up with meal planning and watching that sweet mama working with her children in the kitchen reminds me very much of my life when my children were youngsters.


Pumpkin Cake

1 C. pureed pumpkin

1/2 C. applesauce

1 C. sugar (I used a bit less because my home-canned applesauce was already sweetened)

2 eggs

1 C. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cloves

 1/2 C. raisins or nuts (or both) optional

Combine wet ingredients.  Then stir in the dry ingredients.  Fold in the nuts or raisins if using them. Pour into a greased 8-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.  This cake is particularly good with a bit of cream cheese frosting.

This cake is a dense, what I call, country cake.  Kind of akin to a quick bread. Growing up, my mother always baked cakes from mixes and used that canned frosting.  Blechhh!  So, I never really liked cake until I started baking these country cakes.  But if you enjoy those chiffon-type or angel food style cakes, this recipe may not be for you.

So that is it for another Thrifty Thursday.  This is the time of year when there isn't much excitement going on.  Oh!  Did you hear about the "UFO" that they shot down over Lake Huron?  That was probably less than fifty miles from us as the crow flies.  We had a good laugh over it until we found out that the first time they took a shot at it, they missed!  That missile could have landed in our front yard.  And it's not very reassuring that our missile defense system can't even shoot down something hovering over a lake on the first attempt.  I tease Ran that he better not go trolling for salmon this spring, his luck he'll snag that missile lying at the bottom of the lake.  I guess that's where it is, they never did say if the recovered it, or the strange octagonal object they were shooting down.  So I guess we did have some "excitement" around here.  Anyway, whatever will be, will be.  Here's hoping your days are filled only with the fun sort of excitement.!



Saturday, February 11, 2023

Winter is a Joyous Season

 Hello dear friends!  I hope this post finds you all fit as a fiddle and right as rain!  I'm sitting by the fire today and just enjoying having some leisurely time before Spring returns and all the busyness that it entails comes once again.  We had a bit of snow recently and it was so welcome as the whiteness brightened the house after so many days of grayness.  I've lived in eight decades so far, yet the thrill of snowfall has never left me.  Well, to be truthful, I don't remember much of the 1950s or how I felt about them, except for some home movies of my father pulling me on a sled. But I wasn't crying, so I must have enjoyed it. Ha! I never understood why people hate winter so much, but then I grew up much further north than where I live now and winter was part of our lives for a good seven months of the year, so I guess it was just part of my DNA. Winter is the time of year when I can work on creative endeavors and spend time pipe dreaming.  Do you ever pipe dream?  My big lifetime fantasy has always been to live in a 200-year-old log cabin off-grid in the middle of a forest.  Unfortunately, I have never been able to live anywhere I could make such a dream come true as my husband's career always led us to areas where such things didn't exist and if they did, we never had the funds to make it happen, but I always managed to make home as close to that as possible. And it's probably just as well.  I was poking around on Zillow the other day, just to see what sort of land I could afford and all the plots of land in middle of forests had shots from trail cams of the wildlife in the area.  I don't think I want to live where bobcats are just outside my door!  And seeing how much damage a few deer can do to a garden, I can only imagine how much more an elk or moose would do!  I guess village life is the right fit for me, even if I detest the small-town politicking that goes on.  But I still continue to imagine myself into that cabin, even if it is just a pipe dream.  Jesus says that the Father has prepared a place in Heaven for us that is many mansions, but I hope He allows me just one little humble cabin in the woods.  Minus the bobcats!

Anway, if you stuck with me through that rambling nonsense, I did manage to do some productive things this month.  Someone once asked me where I store my canning equipment and I replied I don't.  It is ever-present.  This past week I got around to canning all my remaining winter squashes.

Had been putting that chore off as long as I could.  Squashes certainly are hard on the hands.  BTW, I've mentioned this before, but these Butterscotch squashes (seeds are available from Pinetree Gardens) will make a squash lover out of anyone.  They are remarkable sweet, better than any pumpkin.  Every time I roast one up, I'm astounded by their flavor!

I also baked some date nut bread.  For some reason, in my mind dates and winter are intertwined.  Probably because the only time we ate any was at Christmas when my mother baked the best date pinwheel cookies ever. Anway, these little quick breads are a nice change from our usual oatmeal for breakfast, especially if you spread them with a dab of cream cheese. Rather than bake one big loaf, I bake two small loaves and freeze one. When I bake pies, I try to bake a few small tarts from the scraps of pie crust and filling and freeze them also.  Then when we have a nice assortment of such things squirreled away, we bring them out and have ourselves a proper Victorian tea. It is one of the ways we bring a bit of gentility to our humble little life.

Speaking of gentility, I have never understood the idea that some things are "too good" for us mere common folks.  The other day my friend brought over a can of beer to drink while she chatted with us, (she's a hoot!) and I asked her if she would like a glass.  "Oh no" she said, "that's too good for me."  What a glass is too good for you?  Well, Ran got out one of his pilsners for her anyhow, and she was tickled to be treated so royally. Ha!  The glass cost an entire quarter from the thrift store!  Another neighbor stopped by as we were sitting down to lunch, we asked her to join us, as she asked, "do you live like this always?".  We were confused about what she was talking about, then she explained, "you know, with tablecloths and napkins and china and silverware." Just because you are poor doesn't mean you have to live poorly. Real plates cost probably less than a package of paper plates when you buy them from a thrift store.  And they are reusable too! Ditto for cloth napkins.  And you even make them from fabric scraps from the old scrapbag.  How many things do you have sitting in cupboards and closets that you are saving for special occasions?  Get them out and use them!  Life goes by so quickly; every day is a special occasion!  Live life richly, you are worth it!

Speaking of scrapbags, this month I'm treating myself to some fun little projects after December's "slogfest" of finishing up big and boring projects.

A small, quilted piece that's pattern came from a thrift store.  Just to prove to you all, that I can make something other than a four-patch quilt. Ha! Here's a closer look:
The pattern came as a kit from a quilt shop and had a price tag of $25!  I paid a dollar for it at the thrift store, and I still had to rob Peter to pay Paul, to finish it.  I would have been really disappointed if I had paid that much for the kit.  Anyway, it brings a bit of brightness to the winter decor without screaming Christmas.  The house always looks a bit empty after the holidays.

Here's a closer look at my crazy quilt slippers.

I might have the world record for postponing a project.  When I looked at the envelope for the pattern it was postmarked 1990!  I always get around to my projects even if it takes me over thirty years!  It was a fun project once I got around to sewing them.  Wonder why I put them off so long? And it used up lots of those itty-bitty scraps of the Civil War repro fabrics I couldn't bear to toss and lots of scraps of vintage lace.  That little woolwork project came from a pattern I tore out of magazine from the 90s also.  I changed the colors to make it look it more prim.  The original pattern was done in pinks and purples. Blech!  

And rather than buy Ran a Valentine, I made him this sampler:

I had all the floss on hand, and I just used a scrap of linen that came from the thrift store (of course). It reads, "Come sit down...Just me & You".  One of the ways we live richly is just to sit down together with a cup of coffee in a pretty teacup and talk.  You'd be surprised at how much two people that have just been sitting and talking for half a century have to discuss. Well, this blog and the comments you make is my way of sitting down, just me and you, and talking. I enjoy our little "banter" and perhaps someday we will all meet in my little cabin in the woods and we can sit down and have a real conversation.  Until then, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.  I always respond.  Hope you have a lovely and "rich" week!



Thursday, January 19, 2023

Thrifty Thursday

Hello dear friends!   I thought I better hurry up and get a Thrifty Thursday post out before I run out of Thursdays for the month! 

First a picture of the sun shining through the kitchen window, because it has been so long since the sun has shone, I want to remind myself, that it does.  It has certainly been a mild, albeit drab winter so far. 

I've been doing a lot of canning this week.  There's been some really great buys on meat.  I bought hamburger for $2.99 a pound and bacon for $2.50 a pound!  Are prices going back down or is this the calm before the storm?  Are the prices on meat going down because the farmers are culling their herds because they cannot afford to feed them?   Or because there's less demand as fewer people can afford to buy it? Or is it because things aren't as dire as many have predicted?  I have stopped trying to reason why things are the way they are, and just take advantage of the windfall. Whenever you find a bargain, be ready to take advantage of it!  Another thing I bought this week was shortening.  We use a lot of shortening for baking bread and because if I'm going to bake something, it is usually a pie, not to mention we love our pot pies and I bake a lot of biscuits and scones instead of buying store-bought bread (which is getting scary expensive). Anyhow, for the past couple of months the six-pound cannisters were priced at $24!  And that was if I could find them.  That was quite an increase from the $13 I was used to paying.  That's just crazy! Shortening was almost expensive as butter (which is another astounding price).  Then the other day, I was in my Mennonite store and they had it priced at sixteen dollars.  So, I grabbed a couple of cans up, straight away. So, most of my grocery budget went to meat, which I canned, and shortening this month. 

Oh!  A funny thing about shortening.  I been seeing a lot of YouTube videos about making cake-release for greasing your pans.  Basically, it is shortening and flour.  Oh, you mean like greasing and flouring your pans?  What a novel idea! Then it occurred to me that most of the people born after 1980 have never actually greased and floured their pans, since those cooking sprays have been around that long.  I remember when they came out, I thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Ha!  You see, when I was a little girl and I asked to help with the baking, the chore that was eagerly offered to me was to grease and flour the pans.  The job that no one wanted.  That and chop the nuts in one of those spring-loaded contraptions, that never got the nuts all chopped in the same size. So much chopping and jar shaking!  It is a wonder I ever learned to like baking with those two things as my introduction to baking.  

Just as vital as carefully shopping is to use all your resources.  During the winter when our woodstove is burning all day long, we keep a tea kettle atop it and always have instant hot water for tea or cocoa.

I've also become quite adept at cooking atop the stove and even bake things like biscuits and scones. Just place the pans on top, when the bottom is baked, carefully turn them over and bake the tops.  This week I've baked beans, made a stew and some soups.  No electricity or gas needed.  At the moment there's a fruit compote bubbling away. We had some apples and oranges that were becoming wizened in the root cellar, so rather than throw them out, use them up.  I also had some cranberries left over from baking Andrea's orange-cranberry bread (which was delicious, BTW) and some dried fruits also. Here's the recipe, but it's very flexible and you can use whatever fruits you have on hand.

Warm Winter Fruit Compote

1/4 C. butter or margarine
1/2 C. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 C. orange juice
2 tsp. grated orange rind
1 C. pineapple chunks, drained
1 C. mandarin oranges, drained
1 C. peach slices, drained
1 C. apples, peeled and chopped

In a large saucepan, combine butter, sugar, orange juice, cornstarch and rind.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened.  Stir in the fruit. Simmer until warm. Serve warm with a dollop of cream atop.  

Or you can use it for a topping for your oatmeal.  Use whatever fruits you have at hand and think would make a tasty combination.  Since I was using my home-canned fruits which I can in syrup, I omit the sugar. If you think it would be too sweet, use less sugar.  If you like really sweet things add an additional 1/4 cup of sugar.  

Oh!  While speaking of oranges, kind of, here's a thrifty tip from my friend Matty.  She slices and dries her old oranges and uses them in her tea. Drying fruit is another way to use your fireplace.  Just slice them thinly, string them up and hang on the fireplace fender.

I get teased a lot about my constant rearranging of my furniture.  I even make rooms into entirely different rooms.  Sometimes our dining room becomes our sitting room, and the living room becomes our dining room to suit our needs.   You might not think of this as a money-saving thing, but the reason I do it because it keeps me from becoming bored with my surroundings.  It's a lot cheaper to stay home and rearrange the furniture than it is to go out and spend money.  I rarely have the urge to go on expensive vacations just because I need a change of view. Ha!  This week I rearranged my kitchen cupboard:

Another good thing is by putting all my collections in one place, in this example it's my redware collection, I can see that I have enough.  No need to collect any more. That is, unless I find an amazing piece, say from the 1700s, for an unbelievable price.  I have purchased all   these pieces from garage sales and thrift stores.  When I do find a better piece, I gladly donate a lesser piece to the thrift store, so that someone else can have the thrill of finding something they wanted. And it keeps my collections from becoming too much.  We simply do not have the space in our tiny home for large collections.

Another thing I do to keep from climbing the walls during the winter is to have lots of projects going. This week I made a small quilted piece and knitted this tam;

We've been watching the Road to Avonlea series in the evenings, and I always admired those floppy big tams the children wear, so I knitted this one up from two skeins of thrifted wool and mohair yarn.  Total cost, one dollar.  

How to Knit a Victorian-Style Tam

With size 7 16-inch circular needles cast on 80 stitches.  Work K1, P1 ribbing for 10 rounds. 
Next round increase stitches by: * knitting three stitches, then knitting into the front and back of the next stitch, repeat from *until the end. 100 stitches.
Knit 32 rounds plain.
Crown: K 18, K 2 together. repeat to end. 
Knit next round.
K 17, K2 together. repeat to the end.
Knit next round.
Continue in this pattern, decreasing 1 stitch between the K2 togethers, until you have 10 stitches remaining, changing to double-point needles when the stitches can no longer be worked on circular needles. 
K 2 together, repeat to end.
Break off yarn and thread the remaining five needles through the needle.  Pull tight and tie off.
Block your tam over a dinner plate to give it that classic tam shape.

Thrift stores are an amazing source for crafting items.  When Ran and I make our big day out, we always stop at a few. Here's my thrift haul for this month:

Sorry about the lighting.  As I wrote earlier, it has been dark, dark, dark here lately.  I spent a total of just a little over $15 and here's what I got:

A woolen scarf made on Wales.
Over 1 yard of a pretty plum corduroy fabric, that it will be enough for a simple skirt.
2 skirts for summer.  Always be thinking ahead.
A Kim Diehl quilting book (sells for $24 in the quilt shop)
A gray t-shirt for Ran
2 stacks of vintage Workbasket magazines for ten-cents each.
Several cross stitch leaflets, including a nice one that is just alphabets for making up my own samplers.
A package of elastic. 10 cents.
An antique tracing wheel
2 earthenware plates
A purple wool blazer for using the wool for crafts
A little vintage device that guarantees making buttonholes "as easy as sewing on a button" (the instructions are twenty pages long, I think not)
2 pairs of silver earrings for 75cents each.  Must have more than 75-cents of silver in them.
A little woolwork pillow for Spring
And this pretty vintage wool tartan blanket made in Scotland:

Blackie loves it.

So that has been the past couple of weeks in thrift.  Always look for sales and ways to reuse and use less. Rejoice in the little things.  And find ways to creatively make your dreams come true.  It's not the things you have or don't have it's the ways you use and enjoy what you do have!



Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Keeper of the Home

 Hello dear friends!  The other day I had the opportunity to spend some time with a more worldly gentleman.  Since most of the people I associate with are humble, salt-of-the-earth types, it was interesting to see how the rest of the world see us. Indeed, to the world we keepers of the home seem like dull, uninteresting people.  So, I wanted to write what the lowly homemaker's life is like.

The keeper of the home:

Arises early and firstly thanks the Lord for seeing them through the night, then humbly asks for His guidance throughout the day, that His will shall be done, the Holy Spirit will speak through her and that she will be a good example of Christian love.

Dresses herself in a humble modest attire that enables her to do the tasks before her.

Keeps her home in a neat and tidy manner, so that her family can find serenity and refuge in it.

Prepare meals that are nourishing and wholesome.  And asks for God's blessing over the food and is thankful for it.

Works diligently and cheerful at the work before her but is never too busy to stop and comfort a child or ease the worries of her husband.

Is never too busy to put a pot of tea or coffee on and listen to a troubled friend or a lonely elderly neighbor.

Is kind and sincere to strangers. 

When she goes out, acts in a way that is a reflection of the Father's love for her.  Notices the troubled and tries to help.  Whether it's playing peek-a-boo with the crying toddler in the grocery store so that the harried mother can have a small break or noticing a troubled person and sending up a prayer for them.

Studies the Bible daily and spends time in prayer.

Works quietly at creative endeavors, because it is in the quiet times, she hears the voice of God.

If she works at charity, she does it for the glory of God and not for her own glorification.

And at the end of the day, repents of her sins and is thankful for her blessings.

So, you see dear friends, you may not have the most exciting life to those that seek the things of this world, but you are a very important chink in the foundation of God's kingdom. As the saying goes from one of my favorite movies, It's a Wonderful Life, "you never know how you have touched other's lives" just by some simple gesture.  So be proud to be a keeper of the home!