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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Spring Fever

 Hello dear friends!  Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.!  As usual, I will start with the weather report. Ha!  Cold and windy.  But we finally got a few pretty snows.

Isn't it pretty?  Outside and in.

I do love a pretty snowfall!  In spite of the cold, we are thinking of Spring and have started collecting our maple sap.  We've boiled down over a quart of syrup already. Kind of odd weather  this year; a few days above freezing, than a couple days of bitter cold and wind.  Most of our snowfall has been that ugly slushy stuff, but I'm happy to have had a few lovely ones. 

We also started our onion seeds.  Starting seeds is sort of a bone of contention in our home.  In the Fall we purchase our seeds during the Black Friday sale and give great consideration to them, but by the time seed starting starts, Ran has the seed packets squirreled away throughout the  house and garage and mixed with older packets.  By that time all the varieties that I have given so much consideration into are all mixed up and we cannot remember what we bought or why.  So we never really have the garden we envisioned when we were planning.  We just kind of gather up as many packages as we can locate, and decide on the spot what to plant.  It usually isn't until July that I discover those special herb  and rare flower seeds I intended on planting. tucked away in a tin or cubby.  We are usually pretty organized and analytical people when it comes to most things, but when it comes to planning a garden, we tend to fly by the seats of our pants.

One thing I plant every year is gourds.

For some reason, gourds just capture my fancy.  I have them in bowls and crocks and hanging on knobs everywhere.  This year I will probably plant some spinner gourds. So cute.  And I'm going to try my hand at growing broom corn and making a handcrafted broom this year. BTW, Ran made that lovely pie safe for me.  If you can't afford an antique learn to make your own.  He sprayed the tin panels with vinegar and stuck them outside to  be rained and snowed on for several months to give them that authentic rusty, crusty look of the primitives that I love.

Crafting

Whilst we are still in the hibernation period, I've finished two more projects. This blue Scandinavian  sampler:

And this pair of red petticoat socks:

All the materials came from the thrift store including the cross stitch chart.  My word!  Crafting can be expensive!  I love to watch flosstubers  on YouTube and the  money they spend on their hobbies is unbelievable with their special linens, flosses and even cross stitch charts run around ten dollars.  Add in the cost of framing, for very few of them actually frame their work themselves, I bet they have almost a hundred dollars into each work by the time it is finished.  My little sampler cost $1.29 for the linen (it had the original price tag on it for over $14) 59 cents for the chart and 50 cents for the floss.  And I have lots of linen and floss left over.  So what does that add up to? $2.38?  And the frame was 50 cents picked up at a garage sale this Summer. So for less than three dollars and a month's worth of work I got the perfect sampler to fit over a little rosemaled shelf.  Couldn't be happier with it if I had paid a hundred dollars.  

BTW, see that pretty Meissen candleholder?  Paid a quarter for it a thrift store.  Ditto for the soft paste, two-hundred-years-old  blue and white cup next to it.  I have always loved antiques and it took me years to save up for my first "genuine" one, a Victorian mirror (ugh!). Although I couldn't afford any, it didn't keep me from going to antique stores and looking at them and going to the library and reading about them to educate myself, so I would be able to spot them if I ever came across the real McCoy at an unbelievable price.  And it's amazing how often it happened.  The other day I was telling Ran that we have become one of those people that we used to read about when we were younger that had so many antiques their homes were like a living museum.  How we used to read about those people and sigh.  It will never happen to us, we just weren't born to such good fortune. This happened the other day when I was cleaning out my linen cupboard and a pretty stoneware piece that I had forgotten all about fell out between the folds of a runner. How I love antiques!  It's such a thrill for me to see the potter's thumbprint in the glaze and think that two-hundred years ago he was putting it in a kiln. How many generations is that?  Just think of all the people that have loved and valued that simple crock!

Anyways, enough of me waxing on about antiques!  The socks were knit from Rowan felted tweed yarn.  I paid $1.50 for two skeins from my local thrift store.  I checked the other day and the yarn is still available.  It runs around $15 a skein.  $30 for a pair of socks?  Not I, said this cat.  I know many knitters that will only use the yarns called for in a pattern, but I love, love, love, finding some old vintage yarn and making a pattern my own.  And some of those old vintage woolen yarns are so much nicer than the new stuff.  Don't be afraid to try!


The Pantry

Well, we are still eating out of the pantry.  For those that are interested today's meal consisted of chicken and gravy on homemade biscuits, with a side of broccoli and strawberries for dessert. The chicken was  home- canned as was the broth to make the gravy.  The broccoli and strawberries were homegrown and frozen.

Basically, we are just trying to eat through the jars of 2021 and 2022 food to use them up and to make room for the coming canning season.  This isn't about saving money or anything like that.  Just rotating my stock. As space comes available, I'm starting to restock the shelves.  I canned 8 quarts of winter squash the other day.  We still had more, so I gave some to a neighbor and some to our friend Tyler for his chickens. Note to gardeners:  Mooregold squashes are very prolific! And wonderful keepers.  And I prefer them to pumpkin for baking.


Stocking Up

The other day Ran and I were reminiscing, as old people, we do that a lot. Ha!  We were chatting about back in the late 60s and early 70s everyone had spaghetti for dinner on Friday nights in our little village.  Back then Catholics were pretty strict with not eating meat on Fridays and the fixings for spaghetti could be grown quite easily even in a postage sized lot, which was the typical size of a village lot back then.  Just room enough for a fruit tree and a small garden, the kids played at the park or in a vacant lot.  It wasn't uncommon for Catholic families to have eight or more kids, so they ate a lot of spaghetti.  It wasn't long before the Lutherans on the other side of town caught on to spaghetti on Friday nights as a good and thrifty idea. So back when we were kids, if you were invited to dinner at anyone's house on a Friday it was a pretty safe bet you were going to be eating spaghetti. When we were first married we followed with that tradition.  Only I added a side salad and garlic bread made from the week's stale bread.  Often I would buy the sauce, because it made for a speedy meal  that way.  We always bought the cheap sauce that came in the can and was located on the bottom shelf in the grocery store. So the other day I was wondering if you can still buy spaghetti sauce in a can and if it is still so cheap.  Checked our local Meijers store and Hunt's sauce in a can was $1.37, then I went to Save-A-Lot and their store brand was even cheaper.  That with a pound of store brand spaghetti, which is what? about $1.50 a pound?  You have a pretty cheap meal.  So one of the things  if you don't can and want to stock an emergency pantry, is get yourselves some of that cheap spaghetti sauce that comes in a can.  You can always add meat or peppers or mushrooms or whatever you want to it, if you want something fancier and can afford it.


Well I suppose this post has rambled on long enough.  We are still in our quiet season and there isn't much excitement going on, not there ever is. I hope you all have wonderful week ahead!


Hugs

Jane

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Assumptions

 Hello dear friends!  I had planned to write something more fun, and I probably will, but today I was watching something on YouTube and it made me upset, so I thought I'd write about it .  

I have always made assumptions about the readers of this blog.  I assumed that you all were fairly intelligent and knew how to read, otherwise why would you be reading my long-winded blog?  Certainly not for the beautiful photography.  I see other blogs and YouTube channels where they teach people how to hang laundry and make oatmeal, and I think they are silly.  And quite frankly, insulting.  Anyone with basic reading skills, ought to be able to read the carton of oatmeal and figure out how to make oatmeal from scratch, and well even a four-year old child  can figure out how to throw clothes over a clothesline.  Maybe it wouldn't be the nicest, neatest job, but they could do it.  

So anyway, today I was watching this person say that my attitude  that people know how to do things, such as read instructions, is an "elitist" ( how I loath that term) attitude.  Elitist? Really?  I was born into an average blue-collar family and have been so poor at times in my life that I have gone to bed without any food.  I was never taught how to cook or economize while growing up.  In fact, my mother never did any of those things to teach me.  Just because you were "taught" one way as a child, doesn't mean you cannot change your thinking as an adult.  Until her dying  day, my mother ridiculed me for my old-fashioned  thrifty ways.  BTW, when my father died, my parents were in debt, so I paid off my father's debt, even though I had two children in college and could ill afford it, so that my mother wouldn't have to worry about paying the loan off.  I do not write this to talk ill of my parents, but just to illustrate the attitude about thriftiness I grew up with. Anything that I have learned in life, as far as home economics, I learned from reading. I didn't have some "elite" schooling that trained me in home economics. Back when I was starting out, there was no internet, I couldn't just look it up on my phone, I had to go to the library, use an old card catalog to locate the book, and read it.  If I bought a new appliance, I read the instructions manual before using it.  I am, by no stretch of the imagination, the brightest bulb in the pack, so I always assumed that if I could learn these things, so could you.

I think what it all comes down to, is the willingness to learn.  No one can tell me that any person with an average intelligence  cannot figure out that it is less expensive to buy a loaf of cheap store bread, some cheese and a can of tomato soup and make grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, than paying forty dollars for one fast food meal for their family of four.  Even a child can figure out that if they only have a penny, they cannot afford a box of Legos.  I know, I have experienced really hard times, when I wasn't sure where the next meal was going to come from, so I do know that sometimes things are just out of our control, no matter how hard we try to prepare, but I think, I assume, that a lot of people are just looking for an excuse  not to try. And yes, I assume it is because they are just plain lazy. After all, taking time to learn, takes away from time watching Tik-Tok videos or texting, or whatever people do these days to entertain themselves.

And you know what?  The more you learn, the more you want to learn.  Every skill you master, makes you want to master another.  Every lower bill I receive, makes me want to see what else I can do to make next month's even lower.  So anyway, if I stepped on anyone's toes, because of my "elitist" assumptions that you all are intelligent and willing to learn and are capable of figuring things out for yourself, well then perhaps you shouldn't be reading this blog.  The people I always admire are those that are willing to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and I hope that you, dear readers, are of the same ilk. So good or bad, let me know your thoughts.

Until next time!

Hugs

Jane



Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Baffled

 Hello dear friends!  Keeping warm?  Ha!  I guess April Fool's Day came early for me this year.  I decided to write  the last blog post because I discovered that more people were reading my blog the past few months then when I was posting regularly.  But you know what?  As soon as I posted the last post my readership flat-lined.  Oh dear!  But I don't care, because it was nice to reconnect with you.  So I will continue to blog, although irregularly if for no other reason that this blog acts as my own personal journal and it is fun to look back and see what I was thinking and doing at different stages of this old journey called life.  

I was going to write about what we were eating during our year of eating out of the pantry, but I don't think it would be helpful to others, because we have a rather unusual lifestyle (we only eat two meals a day), and because some of our pantry meals are not inexpensive unless you have someone in your family is an avid fisherman or you have such a well-stocked pantry that I have, which very few people besides some Amish have. Ha!  But here are some tips for stocking your pantry:

HOW TO HAVE  A WELL-STOCKED PANTRY

1.  GO SHOPPING.  So many people use those shopping services today, but you have to go to an actual store to discover the real bargains.  It really doesn't take that much time.  Ran and I go "bargain hunting" twice a month. We only shop the outer boundaries of the store; the dairy, produce and meat sections.  Things like flour, sugar and spices, we buy in bulk a couple of times a year.  We buy our coffee at the Amish scratch and dent store.  Sometimes we find coffee at the "reduced for quick sale" shelf which is usually tucked away  at a corner in the back of the store. We often find milk that is reaching its expiration date and thus the price is reduced, which we make into yogurt, which is then made into cheese.  Often there are unadvertised sales on meat. (We found a nice lamb roast for $4.99/lb. this past week!)  These bargains would have been missed if we weren't in the store to discover them.

2.  WHEN YOU FIND A BARGAIN, BUY A BUNCH  When you find an amazing bargain calculate how much you will need for a year.  We always reserve between $20-$30 a month for these sorts of purchases.  Most people can afford $20.  It might mean giving up some little luxury, like eating a PBJ instead of stopping at the fast food place because you are too tired to cook, or not buying that bag of chips and pop, or consolidating some errands and saving on a tank of gas, or doing your own nails instead of getting a manicure.  There's all sorts of ways to save $20 a month!

3.  BE OPEN-MINDED  The other day I was standing in the grocery store contemplating whether or not to buy some bags of frozen chicken leg quarters that were 39 cents a pound, when I overheard a woman say "oh gross!".  Now just why frozen leg quarters are gross and fresh aren't, is just not a concept I can grasp.  I guarantee that if I had bought 20 pounds for $7.98 and canned them up and made something and served it to her, she would have been none the wiser to whether they had started out with frozen or fresh meat to begin with.  And I would have had eight lovely pints of canned chicken and several pints of chicken broth in my pantry for a remarkable price.  BTW, if I would have bought forty pounds and canned it, that would have been enough chicken for an entire year and for less than twenty dollars.  A local thrift store gives out fruits and vegetables left over from their food pantry.  I like to leave those things for the truly needy, but the worker implored me to take them because they would just get thrown out at the end of the day otherwise.  You see, people are so privileged in this country that even those that are begging for free food, turn up their noses if it isn't exactly perfect.  So I gladly accepted the free oranges and made some lovely marmalade from it and the brown bananas were made into bread for breakfast, etc.  When eggs were so expensive, our friend Tyler started raising chickens and giving them out to friends and neighbors.  But being busy and a bachelor, he didn't wash them.  I was astounded at how many people complained and rejected his  free eggs just because they didn't look like they came from the grocery store, especially when eggs were were selling for over four dollars a dozen then.

4. LEARN TO COOK  So many of the recipes I see nowadays are not exactly cooking, it's more like assembling ingredients.  A can of this, a package of that. By just knowing a few basic cooking skills, you can eliminate the entire middle and frozen  sections (and most expensive) of the grocery store. Eliminating all those items, you'll have more money to stock up on the basics.  Learn to make a basic white sauce, which herbs and spice to use, with what,  what temperatures to roast, boil and bake at. (all posts I have written about in the past).  Learn how to make your own pasta, bread, baked goods from scratch by learning the ratio of fats, sugars and flours.  As I try to use up every last bit of things in the fridge that have been hanging around since the holidays, I have been baking with some unusual items.  I made oatmeal cookies last week using the last of the maple fudge for some of the sugar, pear sauce and a dab of sour cream  substituted for some of the fats, and diced up dried apricots instead of raisins.  Knowing that fat is fat and sugar is a sugar (except honey which you should use less and bake at lower temperatures), you can use every last drip and dab of food.  We come as close to zero waste as possible. BTW, the cookies were delicious.

5. USE IT ALL UP  Ran caught a lovely walleye last week so we had a our usual fish dinner with coleslaw and tartar sauce.  When  we were clearing the table there was about a tablespoon of tartar sauce and a quarter cup of coleslaw left over.  Now most people would probably have just tossed them, but then most people are not as parsimonious as me. Ha! I combined them with a the quarter cup of turkey I had leftover from the previous meal (turkey Reubens  made from canned turkey) and made enough sandwich filling for one sandwich, which I prepared, wrapped in waxed in paper and put in the refrigerator for someone to discover. BTW, aren't sandwiches tastier if they are cut corner to corner and wrapped in waxed paper? Mrs. Rachel Lynde, a character in Anne of Green Gables, always claimed you can tell a good homemaker by her bread management and would always check others breadbox to see if there was any stale bread in there.  Waste not, want not! 


So anyway, that is but a few ways I manage the grocery budget so I can stock my pantries.  Hope it helps!

BAFFLED


Well, we are going through a cold spell lately.  As many of you dear readers know, we live in a very old house, at least one-hundred and fifty years old and probably older than that.  Although we did our best to insulate it, it is still a cold drafty little place.  The upstairs is unheated and the only heat is via little vents in the ceiling  from the room below, basically it works on the theory that hot air rises.  This morning the inside temperature was 52 degrees (Fahrenheit)! But we stay toasty while we sleep because we dress our bed warmly.  I made quilts from scraps of wool, with old down comforters for the batting and flannel sheets for the backing.  I then hand-tied the top to the bottom.  The reason these quilts keep us extra warm as opposed to a regular quilt is because of the baffling.  The layers of top, bottom and batting are not compacted like in a pretty quilted quilt.  This allows air to be trapped between layers or to be more precise, baffled. Here's a link on how to make your own woolen quilt:

 https://hopeandthrift.blogspot.com/2015/03/sweet-briar-journal-lessons-from-my.html

I was too lazy to make all those little squares for the quilt on the bed so I just cut big squares and rectangles for the top and sewed and cut to fit the unusual sized bed.  It's a two-hundred year old rope bed and is shorter and narrower than standard beds.  Anyway, I find that woolen scarves from the thrift store (I wait until they have their winter clearance and buy them for less than ten cents) make quick work of this sort of quilt.  I was going to pretty the quilt up with some lace and hand-embroidery, but never got around to it. It works and gives me that primmy vibe I like.

I also use baffling to dress warmly.  As most of you know, I only wear skirts and people often ask me if I'm cold in winter.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I've tried wearing fleeced-lined pants when walking and frankly they don't work.  What does is wearing tights, a flannel petticoat and a skirt made from a natural material like wool or a heavy cotton. On top I wear a silk undershirt, a flannel or wool blouse and a wool cardigan.  The warmth from my body heat gets trapped within the layers. I'm warm.  Besides baffling, the other key is to use all natural materials.  Those blankets and clothes made from acrylics, won't keep you warm, so if you need to buy blankets, look for woolen ones and fortunately the thrift stores still have affordable ones.  BTW, don't waste your money getting used ones dry-cleaned, just wash as usual, if they shrink, you will have boiled wool, which is even warmer.

SPEAKING OF WOOL

This is my first project I finished for 2024:



A wool work sewing roll. I dislike having clutter about the house and craft projects always create so much clutter, so I made this sewing roll so at the end of the day, I can just roll up my project and tuck it away. And it keeps everything together.


BARGAINS

Besides the lamb I bought at a remarkable price ( I have another roast in the freezer so I might can them both up, we'll see) I spotted the store still had Christmas items for 90% off.  So I bought two packages of Hershey's kisses for 59 cents each, that I will chop up and use in chocolate chunk cookies sometimes in the future (cheaper than a bag of chocolate chips)  and one of those boxed  panetones  for a dollar.  Which I made into Skiers French Toast.

Skiers French Toast

2 tbsp. corn syrup

1/2 C. butter

1 C. brown sugar 

1 loaf of white bread (or in my case, 1 loaf of panentone)

5 eggs

1 1/2 C. milk

1 tsp. vanilla 1/4 tsp. salt

In a small saucepan, combine corn syrup, butter and brown sugar and simmer until syrupy.  Pour mixture over the bottom of a 9" X 13" pan.

Slice the bread in 12-16 slices and place over the sugar-butter mixture.

In a bowl, beat the remaining ingredients together.  Pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover and bake for 45 minutes.  Serve hot.

Makes a nice family breakfast for the weekend.

THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX

Rarely do I use objects for their intended purpose.  Linen tablecloths become skirts and pretty blouse become napkins.  Wool skirts become blankets and rugs and woolen blankets become woolen applique pieces.  So the other day I was perusing the thrift store on our "bargain hunt" excursion when I spotted the prettiest linen blouse (made in Italy. Oh-la-la).  I was asking Ran what I could make with it.  I didn't need any more pillows, and it was too nice to stain up for napkins and I am through with making quilts.  'What can I make with this pretty fabric Ran?'  "Well, you could just wear it as a blouse.' Duh!  Sometimes I'm so busy looking outside of the box, I forget to look at the box. Ha!

EATING OUT OF THE PANTRY

Well, this has not been a hardship for us at all and I now have room in my pantry for some of my jars of home canned goods that have been sitting under the tea table in the living room.  Hurray!  Just to settle your curiosity,  today for lunch we had grilled baked  bean and cheese sandwiches and canned asparagus.  The beans were made from our own dried Hopi Indian beans, home-canned bacon,  homemade cranberry catsup and I used some home-canned apple syrup to sweeten them.  The cheese was purchased earlier this year when our Amish bulk store was selling the ends and pieces of deli cheese for $1.89 a pound.  We bought about twenty pounds, made them into packages and vacuum  sealed the packages and froze them.  I have also canned cheese, but it's an awfully fiddly process and it's a chore to clean the jars.  I wouldn't recommend it to you canners. So that is that for this week's life at the old Zempel boarding house.  Hope you all have a lovely week and stay warm!


Hugs

Jane