Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sweetness & Seasonal Pleasures



Hello, friends.  Last week, I went by the natural co-op I'm a member of while in that town for an appointment.  No earth shattering deals there, though I did buy some organic beans on sale.  I did see a half gallon of heavy cream marked down to $5.99, about half price, due to expiring that date or the next, but I wasn't sure what I'd do with it, so left it.  Part of one of our cabbages went into a cabbage and noodle dish, when I got in from work one night.  In the chapel where I do massage work, I found three full taper candles in the trash, which I took home.


It's been another whirlwind of a week.  There was a bit of snow and sleet Friday and Saturday. We spent a large part of the last two days driving, taking care of some business, attending a Christmas family dinner several hours east, and spending time with our granddaughter.  She had her first sleepover with us, which went well.  She and I baked cookies, wrapped a present for her great grandmother, read books, collected eggs, did her first bit of hand sewing, and we all visited a Christmas village, which included a train ride.  We wish we had more influence in her life.  I hope the time she spends with us will instill good values, memories and a few helpful skills.


A few steps into my walk Sunday morning, I found this bit of sweetness on the ground.  A bird nest made primarily of lichens, a couple of my favorite things.  The elements have taken their toll on it, but it felt like a gift even so.  Asian slaw made from our cabbage was brought to the family dinner.  Sunday breakfast of our scrambled eggs, tomatoes and garlic was enjoyed with toast.  We're still eating up some small tomatoes picked green from the garden, a real pleasure in December.  I hope you are well, and enjoying whatever seasonal pleasures bring you happiness.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Supporting Handmade & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello, friends.  Last week, I went through swagbucks and used a $25 off $75 coupon for a Staples purchase.  I'd been holding off buying toner cartridges for the printer, and was happy to find this deal to defray a large chunk of the cost of a 2 pack.  I went through ebates to buy a present.  After working in town, I picked up a bucket of grounds from the coffee shop.  I learned that Walgreens is now a drop off point for Fedex packages, which was great timing, as I had an order to ship.  While there, I took advantage of a buy 3, get $3 Hallmark offer, and received $5 in rewards at checkout.  I'd read the lemonade Kool Aid can clean a dishwasher, and picked up 2 packets while getting a few groceries.  Our dishwasher is horribly stained from our crazy well water, so I really hope it works.  It's worth a try.


I got all the boxes of summer clothes and sheets put up in the attic.  Our first Ameraucana hen has begun laying, earlier than I expected.  Hooray for upping the egg count!    I made broccoli fried rice with our eggs, garlic, and a little of our broccoli mixed in with store bought.  I went through ebates to purchase a gift on etsy.  I love how easy it is to support artists and makers around the world on etsy, this time in Serbia.  For my honeymoon clothing, I made two purchases on Novica, which does the same.  One purchase supported artists in Thailand, the other India.  I did make smart choices, and there was a sale or coupon involved, but what's more important to me is supporting handmade, and knowing my purchase makes a difference in people's lives.  I believe we have a lot of power, in the purchases we make.  This is the world I choose to put my energy into bringing about, rather than just valuing cheap, and helping another Walmart to be built. 


A few weeks ago, I bought a couple of organic pizzas at Aldi's for a crazy low price, something like $2.79 ea.  On a busy day of soap wrapping, a soap delivery and more, I pulled one of them out of the freezer, and made a pear blue cheese salad with our lettuce and homemade dressing.  I had a small frugal fail, and forgot to use a swag up to buy a gift card in time, so lost the equivalent of .50.  Their site was having problems the last day I could have used it, so I gave up and forgot about it.  Now that more eggs are coming in, I boiled some for breakfasts and the pups.  Though it's December, I'm still enjoying the last few weeks of fall.  Around mid-December, we will buy our tree and begin decorating.  Holiday cards and wrapping presents will begin soon, with hopefully some cookie baking too.

show treasures- felted, alpaca, pottery, pysanky, stained glass
lovely nature cards
It was a wonderful show on Saturday.  I've been attending the Handmade Holiday show for 7 years now, and it's such a pleasure to see so many of the same sweet faces, as well as some new ones.  I'd had a request at the show last year for natural deodorant.  I brought some this year, and sold several; also sold out of three soaps, and sold several of my wool dusters.  Happy dance!  There were so many lovely handmade offerings.  I purchased and bartered for several presents and some things I will likely keep for myself.  If you see something above you'd like to know about, just let me know, and I'll be happy to provide info on the talented artist.  Having been involved in show set up and such the past few evenings, when I visited the chickens this morning, they had 8 eggs for me!  I think the younger hens may be encouraging the older ones to get back on board.  At least two of the young hens are laying now.  It's a lovely thing.

detail of the pysanky egg
Orders keep rolling in to our little online shops, so I worked on painting two Berkey stands on Sunday, before heading out for two holiday events.  One was an open house at a small historic home, but sadly, it was closed and dark when we arrived, 25 minutes before they were to have closed.  The other event was one I've wanted to attend for many years, a Christmas service with carols, cider and cookies at a historic church in the neighborhood.  Friends met us there, and it was a sweet evening.  We all ended up back at our house, and had an impromptu dinner, sort of a picnic of egg salad sandwiches, olives, cheese and crackers, and a bottle of local wine.  Definitely not fancy, but a fun time.  Wishing you a wonderful week, friends!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Late November & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello, friends.  Last week, water continued to be collected from the tub leak and warm up water, and used for the wood stove humidifier, laundry, the pups water and watering plants.  It's been months since we've had a significant rain, so we changed the house back to well water late in the week.  There doesn't appear to be a good chance of rain in the forecast, but I hope it won't be very long before the cisterns will be topped back up.  Collards and lettuce were harvested.  Collards and rice were made for a dinner, along with beans from the pantry.  I went through ebates to purchase some Christmas presents.  A gift card paid for half the purchase.  I took M to an appointment an hour and a half away.  On the way home, I stopped at the Trader Joe's we passed by and bought some vegi sausage, stocking presents for J, and a few other things.  I've been enjoying books borrowed from the library, some light fiction for a change.


I wanted to share the soap dispenser I told you about last week.  I think it's a perfect match for the counter.  The sweet house tile above it is from this potter.  While in town after working, I dropped off buckets for grounds at the coffee shop.  I was down to one compost crock in my online shop, so I stopped by a consignment store, and found a neutral canister for a good price.  When I got in from work and errands on Friday, I turned it into a compost crock, took photos and listed it.  The only Black Friday shopping I did was chicken feed at Tractor Supply, and at the discount grocery, where I only found 3 things.  The best deal was a can of car refrigerant to add when the a/c gets low.  We've used these in my car before, at $12 a pop, and this one was $2.  I picked up a bucket of grounds at the coffee shop, where I met a friend.  She gifted me a large bag of kale, and I shared collards and lettuce. 


After being gone from home for at least part of the previous 10 days, what I really wanted was to stay at home on Thanksgiving.  J felt the same, so he baked a chicken (no turkey breast was found at the store he went to), and I made a fresh cranberry salad, roasted brussels sprouts, my grandmother's stuffing (vegi version), and a pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.  M came to join us, and it was enough.  I'm sure we'll be with family again in the future, but a peaceful, quiet, home day was just what was needed this year.  There was a patch of lambs ear underneath the roses.  I dug up 5 clumps, and transplanted them to the bed next to the porch.  I continue to collect things for the dye pot as I see them... lichens, dry mushrooms and such.  A friend gifted me several oak galls she had collected.


A couple more breakfasts of oatmeal with pumpkin butter, and that was finished up.  J pointed out a couple of very interesting looking moths.  Thanks to a friend on facebook, who saw me post them, I now know they are buck moths, in the giant silkworm family.   We harvested a couple of cabbages.  The first one was prepared as Colcannon with our potatoes, which is comfort food to me and yummy.  Earlier in the week, after work, I went by Lowe's to pick up items needed for some recent orders.  While there, I checked out the marked down plants, and bought 2 pots of pansies for $3 ea.  I planted them near the door, to cheer us as we come and go.  In previous years, the local rabbits have chewed them up when planted in the yard and in a bed by the road, so up near the house should make them safer too.


All laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the clothesline to dry.  After enjoying Wartime Farm, Edwardian Farm & others several years ago, I was happy to find another historical series.  This one is Further Back in Time for Dinner, a BBC show you can watch free on youtube, which focuses mostly on what a family would have eaten, though there are other things that are touched upon.  So far, I've viewed from 1900 through the 1920's, and am enjoying the clothes, and seeing how things were done.  The meals in the early part of the century were incredibly meat and offal heavy, as in that was almost all they ate.  I'm glad to be living now :o).  This week, I'll be getting ready for a show on Saturday, wrapping a soap order for a B&B, sharing meals with old friends, giving massages, and enjoying fall.  I hope your week is a good one. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Celebration & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello friends.  Several days working at an occasional job, as well as working at the annual Celebration of Seagrove Potters through the weekend made for a busy week.  I managed to prepare Pasta Norma one night and several salads with our veggies and herbs.  Homemade soap washed our laundry, which was dried on the line.  We've needed very little in the way of groceries, so a minimal amount of things were bought.  I dropped off 2 buckets at the coffee shop early in the week, and picked them up filled with grounds several days later, which will make nice compost.  A batch of vanilla was recently bottled, so I picked up some brandy while in town, and started a new batch.


I'm still surprised by the dearth of eggs from the hens.  A very good day is 2 eggs, and more often, there are none or one.  There are a lot of feathers in the coop, so I know some are molting, but sheesh, it's been a long time since we've had a decent amount of eggs.  They do have layer pellets always available, get a small amount of grains in the morning, as well as fresh greens most days.  In the 20 years I've had chickens, I've not had such a non-laying bunch.  Our young hens could start laying in December, but I'm betting with it being the darkest time of the year, they'll wait until the days lengthen some.  Maybe the group is taking advantage of my vegetarian nature :o).  I enjoyed a boiled egg with toast one morning for breakfast.


The Celebration was great fun to be involved in over the weekend.  I sold some soap at the pottery shop on Saturday, and had two online sales that day too.  There was one purchase made over the weekend, which showed great restraint on my part, and the purchase was one I needed.  The kitchen soap dispenser broke recently.  I had just changed the broken pump for a new one, and replaced the cork stopper with a rubber one.  I don't know if it wasn't working properly and let the pressure build up, but one day while Joseph was pumping it, a hunk on the side just popped out.  I found one at the show that matches perfectly.   I already had a sponge holder made by the same potter, and I think the siblings are happy together :o).  A yummy lunch was provided on Saturday, and pieces of banana bread and pound cake were sent home with me.  So good with tea!


Friends came by the Celebration on Sunday, and gifted me several Christmas cactus and aloe plants.  They had the cacti in every color, so it will be a surprise to see what color(s) I end up with.  I used our cabbage to make cabbage and noodles for dinner one night, and cut up a few of the last ripening tomatoes to go with it.   Now that the leaves are falling,  I'm enjoying finding the bird nests in our orchard.   One of these is made with pine straw, the other with twigs.  I brought home a large bag of shredded paper last week, and used some of it to line nest boxes for the chickens.  Mint was gathered, and added to the nest boxes as well.  Wishing a lovely Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.


Monday, November 13, 2017

A Profusion of Purple & Frugal Accomplishments


Hello, friends.  The picking of the tender vegetables inspired some meals.  I cooked the last of the okra, along with some of our home canned crowder peas and sauteed collards.  Being we hadn't had a frost yet,  J suggested I put the collards in the freezer for a half hour or so, and we do think they sweetened up a bit.  Disappointed with the rutabagas we're growing, I bought one in the local grocery store, and cooked it up with some of our potatoes.  In the mood for something sweet, I baked a batch of brownies, which used our eggs, homemade vanilla and pantry items.  Late in the week, we did have our first freeze.  Before it, I picked a bouquet, and took photos of all the blooms I saw, in case I might need to look at them before there are blooms again.  I hope you enjoy them.


Warm and cold weather clothes and sheets were switched out.  This is crunch time for holiday soap making, so I've been making batches of soap.  They'll have just enough curing time to be ready for an annual show I do the first weekend in December.  On a gray, drizzly day, I made a pot of vegetable soup.  The majority of the veggies were grown here, with a little bit of store bought thrown in.  Some leftover okra, collards, crowder peas, potatoes & rutabagas went into the pot, along with canned and fresh homegrown vegi's.  For one breakfast, I scrambled our eggs with a few small tomatoes.  I've been trying to use up the pumpkin butter I made for the hayride.   I've added it to my oatmeal, and enjoyed it on toast.  Another day, I added a bit of vanilla and coconut palm sugar to my homemade yogurt, spooned on some pumpkin butter, added pecans and homemade granola.  This was good!  I used a promo code to get 10% off a Christmas gift.


Laundry was done with homemade soap, on a drizzly day, because hampers were full, so two loads went into the dryer with a large wool dryer ball, instead of hanging them outdoors.  I'm thankful to have a dryer to use when needed.  Water collected from the bathtub leak and warm up water was used in the washer, as well as being used other times to top off the humidifier on the woodstove and the pups water bowl.  I visited a friend, and we went to Aldi's & a new Lidl store (similar to Aldi's).  Aldi's price on produce was better,  I got pomegranates for .69 and cranberries for .69.  They also had walnuts for 4.49/lb, which I thought was a good price.  Lidl had organic butter for 4.89, which is the cheapest I've seen this year, so I got two to add to the freezer.  My friend gifted me with a dozen eggs, two types of homemade bread, and a tart pan.  We'd been talking about a particular German dessert my husband was wanting, and I can use the pan for this.  My husband was stationed in Germany in the military, and he gave me a wish list when I went to Lidl's.  I found a few of the bakery items he requested, which pleased him, and which we both enjoyed.  I brought collards, rutabaga & lettuce to share.

can you find the bumblebee?
After the rain, I was able to hang a load of laundry on the line.  With a hard freeze predicted, I spent a good part of Friday in the garden, harvesting any remaining tender produce.  There was more than I thought.  I picked almost 5 gals of lima beans, plus a small amount of butter peas.  There were also several small eggplant, peppers and a tromboncino squash.  I harvested a basket of swiss chard, some dill, oregano, 4 goji berries, and a small amount of potatoes.  I transplanted the celery (grown from a grocery store end) in with the lettuce, and covered it all for the cold temps.  The chickens got ugly chard leaves, and a few tiny tomatoes.  Eggplant cubes were roasted and frozen, to enjoy on pizzas and such.


On Saturday, I met a friend at a local pottery.  They were having an event that included hearth cooking, dyeing with plants, blacksmithing & weaving on a loom.  I found it very interesting.  They were doing a lot of cooking, but we didn't stay long enough to sample anything.  The woman who was dyeing spoke with us for a bit, and I learned a little more about dyeing with lichens.  I purchased a hook from the blacksmith, as well as a glass garden cloche made in Williamsburg.  I love living in this area, where the old time crafts are still practiced.  Though the blacksmith did discount the hook $2 for some reason, the purchases were not especially frugal.  I know if these artisans are to make a living here, they need people to support their work.  Investing in this community and handmade products are things that are very worthwhile to me.  I shared some lima beans. 


On Sunday, I blanched and froze several meals worth of lima beans, and also blanched and froze strips of sweet red peppers.  J pickled a quart jar of green peppers, and he and I vacuum sealed the walnuts into pint jars.  A purchase of supplements was bought through ebates and with a 15% off promo code.  This coming weekend will be the annual Seagrove Celebration.  I'll be working Fri-Sun at a couple of venues helping with this.  I also agreed to work 7 mornings at one of my occasional jobs, basically every day I wasn't taking someone to an appointment or was otherwise committed between now and the end of the month.  Now where did I leave my roller skates?  I think I may need them.  Be well, friends.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Elder in Training & Frugal Accomplishments


With temperatures right at freezing for the morning walk on Monday, I grabbed some fingerless gloves, a scarf and ear warmers.  It was very comfortable with all the accessories.  With colder weather approaching, winter preparations need to be finished on the homestead.  J closed all the crawl space vents.  He's been working on our firewood for some time, there's enough for the winter, and all is split and stacked.  On our to do list is building a simple woodshed, which will eventually get done.  Outdoor spigots need to be covered, and hoses put up.  After harvesting all the tender produce from the garden, we spent Sunday evening shelling out all the lima beans.  J put all the hot peppers in the dehydrator, and I placed all the basil in ice cube trays, and covered the cubes with water for freezing.  This may be the latest ever, but summer and winter clothes and sheets need to be changed out.  I don't believe I've ever harvested basil this late.  It's been an unusual year.  Vegi BLT's were requested, which used a couple of our tomatoes and lettuce.


I redeemed a $25 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks.  One morning, before guests arrived, I made pumpkin bread using a King Arthur Flour recipe.  Our pumpkin, eggs, homemade vanilla and some home ground wheat went into them.  It ended up my guests didn't have any, but J & I have been enjoying one loaf, and I froze the other.  It's the first time I made this recipe, and it's delicious, so I'll be making it again.  Sweet peppers were shared with my guests.  It turns out we did not have a frost Sunday night.  Looking at the 15 day forecast, which will change I'm sure, there is not a frost during that time.  I found several more tiny goji berries on one of the bushes, which makes for high hopes of a decent harvest next year.


For an event I attended, a teaching on Elderhood, it was requested to bring travel cups for tea, which was provided.  I often bring a local pottery mug when I'm attending classes, but this event was being held outdoors.  Thinking that keeping the heat in a cup of tea might be important to keep warm, I made a cup cozy out of a felted sweater for a mug with lid I had thrifted.  It took longer than expected to make the cozy, zigzagging the edges and getting the taper right, but I have something that will work.  A lovely lunch was provided, vegetables all from the farm where the event was held.  J harvested the first cabbage, and I made Polish cabbage and noodles after I got in on Saturday, true comfort food.


The time change this weekend brings shorter days.  The twinkly lights are on early and late, if not all  day, and beeswax candles flicker on the dinner table at night. We've enjoyed hot buttered rum on a couple of cool nights.  This is the recipe we use.  Using our lettuce and tomatoes, I've enjoyed eggs on everything bagels for breakfast a couple of mornings.  I pulled all the winter clothes and sheets boxes from the attic, and will work on switching them out today.  There is soap that needs wrapping.  After a week of many things that took me away from home, I will take a day to relish being at home.  Wishing you a most lovely week!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Our Family Hayride & Frugal Accomplishments



Hello friends.  It's beginning to feel like fall here.  Living with a metal roof in the woods brings the crack of acorns as they hit this time of year.  The shop is also clad in metal, so whether indoors or outdoors, there is nature's music to accompany our days.  The orchids, which I began care taking after my Mom passed, were brought inside a few weeks ago, when nights in the 40's were forecast.  When visiting the discount store recently, I purchased coconut fiber blocks $6/10.  I moistened the first block, more than half of which is left for the future.  While topping off the pots, I noticed several of the orchids had buds!  I haven't had great success in getting them to rebloom, and I'm pretty excited.  I fed them with orchid fertilizer, and will wait to see if they actually bloom.  In the past, when they were in the great room with the woodstove, the buds often dropped off.  Now that they're in my studio, a cooler and moister environment, I'm hoping for happy, beautiful blooms.


I harvested tomatoes, eggplant and lima beans.  Holey collard, chard and kale leaves were picked and given to the chickens, along with sour gum fruits.  I was happily surprised several weeks ago to learn that I had been nominated in the running for best massage therapist in the county.  In the 22 years I have been doing bodywork, my practice has shifted many times.  As I've mentioned here, almost all the work I do these days is with Hospice employees, so there are not that many people that I see now.  Imagine my surprise, when on Sunday evening, a friend let me know that, amazingly, I had won!  I have always felt honored to do this work, and having this confirmation, which lets me know I have made a difference here, is a lovely thing.


A new recipe, Shipwreck Casserole, was tried, which uses items one would most likely have on hand in the pantry.  We thought it was tasty.  Last Sunday, my sister applied the Hairprint mixtures to my hair, which was quite a messy and time-consuming process.  We knew that going in, though.  It gave pretty good coverage, enough for me to want to continue with it.   They instruct you not to use products with quaternium, which is in the majority of hair products.  I found less expensive, "non-quat"  alternatives to their shampoo and conditioner, for 1/4 to 1/3 of the price.  I continue saving drip water from the bathtub, and use it to water plants, water for the pups, for the humidifier on the woodstove, and flushing the toilet.


My sister and I had a thrift day last week.  I found out Goodwill offers a 10% discount to 55 and older on Mondays.  We didn't go on a Monday, but good to know.  I found a cute set of flannel sheets for $4.99, summer shirts for .50 & $1.99, and 3 shirts for J to layer under his work clothes in the cold weather @ $2.99 and 3.99.  One night, I made pasta for dinner, with our tomatoes, herbs and garlic.  I used a Tractor Supply 10% off coupon to buy dog and cat food.  We are blessed to have regular orders in our metal goods shop.  We ship some of the items by Fedex, as they are less than half the cost of USPS for our items.  I was delighted to see the Fedex truck arrive for a delivery for J's shop, which saved me an hours drive to drop my order off.


There have been two frugal fails recently at Harris Teeter.  The first time, the cashier didn't know the code for the organic pear we bought, and another cashier gave her a code for it.  When we got home, we realized we'd been charged for the wrong type of pear, so did not get the sale price.  This week, I bought 2 pomegranates, because of a sale sign that said 10/$10.  When I got home, I realized I'd been charged $3.49 a piece, a $5 difference!  Both stores are a good hour away, and not in areas we go often, so I guess the lesson, which I've forgotten, is to always check receipts before I drive away.  I really like the variety offered, but the mistakes, not so much.


We had our family hayride on Saturday, which was a lovely, enjoyable day.  I made pumpkin mashed potatoes, lentils with maple syrup, cornbread and pumpkin butter, and pumpkin pie cupcakes, using our potatoes, pumpkin, eggs, thyme, and home ground corn and wheat.  For munchies before the hayride, J made maple popcorn, we had cold and hot apple cider, and a cheese and fruit plate.  Guests brought green bean casserole, wild rice and pumpkin pie.  We were offered the leftover green bean casserole, and had a good amount of our leftovers, which will feed us for two or more days.  Eggplant was shared with family members, as well as a bar of my fall soap, some hair products I no longer need, and Thanksgiving decorations I won't use.  I cut bouquets from flowers and fall leaves in the yard. 


I had hoped Sunday would be an easy going day, but it was not to be.  The first hard frost is forecast, so J & I scrambled to pick all the tender vegetables in the garden.  We picked all the okra and tomatoes, and J pulled up all the plants.  Also picked were hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, lima beans, basil and lettuce.  I covered the remaining lettuce with row cover.  I gathered and prepared some of our rutabagas.  I was very disappointed to find they had white flesh and tasted more like turnips, which I don't care for.  I grew bloody dock from seed in the late summer, because it did fantastic last winter along the path to our house.  On Sunday, I planted all the seedlings in the ground, and covered them with pine straw I gathered.  This week promises to be a busy one, with commitments every day this week that will take me from home for part of the day.  I'm excited about an event I'm attending Saturday, on Elderhood. Many wishes for a week that brings you good things, and maybe some excitement of the good kind too.