Monday, December 26, 2016

The First Days of Winter

Last week, we had our ladies homestead Christmas gathering, with a cookie exchange, present exchange and potluck.  All our presents were homemade. I received lotion and healing salve, and brought chocolate mint extract, shower tabs, and lemon dill butter.  Afterwards, I shopped at Lowe's, and got artichokes for $1.50 ea., brussels sprouts on sale, a favorite wine at less than 1/2 price, and collected stamps towards kitchen knives.  I also picked up some cans of local gourmet peanuts that were on sale, to use as gifts for some of the menfolk.  J bought postage online to send a package, which ended up being almost $43!  I told him to void it, and bought it through Paypal for $13 and change.  I'm not sure what program he's using, but I sure like mine better!  I walked with the pups, & some days J, for exercise, and made vegetable soup, which used our tomatoes, corn, potatoes, okra, squash, & frozen beans.

window feeder
On one of the warmer days (upper 40's & sunny), I washed 2 loads of laundry with homemade laundry soap and soap gel, then hung them on the line.  I gathered greens to give to the chickens when I collected eggs, which seems a fair trade.   While gathering the greens, I noticed 3 of our broccoli plants were forming heads.  I'm happy about that.  I prepared our chard for dinner, along with beans from the pantry, and cornbread which used corn I ground, our egg, kefir plus pantry items.  I redeemed swagbucks for an amazon gift card, and got a photo print through Walgreens for 25% off.  Wrapped some items that were in my generic gift box for a nephew's girlfriend for Christmas.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

Someone gifted this build a snowman to J a few years ago, and we've been having fun changing it around for each other.  J put air in my tires, using the air compressor in his shop.  I wandered the woods one day, and gathered a few more natural bits and pieces for the door wreath, mostly privet and cat brier berries.  Part of my occasional job's duties include some housekeeping.  While emptying trash cans from some of the office cubicles, I noticed some pretty gift ribbons on top, so put those aside and used them in my wrapping.  I received a gift card for Lowes hardware from my supervisor.  We were invited to a birthday lunch at a restaurant, and found out when it was over that our meals were covered.  The night before, we were taken to dinner by a friend, and both of us brought home enough leftovers for another meal.

I often drop magazines off at the local library, as they have a basket to pass them on to anyone who comes in.  The last time I was there, I noticed an Italian phrase book and dictionary.  I've been practicing Italian on duolingo for several months, so was happy to find this in the basket.  We invited a neighbor who recently separated from his wife for dinner on Christmas Eve.  J cooked pork ribs and chicken, and we had our sweet potatoes and our canned green beans in a dish which also used our garlic and thyme.  Though it wasn't as leisurely as some years, we had a Christmas walk with the pups.  After the family gathering, we drove to see lights that a friend had told us about, which was free and fun.  I feel very blessed this holiday season, and hope you've had good people to spend time with, good things to eat, and activities that bring you joy!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Traditions Old and New & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  I hope you've enjoyed a bit of holiday cheer in some manner this past week.  I made a new lentil soup recipe that was in a book borrowed from the library, which was not very much different but even better than my usual recipe.  I tried making shower tabs, the ones that open up nose and lungs.  The recipe still needs tweaking, as even with menthol crystals and several different essential oils in them, they are not strong enough for my liking.  A trip to Aldi's provided mandarins, grapefruit and organic oranges.

After touching on some of my struggles in the last post, I read this from Ben Hewitt, which made me fall in love with his writing all over again:

"Life is uncertain. It is fraught and messy and beautiful and hard and I suppose the best thing we can do through it all is try to remain  compassionate and curious. We’re are going to fail at this, over and over and over. With our kids, with our partners, with our friends. With ourselves.

But failure too is good and important because it is also an inescapable truth. You can try all you want to avoid it, and indeed, this is what we are taught to do. So yeah, go ahead and try to avoid. But know this: You’re going to fail."     If you'd like to read the rest of his post, follow this link. 

There have been shop orders sent out across the country.  It makes me happy to know my offerings will have a small part in celebrations.  We picked out our tree over the weekend, and decorated it.  The last couple of years, we bought a tree from the big hardware store, once they marked them 50% off.  J reminded me how dry last year's tree was, as those trees are not kept in water.  He opted to buy one elsewhere from folks who set up from the NC mountains.  I bought their trees several years, but then lost track of them when they moved to a spot outside the mall.  I had to smile, realizing how long it's been since I've shopped at the mall, never knowing they were there until someone mentioned it this year.  Though the tree itself wasn't frugal, it was cut 2 days earlier, so fragrant and in water, and now that I'm back on their mailing list, I will get a card for a free wreath next year.  

The hospice where I work regularly has silent auctions for various causes.  Last week, I saw an antique ironstone bowl and plate that I bid ($2) on and won.  I thought the bowl would be perfect for forcing bulbs, and put hyacinth bulbs in it.  It's there in the first photo if you look close.  Two types of cookies were baked last week, one old favorite, and another new one that I ended up overcooking as they seemed very wet.  The good thing is I love a crispy cookie, and think they're just fine.  They're probably not ones to be shared, but cookies don't last too long around here.  I requested a couple of children's Christmas books from the library, and bought another for very little on ebay.  Another blogger shared her love of the book and it's illustrations this time of year.  

There are several ornaments that always bring sweet memories.  In addition to those, one of my favorite parts of decorating the tree is tucking in all the little nests I've found on this land through the years.  As I find almost all of them on the ground in the off season, I consider them little gifts from nature.  I hope traditions new and old bring you a smile.  Wishing you sweet memories and moments this coming week!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Adventures of Lady Mary ~ A Giveaway

The purple finches have arrived, their color welcome at the feeders.  In these days of shortening light, I suppose it is natural to become introspective.  But boy, it's been exhausting this year!   I believe we sign on for particular lessons to master in life, and one of mine is surely communication.  There have been things I wished I hadn't said, things I wished I had said sooner, much second guessing and ruminating.  Though I've worked to make things right, it was a bit of a rough road for a few days.

I believe things are beginning to shift, and I am looking forward to the lengthening days.  On that note, I'd like to offer a giveaway to honor the Winter solstice, and the returning of the light.  A friend and purveyor of fine teas has just released her book The Adventures of Lady Mary, an action-packed, swashbuckling adventure.

There is magical fantasy, cleverness and wit, bravery, geography, some smart tea information, and many lovely illustrations.  The book is geared towards children, but is written to be enjoyable for adults as well.  To enter, just leave a comment.  If you're a tea drinker, & would like to share your favorite, even better, but any comment will qualify.  I'll close the giveaway at midnight on Dec. 20, and a winner will randomly be picked and announced on the 21st.

** Giveaway Update- J picked the name from a bowl, & Angie is the winner!  Happy Solstice, friends!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holiday Cheer, A Quilt & Frugal Accomplishments

osage orange & berry decoration at Shaw House
Hello, friends.  Last week, I made a vegetarian version of my grandmother's stuffing, which included our egg and parsley, and prepared our fresh lima beans I had frozen in the summer, along with roasted brussels sprouts.  I do love brussels sprouts, as well as my grandmother's stuffing.  I guess technically it should be called dressing, as I didn't stuff anything with it.  I did laundry with homemade laundry soap & soap gel.  Before the first hard frost, I had cut stems of okra left to grow large for decorating.  I added some of those to the door wreath, after noticing at the historic Bryant House, they used okra and cotton in their holiday decorating.  I've always wanted to try growing cotton.  Maybe 2017 will be the year.  I treated the chickens to some leftover Chinese food J hadn't quite finished, and the grapefruit halves that I had for breakfast.  They don't care for oranges, but pick the grapefruit innards clean.

antique pots at Shaw House, including Jugtown pottery
While in town after work, I shopped at Walgreens, & got several good deals.  It was their 20% off senior day (savings over $7), I used a promo code for 1/2 off a photo print,  replaced a set of twinkly lights which had died this past week with a BOGO free offer, and received $5 to use towards a future purchase. At the grocery store, I found baby bella mushrooms on sale, a bottle of a favorite wine on sale for less than 1/2 price, & used a $4 coupon for dogfood.  I've been working again on my quilt, sewing in the loose threads, & began writing my holiday cards.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

downy woodpecker
Due to illness, I got some more hours at my occasional job this week, then ran a few more errands.  I borrowed books from the library, picked up stocking items & presents for the pups at Big Lots & Marshalls,  chicken treats (mealworms with oregano) at Southern States, 4 tank tops that I'll wear as camisoles for .49 ea. at the Salvation Army, a white top I will add to the things I plan to dye & another top for $1.99 ea.  Our tomatoes, garlic and herbs went in to a pasta sauce.  Yogurt & kefir were made.  With the coldest temps so far coming, I harvested lettuce, collards, kale & swiss chard, then covered up what I could.  Sweet potatoes were baked, & collards and rice served along side, which also uses homemade broth.

Both J & I woke up feeling badly one night.  Feeling some better by morning, but still a bit under the weather, I took the day at a slower pace.  I didn't feel up to vacuuming the house, but instead swept the floors.  I read a bit of A Traveller in Time, which was shared by this kindred spirit, & managed to finally finish my quilt, good timing to keep us warm these cold nights.  I ventured out to gather eggs, walk to the mailbox, & bring the chickens some of their mealworm treat. The treat was intended to be a Christmas present, but as it had gotten down to 19 with possibly colder temps coming, I decided they could use a few extra calories.  As I dole them out a handful or two at a time, there should still be some left for Christmas.  Ha... do any of you get your chickens a Christmas present?  A small pumpkin bought for decoration for the hayride was given to the chickens another day.

A current favorite salad is our lettuce with pomegranate seeds, feta cheese & toasted pecans, dressed with a vinaigrette made using our berry syrup.  With this, I cooked artichokes bought on sale, & had one along with our boiled potatoes.  J prepared our turnips, & also had those.  One night, J & I took turns reading aloud a Christmas story shared here.  We've had intentions of passing long winter nights doing this for several winters, but as our choice of reading material doesn't often converge, this is the first time we've done it.  I opened a bottle of port, which we'd both found out we liked on Thanksgiving.  Sitting near the woodstove, reading & enjoying a little port made for an enjoyable time.  Holiday baking has begun.  So far, I've made sesame & peanut butter cookies.  I colored my hair at home, & used homemade soap.  Water tumblers were emptied into the humidifier on the woodstove.  

J & I enjoyed some local Christmas events with our granddaughter.  First, we visited 3 historic house-museums (all on the same site) that were decorated for the holidays.  There was cider & cookies, a woman playing dulcimer, one spinning wool, & another doing silhouettes.  I wasn't quite sure if a 6 yr. old would enjoy these things, but she readily sat for a silhouette, enjoyed the refreshments, & told me (unprompted) that she really enjoyed seeing "those old houses".  The houses are open free of charge, with boxes for donations.  We hedged our bets and planned something afterwards that we were pretty sure would please, a carriage ride with Santa, & as you can see, it was a hit.  The day wasn't especially frugal, but hopefully it created memories, which is worth much more than a toy that will soon be forgotten.  Wishing you a week of good cheer!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Seasonal Pleasures & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  The unusual seed pods in the arrangement gifted to me last month opened to reveal fluff similar to milkweeds.  This helped me identify it as gomphocarpus physocarpa.  I saved the seed, and will try growing it.  I believe the monarchs can use all the help we can give them.  There were also zinnias in the bouquet, & what I believe are dahlias, which I've not grown before.  I saved the seeds of those too.  I didn't know until this blogger posted about it a few years ago that you could save seed from zinnia flowers in bouquets.  Until then, I'd only saved seed from flowers that had dried on the plant.  How wonderful to get a local bouquet with lots of seed to save too.  A gift that keeps on giving :o).

Last week, I started two amaryllis bulbs, which should bring cheer during the short, dark days of winter.  I gathered cedar and pine greenery, winterberry and pinecones for seasonal decorating.  If I search a bit more, I should be able to find some holly with berries that the birds haven't eaten yet.  The door wreath is transitioning from an autumn to a winter one.  I've tucked in a few pine cones and cedar greenery, & will add other treasures as I see them.  J & I watched our first free Amazon Prime movie, The Christmas Candle.  We enjoyed a salad with our lettuce and a boiled egg along with soup one night.  Another night, I served a tomato rice loaf, which used our tomatoes, garlic & homemade bread crumbs, & made our swiss chard and okra to go with it.  I worked a day at one of my occasional jobs, which will be the last until some days right around Christmas.  My check from another occasional job was ready, which I picked up this week.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments.

Bryant House
The Handmade Holiday show happened yesterday, and was a most enjoyable day.  Many friendly faces came by, lots of soap and a few more creations found new homes.  I was gifted a pottery mug & dried lemongrass, and purchased several beautiful, handmade presents for those on my list.  Today J & I visited a couple of historic houses dressed up for the holidays with friends, then returned here for a simple meal.  Our friends brought homemade soup and bread, and our lettuce went into a salad, and eggs into apple squares.  It's been a lovely weekend all around.  We're getting a lovely rain, which will help to refill our rainwater stores.  I look forward to a slower paced week ahead, writing holiday cards, and maybe doing a bit of wrapping.  Wishing you a week of seasonal pleasures!