Monday, December 31, 2018

Birthday Bargains & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I hope all those who celebrate had a Merry Christmas.  Last week, I made yogurt, and some more healthy cookies.  These were coconut carrot, and not very wonderful.  The molasses ones have all been eaten, and I'm sure these will be too.  I saw a recipe for dessert bars that are sugar free, sweetened only with dates.  That will be the next one I try.  I enjoyed listening to free holiday music online.  For Christmas, M told me he'd really appreciate it if I mended a huge rip in a pair of his overalls, so I did that on Christmas Eve.  We also shared a dozen eggs, a clementine, in addition to one small gift, and he joined us for dinner.  J roasted a chicken for Christmas dinner.  I made a potato dish (patatas bravas) using our potatoes, and my Grandmother's stuffing (vegi version), using our onion and herbs.  I made a salad for myself, as the guys didn't want one, and used homemade Thousand Island dressing.

winter greens with garlic rows beyond
The only "work" I did on Christmas was cooking.  The day after, I was back at work painting several orders.  No complaints here, and we actually got another order on Christmas Day.  I wondered if it was someone's gift to herself, or from another, or just a coincidence.  The pups have been getting our eggs  and yogurt in their morning meal, and sweet potatoes in their evening meal.  They often get chopped greens and stems too.  I harvested winter greens for a salad, and gathered some for the chickens too.  Our garlic is beginning to poke up through the leaf mulch.   J received Good King Henry seeds for Christmas, which he'd been wanting to try.  They require cold stratification to germinate, so he went ahead and planted them in the ground.  Have you tried this green?

The pink amaryllis bloomed.  Though they're all pretty, this one does not look like the bright pink one on the label.  Oh well.   J wanted to have chicken and noodles with the leftover Christmas chicken and broth, so I made mushroom gravy with a bag of the foraged maitakes I had frozen to have over my noodles.  Yum!  As Christmas fell on my usual massage day, my day was switched to Friday.  I took advantage of being in town on a Friday, and visited the RSPCA thrift store.  I found a huge pottery pot for $10, which will be perfect for one of the lemons or avocados.  I do try and support local pottery, but the last time I got one a bit smaller than this, it was $65.  So, this one is a much appreciated bargain.  When our GD was here last weekend, she used beads and floss to make a friendship bracelet.  I found lots and lots of beads at the thrift shop, picked through them, and got 8 packets for from .10 to .50 ea.  This will be part of her birthday, which is later this week.  I then headed to the discount grocery, got my favorite organic blueberry cranberry juice for $1 ea., and found her a tie dye kit for $2.50, another birthday present.

The weekend was again filled with road trips, one to celebrate a milestone birthday, and the other, a holiday get together to enjoy a meal with extended family near the coast.  It was nice meeting new members of the extended family, and seeing so many loved ones, but I'm really thankful to be spending the next several days here, enjoying the cozy comforts of home.  There is cooking to do, laundry to catch up on, batches of soap to fill in empty spots on the shelf, cups of tea to drink, and much more on my to do list.  Wishing you a warm and cozy week, friends.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Though our plan was to decorate our tree Sunday evening, the limbs had not relaxed downward by then, so we had to wait.  It hadn't changed much by Tuesday, but we decided to hang the lights, to see if the weight would help the limbs come down.  It did, and we decorated it on Thursday.  I've really been enjoying watching the This Is Us series.  I made colcannon using our potatoes.  The hens have been laying again, and I've been collecting from 3 to 6 eggs a day, which is wonderful.  My gray hair continues to grow out, saving me about $100 a month in hair coloring.  I'm embracing my inner grandmother :o).  It's a bit odd looking right now, but a nice compliment last week encouraged me.  Though not frugal for us, a neighbor had me buy he and a friend tickets for a concert we were attending, and he ended up not being able to go.  It was very last minute, not to mention the holidays, and we contacted a number of people before we found someone who could use the tickets, which he said to just pass on to someone.  The concert was wonderful, and we found a place right across the street to have a good and inexpensive dinner beforehand.  It was a lovely date night.

Our kale was used in a gnocchi dish, which we enjoyed.  Vegi reubens were made for lunch from tempeh and sauerkraut that was given to me, and homemade Thousand Island.  I ground whole wheat, in anticipation of holiday baking.  I've been trying to figure out how to abide by the no sugar suggestion, and still have cookies, as I'm a firm believer that life should have some sweetness.  My usual sucanat didn't make the cut, but raw honey and stevia are acceptable.  I didn't, however, have any recipes that use them.  I remembered a molasses cookie recipe given to me years ago.  I'm not sure if molasses is acceptable, and the office is closed through the holidays, so I just went with it.  They will be OK with a cup of tea, but they seemed better in the 80's :o).  Thankfully, J is a big molasses fan, and will help eat them.

During the week, I made yogurt, and hung laundry on the line.  A few presents were wrapped on Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Thursday, it was my main focus.  It was a very rainy day, which made it easy.  I finished all the ribbons on Friday, and joined a friend for lunch to celebrate the solstice.  That night, I enjoyed free streaming of Paul Winter's Winter Solstice Celebration.  It's on my bucket list to someday attend a live event of his at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC.  I donated several books to a little free library.  I gathered chickweed and lettuce from the garden, and we enjoyed a salad with vegetable soup, which used our okra, corn and squash, along with pantry items.  The weekend was full of celebrations, first my family, then J's.  We picked up our GD early Sunday, so she could attend the family gathering, and brought her home with us for the night.  There wasn't much time, but she made a friendship bracelet while here, besides our usual walk and egg collecting.  Wishing you holidays filled with peace and joy, friends. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Late Autumn Days& Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Though it seems winter came early here this year, we have the last few days of autumn to enjoy, before the winter solstice.  We received another couple of inches of snow on Monday.  Lots of rain since then has cleared it all away.  Unsafe roads changed my massage schedule during the week.  Most times we have wintry precip in this area, there is black ice to deal with.  After work, errands were done, including a thrift store run, where I found an outfit for our GD, a canister I'll turn into a compost crock, and a planter that I'll use for an amaryllis I'm gifting.  I picked up some wine for gifts, and as I was half way there, I went to the co-op I belong to, for produce, organic jam sweetened with fruit juice (on sale for $2.99), and a couple of vegan things to try.  I tried a plant-based cream cheese, which as a first impression with jam on an english muffin, didn't seem much like cream cheese.  The real test will be on a bagel.  I did recently find a creamer that works for me in my morning Chai rooibos tea.  I'm navigating the suggested diet changes (caffeine and sugar free, and modified vegan), trying to find products and recipes that work for me.  It's a little tough to be doing it this time of year.  If you have recipe or product suggestions to share, I'm all ears.

I placed several online orders, after checking with ebates and swagbucks for the best cash back.  I managed to hang two loads of laundry on the line during the week, but it's been so damp, both had to be finished off in the dryer, but at least it saved more than half the usual drying time.  It's been a real challenge to paint our online shop orders.  On Monday, J's shop was closed due to the storm, so I primed four stands in his shop.  Another day, I was able to get a coat of finish paint on outdoors, which is where I usually paint them.  Things should be drying up by Sunday, and I hope to finish painting then.  The orders keep coming in, of which I'm so grateful.  The lettuce, chard and celery were covered with row cover before nights in the 20's.  All looked good when uncovered, except the chard was sitting under water from all the snow and rain.  I created some spots for the water to run with my boot heel, but I need to go out there with a shovel and work on it some more.

We headed to town on Saturday, for our Christmas tree and a couple of other quick stops.  While stopping at Lowe's for a plant saucer for the olive tree I bought recently, I noticed all bulbs were 75% off.  I found two types of alliums, one a fragrant one, and bought those as well, at 35 bulbs for $7.47.  When we went to get our tree, we noticed a significant increase in price.  I've bought a tree from these folks for many years, but they priced themselves out of our range, with almost all at $55 to $60. There was also a "+$5" on every tag, which we could only figure meant they now charged extra to trim and put in a mesh bag.  We headed back to Lowe's, just a couple blocks away, and between the trees being marked 25% off, and J's military discount, we got one for $30 and change.  As much as I try to support the little guy, this was more doable this year.

Our evening meals were eaten by candlelight all week.  There are also three sets of twinkly lights in our main room, which add to the cozy feeling.  The amaryllis I purchased for gifts were all potted up.  I hoed a little ditch near the chard, to let the water run off.  We are going to try to catch the comet that should be visible tonight.  I'm off to plant bulbs, get Christmas down from the attic, pack up gifts to ship, and paint Berkey stands.  I see that The Prudent Homemaker has posted her week of Frugal Accomplishments, so I'll end here, and do the same.  She has redone her website, and it's looking beautiful.  Wishing you a week of seasonal joys, friends.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Canning Old Dried Beans & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  How are you, this holiday season?  I'm enjoying taking the slow and peaceful route, savoring the little things about this time of year... writing holiday cards, listening to holiday Pandora stations while I work at home, enjoying chestnuts a friend brought me, and brisk walks with the pups.  Presents are pretty much bought, except for possibly a last minute one or two.  Soon wrapping will commence, a tree will be bought within the next ten days or so, and a few decorations placed around the house.  I'm not sure yet what holiday baking might look like, with my new Dr. wanting me staying off of all sugar.  I expect a small amount will be savored.  It will be interesting this year.

Gifts bought online this week were through ebates and swagbucks, earning cash back.  After a soap delivery, I stopped at a nearby farm supply store.  The store has interesting, and some local items, and I bought NC nuts for a gift, a beautiful olive tree marked 80% off (for $4!), a bright pink amaryllis bulb, marked 20% off.   I've never seen a pink one before, always growing red, white, or pale peach, so I'm excited about that.  I'd been looking online earlier in the week for 4 oz jelly jars, which are always pretty expensive, probably due to shipping, and was happy to find one case there.  I use these for my deodorant, and used all I had before the show.  I also picked up a Christmas present for the chickens, a bag of treats which included mealworms and oregano.  I'd been looking for a winter coat for our GD, and found a lovely one at a nearby thrift store, navy wool with a velvet collar and cuffs.  It happened to be included in their half price sale that day, so was only $5.  A few small presents were bought at the natural foods co-op.

I had an unexpected trip to town, after a gallery informed me I'd had lots of soap sales, and they needed replenishing.  So, after a quick evening trip to take care of that, I stocked up on a few things at the discount grocery store, including bottles of organic blueberry cranberry juice ($1 ea.), which I'm really enjoying.  On Saturday, I harvested kale and chickweed.  We watched the weather forecast all week, keeping an eye on the winter storm heading our way.  Though it was possible we would get as much as 11" or 12" of snow over the weekend, so far we've gotten about 2" of snow followed by lots of rain and freezing rain.  More wintry precipitation is forecast through Monday. 

It seemed a good day to can, so I canned up some lentils that were getting pretty old.  I started doing this some years back with old beans that didn't want to soften up, following Jackie Clay's instructions.  This has worked well for me every time, and having them ready to heat up on the pantry shelf sure makes it convenient.

Canning Old Dried Beans

Pour boiling water to cover beans well, and let them sit overnight in a cool place.
In the morning, rinse beans.
Using fresh water, boil them for an hour.
Pack into canning jars, within 1" of  the top, including cooking water. 
Add 1/2 tsp of salt for pints, 1 tsp for quarts.
Pressure can at 10 lbs pressure (adjust if you live at higher elevations) for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.

The bird feeders have stayed busy, with one new bird seen I need to research.  Twinkly lights and candles have been burning during the dark days and evenings.  More simple pleasures of the season.  I hope you are taking the time to enjoy the season, in whatever ways bring you joy.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Jolly Good Show & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  When our company left Saturday afternoon, I gathered up the bags of frozen vegi scraps, and put them in two pots on the woodstove.  I strained the scraps out on Sunday, and let it cook down until Monday, then canned it.  There are 14 more pints of broth added to the pantry shelves.  While keeping an eye on the canner, I sat at the kitchen table and finished writing my holiday cards.  Canning water was used to water plants once it cooled.  The last of the tromboncino squash was used in pasta sauce, along with homegrown herbs, onions and tomatoes.  A "pumpkin" pie was made using our cheese wheel squash and eggs.  Laundry was dried on the line.

waiting for their evening walk
My stepson added us to his Hulu account, as he can have six devices total.  Our granddaughter watched a movie while here, and I've begun exploring things to watch during the dark nights of winter.  I asked for suggestions on fb, and enjoyed watching This Is Us.  If you have suggestions for positive, uplifting, historical/period pieces, simple living or homesteading shows, I'd love to hear about them.  A set of linen pillow shams still in the wrapper from a duvet set I bought years ago was listed on ebay with a free promotion, and sold.  I'm thankful to continue getting sales in both of my online shops.

Much of the week was spent getting ready for the annual Handmade Holiday show.  Though it turned out to be a gray and rainy day, there was still good attendance at the show.  Lots of soap found new homes, a few natural deodorants and shower tabs too.  Several friends dropped by that I don't often see, which is always a pleasure.  I tried two new recipes on Sunday, one for sweet potato muffins.  The recipe said you could use banana if you didn't have the full 3 cups of  sweet potato.  They were good, but the banana pretty much overpowered the sweet potato, so next time I'll try it with just the sweet potatoes.  The other was The Prudent Homemaker's taco soup.  Even if you're not especially interested in frugal living, I recommend checking out her recipes.  I've tried many of them, and every one has been excellent.  The taco soup was amazingly quick and easy to make, and we both thought delicious.  Wishing you a great week!