Saturday, December 11, 2010

Living on a shoestring

Had to laugh today.
It was reported that people on un-employment are living on $320 a week... *gasp* ... how can a family of 4 live on that?
We have done it for years. .. and when we were a family of 5! It makes me wonder if "those in the know" really know what the average person struggles with everyday. Sure, I'd like to have a lot more money, but we made choices that we are happy we made.

I have not seen the new program "Downsized", so I don't even know the premise, but my husband and I downsized when our first child was born. We had a beautiful 1910 Gambrel house with 5 bedrooms, an upstairs Florida room, living room, family room, den, enclosed front porch... you get the point.
We decided to sell the house and get an apartment. We moved to another part of the city because the prices of apartments were lower. Yes, Jim had to drive further to get to work - about 45 minutes more, but the price of having me stay at home was important to us.

We really wanted to see if we could make it on 1 small salary. And we have succeeded. It was NOT easy, and there were times we weren't sure we would make it. But we did. I began reading all I could on frugality, saving money on groceries and cloths for the children. I read how to save money by buying what was needed, not what was wanted, and to buy store brands, not name brands. Eventually I was able to feed a family of 5 on $20 a week. I can still come very close to that now, in this economy- (and am putting together a book on those meals, if you are interested send me an email and I'll put you on the list)
However, what we lacked in money, we made up for with sheer will to prove it can be done. We used to tell the kids that they could have anything they wanted... as long as it wasn't the "best". You can find things at Thrift stores, on sale, or even save up for whatever is important to you.

To "downsize" is not a bad thing. We downsized for the good of our family. Some people may think that eventually we downsized TOO much - after all, we eventually made the choice to live without electricity, and we still collect our water in cisterns. We built our house completely by ourselves... which is still an on-going project.

The work-in-progress that is our house is now getting a new kitchen. Jim is building the cupboards and making the cabinet doors himself. We have some walnut boards we have saved for a few years, just in case we would want to use them. They will be the cabinet doors.
We have an old porcelain sink that I got out of someone's trash back in 1992. We are using that as the kitchen sink. Yes it has some dings in it... but that gives it character, as far as I'm concerned.
The piece of bowling alley lane from a dismantled bowling alley in Columbus Ohio in 1987, will be incorporated in as a tabletop. We are making our own tile counter tops with tile that was on sale because it is going to be discontinued, but we figured the price is almost half of what a counter could cost.

The sink in our bathroom came from a store that was going out of business. We bought 2 sinks in 1991 for $20. One is in our bathroom, and the other we used in 2008 when we added a large addition to our house for my mother to live.

The point is, planning and figuring out what is important to you. You don't have a 5 bedroom 2 full bath house to be happy.

It always surprises me how young adults can't seem to give-up or sacrifice for what they claim they want for their children.

"Actions speak louder than words". "Where there's a will, there's a way"
It seems like those adages are no longer in use. But those are 2 we have lived by.

The commercial part of Christmas has always been difficult. We wanted to give our children everything they would like. It was very hard to budget and try to stick with it.
One Christmas when our daughter was four, she said "This is the best Christmas ever!" and she had just opened her stocking... She hadn't seen the presents under the tree yet.
That statement made me realize that "less is more". Children are satisfied with less.

At one time in our lives, the song "Mary and Joseph's Boy" by Alabama really brought me to tears because we hadn't yet figured out how much more we needed to downsize in order for us to be happy.

"There were times we didn't think we'd make it through the year
The bankers tried to take our farms but somehow we're still here

I don't know how the crops survived the drought and then the rain
It must have been a miracle how else could you explain."

My mother always quoted "This too shall pass", and it did. It will for you, too!

Have a great Christmas... and "don't sweat the small stuff"!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Cupcakes

It is a chilly day today. It has been snowing on and off all day. Yesterday it was almost 60 degrees and very very windy... the wind stopped, the temperatures dropped and the snow started.
On a day like this, what better to make than cupcakes? Seeing as I am trying to watch my calories, this is a perfect recipe. I make regular sized cupcakes and also mini cupcakes to just pop in your mouth.
You can change the recipe with different cake mixes. The flavor of the pumpkin is barely there...

Two Ingredient Cupcakes

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the chocolate cake mix and canned pumpkin until well blended. Spread evenly into the prepared cupcake pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and serve, or store in the refrigerator. This tastes even better the next day.

Calories: 157

December Cupcakes

It is a chilly day today. It has been snowing on and off all day. Yesterday it was almost 60 degrees and very very windy... the wind stopped, the temperatures dropped and the snow started.
On a day like this, what better to make than cupcakes? Seeing as I am trying to watch my calories, this is a perfect recipe. I make regular sized cupcakes and also mini cupcakes to just pop in your mouth.
You can change the recipe with different cake mixes. The flavor of the pumpkin is barely there...

Two Ingredient Cupcakes

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the chocolate cake mix and canned pumpkin until well blended. Spread evenly into the prepared cupcake pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and serve, or store in the refrigerator. This tastes even better the next day.

Calories: 157

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November's Bean Soup

Beautiful week here in WV. The temperatures today are in the 60's.
But last week we had a touch of snow.
So I made my favorite soup.

I use left over beans that I have been cooking in the slow cooker. Beans cooked in the slow cooker get better each day. By the end of the second or third day of cooking (and eating) they are thickened up.

Beans, pinto, 1 cup (I use left-over)
Beans, red kidney, 1 can
Potato, raw, 2 medium sliced (2-1/4" to 3-1/4" dia.)
Carrots, raw, 1 cup, baby
Hillshire Kielbasa

In your crock pot add 1 kielbasa (or polish sausage) that has been cut up. I try to cut it up in ½ and then in ½ again before slicing it into small chunks. I add chopped potatoes, and those small baby carrots you can now get at the grocery store. Cook until tender. Add some water to also extend the soup.

You can top the soup with cheese, sour cream, onions and even salsa...

For a more filling soup add – leftover vegetables, or add barley.. Sometimes I make rice and put the soup over the rice.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I will hate to see summer leave...

Winter was very hard this year, so I have to say that I have loved this summer.
Besides the usual work on the farm (fencing, replacing the deck, gardening,

I have been out a few times with a dear friend, and just "let it go".
I have been swimming more this summer than the last 2 summers combined.
I have travelled a few times with Jim at work.
I have started canning again and used my solar cooker.
There is so much more I want to do while the weather is hot.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Freezing Corn

Well corn season is in full swing and although I do not have a corn patch, Jim gets our corn from a lovely Amish man in Ohio.
I have tried my hand at canning corn and today I am freezing corn.
If you want to know how to can corn, or to make  corn cob jelly follow these links
After I shuck the corn, I drop about 4 ears into boiling water for 4 minutes (after the water comes back to a boil, I start timing it). I then drop it into a bowl of ice water to stop the sugars from turning into carbohydrates.
Taking a sharp knife, I cut the kernels off the cob. I place the spent cob into a bag to freeze for later use as corn cob jelly.
4 - 5 ears of corn is enough to fill a 1 quart freezer bag. I use the zipper and close it until it is almost closed. Because I don't have a food saver machine (they run over $100, plus the bags are more expensive), I use a straw. When the bag is almost closed, I suck the rest of the air out of the bag using the straw, and quickly zip the bag closed. This gets the extra air out of the bag, which is what caused freezer burn.

It takes about 40 ears to fill up 8 quart bags

I filled one bag only half-full so I have a smaller serving. You can see how the bag had the air sucked out of it.
I read somewhere you can put water in this, freeze it and then get all the air out of the bag, also.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter! Happy Spring!!

The sun is out, the birds are chirping and the chickens are laying eggs. I have eggs boiling on the stove for hard-boiled eggs which I can make deviled eggs, or egg salad sandwiches for Jim and I.
This weekend we are going to a large Flea market in Ohio. It is a 2 day affair and covers the fairgrounds. One of the largest around. I hope to come back with some more rabbits, and poultry. Mariann requested a hairless rat. Bethany and Ryan will meet us there and they are planning to get pigs.
You would think that the only thing this Flea Market had was livestock, but that is the main reason we go. It has everything else that a flea market would carry - new clothes, old dishes and kitchen pots and pans, tools of all kinds. You could probably find what you are looking for here...
I haven't had vacation time in quite a while, and I love wandering around this place. It is a vacation for me just to get away for a day, so I am looking forward to this trip.

It is easier to peel an older egg than a fresh one.
Add eggs straight from fridge, in a single layer across the base of a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover them by at least 1 inch. Slowly bring water to just under boiling point. 10 minutes. When the time is up, remove with a slotted spoon and plunge in cold water immediately to stop the cooking process. Allow to cool so are easy to handle. Peel and serve.
6 hard-cooked eggs 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon white vinegar 1 teaspoon prepared mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt Paprika
Slice eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks and set whites aside. In a small bowl, mash yolks with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, mustard and salt; mix well. Spoon (or pipe using pastry bag) into egg white shells. Sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate until serving

Monday, March 15, 2010

Last minute details

Mariann heads to Haiti tonight. The first leg of her journey takes her to Ft. Lauderdale to meet up with the other missionaries and then on to Haiti. Today she is spending the day gathering up her last minute supplies (beans and rice to take to the Haitians) and to pack her bag to go. had a little glitch in the last payment for her trip, but we figured it out and all is set.

I am going to do a lot of praying for her in Haiti. This is a tough trip for anyone, and she is so young. But this trip was in her heart and it worked out the way it was supposed to.

My group Silent Hands was asked to perform at 2 churches and their support helped Mariann a lot. At one church there were only 25 people there, and they gave of their heart - over $200! There were exactly 4 people in her home church that helped out, and for that we are grateful, but it is disappointing that we have a large church and so little support.

(If you know of a youth that would like to go on a Mission Trip with other teenagers, check out Global Expeditions has been sending youth to over 30 countries for 20 years or more. Brandon has been on 2 trips - both 2 months long. This will make Mariann's 5th trip since she was 16 - some 2 weeks, some a month long. She has done fundraising and works at McDonald's to help pay for these trips)

She will be heading to Colorado Springs in late April-early May. She was given the gift of house sitting for the fiance of one of our best friends. The plans have not been finalized, but I think she is ready to travel away from this area. There isn't a lot to hold her here, and she does need to get out and meet new people and see new areas. Brandon and his wife are out there, so she will have family. And of course, after Stacy gets married Mariann will have her out there.

I am hoping to go back to the churches with Silent Hands to perform again and let Mariann tell of her experiences in Haiti. This will be the last time Mariann will be able to sign with our group.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What's with men?

Or is it just WV men??

Last night we had to help Mariann's car get out of the middle of the snowy road - of course it didn't quite make it up the first leg of our road. We followed a pick up truck out (we were in the Rhino lol... "Here we come to save the Day"!!).
So the truck stops and a guy gets out at the same time we do. The guy was in his late 20's I'd say...

Jim started giving Mariann directions, then Jim and I pushed the car a little..then an little more. Reverse... forward...reverse...forward... a very tiny 80 point turn...
Inch by inch we turned Mariann's car around until she finally headed back down the hill.

What did the guy in the pick up truck do?? Got in his truck and watched us...

Do Mamas not teach their boys chivalry anymore???

I would be so surprised (and annoyed) if my son ever watched an older man and woman help a young girl and just sat in his warm truck and watched!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How do those those lyrics go? "If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all..."

The driveway is such a mess - too much snow, then warmer weather turned it soft, and slushy, now there are ruts... and more snow is coming - which will make a bad thing worse.

The pickup truck developed an oil leak tonight. Luckily my husband Jim is so very quick. The minute he heard a slight "ticking" he stopped the truck and poured oil in it. We drove home and we are hopeful that the engine was not damaged!

And, of course we do not have a car to replace the Subaru that burned in January... The snow has been so deep that I haven't wanted to go look for a vehicle. And we will have to get a loan, which I don't want (Nana held the other loan)...

But, I made cauliflower salad today for Jim's lunches. Plus banana bread - instead of using sour cream, I put in vanilla yogurt - less fat and a great taste.

OK... time to count my blessings...
1.We have a warm house, food, and clothing!
2.Nana doesn't have to see any doctors... she is pretty healthy.
3.Mariann has water in her well - Jim and I pulled the pump out of the well on Sunday (all 200 ft of pipe). It was a job, but the two of us can work well together.
4. We are healthy and still love and respect each other

So, in the scheme of things, we are doing pretty good...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ice Cream Snow

Ice Cream snow # 1
1 gallon snow 1 cup white sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 2 cups milk
When it starts to snow, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes. When full, stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency. Serve at once.
Ice cream snow # 2
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk 2 eggs, beaten 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 3/4 cup white sugar 1 gallon snow
In a large bowl, combine evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Gradually stir in snow until mixture reaches desired consistency. Eat at once.

And the snow still falls...

We are having a record amount of snow this year here on High Lonesome. I check and feed the animals in the afternoon and by the next morning, my tracks are covered. School has been virtually non-existent for the students, the road crews are putting in a lot of over time and have run out of gravel and grit...

It's February and it reminds me of the first year we were here... a lot of our time was spent cutting firewood, and we are doing the same this year. Our firewood pile was depleted early this year, so Jim and I are out cutting and hauling... boy do we miss the kids!

I am writing a book on the first winter we lived here... the winter, snow and cold has been easy to recall!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fresh Bread made easy

Snowy and cold out today...Brr...
An excellent day to make some chili and bake fresh bread. Fresh bread is so easy to make - and I have a recipe that I don't even knead. I let it rise on top of the oven while the oven is pre-heating, then I pop it in the oven. I bake it in 2 small metal coffee cans, so when I am ready to cut into it, the bread has ridges to follow... it can't get any more eay than that.
I have the recipe in my new recipe book that I am currently writing. Here is a preview:
EASY CHILI $1.12 plate
2 # hamburger
tomato sauce or 2 cans paste:

Choice of spices: chili powder, red pepper, salt, black pepper etc.

Brown the hamburger and pour off the grease. Add 2 cans of light red kidney beans and a large can of tomato sauce or 2 cans of tomato paste with 2 cups of water. You can put this in a crock pot to heat, or heat it until bubbly on the stove.
To make this cheaper, add left-over pinto beans, and cut down on the burger. You can use chili beans, northern beans, sausage –the flavors will all mix together. That is the beauty of chili.

Beginners Easy Bread $.25 a loaf
5 1/2 - 6 1/2 cups flour (you will probably use less)
1/4 cup softened butter
2 tbls. (or 2 packages) yeast - You can measure a tablespoon in your hand
2 1/4 cups hot tap water
2 tbls sugar
1 tbls. Salt
Combine 2 cups flour, un-dissolved yeast, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir well to blend. Add butter and hot water. (To soften butter, I put it in the hot tap water)
Beat with a mixer on medium for 2 minutes. Scrape bowl occasionally. Add 1 more cup of flour. Beat on high for 1 minute until smooth and elastic. Gradually stir in just enough of the remaining flour with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough which leaves the sides of bowl. Using my mixer, I mix until it leaves the sides of the bowl.
Flour your hands and Knead 5 - 10 minutes (I usually don't do it this long and I do it in the mixing bowl. ) until dough is smooth and elastic and doesn't stick all over your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rest for 20 minutes. (I only do this if I have the 20 minutes to wait)
Punch down and divide the loaf into 2 loaves if you want 2 loaves. I use a glass 2 qt. casserole dish and bake my bread in this. Otherwise, divide into 2 loaves. Roll it out with a rolling pin, then starting with the narrow end, roll up into a jelly roll and tuck in the ends. Put this into a greased bread pan (measuring 81/2 x 41/2 x21/2).

(I skip this next part): Brush lightly with butter Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate 2 - 24 hours. When ready to bake, Uncover, let stand for 10 minutes while preheating oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you rap your knuckles on the top.
If you want the bread NOW! Skip the refrigerator step. Just let the dough rise, for a few minutes and pop it into the oven.
When the bread comes out of the oven and cools for a few minutes, butter the top. This keeps the crust soft. If you want a crunchy top, don't add butter.

If you are interested in my frugal recipe book ( I also have a High Lonesome Ranch cook book with recipes handed down to me) let me know!

Until then, enjoy baking bread at home!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Banana Bread

I would rather be slogging through the snow than deal with the mud... However I do like the warmer temperatures and the fact that the cisterns are full.

I have been making banana bread a lot lately. The smell in the kitchen makes your mouth water. you can eat it warm from the oven with whipped cream, for breakfast with your coffee or drink of choice, and for a snack. The recipe I use is very moist and does not dry out.
Bananas remain a very inexpensive fruit so buy a few bunches, eat them as usual and when they get a little over ripe, that is the time for a good banana bread.

I do not put nuts in mine, of course many people do. Here is my favorite recipe:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) 2 eggs 1 cup sugar 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 1/2 cup flour 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp. salt 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3) 1/2 cup sour cream
Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients; mix well. Add the mashed bananas and sour cream. Grease 2 loaf pans . Fill 1/2 full with batter and bake in 350 degree oven. For 1 hour

When cool drizzle with a glaze made of confectioner’s sugar and milk

Friday, January 15, 2010

Home Remedies

Achy muscles from a bout of the flu? Mix 1 Tablespoon of horseradish in cup of olive oil. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, then apply it as a massage oil, for instant relief for aching muscles.

Sore Throat? Just mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of honey and take 1 tablespoon six times a day. The vinegar kills the bacteria.

Before you head to the drugstore for a high-priced inhaler filled with mysterious chemicals, try chewing on a couple of curiously strong Altoids peppermints. They'll clear up your stuffed nose.

Any home remedies you would want to share?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home Remedy

Drinking two glasses of Gatorade can relieve headache pain almost immediately -- without the unpleasant side effects caused by traditional "pain relievers."

The weather has turned for the better and warmed up enough to melt some of the snow. Hopefully the cisterns will start to fill back up again. The sun certainly looks good outside.

We have a litter of labradoodles due this week. Olive Oil sure doesn't act like she is even close to giving birth... makes you wonder.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Happy New Year!

We have been busy trying to keep the animals watered. The problem with homesteading is everything is much more difficult to achieve results. We have our water collected in 2 cisterns. One has run out of water, so Jim had to re-route the other so that we all have water - our house and my mother's "dauty haus" which is a large apartment attached to the main house - actually her side is probably as big as our side.
West Virginia has ended up with a lot of snow this year. I don't know if any records have been set, but the past few years have been mild. Our first winter here it was very snowy and cold like this. You can see my laundry being freeze-dried!
So, my frugal tip for the day is to dry your clothes on a line, no matter what the weather!