Late October Gratitude

“A snug and a clean home, no matter how tiny it be, so that it be wholesome; windows into which the sun can shine cheerily; a few good books (and who need be without a few good books in these days of universal cheapness?)–no duns at the door, and the cupboard well supplied, and with a flower in your room! There is none so poor as not to have about him these elements of pleasure.” -Samuel Smiles, Eliza Cook’s Journal, 1850

There was a lone late October rose growing on one of the bushes that I cut and placed in a stem vase today. I came across the above quote minutes afterward! It really speaks to me. One doesn’t need to be poor or have a large, modern kitchen to enjoy the many riches to be found in the simple things! Here are some more gifts I’m appreciating right now:

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Storm Drama and Autumn Delights

I took some photos of the foliage in our woods a couple of days ago before the storm (“bomb cyclone“) hit last night knowing that many of the leaves would be blown off the trees. The winds packed a powerful punch with gusts up to 60 mph. I got out of bed at 3:00 a.m. and made the coffee knowing that a power outage would be likely if not imminent. Forget bread and milk–dealing with a storm without that hot morning cup is just…no. The winds were literally roaring outside just like the storm two years ago that knocked down a large tree in our yard. Around 3:45 the power predictably went out. The house was silent which made the noisy mayhem of wind and rain outside seem even louder. As long we didn’t hear any snaps, cracks and thuds of falling trees and…

“What was that? Was that you?” I asked Wayne who was in another room.

“No, I thought it came from the kitchen.”

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Vintage Recipe: 1930s New England Apple Brown Betty

This simple, wholesome recipe for New England Brown Betty is made with a handful of ingredients and is adapted from my 1936 copy of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. It’s a good way to make use of stale bread, too, which I happened to have handy. Speaking of handy things, I also made my first-ever batch of 100% hand whipped cream with my new rotary beater! It wasn’t difficult at all!

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Opting Out From Planned Obsolescence

I purchased the vintage 1950s percolator above new in the box at a rummage sale three summers ago for $1 and I’ve made wonderful coffee in it every morning since. It’s a relic from an era when things were made to last. Now planned obsolescence is part of our consumer economy over which we have little control forcing us to spend and trash, spend and trash.

Most recently I had to buy a new computer (and may have to upgrade my Office for an annual subscription fee of $70 [you can’t just buy Office 365], subject to price increases, of course). When I bought my house ten years ago the wall oven died shortly thereafter because a computer component malfunctioned and they stopped manufacturing the replacement. The entire oven was therefore trash. My washing machine stopped functioning properly a few years ago, and that, too, was due to a computer part that was no longer available. The replacement cost for both combined was about $2,000, all due to planned obsolescence.

When it’s possible to not pay into “the cost of living in today’s world” I’m on it! Here are some recent examples:

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Frugal Lawn Care Saved $800 (and Our Yard!)

Up until two years ago I had hired “lawn care” companies to “treat” my yard with fertilizers, herbicides, aeration and reseeding. For about $400 a season the grass had many dead spots and would turn brown in the summer despite watering it. When I’d contact the companies to ask why I was told that the grass had gone dormant for the summer. I went through three different companies over eight years. Besides being expensive, harmful to the environment, beneficial insects and wildlife it was making our yard look worse! I told Wayne last spring we would cease paying and spraying and came up with a plan to save money and the living things:

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Vintage Recipe: Margaret Chase Smith’s Blueberry Cake

After months of denying rumors that she would seek the top of the Republican ticket or the vice presidential nomination, inspirational Mainer Senator Margaret Chase Smith announced her run for President in January, 1964.

“I have few illusions and no money, but I’m staying for the finish,” she noted, “When people keep telling you, you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try.”

Although she wasn’t elected, Mrs. Smith was the first woman to have her name put in for nomination for the presidency by a major political party. She also created a winning Maine classic: Margaret Chase Smith’s Blueberry Cake. This delightful recipe is from an undated vintage very well-loved pamphlet in my collection, “Maine Blueberry Recipes…” Seventh Edition, Published by The Maine Department of Agriculture.

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I am a Homemaker

I have many roles in my life, of course, but I see “homemaker” as part of my identity. It’s not a consolation prize or because I’m not empowered. Now when asked about what I do for work, instead of telling people only about my for-profit pursuits as a self-employed person I’m now also sharing that I’m a homemaker. I even added it to my LinkedIn profile! The conversation usually goes something like this:

“I love cooking and cleaning! When Wayne comes home he has a hot, nutritious dinner made from scratch waiting for him on the table.”

I sometimes get a look, so I follow up with: “You know, like June Cleaver.”

“Well as long as it’s a choice,” is a common response, or a variation along the lines of concern that I’m fallen prey to antiquated societal dictates. No. Well yes less the dictates. It is a conscious choice! Is it so odd for a woman to consciously choose to find joy in house work or apartment work, wherever you live work? Does that make one a vapid throwback?

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Simple Recipe: Patriotic Red or Blue (Berry) Ice Cream

July 4th used to be a frosted holiday for me meaning that it was about consuming artificially colored overly sweetened highly processed “patriotic” red, white and blue cupcakes on display at the grocery bakery. You know the ones of which I speak that seem to be everywhere this time of year? I used to think I was treating myself by eating them even though I felt awful afterward. That’s so yesterday but definitely not eating retro. Now I make ice cream from scratch with wild Maine blueberries or rich red strawberries that we picked locally and pure heavy cream from the local dairy that doesn’t add gums. Here’s my recipe for 1.5 quarts of strawberry or blueberry-infused ice cream:

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The Good Life: Yankee Thrift in Action

With Wayne being a Baby Boomer and me, GenX, retirement is something for which our budget revolves around. When Wayne starts collecting social security it likely will be funded at 100%. For my generation? Not likely! Saving for us isn’t just a way of life but as old age approaches, a necessity.

In the examples below you’ll see how Yankee Thrift  is the way to a richer life for us. It’s about making smart purchases without the purpose of showboating. In other words it’s not about buying something because it’s on trend, or you need the latest model, or to feed an insecure desire to impress. It’s about quality and self-reliance with the smarts to know when you need to secure the services of a professional or invest in a big expenditure. We save where we can and spend more on where it counts. You’ll see how in each example we’re cutting back but it’s not a sacrifice:

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