Saturday, October 29, 2011

Will You Be Ready ?

"Plant Closes - cuts 1550 jobs"
"Debt Crisis Sends Stocks down"
"Quality of Life Decreasing"
"Scary Times"
"Consumers Squeezed as Inflation Rises, Pensions Fall"
"Turbulent Times"

These are just a few of the headings gracing the newspapers and news every day.   How do you look and react to this news?   These headings are not new and things we've been hearing in the news for years, but many choose to keep living life as though times are great and getting themselves deeper into debt.    We cannot change the world's debt problems, but you can get your own house in order so that you can ride out the tough times. 

What a better time to look at opportunities in these volitle times?   Start tracking ALL your spending.  Write it all down.  You'll be surprised how much you do spend.  Look closely at all your bills and look for ways to trim or cut out.  Don't pay full price for items you consume on a regular basis - there are always sales somewhere, or do without until it's on sale. 

Create a 30-60-90 day list.  This is a list where you write down what you want.  See how long the item stays on the list before you decide you don't need it.   It will help cut down on any impulse buying, or something you thought you needed right away - you make do with something else or you find you didn't need at all.   If it's still on your list then you may still need it.

Look at the ways you cook and stretch your food budget.  Learn the art of using up.   Learn to forage - it can be fun.  This year we foraged for raspberries , dandelions and apples.   Nothing goes to waste in our house - for instance - you can eat carrot tops, beet greens, radish and turnip greens.  Soup goes along way and you can make excellent soup, by just looking at what's in your fridge or using up those vegetable tops that most throw out.

Look at ways to save on water, electricity, heating, and laundry.   Start a garden.  Even if you live in apartment you can still have a small garden inside.  Or if you live on a balcony or have a very small yard you can have a pallet garden and grow fresh herbs, or tomatoes in containers.   Start your own plants indoors.

I've learned many ways to save money.  You will be amazed what others throw out and is perfectly useable.  Being frugal is not a bad thing - make it a game ! 

Will you be (are you) ready ?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Prayer Shawl

Over the centuries, shawls have come to symbolize shelter, peace and spiritual sustenance.  In 1998 two graduates of  The Heartford Seminary started a prayer shawl ministry.  The members of this ministry have donated their time and talents by creating hand knitted/croched shawls that are filled with the power of prayer for those in need.
The blessing of the Prayer Shawl provides healing and comfort to the sick, the lonely and the elderly, or shares in the accomplishment of the graduate, newlywed, and newborn. Like all acts of generosity, the presentation of a Prayer Shawl enriches the giver as well as the recipient.

I began my first prayer shawl for my "secret sister" at our local church.   The idea behind knitting or crocheting a prayer shall is that each shawl begins with prayers/thoughts for the recipient and continues throughout the creation of the shawl.   Many blessings are knitted/crocheted into the shawls and then passed on to the recipent along with a card or poem.  You can make your shawl personal by knitting or crocheting beads or charms into the shawl.    The colour of the shawl also has meaning too.    For my secret sister I crocheted the Sea shell wrap (a free pattern at in blue.  Blue  means water, healing, meditation, tranquility, honesty, loyalty, communication, peace, sincerity, wisdom, spirituality, faith, self-esteem, cool and calming.

What is a secret sister ?   Secret Sisters are typically promoted through a common group, such as a church, work or social group. The women are paired up secretly and swap unexpected gifts, cards, poems or prayers, encouraging one another until the big reveal.   Our secret sister program has come to a close and I will be giving my secret sister her shawl at our "revealing" luncheon soon.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Electricity and Saving Money

Recently on my way home from a northern hike I saw dotted along our beautiful farmland rows of big wind power generators. 

There is something about them that looks almost creepy, like they don't belong, alien, ominous - something out of science fiction movie.  We read and hear alot about these generators and how they are making people sick who live near them, with the constant swooshing noises - vertigo symptoms, nausea, etc.   Do these generators really put back into the grid the power they had hoped?   The idea seems like a good one, but is it really good for the environment?  I am sure there are lots who could argue the point.

In this world of over consumption, why not learn to use less electricity, insteady of trying to make more, and consume more.  What's wrong with learning to live with less?   So many toys today require electricity or batteries (that require recharging).  Many kids (adults included) don't know how to play anymore unless they are in front of a TV, X-box, Wii box, computer.   What happened to the days of playing ball hockey on the street with friends, going to the library and reading a book and not on an electronic reader?  playing board games instead of  "on-line" games, being outside enjoying nature, getting exercise and fresh air?

The cost of electricity continues to rise.  There are many ways to reduce your consumption of electricity.  Here's my short list of ways we have cut back... what are your's ?  

1) Replace light bulbs - with LED or equivalent.
2) Reduce the phantom power consumed 24/7 by various electronics by plugging into a power bar - turn the power bar off or unplug items when not in use.  Things that require phantom power - microwave, some electric kettles - ever notice how warm the handle gets with the "cordless" styles; coffee makers; steroes; anything with a clock/timer in it (do we really need to constantly be reminded what time it is?) or that turns on with a remote - TV, computer monitors, wireless internet, etc.
3)   Turn lights off when leaving a room.
4)   Replace appliances with energy efficient ones when they need replacing.
5)   Installed wood buring insert into fireplace (see post on simple heating) - not only cut back on our heating bill, but also on electricity bill - by not running furnace fan to blow heat into the rest of house.
6)  Stopped using the dryer and hang laundry inside and out to dry. (see post on Simple Laundry and Indoor drying rack)
7)  Use crock pot or slow cooker more often instead of oven.   Or eat more meals that don't require cooking.
8)  Stopped using a coffee maker - use a coffee press instead.
9)  Use manual tools instead of power generated ones.
10) Learn new skill or hobby that doesn't require electricty (ie knitting, crocheting, etc)

Regularly review your utility bills and get creative on ways to reduce more !  You will be amazed just but doing a few simple things what a difference it will make on your electricity bill. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Simple Onion

The onion is one of the one of the oldest and most versatile vegetables.  It is plant (bulb) of the Allium family.    It comes in many varieties - purple coloured skin, white, green and sweet.   The white onion is the most popular and is used on some many recipies, ie pickles, casseroles, soups, frozen, salads to name a few. 

The simple onion is filled with nutrition such as vitamin A, B, C, E, K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc.    It is claimed to reduce the symptoms of diabetes and reduce blood pressure.  Studies have shown that increased consumption of onions reduces some cancers.   The compounds in onion can destroy the osteoclats for those at risk of osteroporosis so that they don't break bones.  It contains chemical compounds such as anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol and antioxidants such as quercetin.  The onion is also capable of combating degenerative diseases too.    So much is packed into this wonderful versatile inexpensive plant.

I use onion in so many dishes.  One of our favourite side dishes for a main meal is baked onions.  The water used to boil the onions in my aunt's recipe below is saved later for soup. 

Baked onions - yum !

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Simple Nasturtium

The nasturtium is one of the most versatile easy to grow flowers.  Every year I save the seeds produced by this lovely annual for my next year's garden.    They grow from seed, sown early in the spring as soon as the soil warms up.   They like sunny locations for lots of blooms, but will grow in shady spots as well.   They grow well in garden beds, planters and window boxes.  They will self-seed.

Not only do nasturtiums grow quickly from seed, which makes them a frugal addition to your garden, they are also edible and have medicinal qualities.     The flowers can be used in salads and other recipes and the buds pickled - can be used as a replacement for capers.     The flowers are high in vitamin C and thought to help prevent scurvy, lung problems and blocked bronchial tubes. 

"They are a native of Peru, brought by Spanish conquistadors to Spain early in the sixteenth century. This bright yellow, orange or red flower traveled to England at the end of the sixteenth century as a decorative plant. Monet's famous garden at Giverny was laden with nasturtiums as they fit the impressionist style of shimmering, blurred colors and spilled over pathways like enthusiastic brush strokes."

I've picked the last of my nasturtiums from my garden and made this delicious hummus from the flowers.

Nasturtium Hummus
1 can chick peas (garbonzo beans) - 19 oz
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped nastrtium blossoms
salt and pepper to taste.

Drain chick peas, saving the liquid.    In blender or food processor, add chick peas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic and 3 tablespoons of reserved chick pea liquid.  Blend/process until smooth. If it's too thick, continue to add reserved liquid, until desired consistency is reached - but not too runny.  Stir in salt/pepper to taste.  Gently stir in nasturtium blossoms.   Let sit for at least one hour so flavours can meld.  Can be stored in fridge for up to a week, or frozen for later use.

Nasturtium Hummus

Friday, October 14, 2011

Putting the Garden to Bed for the Winter

It's time to start putting the garden to bed for the winter.   We've just had a mini second summer and a hard dark frost hasn't hit us yet - which usually has by this time of year.  We've had several days of no rain, and summer temperatures so have taken advantage of this time to start putting the gardens to bed for the winter.   Other years I have ended up working in the cold and rain to do this work.

We're still enjoying swiss chard from our garden, and soon the 2nd sowing of radishes will be ready to be picked.   Most of the vegetable beds have been pulled.   The Virgina Creeper which found it's way into the tomato patch has been transplanted to grow along side the rain barrels.  The garlic has been planted for next year harvest.  Rain barrels are emptied and turned over so water doesn't collect, freeze and crack the heavy plastic barrels.    There is still so much colour happening in the garden and we're enjoying it before the frost hits and snow is here.

When the leaves start falling we'll be shreading and using for mulch this year on the vegetable garden, as well as keeping a bag or two for putting in the compost bins - for layering with kitchen compost.    Leaves are full of nutrients and make great compost. 

Getting garden ready for the winter

"How miraculous that growing on my own little plot of land are plants that can turn the dead soil into a hundred flavours as different as horseradish and thyme, smells ranging from stinkhorn to lavender." 
John Seymour

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall Hiking

I love hiking in the fall.   The temperatures are cooler, no humidity, colours are beautiful and the best part - no bugs !   There is something about being in the fresh air and nature that regenerates the soul.

Last weekend I hiked the Caledon section of the Bruce Trail (with my homemade snacks - protein bars, kale chips, and tofu jerky.) The Bruce Trail is the longest foot path in Ontario. I'm fortunate to live close to the trail and took these photos on my last hike.  While hiking I met a older man walking the trail.   We hiked together for a while and learned that when he finished hiking that day he will have completed hiking the entire Bruce Trail - over 850 km.   Inspiring !

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Salsa Verde

I was recently introduced to tomatillos for the first time at our local CSA food share.  These are not something we see in our local small town grocery store.    Tomatillos are small fruits (used as a vegetable) enclosed in a papery husk. The fruit resembles a small unripe tomato and is usually green or yellow. The yellow color indicates ripeness, but tomatillos are most often used when they are still green. Green tomatillos are firmer and easier to slice. The husk that holds the fruit is paper-like and is light brown. The flesh is slightly acidic with a hint of lemon. Tomatillos belong to the same family as tomatoes.  The Aztecs first grew tomatillos as far back as 800 B.C. and they have been popular in Mexico and other Latin American countries for many years.

Although mostly the tomatillo is used cooked it can be eaten raw. It's commonly used in salsas as well as stews and sauces for meats. It is also made into jams and marmalades.   Tomatillos have a very tart flavor, not at all like a tomato. 

Even though tomatillos are sometimes called "green tomatoes", they should not be confused with green, unripe tomatoes.  The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria.  They are a staple in Mexican cuisine and cooked Latin American green sauces.  

Salsa Verde

cut up tomatillos / onion / garlic /
red pepper / jalapeno pepper - read for oven

1/2 lbs tomatillos, husked
1/4 small sweet onion
1/2 jalapeno, seeded for less heat
1/2 red pepper
1/2 clove of garlic
fresh cilantro to taste
olive oil

Preheat oven to 450F degrees.  Place above tomatilos, onion, jalapeno, red pepper, garlic on backing dish and drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Place roasted vegetables in food proccessor and process in small batches until smooth.   Enjoy !

Salsa Verde

Saturday, October 1, 2011


When I began my journey on simplicity and frugality over 20 years ago, it was out of necessity and not because I wanted to.    Since that time it has become a way of life.

One of my favourite books on frugality is the Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, a.k.a. The Frugal Zealot.  "When first married their joint financial assets barely paid for the budget wedding.  They owned almost nothing.  In other words they started from zero."  She and her husband lived on one salary, raised six children and owned their own rural pre-1900 New England farmhouse (with attached barn) - debt free.  "Over the years their average income was less than $30,000 (including her husband's Navy salary and all allowances, plus her spotty freelance income). In less than seven years they saved $49,000, made significant investment purchases (vehicles, appliances, furniture) of $38,000, and were completely debt free! That is an annual savings/investment rate of over $12,500 per year, or 43% of their gross income.

Her books give helpful vital, cost-cutting ideas, ie how to cut your food bill in half, painless ways to save money, lifestyles of the frugal and obscure, ingenious recycling ideas, how to be frugal without feeling deprived - and hundreds of amazing tips, tricks, strategies, recipes and crafts that can squeeze big savings out of even the tightest budgets. 

Her books will help you get started as an aspiring tightwad, giving tightwadery a good name, and provide support to tightwads who feel they're all alone in their quest.

Her books are written with wit and humour which you'll surely be inspired and enjoy.

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