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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Making changes

Ever since I semi-retired from machine quilting a few years ago, I've been doing my best to go back to a simpler life.  I've cut out the stress of constant deadlines and planned time to relax once again.  My life has changed a lot but there are many more changes I need to make.

I've talked about how the food fairies visit me and leave things like this.

And things like this too.  I've talked about how I'm a scratch cook and often use the things I get from the food fairies to create my meals. 

I've talked about how I find many discount bin foods that I  freeze or can or dehydrate to use for cooking later.  I've talked about how I will take a bunch of these  (or whatever) ....

and turn it into these (or something) to be eaten later.

The majority of my cooking and eating has been around whatever I find at discount or what is given to me by the food fairies. 

This week I've went to a doctor to have 4 pre-cancer spots removed.  One from my face and 3 from my back.  Not good!  I spent lots of time in the sun in the fields at my grandparents home when I was a kid.  We didn't know about sun screen back then.  I also had another doctor appointment this week.  A follow up for some blood tests that were done a couple of months ago.  My sugar is high, my cholesterol is high, and my blood pressure is high.  That was not good news either. 

A big part of my reason for going into retirement is because I knew my health was suffering.  Several hospital stays, back to back, let me know I had really neglected my health way too long. The income was simply not worth the trouble it was causing both in health problems and stress levels.  I'm very glad I retired when I did.  I do miss the money..... but only a little.  I could do things and buy things with the money without worry.  But I was also working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, without a day off for years just to earn that money.  I had repeated requests to finish quilts ahead of schedule and I always did them even though those quilts were not supposed to be done until weeks later.  I pushed myself to squeeze those quilts in between the quilts actually scheduled.  That increased the stress level and also caused me to neglect good eating habits and other healthy living stuff. 

When I was working full time and under stress to complete "just one more quilt" I skipped meals until late in the day and by then I would be starving so anything I could fix quickly then stuff into myself became my evening meal.  Very often (back then) I ordered pizza or had someone pick up fast food for me.  Don't get me wrong, I didn't do this everyday but it was often enough to be very unhealthy. 

I've gained my senses once again.  It's taken awhile for me to fully appreciate my less stress schedule.  I've been cooking more scratch foods like I did in the days before I had any quilt customers.  Although, due to the rising prices, I had been creating meals willy nilly around what I found in a discount bin or what was left by the food fairies.   I can't do this anymore either..... well almost.  I can still use discount bin or food fairies foods.  I simply need to change the way I use them.   Sure, some food will have to be turned down or passed by without buying, but I can change the way I use the rest of it.

While I was at the doctor yesterday, I picked up a new free meter to test my sugar levels.  I haven't had one of these in several years.  Mine broke and I simply didn't replace it.  I have to pay for the test strips and the lancets but that's ok.

I also visited with the nutritionist and got this book.  I'm going to use the food lists inside it to plan my small square foot garden..... if I manage to have one.  I'm still waiting for the back yard trees to be cut.  My daughter's beau will set my garden up for me after the trees are cut.  Once the garden spot is made I can take it from there.

I also went to the thrift store while I was out.  It's across the street from the clinic.  I bought only one thing.  This book kinda jumped into my hand.  It's a good reference book to have.

Well.... as you can see, I'm still traveling the road toward my simpler life.  I'm just glad I'm able to travel that road.  If I hadn't decided to make the changes in my life..... when I did..... the alternative may have been much different. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

This is messed up

Apparently Blogger, ATT, and Picasa have all decided to make changes at the same time. I wonder if those folks ever talk to each other before scheduling changes? Anyway, the schduling has made it very difficult for me to write posts. I'm taking a short blogging break until those folks finish messing things up.

This is messed up

Apparently Blogger, ATT, and Picasa have all decided to make changes at the same time.  I wonder if those folks ever talk to each other before scheduling changes?  Anyway, the schduling has made it very difficult for me to write posts.  I'm taking a short blogging break until those folks finish messing things up. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nothing new

I have the next quilt on the machine but haven't done more than start stabilizing it.  Just look at who came to live with me.  Isn't he cute? 


A neighbor gave him to me as a thank you for teaching her some sewing and cooking.  He now rides on the top of my Gammill to keep me company while I work.  Each time I look up he's there and makes me smile.

I call him Watchdog, because he doesn't do anything but sit and watch.  I'm spending my days enjoying new found freedom from stress.  I'm still quilting but I'm not living my whole life around a quilting machine any more.  If I want to take a day off from quilting and spend the day teaching a neighbor how to sew or how to survive on food bank food then I can do that without stress over waiting quilts. 

I'm still quite busy most days but it's a different kind of busy.  The busy I feel these days has much more meaning and feels so much better.  My journey back to a simpler life is going very well and I like it. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Busy week

There was more canning done this week and an inventory taken of non-electric appliances taken.  Seeing so many earthquakes, floods, volcanos and other natural disasters on the news had me thinking about what if it happened here.  Would I be prepared?  I wasn't getting into a panic about it but I did want to take stock of what I have and what I might need to start looking for on my shopping trips.  I like to think ahead. 

The news of higher food prices expected this year and next year also had me thinking about a better garden this year.  I'm not panicked about food either but a garden of my own would surely be a good investment.  I haven't planned anything or started making the garden yet because I'm waiting for the trees to be cut back.  I don't want branches to be falling on plants when the trees are trimmed.

This quilt was finished too.

It's Christmas themed fabric so I did lots of holly leaves.

More holly leaves along the border.

A simple wavy line on the inside border and another holly vine on the next inside border.

This time the holly leaves go out from the corners to meet in the middle.

A simple outline of the characters in the blocks.  A swag design around the centers and a ribbon on the fill in strips.  Then a loop design on the inside border.

Simple line dancing was done on the pieced blocks with a sort of flower in the centers.  I can't remember the name of the flower but design mimicks the flower in the fabric.

There was more clothing cut apart and stabilized for the two memory quilts.  These two quilts are to be traded in exchange for the branches being cut off the trees where my garden will be. 

I spent some time doing trapunto on the next quilt. 

I had a Ladybug show me that the nails on a rug frame make an excellent pretend piano for singing and dancing.

A lesson on making a paperclip rug was also a fun thing on a different day.  No, she didn't make the whole thing.  I was working on it while she played and then she wanted to learn too.  Five minutes of learning and she was ready to do something else.  A box makes a really great boat you know.

This coming week looks to be very busy too.  It's spring and spring means more sunsine.  Sunshine means outside activities and open windows for breezes while house cleaning.   Hmm.... maybe there will be time for a me quilt or two. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Would I survive?

As the outside temperature warms up and as I read about people planning spring gardens; I am reminded of how spring used to be for me..... umm, about 35, 40, or 45 years ago.  Every spring, after about a week of above freezing temperatures, the utility company had what I called "field day" as a multitude of trucks rolled out to turn off utilities.  You could see the trucks going from house to house down streets turning off the utilities in the low income neighborhoods.  People's utilities would remain turned off until we managed to pay the high bill or cold weather arrived again.  People in low income neighborhoods know utilities are not a necessity; they are a luxury.  Since utilities today cost way more than they used to, I expect to see a field day in my neighborhood any time now.  The temperature has been above 50 for several days now.
I keep asking myself, would I survive through the summer if this happened to me today?  Could I survive a summer without utilities as I used to do?  Sure, I could probably get by for a couple of weeks as I did during the ice storm of 2009.

After the wind storm, not long after the ice storm, I did ok too.  Ladybug and I spent lots of time together by kerosene lamp light for three weeks that time.  She was too small to care about anything but warm milk, dry diapers, and plenty of cuddles.

I keep asking myself over and over again..... could I survive as I did back when I fully expected my utilities to be turned off for several months every year?  Could I survive if there were a major disaster here and things wouldn't get back to normal for several months?

Back then, I anticipated the spring event and started preparing for it in January.  I knew I had a couple of months to use up the food in the fridge and to wash then dry as many clothes as I could.  I would stock up on foods that could be cooked using my grill as a strange looking wood stove.  I would get out the cooler I made with triple insulation around it.  Back then there were lots of preparations I did in expectation of long months without utilities. 

Could I survive that way today?  Looking around my house today at first I didn't believe I could.  Too much of my life revolves around the use of electricity these days.  I have a freezer which I didn't have back then.  The freezer is full of food.  I could probably cook a lot of it during a temporary power outage because I have a gas stove.  But what if the gas was turned off too as it used to be done?  I no longer have a charcoal grill or a supply of wood branches to burn in it.  I don't own a pressure canner to can the meats in the freezer.  I'm saving for one but my change jar savings don't add up as quickly as they used to.  Even if I had the canner, my supply of canning jars is very limited.  I have 9 dozen pint jars and a meager supply of lids.

My income revolves around the use of electricity.  Without electricity a quilting machine won't sew.  Sure, I do have my much loved treadle machine.  I could use that for machine quilting if I needed to do it. 
I took a look at some of my non-electric kitchen appliances.  The food grinder is missing the wing nuts to hold it together.  My veggie slicer is ok though.  I still have my cast iron cookware which were and are very valuable for outdoor cooking.  I still have my percolator and some other non-electric kitchen items.

Back in those days I was much younger (of course) and physical labor wasn't an issue.  I could handle washing clothes by hand and carrying heavy loads of tree branches for fire with no trouble.  I'm not so strong these days.  Back then I walked long distances to find fallen branches and carry them home.  Today, I fear the roaming packs of neighborhood dogs so walking to find wood would be out of the question.  Back then I had a very small backyard garden to pick fresh veggies for daily meals.  Today, too many tree roots in the ground and too many overhead branches keeping out the sunlight, which prevent planting a garden.   

Am I a prepper or a survivalist?  Today's buzzwords define prepper and survivalist to refer to someone who believes there is an apocalypse about to happen.  Back when I knew for certain I would have to live a whole summer without utilities it felt like an apocalypse to me.   I thought of myself as a prepper because I got myself prepared for the event.  I thought of myself as a survivalist because I believed I would survive long hot days of summer without a fan or air conditioning while standing over a fire cooking our daily meals.

Could I survive a utility field day as I live right now?  At first I didn't think so but with only a few changes I'm sure I could.  It would take some thought on my part to remember what I used to do in preparation for utility field day but I know I could manage.   If I can find it, I still have my notebook of ideas I used back in those days. 
I would still need electricity to run my quilting machine.  Anybody know how to hook up a Gammill to a treadle?  I can live without a tv and hardly miss it but the internet I would miss a lot.  I like writing my blogs and visiting the blogs of others.   I have enough non-electric items that I could survive.  Finding those items is something else entirely.  Hmm..... maybe it's time I thought about locating these things and listing them on a "find it" list to put into my household manager notebook.  Now where did I put that notebook?  I know it's here someplace.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bittersweet tangerine/orange jam

Recently I found good bargains on lemons, oranges, and tangerines.   I have plenty of frozen oranges in the freezer already.  What do I do with a windfall of several oranges and tangerines?  I decided to make tangerine/orange jam.   This is a bittersweet jam. 

This jam can be made with only oranges.

Or it can be made with only tangerines or a combination of both.  Use whatever you find.

Here is the basic ingredient list:

5 oranges (or tangerines or both)
2 lemons
1 1/2 cup honey (or 3 cups sugar)

This basic recipe makes 3 half pints.  I'll explain the recipe but the photos are of a much larger batch.  I had bunches of tangerines and oranges so I multiplied the ingredients to make lots more. 

Take one whole orange, remove the seeds, slice into small sections, rind and all.  Put this into a blender or a food processor and grind it into a paste.  The rind should be very tiny pieces.  In this recipe the rind provides the pectin and the juice provides the acid.

Now peel and remove the seeds of the lemons and the remaining oranges.   Put these through the blender or food processor too.  Put it all into a large pot big enough to allow for expansion of the liquids during cooking.  I'm using a large stock pot for my larger batch.

Add the sugar and stir together. 

Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil that can't be stirred down.   It will start to foam but this is ok, do not remove the foam.   Be sure it doesn't boil over.  

Boil at a rolling boil for at least 10 minutes or until it resembles a thick syrup.  Stir frequently.  The foam will eventually die down. 

Turn off the heat and pour jam into jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.   If you made the small batch then the jars can be allowed to cool and stored in the refrigerator.  Allow the jam to age for atleast two weeks before eating or it will taste very bitter.  Aging improves the taste. 

I made a big batch for long term storage so I processed my jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.  My batch made 9 pints. 

I have enough tangerines, oranges, and lemons to make 18 more pints.  Some will be given to neighbors.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm still here

I've been in the kitchen for the last few days instead of in the quilting studio.  The groceries I bought on my shopping trip Monday had to be put away before I could get back to quilting.  I've made croutons and homemade stuffing mix.  I've canned pepper/onion relish.

I've made tangerine/orange jam.

I've cleaned and flash frozen fruits.  I've repackaged and frozen meats.

Today I'm making chicken/pork sausage for the freezer.  I can't be in three places at once so my computer time had to wait and so did my quilting time.  I should be back at the quilting machine after I finish the kitchen work today and clean up the clutter I've made.  All the kitchen stuff (pots, pans, appliances, etc) will be put away until another marathon of cooking next month. 

I wrote a blog post for my other blog this morning.  It shows more about what I've done the last few days too.  I'm getting kind of antsy to get back to quilting.  I still haven't gotten my printer to work.  It looks like I may have to buy a new one.  I can't do portrait quilts without a working printer to make the patterns.  I need to make time to understand the new changes about to happen with my internet as well.  Just when I finally get things figured out..... ATT decides to make changes again.  I have until the 31st to get it figured out or else I'll not be able to get my email.  Geeze..... a little old lady can't keep up! 

More discount bin bargains

Monday was shopping day.  It's different now that I shop once a month.  When I shopped every 3 to 6 months it would take me well over a week to preserve the bargains I found.  This time, I've been in the kitchen for 3 days with 1 more to go before I get back to the quilting work.

  Here's a few of the bargains I found.  This flour was one dollar a bag.  A lot less pricey than flour has been for quite awhile.  I bake my own bread and make my own scratch cakes.  Umm..... I use flour for lots of other things too.

I found these and bought them.  They are tomato bullion with chicken flavor.  I can use these in soups or as an ingredient in meatloaf.  Also in any food that a tomato flavor can be added.  I might even use this for making tomato soup.

These were a dollar and a quarter a bag.  I haven't seen that low price in several months.  Not a discount bin find but a good price anyway since I was out of cornmeal.

Grapes were on sale for 99 cents a pound but I found these on the discount table for 75 cents a pound.  I put these in the freezer first thing.  Grapes go bad very quickly and I didn't want to loose the money I spent on them.  Eating frozen grapes is sort of like eating a grape Popsicle.   Set some on a counter for awhile and they are just like fresh picked.

I found green peppers and onions on the discount table too.   I have enough of those in the freezer to use in my cooking so I decided to make pepper/onion relish.    I had just enough to make 6 pints.  It's used sort of like you would use pickle relish..... but there's no cucumbers in it.

I found a really good bargain on lemons and.....

tangerines and oranges.

I have more than enough of these in the freezer too.  I decided to make orange/tangerine jam with them.  I'm going to do a tutorial on this. 

I also found discounted ground pork and chicken thighs.  I'm going to make chicken/pork sausage today. 

I found a really good non-food bargain too.  This is a wind up radio and flashlight.  I bought one for me and one for my brother.   What's really neat about this is that it can charge up a cell phone too.  A few cranks of the handle is all that's needed...... IF it works like it says it does.   This will be great for when there's a power outage. 

For several months I've been searching for rennet tablets.  I was unable to find it anywhere.  Imagine my surprise when these showed up on the discount table at the store I had searched the most often.  It's used for making ice cream but that's not what I want them for.

I wanted rennet tablets because I thought maybe I would try making my own cheese.  I drink powdered milk but sometimes I find whole milk that's discounted.  I'm thinking it can't be very different to make an aged cheese.  Well, I had looked and looked for rennet.  I asked at several stores but no one seemed to know what rennet was.  When asked what I needed it for; I told them I planned to make cheese. 

I got some really strange looks from them.  None of the store personnel could believe I actually planned to go to the trouble to make my own cheese.  I'm sure those same people never think beyond what's for dinner after a long day at work.  I can always tell when someone is a "future planner" and someone who is not.  Someone who thinks ahead and plans for the future would be all ears and questions when I mention making my own cheese.  Or they might tell me they do the same thing.  Those who don't plan for rising prices and a worsening economy give me blank stares. 

It's the blank stare people who sadden me the most.  It reminds me how far away from the way life used to be that we've gone.  The life we had back when people were not living paycheck to paycheck.  A life when women and men did things at home.   The folks of my generation have failed to pass along our knowledge to our children.   Our children are no longer interested.  This is so sad. 

Well, I'm going to continue my move back to a simpler life.  Now that I'm no longer chasing the almighty dollar just to spend it acquiring more useless stuff.... I'm much happier.  I write this blog for the benefit of those who think like me and want a simpler life too.  I don't have all the answers but it makes me happy to know someone, somewhere cares enough to visit as I learn new skills or re-learn forgotten ones. 

To all my blog readers...... THANK YOU.

Friday, March 11, 2011

This one finished

I have another quilt finished.  The owner prefers minimal quilting so this one went quickly.

A leaf and curl design on the outside border and none on the inside border. 

You have to look at this sideways but the line dancing looks like butterflies. 

A look at it from the back.

A look at the border from the back.

Hmm.... what shall I do today?  I have a Me day today.  I'm hoping to fix my printer so I can print out some portrait quilt patterns in order to make corrections.  It just irks me that this darned printer had to pick NOW to start acting up.  If I can't get it printing right I'll probably cut out more fabric pieces for the two memory quilts.