Hide the Silver!
Silver cutlery and dishes were once coveted and included in the home for their beauty, usefulness and of course, as a status symbol. But they also represented a practical investment.
Cutlery and dishes were a needed item, and silver was durable, long-lasting, could be traded, pawned, handed down to the next generation; and at the end of the day ... sold to be melted down and re-used. Hence the saying "Hide the silver!" when someone was expected to visit the household with whom you weren't acquainted; or had reason to be suspicious of their poor character. It is also why many buffets and china cabinets had locks. Real silver is often very heavy and is hallmarked with various numbers and symbols which are helpful in tracing their age, place of origin and value.
Affordable Silver Plate
Silver plate became popular as a cost-effective alternative to silver and made it more widely available for the common public to attain. It is physically lighter than solid silver (though can be heavy if it has an encased lead plug for weight and stability). Silver plate items range from unmarked to marked with country of origin, a declaration of lead mounts/plug and can also be hallmarked or include the company name. I am not an expert, but to the best of my knowledge the lead content is not considered dangerous as it is not exposed at all. The lead is a contained "plug" fully encased within the item (usually within copper with the silver plate over top).
I have found multiples uses for vintage silver plate other than serving food anyway. A few are shown here ... and I keep finding more inspiration with each piece I add! You can polish away the tarnish, which looks nice in the shabby chic, romantic home ... or leave the patina for the more eclectic, bohemian, dark or magically witchy home.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2022
This is the most incredibly versatile vegetarian casserole!
Serve it as a meatless alternative on taco night. Simply heat corn tortilla shells and provide a mound of chopped lettuce (I prefer iceberg for this recipe) and a pot of sour cream. Yummy, filling and healthy (includes 7 vegetables/legumes: lentils, tomatoes, celery, carrot, onion, lettuce & arguably corn!)
It is easy to prepare, economical to stock, good on its own or as a side dish, easy to keep warm for late-comers to the table ... and freezes beautifully.
Meanwhile, grate an ample amount of cheddar cheese. Remove foil, spread cheddar cheese over top and heat for 10 minutes (or until melted).
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2022
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2022
Though we are into Fall now; the roses are still blooming here in the Grove, so I thought I would try my hand at some cheap and cheerful, homemade skin care. Here is my recipe for "Quick and Easy Rose Petal & Witch Hazel Toner":
You will need:
2 handfuls of fresh rose petals
1 covered dish
metal tea strainer and funnel
2 same size containers
1 dark glass bottle
Step 3. Measure out an equal amount of pure witch hazel to your rosewater. Pour both the witch hazel and rosewater together into a dark glass bottle, cap tightly and shake gently or rotate bottle to mix. Store in a dark, cool cupboard. Apply to skin with a cotton ball.
Rosewater is anti-inflammatory and has anti-bacterial qualities and so soothes irritated or acne-prone skin. As a natural astringent; it tones skins and tightens pores as well as reducing the appearance of wrinkles. It is also used to hydrate, revitalize and moisture all skin types as it balances the serum of the skin. Witch hazel has similar benefits as it pertains to toning, tightening and cleansing the skin.
And since the beautiful Queen Cleopatra is said to have washed her face in rosewater and indulged in milk baths heavily laced with rose petals; as part of her beauty regime ... I think that is good enough for me to incorporate some rosewater into my daily skin care routine!
Bibliography: Magical Powers of Rosewater for Glowing Skin, Read & Digest, 2020
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2020
Do you ever have one lonely hamburger left over after a barbecue or hamburger night? That's all you need for this recipe. Just freeze any left over, cooked hamburger patties and you will be ready to make this meal, anytime you desire.
This recipe is perfect for a rainy night when you want to make a meal without having to run out to the store. It's great on a budget too, or when you want to clean out the fridge or pantry! Note that you can make this soup with numerous substitutions ... depending on what you have on hand.
Bonus: Kids absolutely love this soup.
Inspiration: Lesley Silverstone (my lovely mother-in-law) Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2020 / edited 2021
Running short of money a couple of days before payday or trying to stick to a budget? Don't have time (or the energy) to run out to the store? If you've got a can of salmon or tuna, and a healthy spice cupboard, you might just have dinner.
This recipe is inspired by "Salmon Chops" from Patricia R. Wagner's "Depression Era Recipes" and I altered it a little bit to suit my taste ... and with what was available in my cupboard! I often turn to her recipes as they are easy, use few or low cost ingredients, and make a good meal in a pinch.
The beauty of this recipe is that you likely have most of these items already ... and the ones you don't have are easy to stock up on, and don't spoil by storing. It pays to keep your pantry stocked up on basic items such as the ones used in this "Salmon Cakes" recipe. The Depression was a time when people had to make do with what they had, and also what was available. I like to apply that to today by just living simply ... which usually saves money to boot!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019 / edited 2022
Mmm, mmm! Home-made Baked Beans - yummy, comforting and economical! Make them in a crock pot or open-face in the oven. A fantastically warm and wonderful dinner with baked potatoes and a salad. And lots and lots of left-overs for breakfasts, lunches and the freezer! See recipe below.
Bake covered in a 300° oven for 2 1/2 hours. Uncover, give it a poke, and bake, uncovered, for an additional 1 to 1 & 1/2 hours.
Seriously enjoy with buttered baked potatoes and a green salad.
This recipe makes a lot! So you will have yummy left-overs. Here's some options:
Breakfast: Do a traditional English fry-up with bacon, eggs, sausage, fried tomatoes, toast ... and a side of homemade baked beans!
Lunch: Warm up and put in a thermos for the kids' lunches or enjoy with a bit of buttered toast.
Dinner: Makes a great side with most Indian and Mexican dishes. Try breakfast burritos for dinner! Load up a soft tortilla shell with warmed baked beans, scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, and chopped veg of your choice -- like green onions, peppers and tomatoes. Roll up, sprinkle a bit of left-over cheese and veg on top, place on a baking tray and heat in oven until cheese melts.
Make sure you freeze some: After 2 or 3 days, if you haven't used all the beans, do make sure you freeze them. I tend to freeze several portions right away in different sized containers for a single serving or main meal. Really helps out to have a loaded freezer of left-overs!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019
Okay, now that I have just said something so radical that many may be literally falling off their chairs; something that seemingly goes against all current and popular way of thinking ... grant me the opportunity to share another viewpoint!
But first, a sincere apology to those sputtering; "But I feel better when there is no clutter around!" or "My parents' / grandparents' stuff is so out-dated ... I don't want it!" or "I'll have more time for experiences if I'm free from taking care of dust collectors!" And so on and so forth. Yes, I do hear these protests ... ad nauseam in fact. It is pounded into my head constantly by posts on social media and by well-meaning individuals who truly believe in a minimalist lifestyle. I believe their viewpoint resonates with many people for one very simple reason ... that there is indeed good value in clearing out useless clutter! But the keyword here is "useless".
The alternative viewpoint I wish to share is not to be so over zealous that we "Throw the baby out with the bathwater"; and instead to focus on "Sorting the wheat from the chaff". (I do love old sayings!)
Here's the thing. I love my "stuff"! It fills me with great joy to be surrounded by sentimental items. They jog memories that I thought forgotten. They provide a warm connection to family, friends and pets who have since passed, to my family history and cultural heritage, and to travels taken. And these items reflect back to me, a little of who I am, where I've been and what I believe in; thus providing a sense of grounding in a sometimes unstable world.
I wholeheartedly believe that this sense of belonging is something that so many people today are desperately searching for and that I believe, could at least be partially found, in celebrating their own personal (and family) story through that very "clutter" that is so often overlooked, devalued and discarded.
The definition of clutter has recently evolved to mean basically anything and everything in the home - except for only the most necessary and (usually) neutral items. Under current attack in the name of "clearing the clutter" are sentimental items, heirlooms and keepsakes. We are also urged to discard books, records, videos, CDs, DVDs, photos and documents that can be transformed (or re-purchased - Aye, there's the rub!!) into digital form. It has come to mean vilifying anything and everything that can't be used in the actual moment. It has come with the illusion that new products are always better. And it is this new definition of "clutter" that I don't actually see as clutter at all, but in fact, an attack on heritage, disdain for the generations that came before us, and an inability to recognize quality household goods that last and last. It is also a symptom of the "throw away" culture and goes against the goal of sustainability.
An heirloom is defined as "a valuable object that has been owned by a family for many generations".
Value is determined by you; and many generations can also start with you too! This really comes home when you have a child. I take great joy in mixing up some baking ingredients in my Mom's old Pyrex bowl set - but what greater joy is there to watch my daughter do the same thing?
Save money by keeping hard copies of books, music, movies & photos
Don't get me wrong - I absolutely LOVE being able to snap digital photos and have access to them immediately; without the need for processing or printing. And I enjoy scanning old photos and having the tools available to restore them and thus prolong their survival. But printed photos in themselves, have a story to tell and are still necessary to safeguard your special memories. I have dozens of photos I need to print and I intend to do so. Once they are printed, I will be able to view them all by myself. It is dangerous in my mind, to rely solely on technology that requires power and a provider, in order to view your photos or documents. The important ones really do need to be backed up on paper. And a lifetime collection of favourite books, films and music is very expensive to reassemble on your devices. True, it may save space - in fact considerable space, but the (somewhat) old joke holds true that every time the medium changes ... we all have to buy "The White Album" again! But it is really no joke. At even 99¢ a song, that can really add up if you are a serious music lover. And I had gotten so used to hearing The Beatles on digital recreations, that when my husband ran one of my old albums on his turntable; it literally felt like John, Paul, George and Ringo were singing right in our living room! I had simply forgotten the fantastic and superior sound of vinyl records and all the feelings evoked by hearing these blokes again, properly ... and re-examining the much worn and loved covers of my 35-40 year old record collection - the best feeling!
Let's not forget the sheer pleasure of holding a real (and much loved) book in your hands, late at night, without the added distraction of "firing up" that electronic technology. Don't even get me started on how much it would cost to replace my book collection ... and how about cooking recipes from your Mom's, Grandma's or even Great-Grandma's recipe books and cards! (Sure, you can easily look up new recipes on-line and why not? though I do encourage compilation of these new-found recipes into a book of your own). It's truly a joy and comfort to see the scribbles, notes, clippings and long-ago food splotches in your Mom's much utilized recipe book! I guarantee you will learn something you didn't know about your family by following the path they took in their kitchen on some long ago day.
Find new uses for items you would otherwise discard
Another benefit that is often missed with keeping a little "clutter" about, is the amount of money that can be saved by having items on hand that can be reused or repurposed; not to mention that you receive Mother Nature's undying gratitude! This is huge for any one committed to "going green" and once started you begin to see possible reuses in just about everything. Old clothes, linens, containers, craft items, school supplies, cards - this stuff does add up and adds to the clutter. But what a savings to have these items on hand when a costume is needed for Hallowe'en, school plays or dress-up days! Old clothes that are in good shape should be donated, but worn out clothes can be made over into a variety of items - like doll or pet blankets, hankies, catnip bags or potpourri pouches! The rest can be cut into rags and used for all kind of tasks from polishing furniture to cleaning bike chains. Cards can be cut up to make new cards and tags; wrapping paper and tissue can be re-used; brown grocery bags can be turned inside out and re-used to mail parcels; cloth ties on bags and shoelaces can be re-used to tie up tomato plants and popsicle sticks can be re-used as seedling markers. The list becomes endless. A big one for me was sorting through my child's previous year's school supplies. I would compare what we had on hand against next year's school list - often saving a small fortune (and unnecessary waste) by just supplementing missing or worn out school supplies, and not buying a completely new set of everything ... each and every year.
This little fellow and matching blanket was made out of an old blanket from my childhood. I had kept it, even though it was worn and torn (literally falling apart) and couldn't be mended anymore. Inspiration came from my daughter on a rainy day when watching "Little Bear" cartoons. So with some of the good bits of material, we made my old blanket over into a couple of "new" things my little one could enjoy!
"Little Bear" stories and cartoons by Else Holmelund Minarik / Maurice Sendak
Find new uses / new owners for inherited items
Dishes inherited from older relatives are sometimes unneeded or unwanted. They are often discarded due to their "dated" patterns. But the high quality of china of generations past is phenomenal and can not be matched by visiting the box stores of today. They also provide a tangible link to your family and while I truly believe in creating your own style (and weaving your own magic) into your home - I think such decisions should be made carefully. Quality lasts - and that saves you money. It may be that certain pieces of an inherited set can be blended into your existing set - especially such useful items as extra platters and serving dishes (which don't need to match your place setting) and to have on hand as dinner and side plates for large gatherings. Forget using paper plates for appetizers - hand everyone an eclectic mix of fancy side plates or orphaned saucers. Or pack up a full set of 2 to 4 basic place settings - all ready to accompany a young person to their first home - the traditional "hand-me-downs" that save money on furnishing that first apartment!
Inherited furniture should also be cherished - if not for the gorgeous style or craftmanship, but because it is often real solid wood; a commodity difficult to find these days. Even the most expensive modern furniture is usually made from MDF, or has it hiding somewhere as part of its structure, and will not stand the test of time.
All of these practices and more make Mother Nature smile, save you money ... and reduce the demand on manufacturing.
So by all means, de-clutter your home of useless items. But remember what useless clutter truly is - the old bills, the half-empty make-up jars, the books you won't read, the clothes you won't wear, the unneeded or outgrown items that can't be reused - and low quality items. Those appreciated but unwanted gifts. All other possessions that you love and cherish, bring back good memories, or can be re-used or re-purposed; to those I quote these old and wise adages that still hold true and will keep your home fresh and un-cluttered:
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"
" A place for everything, and everything in its place."
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019 / edited 2021 & 2022
I hate to throw out food. It has just gotten too dear to fool around with!
Before Christmas and New Year's we purchase all kinds of groceries and goodies. We bake and cook - sometimes a little too much in anticipation of guests (Note: 2020-not this year of course!), and just in the spirit of abundance that the Yule Season represents. Hopefully, you have been freezing all your leftovers along the way - especially those best cuts of turkey.
I recommend taking a good look inside your fridge ... and now! Because that food is going to spoil if you don't get to it very soon. It's too easy to forget about something you bought and didn't use and that is now buried in the fridge, which is overly-stuffed with bits and pieces and leftovers. So do a proper clean-out to make sure you are saving as much of that food as possible.
What's in your fridge?
Take a good look on each and every shelf. Push everything aside so you know what is really in there. Remove all spoiled food and compost it, wrap up for the "green bin" (if your city provides that kind of recycling service) or toss out. Don't forget to reuse all those plastic, glass or metal containers ... if you haven't been using your very own covered dishes that is!
Now take a look at what is left and prioritize. Do you have extra cheeses, vegetables and sauces? Make them part of the next few nights dinner plans so they don't go to waste, with these ideas:
~ Post-Christmas Dinner Plans ~
Various kinds of cheeses from cheese platters, sour cream, homemade dips =
"Put-It-All-Together" Macaroni & Cheese
Find the recipe here: february-when-theres-snow-on-the-snowdrops.html
Cherry tomatoes from finger food veg platters =
Spaghetti sauce or addition to salads. Or preserve and freeze to use as tomato sauce later on in the year.
Instructions here: january-make-even-more-of-the-food-you-buy-by-reincarnating-it.html
Left-over root vegetables like turnips, parsnips, carrots and potatoes =
Roast and serve as a side dish with meatloaf or fish dish.
Left-over vegetables like brussel sprouts, broccoli, carrots, celery and peppers =
Stir fries, soups, omelets or cut up for snacking with hummus.
Left-over tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream and cheeses =
Left-over (or soft) mandarin oranges = Orange Slush
This is the absolute best! DO NOT throw out soft or wrinkled mandarin oranges. Wash, cut in half and juice. Pour the juice into a blender together with desired amount of sugar and some crushed ice. Blend and pour into glasses. Sooooo sweet!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019 / edited 2020
I LOVE buying vintage items ... or just plain used! It's a way of life for me - why pay more when you don't have to? (Mother Nature will love you too for keeping good, reusable items out of the landfills!)
"Buy everything used when you can,
and only buy new when you can't" Meadow Sweet Grove / Vicki Buchanan
Everyone is keen on saving the environment these days aren't they? Find some old over-sized vintage handkerchiefs for the boys. Wash and iron them. Even if he doesn't want to use them at work or at home, they're handy in the car for coffee spills or wiping a spot off the windshield. Indispensable in his pocket while working in the garden or the workshop for wiping the sweat off his hard-working brow!
Young children are the easiest. With usually boxes of toys to choose from, you can put together a nice little collection of toy cars, doll furniture or clothes, board games (check to make sure all the pieces are present) or some little stuffed animals. Take them home and give them a good clean. Plastic toys can be wiped down and the little crevices cleaned with a wet Q-tip. Stuffed animals can go right in your washing machine, with mild soap and cold water on the gentle cycle. Let them sit on a towel to dry. Barbie and doll clothes can be washed in the sink in a similar fashion. When dry, mend any little tears. Put them all together in zippered toiletry / cosmetic bags or small decorative boxes from the dollar store. Parents will appreciate that your gift comes with its own storage ... and not all that ridiculous plastic packaging that takes a hacksaw to get into!! (Seriously, this reduces frustration on Christmas morning too when the little ones have to wait for scissors to be found, packaging to be cut ... not to mention cutting or untwisting all those superfluous tie-downs. And then somehow removing the delicate plastic toy without breaking it!)
The wonderful thing is that when shopping this way, you'll find you think more about the person you are buying for. What do they really like? Would they be able to use this item? What could I pair it with? You spend less, yes, and save the environment too, but the result is actually more personalized ... and thoughtful, which is ultimately what gift-giving is all about!
~ Ending with a Heart-warming Story ~
My daughter was indoctrinated early into the thrill of the thrift store. Honestly, from the earliest days (when she was still in a carriage), I wheeled her in. She soon learned how quickly Mom would say yes, when a coveted toy was only $2, versus a brand-new toy in a "regular" store, complete with its copious packaging ... and retailing for $30. My sweetest recollection was when she was about 3 years old and playing with a Winnie-the-Pooh musical toy. It had a keyboard and Winnie, Tigger and Eeyore figures standing up at the top ... all ready to chime in when pulled. When it was time to leave, she reluctantly put the toy back on the shelf without even asking if she could have it (already she knew I had a limit on the "physical size" for toys). I told her to bring it along to the cashier and the look on her face was so dear - "We're getting it???" she breathed. That is the pleasure of second-hand shopping and that is the pleasure of being able to say yes, when a toy is only $3.99 ... with working batteries included!!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2019, 2021 & 2022 & 2023
May is such a magical month that the appearance of fairies in your garden should come as no surprise! Even the staunchest disbeliever must do a double take when ... apple, pear or cherry blossoms float and swirl though the air, fresh new leaves rustle in the wind or the sun shimmers and gleams in nooks and crannies in the garden. All these subtle happenings can be evidence of fairy activity ...
Here are 3 simple ways to attract fairies to your garden:
This is a biggie because fairies are like songbirds. They love trees as this gives them little branches to cling to, or big branches for swinging and leaves to hide behind. Not to mention that their older cousins, the Dryads, will often tell them stories at night about ancient times and places. Plant lots of perennial flowers that will magically sprout up in the Spring, year after year, without any extra work on your part - bluebells, tulips, daffodils, forget-me-nots, Jack Frost, Lily-of-the-Valley, foxgloves - your garden will be alive with colour and sweet scents that attract the birds, bees, butterflies ... and fairies!
And for some fun, blow some bubbles from a bubble wand! There is something magical about bubbles floating gently on the breeze ... and the fairies will be sure to notice.
Accept the magical world around you and welcome it into your garden. It doesn't matter how big or small it is. Whether you are charmed with a "back 40", a fantastically witch-y cottage garden, a "postage stamp" city plot or even an apartment balcony; you can always add in a little bit of nature - usually more than you think once you get started! Prepare to be amazed at how special life becomes when your home becomes a safe haven for fairies to congregate and play.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2020
Sometimes life lands you literally "flat on your back" and out of commission for a few days or weeks. In such instances, you may need to rely almost exclusively on family, friends and caregivers. But what if your ability to move around is only partially affected? For me, an unexpected middle back injury has temporarily left it difficult for me to bend down, carry heavy items or drive - though I can walk and putter about the house - or even complete short errands ... but I can't lift anything or turn my head easily. This has caused certain things to jump into sharp focus. Beyond facing any personal assessment and conclusion of this incident; day-to-day life still carries on! I believe in being prepared, but hindsight is 20/20. Here's what I have learned, and a list of a few things that might help you to prepare in advance of a (knock on wood!), similar situation occurring:
List of household items to ALWAYS have on hand:
Own a button-up shirt
I prefer to wear shirts and sweaters that pull over my head. It never occurred to me what is involved in that simple action! Fortunately, I did have a couple of button-up shirts, way in the back of my closet and I guess I'll be living in those for the next little while!
Own a cap or hat
It's also useful to own a cap for walking in light rain. Fortunately, I am fond of the Irish "newsboy" type of cap so I already had a couple of these. I'll be using them a lot over the next little while since I can't carry an umbrella. Hoods are no good with a back injury since they force you to turn your neck to see when crossing the street.
Own an old brass bell
Meadow Sweet Grove currently has two charming brass bells. One is a goat perched atop the bell and the other is a little girl with a full skirt. The goat is an obvious bell, but the girl could simply be seen as a decorative figurine - but for the clapper under her skirt! How useful are these in a three-story house when you need to summon help from someone other than the fairies?
Keep the receiving room clean
I have a bad habit of letting the housework slide ... piles of laundry, vacuuming, stuff laying around that I've been meaning to swap, sell or donate ... and general clutter! But I have one very good policy - always keep the "parlour" clean - if nowhere else. For us, that's the first room guests enter and right off the front door. My logic was that even if the rest of the house was a disaster area, there was always at least one clean and tidy room that I could usher unexpected guests into ... and maintain some sense of pride.
Unfortunately, I let that wonderful practice slide and the front room has seen a few unexpected guests lately! And I haven't been able to tidy it up. My advice - ALWAYS keep the room nearest your front door clean and tidy - you never know when you might not be able to - and that could also be when more people than usual will be showing up!
Stock up on heavy items
Lately, I have been quite good at stocking up on non-perishable food items and emergency items such as candles, matches, duplicate keys and the like. What I didn't think about was heavy items. While it might be easy to walk down to the local store and buy toilet tissue ... it is quite another to lug home a bag of cat litter!
Last, but not least, and most indispensable: cherish the loved ones who will care for you!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2019
Time to Go Thrifting
Many people may have made a New Year's Resolution this January 1st to "clear the clutter" and get organized. When taking those unwanted items in for donation to your local thrift store or charity stop - do make sure you check inside the store to see what's on offer.
Many people donate unwanted Christmas presents in January or donate the items that those gifts replaced. Sometimes they donate better quality items than the new replacements they received!
For example, someone might donate their "out-dated" English bone china dishes or funky 70s Japanese stoneware. For the lover of antique, retro, quality or just plain eclectic dishware -- your local thrift store becomes a treasure trove!
Charity shops often have promotions too, like any other retailer, at this time of the year, to make up for low sales - so make a note of those dates and bring your donations in on those discount days.
Some Thrifty Tips
January is also a time of year when many people are cutting back on their expenses. For some, there is more tax deducted off the pay cheque starting in January. Others overspent at Christmas, or feel the need to take a holiday somewhere warm. Whatever the reason for a light wallet in January - there are many thrifty ways to stretch your dollars.
~ Reuse food containers in your kitchen ~
Isn't it silly that we buy containers to freeze or store our food in - when we throw perfectly good containers into the recycling bin every day? Containers that are already bought and paid for. Recent news has led me to believe that many of the items we faithfully recycle are not being recycled at all - but shipped to other countries for disposal in their landfills and even oceans. This, of course, defeats the purpose of recycling which is to keep the items out of Mother Nature's belly!
Here's a number of re-uses for those many containers that make their way into your home:
The best! Use for dry beans and lentils, pasta, popcorn and rice. Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water and freeze homemade applesauce and crushed tomatoes (make sure you leave a good inch or so at the top for expansion). Use for non-food items like: nails, screws, tacks, beads, paper clips, seed pods and any other small items that need organization.
Yogurt, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, and those funky plastic take-away/delivery containers - anything that is packaged in an opaque plastic tub can be re-used. Use them to freeze left-overs, extra tomato sauce and chicken broth. Keep them handy to send guests home with left-overs, children to school with cut veggies, cookies and cupcakes for school parties and for numerous other non-food uses like: crayons, craft/painting supplies, pet food - just don't get the two mixed up!
Bread Bags & Cereal Boxes
Those many bread bags basically replace plastic wraps! Okay, they don't "cling", but many food items we wrap up don't need that feature. Use them to wrap cheese and to freeze extra portions of raw meat like ground beef and chicken. Cut them in half and use them to wrap sandwiches and snacks for lunches. Collect dry seed pods in the summer or fall and shake the bag. All the seeds will collect beautifully in the bottom of the bag (I learned this trick from a wonderful old Yorkshireman). Talk about thrifty! He even cut up his empty cereal boxes for a re-use as shopping lists.
~ Join a Local "Buy Nothing" or "Gifting" Group ~
If you are on Facebook, do a search for a "buy nothing" or "gifting" group in your local area. The premise is usually that everyone posts pictures of items that they are willing to give away for free. Read the rules carefully as each group is different, but usually, you are required to post a picture and short description of an item you no longer need. People express interest by commenting on the post and you pick a recipient and leave the item on your doorstep for them to collect at a pre-arranged time. You likewise comment on posts of items that others are gifting in the hopes that you will be the lucky winner. I have met some wonderful people this way and have received many amazing household items ... and helped to de-clutter my own home in the bargain!
One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2019 & 2023
It has been raining so long in Meadow Sweet Grove ... week after week of it! The fairies are having a hard time getting their laundry dry and all sorts of smalls are hanging in front of all the little hearths and stoves. Still, there are signs of Spring in the Grove. Lots and lots of merry songbirds are flitting about and wee, perky daffodils are cheerfully (and valiantly!) standing up to the rain. In the meantime, rainy nights make for some great soup nights.
This recipe (with slight alterations) is from one of Meadow Sweet Grove's vintage cookbooks and is a very comfy and tasty version of Manhattan Clam Chowder. Pair with crusty buns and sharp cheese for a perfect rainy night supper!
Manhattan Clam Chowder
1/4 cup finely cut bacon, cooked crisp
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 can whole baby clams
2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 cup water
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. salt (if desired)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
2 tsps. parsley
Finely chop bacon and fry in frying pan until completely crisp. Add onion and saute together. Drain clams, reserving liquid and set clams aside. Add clam liquor, potatoes, water and celery to the onion and bacon. Cook, slightly bubbling, until potatoes are tender - approx. 10-15 min. Add clams, tomatoes and seasonings. Heat thoroughly and serve immediately. Makes approximately 4 servings.
These little bowls are simply awesome. Perfect for setting out on the table at each place setting with (or as) the main course. Because they come with lids, the soup is kept piping hot until everyone is ready to join in at the table - and if there are any left-overs, simply pop the lid on top and store in the fridge. Fun way to serve soup to kids, great for sauces or small portions, and handy for saving any type of leftovers - all without the use of plastic wraps. Gotta love it!
Source: Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book, McGraw-Hill, 1961 Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2019/2020
February 14th - St. Valentine's Day = Love
Starting with the Roman Festival of Lupercalia, moving on to the Greek mythology of Venus, Cupid & Psyche and culminating with the Christian story of St. Valentine ... it's always been about Love! Winter is ending, Spring is beginning ... love is in the air. The Meadow Sweet Grove fairies love cheeky vintage Valentines ... like the one to the left! With their playful play on words - they really reflect the essence of Valentine's Day with flirtatiousness, fun and comradery. Of course, the industrious fairies also love to turn the scraps, trimmings and clippings that they saved during the year into one-of-a-kind home-made card creations as well!
~ Save your scraps ~
Set aside a shoe box or large envelope and collect scraps throughout the year. Cut out beautiful pictures from magazines, cards, advertisements, tags, packaging, wrapping paper, stickers from address labels, stamps - you get the idea! Save little bits of cloth ribbon from chocolate and nut packages, cut buttons off clothes too worn to donate and anything else you find pretty. Once you get going, and truly look at everything in your hand before you drop it in the trash or recycling bin - you will be amazed at what you have available to you - for free!!
~ Making the cards ~
There are countless ways to make your card - and absolutely the sky is the limit! Here's one option for a flat card, with message on the reverse, that can be displayed by "propping":
Et voilà! Instant, pretty, unique and free Valentine's Day card. Children and the youngest fairies, of course, love making their own cards ... and some of the not-so-young ones do too ...
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2021
~ Never throw food out ~
Save Vegetable Peelings/Cuttings & Leftover Bits of Chicken
Chicken broth is relatively inexpensive at the store and available in tins or tetra packs. But why pay for anything that is so easy to make and for which you already have the ingredients? You do have the time if you remember your freezer. Just keep a bread bag in the freezer closed with a twist tie. Next time you are chopping or peeling vegetables (especially carrots, onions, broccoli and celery), toss all the good bits that you would ordinarily throw away, into that bag and keep them frozen. Wrap up any leftover bits of cooked chicken and freeze separately. Now, and at your leisure, you may make up a batch of chicken stock whenever you choose. Simply tip the various little bags of frozen veg and chicken into a large pot. Add black pepper, parsley and a bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer. When ready, pour over a strainer into ceramic bowls. Use immediately or transfer, when tepid, into plastic containers for freezing. And if you are lucky enough to have a left-over chicken carcass, you can immediately add the frozen veg directly into the pan to make your broth. Don't forget to check the bottom of your crisper bins in the fridge! Often there are some veg "on the way out" that can be easily added to the broth.
Save Soft Tomatoes
Tomatoes starting to soften in the refrigerator? Bad on one side? Put them in a large metal mixing bowl, boil a kettle and pour over top. When cool enough to touch, make a slight cut -- the skins should peel off easily. Slightly chop, discarding any spoiled pieces, and place the remainder in a medium pot. Reduce to mush over medium to low heat. Ladle into sterilized mason jars (just boil jars and lids rapidly for a couple of minutes in a large pot of water), add a small squirt of lemon and sprinkle of rock salt on top and seal jars. Freeze when they reach room temperature. Now you have some wonderful crushed tomatoes for your next spaghetti, lasagna or other pasta dish!
If you are in a hurry, simply wash the whole tomatoes in cool water, dry and freeze in a bread bag. You can then add the frozen tomatoes directly to any pasta sauce or soup you are making at a later date - just takes a little longer to break them down.
Save Bits & Pieces of Cheese / Odds & Ends of Bread
Cheese is so incredibly expensive ... at least in Meadow Sweet Grove. The fairies in Britain often come to visit their little cousins in the Grove and are shocked at the price of cheese! So, every time you slice cheese for snacking, or grate cheese for a meal, make sure you save the little leftover bits, wrapped up tight in the refrigerator. Start a bread bag in the fridge for left-over bread - that last slice no one seems to eat, the broken crust, etc. Also, don't throw out that last bit of sour cream, cottage cheese or unflavoured yogurt - unless it truly is off of course!
Banana Bread of course! A tasty snack anytime and perfect for kid's lunchboxes.
These are just a few ways to save food that you might otherwise have thrown out. Once you get used to the idea, you will discover many, many more ways to use up food that you thought had no life left in it, or was too small to save - and start saving lots on that shocking grocery bill!
Next week for you: Two recipes -
"Pull-It-All-Together Macaroni & Cheese" & Delicious Banana Bread
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017
The price of food keeps going up, up, up! Even the fairies have discovered increases at their little local markets in the Grove. With the price of food so high, it makes sense to cut waste at every opportunity. One of the best ways to do this is to save all your leftovers so you are truly eating most of the food you buy.
~ Save your leftovers ~
First - Freeze
The best way to save leftovers is to immediately freeze any portions that you think you won't be able to finish in the next few days. The saving of leftover meals is of course thrifty in itself. Almost everything can be frozen nicely and most cookbooks have a section on how long it is safe to store different types of dishes. Save more money by reusing old margarine, yogurt or cream cheese tubs. When money runs low - don't reach for the credit card at the grocery store - turn to your freezer to make up a supper.
Second - Refrigerate
Put leftovers in the fridge that you know you will use in the next little while, but don't cover with that costly and wasteful plastic wrap or tin foil. The fairies, who simply don't have those type of factories in the Grove, use covered glass and ceramic dishes instead. Many vintage Pyrex and Fire King dishes were intended to be used first for cooking a meal, and then came with a fitted lid, providing a simple method for saving leftovers in the fridge. And even if you didn't prepare the meal in the dish; you can still use these beauties for storing leftovers! Estimate the amount you pay each year for disposable food wrap. It quickly becomes apparent how a covered dish, that you reuse year after year, makes good economical sense. Covered dishes are yet another way to work towards self-sufficiency and move away from the dependence on, and expense of, disposable products.
Third - Remember; leftovers aren't just cooked meals
Ever open a tin of crushed tomatoes or vegetables and only need half for your recipe? Freeze the rest immediately in a small tub. Freeze it, no matter how small the portion because you can always add separate portions together to make up a full portion at a later date. Likewise wrap up bits of cooked chicken, turkey, ham etc. to later use for soups and broths. And make sure to wrap up any leftover (and very expensive) cheese when cutting or grating! It makes a great pull-it-all-together macaroni and cheese at a later date. Save old bread bags and cut them up to use for wrappers and secure with a bit of masking tape.
Once you get started truly saving all your left-overs, you will be pleasantly surprised how much money you save, and how few ingredients you really need to buy in order to put together some sort of a meal when money is tight ... not to mention saved preparation time on those nights when you just don't feel like cooking at all!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2020
The merry Yule gatherings have been successful in chasing away the darkness! The fairies in the Grove have noticed the dazzling pink sunsets glittering on the snow have moved from the late afternoon to the early evening. We also find that the joyful winter celebrations around the tables have somewhat exhausted the fruits of harvest and it is time to take stock of our larders. January often marks a month for tightening our belts!
The fairies in Meadow Sweet Grove are an old-fashioned lot and they approach many of today's problems with yesterday's solutions. Disposable items are not too appealing to them and only used when absolutely necessary.
One disposable item that is easy to reduce in your household are throw-away paper tissues. The use of a cotton hankie is a great way to love Mother Nature and save money! And if you buy vintage, your footprint is even less, as the item was manufactured long ago and has already paid its due. If you buy just 1 box of Kleenex every month, your yearly outlay is probably between $12 and $36. Use that money to buy vintage hankies instead. They are usually available around $1-3 each, depending on the quality, and you then have a dozen hankies . . . all ready to use for many years to come. Every little bit helps and when you replace disposable items with reusable ones, you really do save $$$.
But what about germs? Sometimes the concern is valid, especially around vulnerable individuals, but in most cases the risk is low. If you are worried about germs - just don't use it when you have a cold but do use it in so many other ways. My father and grand-father always carried a cotton hankie about with them, but I rediscovered hankies when my child was born and was given lots of "baby washcloths". I wound up using them for everything - spills in coffee shops, wiping the corners of baby's mouth, wrapping up sticky pine cones and other nature treasures found on our walks, creating a make-shift tablecloth for eating at a park picnic bench - you name it! Long after my child grew out of this stage, I found I was still using them for everything, but switched to hankies because they are larger and thinner than terry washcloth material. I even tucked one at the back of my heel when a blister developed on a long walk to stop the rubbing! You will find countless uses once you start carrying one and wonder how you ever got along without it. Put one in your pocket, your purse and your car. And when it's dirty? Simply throw it in the wash along with everything else!
My husband's grandfather had a lot of very worn and well-used hankies in his possession - a man who lived to 101 years old! Clearly the germs weren't a hindrance in his case. Old ways sometimes really are best.
© Meadow Sweet Grove / V. Buchanan, 2016, edited 2019
© Meadow Sweet Grove / V. Buchanan, 2016 edited 2021
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