Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without!

Isn’t it nice that “vintage” is in vogue again?

vintage embroidered tea towels
Not only is it great to have low-cost (usually) used items to display and give as gifts in this slow economy, but it is fun to search for items that we affectionately remember our grandmothers using in their homes. Of course, some of us are a bit surprised by what is classified as vintage since we remember growing up with it ourselves!

Front and back covers of a WWII booklet issued by the National Cotton Council of America which sums up the homefront effort to conserve
"A Yard Saved Is a Yard Gained for Victory."

Maybe some of you remember the life and times growing up in the 1930’s-40’s the same as Gail Martin, a fun lady that is 83 years young.

“In the 1930’s, when feed and flour companies began using attractive print material for sacks to hold their product, Mother was in ‘seventh heaven.’ This advertising gimmick certainly had results the ad people were looking for, as everyone was soon proudly wearing feed sack dresses. Mother baked all our bread so we bought more flour than we do now. Back then, flour came in twenty-five, fifty & one hundred pound sacks. Mother's kitchen cabinet had a large flour storage area built in that held fifty pounds or more.

A lot of time and much thought went into buying the flour and chicken feed. We girls loved to go with our parents to Eureka, the closest town from our rural home, to help choose the material we liked best. Then, Mother had to be sure Daddy bought enough to make what we had in mind. When that turned out to be impossible, we traded sacks with our neighbors and relatives until we had the required yardage.”
Feed and flour sack material was colorful and cheery
Times were hard back then, but there is a reason that they are looked back upon fondly. Values were strong. For the most part, God seemed to be more accepted and present in families and society. Hard times bound the family and community closer together. More often than not, the load was lightened by many a neighbor helping neighbor.

Hospitality wasn’t so much of an art back then, as it was a necessity; a means of companionship, catching up with the latest news and checking on the needs of those you care about. So much has been lost today due to the lack of face-to-face hospitality.

There shouldn’t need to be a reason to open your heart and home, but I have a good one ...the holidays. When the house is already cleaned and decorated for autumn and winter festivities, when the cookies are already made or bought, why not invite a friend or neighbor to your home for some spiced cider and cookies? You may be surprised at how much fun it is to get to know someone and to share the blessing of your home.

Plan Ahead...Save Your Seeds!

For years I have saved heirloom flower seeds to plant a border around the vegetable gardens. They attract honey bees for pollination and "good" bugs (like ladybugs and lacewings) that help eat the "bad" bugs. Most of the seeds come up as expected, but sometimes I'm surprised at a color that pops up.
flowers surrounding cucumber plants
This year I made some cute little seed packets to save my seeds in. I pick the seeds off the plants, place them on a paper towel and let them dry for a few days. Then I place them in these envelopes and seal them. I'll sow them early next spring (usually around mid-April for our zone 7.)

Little seed saver envelopes. The flap says,
"Enjoy these flowers the Lord has made and "worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness." Psalm 96:9

You can print and make some of these cute seed-saver envelopes, too. Here's how...

 Envelope Template
  1. Click on the template picture above; a large picture of it will come up on your screen.
  2. Right click on the picture.
  3. Click on "save picture as" and save it to your computer.
  4. Bring up the picture in the software of your choice and print it. Two can fit on one page if you turn it to its side.
  5. Print, cut out, fold the flaps, then glue the bottom flap to the side flaps.
 I hope that you save some seeds for yourself and also share some with a neighbor. It is not so much about saving money, although that is nice, but seeing flowers grow into beautiful bouquets from seeds you harvested yourself. It is a colorful miracle of life.

Time to Harvest Herbs (how to dry herbs,make a wreath, herbes de provence recipe)

Time to get cozy at home, warm the hearth and have some crafting fun!

With a "pineapple express" on its way (a very wet, sultry rain here in the northwest) I decided it was time to pick herbs to dry before they got drenched. Here is some inspiration for you to preserve your aromatic bounty to enjoy all winter...

Make an Aromatic Herb Wreath

Herb bunches were trimmed uniformly after the wreath was fully assembled.

Materials You'll Need:
          Florist Wires   Heavy gage wire or wire wreath frame   Herbs   Wire Cutters   Ribbon

Use wire cutters to cut a long strip - about 2 1/2 to 3 feet in length - of heavy-gauge wire.
Bend each end into a hook.
Gather herb bundles that are about 6" long. Use herbs that are suitable for air drying (see below.) 
Use floristwire to bind the bundles of herbs to the heavy-gauge wire.
Cover the entire length of the heavy-gauge wire with herbs, making sure to keep them close together to prevent gaps. Option: add edible flowers or peppers for color (echinacea, violas, red chiles, etc.)
Bend the covered heavy-gauge wire into any shape you want, such as a typical round wreath, square or heart.
Add a bow and hang tag with the herb names.

hang tag made from scrapbook paper

For retaining highest flavor and quality, air drying is the easiest, most inexpensive method for preserving herbs. Moisture evaporates slowly and naturally during air drying, leaving the precious herb oils behind. Dehydrators are useful if you are drying large quantities of herbs or high moisture herbs such as basil. Use a microwave oven as a last resort for drying as microwaves literally cook the herbs producing very poor quality.
Sturdy herbs are best suited for air-drying, such as sage, thyme, summer savory, dill, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary and marjoram. Basil, tarragon, lemon balm and the mints have a high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly. Chives are best frozen.

NO TIME to make a fancy wreath? Tie a bunch of herbs with a rubber band, pretty ribbon and hang tag. Why not make extras to share with your neighbors?

The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower. This is when the leaves have the most oil, which is what gives herbs aroma and flavor. But, if your herbs have already flowered, they can still be harvested and dried. Cut herbs in mid-morning when the leaves are dry but before the midday sun.

To air dry herbs, follow these simple steps:
Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut large stems or branches from mature plants. Remove any old, damaged or diseased leaves.
Rinse each branch in cold water and dry with towels or paper towels to remove all visible water. Wet herbs tend to mold which destroys the whole bunch.
Tie three or four stems together in a small bunch with a rubber band. For high moisture herbs, use smaller bunches.
Place the bunch upside down. Hang them in a warm, airy room out of any light. Leave undisturbed for about two weeks or longer.
When the leaves are dry, check for any signs of mold growth. Toss the entire bunch if moldy and try again. Strip dried leaves from stems and discard stems. Crush the leaves if desired, but keep in mind that whole herbs retain their flavor longer than crushed, ground or rubbed herbs.
Store dried herbs in small airtight containers away from the light. Zip closure plastic bags, colored bailing wire jars and ceramic crocks can be used for storage. Add a cute hang tag.

Herbs Which Require Fast Drying:
Basil, tarragon, lemon balm and mints have high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly and are best dried in a dehydrator.
Store herbs in a cool, dry, dark place (away from sunlight). Dried herbs keep for years but for best results use within a year. Most herbs will diminish in flavor with age and a larger amount will be needed to achieve the desired flavor in cooking.

Use Your Herbs:
To release the full flavor, crush whole herb leaves just before adding to the recipe. When using dried herbs, add to soups and stews during the last half-hour of cooking or follow recipe directions. Be creative and add dried herbs to flavor your favorite dishes. Make bottles of crushed herb mixtures for gifts, such as herbes de provence.

Recipe for Herbes de ProvenceIngredients:1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon chervil
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon summer savory
1 teaspoon lavender
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon mint
2 powdered or chopped bay leaves
Preparation:Mix together all of the ingredients and store in a tightly sealed container.Makes about 1/3 cup herb mix.