Zen Memories...Fresh Future

Zen Memories

When I was a young child we lived in Japan for several years.  My three brothers and I were often supervised by a Japanese woman we called Mica San.  On one occasion when we visited her home I  wondered at a vacant shelf in her kitchen.  She kindly explained to me that empty space is important in a home so that our spirits may find comfort and have room to grow and breathe.

I was mystified by this philosophy.  Later, my mother explained that empty space makes people feel as if they are in control of their lives, as well as providing a symbol that one is not owned by possessions.  As an adult I've come to better understand these concepts...restraint can add tremendous comfort and simplicity to our daily lives and homes.


Decluttering to simplify


Sending you all continued good thoughts and love.


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Frugal Feasts : Classic Turkey Soup

"He  that  is  faithful  in  that  which  is  least 
is  faithful  also  in  much."

~The Book of Luke;postID=1234988280090705823;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=31;src=postname

How to make classic Turkey~Noodle Soup from what's left of
the Thanksgiving Feast.

Click HERE for Recipe!


Culling Sustenence For Less

This post has been reprinted from the
Frugal Luxuries Food blog circa 2009.

Interesting and unusual ways to gather sustenance

George Bernard Shaw pointed out
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food” 
and I heartily agree!  As a confirmed Foodie, 
I find a type of romance in raw ingredients.
Like Michaelangelo saw his masterpiece David
inside a block of marble,
I see berries and envision jams, juices, cobblers and pies.  
Nutty whole wheat flour, water, yeast and 
a bit of sugar meld to become crusty loaves of homemade bread, 
the mints, verbena and lemon geraniums 
from my tiny garden are ice-chilled glasses of tea 
to refresh us on a hot summer’s day.
Here are a few classic strategies for keeping faithful
to your food budget!

1. Eat by design: Establish a food budget 
and then design a weekly, bi weekly or monthly menu. 
Don’t assume you have to buy everything you need. 
Shop your pantry, refrigerator and freezer 
as you compose your menu and 
plan your meals around what 
you already have in the kitchen. 
Remember to include leftovers 
when planning your menu. 
In fact, PLAN some of your leftovers
for use in future meals.
For example: 
Homemade chicken tacos and 
chicken soup are made from 
Sunday’s roasted chicken; 
while homemade tostadas and 
white bean hummus are created from 
the leftovers of a large pot of 
Navy Bean soup you prepared 
for your card party on Friday.

2. Create a shopping strategy
Start by keeping 
your debit card, 
credit card, and/or 
check book at home. 
Bring along only 
the cash amount 
you have allotted 
for food provisions, 
as well as a pen and 
paper or calculator 
To keep a running tab. 
Round off to the highest 
amount to simplify.
I find this simple 
strategy invaluable 
in curbing impulse spending.

3. Eat by the seasons
Take advantage of 
the opportunities 
to transform the local harvest 
of each season into delicious foods. 
Taking a cue from the past
I prepare seasonal foods 
while they arein abundance
in order to conserve 
time and money, as well as to 
store away delicious treats 
for future enjoyment.
For a list of what foods are 
in seasons when check this link:

4. Buy foods grown locally: Not only is it often less expensive and environmentally friendly(i.e., very little shipping and/or storing required) it is often more nutritious due to the fact you are getting it from the farm to your table in less time. As well, it’s a pleasure to rediscover the bounty available to us from local farmer’s markets and farms.
Knowing what foods are in season in your area, and the people who grow and or craft it personally,transforms the food from mere sustenance into a community building/bonding even that offersintangible as well as tangible rewards for all concerned.
On top of that, you are keeping your money within your own community.
You can find individually owned local bakeries, coffee shops, breweries, ethnic food stores and vegetable markets by consulting the phone book, community center, or local message boards—actual message boards or online sources such as Craig’s list. To find farmer’s markets and farms near you check out 

5. Consider joining a CSA: What is a CSA? According to Local Harvest ( 
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) 
has become a popular way for consumers 
to buy local, seasonal food 
directly from a farmer.
Here are the basics:
A farmer offers a certain 
number of "shares" to the public. 
Typically the share consists of 
a box of vegetables, but other 
farm products may be included. 
Interested consumers purchase a share 
(aka a "membership" or a "subscription") 
and in return receive a box 
(bag, basket) of seasonal produce 
each week throughout 
the farming season.
This arrangement creates 
several rewards for both 
the farmer and the consumer. 
Advantages for farmers:
* Get to spend time marketing 
their food early in the year, 
before their 16 hour days in the field begins
* Receive payment early in the season, 
which helps with the farm's cash flow
* Have an opportunity to get to know 
the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:
* Eat ultra-fresh food, 
with all the flavor 
and vitamin benefits
* Get exposed to new vegetables 
and new ways of cooking
* Usually get to visit the farm 
at least once a season
* Develop a relationship with 
the farmer who grows 
their food and learn more, 
about how food is grown.

Developing that personal relationship 
with local farmers can go 
one step further with a harvest box 
from a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. In this case, 
farmers will sell you a share 
in their produce for 
the growing season 
at a flat rate, and you’ll get 
a box each week with 
whatever is freshest 
on their farm. 
CSA’s have grown 
in popularity in recent years, 
and many farms 
have long waiting lists.

Some people go in on 
harvest boxes together 
to save money, 
and for those who can afford 
the investment up front, 
it ensures that you’ll be able to 
eat your veggies all year long. 
Some farms even have an 
installment payment plan or 
plans for low-income folks 
who are interested.

It may be too late 
to join up this year, 
but it’s never too late to 
get to know your local farmers, 
and when sign up time rolls 
around in the spring, 
you’ll be on a first-name basis 
with them.

6. Carnivores can buy beef by 
the side or quarter: 
Growing up in a frugal family of six 
(four children two adults) 
my parents made a habit of 
buying beef by the side, 
not only to save money 
but to ensure a high quality 
meat source. According to 
An increasing number of 
foodie carnivores are ordering 
grass-fed beef straight 
from the ranchers. 
Here's why: 
The practice directly 
supports local farmers 
with a vested interest in 
taking care of the environment. 
Unlike grain and corn feed, 
grass requires no fossil fuel 
for transport. The regrowth 
of grazed grass removes 
carbon monoxide from the air. 
* Uniformity of product — 
Commercial ground beef 
is often produced using meat 
from dozens of animals. 
When you buy a side, 
the ground beef is produced 
from a single animal, 
which minimizes the risk 
of contamination.

* Support of local business — I like the fact that buying beef from a local rancher allows me to support him, and to support the meat packer that processes the animal.

* Constant costing — Because you’re buying your meat all at once, it’s easy to budget your costs for an extended period.

* Fewer trips to the grocery store — Plus you no longer have to plan your meals around what’s on sale.

* Meat is packed for freezing — If you buy large quantities at the grocery store, you need to repack the meat to freeze it. When purchase a side of beef, this is done for you.

* Excellent pricing — Buying a side of beef can save you money over regular grocery store prices. However, it is possible to save more at the grocery store by watching for sales.

The advantages of buying beef at the supermarket are:

* Less storage space required — 
When you buy your meat 
in small quantities, 
as you need it, you 
don’t need a spare freezer.
* You can obtain the 
best possible pricing — 
If you stock up on 
your favorite cuts during sales, 
you can obtain the 
best possible pricing.
* Smaller investment — 
Purchasing even a quarter of beef 
costs about $400-$700 
depending upon the 
quality of beef you buy.  
We've looked into 
grass fed beef, bought in 
quarters as opposed to halves, 
cost approximately $450-$500. 
* Less work — 
To buy meat at your grocery store, 
you simply select it 
from the refrigerator case. 
To buy a side of beef, 
you need to find a source, 
perhaps find other beef-lovers 
to split the cost, 
transport the meat, 
and find storage space.

7. Reinstate Home Cooked Meals: 
If you don't already know how, 
teach yourself to cook. 
Experiment with one 
new recipe a week, or a month. 
In a world that touts 
as desirable that which is 
quick, easy, or new, 
there is pleasure in 
discovering the forgotten art of simple cookery. By sharing 
simple meals prepared at home, 
we transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

8. Make your own groceries
Home Food Canning: 
Home Food Canning 
holds an appeal similar to 
that of baking. It's relatively 
easy and often very inexpensive
As well, it can become 
an enjoyable, productive 
and money saving experience 
shared by family and friends
If you have yet to fill a jar 
with something fresh 
from the earth and 
enjoyed it at a later date. 
Click on the link below 
to see a video on 
just how simple 
home canning can be.  It will de-mystify this mundane miracle and put you on the path to your own canned goodness.
Swap Neighborhood Fruit
Another often overlooked 
but clever way to 
whittle down a food budget 
and eat locally is to 
swap Neighborhood Fruit! 
There is a website devoted to 
putting neighbors with 
overabundant fruits together 
with those who could use it. 
Neighborhood Fruit ( is an organization designed 
to help you find backyard 
fruit and share your bounty 
with your neighbors. 
They believe that cities 
resplendent with edibles 
are better places to live, 
and sharing with neighbors 
is a great way to get there. 
Through their mediated online platform, 
you can find fruit in 
any quantity you want. 
We hope you let others know about it.

Purchase food in its 
simplest form. Steer away from 
prepackaged convenience foods. 
Keep in mind that 
any time you buy a 
food that has been diced, 
mixed, cut peeled, washed, 
chopped, spiced, spliced, or 
pureed by someone else, 
and you will be paying an 
average of 100 percent more for it.

Compare different forms 
of food—fresh, frozen, 
canned and dried. 
The serving cost of a 
canned of condensed soup, 
for example, will be about 
one-third the cost of the 
water added variety. 
Fresh apples in season 
are almost always 
less expensive than canned apples.

Grow Something Edible: 
The rewards of 
growing your own food 
are almost endless, but include: 
less time spent driving to the store, 
fresh ingredients 
on hand at all times, 
an understanding of the seasons, 
which can help you eat 
better tasting food (see #2 below), 
and carbon sequestration 
in its most delicious form, food.

No matter what your living situation, 
it is possible for you 
to grow some food at a very low cost. 
Even if you have a 
tiny room or an apartment 
you can grow sprouts and or simple herbs.

Feeling more ambitious? 
Consider Community 
Gardening for yourself, 
or split a plot with 
neighbors and friends. 
It’s a great way to 
raise some edibles while socializing.

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Cozy Comforts and Frugal Luxuries

"There is nothing like staying home for real comfort" 
~Jane Austen

Many people confuse luxury with opulence.  To understand luxury we must look at the true sense of the word.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines luxury as "something conducive to pleasure and comfort" indulge in true luxury you need only to focus on what brings you pleasure and comfort.   

Does luxury have to mean diamonds and servants...or can it be a plump down comforter on a cold night...or a bowl of wild blueberries picked at the peak of that fruits' brief season?

Thoreau wisely stated, "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor."  At this time of year cold winds are blowing. The prospect of venturing away from home and hearth is less than appealing, yet, it is the ideal season to cultivate cozy comforts and frugal luxuries. 

During cool weather I like to create strategic comfort by arranging furniture (comfy chairs, specifically) away from drafty windows to create cozy corners.  These spaces are ideal for nestling into with a good book...a cup of tea...and a luxurious (definitely not frugal) cashmere throw like this's very similar to one I inherited from my great aunt Evelyn several years ago.  I don't need to tell you that this is definitely an investment piece.  That being said, perhaps I should point out again, it will last a lifetime...or two.  
Note: If the budget doesn't allow for a new cashmere blanket/throw you might put "cashmere throw" on your tag sale, thrift shopping list.  

Another cozy comfort we appreciate even more in winter is the soft glow of basic candlelight to warm a dark day or brighten an ordinary evening.  For weekends and more special occasions we enjoy a well crafted candle with soothing scents such as the delicious smelling Fireside candle from Parachute Home  (these make a perfect addition to the gift pantry).

If you've never experienced the wonder of wearing woolly socks during the winter then you are in for a treat.  In fact, every time the weather turns cool I invoke their magical properties. Wool is an excellent insulator and keeps your feet warm and toasty and retains its insulating properties even while wet.  Wool can absorb sufficient amounts of moisture (a third of its weight) before it feels wet and it dries much faster than cotton or synthetics. Finally, wool fibers are naturally anti~bacterial and thus odor resistant.  So yes... truly kind of magical and... such a cozy comfort during the cold season.  

While there are many individual definitions of comfort and luxury I'll never be convinced that these simple pleasures do not truly define the words.

Sending love and good thoughts as always.


Successful Living...Simplified

My Life Goals...

"To laugh often and much; 

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; 

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; 

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; 

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; 

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. 

This is to have succeeded."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


Stocking the Gift Pantry with Uncommon Goods

Recently we were invited by Uncommon Goods to stock our holiday Gift Pantry with three items from their inspiring, eclectic catalog. In the interest of full disclosure, this is my very first sponsored post (although we've been approached numerous times since the 2008 creation of this blog) . Why now?  Why Uncommon Goods? Because as a longtime customer,  I am an admirer-er of the fact that they make it their mission to provide a platform for artists and designers.  It also is impressive to me that most (not all) of their items are made right here in the USA.
 At the core of the company is a great respect for the integrity of the creative individual, this is evident in the uniqueness of their retail offerings!  It's always a delight to browse through their catalogs and I must confess that confining my choices to just three Gift Pantry items proved surprisingly difficult ... the offerings are varied and inspiring! However, after perusing their online catalog for far too long, I finally allowed the three choices to be dictated by my own Christmas gift list and thus have every intention of sharing our Uncommon Goods with family and friends.

First Choice:
The 60 Hour Candle $30
(NOTE: refills are available ... of the coiled candle only... for $18)

This sturdy and unique candle is about the circumference of a salad plate.  It's a generously sized candle with an ingenious design.  It pairs a sturdy copper holder with a 100% beeswax candle coil that's fed in small increments through the candle clip--simply advance more candle as it burns. A three-inch section burns for approximately an hour, while the smart design
ensures a better use of wax than traditional shapes. The copper-finish plate and clip bring a warm touch to your home. Refills are also available for $ you might want to let your gift recipient know these are available!  This charming candle has been sitting on our kitchen island for a week and everyone who comes in comments positively on its unique look! 

It's been very, very, very hard to resist the temptation to light it up!  Luckily for him, but not so much for myself, it's been earmarked as a holiday gift for a family friend.

Here is a picture of what it looked like after we took of it out of the box 
and threaded the candle through the clip-like holder on top.

Here's a closer look at the clip-like holder.


 Second Choice:  DIY Lip Balm Kit  ($40)

 DIY kits can actually be a good, and often economical, way to dabble in a new skill to see if it's something you like before investing a lot of time and money in the necessary supplies.

I realize that, at first glance, DIY kits don't appear to be the most frugal of investments.  Especially to frugalites such as myself.  I've always been the sort of person who says "I can make that...or put that together...myself" and usually I can (and often do)  for less money.   That is ... if I have the time and inclination to gather all the diverse components to complete the kit ... and the packaging as well.  While this philosophy can work in saving a little cash...especially for genres that contain easy to obtain (and reasonably priced when buying in small quantities) such as the  "Office (supply) Kits",  "Cupcake Kits" and "Craft Baskets" the time invested is sometimes extensive.  That being said, I've also wasted money ambitiously buying individual ingredients and packaging materials to create my kit. Truth be told,  they often add up to much more than anticipated.

According to the Uncommon Goods website, Karen Lee and Mary Kearns' DIY kits allow you to become familiar with a new skill while pampering yourself with all-natural emollients...the best part is that supporting this kit  provides valuable job-skills services for women in the Washington DC area. Assembling these lovely kits provides ladies living in transitional housing with the opportunity to build their resumes, develop basic job skills, and participate in a structured social skills program. This is how I like to spend my money. 

Each kit includes everything you'll need to make your very own moisturizing lip balm from Fair Trade cocoa butter and organic spearmint essential oil, for a delectable and refreshing fusion of chocolate and mint. Inside the recycled box, crafters will find a vibrant, soy-ink-dyed recipe card and valuable information about the contents of their lip balm to be, including cocoa butter, sunflower oil, beeswax, and organic essential oils. Every kit makes five tins of mint-cocoa balm, making it an ideal endeavor for a rainy day or a fun task to take on with a group of good friends. Made and assembled by hand in Washington D.C. Each is composed of biodegradable materials and makes five, one ounce tins of lip balm.
Check out the gift lab of the DIY Lip Balm Kit on the Uncommon Goods' blog! 


When we opened it is what we were delighted to find!

As I am not set up for this particular type of kit or craft, 
it would take me quite a bit of time and not a small amount of money 
to source and gather all the materials for a kit like this.
(As well, packaging everything always takes me longer than I anticipated.)
Especially considering they include five types of essential oils to flavor your balm!


Lovely how-to/recipe cards for future use ... printed on heavy card stock and very wipe-able!


Third Choice: Recycle a Bottle Plant Nanny Set: 
$19.95 (for a set of four made from terracotta).
These are NOT just for when you go off on vacation and need someone to water your plants; they're also IDEAL for Forgetful~Frugalite Gardeners like myself with an environmental conscience. 

 The Uncommon Goods catalog tells us that each ceramic stake is specially designed to release just the right amount of water into the soil via recycled wine or plastic bottles, making your gardening endeavors a little bit easier as greener. Create a reservoir with the inverted bottle of your choice, attach it using the drip-free adapter, and the terracotta stakes will quench your plants' thirst on your behalf. As your plants absorb moisture from the soil, the stakes will automatically release water directly into the soil, rather than on the surface, ensuring that root systems receive an adequate drink.

NOTE: Sets sold separately... you will need to order one set of four plastic or one set of four terracotta Plant Nannies... no mixing and matching.

See the Plant Nanny in action by checking out the gift lab video on the Uncommon Goods blog.

Here's what it looks like in a planter.

Okay, I LOVE these.  Last summer I tried to order a plastic version of these self-water-rs from Amazon but they were sold out and I've been unable to find them reasonably priced ever since ... that is until now!

I can't tell you how excited I was to find them offered at Uncommon Goods in plastic as well as terra cotta!  Obviously, the plastic versions cost a few dollars less than the natural terracotta Plant Nanny but I will eventually get both...the natural (terracotta) will be used for edible plants such as container gardened herbs, fruit trees and the like.  The plastic will, obviously, be used more for the non edible planters such as my favorite ivy, ferns and potted roses.  In the meantime ... I have full intentions of including this set in a small gift basket, along with a freshly potted miniature rosemary tree and a nice bottle of organic Merlot!    
Here's a picture I snapped with the ceramic Plant Nanny next to an average-size wine bottle. 

 The website tells us that a water filled wine bottle will water plant for approximately 7-10 days depending on the plant and environmental conditions.
Typical 12oz plastic bottles, when filled, will water plant for 5-10 days depending on the plant and environmental conditions. Larger plastic soda bottles (2 Liter), when filled, will water plants for between 14-21 days depending on the plant and environmental conditions.

P.S.  If you sign up for their email list they'll send you info on "secret sales"!

The original "FRUGAL LUXURIES" ~ Based on the books by Tracey McBride ~ Established 1993

A warm Thank You to all kind souls and kindred spirits who generously take the time to leave a comment...your encouragement, trust and support are deeply appreciated...please know that we read each and every message and will respond as time allows.


Frugal Luxuries
is a registered trademark.


"FRUGAL LUXURIES: Simple Pleasures to Enhance Your Life and Comfort Your Soul" was written by Tracey McBride and published by Bantam Books, NY, in 1997. It was the first of its genre to synergize the elements of simplicity, frugality and gracious living.

After more than a decade, FRUGAL LUXURIES has never been out of print and is now more relevant than ever.

"It's our hope that a new generation, faced with a teetering economy, will also find this information helpful and enlightening."

Sending Good Thought to Our Special Band of Kind and Kindred Souls!

Frugal Luxuries Book I

Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons Book II

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