Tag Archives: Frugal Living

Does Anyone Remember “In Season”? On making relish.

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When I was a little girl I recall wanting to have a fresh peach so badly the craving had me near tears. It was February and peaches were simply not to be had in Canada. I just had to do without. Peaches were only available in the late summer and early fall when big trucks came labeled with BC Fruits. The closest you could get to a fresh peach outside of their appointed season was to eat peaches in a can.

There is a Jewish tradition of each Sabbath and holiday finding something that is a treat to eat that has just come into season and to say a special blessing as you eat it for the first time in the year. I have noticed that it has become increasingly difficult to find something like that because with our globalized world there is very little that is no longer  available all year. I can always find peaches in the grocery store because peaches come from South America and cold storage has extended the harvest year. I don’t eat canned peaches anymore because I don’t want the sugar in the syrup they are canned in. Yet I find I don’t eat peaches very often anymore either.

Now that I am gardening again, the cycle of the gardening season is back in my life. I planted snow peas, edible pod peas and mid season peas which require shucking. The snow peas were ready first and we had three glorious meals of snow peas before they were all gone. The edible pod peas came next and we feasted on those and they were so delightful we didn’t miss snow peas. The midseason peas arrived and were so delicious we found ourselves eating them straight from the pod. It just didn’t seem worth cooking them. The midseason peas are nearly done but it doesn’t matter because the garden has begun producing green and yellow beans. The corn I planted has just sent up the pollination stems so I expect by the time the beans are finished, we will have fresh corn. And so, through the garden cycle we have a succession of wonderful food to eat but each one is only there a little time to enjoy and then it is done. It is a lot easier to find something for the Sabbath blessing when you have your own garden.

Have we lost or gained by the factory food that is available year round? I suppose in some ways it is always nice to be able to have a peach anytime you want. And yet this has made peaches common place and there is no longer the wonder of a fresh peach in season. And so I am left to wonder, is it that we are accustomed to having peaches all the time that has made them ho hum? Or is it that the factory farm methods that allow mass produced peaches year round have robbed us of taste? Are our palettes dulled or is the fruit itself dull? I suspect the latter. On our trip to BC in fall a few years ago, I happened to drive through a place selling peaches right off the tree. Eating a fresh peach in season directly from the orchard, makes you realize how bland and plain the store bought peaches, readily available year around, actually are. I just don’t like those peaches very much.

In the old days, everything was seasonal and there was always the long winter to fear when no airplane and ships could bring bounty from the southern hemisphere. Those long dark times of potential ever present hunger meant our forebears never took for granted anything grown in summer. You had to put food by for winter and no one would ever waste food by allowing it to rot. Mothers encouraged children to eat more than they should because that layer of fat acquired just before winter might mean making it through the winter when times were lean. If you had an excess of something you put it by anyway because you could always trade it or sell it to someone less fortunate in winter.

Relish is one of those foods invented to avoid wasting food and provide food in winter when food was otherwise scarce. There are at least as many forms of relish as there people who make it and I think perhaps even more because no two relishes made from your own garden produce are ever exactly the same. A traditional relish is put together with vinegar and sugar and salt to preserve it until winter. It is cooked to sterilize it when it is put by so moulds and bacteria don’t eat it in the meantime. A short boiling water bath fixes the seal. Very little else is constant about relish. I hate relish myself but my husband loves it.

Relish is designed to be made from the excess of the garden so it doesn’t go to waste. Too many cucumbers to eat now? Some green tomatoes the slugs munched on that will rot not ripen? Not a problem because these are the staple ingredients of a good relish. And why not throw in the leftover raw store bought corn from three cobs left in the fridge after the big feast, some zucchini tops from zucchinis where blossom rot has ruined the ends, onions accidentally pulled too soon while weeding can be chopped and added, raw cabbage from the end of the head, a bit of horseradish root the neighbour dropped off, and a few hot peppers just starting in the garden but knocked off while hunting peas. Some judicious cutting and soon the pot is full enough to make relish even if there is not enough of any one thing to do anything else.

My husband likes his relish spicey so I used a hot dog relish recipe that called for spice and included turmeric and red pepper and mustard. He tasted it while it bubbled in the pot and pronounced it perfect. And now what was potential garden waste is six jars of very fine hot dog relish. My husband laughed and said for him it is a two year supply. But that’s all right. At some point this winter he will open a jar of hot dog relish and memories of summer will come with the taste and smell and it will all be worth it. And because I made it exactly the way he likes it, instead of the way some large company designed it aimed at the lowest common denominator, chances are it will not last two years. I can’t help but think my great grandmother would be proud of me for growing my own food and using up garden snips and bits instead of just purchasing a jar of relish from the store.

Yet Another Country Vet Visit.

I had previously complained about the ridiculously high cost of pet vet care.

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Saturday afternoon the same vet showed up for yet another parking lot session of shots. All three animals got all their shots and I got a certificate good for two years of border crossing from the vet for $150 total. $150 for three animals (two dogs and a cat)!

Again the same quick efficiency, no frills, get it done attitude I love about the country.

We didn’t bother with heart worm this year because I discovered you can order a big fat tube of heart worm medication for a horse for $10 from Amazon. Horses require a much larger dose than dogs and cats but since I have a degree in biochemistry I know how to do the conversion to get the right much much smaller dose. (I honestly think anyone who can double a recipe or halve it could also do that same thing. Be careful though if you do it wrong you’ll kill your pet. The drug is called ivermectin and the dog sized dose from horse medication works out to about what you can get swirling a toothpick in it. You can also order dog sized pills that even with shipping will be 1/4 to 1/2 the cost from Australia where a rip off vet prescription is not required and you aren’t lining the pockets of some crook in big pharma.)

And so the whole $60/six month heart worm in the little beef flavoured capsules is a rip off. The medication costs pennies. It’s all in the packaging and marketing. And insisting you must have the heart worm blood smear once a year is also ridiculous since if you have been using the medication faithfully the odds of killing your pet by continuing the medication are so very very low they are almost zero.

What typical small animal vets charge for vet care in the cities in my area is a crime. In 2013 I paid over $250 for each pet and even that required a lot of arguing and refusing stuff in order to keep it that low. It is a rip off. Let me say that again. IT IS A RIP OFF!!!! It is a whole series of completely unnecessary tests and procedures that are  at best worthless and at worst potentially dangerous for the purpose of filling pockets and the veterinary profession should be ashamed of themselves. If a country vet can pull into parking lot, fully vaccinate nearly 100 animals in an hour for $50 each there is no reason such a thing could not also be done in the city.

Oh, and our town has free vet housing, hospital/clinic and office space sitting empty because most vets in Canada prefer their over priced, high profit, rip off small animal city clinics instead of actually taking care of sick animals in need in rural area. That’s a double shame on them.

 

 

51st Parallel Gardening Update

It’s been hard to read in other blogs where people have begun enjoying the fruits of their garden while, poor thing in the harsh cold north, I have not yet been able to plant but finally, finally, I can write another garden update.

I have to wait at least two more weeks before I can put tender bedding plants into the garden without fear of frost. Even so, while the weather is hot and lovely I have been putting all those plants I started in my house out in the sunshine. The winter squash have long since graduated into the biggest pots I could find (scrounged at the dump) and they doing very well. Many of my tomato plants are actually blooming! I will not give into the temptation to think summer is here and plant them as I did last May 21st only to lose them to an early June frost. So I have to carefully water them every day and tend and fuss but wait I will.

Last year’s planning has gone well. The raspberry bush came through the winter bigger than ever and is about to bloom. My careful tending of the rhubarb has resulted in two much more vigorous plants than last year. I planted chives and they survived and the plant is huge. Both my horse radish plants are up and doing well. Low spots in my drive which we filled with sandy gravel are covered with creeping charlie. Our monoculture lawn, something I hate, is now well polluted with creeping charlie. I love those little purple flowers and the bees do as well. My yard is full of honey and bumble bees. My wee little apple tree that had maybe five blossoms on it last year appears to be about to burst into bloom on every branch. I still have no idea if it will have edible apples or yet another type of “throwing apple” but it looks beautiful. I have decided I like dandelions even though I have bought one of those pointy things that let you get at the roots.

I love it when nature gives you a bonus and I got several this year. Normally our winters are far too cold to let many things most southern gardeners consider perennials survive but I was delighted to discover many green onion and garlic shoot popping up and wonder of wonder, my parsley and cilantro made it! I had to bring a salad to a senior dinner and I used purchased lettuces but spiked it with my own chives, onion and garlic greens, and lots of fresh cilantro and parsley. Yum! Just before we left one of our trees came down and we simply piled the branches on the garden until we could find a better place. The result was a heavy blanket of snow and I think that is why the parsley and cilantro were spared. I will try the same thing again this year. The other nice surprise was two local flowers among the grass, the Manitoba provincial flower, the Prairie crocus. Long past its blooming but lovely to see, I have marked both plants so we can keep the grass away and not mow them.

Gardening is not just about this year, but also next and the next after that. Late  last summer I made two boxes of cedar and piled them with grass clippings and compost and then covered them with black cloth and let them bake in the August heat. This spring I was delighted to find rich peaty soil. I ordered strawberry plants, ever bearing, June and a heritage hardy one and every plant took. I am not expecting to get many strawberries this first year but next year should be the beginning of many a crop. The second bed is going to be my bean bed and I am going to put in a trellis and try growing a variety of beans including red kidney beans which I have already started from seed.

I bought five Saskatoon trees. Saskatoons are a native plant in our area that produce abundant small blueberry like fruits although it is actually a small apple tree genetically speaking and not a berry. The wild bushes are exceptionally hardy, being native to our area, and grow rapidly. Saskatoons with their sweet deep purple taste (a cross between blueberry and sweet apple) make wonderful jams and jellies and are great to eat straight from the bush by the handful. They can also be dried and then dried berries beaten into flour that when mixed with dried meat and formed into pemmican results in a 100% nutritionally balanced food that was consumed in winter when first nations people and early pioneers had to get through our winters without outside help. Saskatoons are especially rich in vitamin C and folates. The ones I ordered and planted are a cultivar with larger than wild berries, many more berries per bush, and a richer taste. It will be a few years before they grow enough to produce fruit but I am an optimist. Until they do I can always gather the wild fruit.

 

And last but certainly not least I inherited a neglected perennial garden and put a lot of effort into weeding it. The battle is far from over, as you can see, but I am proud to report more perennials than crab grass and weeds. I have tulips, Johnny Jump Ups, violets, both native Western and blue violets, already in bloom and the first Columbine opened today. This flower bed gave me so much pleasure last year bearing flowers for me all summer long. It is nice to see them back like old friends.

And finally the robins, my dear friends who vigilantly patrolled my garden ever on the alert for cutworms and beetles and slugs, have set up housekeeping once again. Every time I cultivate or weed or plant they watch me carefully and rush right in to check for edibles as soon as my back is turned. Every garden needs a robin family.

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Up here at the 51st parallel summer is short but intense. The sun rises about 4:30am and sets after 10:00pm and the plants grow by leaps and bounds racing to cram in as much growth as they can on those long days before August frosts. I know my northern garden will catch up with my southern neighbours. Two more weeks and the tomatoes can be planted. I have already put in seed for that which is frost tolerant. Soon soon I too can eat from my garden like my southern neighbours.

Home Made Turkey Soup Base

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We had the absolutely best turkey dinner ever at my son’s home. He used a recipe that among other things called for a bed of vegetables and oranges. My son and DIL work full-time and so don’t have extra time for things like soup from scratch. When she offered me the turkey carcass, I jumped at the chance. I added everything the turkey had cooked with but the oranges to my big stock pot. I also added enough water to halfway cover the carcass.

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As you can see the turkey came with carrots and celery and seasoning already part of it. I also made sure to scrap the pan of the brown stuff on the edges and bottom of the pan. That brown stuff makes the broth really tasty. I also scrapped up all the fat and seasoning stuff as well.

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After a slow simmering for about two hours, the turkey falls apart easily and the broth has taken on the creamy colour you can see here. (Steam on the camera made the picture steamy but you should be able to see the difference.)

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The next step is the most tedious and took about twenty minutes. Separating the mixture from the pot into bones to be discarded on one plate and meat and veggies to go back into the pot on the other. One needs to work fast to avoid giving the stuff time to cool. Cooling food left standing around is bad. It can grow nasty bacteria if you aren’t careful. Also if you are canning you have to be extra careful about washing your hands and using clean utensils. I emptied the plate back into the simmering stock pot several times to keep the separated stuff hot.

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I had no need for turkey soup right away. I wanted to have it handy “put by” in case one of us is not feeling well. There really is nothing as tasty as homemade soup if you’re feeling ill but if you’re not feeling well, then who has the energy to cook soup from scratch? I ladled the soup into well cleaned and rinsed jars that had been sterilized with an extra boiling water rinse.

Even though the stuff is still really hot, you can see how the fat is separating and collecting on top. If you dislike the fat you can skim it off at this point. Personally I think the fat gives the soup more taste and fat has been given a bad name it doesn’t deserve so I left it on. I also added a dash of salt and a tablespoon of lemon. The lemon makes the soup slightly acidic which discourages nasty bacterial growth. Salt is also a preservative and brings out the flavour. I know salt is bad for us, but a dash in a whole jar is not that bad.

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I then capped the jars and put them in the pressure cooker for one hour.  It is not safe to put anything into jars with meat or any low acid food, without using a presser cooker. Boiling water simply doesn’t get hot enough. You need the extra pressure of a pressure cooker to get the internal temperature high enough to kill nasty bacteria. That has to be done according to your pressure cooker’s manufacturer’s directions. The amount of time required varies depending on the kind of pressure cooker you have, the size of your jars, what your home’s altitude is, and the size of the individual pieces in the broth.  If I had added say, a whole potato or dropped in big meatballs I would have left it in my pressure cooker for an hour and a half. After the jars came out of the pressure cooker I left them to cool. The seals popped tight almost immediately. They continued to bubble for a long time afterward as they cooled because of how high the internal temperature got. I left them undisturbed until morning.

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Now the jars have cooled. The seals are on properly and the fat has settled on top again. The jars can be left for up to a year so they need to be dated so you don’t forget to use them up before they age too much. Now whenever I want to make turkey soup, I can open a jar and reheat it in a pot or the microwave. I do it in the pot and I add vegetables (which this batch won’t need) and some rice or noodles or maybe some potatoes and cook them in the broth at a slow simmer before serving. This is also great with a loaf of homemade bread. The one litre jar is just right for the two of us.

If you don’t like canning you can freeze the soup. I have found freezing changes the flavour and not in a positive way. Jars of home made soup taste nothing like a tin from the grocery store. One of the nice things I have found is home made, home canned goods taste just as good as home made just made. And you can’t beat the cost of doing it yourself.

Replacing a dead microwave.

Our six year old Panasonic microwave oven quit on us a couple of weeks ago. It blew the fuse, made the breaker pop and then released great quantities of stinky burning rubber and funny noises just before popping the main breaker. Obviously not a good thing. So we removed it. I was actually surprised to discover the old microwave was just set in an opening in the wall with a plug and a frame around the outside.

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While we decided what to do, the space served as an impromptu shelf. My research taught me a couple of things. First, there is a special class for microwaves that go into RVs. They are made to take all the extra bumping up and down the highway. You can’t just put in any old microwave. Second, the original one we had was no longer being manufactured.After some shopping around on line I found a replacement that was almost perfect size from one of my favourite RV parts stores, AdventureRV.net. While their selection is somewhat limited, over the years we have found that if they do have what you want, it arrives quickly and reliably and is cheaper than anywhere else. And they had the microwave we wanted.

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The new microwave arrived 7 days after we ordered it for a total with shipping of $220USD.

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We had to put the frame on but it was really easy. One screwdriver and a few screws and we were set. We also had to screw on the top vent so hot steamy air goes out of the front of the space instead of into it. The hardest part was lifting it up into the space after plugging it in.

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We plugged it in and set it in place on top of the new steel protective panel they provided and voila. New microwave set up and ready. Now we did end up with a space on the top because it isn’t a precise fit. Before we put the final four screws that secures the frame to the wall in we will have to go the lumber place and get twenty inches of 7/8 square wood and some trim. So we will wait until we have that to finish the job. Otherwise, it is a go! We have a functioning microwave again.

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No one paid me for my review!

Downsizing – Wants versus Needs

I have been meaning to write this for a long time. What made me decide to write this now is my encounter with the blue glass dolphin.

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We are staying near Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Florida and it has a gift shop. The gift shop is packed full of lovely gifts items including many really nice blown glass ornaments. I have been so tempted to buy one but I haven’t done so.

I am a lover of lovely junk and of complete sets of things. It began in my childhood. As a young girl I never had dolls with clothing or accessories. Naked dolls with tangled hair collected in the bottom of the toy box never touched because, frankly, they frightened me with their nakedness and broken state. I was frequently accused of not taking care of my things. In fact my mother was a frantic and compulsive cleaner. Many times as a small child I saw the dollies’ shoes, socks, dresses or baby bottles, along with game pieces and parts of toys sucked up the vacuum cleaner or tossed in the garbage during a cleaning binge. I would silently mourn their loss but I knew better than to interfere or complain. Sometimes, if I acted discretely and quickly, precious items could be moved to a safe place or rescued from the garbage before the garbage man arrived but mostly they would just be gone. The vacuum cleaner was a monster that regularly blew through my childhood possessions like a tornado.

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My eldest with “peoples”. I spent hours finding lost “peoples” to ensure he always had a full set.

I developed an obsession with things. When my children were young I was obsessive about organizing their toys in boxes and making sure all the pieces were there. I was so determined to protect them from the sight of a precious item vanishing up the vacuum hose. I ordered extra dollies’ shoes. I gave presents of little Lego men to replace the ones that vanished. I spent hours searching for misplaced Fischer Price “peoples” in sofas and vents and I would write to toy companies for specific replacement parts from the toy kitchens and other play sets they had. Nothing pleased me more than being at a garage sale and finding spare parts for their toys. I also kept two old steamer trunks full of clothing my children had outgrown in order to preserve the precious memories. I kept mementos of everything. I also marked birthdays and special events with the purchase of more kitsch as mementos. I collected music boxes, matryoshka dolls, silver charms for a charm bracelet and Red Rose Tea ornaments.

In spite of this I was very proud of how I avoided clutter. Each spring and fall I would clean everything and anything not part of my collections and not used recently went into a box in the basement. If I didn’t go back down and fetch it from the box by the next year it went into a charity bin or a garage sale or the garbage. I had kitsch but only in its place. I had no problem. (Really I didn’t!)

One other thing that severely limited my collecting urge was that we were always struggling financially. Somedays coming up with $10 for another matryoshka doll meant my kids wouldn’t have milk and so I had several collections of 6 or 8 items and then I just gave up because money was tight and by the time I felt we could afford for me to add again, I was ready to move on to collecting something else. I finally reached a point where I had earned my PhD and we were a two income household and for a full year of my first regular salaried job I just bought anything I saw that I liked and wanted. Fortunately, I was too busy to shop much. The hospital gift shop became my joy and my bane because I couldn’t pass it without walking in and walking out with some ornament. One day I carried out a cute, squat ceramic bird for the garden. About a week later I looked it over and I thought how it was not the least bit realistic, I am not a bird lover, so why did I buy it? The endless daily kitsch fix stopped.

My house was perpetually cluttered and dirty because between work and my poor health I couldn’t keep up. Stir up the dust with cleaning and my asthma would flare and make me ill. The kindest thing I ever did for myself was bring in maid service. I tried Molly Maid first but the snooty person who arrived for an estimate told me she wouldn’t let “her girls” work for me because my place was too low class, too filthy and in a bad part of town. I cried bitterly when that horrible woman left my home. I found someone else and after they brought in a crew of four women for a couple of four hour sessions, the place was finally under control. They came again every other week and kept it that way. For the first time since leaving my mother’s immaculate home, I had cleanliness and order on a regular basis. I decided I liked cleanliness and order. There really is nothing like coming home after yet another work day that stretched into the late evening on slave-like postdoc time to find the house clean. Maid service was worth every penny. Now in my downsized trailer I can do a thorough cleaning of every surface and thing in an afternoon. My spring cleaning takes less than a day. I don’t need a maid and since my asthma is so improved, I don’t get sick.

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A stop on our trip to Texas.

We decided to begin a nomadic life living in a travel trailer after driving to Texas for my brother-in-law’s wedding. We had such a lovely time camping to save money and enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. Lack of internet and telephone was a blessing, not a curse. My health had been shot the winter before with multiple trips to the hospital suffocating with my asthma, extreme stress in my workplace and constant demands of family I loved but was always helping to my own detriment. I was wreck. I came back from the vacation refreshed but far from recovered. We bought a travel trailer and pick up truck and left the house in the care of my university student daughter and spent the winter in Arizona. It was the first winter of my adult life where I did not end up in hospital with my asthma even once. I had weeks of time when I didn’t even need my puffers. Good health, like lack of pain is something you never appreciate until you don’t have it. When good health returns, you’ll do almost anything to keep it.

In the midst of this my youngest son married and he and his wife were soon expecting and they needed a house. We sold it to them for a fair but generous price that allowed us to walk away with no debt and them to make a good start. However, before we could walk away we had to liquidate our “stuff” from what was now their home.

We did it in stages. The first stage was to downsize so everything we owned could fit in one bedroom/storage room in the basement. Two years later they sold the house and everything had to go. My son and his wife made it much easier because they kept a lot of the furniture and dishes. We gave away a lot of things to our other kids. Each kid picked about one thing they really wanted. My kids didn’t want most of the things I had saved, like the big double trunks of their old clothes or the matryoshka doll collection.They had friends who were just setting up their own apartments and the shabbier stuff vanished to furnish student quarters. I had garage sales and a lot of stuff was carried off by happy shoppers. I drove truck loads full of stuff to the Salvation Army. One thing I noticed as I did was how the old battered furniture was, well old and battered. Somehow you don’t see the accumulate nicks and scratches and the old stuff remains in your mind like it is still new when you paid several hundreds dollars for it. Reality can bite.

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Some things did find good homes. This big brass bowl was from an old candy making factory and over he years it serves as merry-go-round, laundry bin, catchall, and snuggle bed. My husband’s eldest son took it. In the background you can also see where a basement flood meant we had to cut off drywall which we had not yet replaced. The flood meant hundreds of dollars and hours of work for a space the basically was used for storage and little else. We no longer need all that storage space.

I was dismayed to learn that most of the possessions we own are worth almost nothing after we acquire them. The only collectible “set” I got my money back on was a bunch of tall garden ornaments featuring Sesame Street characters. I had bought them one by one while our local Superstore had them for $9.99. I eventually sold all eight for $80 to a professional antique and curio dealer. He said people love sets like that and he would have no trouble reselling it at a profit. In other words he would profit from someone like me. All the other collectible “stuff” I was lucky to dispose of for even one tenth of what I paid. The $200 Inuit sculpture of a duck we got as a gift? I got a mere $25 in a shop that sold such things. My husband had a set of 43 bookcases full of books including many he paid well over $100 for. He got $3.00 a book from a collector and we were grateful to get that because the man hauled the old smelly dusty things away. My asthma improved markedly when they were gone. That stupid ceramic bird that ended my kitsch collecting wound up in the garbage. Not even the Salvation Army wanted it. What a waste of money!

I discovered that one woman’s treasure was another woman’s junk. One thing that really bothered me was that my daughter had no interest in taking the treasure of her preschool years, a “Princess” dress that she got as flower girl for my brother’s wedding. My daughter loved that dress when she was three and she wore it at every possible event she could as a little girl. She eventually outgrew it and it went into the chest. When I tried to give it back to her at age 27 she laughed at me. My daughter-in-law had a niece just the right age for that Princess dress and I got a picture of yet another happy little Princess instead of having my daughter pack it away somewhere. My daughter was right. If there is a choice between bringing joy to another child or letting a memento sit in a chest, it should bring joy.

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The little girl who became the second owner of the Princess Dress.

The photographs were a problem. I had two entire bookshelves full of carefully arranged photographs in albums. What to do with those? None of the kids wanted them and we had no room for them. So I scanned them all instead and then had a bonfire when I was done. Each picture became a bits and bytes and I had all the precious photographs in multiple places, backed up to “the cloud” and safe. I had always fretted about a fire or some disaster taking my precious photographs away. Now they were safe. I even had fun with them making myself combination photos like this collage of my daughter’s school pictures.

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A collage of scanned photographs showing my daughter’s school years.

We began our trailer life with a whole lot less “stuff” than we had before. Because of the weight limit in the trailer if we brought something in, we had to throw something else out. I began combining kitsch with practicality. Instead of glass ornaments I began collecting fridge magnets, pot holders and tea towels from the places we visited because they did double duty as something useful. When the tea towel wore out I was able to discard it with hardly any regret. When we had to run to a tornado shelter during an outbreak in Kentucky, I had my pets and my computer in the shelter (which doubled as a shower between outbreaks). I wasn’t particularly worried about losing all my stuff. The trailer and contents were insured and the important things, like my pictures, were safe no matter what and the only irreplaceable stuff, husband and pets, were with me in the shelter.

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We sit out a tornado warning. I had always been afraid of losing my precious photographs to such an event. Now they are safely stored digitally in multiple locations including “the cloud”.

My love of kitsch has not ended. It has just found a safe outlet where there is no weight limit to worry about. I spend time in the virtual world of Second Life where I can do, or be, or play at anything I choose to. I collect all kinds of kitsch in Second Life as well as unleash the artist in me, the builder and I always have a Jewish community to join in for Holidays no matter how far away the nearest synagogue is physically.

When we purchased our summer home in Alonsa I wasted some time fretting about the table I gave away that would have been perfect for this spot. If only I hadn’t sold it! Then I realized I could buy a new table that precisely fit and didn’t have a drop wing that didn’t work right. I knew that was much more enjoyable.

I only rarely have a little twinge, like when I saw that blue blown glass dolphin that I decided not to buy. It is better to have less and enjoy it more. It is better to share joy than to hoard it. And its certainly better to have time to be play Victorian skunk in a secret garden than to have to make time to dust ornaments you haven’t looked at since the last time you dusted them. And so decluttering and downsizing and reducing my earthly possessions has been almost entirely a freeing experience.

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Me in my tiny Avatar as a little skunk in a Victorian dress riding my pet pony in my garden and watching my favourite virtual hummingbird.