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Ancient Rome
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Some tips on
Living Simply

Snow, Shampoo, Soap, Potpourri and making the oven better

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By Pat Mestern

It is cold today, very cold. The furnace gives a comforting grumble as it kicks in to keep the house at 65 degrees F. We get the furnace Atuned up to maximum efficiency each autumn, but it is entitled to a grumble now and then. With a huge house to heat, we help the fur-nace along. Heat Atravels on humidity. The more humid the house the warmer it feels (the same is true in the summer, isn't it?). A spring flows from west to east in the basement during winter thaws, late fall and early spring. This does put moisture into the house - sometimes. We once had a small humidifier attached to the furnace but the children suffered many colds when it was operational. After a report came out stating that nasties grew in humidifier water - akin to Legionnaires Disease - we disconnected the unit. Clean yours carefully especially if you have seniors or young children living in the house. Air conditioners can produce the same nasties. Of course, you can add ingredients to the water to kill the nasties, but that presents more problems.

So how do we achieve maximum humidity? We throw two pails of water in a un-used corner of the basement each night - and each morning in the middle of the dry, cold winter. We get away with this because the basement in our 120 year old house is not liveable. We in-vested in two pumps and have one small fountain in the living room and one on the upper floor. (Adumb, the cat loves these - his personal drinking holes). We add water when necessary. These fountains have benefits - no more static at the computer - no more dry winter nose blues. Also the sound of trickling water is very soothing. The big upper hall holds the clothes drying racks. A summer fan blowing toward the racks, accelerates the drying process and distributes moist air throughout the house. Our oil bill is approx $1,200 per year (we also use an oil-fired hot water heater). Others with houses the size of ours - who heat with oil - have bills of $1,700 - $1,900 per year.


Books I have in my library regarding the simple life? Carla Emery's Old Fashioned Recipe Book, An Encyclopedia of Country Living, The Mother Earth News Handbook of Home Business Ideas and Plans, The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book, Catharine Parr Traill, Rough-ing It In The Bush, Helen Lyon Adamson's Grandmother's Household Hints and Mother Earth News Almanac - to name of few goodies but oldies.

Which three family-suitable festivals or events would I recommend for visitors to Ontario this summer?

The answer? The following festivals cannot be beaten for reasonably priced admis-sions and quality entertainment for the entire family. By the way, I am not on the payroll of the mentioned festivals and travel destinations in either Canada or the U.S.A. I speak from experience only.

The CELTIC FESTIVAL held in Goderich each August (the second weekend) cannot be surpassed for stage entertainments, demonstrations, children=s activities and in-theme crafts. This fantastic festival offers total Celtic immersion and never varies from theme. It is excellent value for admission charged.

Collingwood's COMEBACK ELVIS FESTIVAL is a marvelous weekend of everything ELVIS for the entire family. Their not-to-be-missed Saturday Parade is a must for visitors. Held the last weekend in July each year, many events are FREE! Collingwood, on Georgian Bay is also close by the beautiful beaches of Nottawasaga Bay - the seven miles of Wasaga Beach is a terrific family destination. This is really one of the best Elvis festivals in North America. Canada, you say? Yep!

The grand daddy of unusual summer events is ONTARIO'sS RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL. Dish-ing up medieval faire on a permanent site below the Niagara Escapement near Milton, this is a must-do event for visitors. This in-theme festival (held weekends throughout June, July and August), totally immerses one in King Henry the VIII's England. Costuming is fantastic. Entertainments spectacular. In-theme foods are the best. Do not miss the jousting. Village shops are stocked with the latest Medieval clothing, jewellery, fancies and such. My grandchildren love this festival. So do I, for total fun and entertainment for reasonable gate admission. Chil-dren=s weekend is usually held mid-July.

Where to find old-fashioned recipes? A good question. Check garage, yard, church and estate sales for cookbooks which were published 1930-40-50 period when processed foods were rare and all recipes utilized easy-to-find ingredients. Look for books that were printed by church and community groups. Excellent meals were served back then by great cooks. I can always find a suitable recipe in my collection of more than sixty old cookbooks.

Save on oven heat? Do I have a tip for you. People are surprised to find four FIRE BRICK (I stress FIRE) in my oven. They are sitting on the floor inside, but not touching the element. Why? My oven had a very uneven heat until an Italian visitor solved my problem. Fire brick, he said. Fill the bottom with fire brick. He bought the brick and lined my oven. It takes little time to heat the fire brick along with the oven - an extra minute. Once the bricks are hot they distribute an even heat throughout the baking period. When cooking a roast the oven is turned off ¾ of an hour early and stills maintain proper heat levels. When the dial is set at 350 degrees - the oven thermometer shows 370 degrees - so cooking time is less. I have baked round bread right on the fire brick. The oven is easy to clean. Take the brick out and wire-brush them. Never soak in water! Never wash in water! Why not wash? If the brick absorbs water it will burst in the oven if not properly dried - as my friend showed by exploding a soaked brick in a bonfire. Just wire-brush clean. Use FIRE BRICK ONLY (the kind used in fireplaces). They are manufactured to take heat. Wall brick is not suitable. It cannot take the heat. After baking, the oven door is propped open to let the heat radiate throughout my kitchen. It takes an hour or so for the stored heat to dissipate - just like a fireplace.

Cheap Potpourri oil? I occasionally tuck potpourri sachets in the hot air ducts during the winter. As heat gives maximum distribution to oils, you do not use as much. Potpourri oils do not need to be expensive. You will need a dozen pretty small glass bottles with cork stoppers, bottles of citrus oils used in cooking - orange, lemon and lime, cheap potpourri oils (available at farm and flea markets - 3 for $5.00), small vials of baking oils i.e. oil of cinnamon, oil of cloves, oil of peppermint, and a bottle of mineral or unscented apricot oil. I get all these ingredients at a Reading Glass Outlet once a year - with a stop at a country store for tiny vials of baking oils. Purchase OIL, not watered down essences. OIL is the key word. Now, have fun. Smell and mix right in the bottles using a small funnel - a little of this - a little of that. Visitors that comment on the lovely scents throughout the house receive a pretty bottle of Mestern's Own potpourri. Each bottle is different. I never write down how much of what was added. The bottles do have a label. As I experiment I write -Blue bottle- lime, cinnamon, heather, peach.

Family using soap - shampoo - conditioner like water? You'll need a handled basket for each bedroom, small plastic bottles (the ones left in motel rooms are great), a soap dish (can be a saucer), plastic drinking glass, comb, brush. Put enough supplies in the basket to last one week? ( time frame is your choice) - seven small bottles of shampoo, ditto conditioner, a cake of soap, tube of toothpaste & etc. Tell the child(ren) these supplies must last one week, so go easy! Do not replenish if they run out. Give them adequate supplies and make them responsible for usage. Obviously the soap and toothpaste will last longer. My children loved the challenge. The baskets are still utilized in each room for house guests. How to make shampoo last longer? Put three tablespoons of cider vinegar in a 8 oz bottle of your favourite shampoo (6 tbsps in a 16 oz -2 cup bottle). Not only will the shampoo last longer, but your hair will be squeaky clean. A trick to make soap bars last longer. After purchasing hand soaps in bulk, we unwrap the bars and place them in an open box in such a way that the air can circulate around them. Exposed to air the bars harden (just like the best British soaps). When used they do not soften/mush as quickly-unless of course, they are left standing in water.

About that snow? We have four feet on the ground, drifts eight feet high and another storm on the way. As snow is a good insulator we have shoveled a lot around the house foundation to help insulate the basement which will save money on heat - we have piled snow high on the straw shelter that protects our mission fig tree, a rarity in Ontario. Yep, we do get figs off the tree each year. We have piled snow around our kiwi and grape vines. We have piled snow on our rose bushes. - And for fun, I just finished baking a snow cake, substituting snow for water/milk. Beat in 4 cups snow for every 1 cup of liquid (1 cup of snow = ¼ cup water). First lesson we Cannucks learn as very young children, do not eat yellow snow.

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