Our House

Our House

Monday, October 12, 2015

My 50th Class Reunion

This past weekend my husband and I attended my 50th high school class reunion.  It is the first reunion I have ever attended.  For as happy and contented as my life is now, it wasn't always that way.  My school days were anything but happy days.  We moved several times in my early grades and by the time my parents got settled, I was in the middle of fourth grade.  I transferred in February of that year and felt behind academically and socially.  By the middle of a school year in a fairly small school, most friendships have been established.  Most kids had been friends since an early age and so were their parents.  Most of my school years I felt invisible.  I wasn't bullied, I just felt that I didn't really exist.  I remember sitting at school dances all by myself.  I didn't get invited to parties or slumber parties or dances.  I'm not saying that for sympathy.  I have learned that many many people felt the very same way.  I think it is the feelings all young people experience to some extent during adolescence.  No matter what the outside appearance, you can't always tell what is going on inside.  It is something to remember with our own children and grandchildren.  What you see isn't necessarily what is happening.   Perception isn't always reality.  Everyone is on a journey.  In hind sight my miserable school years were mostly my own fault.  I have learned you can't sit back and wait for anything to come your way, you need to go after what you want.  That is why it took fifty years for me to attend a class reunion.  I am so happy I went, but I'm also happy I waited fifty years.  My life path has taken me where I am today.  Watching nature and living a simple life has taught me what is important.  If you are lucky enough to live this long, age also teaches what is important and what is not.  Things aren't important, people and relationships are.  I do regret not moving around the room enough to speak to more people, but it appeared that everyone felt included and had a great time.   At least I hope so.  Age is a great equalizer and hopefully it brings with it great insight and wisdom.  Imagine how smart we will be in another twenty five years.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cranberry-Wild Rice Bread

Early this week we were watching a cooking show out of Green Bay Wisconsin.  It is called Living with Amy.  She very often has guests on her show from local businesses.  On Monday Amy's guest was The Happy Cookie Lady.  https://www.facebook.com/happy.cookielady  The Happy Cookie Lady's real name is Christine.  She makes and sells beautiful decorated cookies for all occasions.  When she appears on Living with Amy, she shares wonderful recipes.  This time she made Wild Rice and Cranberry bread in a bread machine.  I was familiar with this bread because they sell turkey sandwiches on this bread at our local convenience store.

Before I share her recipe, I want to mention my method for cooking the wild rice.  I make it in my electric digital pressure cooker which I have blogged about many times.  I make brown rice this same way.  It cooks completely without having to worry about monitoring the process so carefully.  I just use a ratio of 1.5 or 2 parts water to 1 part rice in the cooker and turn it on low pressure for 30 minutes.  I make white rice this same way but it only takes 10 minutes for it to cook.  There are a lot of youtube videos showing how to do this and each is a little different.  I find cooking with low pressure may take a little longer but it makes fluffier perfectly cooked rice.  Using 1/2 cup wild rice and 1 cup of water yields 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice.  That is enough for two loaves of bread.

Cranberry-Wild Rice Bread

1 1/4 cup hot (not too hot or it will kill the yeast) water (about 125 degrees)
 1/4 cup Powdered milk (I didn't have any so I used 1 cup of hot water and 1/4 cup milk)
1 1/4 t. celery salt
2 T. honey
1 T. Olive Oil
3 cups flour
3/4 cup cooked wild rice
(apparently you can buy cooked wild rice in a can, but I have not looked for it)
1/8 t. pepper
1 t. yeast
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Put ingredients in the bread machine in the order given.  Turn on the normal cycle and start.
My bread machine is old and it makes a tall loaf.  If you want a regular shaped loaf of bread, just mix in the dough cycle only and then put it in a loaf pan to rise and bake in your oven or get a bread machine with a normal loaf design.

Cranberry-Wild Rice bread.

This hearty bread cuts easily and has a good texture.

This bread is great as regular sandwich bread, but I wanted to try something different.  I decided to make a grilled sandwich with the bread.  I learned from Living with Amy to buy a big family pack of chicken breasts.  I cook them all at once to use in future recipes.  You can spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and place your chicken breasts on the foil.  Fold the foil around the chicken and bake in the oven until they are done.  For those who want specific instructions I would say 350 degrees for 40 minutes would work .  A second option is to place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker for a few hours with a little water or broth.  When I do this, I freeze one cooked breast per freezer bag.  Then when I need cooked chicken for a recipe, I take one out and it thaws very quickly.

For this grilled sandwich, I sliced one chicken breast.  I believe deli turkey or ham would work too.  I spread two slices of bread with canned cranberry sauce.  On one slice of bread put the sliced chicken on the sauce, a slice of crisp pre-cooked bacon (we fry up a pound or two of bacon and store in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator to use as needed),  a couple slices of cheese (your favorite cheese) and topped it with the second slice of bread.   I buttered both sides and grilled the same as making a grilled cheese.  You could use a panini maker, but I just used my cast iron frying pan.  This sandwich would be delicious after Thanksgiving with leftover cranberry sauce, a little stuffing and some turkey.

Grilled sandwich on cranberry-wild rice bread.

Thanks Christine, the Happy Cookie Lady, for the recipe.  I look forward to seeing more recipes from you in the future.  They are always delicious.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Freezing Carrots

My son in law's parents are moving to our area.  It will be so nice to have them nearby.  They always have a huge garden and every year I reap the benefits with a variety of produce.  The move is coming soon, so their garden is being harvested.  Yesterday I received a big bag of freshly dug carrots.  My project for today was to freeze them for use this winter.  I wish I would have a root cellar, then I could just put them in there.  I don't, so freezing is the next best option.

Now that's a big bunch of fresh carrots.

The first thing I did was cut the tops and the root ends off.  It's kind of messy so I sat outside and accomplished this easily.  The weather cooperated, and I could just sweep off the porch when I was done.

Notice how bright and orange home grown carrots are.

I put the carrots in a bucket and took the tops to the compost pile.  I filled the bucket with water from the hose and did a cursory wash.  Then I drained them, took them inside and put them into the kitchen sink.  I rinsed them again and began peeling them.  My husband helped so it didn't take too long.  I was going to leave the peel on, but decided not to just in case some dirt remained on the carrot.

Then I we cut them up and blanched them in the same manner as the turnips I did earlier.  We used the Genius food chopper for this project too.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/08/freezing-turnips.html

We got two 8 cup measuring cups and 1/2 plastic container.

After blanching the carrots and cooling in ice water, they were put in food saver bags.  I put two cups per bag and ended up with a dozen bags.  It will be so nice to have the work all done when I want to make a recipe that calls for chopped carrots.  In fact, I'm trying them in a recipe tonight to see how they work out.

12 bags of chopped carrots ready for the freezer.

We also got several squash.  That is my next project.  I will prepare the squash and also freeze a few bags for later.   I really appreciate receiving this good food. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall Is In The Air

I really like this time of year.  I like the cooler temperatures especially the cool nights and warm days.  I like the colors of the changing leaves.  I like the smell of cinnamon and apples and pumpkin deserts.  I decorate almost as much for fall as I do for Christmas. 

In addition to fall decorating on the porch and in the house, we like to decorate sugar cookies.  Ewan still loves to make cookies with Nana, and every year we try to have a little weekend afternoon cookie session.  This year it was just our daughter Heather and five year old grandson Ewan.  It's sad that the other grandkids are getting too busy and soon even Ewan will move on to other things.  For now we are loving this time.  I cut out the cookies and baked them.  Then Ewan and Heather began decorating them.  They had fun being creative and sampling some.  Papa also had to taste test them to make sure they were of a high quality.

Another fun memory, that's for sure.

It is also time to cut and dry the hydrangeas.  They are beautiful this year, and they make wonderful fall decorations.  Anyone who lives near me is welcome to come and cut some.  I have a few left, but they need to be cut before the frost.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/09/time-to-dry-your-hydrangea-blossoms.html 

Last year we didn't have any acorns, but this year they are plentiful.  Everyday we hear them falling on the roof.  We even have little corn stalks popping up all over.  I'm not sure how these little plants got seeded.  The field corn we feed the animals would make a regular size corn stalk.  These are cute, and I will be drying these as well.

There are so many happy signs of fall that I can't mention them all.  Today the 2015 Whooping Cranes started their migration with the assistance of the ultralight aircraft they have been training with.  We hope they have an easy migration because last year was a struggle due to bad weather and wind conditions.  Four cranes from previous years were spotted in the training area.  I will be anxious to hear if they are heading south as well.  Here is the link to keep track of their progress.  It is fun and educational.  http://operationmigration.org/InTheField/

Monday, September 28, 2015

Blood Moon Eclipse

This blog post is purely to document last night's total eclipse of the super moon.  A lunar eclipse (also known as a blood moon) happens when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth's shadow.  It occurs when the sun, earth and moon are lined up.   Since all my blog pieces end up in a book we make for the family, I wanted the September 27, 2015 eclipse to be included.  I will be 85 before the next one occurs in 2033, and so I thought I should take some photos just in case I can't be available for the next one, if you know what I mean. 

I am not a professional photographer and taking pictures of the moon is difficult for me.  I'm never sure how to adjust the settings up for such a dark background.  This is the best I could do.  There are tons of awesome photos of this event on TV and on the web, but these were captured from our deck in Princeton.

Beginning the wait for the lunar eclipse.  It's 7:04pm

The geese are looking for a place to spend the night at 7:05pm.


7:14pm and a few clouds are rolling in.

The eclipse is starting, it's 8:06pm.

8:16pm... . See the shadow on the left.


Supermoon eclipse 9:07pm.

9:08pm closeup

Lost in the trees at 10:36pm.  A bit hard to see and high in the sky.

Back to a normal full moon sometime during the night.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Making a Glockenspiel

Who knows what a glockenspiel is?  I thought it was something very different from what it is.  When my grandson wanted my husband to help him make one for a science project, I had to look it up.  His assignment was to make a musical instrument, and how he came up with this one is something I must ask him.  I guess I always thought they were called Xylophones, but there is a difference. They are both melodic percussion instruments, but a glockenspiel is made with metal and a xylophone is made out of wood.  They make different sounds because of the difference in materials.

The first thing Sam and his mom did was look up how to make a glockenspiel.  They found a couple possibilities and sent my husband an email with instructions.  Sam likes to work with Papa, and he knows we have a lot of tools.  They think Papa can make anything, even though that isn't really true.  In this case it was true.  Wednesday was a half day of school for Sam, so in the morning we took a trip to the lumber yard and craft store.  We picked up the supplies necessary that we didn't already have on hand.  Then on the way home, we picked up Sam and brought him home with us.

The boys went to the garage to start the project.  Even though I didn't get photos, they told me they used the bolt cutter, drill, table saw, air brad nailer and a hammer.  When they came inside, they had made the basic bones of the instrument.  The next step was to cut copper pipe in various lengths.  Each length would make a different sound when tapped with the mallet.  We found an app for that.  Someone had designed a formula for figuring out the relationship between frequency and length of pipe.  This is an example of the chart which included two or three octaves, so we had all the measurements we needed.

Note Frequency (Hz) Length (CM)
C1 32.7 17.49

Papa measured and Sam cut the pieces.

Sam cutting the copper pipe.

The next thing was to attach the lengths of pipe to the base.  At first he used thick pony tail bands.  It worked for the first two longer pipes but there wasn't enough movement with the shorter pieces.  With the thicker bands, the sound was flat.  Next he tried rubber bands.  That worked great.  The mallets were made out of dowels and wooden beads.  Technically they should be plastic, rubber or metal but that would have complicated things and gluing a wooden bead was easiest.

One by one attaching the pipes.

Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do  It sounds great.

Sam is all decked out in his orange hat and orange shirt.  It was Hat Day at school for Homecoming Week.  Now the project is done.  All he has to do is write his report about it. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Banana Ripening Technique Debunked

I did a little experiment recently.  I read on Facebook that bananas keep much longer if you wrap the ends of the banana with plastic wrap.  I bought a bunch of semi-green bananas.  I wrapped some of them with plastic wrap and left the others.  I took this photo after a couple days.

At first I thought the wrapped bananas looked like they had a little more green near the stem.  We ate one of each and didn't notice a difference.  I left them a few more days and this was the result.  No difference.

A week later I tried the experiment again.  I had the same result.  No change in the rate of ripening.

My conclusion is that wrapping the stem with plastic wrap has no effect on how fast a banana will ripen.  Most of all, don't believe everything you read or share on Facebook.