First Snow of 2016 Winter

First Snow of 2016 Winter
A View From Our Deck

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mr. Leprechaun's New House

Every year I write about our annual St. Patrick's Day celebration.  In light of my new found knowledge of being 20% Irish-British, this was even more special.  This year we celebrated a few days early because of scheduling conflicts.  Even with all the planning, our granddaughter Melissa couldn't come.  She is sixteen years old and has a job at a mom and pop type drive-in.  Surprisingly they opened in February.  Looking out the window today at the snow makes me wonder if the drive-in owners made the same mistake as all the migratory birds.  Our early tease of warm weather did not continue, and summer temperatures are not in the immediate future.

I usually report about our big meal.  I won't do that this year because it is always the same except this year I made three racks of ribs and four corned beef briskets.  As amazing as it seems, we were left with not that many leftovers.  After everyone took home a little care package, very little remained.  That's a good thing.

What I do want to write about is our youngest grandson's search for the elusive leprechaun.  If you follow this blog, you will know about his love for leprechaun's.  Every year before we eat, we have to look for the leprechaun.  Ewan's theory is that Mr. Leprechaun, which we call Shamus, has to return to Wisconsin from his winter home in the south by St. Patrick's Day.

Our family arrived a little before noon all decked out in their Irish finery.  Ewan was anxious to get started, so before everyone had their coats off, he was leading the parade to the woods.  When we arrived, we noticed a disaster had happened.  A week earlier we had a lot of wind, and a big tree had fallen on the leprechaun's house.

Upon arriving at the scene, we noticed the door of the house was open.  Inside was a note written by Shamus Leprechaun.  It was rolled tightly and tied with green yarn.  It was a little hard to copy, but this is what it said.

After looking at the compass and analyzing the clue, Jack (our second youngest grandchild) and Ewan ran to the spot.  There, lo and behold, was another clue.

The clues took us to the food break down bin (compost bin),

clue #3 to the cooking place (fire pit),

clue #4 to the rabbit's hiding place like br'er rabbit (brush pile),

clue #5 following a deer trail to a house on a pole (birdhouse),

clue #6 across a big gravel path (driveway) to a prickly bush.  The last clue brought them to the new leprechaun house.  There was a basket of candy with this final note.

So much excitement at the sight of the new house.  Ewan dove through the all the branches and sticks used to camouflage the house from view.  Jack ran around and grabbed the basket of treats.  I hate to see them grow up and lose the wonder of it all.

This is Shamus Leprechaun's new house.  There is a story behind this house.  We knew we wanted to have Mr. Leprechaun move.  My husband was going to build a new house from scratch, but one day we went to the Restore Store.  They had a stack of dog houses in cartons ready to assemble.  The houses only cost $10, but all the writing and instructions were in Chinese.  We thought it would be a good base.  We brought it home and remodeled it a little.  Mike cut windows and put in plexiglass.  He sided it with wood lath and put chinking (like we have in our log house) between the boards.  He made hinged doors to cover the doghouse opening.

The beginning of the remodeling process.

I made a bed in a small orange crate.

We added a few clothing items.

 I even made coat hangers out of paper clips.

The inside of the house.  If I were ten inches tall, I could move right in.

We brought all the furnishings inside, but I will have to set it up again when the kids come back out for a visit.  I can probably leave it set up when the weather improves, but for now I have to hope they don't just "drop in" to see us.  Ewan would be very sad to see this house abandoned.  I don't know how we will top it for next year although we realize the days of "believing" are numbered.  Great memories for us as well as the kids.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A New App To Try Called "Think Dirty"

Every day I try to be healthy.  Most days I fail miserably, but I keep trying.  I figure every little thing I do is to my advantage.  I cook a lot of foods from scratch and usually don't buy prepared food.  I figure if I put the raw ingredients in a recipe, then I know what is in it.  The biggest problem with the food we eat is all the hidden additives which either give it shelf life or enhance flavor.  I received a gift pack of spices from a hospital give-a-way.  The spices were packaged locally but when I checked the ingredients many contained MSG.  Monosodium glutamate or MSG shouldn't be in anything.  It can cause headaches and heart palpatations.  I just don't feel good when I eat it. I won't even list all the additives I have found in other products.  I figure if I don't know what it is or if I can't pronounce it, then it's probably not good for me.  Although we are kind at the mercy of the manufacturers.  Besides foods, cosmetics and body care products are the same way.  You can't always tell what is in a product even if you read the label.

That is why I was so pleased to see a facebook post by my Young Living expert.  She is a remarkable woman who was diagnosed with a genetic type of breast cancer about two years ago.  She has worked tirelessly to educate women about Breast Cancer and the need to be tested for the BRACCA gene, plus how to use essential oils for healthy living.  I am a very inactive Young Living distributor, but if anyone has an essential oil question, I'm sure Michele will be able to answer any question you have.  I will be happy to put you in touch.  She posted an app called Think Dirty.  I downloaded the app and received an email from them.  The app included some statistics which are sad.

"Currently there are 80,000 synthetic chemicals that are not fully tested (Source: Natural Resource Defense Council)
In US, cosmetic industry's panel has reviewed just 11 percent of the 10,500 cosmetic ingredients cataloged by FDA (FDA 2000)
Only 11 Chemicals are banned in US.
Canada has a guideline for just over 650 and The European Union Health Commission has restricted over 1,300 chemicals.
There is outdated government regulations when it comes to cosmetics, that hasn't been updated since 1930.
Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 finally introduced and awaiting for voting. But there's no pre-market approval requirement for cosmetics to be on sale in US and Canadian markets.
No legal definitions of “Natural” and Organic.
Laws are not required to regulate the use of words like “Natural” and “Organic” on cosmetics and personal care products.
Fragrances are considered trade-secret
Manufacturers are not required to disclose specific fragrance ingredients on the product label. Instead, the generic term parfum is listed, representing a mixture of potentially dozens of chemicals."

Then I started scanning some of the products I have.  When you scan the bar code, you are given a rating between 0 and 10.  0 is the best and 10 is the worst.  The first one I scanned was a natural deodorant.  Everything on the label told me it is a healthy natural product.  It got a 9 rating which is not good.

Next I scanned a natural spray deodorant.  It got a 0 rating which is the best you can get.  I also scanned Secret deodorant which got a poor rating.  It was a 9 just like the Jason Lavender product.

I would never have guess this.  Next I scanned some dish soap that I purchased from Costco.  It said
it was environmentally responsible and it got a 4 which was good.  I had a hair product which was a 10. 

Michele posted some of her findings which were very interesting.  From now on I am scanning products in the store before I purchase them.  I hope some of you will find this app useful as well.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pressure Cooker New York Cheesecake

Whoever said pressure cookers were just for making a quick roast or a tough piece of meat were all wrong.  These days pressure cookers (or instant pots) can be used to make almost anything in a quick and safe manner.  I have written about boiling eggs that always peel without effort.  I have written about making pasta dishes with dry pasta.  There is no need to pre-cook the noodles. Mac and cheese is very good.   If you search for recipes on this blog, you can find a few more. 

Yesterday I tried something new.  I made a New York cheesecake in my pressure cooker.  I have made cheesecake in my oven, but this was a new experience.  It was about the same process but in less time without heating the oven.  I used a recipe from This Old Gal.  She has a webpage and a facebook page dedicated to pressure cooking.  She also has an air fryer page which has helpful recipes.  I am just posting her website because she is very strict about posting her recipes without her permission.

I have a six quart pressure cooker so I had to find a pan that fit.  I ended up with a six inch pan.  I think it makes the perfect size cheesecake.  The best part is that it only takes two 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese.  Some cheesecakes take many more.  Here is the final product.  It tastes very good and wasn't hard to make.  This Old Gal has recipes for many other flavors which I need to try.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ice Shoves On Lake Winnebago

Today was a good day.  The average high temperature in south central Wisconsin for this day, February 17, is about 30 degrees.  Today it was 57 degrees.  It was sunny and felt so warm.  The downside of these temperatures is it affects the sturgeon spearing season.  For a 16 day period in February the sturgeon spearers cut holes in the ice of Lake Winnebago and the upriver lakes which include Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Lake Poygan.  Lake Winnebago is a huge fresh water lake located in east central Wisconsin.  It is 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.  Sturgeon spearing is a family tradition for many local families.  They cut a big opening in the ice, watch through the opening for the fish and then spear them.  If the yearly quota is reached earlier than the 16 days, then the season is over.  One fish per person.  This year the ice is deteriorating rapidly because of the warm temperatures.  I wrote a little more about sturgeon a few years ago.  Here is the blog.  For safety sake, many people are giving up before the limit is met.  There are some big ice fishing festivals that have been cancelled and the snowmobilers are not happy either.

The upside besides the warm temperatures was that we were able to view some ice shoves that happened on a portion of Lake Winnebago.

Ice shoves are giant chunks of ice that have been forced to shore by strong winds, current and changes in temperature.  This is very early to see these shoves.  Some people call them ice heaves or ice surges.  They can cause a lot of damage if they push against solid objects like houses, shoreline walls or even lighthouses.  There is a lot of power behind these huge pieces of ice.

We were able to walk out on the ice to view the shoves up close.  I was a little uneasy at first.  I knew I was walking on the lake, and we saw quite a few cracks.

Cracks in the ice.

Then I saw a person drive a pickup truck out on the lake so I felt they would go through the ice before we would.  The ice shoves are massive pieces of ice that a piled up on top of each other.  I took photos which describe them better than I can.

The view as we started walking out on the ice.

My husband standing in front of one of the ice pieces to give perspective.

I know these unseasonably warm temperatures will not last.  We still have a couple weeks of February and all of March to get through, but the next week looks awesome.  We will enjoy it as much as we can before winter rears its ugly head again.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ripon High School Musical

I see it is 36 days until Spring.  It can't come too soon for me.  I saw on the calendar that the bluebirds returned to us in the middle of March last year.  Seeing them would be a good sign.  Another good sign of Spring is high school theater performances.  Last night we attended the Sound of Music put on by our grandson's high school.  As usual, it was fantastic.  To get all these kids to put in hours and hours of practice time is amazing, and it definitely paid off.  The program said they practiced 127 hours. 

I think almost everyone has seen the Sound of Music at one time or another, but it always reminds us that love and putting others first is the way it should be.

Last fall were the tryouts.  Our grandson Dylan tried out and got the part of nearly eleven year old Kurt Von Trapp.  Little did he know that from the time he got the part until now, he would grow several inches and his voice would change.  He no longer sounds like an eleven year old, but more like a man.  In spite of the challenge, he played the part beautifully.

This is Dylan as Kurt Von Trapp.

Not only did the actors put in a lot of work, so did all the support people from the lighting and sound to all the pit band players and everyone involved with the set design and costumes.  There were 96 costume changes in this production.

Some of the children learning Do-Re-Mi from Maria

Uncle Max trying to teach the children to sing while the Captain and Maria are on their honeymoon.

The Von Trapp family in the contest before the family made their escape.

Ewan was so proud of his brother, he went to two of the performances.  He knows all the words and I'm sure he will remember this for a long time.  Brotherly love between these two is the sweetest thing.

Ewan and Dylan.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Little Hats, Big Hearts

February is American Heart Month. It is more than chocolate, flowers and words of love created by card companies.  It is a mission of the American Heart Association to raise awareness about heart disease and congenital heart defects.  In 2014 a campaign started by the American Heart Association and The Children's Heart Foundation began, it is called Little Hats, Big Hearts.  Volunteers around the country are asked to knit or crochet red hats for babies born in February.  The purpose is to raise awareness and test all babies for heart defects.  These red hats are given out to thousands of babies during American Heart Month (February) in order to remind moms to live heart healthy lives for themselves and their children.  I didn't have a baby doll to model the hats I am making so this American Girl doll will have to do.  If you want to read more about it including patterns, here is the link.

I like to do things like this.  In the past, I knit and crocheted for Bridget's Cradles.  I blogged about it.  I found it made me sad.  I knew parents who lost children could benefit from this, but I had to take breaks from doing it.  I was very happy to discover the Little Hats, Big Hearts program.  I have a special reason to support this cause.  My sister's little granddaughter Amelia was born with a heart defect.  Today she is an amazing outgoing eight year old who is active and happy, but she went through a lot. Thank goodness for technology, gifted surgeons and a wonderful supportive loving family.

 I asked for information about Amelia's heart history because I wanted to write the proper information and do it justice.  This is the information her mom Andrea provided.

Amelia's congenital heart defect is called atrioventricular septal defect (also known as AV Canal defect or endocardial cushion defect).   In a nutshell, this is a a large hole in the center of the heart, comprised of an atrial septal defect (ASD; a hole in the wall separating the atria), ventricular septal defect (VSD; a hole in the separating the ventricles), and a single AV valve, rather than two separate tricuspid and mitral valves.   Because she had all three of these issues present, she had/has "complete atrioventricular septal defect".

In a normal heart, blood flows from chamber to chamber in one direction through the left and right sides of the heart. With an AV canal defect, blood flows through the ASD and VSD from the left side of the heart to the right side (a "left to right shunt"), which causes more blood than normal to pass through the right side of the heart.  Because of this, the left side of the heart to become enlarged and more blood than normal has to be pumped to the lungs. Over time, the extra blood flow causes the lungs to become filled with extra blood and fluid and leads to congestive heart failure.  Also, because of the malformed single AV valve, blood may leak backward from the ventricles to the atria (regurgitation), which causes the heart to need to work even harder.

Amelia started going into congestive heart failure at 10 weeks, and was placed on diuretics to continue to allow her to grow, which meant her heart would grow and would be "easier" to operate on.  She had her open heart surgery at 4 months old during which the surgeon placed a patch on the ASD and VSD and then created two separate "man made" valves into a mitral and a tricuspid valves.

She sees the cardiologist annually for a check-up.  During this time he does an electrocardiogram (ECG) to look at the electrical activity of her heart and an echocardiogram (echo) to look at the structure of the heart, mainly focusing on the function of her "abnormal" valves.  Currently, she has minor mitral valve regurgitation, but it has not gotten worse to date.  The risk is that over time, the valve could become stenotic (lose function) at which point she  would need further treatment or the valve replaced completely. 

The "good" side of all of this is that it doesn't seem to hold Amelia back in any way!  As you know she does soccer, dance, gymnastics, cheerleading and now skiing!  She is very well aware of her "brave scar" and "special heart" and we talk about it as a badge of honor of her strength and courage.  She truly is our "miracle baby"!

My nephew John and his wife Andrea have written a complete blog post of their journey.  If you would like to read it in it's entirety, here is the link.  It is an emotional read.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Learning My Heritage Through My DNA

New years eve was about one month ago.  I wrote a blog that day about three Christmas gifts I received.

One of the gifts from my daughter was a DNA test kit.  I got the results today January 31, 2017.  It was timely because today was the fifth anniversary of my mother's death.  She died on the same day as her mother only 74 years later.  I did a lot of thinking about family today and realized I couldn't ask anymore questions about genealogy and family connections.  The results I received confirmed that what I do know is accurate, but also included some things that will require more research.

I was a little suspicious of this at first.  I couldn't imagine how spitting in a tube could reveal a persons ancestry.  I came up with 99.8 percent European.  It included 92.5% Northwestern European.  Northwestern Europe usually consists of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, northern Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.  It said I was 24% Scandinavian which makes sense because my mom's father came from Denmark and his parents were from Denmark.  The other great grandparents were from Northern Germany, except for one.  My grandma on my dad's side has deep roots in America way back to the 1700's.  Their names indicate British and Irish heritage.  I did have 19.9% British and Irish. That is the part I will have to research more. 

It explained that of your 23 chromosomes, 22 are inherited from your recent ancestors.  They are able to uncover information about your ancestral origins, both recent and ancient including Neanderthal ancestry.  It also showed me people who shared some of my DNA.  Some were third cousins and others were six and seventh cousins.  I recognized one last name as being the married name of my grandpa's aunt.  I imagine this could be useful if you were looking for missing family members.  You have the option to share information if you are comfortable doing so.  It appears that a lot of people are not comfortable sharing.

For the past 150 years, scientists have found bones from extinct populations of humans called Neanderthals.  They were named this because the bones were found in the Neander Valley in Germany.  I have more Neanderthal variants than 94% of their customers.  I am lucky I can stand upright.  I had one Neanderthal variant associated with having straighter hair.  I have slightly curly hair so I'm not sure about that.  Another variant is that I am less likely to sneeze after eating dark chocolate.  Thank goodness for that.  I love dark chocolate and would hate to sneeze every time I ate it.  Another thing I am grateful for is that I have zero variants associated with having back hair.  Even with the high percentage of variants, only 4% of my characteristics come from the Neanderthals.

The third thing they show you is called the maternal haplogroup.  The paternal haplogroup is only shown on the Y chromosome so females can only see the maternal group.  It is a set of variations in your genetics that tells you about your material line of ancestors.  I found out that my maternal line originated thousands of years ago on the Arabian Peninsula, just as modern humans were first expanding out of Africa and onto the Eurasian continent. About 7,000 years ago the expansion of farming carried daughter lineages into Europe.  The fact that my ancestors left Africa and traveled through Eurasia probably accounts for the 2/10ths (.2) percent of me that isn't European. 

They figured this out because my haplogroup traces the spread of the Bell Beaker culture. The Bell Beaker pottery are drinking containers that are shaped like an upside down Bell.  They found human skeletons with this pottery in places such as caves.  Through carbon dating, they found this pottery, bones and other items from this culture were from 1800 to 2500 BC.  This is confusing to me, but they have traced the Bell Beaker culture migration through archaeological finds as they moved into northern Europe.

This was fun to see and learn about.  I have ordered a kit for my husband.  His ancestry is more complicated than mine, and it should be very interesting.  The lesson here is that we can't change our DNA so we need to do the best we can with what we were given.

 We used 23andme, but I'm sure there are other testing places who do the same thing.  Here is a link to order or read more about it.