First Snow of 2016 Winter

First Snow of 2016 Winter
A View From Our Deck

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cabin Fever

I normally don't mind winter too much.  I really like living in an area that has four seasons and winter weather is part of that.  We live in Wisconsin and have fantastic heating systems and most counties have snow removal down to a science.  There are very few days when we can't get out.  I equate it to being in Phoenix in the summer.  I have been there when it is 110 degrees at 10:00pm.  Those people are pretty much stuck indoors just as we are when the temperature is below zero.  Winter sports are fun if you take advantage.  Snowshoeing, sledding and tubing, ice skating, sking, building snow forts and snowmen and even snowmobiling are winter activities.  Even if I don't do a lot of these myself, it's fun to watch the grandchildren enjoy winter.

This year is a little different.  I actually have cabin fever living in my cabin.  The weather is not your typical winter.  The temperatures have varied so much that one day it's really cold and the next is fairly warm.  Other parts of the state have gotten some snow, but we have very little. The snow we have has thawed and frozen again into a hard crusty uneven mess.  It isn't good for any outdoor activities. Even driving in this weather is risky at times.  You can leave in perfectly good weather and return in a snow squall where you can't even see the road. 

Yesterday the yard was covered with slush

and standing water.

It was melting and raining so much that all the low areas had standing water and slush.  It was not a nice day.  Then overnight the temperatures dropped and the water froze solid.

This morning the water was frozen solid.

I could find things to do inside.  There are some big projects I would like done, but I have come to the point in my life where I am pretty satisfied with things as they are.  I have lived under construction so much, the thought of tearing apart the house doesn't appeal to me.  I could do some cooking and baking but neither of us need the extra calories.  I could participate on facebook, but that is so full of anger and meanness and complaining, I just want to stay away.  Human kindness seems to be long gone.  I could adopt a pet but that would just add to my stress.  Pets die too young.  I'm not ready to go through that again.  I could knit more hats, mittens and slippers and add them to the pile of stuff nobody wants.  I could watch TV, but that isn't very uplifting either with the 600 pound life and weird violent stories.  I have seen most of the Hallmark movies.  I could write a blog, but I have written so many, I don't have much more to talk about.  I could read more but not being a reader, I get really tired after a few pages.  I read often but not for long periods of time.   I do have birds and wildlife to watch, although they aren't as active as usual.  Here are some winter birds I watch regularly.  These are just a few because I take hundreds of photos.

Chipping Sparrow

White breasted Nuthatch

Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Female Cardinal


Rose Breasted Nuthatch

Male Cardinal

Red Bellied Woodpecker

I even took a picture of my daughter's bird picture.

I sound depressed but I am NOT.  We are fairly healthy and I am so grateful for that.  I am just out of ideas for fun things to do.  My husband does not get bored.  He can work really hard or sit for twelve hours straight without running out of things to do or think about. My mom always said "this too shall pass".   It will, but I may have to wait a few weeks.  So for the next 67 days, 9 hours and 11 minutes until Spring or when the weather breaks so I can get outside, I will have to find something to do.  I have some ideas but I will only share if and when it happens.  I don't want to promise something I can't deliver. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Then There Was Light With A LuminAID

Every Saturday morning, when I can, I watch a show called Xploration Station. (  It is a science show mostly geared to and featuring young people. It discusses all aspects of science and inventions using science to make the world a better place.  It is presented in a way I can understand.  I learn so much.  I am amazed at all the brilliant people in the world who think outside the box. 

On a recent show I saw a piece about a solar lantern. There is a need for inexpensive lighting in underdeveloped countries.  Kerosene lanterns have a lot of disadvantages, so they took the concept of solar panels and created a lantern using only the power of the sun. It is good for the environment and is more practical for sunny areas which have less wind and water.

It is inexpensive to make and has changed life in these countries.  Imagine what it would be like to go from no electric lights to having an easy way to light the way.

I thought to myself if this would work for underdeveloped countries, it would surely work for me during a power outage or walking out to the garage when it is dark.  I have an awesome beanie hat with a light on it, but the LuminAID solar lantern would add even more light.

I went online and found a company from Wisconsin that sells this solar lantern.  I ordered it and was surprised how it was packaged.  It came in a flat package about 4" by 4" by 1".  The information on the package said this technology was developed by two architecture students after the Haiti Earthquake in 2010.

When you open the package it unfolds into a lantern.  This is a smaller size but they do come in a variety of sizes.  This would be a perfect size to hang in a tent or just have available in the house.

All you do to charge it is put it in direct sunlight and let it gather the sun's rays.  Then whenever a lantern is needed, light is available.  It will stay charged in storage for over a year.  It's battery lasts 12 hours on the low beam.  It is very lightweight and could be collapsed to carry in a backpack or a car.  It's waterproof and it floats.  There is no worry about finding a flashlight with fresh batteries or finding the matches for a candle.  It has an extra bright beam, a high beam, a low beam and a flashing light.  We haven't needed it for a nighttime power outage, but I do take it outside in the dark.  It sheds a lot of light to scare off any creatures lurking in our woods.  I'm happy to have it, but for people in areas without electric lights, it must be a game changer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ceramic Frying Pan

I have a little update on the cookware blog I wrote a couple years ago.

I still love my cast iron cookware, but for some reason my husband always uses the old teflon type coated frying pan for his eggs.  It is all that is left of my old Cuisinart set and is pretty scratched.  I don't know why he doesn't use the cast iron for eggs, but old habits die hard.  During the holidays I was out shopping.  I had a coupon for $10 off of $30, but I thought it was $10 off of $50.  I had purchased a few things, but I thought I needed to spend a few more dollars to save the $10.  I came across a sale on cookware.  I found a nice frying pan on sale from $35 to $15.  It was the new ceramic coated pan.  Now real purists don't believe that ceramic coatings are any better than the toxic teflon.  They say it gets scratched, and wears off in a year giving off chemicals or lead.  That might be true, but most reviews say it is very safe.  I decided to take a chance.  The price was right and time will tell how well it holds up and how safe it is.  It is two months old and looks brand new.

This pan is amazing.  Nothing sticks and it just needs to be wiped out with a damp towel.  Sometimes it may need a little more water, but it cleans up with no scrubbing.  I have never had a pan which browns food so nicely and cleans up so quickly.  No oil is necessary unless you like it for flavor.

This was his breakfast.  He fried potatoes, onions and eggs.  All of this just slid off onto the plate without a dirty pan.  I hope they don't find out this surface is really really toxic, because for now I even like cooking in it.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Gifts To Enjoy In The New Year-2017

It's New Year's Eve, and the last day of 2016.  As with any year, it has had it's share of ups and downs.  Hopefully the ups will continue into 2017 and the downs will not change life as we know it.  I thought, since I don't go out and party on New Year's Eve, I would write about three of the gifts I received for Christmas.  Baby Jesus isn't alone.  I got three awesome gifts too.

The first gift I got was from my sister and brother-in-law.  It was a pair of knitting needles.  They aren't just any round knitting needles, they are hexagon shape, like a pencil.   Apparently a woman named Pam Hoffman was in a knitting store.  She was going to buy her daughter some knitting supplies for a gift.  The proprietor showed her some square needles.  She explained that the square shape made it easier to knit.  The lady tried them but found them cumbersome and found a square needle didn't easily fit into a round stitch.  It was the square peg into the round hole effect.  Thinking about it, she noticed how easy a pencil is to write with.  She decided to cast some stitches on a pencil and that is how her company got started.  With the help of her husband, they created hexagon shaped needles made out of wood, sanded smooth and finished with beeswax.  The materials to make them are sourced from Michigan locations.  They are awesome.  They knit smoothy without as much hand fatigue.  I think they would be really good for a beginner knitter because they are smooth without being slippery.  My sister inherited my mom's ability to find the perfect gift.  I don't have that ability.  They got CHEESE.  The website is:

The next gift was from one of my daughters and her family.  She knew we were going to Michigan next summer for my niece's wedding.  Since Lake Michigan is in the way, she bought us tickets to take the SS Badger car ferry from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI.  It is a fun trip unless the waves are high. The weather has to cooperate, or I get a little seasick if I have to go inside the boat.  I do best on the outside deck.  Even at that, it's better than traveling through Chicago.  At our age, that makes us a little nervous.  The other option is the northern route over the Mackinac Bridge.  That is a beautiful route, and we will probably go that way on the way home.

Map from their website:

The third gift was from my other daughter and family.   It was a DNA ancestry kit.  It will tell or confirm my heritage.  It comes in a box with instructions and a collection tube.  The hard part was spitting in the tube.  You can't eat or drink anything for at least a half hour so getting enough spit was a challenge.  It took a while.  Then a stabilizer liquid is added and the whole thing is sealed up and mailed in.  I have seen them advertised many times and it always intrigued me.  It will take a few weeks to get the results, but I will report to my relatives if anything wonky shows up.  I doubt if that will happen, but you never know.

So Happy New Year to everyone. 
 I hope 2017 is the best year ever for you and your family.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our 2016 Christmas Day

Christmas Day 2016 is just a memory.  We host Christmas Day brunch for our daughters, son-in-laws and five grandchildren.  They spend Christmas Eve with our son-in-laws' families, then Santa comes overnight so they have a relaxed Christmas morning at home and then they all come to our house.  Some of the kids wear their pajama's or comfortable clothing.  It was another awesome day.  I need to learn to make less food because everyone is stuffed by the end of the day, but feeling happy and content.

We eat brunch first and then it is present time.  Last year we started a tradition.  Each member of the family buys a gift.  We use the same wrapping paper so all the gifts look similar.  There are eleven of us, so we stack up eleven gifts.

We start with the youngest person which happens to be Ewan.  He chooses a gift and opens it.  Next was Jack.  He chooses a gift and opens it and it continues down the line.  When all the gifts are open, we get a chance to steal.  This round we start with the oldest which is grandpa.  He chose to keep his gift which was wireless earphones, and he hoped no one would steal it.  This was a perfect gift for him because he spends a lot of time listening to books and won't have to plug his ipod into the earphone jack.  Next was myself.  I stole the gift our grandson Sam had opened.  It was a Steamer/Frother pot.  The good part is the two youngest were last, and they were able to steal the gift they wanted most so there were no sad faces.  Also, the secret is to buy a gift for yourself and if you're lucky (which I was) you can end up with it.

Next we got to open the Santa stockings.  Santa got a little mixed up this year with favorite candy and leaving prices on things, but hopefully that went unnoticed.  I got the "look" from my daughters a couple times when I forgot that Christmas stockings didn't need to have disclaimers.  I was reminded that Santa filled the stockings and not me.   I am famous for disclaiming anything I cook or do.  I want everyone to be happy.  Unlike today's generation who get a trophy for just showing up, I was taught to be responsible for my failures.  Although sometimes I should just shut up.

After the stockings, we exchanged the kids and family gifts.  I love it when the gifts are ripped open or in my case they open the drawstring on the fabric bag.

What a mess we make, but that is what our Christmas is about.   I am reminded of a Christmas we spent in Arizona when the girls were small.  My husband's step father was such a control freak, he picked up every piece of wrapping paper immediately after the present was open.  It took all the fun out of it.  Messes can always be cleaned up later.

I like to make things even for everyone even though no one really knows the difference.  I decided Dylan needed one more gift so I picked up a pair of Virtual Reality glasses.  Then knowing Sam would probably like them too, I went and bought two more pair so they would be the same.  I thought I could take back the first pair I bought because they were slightly different.  They were a big hit.

Melissa is 16 years old, and I didn't think she would be interested in them.  The boys were enjoying them so I asked if she would like my spare pair.  Surprisingly she said yes.  I brought them out.  Hopefully she won't read this blog because she did not want her picture taken.  Hopefully in a few years she will appreciate this moment being documented or she will never let me forget it.

Some of the exchange gifts were games.  Sarah, Heather, Dylan, Sam and Jack played a game called Telestrations.  It is based on the telephone game only sketched out.  They laughed so hard.  I love it when there is a lot of laughter in the house.

Then they went outside.  The kids played in the snow and my daughter and her husband went snowshoeing.  The snow was really wet and heavy. 

It is a good thing Christmas was yesterday because today it is sunny and the temperature is well above freezing.  It is in the middle 40's and the snow is melting quickly.  This is the same scene today.  The ice is covered with a layer of water.

It was a great day and a happy Christmas.  I only wish everyone could be so fortunate.  While snowshoeing our daughter saw two eagles flying over the marsh.  We think it was Grandma and Grandpa Dux wishing us a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Wickerwork Hat

I blog for different reasons.  I blog when something eventful happens in our life and I want to remember the date with photos or better yet, I want my grandchildren to remember.  I blog to teach things I have learned throughout my life.  Usually I learn the hard way and writing about what NOT to do is as important as writing about what to do.  I blog about frustrations although I try to keep that to a minimum.  I can't be mad all the time, it isn't healthy.  Mostly my blog is my organizational system.  Recently my sister asked me for a recipe and I just sent her the link to a blog I wrote about it.  It was much easier than digging through a pile of papers although I need to update information when necessary.

Today is no exception.  I am in the lull before Christmas.  The shopping and decorating are done.  I made some cookies but most of the cooking and baking can't be done this early.  The past three evenings I sat and watched Hallmark movies.  You know those movies where boy meets girl under some unpleasant circumstance, girl is engaged or involved with a jerk and then due to a misunderstanding her true love goes away (or she does) and then at the very end they meet up again, kiss and live happily ever after.  My husband doesn't watch TV with me so I am free to watch these happy ending shows.  It's hard for me to just sit and just watch television so I usually have a project going.  I decided to make a hat because it was very cold outside.  I previously wrote about making slippers I don't wear, so why not make a hat I won't wear.  It turned out to be easy and fun.  I finished in five hours or so.  That seems a long time to non-knitters, but is actually a quick project.  The pattern is from a blog I happened upon.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

My Unproductive Snowy Weekend

Yesterday we had our traditional family Christmas cookie making session at our house.  It usually includes both of our daughters and our grandkids.  Yesterday our middle grandchild Sam had a basketball tournament all day so we just had one daughter and four grandchildren.  These kids didn't want to stick to the normal cookies.  Every one of our grandchildren think outside the box.  Previous to grandchildren with opinions, my daughters and I would make all the family favorites.  We had a great system and in no time we had many varieties of cookies.

This year we had varieties but very few that anyone will eat.  I take that back.  We did get a batch of soda cracker toffee and forty eight peanut butter temptations.  I had made cutout cookies the day before so we could frost them, but that didn't happen.  The rest of the cookies were the cast of Hamilton the musical, a gingerbread warrior and a variety of gingerbread men and gingerbread women.  It looks like I will be baking alone next week.  The good thing is that none of us need more sweets and calories so whatever gets done will be fine.

I can't identify but the five sugar cookie characters are the cast of "Hamilton", man bun and all.

A warrior with his spear and shield.

During the day my daughter felt chilly.  I was sweating bullets and was about ready to strip to my bra but that wouldn't have been appropriate.  We had the pellet stove going full blast, and I also gave her the slippers I recently made.  They were cozy, warm and she liked them for a while.

Then she discovered a bump in the heel.  These slippers are made on two knitting needles.  They have to be sewn up with a seam on the bottom.  Apparently the knot I made on the bottom was uncomfortable.  My husband can't stand his socks bunched either.  I call both of them the Princess and the Pea.  I can walk around all day with a stone in my shoe, and it doesn't bother me at all.

As a result of this, I decided I needed to make some insoles to put inside the slippers.  It would serve a couple purposes.  It would cushion the sole so the knot couldn't be felt, and it would add stability.  The bottom wouldn't wear out as easy either.  After a little brain storming, I decided to cut some insoles out of an old wool sweater.  In the past 100% wool sweaters could be purchased at thrift stores for almost nothing.  Not anymore.  With the popularity of woolen mittens and other felted items, it's hard to find them.

Mittens made with a felted gray sweater and fleece lining.

  I happened on one the other day not knowing exactly what I would use it for.  I'm glad I bought it.

I took the sweater apart.  When you find a sweater to take apart just make sure the seams are stitched and not surged together.  If they are surged it means that the seam is stitched and cut like fabric.  When you try to unravel it, all you get is short pieces of yarn because it has been cut.  The sleeves were a solid color so I was able to unravel them easily.  The main part of the sweater had a pattern so that is what I used for the insoles.

The sleeves could be unraveled without a problem.

I traced an insole pattern larger than what I needed.

I used a double layer of sweater fabric and pinned it together with safety pins. The sleeve yarn I wound into balls.  If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may remember this post.  It was about making your own dryer balls.  

I prepared everything and tossed them into the washer in hot water.  This process shrinks the wool into a matted fabric.  It is called felting.  I misjudged the size of the insole.  Wool yarn shrinks more than I thought.  If or when I try again, I will make it much larger.  The process worked well, but it's a lot of work to go through for a little stinking knot. Another option for the slipper would be to slip a flip flop sole into the slipper or cover the flip flop sole with the felted insole.  I will figure something out.

As far as the dryer balls, they are burgundy.  I don't think the color will bleed onto the clothes but I will not use them on whites for a while just in case.   If I had a cat, they would make a perfect cat toy.

So all and all I was very busy all weekend and didn't really accomplish much.  Everything came up a little short for the effort involved.  Ah well, as my husband often says, sometimes you get the bear and other times the bear gets you.