Spring view

Spring view
A View From Our Deck

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Necessity Really is the Mother of Invention

A few days ago a friend reminded me of a recipe I had blogged about several years ago.  I had forgotten all about it.  It was called Crockpot Lasagna.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/09/crockpot-lasagna.html

Not knowing what to make for dinner, I thought I would make the lasagna.  I was sure I had all the ingredients on hand.  I got out the crockpot and began.  I went to the freezer and got out a container of browned ground beef and unthawed it.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/10/different-technique-for-browning-ground.html  I went to the cupboard for a jar of spaghetti sauce.  There wasn't any so I settled for a jar of Butternut Squash pasta sauce.

I poured a cup of the sauce into the bottom of the pot.  The next step was to layer dry lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.  Then came the cottage cheese.  Oops!  No cottage cheese.  Well, that wasn't going to stop me.  I would just make some.  Making cottage cheese isn't that hard.  You heat a half gallon of milk to 120 degrees.  The recipe uses a gallon of milk, but I cut the recipe in half and used a half gallon. Slowly pour distilled vinegar into the milk and cover it with a lid for 30 minutes.  Then strain the whey out.  There is a lot of whey.  When the whey is out, rinse the vinegar out under cool water and drain.  You then add a little half and half with some sea salt to the curds to make it creamier.  Lightly stir and you have cottage cheese with no extra additives.  Here is the Alton Brown recipe I used.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/quick-cottage-cheese-recipe

I put the cottage cheese layer into the crockpot.  The next layer was shredded mozzarella cheese. This was getting ridiculous.  I didn't have any shredded mozzarella cheese either, but I did have some string cheese.  So I unwrapped twelve string cheese sticks and shredded them.  It worked fine.  I got about 3 1/2 cups of shredded cheese from twelve pieces of cheese.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of cheese so I have some left over for something else.

I finished off the recipe and turned on the crockpot.  It actually turned out really well.  So necessity is the mother of invention even though I didn't invent anything but I did improvise.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Happiness Is

Everyday my husband posts on Facebook what makes him happy.  It is something he does to remind himself and all of us that there is always something to be happy about.  Even on days that aren't that positive, he comes up with something.  This past weekend he lost his wedding ring for the second time.  The first time we found it in some lawn clippings.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/04/the-lost-ring.html  We haven't found it this time. He had the ring for almost 49 years so it was sad to lose it, but rather than dwell on it, he went and bought an inexpensive replacement because the ring represented our long marriage, and the symbol of the ring is important to him.  If a miracle happens and we find the ring that would be wonderful, but until then he has a ring.  I think that is what prompted his latest "happiness is" statement.  He was happy about being frugal.  I didn't understand at first, but realized he could have bought an expensive replacement wedding band but chose a plain stainless steel band instead.

I guess we are a good match because I am also frugal.  I never understood why people are obsessed with making more and more money.  Money doesn't buy happiness.  I can get just as full on a $5 burger as I can on a $50 steak.  I can get just as much light from a thrift store floor lamp as I could from a $5000 chandelier.  I guess I like nice things but the thrill is not having them but finding the bargain.  I don't do that so much anymore.  We have way too much stuff, but once in a while it's fun to go to garage sales, thrift stores or find a really good sale.

Last weekend my daughter's in-laws invited us to go to some city wide garage sales.  It sounded like fun, although I couldn't think of a thing I needed.  I took a little cash and headed out early in the morning.  I was very selective but ended up with a few treasures and I only spent $10.25.

The first thing I found was a greek yogurt maker.  I have one from many years ago, but this was brand new and had some fantastic features.  All you do is heat the milk, add yogurt culture and set the timer. When the yogurt is finished, a stainer was included to strain out the whey.   I found the exact yogurt maker on the product's website for $49.99, but I only paid $3.

Another thing we do is use a water pitcher with a filter to filter water.  We have well water and a refrigerator filter, but I like the filter pitchers of water to make coffee and iced tea.  The Brita filters are quite expensive. They are usually $4 to $5 per filter.  I found a unopened package of three for $3 or a dollar a piece.

Another good deal I found was a piece of Mexican pottery.  I like some of the Mexican pottery ducks and birds and have gotten good deals on a few in the past.  This time I found a cute owl. They were selling a whole box of owl related items for $10.  I asked if I could buy just one item from the box, and they sold it to me for $1.  I looked it up when we got home, and they sell for around $25.

I found a table to put on my porch.  It was painted with a cabin and a moose.  The legs look like canoe paddles.  Even if it only holds up for a season or two, it was worth $3.  I also got a 25 cent hard cover book.  There were so many awesome things I could have purchased, but I didn't.

It was a fun way to spend the day.  Now if that darn wedding ring would appear that would be great.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In Search Of Camp Corbin

Today we were out and about.  We went on a little adventure around Marquette county looking for Barn Quilt blocks.  I don't know if they are popular in other parts of the United States, but here in Wisconsin we have a lot of them.  Large quilt designs are painted on exterior wood squares and are hung on barns or other buildings.  Some are quite simple and others are elaborate.  Shawano county in Wisconsin has over 300 barn quilts and is a tourist destination. This will be a future adventure.  Some are so beautiful.  There are even geocaching games involving Barn quilts.   http://www.shawanocountry.com/barn-quiltstours/about-barn-quilts/

This was a simple basket pattern

This pattern is called the Lone Star.  It is pretty fancy.

Working our way back home we took a little detour through the back roads.  We found ourselves on a road that we were quite familiar with.  It sparked a memory from 1973.  We hadn't thought about it for years, but 44 years ago my husband and I managed a summer church camp.  My husband was a teacher.  Teachers never made a ton of money.  In fact, he started teaching in 1969 for $5,000 a year.  Even then that was a pretty small wage, so he always worked at a summer job.  We never took vacations because he always worked.  He cooked cans of peas at the canning factory, worked on a summer maintenance crew for years and did whatever crappy job he could find, although he did pass on selling encyclopedias.  In 1973 we applied to manage a Presbyterian Church Camp between Packwaukee and Montello Wisconsin.  It was called Camp Corbin.  We got the job and moved into a very old trailer home in the woods with our oldest daughter, who was only 19 months old at the time, and our dog.  Our job was to do repairs, mow, provide firewood, collect money from families using the campground, take campers and canoes to a nearby stream and provide groceries for the church groups and their counselors.  Every week a new group of young people would come from churches all around the state.  It was a very rustic tent camping situation and all their meals were cooked outdoors.  Each day we would bring them the groceries necessary to make their meals.  We had to travel to Portage, Wisconsin every week to purchase a huge amount of food.  We went to a special meat market in Montello that sold Brakebush chickens.  These were the days before the Brakebush name was well known.  We even had to travel to Princeton to get surplus commodities like cheese and flour which were provided by the state for this type of camp.  Who would have thought that 30 years later, we would live in Princeton, WI.  We didn't like the town that much back then, but it has grown on us. 

The area has changed a lot and the camp is long gone.  While trying to find the entrance into the old camp, we came across a hiking trail.  We pulled in to check out the map.  There was a short trail to the Page Creek Marsh.  On the map we saw that it lead to lakes on the camp property.   In 1986 we went back to find Camp Corbin and were able to drive back to the lake and saw some of the old campsites.  At that time we even saw the rusty old trailer we lived in.  At 26 feet long the trailer was smaller than many of today's campers.  It was sitting in the woods abandoned for many years.

This is the trailer we lived in during the summer of 1973.  This picture was taken 13 years later.

Wanting to see how close we could get to familiar land, we grabbed our water and my camera and headed down the trail.

The three lakes on this map were part of the camp.

We could tell that the path was not well traveled and was need of maintenance.  There were a lot of downed trees and over growth, but it was easy enough to maneuver.  It was so calm and beautiful.  There is a smell of earth, leaves and sweetness in the Spring woods that I can't really describe.  It just soothes the soul.

A lot of birch trees

No leaves yet so we could easily see the squirrels nest.

The marker posts which marked the trail had fallen over.

When we finally reached the creek, we saw that the bridge was out, and we couldn't go any further.  It was disappointing but hopefully some day the bridge will be repaired and we will be able to cross the water.

We returned to the car and headed home.  We stopped for gas in Montello, and I noticed two ticks crawling on my husbands shirt.  Fortunately we always carry a roll of duct tape in the car.  I tore off a piece and entombed the ticks in duct tape.  I have no problem ending the life of those little critters.  We got home and took a hot shower just in case there were more and then washed all our clothes.

I notice on the map that there may be an alternative route on the other side of the creek.  Some day we will spray up with repellent and try the secondary trail.  This trail looks like it goes to the larger lake in which we swam.  Yes, 44 years ago I actually wore a swimming suit and wore shorts.  That was probably the last time.  I don't know if the old camp is part of this conservancy or if it is privately owned.  Wouldn't it be something if we would find that old trailer again?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter 2017

It is Easter 2017.  It is a beautiful sunny day.  We went to our daughter's home for brunch and an Easter egg hunt.  The kids are getting a little big for it, but they were all good sports.  Seven year old Ewan believes in the Easter bunny, Jack who is almost 9 wants to believe and the other three go along with the fun.  My dad loved hiding Easter eggs and some of our best family memories involve hunting for eggs.  He always kept their Christmas tree for the birds to take shelter in during the winter and early Spring.  Then after Easter it was thrown away.  It was a great place to hide eggs in.

This is Sarah when she was nine or ten.  Now she is hosting the egg hunt.

This year there was no chocolate involved.  We didn't want a repeat trip to the doggie hospital, so all temptations were removed.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2017/03/poor-bandit.html  The plastic eggs were filled with money which the kids loved.  Cash is golden.

Getting instructions as to where the boundaries were.

Sarah giving Ewan a few extra hints.

Counting the stash when it was all over.

Then it was time to eat.  We had so much good food.  All the exercise we got yesterday was quickly undone.  We still feel stuffed.

A lot of memories are made during these family times.  It seems like only yesterday when our second oldest grandchild had his first Easter.

Dylan when he was 7 months old.

Now here he is with our oldest granddaughter.  He is 15 and she is 16.   It's hard to believe how time marches on.

Dylan and Melissa.

I hope everyone reading this blog had a wonderful and blessed Easter.  I know holidays are tough for people without families to enjoy them with.  That is why I am so fortunate to have the life I have.

View on a beautiful Easter day.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Waking Up From Winter

Today is the Saturday before Easter.  It is one of the warmest days we have had in a long time.  Everything is waking up and getting active.  I get up pretty early.  Today I was up by 6:00.  I paddled into the kitchen and warmed up a cup of the bone broth I drink first thing in the morning.  As I sat down to drink it, I saw all kinds of activity.  The wood ducks were in the trees again.  It must be part of their breeding ritual.  The tree swallows were busy examining the birdhouses to determine which one they want to nest in.  I have only seen two bluebirds this year.  It is very late for them, and I wonder what is going on.*  So far, the tree swallows have whichever birdhouse they want.  For the past several days I have seen a Red Fox in the morning and again at night.  I hope she will raise her pups nearby.  She is very timid.  I can take photos of the deer through the window and they don't even notice, but the fox notices every little movement.  She hopped up on the table where I usually feed corn to the deer.  I don't know what she thought was up there, but as soon as she sensed me in the window she jumped down and hid.

A little later I saw a sandhill crane walking near the waters edge.  I notice that this one had preened herself with mud.  When they first return in March they have gray feathers.  Then after they preen themselves with the sandy mud we have around here, their feathers turn to a reddish brown color. 

Next I saw a Pileated woodpecker.  It was making a loud racket so I followed it outside and saw it up in one of our tall trees.  It has been here a lot today.

By this time my husband had gotten up.  He usually sleeps in a little longer than me and misses all that goes on in the early morning.  It's fortunate I take a lot of pictures for him to see.  Then he lounges around and has to read all the depressing news that happened.  By this time, I am getting antsy.  I have been up forever and want to go somewhere or get something done.  Finally after walking into the room several times and sighing, he gets the message.  He asks where I want to go and naturally I don't know.  I just know I don't want to stay home.  Next thing you know, he is heading out to the car and we have a little outing.  Sometimes it's only the grocery store or gas station, but it's a change of scenery.

Today we found two new places to go.  Just like the animals coming out of hibernation, we got our Jeep out too.  We also need to get moving after a long winter.  We are getting old and who knows how long we will be able to be active.  The first place we went to was a boardwalk through a marsh to Norwegian Bay on Green Lake.  Green Lake is the deepest natural fresh water lake in Wisconsin. 

At first it didn't look like much.  The trail looked a little muddy, and it looked like the trees and brush were removed and shredded,.  The marsh had been burned off and was just showing signs of green returning.  We aren't sure if it was getting too overgrown and they are trying to restore things to how they should be.  Hopefully we can find some answers.  Once we got onto the boardwalk, it was very nice.  The boardwalk ended at the lake.  The view was beautiful.  There was also an osprey nest nearby.

Since this boardwalk wasn't very long and we had only put on 1700 steps on our fitbits, we moved onto another trail we hadn't walked on before.  This one was called the Sunnyside trail.

The woods next to this trail were also cleared and the ground was cluttered with shredded wood from the tree removal.  We didn't know how long the trail was, but we went anyway.  We thought it would make a big U-shape and come out at another point on the road.  We were wrong.  It made a huge circle with no way out except the way we entered.  We saw lots of birds including a big eagle that flew over.   The turtles were out sunning themselves.  They were all lined up on some logs.

We were pretty hot and tired by the time we found our way back to the car.  We hadn't taken any water because we didn't think it would be that far.  My husband wanted to ease into this exercise thing gently, but as it turned out he got a good workout.

Now we are home and it's time for me to prepare for tomorrow.  We are having brunch at our daughters house, but I volunteered to bring a few things.  Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day.  Perfect for an egg hunt and brunch.  We will probably eat all the calories we burned today plus a few more.  My husband, being the competitive person he is, is outside raking.  He can't fool me.  He wants to hit 10,000 steps today because he knows I won't.  He's right, with all the walking I did today,  I still only have 8,255.  Oh well, it's still pretty darn good.

*Update:  Early Easter morning, a few hours after I posted this blog,  the bluebirds returned.   They are busy looking over the birdhouses.  Why they were delayed, I will never know.  I'm just glad they are back.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dutch Oven Crusty Bread

Recently I shared a bread recipe on Facebook.  I hadn't made it yet, but it looked good.  Here is the link.  It is from This Old Gal again.  It seems that she is my go to for air fryer and pressure cooker recipes.  https://thisoldgal.com/instant-pot-yogurt-whey-dutch-oven-crusty-bread/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SocialWarfare

As I have mentioned many times, I make yogurt.  I have for many years.  In order to get a nice thick Greek yogurt, I strain the liquid whey out of it.  For every quart of yogurt, I get 1 1/2 cups of whey. The internet tells many ways to use this product from feeding plants to using it in other recipes.  Up until now, I never liked it in other food.  It is very sour.  Then I found this bread recipe which is really good for those who are lactose intolerant.  There is almost no lactose in the whey.  All the details on how to make this bread are in the "This Old Gal" website or click the link above.  I changed the process slightly, but I still give her credit for the recipe.

The whey is the clear liquid drained from the finished yogurt.

 This Old Gal mixed the dough by hand, but I used my bread machine set on the dough cycle.  The only ingredients are:

1 1/2 cup of whey
3 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
3 1/2 teaspoons yeast

That's all there is to it.  The dough is pretty soft so I was worried it would be sticky.  I dumped it out of the bread machine pan onto a floured surface.  As I folded it over and punched it down, it became very smooth and manageable.

At this point you let it rest for thirty minutes.  At the same time, you pre-heat a cast iron dutch oven.  I imagine you could just put it on a cookie sheet and bake.  However, baking the bread in the dutch oven works very well.  For the first 25 minutes of baking time, you cover it.  Then finish baking with the lid off for an additional 15 minutes, or you can bake it completely with the cover on.

I am writing this blog to share the recipe, but also to save it for myself.  I will be making it over and over again.

Here is is right out of the oven,  It is a very crusty bread with a soft center.

It has a great texture and I love it toasted.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Poor Bandit

Our youngest grand dog is a cockapoo named Bandit.  Bandit came from the same breeder as his cousin Piper, but he only weighs 14 pounds.  Piper is almost twice as big.  Bandit is a lively little thing, but is also sweet as can be. 

Yesterday wasn't a good day for Bandit.  Our grandson brought a dish of semisweet chocolate chips into their computer room.  He was snacking on them.  When he left, he forgot the chips.  Yes, you guessed it.  Bandit climbed up on the chair and ate the remaining chocolate chips.  Chocolate is toxic to dogs and the darker the chocolate, the worse it is.  It was only a half hour or so before they discovered it.  My daughter knew she had to make him throw up.  She talked to a neighbor who had recently had a similar experience.  She told her to give him hydrogen peroxide and how much to use Within a short period of time, Bandit threw up a lot of chocolate.  He seemed ok, but then threw up again.  We all thought that would be the end of it.  It was not.  By 10 PM, the dog was starting to tremble and wasn't doing well.  Since it was so late, they had to call an animal hospital about an hour away because all the local veterinary clinics were closed.  The veterinarian told her to bring him right in.  When they got there, his heart rate was at 170, and they admitted him to the hospital.  He had a rough night.  They gave him sedatives, fluids and monitored his heart rate.  They also gave him charcoal.  By the middle of this morning he was doing better, but they wanted to keep him for a few more hours.  Now he is home.  He has to be on a special diet of chicken and rice and has to have probiotics.  We checked on him this afternoon, and he seemed pretty much himself although he was a little tired. 

We are all so relieved that tonight he is almost normal, but last night was a long night of worrying.  The vet said if they hadn't made him throw up, it may have been a very different story.

This is cousin Piper.