Full January 1, 2018 Super Moon

Full January 1, 2018 Super Moon
A View From Our Deck

Monday, February 19, 2018

Elderberry Syrup

Last winter I heard about Elderberry syrup.  Elderberries apparently have medicinal properties to treat flu and cold symptoms.  I haven't had a cold or flu for many years, but I wanted to be prepared in case.  Since I just stated that fact out loud, I hope I didn't jinx myself.  The bottle of syrup I bought last year was quite expensive, but a good start for last winter.   The summer of 2017 I was planning to go out in the country and find elderberries growing near the roadside.  When I was young they grew all around.  We would go out and pick them for jelly.  Some of my relatives would even make elderberry wine.  I also thought I could just grow my own elderberry bushes.   I found out that research was being done on a specific type of elderberry plant called the Sambucis Nigra .  This bush is different from the Common Elderberry that grows along the roadside.  The berries from this plant are extra rich in vitamins A, B and C.  They are high in immune-boosting compounds which may help with getting over illness more quickly.  I found the bush for sale from a plant nursery which would grow in our zone.  It looks a lot like a Japanese Maple and is very pretty.   I may try to grow one at some point.

For now,  I decided to buy the dehydrated organic berries.  Elderberries are very small, and it would take a lot of them to make a pound of dried berries.

The recipe is very simple.  Measure out a cup of dried berries and about four cups of water.  Bring them to a boil.  I also added a half cup of blueberries to the mix because they are good for us too.  Simmer them for 45 minutes and strain out the cooked berries.  I fed these to the birds to see if they like them.  So far no bird has tried them. 

When the juice has cooled slightly, just sweeten with unfiltered local honey.  If honey is added to heat, it will kill the antibacterial properties of the honey.  Some recipes I saw put in ginger and turmeric, but I didn't want to mess with the flavor.  This is really tasty and will keep in the refrigerator for three months.  We take a tablespoon a day.  It is preventative and may be a placebo but that's fine with me.  It is no way a substitute for medical care if needed, but it is a little boost.  If we get sick then the instructions say to take a teaspoon every hour.  Hopefully we won't have to find out if that works.

The batch made a full pint of syrup.
I need to find a bottle which will make it easier to pour out.  Until then, I will use it from this pint jar. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Shampoo Bar

I have a mini pet peeve.  It isn't huge and I don't think about it constantly, but it does annoy me whenever I clean the shower/tub.  It is the shampoo bottles sitting in the shower or on the edge of the tub.  Unless you are obsessive about it and dry the bottles after every shower, the bottles leave crud and soap scum marks under the bottle.  In the shower we have a ledge that does the same.  I bought a rack with suction cups for the corners of the shower.  These work unless you get too much weight on them and suddenly without warning, you hear a crash in the shower.  The rack and everything on it has fallen to bottom of the shower.

I was given some homemade soap last summer.  I put it in a mesh bag and love using it.  I have also made knitted and crocheted bags for putting soap slivers in as well as bars of soap.  The bag can serve as a washcloth, and they dry quickly when hung up.


One day it dawned on me that a shampoo bar would be just the ticket.  It would eliminate plastic bottles, and I could control the ingredients.  Most shampoos are full of things we wouldn't want being absorbed into our bodies.  I have the Think Dirty app which I use.  I am so surprised when even the "Natural" well known products come up with a very high score.  A higher score indicates the product contains ingredients that are not good for you.


I researched and found that you can buy shampoo bars but again I didn't know what was in them.  I decided to make my own bar shampoo.  I found a great recipe online.  The exact recipe is in the link below.


I had everything I needed to make them except a mold to form them in.  My daughter had a silicone muffin pan which she used to freeze her homemade baby food when my grandson was a baby.  That was almost eight years ago, and she said I could have it.  The only concern in using this recipe is the lye.  I was very careful and used gloves, a face mask and goggles.  Lye is very caustic and gets really hot when mixed with water.  Other than that the process is easy as long as you follow the instructions.  The shampoo recipe used lye mixed into different oils.  I used olive oil, coconut oil and almond oil.  I set newspaper out on the counter and put on my safety gear.  I am slightly afraid of lye.  My mom's aunt burned holes in her skin from lye being splashed on her legs and arms.  I put on the goggles, gloves and a mask.  Then I added the lye to cool distilled water.  I stirred it carefully with a metal spoon until the lye was dissolved and the fumes went away.  The water gets pretty hot.  I used a thermometer to track the temperature.  At this point all you do is mix the slightly cooled lye water with the warmed oil and stir.  After 5 minutes of hand stirring I switched to the immersion blender to mix the solution until it looked like vanilla pudding.  That finished product is called "trace".  Then I put in some essential oils and castor oil.  Castor oil is supposed to be good for the hair.  For some reason I thought it was only a laxative, but I guess it has many wonderful uses.  For example, we had it on hand because it was supposed to repel moles in our yard.  We haven't tried that yet, but we will in the spring.  Then I poured the trace solution into the muffin pan and covered it with plastic wrap for 24 hours to make sure it hardened. This batch made six bars of shampoo about an inch thick.  After 24 hours, I popped them out of the muffin cups onto a metal rack.  They came out easily.  Now I have to wait about a month for them to totally cure.

I hope this works.  They smell wonderful and seem like a perfect solution to my aversion to plastic shampoo bottles plus they would be great for traveling.  There would be no liquid to spill out.   I will do an update later to report on how they cured, and if they are a good shampoo and conditioner.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Your Life Is Up To You

In my younger days I never really took the time to read much.  If I had time, I would knit or do projects.  Now in my later years, I have read a lot of books.  Usually I read mystery novels or historical fiction.  I really enjoy books that take place in local settings that I am somewhat familiar with.  Unlike my husband, if I don't like or can't get into a book in 50 pages or so, I am done.  He struggles through to finish no matter what.  I can't do that.  There are too many good choices to waste time on books I don't like.  I can enjoy a story, but by the next day I am on to another and don't think much about it again.  That was not true with the last book I read.  I usually don't write about books I read, but I can't get over this one and feel the need to write about it.  The book is called The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian.

We got this book from my son-in-law's parents.  They like to go to library book sales and fill bags with books to read.  They had picked this book up because it looked good and was about the older generation.  They read it recently and gave it to us because they thought we would enjoy it.  A movie has been made from this book with Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren.

I think everyone of a certain age should read this book and perhaps younger people with parents in their 70's and 80"s.   It confirms what I have believed for a long time.  Medical science has one purpose.  It is to prolong life as long as they possibly can no matter what.  Doctors require all kinds of tests and scans for healthy people.  I don't really blame the doctors, they are given guidelines by the medical organizations they work for to make money.  I remember when I had to go to three different doctors for cancer treatments and check ups.  They were allowed a certain number of minutes to see me.  I would see on my chart the number of minutes circled.  If you have a doctor who isn't pressured by time constraints, that is great.  I never felt they had the time to understand me or how I was feeling especially mentally.  If my numbers were ok, then I was ok.  I think at a certain age you should be treated by a doctor for concerns you have or symptoms you have.  If there are good treatments that cure the problem or make life comfortable and manageable, I'm all for it.  What I can't see is stopping life to endure treatments and multiple doctor visits in hopes of prolonging a life so there is no more quality of life.  This book is about that.  The couple in the book are in their 80's, married nearly 60 years and neither of them are in good health.  The wife has cancer and her treatments are causing side effects and not really helping.  The end is near for her physically.  The husband has Alzheimer's disease.  The end is almost there for him mentally.  They runaway from their doctors and their adult children for a last adventure in their old camper.  They travel from Detroit along Route 66 (where they could find it) to California.  They lived their final time on their terms, and that is how it should be.

I was struggling with what I believe and would want to do and if I were in a similar situation.  This book helped me with that.  If you get a chance, read this book.  Hopefully the movie captures the message as well as the book.  At a certain age and situation, the choice is yours.  Do what makes YOU happy.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Tale of Two Phones

This is a tale of two phones or more accurately three phones or more.  It all started a few years ago when I switched from my flip phone to my first iphone.  I keep my phones and computers forever because I don't like setting up new devices and learning about them all over again.  They change things enough to make it miserable.  I don't even use all the features available, and it's still a pain.  My husband only uses a phone In Case of Emergency or a rare phone call.  He did have a "bag" phone way back when, but the first time he needed to use it he had a dead car battery.  It turned out to be not very effective because he realized that in order to make a call, it had to be plugged into the cigarette lighter (as they used to call it) and the phone needed the battery to power it.  Phones have certainly evolved over the last twenty years.  We have had a few phones since then.  He usually gets my old phone when I get a new one.  His last phone, however, was a smart Tracfone which turned out to be very dumb.  It just didn't work out.  Since the year was up, we decided that he would take my iphone 6, and I would get a new phone.  Fortunately Costco has a kiosk which offered what we wanted.  The phone stores have a tendency to up sell, give free items which aren't really free and try to get you to buy cases and covers that could be purchased cheaper elsewhere.  The kiosk was great but it still opened a can of worms.

We entered the store and went directly to the kiosk.  The nice young man said they were having computer issues, but they would be up and running shortly.  We said we would do our shopping and return when we were finished.  We ate samples around the store, and we picked up things we probably could have done without plus a few favorites we always buy.  When we returned the system was working and the paperwork for the phone was written up.  We also wanted to convert my iphone to my husband's phone number.  At Costco you then have to go to the checkout.  After you pay, they get the phone and walk it back to the kiosk.  I followed along like a little puppy.  When I got there, they needed the sales slip but my husband had it to get out of the store.  He took the groceries to the car.  Fortunately he didn't wait in the car which was a strong possibility, but returned knowing I may need the sales slip.  We finished the transaction and left.  Little did I know it wasn't as simple as that.  I put the phone in my purse, and we made a couple more stops before heading home.  We were about half way home, and I decided to pull the phone out to see if I could figure it out.  I reached in my purse and suddenly it started buzzing and a red dot was flashing and counting down.  I saw it was calling 911.  I had the forethought to end the call but apparently not in time.  Within seconds the 911 dispatcher called back to ask what my emergency was.  I told her about the new phone and that I must have pushed a button I shouldn't have.  She said it happens often.  It still didn't make me feel any better.  I had to give my name, number and location anyway.  I set the phone down and didn't touch it again until I got home.  I carefully carried it in the house and put it on the table.  Then I googled the SOS feature and how to fix it.  It was easy to go into settings and change the emergency setting but until that point I was ready to take the phone back.

Next I got a call to tell me they couldn't port my husbands number without another number which was printed under the battery of his Tracfone.  I got the back cover off and wrote down the number.  Then I put the battery back in because the phone was still working.  I tried to enter that number online but there was no account for it.  I tried to call the number they left and it also said there was no account.  I used my new phone to make this call and had to enter my account number on the keypad which ended up calling my daughter.  I still haven't figured out why that happened.  Thank goodness it was her number and not someone else.  It was a butt dial without the butt.  My next step was to call the young man who sold me the phone.  He took down the information and said it should be ported in 24 to 48 hours.  The next day, I got a phone call from him that said the number I gave him didn't work.  I needed to take the battery out again and read him all the numbers under the battery.  He waited while I got a screwdriver to pry off the back and found the numbers.  I thought all was well.  It was finally ported over four days later.  The guy called me and told me it was up and running.  Again it wasn't.  I called the phone and it said the voice mailbox wasn't set up.  I tried to set it up and it wouldn't work.  I again had to search how to set up a voice mailbox but nothing worked.  I had to call the young man again.  By this time, I was getting to know him.  I even learned when he did his laundry.  His last name was familiar so we discussed if he was related to someone I knew.  He was not.  We finally came to the conclusion that we had to clear all the information off my old phone and start from scratch.  I set up the phone for my husband, and it is finally good to go.  However, I lost all my apps and contact information.

I sure hope these phones last us for many many years.  It gets more and more complicated to set up, and it will take a while to get things the way I want them.  Some things I may never figure out. I still have to endure the emails and surveys from the phone carrier company.  My advice is not to upgrade unless it is absolutely necessary.  It is expensive and doesn't get you many more useful features, but in this day and age it is kind of a necessary evil.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Viewing Eagles At Petenwell Dam

Last August my husband and I took a day trip to Lake Petenwell.  It was our 49th wedding anniversary, and we didn't have anything in particular planned.  We decided to take a trip to the Petenwell Dam.  We had heard it was a great place to view eagles.  We were familiar with the area because it was next to Castle Rock Lake which was the site of our camping fiasco.  Anyone who knows us, knows how that turned out.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2016/05/to-camp-or-not-to-camp-that-is-question.html 

For those who don't know how it turned out, you can read the blog post above and pretty much guess.  We sold the darn thing.  We were very lucky to sell it quickly and that was the end of my camping experiences.  

Petenwell Lake is a big man made lake in central Wisconsin.  It is the second largest body of water in Wisconsin and was created by the Wisconsin River Power Company in the late 1940's.  The power company built a Hydroelectric Dam on the Wisconsin River forming the lake.  South of the Petenwell Dam is another dam which formed Castle Rock Lake which is the 4th largest lake in Wisconsin.   

Our day trip last summer was very nice.  The area around the dam is beautiful.  There is a tower near the dam built for viewing the eagles.  We climbed the tower and got a good view the river and the dam.  We walked around seeing people fishing and boating, but we didn't see any eagles.

This is the dam.  You can see the Lake on top and the River below.

This turbulent water is coming out of the power plant.

Even though we didn't see any eagles, we had a great day exploring the area, but we promised ourselves we would return one day to try again.  When we left the area, we saw this sign.  It explains that the best time for viewing eagles is November to March.

So today we decided to take another drive.  It was a nice sunny day, and we ignored the fact that it was 5 degrees outside.  We took our heavy winter coats, hats, gloves and of course my camera.  It took a good hour to get there, but when we did it was so worth it.  There were a lot of eagles fishing, flying around and sitting in trees.  There were two guys with huge lens on their cameras taking photos.  It made my little camera look like a toy.  They didn't talk much, but they did say they had been there since sunrise.  It was about noon at that point. 

This is the winter view of the dam with ice formed.

At the edge of the parking lot sat these two eagles.  The one on the right looks like a young one.

Eagles have to be six years old before they mature and get the white head and tail feathers.

I believe this is a younger immature eagle who hasn't achieved the white markings.

As I stood there, two more flew into the trees.

Looking across the river to the other side, I could see more eagles sitting in the trees.

It's hard to get an action shot, but here the eagle has caught a fish.  I wonder if the professionals got a shot of this.

It was an awesome day, but we didn't stay long.  We were prepared for the cold temperatures except for our feet.  We didn't have boots on and our feet got cold.  Fortunately there wasn't much wind or it could have been worse.  We stopped at a local restaurant and Ray's Closeout store.  Later we picked up a few groceries and got some gas before returning home.  I can't wait to go back.  We will wait until the temperatures warm up a little or make sure we are covered from head to foot. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's Easy To Make Ghee

Ghee is popular right now.  I have been making it for a year or more but I guess I haven't blogged about it.  If I have, I have forgotten but if I don't remember then no one else will either.  That is except for a couple friends of mine who remember back so far, they probably remember being born.  Ghee is nothing more than butter that has the milk solids and water removed.  It is the healthiest form of butter and is pure butterfat.  My daughter drinks Bullet Proof coffee.  Bullet proof coffee is black coffee blended together with ghee or grass fed butter and coconut oil.  I don't make it but it supposedly is very satisfying and good for a person.  I use ghee on toast and for cooking wherever you would use regular butter. 

My method for making ghee began with melting the butter in a pan and cooking it on the stove until the milk solids separated out and began to turn brown.  The brown bits would settle out.  Then I would strain it through a fine sieve.  This worked but you had to stand by the stove and watch carefully so it wouldn't burn.  Now I use my small slow cooker.  It is only a two quart cooker that I also use for overnight steel cut oats. 

I put the grass fed butter in and turn it on low.  I leave the lid ajar to let the steam escape.  In two or three hours the butter solids have separated and begin to turn brown.   The browner the bits, the nuttier the ghee tastes.  Unsalted butter is supposed to be used but often I don't have it on hand.  Salted butter works fine,  When separated the milk solids taste very salty and the ghee doesn't.  I presume a lot of the salt separates out too.  The cooked butter is strained leaving a clear yellow oil.  I put it in a dish to harden.   It has a higher smoke point if you use it in cooking.  Butter burns easily because of the milk solids it has in it.  Ghee has none left.

There are a lot of published reasons why ghee is better than butter but I don't know if all of them are true.  I do know that it is better for you than margarine.  Since the milk solids are removed it makes ghee basically lactose free and perfect for people with allergies and sensitivities to dairy.   I think it also tastes good and is just another small and easy way to a healthier life style.  Of course, moderation is the key.  You can't sit down and eat a bowl of ghee any more than you can overeat butter.  It's still a high calorie fat.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beating Winter Boredom By Knitting a Doggie Sweater

For the past two weeks or more it has been bitter cold here in Wisconsin.  Fortunately today we reached temperatures near 30 degrees with even warmer temperatures predicted for the next few days.  We haven't had much snow because it's too cold to snow.  I don't know if that is a proven weather fact, but it seems to be true. 

The days tend to get long for me in the winter because it is dark in the morning when I get up, and it  gets dark early in the evening. However, the days seem to be getting a little longer.  It is 4:36 pm and it is still light out.  My husband rather enjoys getting comfortable and cozy in his recliner.  He reads, plays computer games, researches whatever he has on his mind and watches TV.  He gets up occasionally to stoke the fire or to go outside for more firewood.  I am not so content.  I'm not a snuggler, and I get antsy pretty easy.  I may not accomplish that much but I need to move a lot more than him.  I also tend to snack more than he does.  That is not a good thing.

I decided that I needed a project.  Nobody in my family needs any more knitted or crocheted items.  We have more hats, scarves and mittens than we need.  I have been knitting for charity, but I needed a break from that.  I told you I get bored easily.  I thought that I would make sweaters for our granddogs, Piper and Bandit.  I found a pattern in Free-KnitPatterns.com.  It was in the side bar on my facebook page.  It's a little creepy that they knew I was looking for something to knit.

This is the final sweater.  Bandit is a small dog, but I thought I would start with a medium size.  I figured it would fit one of the dogs.  If it was too big for Bandit, then it would fit Piper.   As it turned out, the medium fit Bandit perfectly.  I used yarn that I have in my stash so it didn't cost anything.  I also made it a little shorter than it called for.  I didn't want him peeing on his new sweater.  I think he is adorable, and he didn't chew it off so maybe he likes it too.

Now I have to make another one for Piper.  It was fun to make something a little different from a pattern I had never used before.  I will post a picture of her when I get it finished.  Winter will be over soon enough and then I can complain about being too hot.  There is no pleasing some people, namely me.