The Cabin View

The Cabin View

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Gray Hair Is Not So Bad

I found this blog I wrote on November 3, 2018.  I never published it.  I guess I didn't want anyone to feel bad if they choose to color their hair.  As I mentioned, if it makes you feel good then do it.  The only reason I thought about it now is the beauty shops are closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 virus.  Some people may not have a choice and will be able to see what their true hair color is.

So here it is:

I haven't blogged for quite some time.  When I do, it's usually about our local wildlife or how the seasons and landscape changes around our property.  Once in a while, I get a bee in my bonnet about one thing or another.  Usually it's about my love/hate relationship with Facebook and No I am not writing about politics.  I know what I believe, and nothing I can say will change another persons mind.  I don't understand it, but I can't change it.  Too many factors come into play that I can't change.  People vote against their best interest because their parents and grandparents voted that way.  The political parties have changed, but people are stuck.  Which brings me to what I want to write about.  GRAY HAIR.

Gray hair has a bad rap.  The actual definition for Gray doesn't help.  "The color gray is an emotionless, moody color that is typically associated with meanings of dull, dirty and dingy, as well as formal, conservative and sophisticated.  The color gray is a timeless and practical color that is often associated with loss or depression."  Back in the day gray hair meant old, old and older, even more than now.  When I first noticed my gray hair, my mom encouraged me to color my hair.  I don't even remember when that was.  I was probably in my 40's.  I suppose my mother didn't want to be the mother of an old lady.  I had pretty dark hair so every gray hair showed up.  I colored my hair lighter and lighter to hide the gray.  I even convinced myself that I was blonde.  I wasn't fooling anyone, but the light bulbs in my bathroom gave my hair a golden tint.  Eventually I had no idea what my natural hair color was.  Then I got cancer.  I went through the whole process of losing all my hair.  It sounds terrible but when I had my husband shave my head, I felt more free than I ever had.  It was like a brand new start, and it changed my life.  I wasn't prepared for how it felt.  My hair is very thick so having no hair on my head felt really good.  I loved being able to wash my head with shower soap, and I didn't have to waste time drying it.  In public I was self conscience and got a wig.  It looked fake, it was hot and I was more uncomfortable wearing it than not.  I remember the day I pulled it off and gave it to the kids for Halloween.  It was that feeling of freedom all over again.  After treatment, my hair began to return.  It was pure gray.  I actually liked it.  I felt the same, I just looked different.  I didn't take pictures and I wish I would have.  This photo I am showing is the only one I have as my hair was coming back.

I would not have had the courage to grow it out if it hadn't happened naturally.  To this day I would have been trying to convince people I was a natural blonde.

There are so many advantages to going gray.  First of all, it's cheaper.  No more long trips to the hairdresser.  I know hairdressers need to make a living, but I'm pretty sure none of them are getting rich from those on Social Security.  All I do is go in for a haircut now and then.  $20 every two months and I'm good to go.  Someone estimated that 25 years of getting your hair colored added up to $65,000.  Imagine what you could do with an extra $65,000.  Think about how many people aren't satisfied with their natural color anyway.  They are getting their hair frosted or highlighted or whatever else is in style.  I figure you might as go natural and if that is gray, so be it.  You are still yourself.

Next it frees up tons of time.  I don't have to go to the store for coloring or sit in a beauty shop for hours.  I don't have to obsess about my roots.  My roots are always gray.   I have hours of time to do what I want to do.

Lastly, you may as well admit your age.  How many times have you seen a woman (or man for that matter) with lovely raven locks.  Then they turn around and the face gives it away.  Would you rather be noticed for beautiful gray hair and a face that matches or that other person I just described.  You can't fool anyone, especially all the Facebook friends you graduated from high school with.  Maybe 10 years or so younger, but not 30 years.

There, I said it.  Some people naturally never turn gray and that is wonderful.  I also realize most people who color their gray will continue to do because it just makes them feel good, but for me it was something that weighed me down and I didn't even know it.  Fact is, your hair color isn't what draws people to you or away from you.  It could be what comes out of your mouth, but that's another story.  Just be yourself.

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Tenth Birthday Party To Remember

Every generation has its struggles with famine, wars and terrorism, but who would have thought that a virus that mutated from an animal would bring the world to its knees.  We don't know how long this will last and I suspect we will never approach door handles, key pads or shopping carts the same.  My family has been very careful.  We distanced ourselves from each other early on.  Our daughters both work in hospitals, and they were especially careful to protect my husband and me.  We have not even been to a grocery store for almost three weeks.  I'm not convinced grocery stores are that safe.  People will say that they are staying safe at home except for going to the grocery store.  It's like being on a cruise ship with food to catch all the particles floating around in the air.  I got my first grocery delivery today but before I brought it in the house, I wiped down everything including the plastic bags.  You may laugh and think I'm crazy, and maybe I am.....but it can't hurt.

Every year we have a traditional St. Patrick's Day celebration at our home.  We postponed that until later.  It was a disappointment but the hardest to miss is our youngest grandsons tenth birthday.  Tomorrow is actually his birthday, but today was a beautiful day for a drive.  We drove out to their house with his present.  We drove up to the front of the house.  I got out and put his gift on the porch.  Then I got back in the truck and let them know we were outside.  They came outside, got some chairs and we actually got to talk in person while keeping a safe distance. 

Since there would be no family party and because we were already sitting in the driveway, Ewan got to open his present a day early.

Any one who has read about or met our youngest grandchild knows he is an outdoor kid.  I always tease that he will be like Grizzly Adams.  He will be a Mountain Man or a Cowboy.  He has wanted cowboy boots in the worst way.  Most kids who are ten years old have out grown that but not Ewan.  So what do you think we got him?  Real leather authentic Cowboy boots.  When he saw the box, he thought it was a big puzzle.

I think he liked them.  Hopefully he won't out grow them too soon.  Next thing you know he will want a horse, but that won't be coming from this set of grandparents.  For now, he will just have to ride his pretend horse.

 Happy Tenth Birthday Ewan.  If nothing else, it will be one you will remember. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Knit or Crochet a Swiffer Cover

Since I have mostly run out of things to blog about, I have to improve on things I have already done.  In 2013 I blogged about making fabric Swiffer covers.  The fleece fabric covers work out fine and I still use them, but lately I have been seeing Pinterest posts for some knit and crochet covers.  Since there isn't  a pattern I liked for making them, I just experimented with some yarn I found.  I found some chenille yarn at Walmart.  It was 5.3 ounces of Lion Brand Vel-Luxe yarn for $4.98.  It is very soft and seems durable.  The fleece fabric covers are still in good shape after seven years.  Time will tell if these new ones hold up over time.

My first attempt was basically a long skinny rectangle the width of the Swiffer (about 4 inches) and 15 inches long (10 inches actual size plus 5 inches for folding over).  It looked like a slipper with two toes.  I set stitch markers in 10 stitches on each end to make it easier to seam later when I sewed it together.

With size 8 needle,  I cast on 50 stitches and knit the garter stitch (knitting every row) for 24 rows or 12 bumps on each side.  Fold in at the stitch markers on each side and sew the flaps to make pockets.  That's it, just slip it on the Swiffer head.  By the way, people give away these Swiffers all the time.  Almost every thrift store has them for little cost.  I suppose buying the disposable covers gets annoying and wasteful.  I purchased a micro fiber "dust mop" as my mother called them.  It was larger, awkward and pivoted in odd directions.  I like the small Swiffer so much better.

The next one I made was similar but it wrapped around the Swiffer head.

With a Size 8 needle, I cast on 30 stitches and knit the garter stitch for 60 rows (30 bumps).  It makes a rectangle about 8 by 9 1/2.  Smaller is better than too big.  This yarn stretches some.  Seam in about 2 inched on each side and close the ends.  This one looks like it would hold a small box of Kleenex. 

The last one I made was crocheted.  It was faster to make, and although it looks very similar to the second one, I liked it better.  With a size H crochet hook I chained 30 and joined to make a circle.  I crocheted in each stitch around until the beginning.  Then join in the first stitch, chain 1 and make another round until the piece is a tube about two inches long.  At this point I stopped working in the round and turned my work.  Crochet back and forth on the 30 stitches until the piece is about 7 1/2 inches long.  Then crochet around again for two more inches for a total of 9 1/2 inches. 

To finish this piece the ends just need to be sewn shut.  This yarn is very forgiving and if you miscount or don't line it up perfectly, it won't show.  It's just a Swiffer cover after all. 

This yarn picks up fine dust and doesn't just push it around.  It also washes beautifully.  After cleaning the floors, the cover is easily removed and tossed in the laundry.

I made 6 covers with one ball of yarn.  The cost is less than 85¢ each.  Now I have no excuse for dust bunnies under my bed.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Our Miniature Mountain Man named Ewan

Life with grandchildren is always interesting.  Ewan our youngest is particularly entertaining.  He is a nine year old with an old soul who can read between the lines and pick up on subtle nuances.  He always knows when the adults in his life are leaving out some important information or discussing something he really doesn't need to know.  He can hear better than any animal in the forest.  We are convinced he is going to grow up to be the next Grizzley Adams, a true mountain man.  He loves our cabin in the woods.  He said it would be the perfect place to live off the grid, and it has good wifi.  I'm not sure if living off the grid includes having wifi, but I left it at that. 

I may have mentioned that his favorite Christmas gift this year was a hatchet.  He already has a Bowie knife.  Both of these items are never far from his sight unless he is in school.  He was also thrilled to receive a portable shovel for digging.  You never know when you have to survive in the woods. 

Before the dust settled from opening Christmas presents, Ewan headed outside.  He had important work to do.  He was going to build a shelter.  A shelter from what, I don't know.  He convinced his cousin Jack to help for a while even though Jack prefers the comforts of inside shelters.

They worked very hard until it was time to go home.  I had no idea if it was still standing.  No one had checked since Christmas but today Ewan's parents wanted to go shopping to an outlet, about a half hour from our house, that sells chicken   They had to go right past our house, so Ewan asked if he could stay with us instead.  He ate a snack of bacon and eggs and then wanted to head out to check on his shelter.  Of course he brought his knife and hatchet.  I told him to be careful and let him go out.  About ten minutes later I went out to check on him.  I found him chopping down a twenty foot cedar tree.

I watched for a minute, and he was really going to town on the tree.  He had it almost chopped down.

It was hung up in the other trees, but he was determined.  I asked if I could help push it down, but I couldn't budge it.  Next thing I know, down it came right next to the stump but was still standing straight.  No that isn't blood on the tree stump.  It's a cedar tree and the heart of the tree is red like that, but at quick glance it was a little frightening. 

By that time his parents returned.  His dad helped him finish the job for now.  They pushed the tree down and he cut it in half.  I'm not sure what he will do with it, but he chose it because it was so straight.  At this stage of the project, he had to go home.  Our next family get together will be in six weeks when we have our annual St. Patrick's Day meal and Leprechaun search.  Hopefully it will be a nice day for working outside because I'm certain he will have his knife and hatchet with him.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Embellishing Plain Millet Suet Cakes

We feed the birds.  Anyone who knows us, knows we love watching the birds dart in and out of the feeders.  It's especially important to supplement food in the winter when natural food is scarce in Wisconsin.  There are many birds who don't migrate and need the fuel to survive the cold temperatures and snow.  I blogged about a recipe more than a year ago.  I have made this many times.

Recently I didn't have all the ingredients for this recipe, but I did have a bunch of pre-packaged suet cakes.  We pick up a box now and then when they are on sale.  Sometimes they can be as inexpensive as $.50 each.  I checked my supplies and saw I had two boxes on hand.

If you look carefully, these are two different types of food.  The box on the right states it is No Melt and is marketed as Woodpecker dough.  I learned the hard way that these do not melt just as it says on the box.  It's perfect for the summer heat but is not suet.   The cakes look similar but are not. I did break up these blocks and put them on a platform feeder for the birds to enjoy that way.

Woodpecker Dough

I have a spindle feeder, and I wanted to melt the suet cakes so I could reshape them into the cylinder shape.  The cakes look slightly different from the woodpecker dough.  They feel greasier, and you can see seeds mixed in the product.  The ones I have only contain millet and millet is not a favorite of the birds.  Some birds will eat them, but most of the birds will not unless they are starving.  My remedy for this situation is to first melt the blocks.  I put three of them into a microwavable bowl and microwaved for two minutes.  I have also put them in a saucepan on low heat.  It is your choice as to what method works best for you.  When melted, stir them together into a greasy, seedy slurry.

At this point I stir in sunflower seeds and/or peanuts.  Stir until the suet cools to the point where the seeds incorporate as opposed to floating.  It cools in a couple of minutes.  At this point, I pack the ingredients in a container sprayed with cooking spray.  Spraying makes it easier to release.  Make sure you pack it tight to get all the air pockets out.  I used a five pound cottage cheese container.  While it is soft, I put a large metal bolt through the middle to make a hole in the center so I can fit it over the spindle feeder I have.  It isn't pretty, but it works.

I let it firm up overnight.  In the morning or after a few hours, remove the metal piece and turn the container over like you would a layer cake.  The embellished suet cake pops right out.  A bonus is the cost savings.  A pre-made suet cake of this style and size runs about $12.00 whereas my home made cakes cost less than $2.00.

The birds love these.  It attracts all kinds of birds.  The cardinals and all types of woodpeckers especially like them.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Male and Female Northern Cardinal

White Breasted Nuthatch

Red Breasted Nuthatch

Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

As you can see, the old suet cylinder is nearly gone.  The new one is ready to go.  Most of the sunflower seeds have been picked out of the old one, so the new one will be welcomed.  It's like I am making them finish their main course before bringing on the dessert. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

My Attempt At Making Pasties

I am neither a Cornish miner nor am I from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but I am a fan the pasty.  If you don't know what they are, they are basically a beef pot pie which originated a long long time ago.

My first experience with them was when I was young. I was probably 11 or 12 when a neighbor introduced them to my family. They had move from Mineral Point, Wisconsin where the pasty was a popular food. I kind of liked them but my mother didn't care for them for some reason. I never had them again until I was an adult. I never realized the Mineral Point connection until I read Mining for Justice by Kathleen Ernst which took place in Mineral Point, Wisconsin and the story line was about the miners. Even though the pasty was supposedly invented in Cornwall England, they have become popular in many communities with mining histories. Today when a person drives through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, pasties are a common menu item in many restaurants. I have had good ones and not so good ones, but they always appealed to me.

I decided to try my hand at making them. One thing I didn't like about some was the additional flavors that I wasn't fond of or maybe I just wasn't familiar with.  We are basic meat and potato people. I found a recipe that looked good. It used only salt and pepper for seasonings.  It was published by a restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin and was featured on a cooking show called Living with Amy. Since following the original recipe I have modified the it because the ratio of vegetable and meat to the amount of dough didn't seem correct. I believe where the recipe says five pounds of potatoes, it should say five cups of potatoes. Since I followed the original recipe, I ended up with twice as many vegetables as I needed and put the extra filling in a ten inch pie shell. It made a big pot pie.

You can watch the video for the process, but here is my corrected recipe.

Beef Pasty

For the Dough:

2 cups Shortening or Lard

2 cups Boiling water

5 1/2-6 cups Flour

2 tsp Salt

For the Filling:

1 lb. carrots, diced (about 5-6 large carrots)

1 lb. rutabaga, diced (about 1 medium)

2 medium onions, diced

5 cups Potatoes, diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 lbs Hamburger


To make the dough,  first melt the shortening with the boiling water, then add flour and salt and mix with large spoon. I used the dough hook with my Kitchen aid mixer. The mixture will be sticky and must be refrigerated for 2 hrs or overnight.

Filling: Mix all ingredients together very well.

To assemble: On a floured surface roll out about 1/2 c of dough into a circle about 6 inches. Then place 1 cup of filling mixture in middle and top with butter pat, fold over dough, push edges together, cut off excess dough, put 2-3 slits on top of pasty then roll edges closed. Place on cookie sheet and egg wash before baking.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-55 minutes until lightly brown.

These are a little time consuming to make, but we really enjoyed them. We will get many meals from this one batch. I got sixteen pasties and a large pot pie which I cut into four portions. I froze meal sized portions and then put them in food saver bags. You always freeze baked goods or soft foods first. If not, when removing the air from a food saver bag, you will have a mushy mess. We like them with hot gravy poured on top but my grandson likes them with ketchup. 

I usually have gravy in the freezer.  Whenever I make a beef roast, I use the drippings to make a large batch of gravy. If you have ever looked at the ingredients in powdered gravy packets or on the ingredients label of a jar of gravy, you may want to make your own.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Cream of Rice Cereal

When I was little many many years ago, my mother's go to cure all was Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice hot cereals.  She made these hot cereals whenever any of us had a "tummy ache".  That is what we called any upset stomach.  It was my mom's go to cure all even when she was in her 80's.  My grandpa used the term tummy ache when he was in his 80's also, but that was code for wanting us to go to the store for those round Pepto Bismol tasting pink candies.  One of my favorite memories of him was always having those candies close at hand.

Last week my husband was nursing a respiratory virus and didn't feel very well.  He didn't want any heavy meals, and he was sick of eggs and oatmeal for breakfast.  He ate a lot of soup but really didn't know what to eat in the morning.  I remembered the hot cereal from my youth.  Of course, I hadn't bought any Cream of Wheat, Malt o Meal or Cream of Rice for years.  So what do I do, I make my own.  I decided cream of rice would be the easiest.  I would have liked to have used brown rice because it is more nutritious, but I was out of that too.  I opted for white rice.  I looked up the cost of Nabisco cream of rice cereal, and it was between $4 and $5 per 14 ounces of dry cereal.  White rice is very inexpensive, it's gluten free and it doesn't have any added ingredients.  What if I spent $5, and he hated it.  His mother never made cream of rice cereal.  Well, maybe when he was a baby.  Rice cereal is usually one of the first foods babies eat.  I really didn't have anything to lose.

I put two cups of rice in the blender and ground it into a fine powder.  It looked just like flour.  I imagine you could use it just as potato starch or cornstarch to thicken other foods as well.

Then I put 1 cup of cold water into a sauce pan, a pinch of salt and stirred in 1/4 cup of this pulverized rice.  It dissolved quickly.  Then I turned on the heat, brought the liquid to a boil and cooked the rice for 1 1/2 minutes.  Total cooking time was less than four minutes.

The final product was creamy and smooth.  In my opinion, it needs some sweetening or it could resemble wallpaper paste.  I added some plain white sugar, but honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or fruit would be wonderful.  I put almond milk on my husbands, but a little milk of any kind would work.  This is a "to taste" type cereal because it tastes like unseasoned rice, but very filling, easy on the stomach and satisfying.

It is easy and fast to make.  For people who can't have gluten, it's the perfect choice.  Just make sure the white rice you have is plain with nothing else added.  He asked for it again, so I think he liked it.  I tried it too and it truly could be considered comfort cereal.