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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Pretty Good Day Despite the Rain (and the soup)

Today was a chilly and rainy day.  It was a kind of day to get caught up on all sorts of odds and ends.  We ran some errands and then came home.  We started a fire in the fireplace.  It was so warm and cozy.  I made bread and some really disgusting squash soup.  I had gone to Panera yesterday for lunch and ordered their Autumn Squash soup.  It was delicious so I googled a copy cat recipe so I could make some today.  I found several recipes and chose one.  I had all the ingredients like squash, pumpkin, apple juice, cinnamon and a little onion, carrot and celery.  How could I go wrong with these ingredients?  It looked so good and creamy and comforting.  I made a big kettle of it.  I cut big slices of homemade bread and slathered them with butter.  I ladled a big soup mug full of soup.  Then I tasted it.  GAG!  I thought is was horrible.  As I served it to my husband, I warned him.  He tried (bless his heart) but just couldn't finish it either.  Now I have half a kettle of soup to dispose of.  I don't know if I should try another recipe or just go to Panera when I have a hankering for this soup.  You probably can guess my answer.

It doesn't look so bad, does it?

As long as I am discussing disgusting, I switched my closet today from summer to winter.  My closet looks ugly, and I swore I would never blog about it or show it to anyone.  It looks like I live in a warehouse, but the system I have is awesome.  It took me less than a minute to switch seasons.  I don't have a ton of clothes anymore.  I donated bags of clothes last year, and it was such a freeing experience.  We have a fairly large closet with a wall of shelves which my husband built.  In the past I would stack clothes on the shelves instead of putting them in a dresser drawer.  The idea was good, but it was hard to get a clothing item without toppling the whole pile.  Then the stack was either a mess or the whole pile would end up on the floor.  To remedy this situation, we went out and bought 25 of the plastic milk crates.  People usually use them for file folders.  We split them up and each of us loaded our clothing in the crates.  We put t-shirts in one, pajamas in another, and so on with all like items together.  They fit on the shelf perfectly.  When I do the laundry, I fold the clothes on the bed.  I put mine away and leave my husbands for him to put away.  I fold on the bed so they have to get put away before he can get into bed.  It takes no time at all because every item has a bin or fits on the shelf.

I fold the laundry on the bed.

We still fold the jeans on the shelf, but we are considering bins for them too.

As bedtime approaches, I had a pretty good day.  A lot of these days would not be welcoming, but it was a small introduction into winter.   I knit a little, I read a little, I cooked and baked and rearranged things, I bought a few groceries and even bought a Christmas gift.  Yup, it was a good day.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Toad Lily

This is going to be a short blog written to document information about a certain plant we have in our garden.  I haven't started my bullet journal yet so this is a way for me to remember the weather on this day.  Bullet journals are awesome, and my daughter is having great success in using one.  If you don't know what they are, there are several youtube videos showing how to set them up and how they work.

The bees love this plant and they are still feeding this late in the season.

This is the Toad Lily.  My sister gave me a start of this plant a long time ago.  I can't remember when, but probably almost ten years ago.  It is a perennial plant that dies down every year and comes up in the Spring.  It gets two or three feet tall on single stems. I have no idea the name of this variety, but I know it grows well in a somewhat shady environment. 

Toad lily's grow on a single stem with alternating leaves.

It has always been very sensitive to cold weather, and it is the first plant to get touched by frost.  Some years we barely get any blossoms and those we do are zapped by the cold.  This year is very different.  It is the last week in October in Princeton Wisconsin, and we haven't had a frost yet. My Wax Begonias look the same as they did in the summer and the mums and hydrangeas are still beautiful.  They are getting covered with pine straw and falling leaves, but still look nice.  I took my geraniums in a couple weeks ago because I thought the summer was over.  I could have waited for a while longer.

The leaves of this Toad Lily are beginning to turn brown but each stem is still loaded with blossoms.

I am sure this nice fall weather will end soon.  It is Wisconsin after all, but each nice day will make our winter shorter. Because of these blogs, I can keep track of the seasons.  It appears that late October 2013 was similar to this year.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/10/the-last-few-days-of-fall-in-wisconsin.html

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In Search Of Fall Color

Some days you sit at 8:30 at night and just shake your head.  You just had a weird day that seems more like a dream.  Not necessarily a good dream or a bad dream, just a plain old dream.  People who know my husband and me know that spontaneous does not describe us.  We try to be, but we just aren't good at it.  Today we needed to go to the lumber yard yet again.  Until our latest project is finished, we have been going weekly if not more often.  We love living in the boonies, but it does require traveling 45 minutes or more to get certain supplies.  As we were going down the highway today, the fall color was starting to show a little.  It was at that point we decided to be spontaneous and head north up Wisconsin highway 151.  There were trees now and then that were beautiful, but the panorama was less than impressive.  We kept going thinking it had to get better.  Soon we were 90 miles from home, and before we knew it the trees looked like fall was past.  We came across a dam and a few colorful forests, but that was all.

We decided to go west toward Appleton.  We stopped to pick up a geocache along the way, but saw even less color.  After having lunch in the small town of Brillion, Wisconsin, we headed home.  On the way we stopped at the lumber store and dropped another chunk of cash.

By the time we got home it was 7:00 pm.  I went online and discovered we were just a few miles from a nice park and waterfall.  If we would have planned ahead, we could probably have had a better experience.  On the other hand, it was fun eating in a small town bar and grill and talking with the locals.  We went in a arts and crafts store and saw a few towns I had never been to before. 

We did see this on the way home.  A pumpkin that weighed 1160 lbs. and one that weighed 1547 lbs.

Maybe being spontaneous isn't so bad after all.  Although we probably won't change the way we approach things,  it wasn't such a bad day.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Microwave Bowl Potholder

Several months ago when we were visiting my cousin Kim she showed me one of her projects.  She is a quilter, and it's always fun to see what she is working on.  That day she showed me a Microwave Bowl Potholder.  It was a quilted potholder in the shape of a bowl.  Its purpose was to hold a bowl of food when you put it in the microwave.  Bowls generally get quite hot when they are microwaved and can't be held with bare hands.  This is a potholder that wraps around the bowl so it can be taken out of the microwave without burning your hands.  It also keeps the food warm because the potholder helps retain the heat in the bowl.  I thought it was really cute.  Then one day when I returned home from shopping, I found two in my door.  She had made me a couple for a gift.  It was such a nice surprise.  I used them right away and now I will not heat up anything without them.  I wanted to make more.  I thought it would be a good kid project and wanted to make some with my granddaughter.  Her schedule is always so busy, so we never got around to it.  I decided to make some myself with the pattern Kim sent.

The microwave potholder my cousin made for me.

The pattern called for cotton fabric and cotton batting.  I have tons of fabric, but I wasn't sure which were cotton and which fabrics were polyester.  I learned that the easiest way to figure it out was to burn the fabric.  If it is polyester, the fabric will melt and leave a hard blackened piece behind.  If it is cotton, it will burn and leave an ash.  I took samples of fabric and burned them.  Apparently polyester will also melt in the microwave but I wasn't going to test it that way.  I found several all cotton pieces.  Next I had to find cotton batting.  First I found some sold in quilt size pieces but then I finally found some sold by the yard.  All cotton thread is also recommended.

If you want to make one, the first thing you do is cut is cut two squares of cotton fabric and two squares of cotton batting.  The size depends on the size bowl you use.  In my case, the potholder from Kim is a good size for a cereal bowl.  It uses a 10 inch square.  The potholder I made first fits a sauce dish.  That was made with a 9 inch square.

After the squares are cut, lay the batting pieces on the wrong side of the fabric squares and pin together.

Draw lines from corner to corner and center to center.  Stitch on the lines. 

Each piece has 4 darts that are made at the center lines.  I marked down 2 inches from the outside edge on this 9 inch square and 2 1/2 inches down on the 10 inch square.   Make the darts by folding on the line and stitching from 3/4 to 1 inch from the fold line, tapering to the dot.

Then trim the excess fabric from the dart and press open. 

Make two pieces the same way.  I used coordinating fabrics so the potholders can be reversible, but both pieces can be made with the same fabric pattern.

The darts make the bowl shape.

Pin both pieces with right sides together, matching the darts and the corners.  Stitch around the outside using a 1/2" seam allowance leaving about 3 inches open.  Turn the potholder right side out making sure the corners are pushed out.  Hand stitch the opening closed and top stitch around the outside edge.

Small 9 inch square for sauce dish.

It is amazing to me how much I use these.  My description of how to make them could be hard to understand, but an internet search has many different variations that may be easier for some to understand.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Love My Bluebirds

Whenever I do one of those Facebook activities where they determine your life in a video or a collage of the things or pictures you write about most, nature and bluebirds are always front and center.  Given the place and life I live, this isn't a surprise.  For those who read this blog regularly you will know I write to excess about the Eastern Bluebird.  So here I go again.  My last bluebird blog was written on August 2, 2016.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2016/08/happy-ending-to-our-bluebird-summer.html  If you search my blog for bluebirds, you are apted to get several posts. This last one talked about hatching four babies on the fourth try.  I thought that would be all until next Spring, but I was wrong.  Today the whole family came for a visit.  We had Mama, Papa and the four kids.  They ate a few mealworms and checked out the young ones birthplace.   I had seen them, off and on, in the woods for the past two months, but never together and always on the move.  A cold front is moving in this afternoon and it was likely they wanted to make sure their summer home was still there and ready for their return next Spring. Hopefully they will all remain healthy and can return.  There isn't room for everyone here but many of our neighbors have available houses. 

I recently read this poem on a Bluebird page I follow.  There are a lot of people who love to see them.

 by Ruth E. Goodwin, as published in Sialia vol. 12, no.1, 1990

All blue birds are not bluebirds, a fact you should know. You can’t always find bluebirds wherever you go.
The bluebirds are rare, and their numbers are small; In some places you simply can’t find them at all.
But when they’re around – oh, what a sweet sound! Just the sight of one somehow can make your heart pound.
They’re a pretty soft blue, with a rust orange chest; If you put up a bird house, they’ll pose for you best.
A bluebird’s a blue bird, that everyone knows. But not all blue birds are bluebirds, as you now know.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Beauty of Fall 2016

It's Sunday October 9, 2016.  It's my oldest daughter's birthday.  There is no predicting the weather at this time of year.  It can be very warm or very cold.  We can have rain, wind or sleet or we can have warmth and sun.    Fortunately today is a beautiful sunny fall day here in Wisconsin and a lovely day for a birthday.  These cool crisp fall days can't be beat.  We haven't had a frost yet so we have all the beautiful hues of fall.  Everything is bathed in a golden hue with splashes of red, brown and green.  It's too bad the news and social media are lighting up with so much anger and conflict.  Hopefully after the American Presidential election is over, things will calm down.  As a distraction I am spending time outside walking our yard to see if I can find some of the beauties of nature.  There were many. I will publish some photos today and again in about a week when the tree color peaks. 

The milkweed pods are bursting and the breeze is spreading the seeds. 

Garden mums.

The Toad Lily is blooming like crazy.  I imagine it will freeze before all those buds burst.


Tardeva Hydrangea

Limelight Hydrangea

I cut a few hydrangeas and they are so big they almost tipped the vase over.

My fern grew so large outside, I gave it a haircut so it wouldn't drag on the floor.

The leaves are gone from the poplar tree leaving behind this years Baltimore Oriole nest.

Pine straw and pine cones cover the yard.

I will post more fall photos another day.  I have a feeling that after tonight's debate, I will need another diversion really soon. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Flip Flop Soled Slippers

Some time this past summer I saw a Facebook post about crocheting slippers using a flip flop sole for the base.  I thought it was an interesting idea because knitted and crocheted slippers are slippery.  Maybe that's how they got their name....slippers.   They also wear out on the bottom first.  I will find the link and post the free pattern at the bottom of this blog.  As usual, I changed the pattern a little bit.  Overall they worked up quickly and turned out quite well.

Crocheted Slippers with Flip Flop Soles

You start making these slippers with a pair of rubber soled flip flops.  This time of year in Wisconsin they are practically giving them away.  The flip flops should be slightly smaller than you would wear for your summer shoe. I wear a 8 1/2 shoe, so I bought a large.  The slippers are a bit too big.  The first thing you do is pull the toe separator out.  Just yank on it, and it pulls through the holes.  It leaves three holes, but that isn't a problem.

Throw away the toe part because you will just be using the sole.

The next thing you do is take a sharp pointed object to poke holes.  I used an awl from my husband's screwdriver set, but a knitting needle, darning needle or some other sharp tool would work.

I used this awl to poke holes in the sole.

Poke holes through the top and out the side.

Poke holes around the whole outside of the sole.  Don't make them too close together or the yarn will break through to the next hole when you start crocheting.  I made that mistake at first.  Then attach the yarn on the heel section and single crochet through each hole around.  I had about 100 stitches but that number depends on the size of the sole.   I used the cotton yarn used for dishcloths and used a size E hook because I like a firmer feeling slipper.  This pattern is pretty forgiving so use whatever feels right.  You could even make it big and loose with wool yarn and then felt it in hot water. 

It is a little awkward at first and your crocheting technique has to change a little bit.  Single crochet around and around the sole until you have 9 rounds.  At this point you put a marker in the center of each side and continue crocheting on row 9, past the heel and crochet to one stitch before the marker, slip stitch in next stitch then Chain 1 and turn.

Row 10:  Skip the first single crochet, slip stitch (sl st) in the next single crochet (sc), and single crochet around to one stitch before marker as before, slip stitch, chain 1 and turn.

Row 11:  Skip the first slip stitch, slip stitch in next single crochet and crochet around to 3 stitches before the marker, slip stitch, chain 1 and turn.

Row 12:  Skip the first slip stitch, slip stitch in next single crochet and crochet around to 3 stitches before the marker, slip stitch, chain 1 and turn.

Row 13:  Skip the first slip stitch, slip stitch in next single crochet and crochet around to the spot on the heel where you started.  Fasten off.

From this point you can either follow the instructions from the Ravelry link below or attach your yarn near the instep.  It will be the point where you want the top of the slipper to start.  I chose about an inch toward the toe from the marker.  Chain 15 and attach on the opposite side with a slip stitch.  Chain 1, skip a single crochet on the side and slip stitch in next stitch.  Turn your work, chain 1 and single crochet in the chain stitches across and attach on the other side in the same manner.  Decrease stitches to fit as you work toward the toe and finish off.  These instructions are kind of a free form method.  If you want specific instructions, here is the link.  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/flip-flop-slippers

To finish it off, I did a reverse single crochet around the edge.  If I ever wore slippers, I might like these.

Note:  Be sure to note which side of the sole is facing the bottom.  If you flip it and crochet on the wrong side, you will end up with two left feet or two right feet.  Don't ask me how I know this, but I bet you can guess.