Our House

Our House

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We're Ready For The Tooth Fairy

A week ago my daughter and her husband had the pleasure of attending a Neil Diamond concert in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  My daughter isn't quite forty years old but she loves this seventy four year old singer.  It was an evening concert so rather than stay with our grandson at their house, we had Ewan and the dog Piper stay overnight with us.  Ewan came packed with everything he could possibly need.  His backpack was like Mary Poppin's bag.  He unpacked all his exploring supplies like a journal and a magnifying glass with a tweezers to identify and record anything we found.  He had a telescope, his pet rock, markers, books, paper, his clothes, toothbrush, a plush rabbit he had recently won in a drawing,

and last but not least he brought his tooth pillow just in case he lost a tooth.  He is only five and hasn't lost a tooth yet, but you have to be prepared.  I'm sure I am forgetting some of the treasures he brought, but the tooth pillow is what I want to tell you about.

Back in 1980 when my youngest daughter was five, we acquired a tooth pillow.  I thought I made it but my daughter has a memory of buying it at a place in Madison Wisconsin that sold crafts.  If I didn't make this one, I am sure I made others or repaired this one several times.

This pillow is made with two squares of fabric about six inches square.  The gingham check makes it even easier to cut two pieces the same size.  All you do is count the squares.  Then take smaller piece of fabric to make a pocket.  Sew the pocket on the outside of one of the squares, put the right sides together and sew almost all around, turn it right side out, stuff it with some batting and hand sew it shut.  There you have it, a tooth pillow.  Then when the child has lost their tooth, they put it in the pocket so the tooth fairy can retrieve it easily and leave them some money.  My daughter used this pillow for all of her teeth and her oldest son used it for all of his teeth.  Inflation has even hit the tooth fairy business.  My daughter probably got a dime or a quarter, our grandson got two dollar bills and I imagine the going rate is even more.  I heard some child say they got a five dollar bill.   

I am so glad Ewan brought this with him as I had forgotten about this memory.  He also carries a handkerchief in his pocket just like his papa.   Many years ago when papa was in school, his first grade teacher would check every day to make sure the kids had clean finger nails and carried a handkerchief.  It carried through life and my husband always has a white handkerchief in his pocket.  Ewan noticed that and is continuing the tradition. He won't leave home without a handkerchief in his pocket.  Oh to be five again.  Then again, maybe not.  I would pee my pants at recess so I could go home.  Not a pleasant memory but one I will always remember.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cheesy Vegetable and Ham Soup

Last week we stopped at our local Kwik Trip for gasoline, bananas, eggs and butter.  I saw the bags of soup they have for sale.  They have a lot of different varieties to choose from.  A few weeks earlier, I saw a man buying several bags of soup and thought I would try one some day.  I decided to try the cheesy ham and broccoli soup.  I brought it home and heated it up for my dad's lunch.  He really enjoyed it, but I really hate to pay extra money for things I am capable of making myself.  Today I thought I would try my own version.  It would either turn out or it would not.  No matter how it tasted, it would be edible because you can't go too wrong with good ingredients.  I made a variation of a soup I have blogged about a couple of times.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/06/creamy-vegetable-soup-and-english.html

Cheesy Vegetable and Ham Soup

6 cups water

4 T.  or 6 cubes of Ham Base Bouillon
 (look for the brand with the least amount of additives.  Some have MSG and corn syrup solids.  I bought mine at the local bulk food store, but it still had some marginal ingredients.  If you are really ambitious, cook a ham bone and make your own ham broth)

1 cup chopped onion
1 24 oz. pkg. mixed vegetables

Bring water and bouillon to a boil and add the onion and vegetables.  Boil for about five minutes.

Add 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and 2 cans of water.
 ( I used my own homemade cream of chicken soup equivalent to 2 cans of soup)*

Add 12 oz. package of American cheese slices
1 8 oz. package of diced ham

My dad likes thin soup but for those who like a thicker soup, extra diced potatoes, broccoli or more vegetables could be added or use less water.

I may have blogged this recipe already, but I don't remember what I have posted at this point.

*Cream of Chicken Soup Mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon granules
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/4 tsp white pepper

Combine all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.  You can add spices or adjust the amount of spice to your taste.

To prepare combine 1/3 cup mix and 1 1/4 cup water in a saucepan.  Heat slowly and whisk until smooth and thickened.  This is equivalent to 1 can of soup.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bluebirds Are Back In 2015

Last summer was the first year without bluebirds nesting in one of our bluebird houses.  We had bluebirds every year since we bought our house in 2002.    http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/07/the-year-without-bluebirds.html

It was a very disappointing time for me,  but last Saturday, April 11, a pair of bluebirds returned to our yard. I was so excited.  I hope they build a nest soon, but so far they are just hanging out.  This is the third day, and they are still here.  Stay tuned.   The tree swallows have also returned.  They have had some minor squabbles with the bluebirds over who gets which house, but nothing has been determined.  It will be interesting to see what happens because after all the fighting, they always end up in the same houses.  The houses are the same shape but one is gray and one is natural wood.  The tree swallows get the gray and the bluebirds choose the natural wood.  I have no idea why.

I am so fortunate to be able to take photos from my windows.  This bluebird was right outside the kitchen window.  I leave the dried lamb's ear flowers in the garden all winter.  The birds love to sit on them and pose for the pictures.

This is the female bluebird sitting on the same dried lamb's ear flower.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Northern Shovelers and Blue Wing Teal

This past week was cold and rainy, however the past two day were perfect.  The weather was sunny and bright for a change.

At this time of year, I like to feature some of the birds or ducks that we have seen.  A lot are migratory and only stop to rest before moving further north.  Most of my facebook friends have seen these photos, but I like to repost for those who haven't seen them.

These ducks are called Northern Shovelers.  They have a wide-flat bill.  The female is rather plain and looks like a female mallard duck except her bill is flat.  The male has a green head with chestnut brown sides.  Here are a few photos I took from the window.  I think they are beautiful.

Many ducks migrate through the area.  I have written about these shovelers and many others in the past.  If you would like to see some of the other ducks we see,  just use the search box on the blog home page.

One duck I have mentioned is the Blue Wing Teal.  They are very common so this Spring I was able to get a few extra photos of them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Wilson Snipe

This is a very different Spring for us.  We usually have Spring floods from melting snow cover and rains.  Some parts of the United States had a lot of snow and moisture this winter, while other parts have drought conditions.  We are somewhere in between overall, but far less moisture than we are used to.  Because of the change in our landscape, we are seeing some birds we seldom see.  One of these is called a Wilson's Snipe.  I originally thought I was seeing an American Woodcock because of the long beak and other similar features.  I posted a photo on a nature group and was corrected.  I was told it was a Wilson's Snipe.  I didn't even know a snipe was a real bird.  When I grew up a snipe hunt was a term that was used to send someone on a wild goose chase for something impossible to find.  My husband remembers his older brother sending him on a few snipe hunts until eventually he caught on.  I should have known if a wild goose was real, so was a snipe.  The snipes blend in with the brown grass and mud in the marsh.  When I got out the binoculars, I noticed there were several poking their long beaks down in the mud.  I imagine they were finding insect larvae and worms.  It was nice to learn something new this year.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slow Cooker Cheesy Bacon Potatoes with Helpful Hints

The recipe I am posting today is for potatoes made in the slow cooker.  These potatoes can be used as a side dish or with some added ham or vegetables as a main dish.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Bacon Potatoes

6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 pounds red potatoes, cubed*
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg. powdered ranch dressing mix

Line the slow cooker with aluminum foil** and spray with cooking spray.  Leave enough foil to fold over the top.

Put a layer of potatoes evenly on the foil, top with 1/3 cup cheese, sprinkle with some ranch seasoning and bacon.  Repeat this two times more, leaving 1/2 cup of cheese for later.

Fold the foil over the potatoes and cook for 8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.
Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and put the cover back on for a couple minutes until the cheese melts.

* I imagine southern style frozen hash browns would work for this step and the cooking time would be a lot less.  I actually needed more cooking time.  I used the 3 to 4 hours on high method, and my potatoes were still slightly crunchy.  They were very firm raw red potatoes and needed extra time.

My method for making the cubes was using one of my favorite gadgets.  It is the Vidalia Chop Wizard.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2012/12/a-day-of-recovery.html

Slice the washed red potatoes into 1/2 inch slices.

Place slice on vidalia using the larger insert.

Results are uniform cubes of raw potato made in minutes.

**The next hint I have is for lining the slow cooker.  For most things I use the liner bags.  It saves washing the baked on food from the slow cooker.

However, this recipe said to line the slow cooker with foil, so that is what I did.  A good trick for lining a pan with foil is to first turn the pan upside down and form the foil around it.  It works for a crock pot insert or a cake pan.  The hard part about lining a pan with foil is to get the corners to fit without ripping the foil.  This eliminates that problem.

I'm showing this with a cake pan, but it also works for a crock pot.

Turn pan upside down and form the foil around the pan.

Take the foil off the pan, turn over and it fits perfectly even in the corners.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Lost Ring

Happy Easter to all.  For some of you this is a very important religious holiday.  For others it is all about the Easter Bunny.  Whatever is important to you, I wish you a meaningful day.

This weekend was meaningful to me in a way I didn't expect.  On Good Friday we were busy.  We went to several grocery stores to pick up items for our family brunch.  We usually go out to eat with my dad on Fridays, so we took him on our shopping trip.  We didn't go to our usual places, but decided to try Kentucky Fried Chicken because basically it was the only game in town.  Well, not really, but it was convenient.  It wasn't a complete success for dad, but my husband and I liked it for a change. 

When we arrived home with the groceries, we put them away and then my husband went outside to split some logs.  He was outside for several hours.  That evening as we were sitting watching TV, my husband noticed he was missing his wedding ring.

He has been wearing this ring since 8/24/68.

I couldn't believe it.  Some days we don't leave the house, but that day we were in several places.  It was almost dark when he discovered it, so there was no looking around the yard.  I did look in the car and on the garage floor, but nothing showed up.  The next morning, we didn't have time to look.  We were having brunch with our daughters, their families and my daughter's mother and father in law.  Again after we arrived home, my husband went outside to work a little.  He barely looked for the ring because it could have been in the trash bag at KFC, or it could have been in the grocery store. 

I went about my business.  At some point in the afternoon, I went out to feed the birds and retrieve the camera card from the trail camera.  As I was walking in the house, Mike was raking around the bushes near the house.  He held up his hand and there was his ring on the second finger of his left hand.  He quietly said "I found it".  That's his personality.  I would have jumped up and down and ran to show him.  He figured I would notice eventually. 

He had remembered loading the wheelbarrow with debris.  Some of the big pieces were put in the burning barrel, but the excess got dumped at the edge of hill going down to the marsh.  To avoid erosion, we put excess debris and leaves on the hill.

This is the pile of leaves and small branches that get dumped on the hill.

He looked in the burning barrel but didn't see the ring.  Then he pushed the wheelbarrow to the the dumping spot.   He looked down and low and behold.  THE RING!  He couldn't believe his eyes, and I couldn't believe he found it. 

While cleaning up after splitting wood, he reached into his pocket to get out his knife.  Since his phone was on his belt, getting into the pocket was a tight squeeze.  This may have caused the ring to slip off and fall off without him noticing.   Then later while raking up the debris, the ring ended up in the wheelbarrow and dumped on the hill.  Hopefully that will never happen again.  He lost another ring his mom bought him in Green Lake five or six years ago.  That ring was never found, we thought this one was gone forever as well.

On a superficial note, a second miracle occurred for us yesterday.  We were born and raised in Wisconsin so it is logical that we are Wisconsin Badger sport fans.  Last night, Wisconsin beat undefeated Kentucky in the semifinal NCAA Men's Basketball game allowing them to play Duke for the National Championship.  It was a good day.