Winter 2014

Winter 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ugly Sweater or Maybe Not

Yesterday my daughter called me.  They are having an ugly Christmas sweater day at her job on Friday.  She asked if I would check around at a thrift store and buy her one.  We had to go to Fond du lac, Wisconsin today, so I was happy to stop.  The first store I went into was Goodwill.  There was another mother and daughter looking for an ugly sweater.  I think many people had gotten there first.  Hardly any sweaters remained on the racks.  What I did see looked exactly like the ones I have in my own closet.  It made me feel really old and lacking any taste in clothing.  Next I tried the Salvation Army store.  I had the same experience.  Last I went to the St. Vincent de Paul store.  Nothing.  Every organization and business in the area must be having ugly sweater day.  I texted my daughter and told her I had more of a selection in my own closet.  Then I looked at what I was wearing today.


When I got home, I packed up a few sweaters to show my daughter.  I hope they aren't ugly enough because that would make me feel a lot better.   I gave them to her tonight.  Our grandson had his 4K Christmas program.  It was very cute.   The kids had so much fun.  Even Santa put in an appearance.

Ewan was a reindeer.

As I looked around the audience, I realized it would be very hard to determine who was participating in an ugly sweater contest and who was wearing their favorite sweater.  It could be very awkward indeed if you complimented someone on their ugly sweater, and it turned out to be one of their favorites.  It is best to keep your mouth shut this time of year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Carrot Cake Gluten Free and Regular

December 14th was my husband's 70th birthday.  My daughter had the family party.  She made lunch, and I made the cake.  I could have sworn I posted my Carrot Cake recipe before, but I couldn't find it so I wouldn't expect anyone who reads my blog to find it either.  I made two cakes.  The first was the one I have made for years.  It was my mother's recipe and is written on a piece of ripped paper in smeared red ink.  If I have posted this recipe before, I apologize.  I don't have a photo of the cake because I didn't take one, but everyone knows what a cake looks like.

Carrot Cake

1 scant cup of oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
7 ounces unsweetened coconut (scant cup)
1 8 3/4 oz. can crushed pineapple with the juice
2 t. vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped nuts

Mix the oil and sugar.
Add the 3 eggs and beat well
Then add sifted dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix.
Next with a spoon fold in remaining ingredients .

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The second cake I made was also a Carrot Cake but it was Gluten Free.  I did take a photo of that one, for some reason.  I just followed the directions on a Gluten Free yellow cake mix and then added some of the ingredients I used in the regular cake.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake

1 box Betty Crocker Gluten Free yellow cake mix
⅔ cup water ( I drained some crushed pineapple and used the pineapple juice instead of water)
½ cup softened butter
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. nutmeg
2 t. gluten free vanilla (used my own made from vodka, which turned out great)
3 eggs
1 cup shredded carrots
⅓ cup crushed pineapple
⅓ cup unsweetened coconut
¼ cup finely chopped pecans

Mix together and bake at 350 in a 8 inch square pan sprayed with coconut cooking spray
Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before you frost .

I put bigger pecans on top, but I should have finely ground them also.

I used the same basic Cream Cheese frosting used in many recipes.  Numbers in parenthesis are for the 9 x 13 cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3 oz. (5 oz.) cream cheese ( I used the Neufchatel cream cheese because it is lower in calories and it was on sale)
6 (10) T. butter
2 (3) cups powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 (1 1/2) T. milk or as much needed to make a creamy frosting

Happy Birthday King Michael,  I hope it was a good one.

Our Grandson's Church Christmas Program

Last Sunday two of our grandson's were in their church Christmas program.  We started out the day attending church.  It was a darling program.  It was upbeat and fun.  They did a great job.

My son in law was one of these puppets, I think he was the green one.

The kids played the bells.

Sam reciting his poem.

Jack, of course, had his memorized.

After church we went to our daughter's house for a birthday party.  It was my husband's 70th birthday.  She made lunch, and I brought the cake.  I made Carrot Cake.  It isn't my husband's favorite, but it's one of mine.  He really likes plain yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  I know it was his birthday, so I will make him that boring cake sometime in the future.  I will post the carrot cake recipe tomorrow for Tuesday recipe day.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Piper's New Christmas Stocking

My daughter and her family have a cockapoo named Piper.  She was one year old this fall, so last Christmas she was only a few months old.  I didn't get around to making her a Christmas stocking last year, but I promised I would make her one before Christmas 2014.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  When the decorations came out for the season, there was no stocking for Piper.   They reminded me that she needed one to match the rest of the family.  The stores don't sell the exact yarn I used in the other stockings anymore, but fortunately I had enough left to do the job.  Hopefully I won't have any more stockings to make or I will be scrounging in thrift stores for another skein.  On Thursday, I thought I better get started.  After all, it's less than two weeks until Christmas.  I used the pattern I created in a previous blog except I charted out a doggie theme.  My dog looks a little strange, but I never claimed to be an artist.  The line by his butt is supposed to be a tail in case you were wondering.

Piper puppy's new Christmas stocking.

These are the first three I made for the family.

Then Ewan was born and I needed a stocking for him.

His stocking before I put his name on.

Ewan's first Christmas.  I can't believe that was 4 years ago.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Are They Loons?

We are having a little mid December warming trend.  At least temperatures in the 40's are considered a warming trend for us in Wisconsin.  If this continues we could be without a White Christmas which would be sad.  However, weather here can change in one day so who knows what will happen in the next two weeks.

The ice is melting on our pond.

Because of the warmer temperatures, the ice is melting on our pond.  It is attracting migrating ducks.  They are very difficult to sneak up on, but today I saw something that looked like a loon fly by.  Yesterday I saw it too, but when I tried to get a picture, it flew away.  We get a loon every now and then in the Spring.  The Common Loon spends the summer in Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.  It is very common to hear them on the northern lakes and see them with a young one riding on their back.

A loon that spent two days on our pond before moving on to the North.

Loons are usually solitary when they pass through in the Spring.  That's why I wondered whether what I saw flying by today were loons.  They landed on a small body of water that doesn't ever freeze no matter how cold it gets.  Last winter we had minus 20 degrees, and the water remained open.  I put on my boots, grabbed my camera and made my way to the water.  I tried to get as close as I could without scaring them away, but the snow left in the woods crunched very loud.  I managed to get pretty close.   There were five of them, and they really looked like loons to me.  If anyone has another idea, I would like to know for sure.  I looked up their migration habits, and they do migrate in flocks.  This wasn't exactly a flock, but maybe more than two could be considered one.  The photos aren't great but if you look really hard, you can see them through the cattails.

* It was brought to my attention that these may be Golden Eye ducks.  It could very well be.  If they return, I will try to get a better picture.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Essential Oil Products

Two months ago, I wrote about being introduced to Essential Oils and meeting Michele.  She is a Young Living representative.  It has been very exciting to learn about oils and their benefits from her.  I have also read a few books to try to learn more.  That is why I was excited to learn about a class she was having.  These classes are called Make and Takes.  That means you meet and Make certain products.  Then you Take them home with you.  A couple days ago I attended my first Make and Take class.  My daughters also came.  We had fun making a variety of products.

The first thing we made was Holiday Spray.  Michele provided everything we needed, which included the spray bottle, the essential oil, the epsom salt and distilled water.  The spray smells like a Christmas Tree.  We have allergies so we haven't had a "real" Christmas Tree for many years.  I sprayed the tree with this spray, and it smells just like a natural Christmas Tree.  This spray used Evergreen Essence  oil, but any scent will work in this recipe.

Holiday Room Spray

1 spray bottle
1 Tablespoon epsom salt put into the bottom of the bottle
Fill the bottle with distilled water
10 drops of essential oil (We used Evergreen Essence)

Next we made a Sugar Body Scrub.  I have used it on my face and hands, and it made them very soft.  It also tastes so good, but you want to rinse it off completely with warm water or your dog won't stop licking your face.  I used peppermint oil for mine, and my daughters used orange.  Both scents smell wonderful.

Body Scrub

1 pint jar
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
4 drops of essential oil.
Mix together until blended and put into the jar.

The next two products were put into little glass bottles with roll on tops.  One was called Seasonal Assist and the other was called Respiratory Roll On.  Both these products may help with respiratory and seasonal issues.  Everybody reacts differently, but just smelling these oils makes me feel better.

Seasonal Assist
1/3 oz. glass bottle
6 drops lemon
6 drops lavender
6 drops peppermint
Then fill the bottle with grapeseed or olive oil

Respiratory Roll On
1/3 oz. glass bottle
6 drops lemon
6 drops eucalyptus oil
Fill bottle with grapeseed or olive oil

For those who aren't familiar with essential oils, they may seem quite expensive.  They are so concentrated that one little bottle will go a long way. There are many different oils and blends.  Each help with different things.   I use a diffuser quite often and get a variety of benefits throughout the whole room depending on which oil I choose.  Although there are many companies that make essential oils, I know Young Living is a quality product.  I look forward to attending more classes in the future. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Potato Soup Using Frozen Hash Browns

As most of you who read my blog know, Tuesday is recipe day.  Generally I post a new recipe that my family likes or is an old favorite that I have made for years.  I am a little finicky, so all the recipes I post are not on the top of my favorite list.  I have very sensitive taste buds and find strong flavors distasteful.  This recipe I love.  It is super easy and it is NOT low calorie.  It can be made on the stove top if you stir often or in the crock pot.  I don't know where I got this recipe from, so I can't give them credit.  I think this soup is too thick.  My husband eats it as is.  I add milk until it is the consistency I like.  The last time I made it, I used cubed ham.  You can buy the ham already cubed to make it even easier to make.

Potato Soup

2 lb. bag of cubed hash brown potatoes, thawed slightly
1 10 ¾ oz can cream of chicken soup
1 10 ¾ oz can cream of mushroom soup
12 oz of milk (I just rinse the soup cans out with the milk)
12 oz sour cream
1 stick of butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
4 pieces of cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)
sliced green onion or chives (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour into a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours until cooked and heated through.  Garnish with extra cheese, a dollop of sour cream, crumbled bacon and sliced green onion, if desired.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

This Years Holiday Deals

The weather here in our part of Wisconsin has moderated a little.  It has actually been quite pleasant even though the full moon tonight is called the Cold Moon.   The past week or so, my husband and I have taken the opportunity to bum around to stores we usually don't go to and track down thrift stores we haven't gone to in a long time.  We have eaten out and had a lot of fun.  As a result I have gotten some very good deals for Christmas presents and things for us.

December 6, 2014 full moon is called the "Cold Moon"

It's sunny, bright and the snow is melting.

I have written about this topic before, but for those who didn't see it here is the link.

I will give you some examples of the games I play with getting good deals.  I can't tell you what I bought because certain people may read this blog.  I can say that I was shopping online for a certain item.  $70 was the lowest price I could find.  Then on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I went online.  I found the item, which retailed for $110 was sold for $99, on sale in the store for $49 but for that day was $29.99.  I ordered two through ebates so I got another 6% back, free shipping and $15 in a cash coupon.  I won't mention the store, but I think everyone knows who gives $15 cash.  Then as we were shopping at this store on Friday, I found something else I wanted on sale for $13.00.  I ended up getting it free and I still had $2.00 left over.  It makes shopping a fun game.  I don't usually like games but this one gives me something in return.  Kind of like winning at gambling.  I figure I saved $80 times 2 = $160 plus $3.60 plus $13 plus shipping.  I don't know what that is because I rarely pay shipping costs.  I just know I got a really good deal.

Next I ordered an item for my granddaughter.  It came in record time.  It came in just a few days, but the top I ordered was very very small.  I ordered a medium and it looked like an extra small.  I was so disappointed so I emailed their customer service department.  I got an answer back in just a few hours.  They told me they were sorry for the problem, and they would gladly order me another at no cost.  They said I didn't have to return the original item or incur shipping costs.  I ordered a bigger size and will be able to donate the smaller set.  Someone else will go to a thrift store some day and be thrilled with this item.  Nice.

Another example of online shopping that worked out well was last week.  The credit card I use gives reward points. I only use this card from home for my online purchases because it has protection and safety features.   I use ebates, shop at home or mrrebates for all my online purchases.  I have all my  rebates transferred to my account and save them for the holidays.   I ordered a $50 toy and only paid $8.  Yippee!

 I also went to a store that gives reward points.  I bought $60 worth of stocking stuffers.  I got $15 off the total bill and $10 more in reward points added back.

I did lots and lots of other online shopping and used codes for discounts and shipping.  Sometimes it is hard to keep track of all of this, but it is so worth it in the long run.

Then I went to St. Vincent du Paul.  I always look for items that fit with my collections.  Many years ago my mom gave me the start to a collection called All Through The House.  It was retired and the pieces couldn't be purchased in stores any longer.  Last year I found three pieces.  Yesterday I found a Christmas Tree from the Department 56 All Through The House collection.  I paid $4.  I looked it up when I got home.  It is a retired item that can be purchased through a reseller for $44.

This is the tree I found this year.

There are two trees in this collection.  The one is this picture I also found at a St. Vincent du Paul thrift store.

We also found a brand new pair of Nike shoes for my husband.  If you watch carefully, places like Kohls and Target donate to these stores.  The style of the shoes are still being sold.  I saw the exact shoe for $55 and we paid $10.

If you are patient, eventually good deals can come your way.  I don't like shopping so this makes it a little more fun.