The View

The View

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Good Help Is Hard To Find

The saying good help is hard to find is an under statement.  We will be able to stay in our home for a long time if only we can find a dependable, tidy, and competent handyman (or a handy woman).  Our family would help out if we would ask, but we don't want to be constantly relying on them.  Certain home owning tasks are not as easy as they once were.  We have been looking for someone to clear our overgrown hill which goes from our deck to the water line.  This is my son in law and grandson trying to get through the overgrowth to get the canoe in the water. 

When trying to contact workers,  people don't call back or they don't show up.  Last August, I finally got someone to come out and give us an estimate.  He was very animated and convincing about his qualifications and neatness.  He failed to mention that he likes to give estimates but is full of excuses when he doesn't show up.  The estimate was written the end of August, and it was not very detailed.  Verbally he mentioned what it included.  This should have been a red flag, but he said he would come around October 1 so I overlooked it.  I waited until the middle of October to call.  He said he was busy.  He said it was windy.  He said taking a big tree down wasn't included in the bid etc. etc.  Two more months passed and he still hadn't shown up or contacted us.  Just before Christmas I called and told him to forget it.  I don't think he ever intended to do the job.  He was all talk.  I realized it was a hard job, but he should have just said no if he didn't want to do it.

Then around the beginning of January 2021 a flyer came in the mail advertising a local company which we had never heard of.  The card said they would do land clearing, brush removal and tree removal.  It was just what we needed.  I called them and they came and gave us an estimate.  No pressure, just an estimate which was much less than the first guy.  I called him back in a couple days and told him to put us on his schedule.  He said he could do it between the middle of February and beginning of March.  Lo and behold, he actually came.  He timed it when there wasn't too much snow left but before it thawed and got muddy.  This young man worked really hard all by himself.  My daughter teased me and asked what I consider a young man.  She was right.  Even 50 years old would be a young person, but this kid was 20 something.  He worked for 4 hours straight without taking a rest break.

It is hard to see how overgrown this area is, and it doesn't look as bad in the winter with all the leaves and grasses dead.  Looking out the window, it was very hard to see the water.

 As he cut and trimmed, he piled the brush on edge of the ice.  

He asked if we minded if he burned the brush.  It would save a lot of hauling and burning couldn't be done any other time of year.  

When all the brush and small trees were cut, he cut down a very tall oak tree.  It fell right between a couple other trees we wanted to save.  It's amazing how they can direct how trees fall by how they make the cuts.

When the tree was down, he cut it in sections.  He then brought his skid loader to haul the logs up the hill.  We are saving the logs to cut up for firewood.  


 
 
 
Now our work begins but if it takes all summer to cut up these logs it is fine.  There is also some burnable material left at the bottom of the hill that we might try to retrieve.  We have a pretty large supply of firewood already and with a little luck, we are finished burning for this winter.  It never hurts to plan ahead.

 Our view looks so different  The before and after view.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Having the Right Tools

For some reason at this stage in my life Sunday's are long days for me.  Those who still work don't want Sunday to end because it means Monday morning is close at hand.  There is no mail to fetch and no talk shows to watch.  The weather isn't warm enough to sit outside so therefore, I decided to write another blog to pass the time.  Yay, right?  Don't get excited because it won't be much, but I mentioned I would write about my favorite things every once in a while.  I have several.  When I started writing this blog on December 12, 2012, I reported almost daily what was going on in my life.  I still report the most mundane things, but not as often.  I mentioned very early that I would write about my favorite small appliances and gadgets.  I have done that many times, but I still have a few in mind.  My first review in 2012 was very brief.  It was about the Vidalia Chop Wizard (http://www.thecabincountess.com/2012/12/a-day-of-recovery.html) and I still love that gadget.  The one I'm writing about today is similar but I use it for different things.  The Vidalia cuts vegetables for certain recipes.  The small squares are suitable for making soup or larger squares for stews.

My idea to write about this gadget began with a Facebook post as many of them do.  It showed how to use an old knuckle buster for decoration.  I really don't know the real name for this.  We always called it a knuckle buster because you had to be super careful using it or you would bust up your knuckles.  It is a cheese shredder, cabbage shredder or potato slicer.  For those who don't know what I am talking about, here is the tool.

This is the decoration I made.  I just turned it upside down and hung it on the wall.  I couldn't find a decent towel to hang, but I will.

It's cute enough.  I probably won't leave it up for too long.  I had just done this, and I saw another post about shredding cheese in one of these and how you should turn it on its side to catch the shreds.  I saw several comments and was amazed that people still use them.  Mine has been in my box of antiques for years.  I suppose it's very portable but I remember them being a bear to clean.

What I use doesn't have a name either.  I should say I don't know the name because everything has a name.  I had a version of this fifty years ago, but only upgraded when QVC presented this several years ago.

It is just a series of disks for slicing and shredding.  It's basically the same concept as the old fashioned utensil with no risk of cutting yourself and it requires almost no effort.  It is so easy, I always shred my own cheese.  Manufacturers put potato starch or cornstarch on pre-shredded cheese along with a product to keep mold from forming.  Some manufacturers even put cellulose on the cheese.  It keeps it from clumping in the package, but I really don't want anything like that added to my cheese.  


First determine what you want to do.  If you want to make scalloped potatoes, attach the slicing blade.  Put the potato in the hopper and shut it.  Then just turn the crank.  You can slice carrots the same way or make hash browns with the shredding disk..



The process is so simple.  It takes all the work out of making these kind of meals. I was watching a presentation by a friend recently.  She said when she compliments her husband on doing a woodworking task he says it's all about having the right tools.  My husband says the same thing.  It's all about having the right tools for the job.  The same is true with cooking and life in general.  Life's coping tools are just as important as kitchen tools or woodworking tools and today mine was staying in my pj's, watching Anne of Green Gables for the umpteenth time and writing another blog. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Robot Vacuums Are Awesome

I decided to be more selective as to what I write about.  Looking back at my books, I wrote about plenty of silly things just so I could write.  I wrote about some things that I thought were so great that ended up being not so great.  I made a decision not to write about this next topic.  I thought it would seem a topic of little interest, frivolous and extravagant, but then I reconsidered.  How comical will it be thirty years from now to see what I considered frivolous in 2021.  Even today I imagine some people are shaking their heads thinking since when is a vacuum cleaner frivolous.  After all it isn't a fur coat or a fancy car.

It all started after Christmas of 2020.  My good friend Connie mentioned that she received her all time favorite Christmas gift from her daughter.  It was a robot vacuum cleaner.  She explained how much she loved it and even named it Robbie.  I asked a few questions about it including the brand.  At that point I had no intention of getting one.  I thought the price would be out of range.  I had seen demos on QVC and just didn't believe it was something I would need or want.

I have to preface this with the fact I love to buy vacuum cleaners.  My daughter loves shoes, my mother had a big collection of coffee pots,  my husband buys tools and I like crafting supplies.  Ha, ha I bet you thought I was going to say vacuum cleaners, but I have always liked to find the easiest most efficient way to clean my house.  I remember back in the 1970's when I purchased a Sears canister vacuum cleaner with a super long retractable cord and an upright powerhead that plugged into the canister unit.  I thought it was the best thing ever, and it was for its time.  I did sit through demonstrations by the Rainbow company and a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesperson.  It was tempting but the salespeople were so high pressure, I would get very annoyed with them.  No matter the quality of the machine, I just couldn't buy from them even though they were just trying to make a living.  I went through several Hoovers, Eurekas,  etc. but they never lasted more than a couple years.  You do get what you pay for in vacuum cleaners.  Fast forward to ten or twelve years ago.  I had heard nothing but praise for Dyson products.  I decided to go for it.  I had a big Kohl's coupon plus the machine I wanted was on sale.  I bought it, and it really is the best.  I still have it and have never had a minutes trouble.  Then my daughter purchased a Dyson cordless cleaner which has a battery.  You keep it plugged into the wall and grab it for quick jobs like the kitchen floor or by the front door.  I bought my own when they were closing out the V7 model.  I loved it and started to use it all the time.  I rarely took out my "big Dyson".  

So how could I possibly need another vacuum?  Obviously I didn't need it, but I thought I would research it a little just to see.  The demos fascinated me, and the cost was affordable.  I opted for a basic model which wasn't compatible with Alexa.  That wasn't a problem because most people and things don't get along with Alexa.  Although her and I are good friends.  She reads to me, plays the music I like and spells words.  Buying the robot vacuum was the best decision.  I just love it.  We named her Hazel after the 1960's sitcom character.  Unless you're my age, that name will mean nothing but in the TV show she was a live-in maid.  

Hazel is awesome.  It comes with a remote control and a docking station.  I put the docking station in my bedroom out of the way, but she can always find her way back.  

My first use for her was in my bedroom.  I picked up anything off the floor that I thought she may get tangled in and set her to clean.  She went under the bed and under the dressers.  I am embarrassed to say, those are spaces that very rarely get cleaned, and I won't be sharing the picture of the dust bin.  Thankfully each cleaning since has produced a lot less dust and dirt.  Hazel is a better worker than me.   I learned quickly the places where she could get hung up and now block them off.  She almost always backs up and changes her route on her own.  When she does get herself in a situation, she just beeps until I check on her.  She can go to the edge of steps and won't topple over, but just turns herself around.  I like that she can go from carpet to hardwood floors and back without any problem.  

It can be set to go in circles for spot cleaning, do the edge of the room or randomly work it's way around to all the surfaces.  You can even buy a water tank and cleaning mop cloth that is sold separately to mop your floor.  I haven't looked into that yet.  Amazingly it hits all the spots if you just let her do her thing.  Although when I first got Hazel, she decided to start cleaning one night at midnight.  Luckily I had just settled into bed, so I grabbed the remote, pressed home and told her to go back to bed.  Come to find out, she was in automatic mode and the time was set for midnight.  She was just following instructions.  Although I would never leave her alone to clean, I did learn quickly about that feature.

I used to just sit and watch amazed, but now I do other things while she works.  Talk about multi tasking.  Almost everyday, I set Hazel to vacuum a different room.  

I should be set for vacuum cleaners for a very long time.  Connie got us hooked on Alexa and now Hazel, so who knows what she will find in the future that we can't live without.  I have a lot of favorite things that I may have to write about just so my grandchildren can have a good laugh many years from now.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Education Doesn't Always Come From School

Yes, I know I have five amazing grandchildren.  They are all individuals in their own right, and I love each of them.  It appears that I write most of my grandchild blogs these days about ten year old Ewan.  I have written about the others over the years, but now they are older and because of the quarantine,  I just don't have access to all the wonderful things they do.  Ewan is the youngest, and it won't be long before he will reach the older group so I have to write about him for as long as I can although I have a feeling he will always be trying new things.

Last week he had a four day weekend.  On Monday, he decided he wanted to sew.  Since we haven't seen them for quite a while, I want to thank our daughter Heather for sending us pictures and keeping us up to date.  Ewan's dad sews a lot of functional items like bags, tarps and workshop aprons so he's a good teacher.  Ewan wanted to make an apron.  His dad had made an apron when he was in middle school and still had the pattern.  Ewan practiced for a while with the sewing machine.  He sewed through paper without thread just to get the feel of the machine.  Then he found some material he liked and started sewing for real.



He stuck with it and soon he had accomplished his first big sewing project.  He has made small little items with a needle and thread, but I think this was his first with the sewing machine.  It isn't a treadle sewing machine that he would use for his old time skills, but knowing him that will come at some point.  He now has a great looking apron complete with pockets. 

Since he was dressed for it, he decided to do some baking.  He has mastered making cookies, Nana's special dumplings and attempted bread a week ago.  On this day, he decided on a new bread recipe. Since a picture or in this case five pictures are worth a thousand words, here they are.





It looks good.  He modified his recipe a bit.  He substituted almond milk for dairy milk because he wanted his mom to be able to eat it.  Notice the kitchen, it's all cleaned up.  He even cleaned up his baking mess.  Ewan may not have had school this day, but he learned a lot of valuable skills.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Secret Room

As I write the stories of my everyday life, my husband compiles the blog stories and formats them to be made into hard covered books for future generations.  He has completed seven books but lately the number of blogs I have written has come to a screeching halt.  I will have to reach deep into my memory to complete the next couple of books.  I don't want to stop writing but the pandemic and age has put an end to any great adventures.  I have written about deer, bluebirds, other wildlife around our home and the weather way too much, so any new ideas I have are few and far between. 

My daughter mentioned a while ago that her ten year old son Ewan is reading at an advanced high school level.  She said it was hard to find age appropriate books at a reading level that would challenge him.  That got me thinking of how and when he became such an avid reader.  I think it was before he was born.  His brother Dylan almost always has a book along with him.  His mother has read to him every night before bed since birth.  Both his parents have an extensive library.  I read quite a bit in my older years but I admit I never was much of a reader.  I like to make things, but Ewan's other grandparents attend every book sale in the area.  This is my daughter and son in law's family room/library. 


This is Ewan's room.
 
If you look carefully there are several interesting elements in this bookcase.  I am not talking about the massive numbers of books.  I am talking about some details that aren't apparent.  One of details is the little blocks put in the bookshelf frame with hints.



When she was young, our daughter wrote a book about going into her closet and finding a secret room.  I imagine I had read her the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but the details were totally her idea.  I should look in my memories box to see if I still have that book.  My son-in-law also always wished for a hidden room to go to.  Maybe this was foreshadowing because that's exactly what he built for his son.  

Ewan has a playroom off his bedroom.  It is where his toys are kept, and it has an open space to play.  One day he came home and went to his room.  The doorway to his playroom was covered with bookshelves.  Can you see the plywood showing on the right side?  It only took him a moment to realize what had happened.  His dad had built a magic door. 

   Inside the door was his playroom, all intact but hidden.

I would say Ewan is a lucky boy.  Even as an adult, it might be fun to have a hidden space to think, meditate or to hide things when company is coming.  Oh wait, no one comes to our house anymore so I guess I don't need that right now.  This secret room is something he will always remember and will most likely tell his kids and grandkids about.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Our February 2021 Menu Plan

In my last blog post I talked about occupying myself during this year of quarantine.  I also mentioned how easily my husband entertains himself.  He is working on my eighth blog book.  That is what I thought he was doing on his computer.  Apparently he was working on something else.  I guess he was tired of me asking him what he wanted for dinner.  This is what he came up with.


He even made a grocery list to correspond.  This is his 2nd month doing this.  I guess it's my fault.  I told him if he chose the meals, I would clean up.  Coming up with meals everyday has gotten very old after 53 years.  The part of the contract which was vague was who would cook.  I guess that was one of those unwritten things.  He did make up some meatballs and meatloaf for the freezer.  He has also cooked a few of these recipes, and I do appreciate that.  The hard part is the planning ahead part so meat is not still frozen and any thing else which needs to be prepared ahead of time.

Looking at this menu reminds me of a story.  When we had our first child, I knew less than a little about babies.  She turned out awesome, no thanks to me.  When she cried, I would feed her.  The more she cried, the more I fed her.  On one of her doctor appointments we discussed the fact that she cried a lot.  He asked me how I would feel if I ate Thanksgiving dinner for every meal.  He said she was crying because she was too full.  I think following this menu exactly will make us both cry from being too full, it will be a lot of cooking everyday and also will provide a lot of leftovers.  I also noticed there is no Culvers or Dominoes built into this menu.  

So, I appreciate the effort but perhaps a little modification is in order.  We aren't royalty.  Oh yes, I forgot.  He is royalty.  His 23andme account says he is a descendant of King Louis XVI.  The guy who got beheaded.  Hopefully it wasn't for working his cook staff too hard.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Ramblings of an Eleven Month Quarantine Survivor

We are inching up to eleven months of quarantine.  Originally we knew it was a terrible virus but mistakenly thought if everyone was careful, we would get back to normal life in a few weeks.  We had no idea it would become so political and turn into a big fat mess.  In April of 2020, I wrote about it.  I thought it would make families closer and I said my husband and myself took to it very well.  It turns out what I wrote was pure bologna.  I was very wrong.  Although temporarily families bonded and enjoyed each other, it basically fell apart when the stresses of working at home and virtual schooling became an everyday thing.  Fortunately the only things I actually miss are running to the grocery store if I am out of something or going out for breakfast.  I also miss going on day trips either alone or with friends.  My husband and I could safely go somewhere in the car, but at our age we need bathroom breaks and a public bathroom is the last place I want to go. 

Mike, my husband, is still doing well.  He is content just doing his thing.  He has a much better handle on our situation.  He has a very level personality.  I guess I don't.  Today he told me not to break the law in any way because I would die in prison in one day.   He watches a lot of You Tube videos on building things so I told him not to build a tiny house or he would have to live in it alone.  The upside is that I get a lot of steps each day just wandering around my house.

In an attempt to occupy myself, I decided to research shampoo bars.  This isn't the first time.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2018/02/shampoo-bar.html I know I am scraping the bottom of the barrel of activities with this one, but a pet peeve of mine is a shower full of shampoo and conditioner bottles.  It's all on me.  Anyone who knows me will know my husband does not need anything but a bar of soap and a washcloth to wash his head.  A few years ago, I attempted to make soap.  It worked out well and at that time I used that homemade soap to wash my hair.  It was wonderful but as the time went on, it dried out my hair even more.  I ended up going back to the bottles.  I bought the purple shampoo for blonde (or in my case white) hair.  It was good but when I checked it out on the Think Dirty app, it turned out those shampoos are full of junk.  On a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the worst, most of them scored an 8 or more.   

I found several shampoo bar options but settled on J.R. Liggetts Shampoo Bar.  I found their Tea Tree and Hemp Oil third on a top ten list although some of the Amazon reviews are terrible.  There were also some good reviews.  As with everything in life, not everyone sees things exactly the same.  Excuse the picture.  I ripped it apart before I realized I should have taken a photo. 

When I got this bar of soap, I was disappointed.  It was so tiny.  The picture online made it look like a normal sized bar or soap.  When I saw how small it was, I thought I got ripped off.  The bar itself is only 2" by 2.5" by 1.25" thick.  It was not cheap.  The cost ranges from $9 to $12 per bar.  It can be purchased online or some specialty stores.  I noticed a local Amish store carries it, but I have no idea the cost.  It comes in several varieties.  Since my hair is dry and hasn't been cut for almost a year, I chose the moisturizing bar. 

I have little mesh bags and some crocheted bags.  These work great for bars of soap and can be hung up to dry.  A slippery soggy bar of soap isn't much better than having shampoo bottles, so hanging to dry is the best solution.   

Now for the results of my first shampoo with this little bar of soap.  I have never had so many suds.  It was so sudsy that I was certain I would never be able to rinse them all out.  I was wrong.  It rinsed out very well, and my hair actually squeaked which hasn't happened for a long time.  The information about this product says you don't have to use conditioner so I didn't.  It was true.  My hair combed out easily.  At first look, it seems smoother but that can be deceiving.  It reminds me of my last experience with a dry hair treatment.  I decided to put coconut oil on my hair.  I was told to apply the coconut oil, wrap my head in a towel and allow the oil to penetrate the hair for a while, then shampoo and rinse.  I followed instructions.  My hair combed out nicely and I thought I had found the answer to my static hair.  What I didn't know was that my hair was smooth because it was greasy.  I am not familiar with oily hair because my hair is so dry but when I got up in the morning, my neck felt greasy. I went outside to feed the birds and my hair turned hard.  I then realized that the coconut oil left in my hair had hardened and my oily neck was actually the warmed up oil.  I hope to have better luck with this shampoo.

It looks better right at this moment, and hopefully in the morning that will continue but I suspect I will look like I got my finger caught in a light socket.  After this photo, I put a sweater on over my head and I briefly looked like a chia pet.  Maybe things will improve after a few more washings or maybe they won't.