Our House

Our House

Monday, August 24, 2015

Our House Then and Now...A Work in Progress

While searching through some old files, I came across the papers for purchasing our house.  Some of you may be interested in how the place looked when we bought it.  It wasn't very pretty.  The house hadn't been taken care of.  We loved the view and thought we could fix it up over the years.  We are still fixing it up.  That's the trouble with remodeling.  Just when you get the house to a point where it looks nice, then everything is out of style again.  Remember when shag carpet was all the rage.  I have lived through all the color changes too.  When I got married in 1968, avocado green, harvest gold and orange were the popular colors, then I remember mauve and blue was in, then jewel colors and now I haven't a clue.  I think it's dark brown but I'm not really sure.  

This was how the house looked from the outside.  It was built by a local man, and we don't think it was meant to be a permanent home.  It has two big fireplaces, and we think that was the main heat source.  The room with the window you see and the front porch were built on.  The furnace in under that area so that is another reason we think it was installed later.

This is how the house looked when we purchased it in 2001.

My mother thought we were crazy.  She never really liked it here.  She grew up in the country with no modern conveniences and thought this was no better than how she grew up.  At times I also wondered if we were in over our heads.  The first summer my husband worked the entire summer on chinking the house.  The person we bought the house from hired someone to put colored caulk between the logs and all of that had to be removed before the chinking could even begin.  For those who wonder what chinking is, it is the white product that is between the logs.  In the old days, it was a cement type mortar but now they have a synthetic product that stays elastic and doesn't crack with the movement of the logs.  It keeps cold air and insects from getting between the logs.  

The inside also needed a lot of work.  It was so dark.  The outside of the interior walls were logs, but they put half logs on the rest of the inside walls.  It gave the word "rustic" a whole new meaning.  We removed those and painted some of the interior walls.  As you can see in the following picture the kitchen ceiling had faux beams.  Their only purpose was to hide the seams of the drywall.  They too were removed during our kitchen remodel.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/03/kitchen-remodel.html

Notice the snazzy orange counter top.  Stylish in 1970.

If you follow this blog you know I have written about many of the improvements we have tackled,  but basically the layout remains the same.  The only thing added was a dining room.  I also wrote about that.   http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/01/putting-new-addition-on-log-house.html

Some day we may have to move but for now this is home.  

The house on August 15, 2001

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Homemade Antibacterial Wipes

One of my decent qualities is that I can usually admit when I am wrong.  Usually is the operative word.  Sometimes, even if I am wrong, I hate to admit it.  Today I am stating that I was wrong.  I said I didn't use paper towels, although I qualified it with not using paper towels very much.  I blogged about buying microfiber towels at the dollar store and using them instead.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/02/cloth-unpaper-towels.html

That was a year and a half ago but found that the towels were not that absorbent, and they just added to more dirty laundry.  I believe they also just spread the germs around, so I was using paper towels more and more.  I still use the towels I made for wiping my hands and dry dusting, but not for cleaning off the counter or wiping up messes.  Instead I found a blog posted on Facebook and have been using this method instead.

It was from http://www.doitonadimeblog.com
This blog is full of useful information and recipes.  This person also has several youtube videos.  These towels, resembling the antibacterial wipes sold under several brand names, are easy to make.  I am happy with how they work.  I use a lot less paper toweling this way with a good result.  They are supposedly safe on granite and other surfaces.  So until something better comes along, this what I use.

The first thing you do is find a container with a cover that will hold half a roll of paper toweling.  I found these Lock n Lock square plastic containers at the dollar store.  They are six inches tall and fit the roll perfectly.

The paper towels I use are Viva.  I like the fact you can tear off any size you need.  I think any sturdy paper towel will work.  The less expensive tend to shred so I think paying slightly more is worth it.

The only other supplies you will need are water (I used distilled because I had some), rubbing alcohol and dishwashing soap.

Cut the paper towel roll in half with a kitchen knife.

It is easy to cut the paper toweling with a sharp knife.  Be sure to leave the cardboard center inside the tube for now.  Mix together 12 ounces of water (1 ½ cups), ¼ cup rubbing alcohol and 4 squirts of dishwashing liquid.  Next place the dry toweling in your container and pour the mixed solution over the roll of towels.  Within minutes the towels absorb the liquid and the center cardboard core can be removed easily.

The cardboard center pulls right out.

At this point the towels are ready to use.  Just pull from the center as much as you need.  I find a small piece is usually enough.  I don't even wipe dry.  With the alcohol, it drys quickly.

I used the other half roll to make a cutting board cleaner.  The woman from the blog has a video on cleaning wooden cutting boards.  She uses the same process for making the wipes except she pours on 1 cup white vinegar mixed in 1 cup of water.  Every time she uses the cutting board, she wipes it off with a wipe.  Baby wipes can also be made this way.  The mixture is usually made with mild soap, some aloe vera or vitamin E oil and water.  There a many variations in the recipes but all of them use the same process for making the wipes without using all of the chemicals and preservatives in commercial wipes.  

Would you want this stuff on your babies butt
or yours for that matter?

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Cursive Debate

I have heard a lot of discussion about whether or not kids should be taught to write cursive.  Initially I thought, of course they should be able to write and not print everything.  I heard a story of a child who received a birthday greeting from his grandmother.  He did not know how to read or write cursive so he couldn't read it.  He didn't  even know who sent him the card.  That is sad but probably not totally true.  It probably didn't take him long to figure out it was grandma.  All the X's , O's and lipstick kisses probably gave it away.

I heard that people in the future won't be able to read old documents like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  When I was a child we practiced how to write almost everyday in school but through the ages penmanship has changed so much that some words are difficult for me to read and I'm almost as old as that document.

When I was in college, we had a class called manuscript writing.  It wasn't a class about writing manuscripts, but it was a penmanship class.  I think I helped my husband cheat in that class just a little because he is left handed and our instructor was an old guy who didn't approve of lefties.  We had to do pages of circles and slants to learn how to make the perfect letter.  What a waste of college class time.

We didn't have computers or voice activated word detection back then.  We had to write letters and send them through the mail.  In class, we had to write our notes and study for tests from notebooks.  So now I come to the point of my story.  I have been writing thank you notes to people who sent memorials for my dad.  I always thought I had good penmanship, but every note I have written looks terrible.  I am almost embarrassed to send some of them.   I came to the conclusion that I don't write long hand anymore.  I find that I rush and miss words.  We have trained ourselves to think faster than we write because most of the time we type on a keyboard.  Once in a while, we have to sign our name on a document, but even that doesn't have to be great.  Have you ever signed those credit card machines.  Most of the time, my signature isn't even legible.  We got a letter the other day with some important information for us.  This was the signature.

This is the signature of a person whose first name is Jon, middle initial is D and his last name has ten letters.  As you can see, you don't have to write perfect cursive to sign your name.  My husband taught school and noted that by middle school students were developing their own style of cursive.  At times he had difficulty reading their papers.  What good does it do to write, if it can't be read.  At least when a person prints, they usually print every letter.  Computers also have handwriting fonts, and I'm pretty sure government agencies and others use those fonts to fool us into believing we have an actual signature.

This isn't my usual type of blog, but I got to thinking about this as I fell asleep last night.  I think the reality of it is nothing stays the same and that includes perfect cursive penmanship.  My heart wants to keep things the same but my head tells me that time marches on and technology is replacing many things in life.  Sometimes it makes things easier and sometimes it adds frustration.  We aren't going back to the olden days.  Even the Amish elders probably never thought they would be shopping in peoples garages or making a trailer for their buggy's so they can take home their purchases.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Adventures With Ewan

We don't take care of our grandkids very often anymore.  They are getting older and don't require as much supervision or the older ones can take care of the younger ones.  Every now and then we get to have them one on one.  These are the best times.  They don't have to share us with any other kids, and we don't have to give equal time to each of them.  Sunday night and Monday we spent time with our youngest grandchild.  I have written about Ewan many times.  He is so entertaining.  For those who don't know how to pronounce his name, it's You-an.  The EW makes the U sound.  He is five years old and starting Kindergarten soon.

This photo reminds me of the John Greenleaf Whittier poem called "The Barefoot Boy".  The first line is "Blessings on thee, little man, barefoot boy with cheek of tan!".  Ewan certainly has cheeks of tan.

Whenever Ewan visits he must check on the leprechaun that lives in our woods.  He is fascinated with him.  It all started on St. Patrick's Day.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/03/st-pattys-day-celebration-catching.html

So on this visit the first thing we did was take a walk.  We had to see if there were any signs of the leprechaun.  We didn't see a thing so when we returned to the house Ewan had Papa looked up leprechauns on the computer to see what they like to eat.  He was going to set a trap and needed to do some research.  What we would do with one wasn't discussed.  I guess we would cross that bridge if and when it happened.  I think he thought the leprechaun would run away, but he would leave behind a bunch of gold coins and jewels.

This was actually the second day of research .  The previous day
didn't produce the desired results.

Through much research, it was determined that leprechauns are very difficult to trap.  Ewan decided that something sweet like a marshmallow would probably be enticing.  Papa and Ewan designed a trap.  It was an empty oatmeal box.  It had green and blue on it already so the only decorations it would need would be pictures of clovers drawn and colored on the top.

Next we had to choose the perfect spot to set the trap.  We threw a few marshmallows along the trail to tease the leprechaun.  Then we set up the trap.

They cut a hole in the top so when the leprechaun looked
 in he would fall into the hole.

Everything looked perfect.

In order to be sure, they set up another style trap in the actual leprechaun house.  It consisted of a rusty upside down bread pan and a stick.  When the stick got bumped, the pan would fall and trap the leprechaun.

This was also baited with a marshmallow.

Then we waited.  We had to wait overnight.  First thing in the morning, even before breakfast, we had to check the traps.  So we quickly got dressed and headed off into the woods.

Oh dear, nothing is in here except marshmallows.

Ewan thought about it and said "of course, the leprechaun is too short to climb the tall slippery box".  We had to redesign things and make something more accessible to a small little leprechaun.  They decided to cut the bottom off of a clear plastic bottle and bury it at ground level.  Then instead of marshmallows, Ewan thought a little cereal would be better.

They headed off with a shovel, a plastic bottle, and a ¼ cup of rice chex.

They dug a small hole for the bottle.

He buried the bottle upside down
and put in the cereal.

It's almost invisible except for the cereal.

Nothing had appeared in the traps throughout the day.  He would check often, always taking his trusty bow and arrow in case he came across any danger in the woods or if the leprechaun got angry.

To avoid total disappointment, we asked Ewan if he wanted to go on a treasure hunt called geocaching.  We have done this several times with the older kids, but not with him.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/03/geocaching-as-one-of-our-hobbies.html  We thought the chances of finding a pile of gold coins and jewels were pretty slim, but perhaps we could find something of interest and change his focus.  We looked online and found a cache near our home that was large enough to hold some goodies.  We found the cache easily.  Ewan's reaction to what was inside was less than enthusiastic.  There was a dollar bill in the box and an interesting NASA postcard, but it just wasn't the same as gold.

The look of disappointment.

At this point it was lunchtime, so we headed to McDonald's.  I know, not a good choice, but he did have apple slices and milk.  Then we went to the library to get a book on reptiles.  After a quick nap in the car (it's exhausting looking for leprechauns), things were much better.  He ended the day on a happy note and so did we.  

"Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy, Ere it passes, barefoot boy!"

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Train of Life

With the death of my dad comes piles and piles of paperwork to keep track of.  I am trying to keep track of everything and trying to keep everything in order.  However, a few days ago, I was straightening up some of the mail that had come in.  There in the pile was a bookmark.  I remember seeing this before.  Someone had sent it to me or given it to me in the past.  I apologize to whoever it was who gave it to me.  If it was someone reading this blogpost, please let me know.  I remember liking it, but it didn't have the impact or significance it has now.  How or why it appeared now is anybody's guess, but I think I was meant to see it at this moment in time.  I hope it has meaning to others who are reading it.

I'm sorry I don't know who the author is either.  I wish I did.  I would like to give credit to the person who wrote these beautiful words.  I found other poems by this name, but not this one.

Our Resident Gray Fox

I originally posted a photo of this animal on facebook.  There was a lot of discussion as to what it is, but I can confirm from many sources that it is a Gray Fox.  It is a very odd looking animal.  Some thought that this is a pregnant female.  I can't prove that fact because I have not seen any offspring.

I have only seen her one other time during the day, but she comes almost every night and I can see her on the trail camera.  She has been coming often since last year.  I wonder if she has some fox pups hidden away somewhere close by.

She is looking slightly thinner and only time will tell if we see more in the area.

Another night time visit.  One of many over the course of time.

These final two photos are from August 2015.  This fox looks a little smaller but it is hard to tell if the angle is just a little different.  Obviously he or she lives in the neighborhood.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Freezing Turnips

Winter in Wisconsin seems to last a long time.  That is why everyone gets excited about planting flowers and gardens as soon as the last frost happens.  It is usually around May 1.  My daughter and her husband were no exception.  They planted a gigantic garden.  I don't plant a vegetable garden because I get more than enough fresh produce given to me.  I reap all of the benefits without doing any work.  I love it when the harvest starts.  The only trouble is that most things are ready to pick at the same time and need to be dealt with while they are fresh. They planted a 25 foot row of turnips.  I noticed that some of them were getting quite large and there were enough turnips to feed an army.  I decided to pull a few.  Some had gotten too big already, but there are plenty of perfect sized turnips.  I like to eat them raw, but there are way too many to do that.  We decided to try to freeze some to use in soups and stews this winter.

Medium to small turnips are the best.

I took the tops and root off and then peeled them.  They peel quite easy, just like a potato.  In fact, they look like a potato but have a mild flavor much like a kolrabi.  After peeling, I sliced them in one half inch slices, and my husband cubed them.  He didn't cube them by hand, but with a fancy non-electric gadget.  I have written about one of my favorite gadgets called the Vidalia Chop Wizard. http://www.thecabincountess.com/2012/12/a-day-of-recovery.html.  I like this one too.  It is very similar to the chop wizard, but it's for bigger projects and has a capability for making one inch cubes.  It is called the Genius food chopper.  I got it at a thrift store, so I don't know much about it except I love it.  You can chop a whole salad in the bowl, put the cover on and keep it stored in the same container.

We used the smaller 1/2 inch attachment for these.

After the turnips were cut into cubes, I had to blanch them before they could be frozen.  To blanch a vegetable, you just drop it in boiling water for a short time to stop the enzyme action of ripening and to kill bacteria.  It preserves the quality of the vegetable or fruit for better color or flavor.  Then after a couple minutes in boiling water, take it out and put in ice water to stop the cooking process.

Blanched vegetable and the Foodsaver vacuum sealer.

The only thing left to do at this point is to put them in a container or freezer bag.  Then label and freeze.  I have had a Foodsaver vacuum sealer for twenty years, so that is what I used.  I hope we enjoy having these frozen turnip cubes to use in recipes.  I have never frozen them before.  I read they can be rubbery but that is usually because the turnips are not fresh, they are blanched too long or they are too large.  I think we will love them.  We have frozen green beans, corn and a variety of fruit this way, so I am confident turnips will be good too.

Eight bags ready for the freezer.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue is My New Favorite Color

Since this is my blog, I can rant a little from time to time.  It's been ten days since our dad died.  It has been full of ups and downs.  One day I feel at peace and happy with the fact he didn't suffer a lot, and he is with our mom.  Then other days I feel a big void in the house because we had such a good routine and now I don't have those things to tend to.  I think that is normal.  What isn't normal is how people take advantage of the bereaved.  My parents pre-paid their funeral expenses fifteen years ago.  Of course, prices have gone up during that time but that isn't our responsibility.  I guess the funeral company they worked with feels the need to make up some of the costs.  They padded the costs by trying to charge us for an urn that was already paid for.  I was told they couldn't proceed with cremation until I signed the statement they sent with the additional charge for the urn.  I feel they need to stand by their original agreement.  Now the person I talked to needs to consult with the accountant.  It is kind of like a car salesman going to check with the manager.  You know darn well they are just disappearing in the bathroom so it appears that they are trying to negotiate.  In addition, we were charged $300 to have a local funeral service hold dad overnight in their funeral home until the cremation people could get there.  I know it's a business and they have to make money too, but geez.

*I have to amend this previous paragraph.  Some of my complaints were listened to and whether it was miscommunication by them or me, we have resolved our issues.  The main funeral service has been very helpful going forward.  I am grateful for their help.

So even though I'm having a blue day, the blue theme keeps reoccurring to make everything better.  Tonight we are having a full moon called a Blue moon or the Blueberry moon.  It doesn't really look blue to me, but the sky does and that is good enough for me.  Maybe the moon is blue in some other part of the world. 

During dad's passing days, we saw a blue and black admiral butterfly constantly.  It was sitting on our front porch when he died.  I believe it was the spirit of our mom waiting for him.

Then the next morning a blue and black bluejay feather was perfectly placed in my path.

I have not seen that butterfly since.  I have seen many other butterflies, but not the blue and black one.  Apparently there is a book called Final Gifts and other books on that topic that I must get.  Through stories these books show us how to appreciate the ways in which the dying communicate their needs.  I think this happened to us many times through dad's final days.  I will keep the rest of those events private, but many things happened to make a believer out of me.

In following the happy blue theme, I am enjoying our resident bluebirds feeding another batch of young ones.  The first nest failed because of the wrens attacking the eggs.  The second nest produced five young bluebirds who have stayed in the area.  Now we have a nest of four baby bluebirds who are being fed by both parents.

One of the bluebirds parents waiting in the wings to feed the new babies.  A young one stands by ready to help.

I think it's amazing how they can fly off and come back with a fresh worm.

So yes I'm sad at times, but the blue sky, the blue moon, and the bluebirds are making me able to handle the challenges at hand.  I know my parents left us some Final Gifts to show us that everything is fine.  I do believe BLUE is my new favorite color.