Fall view

Fall view
A View From Our Deck

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year

Santa Claus is going away for his Long Winter's Nap

                                 
 Happy New Year



The time has come to take down the Christmas decorations.   The visitors have left, the cookies and special foods have been eaten and it is time to look forward to a new year.  Hopefully it will be a good year for us and our friends and family.  My son in law is leaving one career and starting a new exciting chapter of his life.  My grandchildren are growing and having more exciting experiences that will form their adult life.




I will replace the Christmas decor with Winter decor.  I have several snowmen and pine trees to set around.  We will finish the remodeling project that was started before the holidays (I blogged about that earlier).  We will try to get organized and go on a little vacation.  Life continues to change and we change as well.








Saturday, December 29, 2012

Getting Through the Winter

This time of year I get antsy.  It's the lull after the holidays and before we can get back outside in the spring.  I sit around a lot more and see all the things I would like done.  It happens every year.  Some people get Seasonal Affect Disorder, (SAD) I get Seasonal Let's Remodel Disorder (SLRD).  My husband always knows it's coming.  When our children were little, if we couldn't remodel, we would switch bedrooms or trade furniture with my parents.  We would knock out walls, repaint, refinish  pieces of furniture, anything to get through the winter.  This year is no exception.  In fact, it started a little early this year.  We have four bedrooms.  My dad took one when he came to live with us, we have one, there is one with bunk beds for the grandchildren (which they never want to sleep in, by the way) and our fourth bedroom which is UGLY.  It is in our lower level and still had a dropped ceiling and two walls of white paneling.  I never even went in there.  So, I had my husband gut it down to bare bones.  He raised the ceiling eight inches, insulated and put on all new drywall on both the walls and ceiling.  That was fun to see him and I carry those heavy 12 foot sheets of drywall across the lawn and into the house.  I am not as strong as I once was, but he thinks I am.  Fun wasn't exactly the right word, comical is more like it.  This time we rented a contraption to hold the long pieces of drywall on the ceiling so they could be attached.  In the past, I had to hold them up but I just can't do that anymore.  After many days of taping all the seams, the room is almost ready to prime and paint.  I will post the finished room when it is ready, which should be soon.  There is a lot of winter left.  I wonder what other project I can come up with before spring. We bought several chairs at garage sales this past year that needed caning.  We had big plans to recane the chairs and sell them.  Maybe that will be the next project.  Here are only two samples.  We have many more.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Treasured Piece of Family History

Both of my great grandmothers came from Germany.  Each came at a separate time and from a different area.  They both came to this country with whatever valuables they were able to bring.  My mother's grandma brought bedsheets that she had made.  They were of linen which she had made from flax spun into thread and woven into pieces of fabric.  These pieces were hemmed by hand and monogrammed with her initials.  Since she was married after she came to America, the initials are of her maiden name.  My father's grandma and grandpa were married in Germany and came to America soon after they were married.  She brought a few things as well, including all the important documents including their birth certificates and marriage certificate.  She also brought a lot of gumption and the ability to sew.  Back then you had to make whatever was needed.  You couldn't just go to a store and purchase things.  She had seven children very close in age and then her husband died.  He was only 38 years old.  She had to survive and keep her family together.  One day I was going through some boxes at my parents house.  I discovered pieces of the linen my one great grandmother had made and also quilt pieces made by my other great grandmother.  You could tell the quilt pieces were made out of old dresses and aprons.  I wanted to do something with these so I sewed the quilt piece on a square of linen and had my husband make a frame.  I treasure it and posted the story on the back of the frame so it will not be forgotten.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Love My Vidalia Chop Wizard

I don't have much to say today.  It was a day of rest and recovery from the busy last few days.  I do have guests coming tomorrow for a brief visit.  I made an overnight lasagna but otherwise I will serve lots of leftovers.  I still have Christmas cookies, chips and dip and various other things that I either have left over or forgot to put on the table.  This meal will be a little disjointed, but we won't be wasting food.

I have mentioned in the past one of my favorite non-electric gadgets.  It is the Vidalia Chop Wizard.  I have cubed up pounds and pounds of fruits and vegetables with this thing.  They cost $19.99 as seen on TV, but thrift stores have them.  I can't understand why people give them away.  I never pay more than $1.00 to $2.50 at the most.  I have two.  I need one for a spare, but I haven't had a problem with my original so I haven't needed my spare.   If I had to, I like it so much I would pay the $19.99.  The only downside is you have to use the special tool to clean it.  As soon as you're done, use the tool and run it under running water.  It cleans very easily.  I'm not getting paid by the company, I just like it and use it several times a week.  Others may not.




Soon I will talk about my favorite electric appliances.  The top five that I can't live without.  I bet you can't wait.





Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day 2012






Starting to hand out the gifts.





We love a big mess on Christmas Day!




Ewan and his dad Bret heading out to snowshoe.


 Dylan, Heather and Sarah getting their snowshoes on.  Nice cooler in the background, but I needed some place to store all that soup.


  
There they are, way out by the river. I'm glad I have a zoom lens.




 Checking the depth of the ice.
Ewan is now on his dad's shoulders.  That's a long walk for a little guy.
I finally have some time to sit down while my second load of dishes wash.   I still have four crockpots to wash which you will later understand why.  The last two days have been very busy.  Christmas Eve I spent preparing for Christmas Day.  We are the last stop for the family.  My daughters and their families spend Christmas Eve with their husbands' family, then Christmas morning at their own homes.  Santa comes and on Christmas morning they have their family Christmas.  By the time they get here they are usually tired and full of traditional food, so I make a simple breakfast.  We always have little smokies, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, fruit, juice and homemade bread toast.  After that we open presents.  I always wonder why I clean my house because it gets trashed in a few minutes.  It's fun seeing the excitement and mountains of wrapping paper.  This year with the snow my two daughters, a son in law and my two year old grandson went snowshoeing.  They had so much fun.  We have a pretty big area to snowshoe in and because we live in Wisconsin, we love to take advantage of the snow.  Then later in the afternoon we have soup and sandwiches.  This year I made four different kinds of soup.  I know, that was ridiculous.  I didn't mean to make that much, but I just started peeling carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and green pepper.  One of my favorite non-electric gadgets is the Vidalia.  It makes cutting up vegetables so easy and quick.  Pretty soon I had piles of vegetables.  So first I made Stuffed Pepper Soup,  then I had some chicken legs in the freezer so I thought Chicken Soup would be good too.  I had an awesome ham that we received as a special gift from our nephew.  It was a huge ham, so I cut off some of the ham and made a Cabbage and Ham Soup.  Finally I still had cubed carrots and potatoes left so I cut off some more ham and made Split Pea Soup.  I had crockpots all over the place.  Then I figured we needed more than just ham so I roasted a turkey breast, made another two loaves of bread and some yeast rolls.  At this point I had enough food to feed our whole neighborhood and lots of dirty dishes.  It is amazing what twelve people can eat and there isn't that much left.  The girls took some food home and we will have soup for the rest of the week.  I also forgot to put out the jello and relishes that I made, so we will eat that this week also.  I am tired and my feet hurt, but all and all it was a wonderful Christmas. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Family Favorite Christmas Cookies

Now that the recent snowstorm is history, I can share some of my families favorite Christmas cookies.  I make the usual cut out cookies that everyone makes.  The only thing I don't do is ice them all at once.  I frost and decorate as we use them or we eat them plain.  If you frost the cookies too early they get soft and I like them crispier.

The first family tradition cookie was started in 1977.  Near the holidays, a Madison Wisconsin newspaper (Wisconsin State Journal) would put out a holiday cookbook in the Sunday edition.  In 1977, I saw an easy recipe that I thought I would try.  It was an instant favorite and every year my family requests it.  Now I see the recipe all over and on many websites, but back then it was unique.

Quick, Easy Bars

1 sleeve of soda crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 package (12 oz.) chocolate chips
Chopped nuts as desired

Line a 12 by15 inch cookie sheet with foil.  Grease the foil with butter or oil.
Layer whole soda crackers on of the foil.

Then in a saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.
Pour the sugar-butter mixture over the soda crackers and bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.
Cool for a few minutes and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.  In a couple minutes they will start to get soft.  At that point frost the top by spreading out the chocolate.  Sprinkle with nuts and cool completely.  Peel off the foil and break into pieces.

The next recipe also came out of the holiday cookbook put out by Madison Newspapers.  This was from the 1981 edition.  I make this one every year also.

Peanut Butter Temptations

First make any peanut butter cookie recipe or buy the premade dough.  Enough for about 40 cookies.  Roll dough into balls and place each ball into mini muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  

In the meantime, unwrap the small Reeses peanut butter cups (about 40).  When the cookies come out of the oven, press one peanut butter cup in the center.  Let them set for a little while before removing from the tin.  

The last cookie recipe I want to share is my husbands favorite.  His mother made them and he asks for them every year.   

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Cream butter adding sugar gradually
Blend in salt, vanilla and flour
Take small pieces of dough, roll into a small ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet
Bake 12 minutes and
While still hot, roll cookies in powdered sugar

I usually try to make a couple new recipes every year, but these are the favorites.   They are quick and easy. 





Saturday, December 22, 2012

No Room in the Barn

Just so those of you who are reading this blog will know, I don't live in a perfect world.  Far from it.  I just like to share the best of my life.  Today started out very nice.  I went outside in the frosty air in my nightgown and my husband's boots.  Quite the sight, but no one can see our house from the road so who cares.   I walked around and took the pictures which I posted earlier.  Lucky for you, there are no photos of me in my nightgown, winter coat and big boots.  Then I got dressed and went shopping.  We went early enough to avoid the crowds.  We found some last minute gifts and purchased the groceries I will need for Christmas Day.  About 3:00 we came home, I put everything away, made some supper for dad and headed out to see our grandchildren in their church Christmas program 40 minutes away.  Three of them were in the program with our grand daughter playing the piano. I was looking forward to it.   It was to take place in a barn in the country, so we dressed warm because the place didn't have any heat.  We were almost there when my daughter texted me and said that there wasn't any more room in the barn and they had shut the door.  We were already trying to find a parking place, which we couldn't find either.  We are always very early for everything, but not tonight when we really should have been.  It was very dark in this strange barnyard.  So we turned around and headed back down the road.  We went to McDonald's and waited for the program to finish.  Forty five minutes later they hadn't called, so we headed home.  Half way home our daughter called and said we could come to the church for the after program cookies and coffee.  We declined.  I have never before driven 40 minutes to eat at McDonald's and then turn around and drive 40 minutes home.  I probably won't do it again for a very long time.  This is not the barn, but I think it is bigger than the one we almost got into tonight. 

A Beautiful Frosty Morning in Princeton







Friday, December 21, 2012

After the Storm






Snow blowing the driveway is hard work
but now it's time for fun 

 
Snowshoeing through the woods





Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Storm-December 20, 2012


Today we had our 2nd major snowstorm of the season.  The schools were closed and the kids got an early Winter Break.  We received about 8 inches of snow, but some areas received more than twice that amount.  It was a beautiful sight but also very heavy and wet.  Our snow blower could not handle it and it clogged up.  Hopefully tonight it will get cold enough for the snow to dry out making it easier to remove.  Our driveway is too long to hand shovel.  If necessary we will have it plowed.




Because of the weather and the roads being slippery, it was a perfect day to stay home. We started a fire in the fireplace and started to wrap presents.  It took forever.  We decided to use up all the partial rolls of wrapping paper.  Nothing matches, but we used up much of the old paper.  Don't tell the little kids, but Santa came early.  Instead of stretching out the stockings that are hanging on the fireplace, I made fabric bags with each persons name.  These bags make it easier to fit our stocking stuffers.

Tomorrow I will be baking.  I have some challenges this year because some family members can not eat wheat.  Hopefully I can come up with a few good things.  Thanksgiving was successful, so I'm sure Christmas will be as well.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas projects finished


Today I finished the last of my Christmas projects.  I didn't do a lot this year.  Usually I'm finishing up on Christmas Eve, so I'm really proud of myself.  I love making socks, both functional and Christmas stockings.  When I was young a family friend made my sister and I a Christmas stocking.  In later years, I copied the pattern and made many for family and friends.  Now I see the 1945 pattern is being published on some websites.  The original is much smaller but the pattern is similar.  I also made some fingerless mittens.  Everyone has smartphones or ipads.  This makes it easier to use the phone without taking off your mittens.  Then I had time to make a pair of socks for myself.  I am so frugal that I often buy pretty sweaters at garage sales or thrift stores, unravel them and knit socks from the yarn.  Sometimes it's wool or fancy silk yarn.  Notice the sock blockers on the striped socks.  I love them.  They make handmade socks dry to a perfect shape.  I got them from @The Loopy Ewe online store, www.theloopyewe.com/…k-blocker/wooden-sock-blocker/. Another of my favorite things to knit socks is the 9" circular needles.  I got mine from an ebay store named @missbabs, http://www.missbabs.com/, but knitting stores can order them if you ask.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The White Poinsettia

A year ago we had a pretty rough patch in our lives.  My mother had broken her hip in the summer of 2011.  She was moved to a nursing home for rehab and then 7 weeks later we had a decision to make.  She was unable to go to her home where she lived with dad.  My dad had poor vision and mom did the all the chores at home which required vision.  We moved them into a modified assisted living apartment.  She didn't really like it there, but they got cleaning services and a meal a day.  We took care of groceries, laundry and the other household tasks.  They were doing better and adjusting around Thanksgiving of last year.  Then around Christmas, Mom became quite ill and eventually died in January of 2012.  During that Christmas season the people in the complex received White Poinsettias.  After mom passed we moved my dad into our home.  We cleaned out the apartment and I took home the poinsettia.   Half of the plant died, but eventually the other half lived.  After a while the remaining half began thriving and now at Christmas time is starting to bloom.  I believe it symbolizes my mom and dad.  They had been married 65 years.  Half of them died and although it took a long time, the other half is beginning to thrive.  Although my dad misses my mom terribly, he is doing well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Raggedy Ann and Andy come Home

Today I came home from shopping and found a package on the porch.  It was from my sister in Michigan.  She had sent some Christmas packages for us.  As I was unpacking them, I noticed something on the bottom of the box.  It was an afghan that I had made when I was expecting my first daughter 41 years ago.  It had made the rounds to all the babies and there it was again.  I remember buying the cheapest Red Heart yarn that I could find and afford.  So much for saying that you have to pay a fortune for yarn for it to hold up.  I was just so happy to see it again and that it was in very good shape.  I have knit and crocheted hundreds of items over the years but for some reason I remembered this blanket.  I still have the pattern.  Thank you Jan for keeping it and sending it back.  I can't wait to show it to my daughter.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Worrying Won't Help

Well today I woke up in a bit of a panic.  In a week I have to have all my Christmas preparations completed.  I have packages to send which have to be sent by tomorrow, December 18.  I have cookies to make.  Some have to be gluten free for a couple family members who can no longer eat wheat.  I have to take inventory of the presents I have purchased and make sure everything is even.  I know they don't know that every gets the same value, but I know.  I will have to get groceries for our Christmas brunch meal.  I have to clean the house only to have it trashed on Christmas day.  And I have to finish knitting and crocheting a couple projects that I started, thinking I had plenty of time to finish.

DEEP BREATH

I'm ok now.  The birds have calmed me down.  They are so busy today too.  The squirrels are leisurely eating the leftover seed.  Everything will get done and if it doesn't,  it isn't the end of the world.  Or the end of the world will come on the 21st and I won't have to worry either.






Saturday, December 15, 2012

Soup and Sandwich Saturday

It's a rainy day in Princeton.  A good day to make soup and bread.  Although I do make bread every other day and soup a couple times a week.  So I guess any day is a good soup and sandwich day.  My dad lives with us and he is 88 years old.  He loves homemade soup so that is what he gets everyday for lunch.  I always make it too thick for him and he wants it watered down a bit.  I wonder if that is from the old days when you could feed more people by just watering down the soup or stew.  I will discuss my favorite appliances for accomplishing this at a later time, but today I'll tell you how I make Creamy Vegetable soup and English Muffin toasting bread.  I wasn't in the mood for a lot of chopping and cutting today, so this is super easy and quick.  It's just a dump and heat sort of soup, but it's delicious.  It feeds a ton of people or 3 people many days. I added some cooked chicken today, but it isn't necessary.

Creamy Vegetable Soup

 In a big kettle, probably 8 qt. or so, bring to a boil 7 cups of water.

Add:

1 bag ( 12 oz) of frozen mixed vegetables
1 bag (16 oz) of frozen broccoli florets or fresh broccoli if you have it.

Bring back to a boil and then add

1 bag (32 oz) of frozen hash browns.  I like the southern style which are little squares
6 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup chopped onion

Simmer for a few minutes and then add

2 cups milk
2 cans of Cream of Chicken soup
12 oz. pkg. of American cheese slices (stir in until melted)  
I like the real American cheese that you can separate but isn't packaged separately.  It's a pain to unwrap 16 slices of cheese or you could chunk up some Velveeta but it takes longer to melt.

English Muffin Toasting Bread

You could just mix this up in a bowl, but I picked up a bread machine at Goodwill for $4.99.  There are a ton of them in thrift stores because people thought they were a good idea and then didn't use them.  I put the ingredients in the bread machine, set it for the dough cycle, when it beeps I dump it out into a regular bread pan,  cover and let it rise and bake it at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  I figure a loaf costs between $.25 and $.50.

1 1/4 c. of water
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda (English muffin bread always has baking soda)
3 cups of flour
3 Table. dry milk ( you can eliminate this and use milk instead of water for the first ingredient)
2 teaspoon of yeast ( I buy this in bulk at a local Mennonite store)