Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Decor

Even though it is nearly the middle of April 2013 there is a layer of fresh snow on the ground nearly every morning.  It doesn't last and usually melts in a couple hours.  Somehow the spring decorations look very out of place but they also give us hope that warmer weather will be here soon.  The weatherman said that there will be more snow and ice next week and that a Canadian airflow will bring cooler than normal temperatures into May.

There are no flowers to pick outside so I had to settle for these.  If you haven't used the gel that looks like water, it works well.  This is just an old pint jar, some silk flowers that look like wild flowers and some water gel.  There are many brands of this gel that can be purchased in any craft department.

Since the pussy willows aren't ready yet, I had to dig out last years.  They are still in pretty good shape so they will have to do.  A breath of Spring.  The wood from the bushes that these pussy willows grew on were used to make the towel bars I blogged about (The Cabin Countess : Towel Bars made out of a Willow Tree) From a rather normal looking bush with green leaves,  I got both a Spring decoration and a some functional objects.

Wild Pussy Willows from 2012

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cancer Has Many Colors

Today is an important day in my life.  It was six years ago that I finished my last round of Chemotherapy.  I am not going to chronicle every last detail of my uterine cancer journey because frankly I just want to keep moving forward and no one really wants to read about my trials and tribulations.  It was not fun but it did change how I look at things.  Also, I should say it changed how I look at how other people view things.  People get caught up and bent out of shape by so many unimportant things.  All it takes is one phone call and everything in your life can change.  Looking back I don't know how we managed.  In five months I had surgery, 28 radiation treatments (which I had to travel 1 1/2 hours per day, everyday) and 4 chemo treatments.  I lost all my hair and wore a terrible wig for a while.  One day, I just took it off and felt so free.  I had survived.  Of course, I get upset with the weather, dirty dishes, politics etc. but it's only temporary.  Anniversaries such as this are good reminders for me too.

Today's blog is for all the people who went through a lot more than I did and may or may not have survived.  Life is not predictable.  It helps to take care of yourself, but many times it's just bad luck.  Be grateful for every moment even if there are struggles.  There is ALWAYS someone who has it worse.

All cancer's have a specific color depending on the type.

 We are all familiar with the pink ribbon for breast cancer.   Uterine Cancer is the color peach.  For this reason I always wear a peach bracelet that says:

Say It, Fight It, Cure It.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Doll Clothes Patterns

Old Leisure Arts pattern.  I have made almost every pattern in this book
I haven't posted a crafty project for a while.  I always liked making doll clothes.  I never liked the actual dolls or playing mommy with them like most little girls.  I only used them for models for the clothes I would make for them.  When I was about seven years old, I would wait for socks to be worn out enough to be thrown away. That was back when we didn't have so many pair or washer/dryers that would eat them.  Now days socks disappear, never to be seen again.  My husband always (and I mean always) pins his socks together so the sock fairy can't steal them.

Back to my story.  When I was seven I would take old socks and cut armholes.  I would hand stitch them and hem them to make clothes for the dolls we had.  Barbie dolls hadn't been invented yet.  One time in fourth grade we exchanged names at Christmas with other classmates (that was another time also).  When it came time to open the presents, most kids got a little toy of some sort.  I opened mine and got a pair of aqua socks.  I think I was the only kid who got socks for a gift.  Rather than be disappointed, I couldn't wait to wear them out so I could make a dress for a doll.  It would be aqua and not just plain white. 

I won't bore you with all the projects I made.  There have been hundreds.  Most of them are long gone but I liked doing it so much.  I only have one granddaughter who (like me) never played with dolls that much.  She doesn't sew outfits, but has loved all the computer programs that involved creating outfits.  You would think I would be a clothes horse or would know how to dress myself in a lovely manner.  I don't really care about that and do a terrible job.  My favorite clothes were always things I made myself.

Here are some samples of a couple things I have saved over the years. 

I made the moose out of a suede type fabric and then made the dress and knit the vest.

Outfit for the baby Cabbage Patch kid.

Cabled sweater for stuffed bear

Sweater for American GirlDoll
I was going to include patterns but all the basic patterns for all these are free online.  Just search for free American Girl patterns or free cabbage patch patterns.  The size can be adjusted easily.

Another old book with fun crocheted Barbie patterns

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ice Storm 2013

Today is April 10, 2013.  After a miserable yesterday weather wise with rain, cold, thunder and lightning, we woke up to an ice storm.  There are trees and power lines down just from the weight of the ice.  Tonight is supposed to be a repeat of last night.  This is Wisconsin and it is expected that we get almost every type of weather at some point during the year, but I believe we deserve some nice sunny days.  This dreary weather is making people cranky.  I went for a haircut today, then to the grocery store and then home.  I didn't hear one pleasant word, in fact I almost got run over by a semi that wasn't going to stop behind me, even though I was sitting at a red light.  He even honked at me.  I suppose he was late for his delivery because of the roads.  On the bright side, think of how we will appreciate a sunny day even with temps in the 50's.  Everyone will be so happy.

A picture is worth many many words, so here are some photos of today.

The weight of the ice is bending over the trees and breaking the    branches off.

I hope this little cedar tree will straighten
up again when the weather warms up.

Little branches like this are broken off all over
the area.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chocolate Chip Date Cake

It's Tuesday and it is time for my next recipe.  Don't let the dates in this recipe fool you.  I really don't like dates and a lot of people get turned off by that ingredient.  In this cake, they disappear and just add moisture and sweetness.

Chocolate Chip Date Cake

Mix and cool:

1 1/2 cups of chopped dates (either chop up the whole dates or just buy the date bits)
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

While this is cooling, cream:

3/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs

Then add cooled date mixture
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teap. salt
1 teap. baking soda

The batter is quite soupy, but don't worry just put it in a 9 x 13 pan.

Then mix together:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
6 oz. package of chocolate chips

Sprinkle this on top of batter.  Don't use extra chocolate chips.  I did that one time thinking that you can't have too many chocolate chips.  Too many chips sink to the bottom and you want them on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes

No frosting, this is a snack cake but it's good served with whipped topping.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Is It An Osprey?

Although some sections of Wisconsin are having sun and sixty degree temperatures, we are not.  It is overcast and only forty eight degrees.  I don't have much to say today.  We did have a big bird in the tree today.  I took this photo but it isn't very clear.  I took it out of my bedroom window and it was hazy and raining outside.  I heard that the Osprey's had returned to Wisconsin.  I believe this could be one.  It had a gigantic wingspan.  Hopefully it will return and I can get a better view.  If anyone knows, it would be very exciting.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wood Ducks

For the Love of Wood Ducks
I took this photo of a pair of Wood Ducks from our dining room window. 

Wood Ducks
Today I am going to write about my experience with the behavior of Wood Ducks.  I was going to write a wonderful informative narrative on these ducks that I have observed every Spring on our property.  I find them very interesting.  Hopefully after reading the method I used for getting some of the photos, you will take me seriously.

We have two duck houses set on the side of the hill almost to the marsh.  I realized today that I didn't have any photos of these duck houses,  so dumb me went outside with my camera, my uniform (unmatched pj's and a fleece) and clogs instead of big boots.  You should have seen it, I'm sure it was quite comical.  I made it down the hill with a little difficulty, but it wasn't too hard.   I got to the bottom of the hill and I took the photos but getting back up the hill was not easy.  I kept losing my shoes because I have numb toes and I can't crinkle them up to hold clogs on.  I ended up crawling like a sloth up the hill and grabbing any tree or branch I could find.  I am glad no one saw me (so here I am telling everyone).  I was sucking a lot of fresh air before I got to the top of the hill.  My main concern was keeping my camera safe with no regard for my personal safety.  No one in my house knew what I was up to and knowing how tuned out they usually are listening to their audiobooks, I wonder how long it would take for them to find my body.  I bet it would take several hours or at least until they got hungry.

My world.  My husband and dad both listening to audiobooks.

Wood ducks build their roosts in holes in trees or nesting boxes built for this purpose.
Plans for houses available at

Wood Duck House up out of the water

Another view of the house
Male duck waiting for the female to decide if she likes the house

Early in the Spring the male ducks congregate for a while until they finally choose a mate.  I suspect these are young ducks because the mature mating pairs have already paired up early in January.

Once the male and female mate, the female lays and incubates the eggs.  It usually takes 28 to 35 days to incubate.  After the eggs hatch, the ducklings leave the nest box, never to return again.   They leave the nest when they are one day old.  One by one they drop from the nest, which could be several feet.  The mom makes a sound to urge them out but doesn't help them.  There are ridges cut inside the box or a piece of hardware cloth so the babies can reach the opening easily and then throw themselves to the ground.   They follow mom directly to the water and begin swimming.  She leads them single file to a safe place in the weeds and tall cattails.  Very rarely do you see them again until they are grown.  There are usually quite a few babies.  I have seen 12-14 swimming behind mom.  They are also very afraid of people.  I usually have to photograph them from inside the house through the window.  This is a lot safer than the experience I had this morning in my pajamas and clogs.  If I make a quick move inside the house it will be enough to scare them away.   These young were born in early June but Wood Ducks can have two broods a year and I'm not sure if this was the second batch.  Some mother Wood Ducks aren't really good mothers and lay their eggs in another ducks nests and then she leaves.  Apparently this happens quite often. 

Wood Duck mama with her newborn babies.
She tries to take the young to a safe haven.
Here they are heading for the cattails.
I'm sure the mortality rate is quite high and the snapping turtles are just waiting.