Saturday, April 20, 2013

Giant Step Toward Spring 2013

Today we finally took a giant step into Spring.  It has been a long time coming and I hope we have turned the corner.  Today I noticed many signs that spring may be on its way.  We raked out the flower beds and saw many of the perennials are coming up.


They have a long way to go but it was nice to see that they lived through the long long winter.

Toad Lilly


 I put up the hummingbird feeders.  I noticed that the hummers were in northern Illinois and usually arrive here around the 1st of May.  I keep track of their arrival time from the migration map.  

Hummingbird at the feeder in 2012

The bluebirds are also back although they haven't started nesting yet.  They spend time looking over the bluebird houses everyday.  Soon they will begin making their nest.  We are always happy to see them return.

Male Bluebird

Pair of Bluebirds

I saw a muskrat swimming around in the water today.  Then I saw this duck in the tree.  I think it was a female wood duck.  She looks like she is ready to lay some eggs.  Hopefully she makes it to the duck house.  She looks a little stressed.

 Best of all we had a loon out on the water who has been here all day.  We don't often see loons, so that is a big thrill. 


Friday, April 19, 2013

Bat Houses

According to my Wildlife Phenology calendar (Wisconsin Wildlife Phenology Calendar), the little brown bat should be making their spring arrival any day now.  The large brown bat returned a couple weeks ago.  I think the little bats should think twice about returning and should stay where they are for now.  The weather here, especially today, is very unpredictable.  Today we had sunshine and blue skies, dark skies with white out conditions from blowing snow showers and very strong winds.  All in one day.  The bats eat their weight in mosquitoes and other insects, which I don't think are very plentiful yet. 

We have two bat houses.  It is a place for the bats to spend the day and then in the evening they go out for food.  Even though many people don't like bats, they are very useful.  Having the bat houses on our garages makes me hopeful that they will stay there and not come into our house.  The thought of waking up to a bat flying through the house gives me the shivers.  I like them outside only.

Bat House mounted on peak of the garage

Different style bat house mounted on old garage
We have had these bat houses for many years.  We know when they are being used because we can see bat droppings on the ground under these houses.  The mosquito population is quite high on the marsh.  We need the bats to control that population.  We also have Tree Swallows that also eat a lot of mosquitoes.  I will talk about them some time soon.  I have seen a few but they haven't returned in large numbers yet.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Working Under Pressure

 Early in the week my daughter said that my granddaughter needed to dress up as a nun for a medieval fair.  They wanted me to look for a long black dress or something she could use.  On my trip to the thrift store on Monday, I found a long skirt but that was all I found.  Then Tuesday I had to pick the kids up from school but we didn't talk about the nun costume.  I didn't ask because I was hoping they would figure it out.  I have made so many halloween costumes over the years and frankly I thought I was done with that.  I was wrong.  They hadn't figured it out and wanted me to make a nun's head cover by tonight.  They did have some black fabric.  I didn't have any idea where to start.  I looked online but nothing made sense.  Because I don't work well under pressure, I panicked a little and then just started cutting and sewing.  I ended up cutting a square and sewing a white strip on one side.  A white bandana, turtle neck and a graduation gown.  I think it will do.

Not the best job but I got it done. 

Grand daughter in costume

There was nothing else exciting happening today.  Just the usual...went to the store and bank, made soup, cut up strawberries, did a load of laundry etc. etc. etc.  It was another rainy day with cool temperatures.  Even the bunny rabbits are confused this Spring.  This one came up on the steps and began chewing on the door mat.  It looks like brown grass and he was chewing away.  They must not have any taste buds.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Doily Lady

As many of you know by now, I have been knitting and crocheting for many years of my life.  I started when I was ten or eleven years old.  I have made a lot of doilies throughout the years.  My two daughters and their friends called me "the doily lady".  I wasn't thrilled about that when I was in my thirties, but now I am an older lady and we should have doilies.  They are decorative but also hide the dust.  Think about that.  I may be smarter than I appear to be. 

My home has doilies everywhere.  Whenever I would change color schemes, I would make a doily in that color.  I even have one on the back of the toilet.

Here are a few others.

This next doily shown below was prompted from a fundraising auction we attended in 1997.  The former mayor of Stoughton Wisconsin, Helen Johnson, donated some wonderful items.  One was a framed tatted piece that I treasure to this day.  My husband bid on it for me and was able to get the highest bid.

The other was a large doily that she had crocheted.  We didn't get the bid on that item, but Helen was kind enough to share the pattern with me.  I made it in off white and enjoyed it for many years.  Then one day I forgot to take it off the table when the grand kids were visiting.  They got Spaghetti-O's on the doily.  I couldn't get it out, so I dyed it bright yellow.  It covered the stains and I actually love the color.

For those who don't crochet or know about it, it is done with a strand of thread or yarn and a hook.  These doilies take a fine thread and a small hook.  They take many many hours to make because each stitch is done one by one.  That brings me to my final thought.  I feel so bad when I see old doilies at flea markets, antique stores, garage sales or thrift shops.  On Monday we went to the car dealership.  I always go with my husband, and he drops me off to shop at a thrift store while the work is being done.  This time I found several fun things to purchase including three crocheted items.  I paid $1.15 for all three items.  I'm sure they have a history because they smelled like 'grandma'.  I hope I don't smell like that, but you know the smell.  Not bad but kind of like old perfume.   I feel proud to have rescued them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Freezer Jam made with Canned Peaches

Peach Freezer Jam

My Tuesday recipe is Freezer Jam.  Today I made peach jam out of canned peaches.  You can use almost any fruit.  The fruit can be fresh, frozen or canned.  Most of the time I make strawberry jam with frozen berries, but today I needed jam (dad has toast every morning with jam) and I was almost out.  Canned peaches were all I had on hand.

Here is the recipe:

2 Large cans (29 oz.) of Peach slices or pieces (drained and chopped to make 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups sugar (can also use a granulated no calorie sweetener)
1 Pkg. (1.59 oz.) of Instant fruit pectin
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice (peaches need lemon juice other fruits do not)

I open the cans and pour the peaches into a colander.  The excess juice must be drained or the jam will be too soupy.  If this happens the result makes an excellent ice cream topping but it won't set enough to call it jam.  While it is draining, I chop the peaches in the colander.  How fine the peaches are chopped depends on how chunky you like your jam.  We like larger pieces.  If you want to use a blender to finely chop the peaches, you can.  Just drain the excess juice and you may need another can of peaches to get the four cups of pulp.

Chopped peaches, bottled lemon juice and my favorite little chopper

Mix together one package of instant pectin and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Then add three tablespoons of lemon juice to the chopped peaches and let that sit for about ten minutes.  Slowly add the sugar mixture to the chopped fruit and stir a full three minutes.  Ladle the stirred mixture into clean jars and let it set up for at least thirty minutes.  Now it is ready to use or freeze.  I keep the jar I am using in the refrigerator. 

I also made a fresh loaf of bread today.  We can't wait to cut it and have warm homemade bread and jam.  Maybe I'll even put on some peanut butter and then the jam.  Yummy!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flood Warnings in Princeton

Panoramic photo of the marsh

We have a Flood Warning!


They are carefully watching the river near our home.  The Fox River is at 8.88 feet.  It is below flood stage at this point which is 9.5 feet.  Every year in the Spring we get flooding in the lowlands toward the river.  Fortunately for us we aren't in any danger.  Our house is up on a hill which is on high ground.  One year the entire downtown area of Princeton flooded and we remained dry. Here are some photos of our flooded property.

Last year we had flooding too, but everything was green by that time.  This photo was the beginning of May.

There is a lot of water but it isn't very deep.   Soon the fish will come to spawn in this shallow water. 

Then later last summer everything dried up.  See the little stream that was left.  We didn't have any rain for a couple months.  What a contrast.  It will be interesting to see what this year will bring.

Snapping Turtle

The Triplets.  Two Bucks and a Doe.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Almond Milk Frozen Desert

Many in my family have lactose issues so they can't drink regular cow's milk.  Instead we use almond milk.  It is delicious and it is really good on cereal.  I haven't had it to drink plain, but my husband drinks it just like regular milk.  Today I tried making a frozen desert with this almond milk.  I won't call it ice cream because it turned out slightly icy.  It was more like a sorbet or sherbet.  I have this wonderful little ice cream maker.  It won't surprise anyone who has read my blog that I bought it at a thrift store.  I can't remember what I paid for it, but it is a great little machine.  It is the type that has an insulated freezing canister that doesn't need salt.  I just keep it in the freezer at all times so it is always ready to use.  It is electric with an on/off switch.  Just plug it in and turn it on.  It makes really good ice cream so I thought that there was no reason why it wouldn't work for almond milk.  I think the lack of butter fat was the reason it wasn't as creamy. 

I took 1 1/2 cups of almond milk,  1 cup of sliced strawberries and enough sweetener for taste.  I mixed it up (actually I put it in the blender) and then poured the liquid into the ice cream freezer.  I let it stir for twenty minutes.  The result was wonderful.  It tasted good and was frozen to a soft serve consistency. I think another time I will let it go for thirty minutes for a product that will be a little more frozen.  Next time I will try chocolate.