Thursday, December 31, 2015

My New Year's Resolution

When I first started writing this blog, I posted some trail camera pictures of me wearing my pajamas and wearing my husbands boots.  It was fun and some people started calling me Big Boot instead of Big Foot.  and  We joked about how I looked in some of the photos. Today I caught another picture of myself and posted it on facebook.

I posted this picture in a feeble attempt at humor and to bring back Facebook to what I thought it was when I joined.  It used to be posts about our friends and personal experiences.  It used be filled with family pictures and interactions.  Now there is a very small percentage of that.  I don’t want to see all the tragedy in the world, disfigured individuals, people struggling with all kinds of diseases and people bashing.  Have you checked the facts or truly believe what is being posted?  I have learned I can’t eat anything or drink anything except lemon juice, turmeric or vinegar.  Everything else will make you sick or kill you before your time.  I don’t care who you want for President or if you want to carry a firearm.  You aren’t going to change my mind and I’m not going to change yours.  It will just make me feel angry and my ideas will do the same for you. We all know that we won’t win fame and fortune for liking a post.  All it does is put you on a list to see more stuff on your newsfeed that you may not care about. People can’t possibly like everything they say they like. Facebook has become a platform for people who like everything and are happy all the time or sympathy seeking individuals who need reassurance and attention.  Is this their true self or just an image they want to portray?  So, my New Year Resolution is to only post things I value.  I will truly be sympathetic of a family tragedy or illness, but I don’t care if your second cousin twice removed stubbed their toe.  I love seeing your children, grandchildren and family weddings but not some photoshopped unbelievable photo.  I don’t mind some of the cartoons or jokes.  There are some words of wisdom, but it takes hours to sort through.  Emails have become the same thing.  Everyday I go through and delete without reading hundreds of emails.  I’m sure I delete some important or interesting things, but I don’t have time or the attention span to read every one.  I save the emails from people I know unless your name is Macy or Kohl’s.  I will read your private message and I will reply in a reasonable period of time.  Some will think I’m being negative, but I’m just being is realistic.  With so much junk being posted I often miss things I really am interested in.  It would be nice if Facebook would have a personal page and a separate sharing page.  Until then let’s take our Facebook back to sharing our personal lives.

Happy New Year to all my friends and family and to any of you who read my blog, but I haven't met.  Please continue to post your family stuff.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our December 28, 2015 Snowstorm

We had our first measurable snow of the season yesterday.  As hard as it is for some to believe, we actually like it.  As the winter drags on, it can get old, but for a lot of us Wisconsinites there is nothing better than the first snowfall of the season.

Snow totals varied depending on where you live.  There were areas north of us that received a foot or more of snow.  Some areas got sleet before the snow so their totals were less.  The wind was very strong so the drifts were deep in the open areas.  I think we had about eight inches which is an estimate because of the drifting .  Other areas of the country could be crippled by that much snow, but we are prepared and can clean up that much without skipping a beat.  Our snowblowers didn't start so my husband just packed down the snow in the driveway by driving back and forth with the truck.  It isn't the best solution, but it worked for this amount of snow.  He is not happy because the snow pack will turn to ice and cause problems later.

Packing down the driveway snow with the truck.

During the storm, the birds hunkered down to keep warm.

This is a Male House Finch

Female House Finch


A male Cardinal and a Bluejay hanging out together.

The day after the snowstorm is cloudy and gloomy but warm enough to have open water.

My grandchildren loved playing in the snow today.  They made forts and tunnels, and had a wonderful time.  They should sleep good tonight.

Our 5 year old grandson has been waiting for this first snowfall.

A fun way to spend Christmas vacation.

My daughter  got in on the fun.

Even the dog loved the day.

I have to say that this was my impression of this storm.  I realize that many people struggled with getting stuck or having to drive on treacherous roads.  My husband says I live in a lollipop world as far as seeing the beauty of the storm.  I wasn't the one who had to deal with digging out the mailbox or the frustration of not having the snowblower start.  I admit my cup is half full, but that's how I like it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Soup is the Perfect Comfort Food On A Snowy Night

It's December 28th, 2015.  I believe winter has finally arrived to our part of Wisconsin.  We are having a snowstorm.  It is the first snow we have had in our area this season.  It is blowing in every direction and starting to accumulate.  We won't know the total accumulation until it ends tomorrow, but I think it will be substantial.  It is the perfect night to snuggle in with the warm fires burning.  We are so lucky to be able to be warm and safe.  So many people in the country are having a very bad time, and my heart goes out to them.

In my last blog I mentioned overeating during the holidays.  I said I was getting rid of everything and could not imagine ever feeling hungry again.  Well, that only lasted a couple hours.  I did get rid of most of the sweets, but fortunately I kept the soups I made.  I made the Pot Roast soup I posted quite a while ago.

I love this Pot Roast soup but I have a lot leftover.  The broccoli slaw I bought had long pieces, and I should have chopped it up a little before putting it in the soup pot.  I also forgot the peas, but overall it was very good.  I may have that tonight.

My husband's favorite was a soup I hadn't made before.  When we were Christmas shopping a couple weeks ago, we stopped at the Olive Garden for lunch.  We had the unlimited soup and salad.  The soup we chose was called Chicken Gnocchi soup.  It was very good.   I wanted to duplicate this soup for Christmas so I searched the internet.  I came up with a Copy Kat recipe which was delicious.

Olive Garden Chicken Gnocchi Soup

1/2 stick butter
1 T. olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 quart half and half
1 quart box of chicken broth (32 oz)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t.dried parsley flakes
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves
1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
1 16 oz. package of ready to use gnocchi

Melt the butter into the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring until the onion becomes translucent.  Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute.  Whisk in the half and half.  Simmer until thickened. Add the chicken broth and stir until it thickens again.  Stir in the salt, thyme, parsley, carrots, spinach, chicken and the gnocchi.  Simmer until the soup is heated through.

When the soup sits in the refrigerator it gets quite thick.  If you like a chowder like consistency it is perfect.  If you like it a little thinner, just add a little milk when you reheat it.

Both soups are the perfect comfort food on this blustery winter night.  I put a few home made croutons on top.  In case you missed that blog, here is the link for them along with a recipe for stuffed pepper soup.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Krumkake Will Not Go To Waste

Christmas 2015 is in the books.  All that is left is a disorganized mess.  I have receipts and boxes saved in case anything has to be returned, I have new things to put away and way too many sweets left over.  I don't know why I feel the need to make so much.  We are all so stuffed, it doesn't even look good at this point.  I called one of my daughters and asked if she wanted all the gluten free goodies I made for her.  She said to throw them away.  My other daughter left behind a lot of cookies because she didn't want to be tempted.  Then there is my husband who usually eats all the excess.  He is sick in bed with a cold and cough, so he isn't interested in eating much.  That leaves me, the person who has gained 10 pounds in the last few months.  The last thing I need is thousands of extra calories sitting around.  That is what got me in trouble in the first place.  I know there are starving people in the world, but I don't know what else to do.  It looks like the raccoon, possum, fox, feral cats and crows will be having a smorgasbord.  No matter how you look at it, the food will be going to waist or waste. 

I am keeping a few things and putting them into the freezer.  Who knows when we may need a sweet treat, even though it doesn't appeal to us right now.  One of those things I will try to freeze is the Krumkake I made.  They are just too pretty to give to the wild animals.  I am including the recipe so I will know where to find it next year when I make too many goodies again. I lost my last recipe and my friend Mary Jo was kind enough to share her family recipe with me.

Last year I wrote about finding an electric Krumkake iron.  It worked beautifully.


4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp vanilla or cardamon seed (I put both in) ...

Beat eggs lightly, then add sugar (it says do not over beat)  Add cooled melted butter and flavoring... Sift flour and add to egg mixture. Dough will be sticky enough to drop by spoon.

Drop only 1 tablespoon of dough on griddle.

Bake in griddle for 90 seconds.

Remove and roll immediately.

Eat plain or fill with whipped cream.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Mom's Sugar Cookie

Yesterday I wrote about my daughter coming over to make Christmas cookies.  If you missed the blog, here it is.

We make the same cookie favorites every year plus a few new ones.  I have written about some of them before. 

Even though I wrote about a few of the favorite recipes in the past, I didn't include our basic sugar cookie recipe.  There are probably hundreds of sugar cookie recipes, and I didn't think of posting it. One of my readers is called the Happy Cookie Lady.  How could I compete with a true professional cookie maker?   Each family has it's own family recipe, and recently I was asked for our recipe.  This recipe is very versatile.  I use it mostly for cut out cookies, but I have made balls out of the dough,  rolled them in colored sugar and topped with a candy kiss.  In this case, I put a peppermint kiss on top.

Mostly I just roll the dough out and cut into shapes. 

 Mom's Sugar Cookies

Cream together:

1 cup butter (original recipe says oleo)
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla

Add 1 egg and beat until fluffy

Add and mix in:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 Tablespoons milk

Roll out on a floured board and cut out shapes of your choice.
Bake at 400 degrees until lightly brown.
I roll quite thin so I bake for only 5 minutes.  Thicker cookies will take 2-3 minutes longer.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Cookie and Pillow Making Sunday

It's only a few days until Christmas.  I am ready except for a couple things that have to arrive in the mail.  I ordered in time and the items have been shipped, they just haven't arrived.  It is out of my hands so all I can do is relax.

Today my youngest daughter and her two boys came to our house  We made Christmas cookies.  It is one of those traditions that I really enjoy.  We always watch Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas while we are baking.  A movie made in 1977 isn't that exciting for young people.  They are used to such high quality technology and seeing some basic puppets bouncing around on strings is not as enjoyable.  Let's just say they watched to appease us.    I still like this antique movie being shown on our antique DVD player.  Can you believe, it isn't even Blu-ray?  We were proud that we upgraded from a VHS tape to a DVD.

They did have fun rolling out the dough and eating a fair share of it.  I know that isn't a good thing to eat raw dough, but they seem to like the dough better than the baked cookies.

Another project of the day involved a project from Pinterest my daughter found interesting.  She wondered if I could help her make the project.  Cookies took longer than we thought and we ran out of time, so when she went home I attempted the project without her.  It was a cute, fast and easy idea.

All you need is:

A double thick place mat
A sewing machine or needle & thread.

A place mat made of a coarse fabric backed with a lighter weight fabric.

Remove a section of stitching connecting the two layers.

Select a two sided or double fabric place mat with a pattern you like.  Remove a section of stitching so you can reach inside like a pillow case.  Fill it with fiberfill to make a plump pillow.  This will probably be used for a decorative pillow so just make it as smooth and thick as you like to make it pleasant looking.  Then stitch up the section you took the stitching out.  You can hand stitch it or top stitch with a sewing machine.  This place mat was top stitched around so I just stitched up the section I opened up.

If you need a quick gift, these can be made in thirty minutes or less.  Anyone would like receiving one and they are quite pretty.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Living By The Scientific Method

It's funny, the things that happen in your life that have an impact.  I try my darnedest to remember some things and can't retrieve them from my memory bank no matter how hard I try.  Then there are other things that I remember for no good reason at all.  Don't laugh now, but I remember learning the scientific method in seventh grade.  Without realizing it, I use it often.  In fact, I used it today.

I think I missed my calling in life.  I should have opened a business called "Barb's Small Appliance Repair".  Yes, I just saved another small appliance from the dump.  This time it was a small inexpensive humidifier.  As winter approaches in Wisconsin, we switch from dehumidifying the humid summer air to adding humidity when the furnace dries out the winter air.  It was time to run a humidifier in our bedroom.  I retrieved it from the basement and set it up.  It ran all night, but when I got up in the morning, I stepped on wet carpet.  The darn thing was leaking.  This is where the scientific method comes into place.  That is a better approach to saying "What the H...".

1.   Ask a question:

 Why was our wet carpet?

2.   Do background research:

Ask husband if this had happened before.  Look to see if the wet carpet could have come from another source.

3.  Construct a hypothesis:

First I looked for possible causes of the problem.  Since we don't have a pet to pee on the floor and the carpet was wet under the humidifier,  I hypothesized that either the unit was leaking or the mist was condensing on the floor.

4.  Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment:

I split the humidifier into two sections.  The first was the water tank itself.  I added water and set it on the counter.  A half hour later I checked for leakage.  No water had leaked out of the tank.  Next I put water in the base unit and followed the same procedure.  Walla, a large puddle of water appeared on the counter.

5.  Analyze your data and draw a conclusion:

Since the water leaked out of the base unit, I concluded that is where the problem was.

 6.  Report your results.  Was your conclusion correct?

Since I knew the source of the problem, I looked for a way to examine the unit.  I saw six screws were holding the plastic lower section to the upper section of the base.  I got a screwdriver and removed those screws.  The bottom came off easily.  Inside the unit I could see there was only one place where water could be leaking through.  It was covered by another plate secured with three screws.  I removed those screws and saw a small disk surrounded by a gasket.  I loosened the gasket and cleaned some lime deposits and grit from it.  I reassembled everything.  I figured I hadn't dried the unit out completely when I put it away last Spring.  The water had evaporated and left the residue.  I tested the humidifier again.  I filled it with water, and I turned it on.  Everything looked good, but just to be safe I put it on a rubber mat.  The kind you put wet winter boots on.  In case it leaked, the carpet would remain dry.  I ran a whole gallon of water and everything is fine. 

Who would think that lessons I learned in seventh grade would help me in life.  Without realizing it, every problem can be solved this way.  It eliminates knee jerk reactions and second guessing.  In most things the process is quick but for more difficult things it is a logical approach to decisions.  At least it works for me.  Some people thrive on drama and the excitement of the unknown.  The jump in with both feet approach works for some, but not for me and I have a $30 humidifier that didn't get thrown into the land fill.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What Is A "Real" Tree?

When my daughters were young we always put up a "real" Christmas tree.  Sometimes we would go to the woods and cut one down or go to the Christmas tree lot for the perfect tree.  Then my youngest daughter started to develop allergies to the tree.  It was probably the dust and pollen that remained on the needles as opposed to the pine or fir itself.  We decided we needed to buy an artificial tree.  I didn't like doing it at first.  All my life we had fresh Christmas Trees.  Then I realized it was a "real" tree because of what it symbolized.  I imagine the harmful chemicals emitted by the plastic tree was probably more harmful than the pollen, but the immediate effects were gone.  Also gone was the stress of getting the tree (which was always way too large) into a stand.  I wanted it straight even if the main branch was more crooked than a dog's hind leg.  The third reason was that it didn't need watering, so the left over needles on the floor and the fire hazard were eliminated.  So forevermore we have had artificial Christmas trees.  They have come a long way with how they look and the ease of putting them together.  In the past, each branch had to be inserted into the proper slot.  If you did it wrong the shape would be out of wack. They were color coded but that wore off so each branch had to be marked for the next year.  Now they just snap into place and look almost alive.  The only gripe I have is they smell like nothing as opposed to a nice fresh spruce smell.   Recently I was able to somewhat solve that problem.

Hidden away on my tree are some decorations I made.  I put the gingerbread man front and center so you can see it.  I have some other smaller stars and trees made the same way.

This is what I did.  First I purchased this product.  It is air dry clay by Crayola.  This one comes in the terracotta color similar to gingerbread.  It also comes in white and probably other colors.  There are also other brands at the craft store, but this was the least expensive.

I found some cookie cutters that were open on each end.  I tried the regular type cutter, and I couldn't get the clay out.  I needed to push the clay through.  It is quite sticky.  It also needs to be rolled out like sugar cookie dough but quite thick or it will break.  I would roll them to at least 3/8 inch thick.

Use this type of cookie cutter.

Not this type.  The clay sticks in the grooves.

After the clay is cut out, some type of indentations need to be put in the shape.  These indentations hold the essential oil which is put on after the ornaments are dry although the porousness of the ornament will also absorb the oil.

It takes about three days for the clay to dry.  Don't move it too soon.  I did with the star and the tip broke off.  I wet it a little and pushed it back together.  I didn't touch it again until it was completely dry.  So far so good, but there are no guarantees.  Also make a hole in the top when the clay is wet.  You can use the hole to put a hanger through for hanging on the tree.  A downside is clean up.  The terracotta color stains so cut out and dry on parchment or freezer paper.  Wash the cookie cutters right away or you will have to scrub.  A dishwasher comes in handy for this.  Then cleaning is not a problem.

When the ornaments are completely dry,  put some drops of essential oil in the grooves or anywhere on the ornament.  I used evergreen oil on the first two.  It smelled a little musty using it straight.  I have been playing with other woodsy oils.  I added some eucalyptus which helped a little but I'm not there yet.  Maybe a little peppermint will work.  It is all personal preference.  One container of clay will make many ornaments, plus I am sure they will last from year to year.  Next Christmas you can just refresh the oil and your work is all done.

I even put a little essential oil on the pine cones and the trees in my villages.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Long Ago Christmas Memories

I haven't posted anything for quite some time.  My wildlife stories have become repetitive.  My holiday decorations are so similar, I can't tell the years apart. If you are curious and a new reader, just type Christmas in the search box or any other topic you are interested in from my world like knitting or recipes.  A list of some of my older blogs will appear.  I have written over six hundred, so maybe there is something of interest to see.

Since I have written so much about recent times, I decided to post a few pictures of Christmas's when I was a child.  It is no secret I am sixty eight years old.  Most of my Christmas photos are from the 1950's.  It is so much fun to see how different things looked back then.

The first year's picture is from the late forties.  My sister wasn't born yet, so I was the queen bee. I was my grandparents oldest grandchild.  That all changed rather quickly, but for a few months it was all about me.  It looks like I got a dolly bed, doll buggy and a doll.  Of course I don't remember any of these Christmas's, so I am so happy I found a box of old photos and recognized myself.

The Cabin Countess at age 2 in about 1949.

Then I found this beautiful colored picture.  It says May 1952 on the back, but it is clearly Christmas so I assume it was from the previous Christmas of 1951.  Those were the days when the cameras had to use film and then a completed roll of film had to be developed.  Then the date it was developed was usually stamped on the photo, not the date it was taken.  Who would have guessed about digital photography of today?

This is left to right, Carol (my dad's cousin), Mark (my cousin), Me, sister Janice 1 year old and Jeff (dad's brother).

The next one I found didn't have a date on it, but it looks about the same year as the one above.   It looks like I am about 4 years old.  I probably liked the coveralls I had on more than the dress.  Notice the old phone on the table.  This is in the house my parents lived in for much of their retirement years.  They lived there from 1998 until they had to move due to ill health in 2011.  This house was in the family for a long time.  My parents and my grandparents took turns owning this house for as long as I remember.

I believe this is the Christmas of 1951 when grandma and grandpa lived there.

We lived in Neillsville, Wisconsin where I was born for a few years, then we moved to Racine and Kenosha, Wisconsin, back to Neillsville, then Black River Falls, back to Neillsville again, and then sometime in the fall of 1954 my family moved back to Black River Falls Wisconsin.  This was the first Christmas in the new house on Pine St.  We thought it was a beautiful house but driving past it later in life, it was a very small house.  That is true with most of my childhood homes.  Things seem so much bigger from a child's eyes.

We always had Christmas on Christmas morning.  We always had to wait for Santa Claus to come.  Unlike kids now, we didn't get something everytime we went to a store.  I don't even remember going to that many stores.  This was before there were malls or shopping centers.  Mom saved everything we needed to be wrapped up for Christmas.  We got underwear, socks, pajamas, winter coats, and then a couple toys.  Christmas morning was always so exciting.   The stockings we are holding were made by my mom's very best friend.  When I became an adult, I copied the pattern and made several over the years.   Even the Christmas stockings were smaller back in the day.

My sister and I are holding our empty stockings.

The old stocking is on the left, new on right.

It looks like baby dolls were the main gift that year.

The next Christmas was in the same house.  It looks like we had a very abundant Christmas in 1955.  It is so much fun seeing the toys.

Here we are in our pj's again, only this time we have our hair set for church.

Notice how everything revolves around domestic activities.  Taking care of babies, ironing, and washing clothes.  This was way before the woman's liberation movement and back then the girls received "women's work" gifts.  I do see a sled for a little recreation.

Dolls, a buggy, toy washing machine,  an ironing board and a sled.  Wow!

I think the next photo was the Christmas of 1957.  Our family had moved to Stoughton, Wisconsin the previous February.  We first lived in an upper apartment. Then we moved to the lower unit.  Although the curtains are the same, the floor and walls are different so I believe this is either the upper or lower apartment in Stoughton.  There is no date on this photo either.  We were sad about moving again, so it looks like Santa bought bikes for us.  Either that year or the next we also got ice skates.  My dad flooded the backyard so we could go skating every day after school. 

New bikes this year and I don't even remember getting them. 

Within a couple years my parents built a house, and we moved from the two flat.  I think this was the first Christmas in the new house.  We lived there until I was a junior in high school. We had a lot of snow that year.

Although the houses are different, unfortunately our hair styles remained the same.

It's fun to look back and see how much times have changed.  It was a quieter and a more naive time.  We can never go back for real, but somehow these Christmas photos helped relive happy times that have passed.