Thursday, December 14, 2023

Life's Embarrassing Moments.

Life is full of embarrassing moments. Being an introvert I have had more than my share.  Every generation has those moments. As new parents it is embarrassing to have your toddler have a meltdown at inopportune moments. We feel it's a reflection on our parenting abilities. Then the tables turn and many teenagers get embarrassed by their parents. A thirteen year old rarely wants a kiss goodbye from their mom. A lot of my childrens embarrassing moments are based on me sharing too much with others. One of my daughters would get embarrassed when I told how many garbage bags of what she considered  treasures I took out of her closet. I didn't mean to throw away her collection of dryer lint in many beautiful colors. I won't site anymore examples but we have all had them and many will never be forgotten. Most aren't embarrassing anymore but beautiful memories. Even me sharing too much on this blog causes some eye rolling.

I am 76 years old and I thought I was beyond being embarrassed, but I was wrong. Recently I attended a play in Baraboo Wisconsin that my grandson was in. I decided I would try to look a little appropriate so I got some dress shoes out of the closet. They were Born brand and even though they were probably out of style, they looked in excellent shape. I have no idea how old they were, but they were probably quite old. These aren't the real shoes, but similar. I don't have a picture of the real shoes and I will explain why.

Before the play we decided to go for dinner in Wisconsin Dells. It was the day after my birthday and my family wanted to treat me to a birthday dinner. We were a bit early and decided to check out the Root Beer museum.  I didn't even know such a museum existed. I was walking around and started feeling a little unsteady. I thought that is just great. I hope I don't fall. When I got back in the car, I looked down. On the floor board it looked like someone had dropped a chunk of chocolate. On further inspection, it was a sole from a shoe. I was still oblivious. I said "someone lost part of their shoe".  Then the light bulb went on, and I realized that it was ME. Part of my shoe bottom had come off. I took off the shoe and inspected it. Oh my gosh, the whole sole was cracked. I looked at the other shoe and it was in the same condition. No wonder I was unsteady on my feet. I was walking on an unlevel surface. I had no choice but to pull both the soles off the bottom of the shoes right down to the foam insole. Now what to do? Fortunately Wisconsin Dells has an outlet mall. I put my shoes back on and walked into the mall. It felt like I was wearing bedroom slippers. I made a beeline for a shoe store. The first one I saw was the Sketcher store.  I tried on a couple pair and settled on the new Sketcher slip-ins,  I kept them on and went to pay for them. The sales person looked at me like I was a bit strange when I gave her my old shoes and an empty box. I asked if she could put them in the trash. She then had to make sure the shoes I had on matched up with the empty shoe box. When I passed inspection, I paid for the shoes and we were on our way. It was a blessing. I love my new shoes. They work as advertised. Just slip your foot in. No bending over or sitting down to put on my shoes.  Was this embarrassing at the moment? Yes, but as with most of these situations,  it made a fun story and I probably have the most comfortable shoes I have ever had. At the restaurant they offered me a birthday shot which I declined. I didn't want to be unsteady in my new shoes too. Lesson learned, even expensive shoes have a shelf life.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

2023 Christmas Crafting Project

My family loves traditions especially my youngest daughter. As the years go by and families change it becomes increasingly difficult. We have to create new traditions. Children grow up and some move away. Eventually they create families of their own and then there are great grandchildren, grandchildren and in-laws. It can get really complicated with these extended families and travel schedules. Everyone has to be flexible. This is why we try to maintain just a few traditions. Most years around Thanksgiving my daughter comes to my house. We go out in the woods and cut pine and cedar boughs for decoration. It is a simple tradition but always fun. Afterwards we may go downtown and look around for new ideas, but mostly it's about spending time together. 

Another tradition is planning a Christmas craft we can do together. We decide on something that can be done in a few hours. This year we wanted to try folding a paperback book into the shape of a Christmas Tree. Thrift stores are the perfect place to find supplies without a huge cost. If it doesn't work out, we don't want to invest a lot of money. For this project we looked for Christmas stories in a paperback book of about 350 pages. The resale stores usually save the Christmas books until the holidays and put a lot of them out together. They are usually 50 cents to $1.  There are also a large variety of picture frames for under a $1. A book, a frame, scrapbook paper and some glue is all we needed for this project.

The plan was to come to my house, but we changed the location to my daughter's house. She has a She Shed full of paper, trimmings and about anything we needed and even some things we didn't even know we needed. 

This was the process. After choosing a book without a lot of cuss words or compromising situations, we started breaking down the spline so the book would lay flat. Finding the center of the book and pressing down in both directions was the best way to flatten it out. Next we started folding each page. First fold from the top right to the center and then fold again to the center. Continue folding about fifty pages toward the back of the book. Then in reverse and fold another fifty pages toward the front.

When all the pages are creased and folded they will stay in place. After the tree is finished, it's time to pick the background paper, decorate the tree and glue it onto the backing. 

These are our completed projects. Cute, cheap and fun to make. At first I thought it would take hours to fold all those pages, but it didn't take long at all.

These are a few of our crafting projects from the past few years. A painted gnome sign, a fabric Christmas tree, tee shirts and a candy cane vase. I still have most of them except for the candy cane vase. In the future we will not be making anything with real candy canes unless we store it in the freezer. You guessed it. Last summer that one melted into a sticky puddle. Good thing we have picture memories.

Next week we will be making Christmas cookies. All of my grandchildren want to come which makes me very happy.  
Make Your Own Traditions Whenever You Can.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

My New Experience With Competitive Robotics

6o years ago when I was in high school there were basic boy's sports which were wrestling, football, track and basketball. Some schools had swimming. I'm not sure when competitive soccer started, but I hadn't even heard of soccer back then. Except for a girl's athletic club called GAA, girls sports in the early to mid sixties were non-existent. There were things like Forensics that have been around for a long time, but there were not as many activities as there are now. Today kids have access to many more competitive sports. I had my first experience with one of them today.

My two youngest grandsons are on their school Robotics team and my son-in-law is one of their coaches. Different schools compete with a team member controlling their robot to toss triballs to the opposing team’s side. Triballs are 3 sided balls. There are several 12' by 12' courts resembling a boxing ring set up in a gymnasium. There are officials keeping score. Different moves are worth different points. Then the teams are ranked by score. In the second half, teams choose which team to work with based on ranking. They compete and are eliminated until there is a champion. This was my first time attending a competition, and I hope I got it right. There is strategy and specific rules but that is way over my head at this point. This is the information on the back of the program. Many of you will understand it better than I do. 

I really enjoyed it. I was surprised this was the 10th year of competition at this school. I am really late to the party.  Robots were something I learned about in the old cartoon show The Jetsons but that was fiction. Now they are common place. My daughter told me that UW Eau Claire has robots deliver food to student dorms by using an app. 

This is normal to young people, but it is hard for me to comprehend. Robotics is a sport that anyone interested can participate in. Most kids are proficient at video games and using a remote control. I can open my garage door but that's about it. There are girl and boy participants. My grandson Jack broke his foot and was on crutches, but he could still participate. My other grandson Ewan is in eighth grade but could be on a team with high school teammates. The best part is that cousins could hang out together with Jack's uncle and Ewan's dad and both my daughters could spend time together.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Pumpkin Pie Squares

With Thanksgiving Day just around the corner I am reminded of a recipe I made over twenty years ago. I just basically forgot about it until recently when I was trying to sort through my recipe drawer. I never did get it sorted because I got distracted so many times by some of my old tried and true recipes. This is one of those recipes. I made it today to see if it's as good as I remembered it to be. It was very good. I think I would cut back on the sugar in the filling a bit, but otherwise it tasted as I remembered it. It saves the hassle of making traditional crust. 

Pumpkin Pie Squares


1 cup flour

1/2 cup quick oatmeal

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Cut in 1/2 cup of butter until crumbly and incorporated. Then press into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Bake it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

While that is baking, combine

1 small (15 oz) can of pumpkin

1 can of evaporated milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar (could be cut to 1/2 cup)

1/2 t. salt

1 3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice or (1 t . cinnamon, 1/2 t. ginger and 1/4 t. cloves)

Beat the mixture well and pour onto the warm crust. Bake at 350 degrees about 25 minutes.

While that is baking mix together:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup brown sugar     

2 T. butter

Sprinkle the mixture over the pumpkin filling and return to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes more or until the filling is set.

When cool, refrigerate.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Salted Caramel Coffee Creamer

In this blog I am going to be combining two recipes I have written about in the past. I am making salted caramel coffee creamer. Nine years ago I posted another recipe for Peppermint Mocha creamer.  It is very good too.

The first ingredient in this recipe is 2 cups of half and half or milk. I made a half recipe of Cashew milk to use instead of Cow's milk. One half recipe is 1/2 cup of cashews and 2 cups of water.

Cashew Milk

1 cup raw cashews (pieces are fine)

4 cups water

Soak the cashews for two hours and drain off the water.  

In a high power blender add the soaked cashews to two cups of water.  Blend for 2 minutes.

Then add the rest of the water (another 2 cups) and blend for another minute.

It's ready, no straining necessary.  As you can see, it's a white creamy milk that can be interchanged with dairy milk in most recipes.

The next ingredient is caramel made with one can of sweetened condensed milk in the instant pot.

If you look at the ingredients in most coffee creamers, you will see added ingredients like palm or vegetable oil, preservatives, flavoring and emulsifiers. Coffeemate Natural Bliss has good ingredients but always read the label. If you don't know what an ingredient is or how to pronounce it, then you probably shouldn't eat or drink it.  This recipe isn't dairy free, but I cut the dairy by using cashew milk.  Sweetened condensed milk contains only milk and sugar,  nothing extra is added.  The calories in this creamer is low.  With the cashew milk it's about 30 calories per tablespoon. 

Salted Caramel Coffee Creamer

2 cups milk (I used Cashew milk)

1 cup of caramel (one can of sweetened condensed milk made into caramel)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp vanilla

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and warm over medium heat until the caramel dissolves. Don't boil but warm until it's blended.

Put this in a jar and store in the refrigerator. 

I don't use creamer in hot coffee. I like it black, but this is really good in iced coffee. I make cold brew coffee with a special cold brew filter infuser that fits in a two quart wide mouth mason jar. I just put about 1/3 cup of course ground coffee in the filter and place it in a two quart jar. I add filtered water to fill the jar and put the lid on. I let it sit for at least 12 hours. You can add more coffee for a stronger brew. When I want an iced coffee, I pour this cold brew over ice and add enough of this creamer to taste. Delicious.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Summer Vacation 2023 - Part 2

Just a short time ago Wisconsin had record breaking warm temperatures. With temperatures in the 80's I wasn't thinking how close to fall and winter we were. Today the high is 55 degrees and reality has set in. I want to write about the rest of my summer vacation before I have to shovel snow.

In part one of my summer vacation I wrote about our great trip to South Dakota. My oldest grandson was staying in my house so I had no worries about leaving. It made it even more relaxing not being concerned about leaving the lights on or forgetting to unplug something. When I returned home it was as if I hadn't left. I was home for a couple weeks and then it was time to visit Traverse City Michigan.  

My sister and her husband live there and their children get together for a week every summer.  For the past few years my daughter and family have joined them in the fun. This summer was no exception.  We all had a wonderful time. Traverse City is so gorgeous and has become a popular place for well known celebrities. My sister has a famous neighbor but I won't mention the name. They need private time but I have to say I spied on them for an embarrassing amount of time.

The kids filled their time with many different activities. Those over 21 went on a wine and ale tour. I didn't go so I don't really know how it worked, but I do know they laughed a lot and had a great time traveling from place to place on a trolley/bus and sampling the products. We all met for pizza afterward. It was fantastic.

Most of the time the kids did their thing, and we did ours. We sat on the beach near the Mission Point lighthouse at the tip of the Old Mission peninsula, we ate out a few times, we watched my nieces darling little girl and spent a lot of quality time chatting.  For a few of the major activities we went to watch the fun.

Traverse City Michigan has an outdoor experience called Wheels on Rails. They have modified rail cars with bicycle pedals allowing participants to pedal along existing rails that are out of service. I didn't actually see this activity, but the pictures looked like so much fun .

They climbed the Sleeping Bear dunes. It was quite a workout but everyone made it. I remember trying it several years ago, and it isn't easy to climb in sand.

Some of the younger kids had a parasailing experience over Traverse Bay. They were nervous but had a lot of fun. At my age I would never have been brave enough to do it, but it was great to watch from shore. 

We attended a minor league baseball game. Traverse City's home team is called the Pit Spitters. The city is known for having a National Cherry Festival and produces 40% of the nations tart cherry crop so I guess the team name is based on spitting out cherry pits.  They played the Kenosha Kingfish. Of course I cheered for the Wisconsin team. There were a lot of empty seats, but it was a great night for baseball.

Right up there with parasailing was the most unusual activity of the week. The entire group took curling lessons at a local curling club. Most had never played before and knew nothing about the sport, but they caught on quickly. Many of the group are very competitive so it was fun to watch. Afterward the club provided a great dinner.

I am sure I missed some of the things we did during the week like getting ice cream and shopping, but overall a lot of fun was packed into one week. A lot of memories were made again this year.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Summer of 2023 - Part 1

In the past few months I have put my blogging on hold, but I am going to try to get back into it for a little while. I like goals, and I just realized that I am less than one hundred blogs away from reaching one thousand and  have over seven hundred fifty thousand views. I think I can come up with few more before I quit for good

The summer started out in the usual way. After the snow melted my pond and marsh were filled with water and critters.

In May the migrating ducks started to return and the turtles and frogs emerged providing food for the herons and Sandhill cranes. All was well until the drought began. The summer of 2023 was the driest in my memory. I only mowed my yard three times from May to this day in September.  Summers in Wisconsin are usually spent mowing, trimming and planting but without rain nothing grew very much. At the end of May my daughter decided it would be fun to take me on a vacation. She has a job where she will work several days in a row including the weekend and then she will have almost a week off.

One of things on my wish list was to visit South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore. My husband and I traveled to many areas of the United States but somehow we missed this part of the country. I was on our wish list. So this year as soon as school was out, my daughter, my grandson Jack and I took off on a little road trip. We planned a basic route, but we left room to be spontaneous. We left on a Monday morning. My daughter worked until 11:30 and then we left heading for LaCrosse Wisconsin and on to Austin, Minnesota. What is in Austin? The Spam Museum of course. It was great. My grandson had never eaten Spam, and I couldn't remember the last time I had it. Who knew what a rich history Spam has and how many varieties there actually are.

Since we got a late start, we stopped in the early evening. We stayed in an unremarkable motel and ate uninteresting food but looked forward to the next day. The next stop was Mitchell, South Dakota and the Corn Palace. I had seen pictures of my husband as a little boy visiting this place, but I had never seen it. I guess it's been in existence in this building since 1921. I had no idea.

As we continued on our journey,  we arrived at the Badlands. It is so much more vast than I imagined. We stayed there for an entire day. We explored and walked trails. It was amazing.

There were some interesting views, swallow nests, beware of rattlesnakes signs and different plants than we are used to in Wisconsin. 

We stayed at a motel with a view of the park. It could have been a gorgeous place in this setting but it was long past its prime, I hope someone buys it and either builds a new one or restores it. I think right now it's clientele is a little sketchy. Let's put it this way, I slept with one eye open. I understand the population of this area is very sparse and the park is probably not busy in the winter so it probably isn't feasible to build a nicer place. We couldn't find a place to eat and ended up at my first biker bar. Fortunately it was before the place woke up. The sign pulling into the parking area made me a bit nervous, but it was fine.

The next morning we did find a breakfast place in the park gift shop. We backtracked through the park and went to a place that was closed the day before. It was a National Historical Site for the Minuteman Missile. It was a great reminder of that time in history. Everyone in school during those years remembers families building bomb shelters and the students doing drills by hiding under our desks. Nothing would have protected us in a nuclear attack, but I was oblivious to its seriousness.

After this interesting presentation we headed to Keystone, South Dakota where we were staying for the next two nights. On the way was the famous Wall Drug. A trip to South Dakota wouldn't be complete without free coffee and fresh donuts from Wall Drug. The coffee was hardly drinkable but that was beside the point. It was the experience of the place and an experience it was. It teetered on being too overwhelming for us. We didn't stay long.

The next two nights we stayed at the Powder House Lodge in Keystone which was only four miles from Mt. Rushmore. It was so nice and convenient. 

Since we were staying very near Mt. Rushmore, we went there as soon as it opened in the morning. People were saying it was underwhelming, but I didn't think so. I thought it was amazing.

This was a busy day. After Mt. Rushmore we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial.

The Crazy Horse statue was first started in 1948 and the model made in 1946.  The progress is very slow, but the museum was interesting. A replica of the finished statue was displayed. We enjoyed seeing some authentic dancers and memorabilia. 

After Crazy Horse we were supposed to have a tour of Wind Cave National Park. It was cancelled so we decided to see a Mammoth excavation site. Hot Springs, South Dakota has an active dig site with mammoth remains,  A video upon entering explains how it happened. There are many stages of uncovering the bones. It is very a meticulous process. 

From here we headed to Custer State Park. Everyone told us that was a place where we will see animals. I had my camera ready. We drove and drove and drove. We saw nothing except a couple deer like I can see out of my window and a dog tied to a pole. There were no buffalo blocking the road and running beside the car. There were no donkeys or anything else. As we got back to the highway, my grandson said he saw some buffalo off in a woods sleeping under some trees. It isn't what we expected. 

Another thing we didn't expect was our next adventure. Someone told us to be sure to drive the Needles Eye highway.

It was beautiful for me but my poor daughter was white knuckling it the whole trip. There were no guard rails and very narrow roads. I am glad I experienced this, but I will probably never see it again.

It was a busy day, but a wonderful day.  We had packed a lot in just one day. As we headed back to Keystone, we enjoyed the Black Hills with its beautiful scenery. After a short rest, we headed downtown. We found a place to eat pizza outside. A cowboy was drumming up business for a show taking place later. We walked around a bit. This is where we saw the massive chainsaw art. I have trouble cutting down a few branches. These people are cutting with huge chainsaws all day long. They are truly artists.

The following morning we headed home. We had planned to stop about half way home and we did. We got a motel room and went to eat. When we entered the room it was smelly and awful. Since we were refreshed and fed, we got our money back and continued home with a few breaks.

One of our breaks was to see the Dignity Of Earth & Sky statue. It is a 50 foot stainless steel statue to honor the Lakota and Dakota people. It represents courage, perseverance and wisdom. It overlooks the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota.

At the rest stop which showcased the Dignity sculpture, we visited an amazing Louis and Clark museum. It told the story of Louis and Clark. It had replicas of boats and items used. Imagining the size of these things doesn't compare to seeing the actual size. 

We missed the Jolly Green Giant for some reason. On the way down the on ramps were under construction but we didn't see it on the way home either. It was a very long trip from Keystone, SD to Princeton/Berlin, WI. We got home very late, but it was nice to be home. We had only been gone five days but we saw a lot of sights and it didn't seem rushed. It was one of the best and most relaxed trips I had ever been on.

My summer of 2023 will be continued in Part 2.