Saturday, March 15, 2014

The River Otter and The Eagle

It's days like today that I wish I had a better zoom lens for my camera.  I'm not a professional photographer so I can't justify spending thousands of dollars on a longer zoom.  A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the otters that we see in the spring.  I was hoping they would return, and I saw them again today.

The snow is melting fast, and the ice is very thin.  That is when the river otters come out to play.  I noticed that one otter had poked a hole in the ice and came out for a while.  These next photos are as close as I could get.

I watched the otter for a while and then I had to run to the store for some bananas.  My dad has a banana every night as part of his bedtime snack.  I was completely out.  When I returned I saw an eagle eating something out on the ice.  I couldn't tell what it was, but I hope it wasn't an otter.  I tried to go outside to take a closer photo but the eagle flew away when I barely got out the door.  I'm thinking it is probably a fish.  In the past I have seen the eagles eat fish from holes in the ice.  I sure hope that is the case.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Soap Nuts For Your Laundry

Several months ago I wrote a blog about how I make and use homemade laundry soap.  It worked very well, and it is very economical to make.  This detergent costs only a few cents per load.  For a long time I made the liquid version, but it was messy and it was a large amount to store.  Then I switched to the dry powder which I blogged about.

Recently I learned of something else to use for laundry soap.  This is what it is!

Soap Nuts

These are called Soap Nuts. Soap nuts are the dried shells (or husks) from the soapberry tree.  These shells contain a substance called saponin that produces a soaping effect. Saponin is a low sudsing natural soap that can be used in top loading and front loading high efficiency machines.  It doesn't contain any of the harsh chemicals that are found in many laundry detergents, and they are antibacterial and biodegradable.  I ordered a half a pound of nuts.  Apparently I will be able to wash about 80-100 loads of laundry with this amount.

All you do is put 3-5 of the nuts in a little muslin bag (I also use little knitted soap bags) which comes with the order, tie it shut and toss the bag into the washer.  You can use the same bag of nuts 5 times before putting in new ones.  If the bag wears out, an old sock works just as well.  There is also a way to make liquid detergent with them.  You just boil them according to directions and strain the liquid into a jar.  A little goes a long way.  I ordered mine from a company called Pucketa Creek Trading (  They offer free shipping on an order or a free sample to try. and others also sell them.  I admit I haven't used them for very long and haven't made the liquid, but they seem to clean well.  I'm sure heavy stains would have to be pre-treated just like you would with any detergent.  It was even suggested that you freeze the liquid in ice cube trays and toss one or two into the washer.

I also found a website that gives recipes for using these Soap Nuts to make dishwasher detergent, window cleaner, general cleaner, bathroom cleaner, face, hand or body wash and insect repellent in your garden.

I know it doesn't seem possible that these would work, but nature provides us a lot of things we aren't familiar with.  I read a blog from a person who has used them for two years and loves them.

I will report back in a few weeks to report whether I continue to like using these Soap Nuts.  So far, I love them.  

Update:  I have used the soap nuts for several months now.  I like them because our clothes don't get that dirty and they are so easy to use.  I noticed the whites need a little boost now and then and spots need to be pretreated.   Overall, they are great and I will continue to use them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This Week's Action On The Trail Camera

It has been a while since I shared some of the photos I have captured on the trail camera.  Most days are pretty much the same, but I still go out everyday.  I pull out the photo SD card and put in a new one.  I have updated my look from my previous trail camera posts.  Instead of the old red plaid flannel nightgown with floral sweatpants, I now wear a pale blue t-shirt knit nightgown with a matching pair of pants.  My husband's big boots remain the same.  Aren't I a fashion forward person?  It's a balmy 18 degrees so I didn't need a winter coat.  A lightweight fleece was enough warmth.  It's probably because I'm so HOT!

Each 24 hour period we usually have around 100 pictures of squirrels, raccoon, birds, deer, possum and anything else that wanders past the camera day and night.

A raccoon and a deer deciding who gets the last bite.

Pretty soon the Bucks will have shed their antlers.  Then I won't be able to tell the deer apart except for the little doe who limps.  She either injured her leg and it healed crooked or she was born with a defect.  I am always happy to see her because I was afraid she couldn't keep up during this brutal winter.

He lost one of his antlers.  I imagine by now he has lost the other one.
See the possum.  Neither pay any attention to the other.

The fox come by once in a while to see what new goodies have been put out.  This was the night after our early St. Patrick's Day meal.  The possum that came to dinner must have put the word out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Orange Gluten Free Bundt Cake and An Easy Pineapple Cake Topping

I can't believe it's recipe Tuesday already.  I wrote about the early St. Patrick's Day dinner we had two days ago on March 9th, so I thought I would post the recipes for two of the deserts we had.

My daughter made a gluten free Orange Bundt Cake.  It was very good and moist.  This recipe would also work with a regular cake mix.

Orange Bundt Cake
Orange Gluten Free Bundt Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package gluten free yellow cake mix or regular yellow cake mix
1 (3 ounce) package instant lemon pudding mix
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract

1/3 cup orange juice
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter

Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

In your mixer bowl stir together the cake mix and pudding mix.  Make a well in the center and pour in the orange juice, oil, eggs and lemon extract.  Beat on low until blended.  Scape the bowl and beat 4 minutes on medium speed.  Pour the batter into a prepared bundt pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes.  Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.

For the glaze:

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook 1/3 cup of orange juice, 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter for two minutes.  Drizzle it over the cake.  You may not need all of it.  Determine how much glaze you prefer.

The next recipe is a super easy way to come up with a tasty desert.   My mother made this often when she had unexpected company.  I used Pistachio pudding to give it a greenish color for St. Patrick's Day.  Sometimes I also use a pistachio cake with this topping.

Yellow Cake with Pineapple Topping

Pineapple Cake Topping

Just bake or buy a plain yellow sheet cake.   A white cake or pistachio cake would also work.

Mix together:

1 (20 oz ) can of Crushed Pineapple including the juice
1 package Instant vanilla pudding (I used pistachio pudding)
1 8-12 oz. Cool Whip

Cover the cake with this topping and refrigerate.  It keeps for several days in the refrigerator. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Our Grandson's A Junior Black Belt

Last weekend was a busy one.  Yesterday I wrote about our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner, but the day before was also very special.  On Saturday evening our grandson got his Junior Black Belt in karate.  I wrote about Sam getting his brown-black belt in May of 2013.


Through a lot of hard work and perseverance he got his black belt.  It was big celebration.  They had about 30 candidates at different levels. In order to achieve this, he had to write a paper on why he wanted to be a black belt.  He read it at the ceremony, and it was wonderful.  Sam is like me and public speaking is not something we do easily.  We all were very proud.  In addition to the paper, they had two long days of extensive testing.  There are several degrees of black belt.  The next 18 months he will be working on the next level to become a 1st degree Black Belt.

Sam with two of his instructors.

Doing this is a big commitment for the whole family.  It requires weekly instruction.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Every year it is tradition to make Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Patrick's Day.  This year we had the meal early because of the family's busy schedules.  Instead of the 17th of March, we had it today March 9th.  I had never had it or made it until I married someone with a very Irish name.  Now 45 years later, I'm still making Corned Beef.

I made three corned beefs, plus the usual carrots, red potatoes, rutabaga, onions and cabbage.  If you like corned beef, buy the flat cut and put it in the slow cooker.  It turns out great every time.

 Corned Beef cooked and ready to be sliced.

The grandkids aren't a big fan of corned beef so I also made three racks of ribs with mashed potatoes and cauliflower.  We had green jello, coleslaw,  rolls and a bowl of strawberries.  We had a lot of food.  Plus we had several deserts. 

I cut the ribs in smaller sections for easier eating.

We even had an uninvited guest come to the door.

What takes a couple days to prepare can be eaten in short order.  All that's left are dirty dishes.  There were some leftovers but not as much as you might think. Growing kids have big appetites.   Each family took home a doggy bag, and we will have one meal leftover for tomorrow.

Lots of dirty dishes but it was worth it.

After dinner was time for a little relaxation.  Every one was tired because the clocks got pushed ahead last night for daylight saving time.

A little nap.

Three generations of Steffen boys watching Batman.

The party's over, but this guy doesn't know it.  

Happy St. Patrick's Day