Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Great Way To End 2022

We had a great Christmas this year. This was the second Christmas without my husband, but we feel he was here in spirit. The first Christmas was more grieving, this day was more about memories. It is always changing. Sometimes things happen, whether real or perceived, that are comforting. I was handing out the presents to my family. It was a job he always enjoyed doing. While passing out the gifts, Mike wore a Santa hat with the Green Bay Packers colors.

I had handed out the presents, and we were going to take turns opening them so everyone could see. My daughter asked who was going to wear the Santa hat that dad always wore. The words were no sooner out of her mouth when a beautiful Eagle flew right passed the patio door. I was facing the door and said "oh my gosh, an eagle just flew right in front of the door".  My daughter said she didn't see it and it turned around so we could see it fly past again. The timing was perfect.

The grandkids are all grown.  They range in age from 22 to 12 and they all showed up.  They played games, ate all kinds of junk foods and just hung out at grandma's house.  

The good part was not one gift had to be returned (that I know of).  Even though being together should have been enough of a gift, we all got things we needed or wanted. I even got a gift I didn't even know I needed or wanted, but it was awesome.  It will provide me with entertainment everyday for a long time to come.

It is a bird feeder with a camera.  The camera is connected to wifi and through an app I can access activity from my phone in either real time or pictures.  If you are watching live and see something fun, you can video it or snap a picture. The app saves the pictures until you delete them. If you aren't watching Live, it will record the activity to be watched later. There is a SD card and a solar panel for power.  Initially I had to charge it up through a charging cord because our lack of sun this winter isn't going to be very helpful until we get more sunshine. Here are some examples of pictures that were saved.  I posted a few of these on Facebook, but I also want to save them to this blog.

Most of my friends who read this blog know my youngest grandson Ewan. Ewan is an outdoors man for sure. If his parents would let him, he would sleep outside in the snow under a tarp. He likes making things and always makes me a gift or two at Christmas. This year he wanted to make something for the birds. He convinced his mother to help, and they made these suet and seed donuts. I guess it was a pretty messy job and I should enjoy these because I may never receive more.

However there is more to the story.  Everyone knows how much I like seeing deer wander through the yard. I could never be a hunter, but that is my personal opinion. I can barely eat beef so venison is not an option. Shooting for sport is not something I was raised with. My grandson's other grandfather is a hunter. Ewan went to hunter safety class and went deer hunting this year. He shot his first deer. Part of being a hunter is dressing it in the field and then butchering it for the meat. Well, in the process of butchering the deer, he cut off all the excess fat and guess what he did with it. Yup, melted it down for Nana's bird donuts. They didn't just melt it down in a pan on the stove, they melted in a pan on an old wood burning cook stove. He is all about being authentic. I wouldn't have known any of this but after I opened the box and handled them, I was told to go wash my hands. I thought that was a strange request. Then I learned why. Fortunately the birds like them and they look cute hanging outside. I won't have to touch them again.

I also got some useful items including water softening salt.  It will be so nice not to think about filling my water softener tank with salt for a while.  

After presents Ewan and his parents went snowshoeing out on the marsh while the others watched football and played video games. We had just gotten a lot of snow so it was perfect for snowshoeing. They walked a long way and he was in his glory.

It is a good thing they did because a week before Christmas there were ducks swimming on this pond and four days after everything was melting.  

This is my tenth year writing this blog, and I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read it. We are now on to 2023 and all the adventures waiting for us.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

No, I Don't Want To Be A Minimalist

Being a minimalist is all the rage. There are Facebook groups, podcasters and bloggers promoting this way of life. I say it's all a bunch of hooey. I'm not saying you should be a hoarder or even disorganized, but living in a sterile hospital environment is not for me. They say living without "stuff" makes you less anxious and calmer. Maybe it does that for some people, but I like my "stuff". It gives me comfort. They say things don't make you happy, but having something on hand when you need it is less stressful than spending a day going store to store finding it. We always say "they say", but who are they and how are they experts?

In an attempt to reach a happy medium between starkness and clutter, I went through the house. I organized and eliminated some things that I knew I wouldn't need. That's where the trouble began. I pretty much knew where everything was in my house. In case I ever have vision problems, I could still find my way around. Not so much now. For example, I always kept my address book in my closet on a shelf. My thought process reasoned that it really should be in the desk drawer and so I moved it. A few days ago I was sending a card in the mail. I went to my closet and couldn't find it. I panicked a little and wondered if my mind was not as sharp as it once was. It wasn't as sharp but not in the way you would think. I moved the darn thing and forgot that I put it in a "better" spot. It took me a while to remember. It went back to the closet. Muscle memory is much better than my real memory.

The same thing happened with my checkbook. I put extra store cards and the checkbook in a safe place before I went on my last trip. Yesterday I went to my purse for the checkbook and of course it wasn't there. Another panic feeling in the pit of my stomach. Did I lose it? Did someone steal it? That couldn't be, I hardly ever write a check anymore. Then it dawned on me to look in the safe place, but where was that again? Another hour wasted trying to find it. 

Heaven knows you can't have piles of papers sitting out in plain sight so they have to be stashed away from human eyes in case someone drops by and thinks you aren't taking care of your life. It happened with a birthday card I recently bought for my sister. I am notorious for buying the cards but not sending them. In fact I found a bunch of them in the desk drawer while looking for my address book. I had been to the store for the candy canes we used in our latest craft project. For some reason I felt the need to put the card in the bag of candy canes. More time wasted looking for it. I even emptied the recycle bin in case I threw it away. It would have been so much better and more efficient to leave it on the counter until I mailed it.

My grandma was like that.  By the time she got into her 80's she wasn't much of a housekeeper, but you could ask her for anything and she could come up with it in seconds. One time my parents decided to help her out and clean her house. She was so darn mad. She couldn't find anything anymore. That's how I feel about this minimalist nonsense. I refuse to take the toaster out from underneath the cupboard every time I want a piece of toast. I like my kitchen utensils next to the stove so I can grab what I need. I like decorations and stuff hanging on the wall. Not so much on flat surfaces, but I don't have much of that.

To each their own, but for me I find joy and memories in my stuff. It doesn't have to look like a mess to keep things, but if you're happy in a mess then so what. My kids can throw it away when I'm gone, but for now I am going to be a maximalist if that's even a word. Plus if I ever get robbed, they couldn't find any valuables. Nothing is in the logical spot. I almost submitted to peer pressure at my advanced age, but I came to my senses before it was too late.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Resourceful or Stubborn, Who Knows

Today is Thursday, December 1, 2022. I am 75 years old, but I still try to keep up the usual Christmas traditions. I should be working on that now, but I don't feel like it. That is the beauty of being 75. Every year I vow to cut back on decorations and on buying gifts, but so far I just can't. It may take me a bit longer, but I get it done. Actually the pressure is on from before Thanksgiving and everyone feels they have to be completely ready before December 1. Since I start earlier things are getting done as they always have. Buying online makes it a lot easier and fun. I can sit in my chair, order things and have the fun of having boxes delivered to my door, but that isn't what this blog is about. I may not have the job experience, several college degrees or a brand new house and car, but I have common sense and will always try to figure things out.

I am telling these stories from just one week of my life for my grandchildren and the great grandchildren I may have some day. They can say that this old grandma was resilient and resourceful.

Almost everyday something comes up that has to be figured out. It may be computer issues, mechanical issues or just why the light in the bedroom isn't working when it has a new lightbulb in it. My solutions may not be done to the standards set by others, but so what. Some of them work and others don't, but I always try. The night before Thanksgiving I decided to take a short cut and buy my pie shells. I always like to pre-bake the crust a little to prevent the soggy bottom that can happen with pumpkin pies. I put the shells in the oven for four minutes and they burned. I can't imagine why other than the crusts were made from oil, but they did so at 10pm I made pie shells from scratch. They weren't the greatest but I got the pies baked before bed. As you can see from the photo I overbaked them a little but I actually like them that way. I really need to check the temperature of my oven, but that's another day.

Next I wanted to put up my All Through the House decoration.  The collection was started by my mom, but I have expanded it to the point of too many pieces. It is actually a living room setting at Christmas released by Dept. 56, so to make it more realistic I bought a bath mat and I'm using it as carpeting.  

Then my printer kept powering off.  I did the usual and unplugged it.  That was an easy one, it worked after that.

My dishwasher was next.  I loaded it up and turned it on.  Nothing happened and the lights began to flash.  I turned the breaker off and back on.  The lights stopped flashing but began again as soon as I pushed the start button. I have to admit, I went to YouTube. I tried several things and then came upon a video saying I needed to reset the electrical panel by pushing certain buttons alternately five times and wait for the restart. It worked and my dishwasher went through the whole cycle just fine. I haven't tried it again and I'm sure it's a sign of the appliance failing, but at least I didn't have to unload and wash those dishes by hand. If only appliance repair people were easily available. I see a new dishwasher in my future. I know many people think dishwashers are unnecessary, but I am not one of them.  I make the broth, I make bread, I experiment with things all the time. I need the help of a dishwasher.

I won't go into all the little things a person has to figure out on a daily basis, but this is something my children and grandchildren will just shake their heads at. As many of you know, I make bone broth to drink every morning. I have done it for almost seven years and have blogged about it a few times. I buy my bones from a local farm that raises grass fed cattle. Some of the bones are large and don't fit into my pressure cooker very well. It was never a problem. I had a dedicated saw blade in the drawer and would just cut them to size. As I have gotten older, I don't have the hand strength I once did. Today I remedied that situation. My husband had a lot of power tools that are just sitting on a shelf in the basement. I went down and found a saws-all or saber saw. I'm not sure the name, but it was cordless. I popped the battery in, found and sterilized a new saw blade and cut the bones into sizes that will fit my cooker. My daughter told me not to do it while I was here alone, but geez how else am I going to get things done. It worked like a charm, and I still have all my digits.

Oh yes and I put the hood up on the car and checked things.  Remember when I made mouse poison out of salt, peanut butter and birdseed. I put some in the garage and the next couple times I drove the car I could smell cookies baking. I was worried the little varmints had hidden some poison in the engine. I finally remembered to check and found a few leaves but nothing else. Maybe someone in the neighborhood was actually baking. I was a bit worried about how I would explain an engine fire that smelled like cookies.

I also used the leaf blower to dust the stones on my fireplace and the ceiling fan.  Of course it was before I vacuumed but it was amazing all the little dust bunnies that fell to the floor.

Another thing I did this week involved repurposing and feeding the birds. Last year I was gifted a beautiful Bird Lodge. The birds loved it and I re-coated it several times during the winter. I used a method that involved mixing flour and corn syrup. It was pretty messy, but it worked. This year I received another one.  

Within a few days, the birds ate almost every seed. I had saved the house from last year and I tried a new technique. I just painted on corn syrup without anything added. It was very sticky and I sprinkled safflower seed all over it. I let is dry for a while and put it outside next to the new one which I will have to work on soon. The birds love this one too.  

I am certain there are many of us in this older generation who refuse to throw things in the garbage until we know for sure they are completely broken and unusable. I am certain it would never occur to young people to improvise like we do, but maybe they won't have to. I have a robot vacuum cleaner cleaning up after my leaf blowing activity. Who knows what the future holds. There may be a robot that does all the chores while a person is off to work or just having fun. Look how everything has changed in the last few years. Y2K was almost 23 years ago. Remember how afraid everyone was that the world would shut down. We didn't miss a beat and life with all the technology continued to move faster than we have. Good or bad, we can't stop it now. We just have to hang on tight and do the best we can do.

Friday, November 11, 2022

I Don't Like Mice

For those who know me and either read this blog or have me as a Facebook friend, you know that I am into nature. I love watching the birds and keeping track of other animals that come onto my property. The balance of nature is amazing which contradicts what I am going to say. There is a member of the animal species that is at the very bottom of my list. They are rodents like mice and rats. In my opinion these rodents have no redeeming qualities except to provide food for snakes and other animals. For this reason I have no qualms about eliminating as many as possible. I have been known to put a bee, a cricket or even a spider back outside if I find one indoors, but not a mouse.  I am sure there are purists who like all living breathing things but mice give me the heebie-jeebies. Mice are part of life when you live in the country. I have sealed up this house like a drum, but occasionally one gets into my laundry room. I have a couple traps set at all times and check every morning. This is the time of year they want to get in, and I rejoice at every one caught in the trap.  

Fortunately my house isn't a problem but that is not the case with my garage, shed and the old original building that served as a garage when this house was built. I have kept it in its natural state but it's starting to look pretty bad and is really easy access for mice.

This past summer I cleaned out this garage and organized what was in there. I found many signs of mice.  There were gross nests and chewed up items. It was disgusting. I can't set that many traps and keep up with it, so I found another way. I didn't want to set out poison and risk other animals getting into it. I did a search and came up with this recipe. It is safe for larger animals, but I would recommend putting these blocks near foundations or areas that are difficult for pets to get at. There is no sense taking a chance with getting your pet sick. This much salt can't be good. This website has tons of good information about a lot of DIY help.

The recipe for the mouse poison is here.  

It is basically four ingredients.

Just mix together 2 cups of birdseed, 1/3 cup of table salt, 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1 egg and pat it out about 1/2 inch thick on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. I used a small 8 inch cake pan. Bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to set up the dough. I cut the bars before I baked them so they broke  apart easily. Mice and rats have a unique digestive system. The huge amount of salt sits in the mouse intestines and dehydrates them. You won't see dead mice and they won't smell because they dry up before they smell.

If you truly love mice, there are ways to live trap them and relocate to a cornfield or meadow. I have used these poison blocks for a while, and the mouse population is diminishing. At first, these blocks were devoured overnight but now they are sitting uneaten for a while. The mice are either getting smart or new populations move in as the old ones disappear. Eventually the mice population will be manageable. No worries, the mouse and rat population will never be endangered.

Friday, October 21, 2022

My Nine Day Bus Trip To Coastal Maine

Well I did it. I stepped way out of my comfort zone and took a nine day bus trip to Maine.  

I thought it was a trip for older retired people and it kind of was. The only trouble is that retired people or nearly retired people are sixty years old or younger. I was at least fifteen years older than a lot of people on the trip. As it turned out, we had a very lively bus with a lot of laughing and teasing. Stepping this far out of my comfort zone did not come easily for me, but this group was fun. I saw tons of interesting things I would never have seen. I knew my son-in-law’s parents and met another single woman, so I wasn't totally alone. Linda, the other single is a newly retired fifty eight year old who had tons of energy. She was flitting around taking in the whole experience. It was wonderful to watch, and even though I am not like that I am happy she was. I sat alone because of assigned seats, and I walked to and entered an assigned hotel room by myself which was a little creepy. I didn't mind rooming alone but I immediately locked myself in and didn't leave. Most conversations were pretty superficial and a little awkward at first. You only begin to know people when it was time to go home. I am very grateful to Beth, Wayne and Linda for having someone to eat with and have in my sights. I know the group leaders make sure everyone is accounted for, but it was nice to have someone else to keep track. A lot of people already knew each other and spent that time together which was a lot of fun for them and made the time pass quickly, but more than twenty hours of sitting on a bus is way too long for me. We stopped every two hours but it was at crowded truck stops and waysides. It was like a herd of cattle going out of the bus and back in. 

If you have the opportunity to either drive to Maine in the fall or go on a bus trip with a few friends, do it. It's fun to discuss the things in real time, so traveling alone isn't the best. Needless to say, I probably will not be doing this type of travel again. There were funny things that happened, sad things and everything in between. I started coughing on the 7th day. It was just a small cough. I thought it was from dehydration because even though we stopped often, I didn't drink enough. I was so afraid I had gotten Covid even though I had the two original covid shots and three boosters plus a flu shot. I felt like every time I coughed, people were cringing. When we returned to our starting point, I bolted off the bus and got to my car quickly. I didn't properly say goodbye to anyone. When I got home I tested myself.....Negative thank goodness. 

Now for the good part. We saw a lot of new things. I can't even begin to write about all of them, but here are some highlights. This may be a longer blog so beware.

The first and last days were spent traveling. It is a long long trip to Coastal Maine. It is more than 1200 miles. We stayed in Ohio for the first and the last night. The second day we stopped at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in Erie PA. It had environmental exhibits and a view of Lake Erie. So far there is very little fall color. This was the only stop on day 2 except for food and facilities. We spent the night in Auburn, NY.

Day 3 we made it to South Portland, Maine where we stayed for four days.  We saw a 5000 acre farm called Pineland Farms. My first reaction was why would they take a bunch of Wisconsin people, many of them farmers, to a farm, but it was pretty interesting. They had beautiful gardens. I had never seen an artichoke plant in bloom.

 They had National award winning Morgan horses. We gathered in an arena for a demonstration of these beautiful animals. 

From here we went on to the Boothbay Railway Village. It was a typical old village where they had some authentic buildings and a short rail ride. It was the kind of village you see in a lot of areas of the country. I didn't have to travel to Maine for this, but I did get to pretend drive an old firetruck.

Later that afternoon we went to Boothbay Harbor. It was a pretty little harbor town. Many of the shops were closed for the season, but the view was nice. We finally saw a little color in the trees.

It was a busy day, but it wasn't over.  From Boothbay we loaded on the bus and went to dinner. It was a traditional lobster dinner. I chose not to get the whole lobster. Since I'm not that fond of lobster I chose Lazy Lobster where they took the meat out of the shell and served it in a dish of butter. We were on a tour so we only had a limited choices. We saw a person order a Lobster Roll off the menu. It was about two feet long and cost $159. It was unbelievable. Several people asked this poor fellow if they could take a photo of his dinner, but I found this photo on the Taste of Maine home page.

After a good nights sleep more or less, it was time to board the bus for Kennebunkport Maine. At this point we had a tour guide get on the bus for a tour of Kennebunkport. Although it was hard to see at times and I really wasn't interested in their town government or who tried to sell his land to the school,  it was fun to see the Bush family estate on Walker's Point and where Barbara Bush used to walk her dog. This is George Bush’s house but other family members also have homes on this point.

We stopped at a Franciscan monastery for a walking tour. They still have services in the outdoor chapel. It did have a beautiful view from one of the trails and an interesting Caster Bean plant.

The tour ended in downtown Kennebunkport where we had lunch at one of the local restaurants. No lobster for me, but I did have delicious haddock. It's a very different menu from what we have here in Wisconsin. It was a pretty little town.


On the way back for dinner we briefly stopped at the Seashore Trolley Museum. It was a short ride on a authentically restored streetcar. There was a conductor who portrayed what it would have been like riding this trolley in the early days.

From here we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner and back to the hotel.  

The next morning the bus departed for downtown Portland Maine. Portland Maine is the largest city in Maine. It's population is under 70,000 which is smaller that many Wisconsin towns. The surrounding area does increase that number quite a bit. The first stop was an old mansion called Victoria Mansion. It was the only stop on the trip that required masks. That was a bit surprising to me. Covid is still a reality and was always at the back of my mind. The mansion was built before the Civil War and was gorgeous. It had beautiful woodwork and ornate ceilings. Most of the furnishings were as it was when the house was built.  The house even had a bathroom inside the house which was very unusual.

After we saw the mansion, we picked up another tour guide. The bus tour around the city was good.  Portland, Maine is a very welcoming city.  The tour ended with a trip to Fort William Park to see the Head Lighthouse. I really enjoyed this part of the trip. We hiked to the Atlantic Ocean to test the temperature of the water and look at rocks. I even saw a Loon in the ocean which surprised me.

Since we had time and didn't want to arrive too early for dinner, we went to Freeport, Maine. This is where the L.L. Bean flagship store is located. This store never closes. They are open 24 hours a day all year long. Freeport had some other nice stores including a Lindt chocolate store and a Patagonia outlet store. 

This day ended with a "dinner party" with eight tour groups.  There were a lot of people and it was very loud but the restaurant handled the buffet very efficiently.  The food was very good. There was a little dancing. Our group were the lively ones. The DJ said he never had such participation in the years he has been doing this. Day 7 in the books. It was time to begin our long journey home but not before my favorite part of the trip. We went to Niagara Falls and rode the Maid of the Mist.  The Maid of the Mist is a sightseeing boat that travels into the mist of the huge waterfall into Canada for a bit and returns to the dock. 

I really didn't know what I was up against. I just listened to the guide who suggested going to the front of the boat for a complete experience. It was a very windy day. The falls was gorgeous. The boat began moving forward and the waves got higher. The wind was blowing so hard our pink ponchos started to look like balloons. I should have moved back but by the time I decided to do it, I couldn't move. The wind and water were so powerful that I just needed to hang on for dear life. I didn't take my glasses off and was fortunate they didn't blow off. I got completely soaked with ice cold water, but I loved every minute of it.  Even a rainbow appeared as we were coming out of the mist.

We were lucky because next year the only way to access the falls will be from the Canada side.  They are going to close down the American side of falls to do some erosion control and upkeep.  The park will have a new Welcome Center next year as well.  It looks like a big casino on the Canada side.

It was a lot for only nine days. It wasn't what I expected. I thought it would be more country churches and beautiful fall colors. Looking back I am glad I experienced the coastal Maine. It will be last time I will have this opportunity. I was not sure if I would be comfortable out of my comfort zone, but I am sure some good memories will resurface often. My tiny cough turned into a full blown cough, cold or flu. I have tested negative for covid a few times so I don't think it's that. I will never know where I got it. It was either from exposure to this virus, stress or getting soaked to the skin at Niagara. It was short lived so I am grateful. As I have learned later, some people on the trip did test positive for covid.  I hope no one got very sick. It's a chance you take when traveling with that many people.