A Little Bit of Everything

A week ago–Tuesday and Wednesday–our temperatures rose to a summery 80 (F) degrees. EJ and I could no longer resist putting the screens in so we could open the windows and let the fresh breeze blow out the winter’s stale air. I wore a t-shirt without coat, jacket, or sweater. It was nice. A little rain moved in later in the week–not as much as was forecast, but it made the grass greener and I can see the slightest smudge of green on the trees. But temperatures have gradually cooled and tomorrow and Thursday snow is forecasted. This up and down weather is why I don’t fully trust that Spring is here until sometime in May.

This weekend I made some homemade household cleaners. Right now I’m just trying them out, trying to find ones I like best. EJ made bread and peanut butter. We discussed a list of things that we’d like to try making in the future–cleaning products, food items, herb concoctions. One thing that I like about EJ and me is that we each make the things that interest us. If it’s a joint project–such as painting/decorating a room–then whoever has the strongest idea gets to have creative control. We support and encourage each other’s ideas, plans, or notions. If one doesn’t turn out, we have no problem tweaking it or redoing it.

Last night I did not sleep well. Not at all. I keep up on what is happening in the world, and although I am remaining mostly hopeful and strong, sometimes it overwhelms and stresses me, and then I can’t sleep, and then I am tired all day. I call this sort of day a “soul-sighing” day to describe when I wake up very tired and spend the day barely functioning–like a low battery–and waiting for night so I can go to bed.

Even though I barely slept, I woke up at about the same time as I always do. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep so I got up and did my morning chores. As I was outside opening up the coop, I decided to rake and shovel out the old straw. It’s quite a job. Over the winter, the chicken poop dries out and packs down, making a hard cover on the floor. It actually helps insulate the coop. When I clean out the coop in the spring, the poop is packed down enough so that there are times I can roll it up like a rug or carpet, although it’s heavy and today I just shoveled up chucks and sheets. Chicken poop makes good fertilizer so I carried it out into the garden. I figured the chickens can help work it into the soil. Their scratchings work up the soil very well. I didn’t finish cleaning out the coop today, although I did a lot and got a good start. When I finished, I came in and showered. Because. Chicken poop.

I stayed off the news sites today because my calm has been damaged and I need to restore it by doing enjoyable things. So I continued working on this blog. Last week I started making a tab with links to recipes. I am including some of my old favorites, some of our new successes, as well as ones we are experimenting with, such as shampoos. I will add others as we go along. You can find the “Recipes” tab under the Blog title.

In my last post, The Tracker of Everything, I described some of the things that I enjoyed tracking. Later, after a reader’s comments, I thought that maybe I should add the links I mentioned in the post in case others wanted to enjoy them as well. However, there were so many links and I realized that they wouldn’t be easy to find later so I decided to list them in a tab also. I really enjoy learning new things and exploring the world via the Internet. I’m a Hobbit sort of explorer. I love going all over the world while at home in my Enchanted Forest, sitting in my comfy chair, drinking hot coffee (or iced tea), with Hannah Joy sitting on my lap.

I have a lot of links to really cool sites, including air and marine traffic as well as locations of shipwrecks. I have links to weather, earthquakes/volcanoes, wind, floods, etc. I have links to the International Space Station, including sightings, info about crew/missions, and livestreaming from the ISS). I have links to interesting astronomy sites. I have links to bird/animal identification and migration, including shark migrations. I have links to sites that let you listen to radio stations from all over the world, as well as from different historical broadcasts. I even have a link to an interactive map of Middle Earth. I have so many links to cool sites. If everything interests you like it does me, check out the “Everything Links” tab at the top of the page next to “Recipes.” I will add to the page whenever I find another interesting site.

The Tracker of Everything

I am a tracker. Yep. Me.

I am a tracker in both a conventional sense (sort of) and an unconventional sense. I’m not a professional in any sense of the word. Maybe I should call myself an “observer” or a “spotter” but I like the word “tracker.” I am a tracker of everything.

I like to observe animal tracks, especially in the snow where they can be easily seen. I think to learn what critters are wandering across our property. I can easily identify deer and turkey. I have seen coyote tracks. A couple of years ago, a neighbor told us he has seen bobcat in our driveway in the early mornings. Interested, I looked up information about bobcats and although I’ve never actually seen any, I can now identify its scat (a tracker’s term for “poop”) that they occasionally leave in our driveway. I have seen where a rodent became an owl’s lunch–I saw the rodent’s tracks end at the imprint of large wings. I think it’s interesting to follow the tracks of our cats to see where they wander. I’ve occasionally seen other tracks which I can’t identify. I’d like to get a book about Michigan animal tracks so I can learn more.

I also like to track vehicles of different types.

USPS (photo from Pixabay)

I’m assuming my enjoyment of tracking vehicles started when I was a child. My Mom always got excited when mail was delivered. Not hugely excited. But she’d note when she spotted the mail jeep down the street and headed our way, and she’d be out to collect the mail as soon as it was delivered. It got so we’d shout, “Howard the mailman is coming!” or “The Mail is here!” I don’t know why I got so excited since I rarely got mail when I was a child, but the excitement of the mail being delivered has never left me.

After EJ and I were married and we started ordering items from the Internet–and companies sent tracking numbers!–I had fun tracking my item as it moved across the country. It added to the excitement of anticipation as I watched it move from city to city. USPS allows me to sign up for “Informed Delivery” to see exactly what is coming in the mail each day. UPS lets me “live track” their delivery truck on my computer when it’s “out for delivery.” How cool is that? When we moved to our Enchanted Forest, it became important (to me) to track my order. Packages, especially in winter, are often placed in what I call our “magic box” (because packages “magically” appear in it) at the bottom of our long driveway. I’ve heard there are people–porch pirates, they are called–who brazenly steal packages even from people’s porches. Since I can’t see our magic box from the house, I watch for emails or texts notifying me when a package has been delivered and then I hurry down to get it. A couple times, when I couldn’t find a delivered package, I found it misdelivered at our neighbors.

I like to watch trains. I grew up about a half block from the train tracks. When I was very young, I remember running out to watch the trains go by whenever I heard their toot. Later, I’d count how many cars the engine pulled and I’d wave to the engineer if I spotted him. When we were in high school, my siblings and I always walked home for lunch. We had only 10 minutes to walk home, 15 minutes to eat, and 10 minutes to get back to school. We had to cross the railroad tracks so if we heard a train whistle, we’d take off running so we wouldn’t be delayed. It’s been many years since I’ve lived near railroad tracks, but the lonesome toot of a train always brings back memories–and makes me feel like waving, counting, or running. EJ grew up near a town that was a major train hub and he also has a fondness for trains.

Weather radar from Accuweather

EJ and I both have always enjoyed observing weather as well. It’s really fun tracking storms on radar on our computer to see where they are headed, if they will hit/miss us, how severe they are. I have several sites and programs that lets us watch radar. When our son was younger, he and I used to leap into the car and follow storms, pretending we were storm chasers. (We wouldn’t stay out if the storms were bad.) A couple of years ago, EJ and I toured our local National Weather Service office. That was really fun and interesting.

I just learned a few months ago that I can also track wildfires, earthquakes, and volcanos around the world. Awesome! I occasionally watch Youtube videos created by someone called “Dutchsince” who is an expert on earthquakes. His descriptions and explanations of earthquakes occurring around the world are fascinating.

A screenshot of earthquakes from Dutchsince’s video.

A couple of years ago, I learned that I can track snowplows in our area on an interactive map on a MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) website. It’s interesting watching where the snowplows are clearing roads, although most of the time I forget I have this capability.

I think it’s really fun to track boats on the Great Lakes. Maybe about 10 years ago(?), we went camping for a week near Port Huron, Michigan, where we discovered the Great Lakes Maritime Center. It was located right on the coast. Inside the building, there were monitors set up to enable people to track boats passing by. Outside there were canopies set up to provide comfortable shade for watchers. Every day we’d take lawn chairs and a picnic lunch and spend the day sitting peacefully under the canopies to watch the boats go by. Occasionally we’d go into the Center to learn when to expect a boat, what its name was, its origin/destination, what its cargo was, and other sorts of information. Sadly, I think the Center is no longer in operation.

Great Lakes Maritime Center in Port Huron, Michigan

We live closer to the Great Lakes now than we used to, and we watch boats go by if we are rock hounding along the coast, but we don’t live close enough the Lakes to be able to actually see ships every day. I have, however, discovered an online map that lets me track maritime activity on the Great Lakes–and even around the world. It’s amazing how much marine traffic is on the waters. Each color on the map below represents a different type of ship. Sometimes I wonder about the stories of people on boats and ships traveling around the world. What are they seeing? What are they experiencing? What dangers are they encountering? What are their stories? Every November I pause to remember the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, who was lost with her entire crew of 29 men in a terrible storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. It was immortalized in this song by Gordon Lightfoot. Currently, I am tracing the recent drama of the Ever Given ship that blocked the Suez Canal.

Marine Traffic

A month or so ago, I discovered that I can track airplanes online. It’s fun tracking ships, but even more fun tracking airplanes because I can see airplanes overheard more often than I can see boats on the Great Lakes. Before, we’d see an airplane flying across the sky and think, “Hmm. I wonder where the plane is from and where it is headed?” Now I can click on a plane on the map (below) and actually find out its origin, destination, speed, altitude, what kind of plane it is, and who owns or operates it. We live in the North away from heavy flight paths so I am astounded to find out that the planes overhead are flying to/from not only places within our country, but also to faraway places such as Belgium, Austria, Korea, Qatar, India…Last weekend, I dragged EJ outside several times. “Look in that direction. In a moment we are going to see a plane from Chicago headed toward Frankfort, Germany [or New York. or Dublin. Or Dubai. Or London.] Wait for it….waaaiiiittt for it. Look! There it is!”

This is just a segment of air traffic that can be seen at Flightaware.

I often wonder about the stories of the passengers on the planes. Why are they traveling to those faraway destinations? Business? Vacation? Visiting family? Sometimes I know. I mean, sometimes the plane or helicopter is identified as a medical flight. If a person is being transported by air rather than ground then I think they are probably having a very serious health issue. Last weekend I watched a medical plane fly from Mackinac Island to the mainland. Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron to the east of the Mackinac Bridge which connects Michigan’s two peninsulas. It’s a huge tourist destination in warmer seasons, although a few people do live there year around. The island is a unique place in that no motorized vehicles are allowed on it–only horses and bicycles. However, in the winter, residents travel by snowmobile. When Lake Huron freezes, they travel across it to/from the mainland by snowmobile. The route is marked by discarded Christmas trees after the holidays. Anyway, as I watched the medical plane, I imagined the serious drama occurring. I prayed for the person who was being transported until the plane landed.

I don’t just pray for people in emergency flights. If I am aware that people live in an area is being threatened by a natural disaster–especially if they are friends–I pray for them. This made me think about all the times people are unaware that they are being prayed for by strangers.

The location of Mackinac Island.

EJ and I also love to watch the International Space Station when it flies overheard. I just learned that I can get text notifications on my phone when the ISS is flying overhead. When I get a notification, EJ and I go outside to watch it. Yesterday I realized that I could probably learn WHO was on the ISS. I searched the Internet and, yep, Nasa actually provides information about the crew and their mission. The current crew went up in October 2020 and will be leaving this month. Knowing this makes it more “personal” to watch the ISS fly overhead. It’s not just a star-like light flying overheard. There are interesting people and stories onboard.

So now you know. I am a tracker of just about everything. I am also a collector of stories. I love stories. I think the world is filled with interesting things and with people with all sorts of interesting stories.

Update: I decided to share the links to the sites I use to track and explore, just in case you are also interested. You can find them at the top of my blog or just click here: Everything Links

Peanut Delight

A little more than ten years ago, we started to celebrate Passover instead of Easter because we, personally, found the symbolism more meaningful to our Christian faith. (Passover was March 27 this year.) However, we feel it’s up to each family to choose how they celebrate the Messiah’s death and resurrection, and we hope those who celebrated Easter had a beautiful holiday.

The weather was gorgeous this weekend with sunny skies and warm temperatures. I wore just a light sweatshirt outside–and even that was almost too heavy. The daytime temperatures are supposed to remain in the low- to mid-60s (F) all week, although there is a chance of rain each day. Still, rain is not snow…

We got a lot of tasks done this weekend. EJ cleaned up a lot of winter’s debris in the back yard. I moved the patio furniture from the covered front porch where we store it during the winter over to the deck. I couldn’t delay it any more, even though everyone knows that if winter items are put away too soon and summer items are brought out too early, we will get hit with a massive snowstorm. It’s not exactly true except in the sense that sometimes nice weather can trick us into thinking Spring is here to stay when Winter hasn’t yet released it’s grip. However, we’ve had enough nice weather that I think Winter really is over. (Unless it isn’t.) EJ read that this Winter has been so mild that it looks as if we will break the last record for “least amount of snowfall” by 7 inches.

After I moved the patio table, I swept the autumn’s dead leaves off the porch. I also removed Hannah Joy’s poop from the front yard with a shovel and flung it into the forest.

Millie in the box

Yesterday morning as I was in the coop scooping out feed for the chickens, I heard low menacing growls. I thought, “Oh, crap!” as I envisioned a vicious critter of some sort lurking in the shadows. But I saw no murdered chickens, which I’m pretty sure I would have found if a predator had gotten into the coop. Then I became aware that along with the growls, I heard irritated clucking. I looked around and quickly realized what was going on: The hens’ favorite nesting box is a covered litter box that I filled with straw and put in the coop for them. It’s also Millie’s favorite place to sleep at night. A hen was irritated because couldn’t go into the box to lay her egg because Millie was still in it. Millie was annoyed because she couldn’t get out of the box because the irritated hen was in front of it. Now and then the hen pecked at Millie and Millie swatted at her. When I approached them to arbitrate the conflict, Millie fluidly leaped out and went on her way into the garden and the satisfied hen entered the box to lay her egg. Conflict resolved. LOL.

Yesterday afternoon Hannah Joy wanted outside so I fastened her on her tie-out in the front yard and then went to gather eggs. Hannah heard me in the back yard and started barking. I brought the eggs into the house and then went out to get Hannah. Usually, I make her sit while I take her harness off her and then I “release” her with a command and a treat. She knows the routine and automatically sits when she comes into the house. However, yesterday I had to tell her several times to “sit” and as soon as I got her harness off, she ignored her treat and ran over to the kitchen counter where I had put the basket of eggs. I always give her an egg when I bring them into the house. I realized then that she had been barking because she knew I was out gathering eggs while she was tied out and she was afraid of missing her favorite egg-licious treat. LOL. Hannah Joy is such a character.

My sign

Both the new food processor and the 30 lbs of peanuts I had ordered arrived this weekend. The food processor arrived as scheduled but the peanuts delivery was rescheduled for Monday (today). I was a little disappointed because I really wanted to try making homemade peanut butter with EJ. I was surprised when the FedEx truck drove up our driveway yesterday–not only because it was Sunday, but also because it was EASTER. It sucks that the deliveryman had to work on Easter. As the man handed over the heavy box of peanuts, he said he loved my welcome sign at the bottom of the driveway, which I had made a couple years ago. I made it because we are remote enough that I don’t like uninvited strangers driving up, especially when EJ is at work. I was glad the sign brought a smile to the deliveryman’s face. He is actually the first visitor who has ever commented on it.

Making homemade peanut butter.

Once EJ and my outside tasks were completed, we went into the kitchen to try our hand at making homemade peanut butter. I had printed off several different recipes. They were all basically the same, but each had slightly different instructions, some more detailed than others. I combined the instructions and read them off to EJ while he actually made the peanut butter. I told him that I thought he should be the one who made the peanut butter this first time since he eats it more than I do and I consider him to be the peanut butter connoisseur. Once he tweaks the recipe to exactly how he likes it, he can write it down and I can make it the way he likes it.

Hannah Joy, as always, was keenly interested in what we were doing.

Turning peanuts into butter

It is very simple and easy to make homemade peanut butter. The ingredients are peanuts, honey, salt, and peanut oil (optional for smoother butter). We–or, more precisely, EJ– put the peanuts in the processor, pureed it for several minutes, stopping every minute to scrape the mixture from the sides. After about the thrd time, EJ added the honey, salt, and oil, and ran the processor again, as we watched it all magically transform into yummy peanut butter. The recipe we used that has the most detailed instructions is here: thekitchn.com. We used roasted peanuts rather than raw ones but, as recommended in a different recipe, we put the roasted nuts in the oven for 2-3 minutes to warm them and release their oils.

My only regret about homemade peanut butter is that we didn’t make it ourselves years ago. 


DIY Experiments

We’ve had one day of 60 (F) degrees and the next day it snows. Up and down. That’s why I have a wait and see attitude about Spring. I take each day as it comes.

Last week EJ scheduled an appointment to get our taxes done on Saturday (March 27). I asked him if he was sure he wanted to get our taxes done that day since it also was his birthday. He said he just wanted them done…so ok. The one-story building where the tax preparer was located also had several other businesses in it. When we opened the door, the hallway reeked of fragrance, which EJ is allergic too. He hurried down the hallway thinking that it would be better in the tax preparers’ company, but it was even stronger there. In previous years we’ve had no problem. I strongly suspect they were using a scented sanitizer between customers. The scent was so strong that EJ got an instant migraine and had to leave the building. He went to the truck and used his inhaler so he could breathe. He ended up waiting in the truck while I met with the tax preparer. When the forms were ready, I took them out to EJ to sign and then took them back in to give to the preparer. It took EJ several hours to recover. Not the greatest way to spend a birthday. Oh, well. At least we are getting a bit of a refund, which we will use to pay off a bill.

On Friday, EJ had bought Moomer’s ice cream for his birthday, which is the best ice cream EVER. He was going to buy a small cheese cake but the local store was out of them. I offered to make him a dessert, but he said the ice cream was enough. It’s not as if either of us needs to get overloaded with sugar.

Pasties

Sunday EJ made pasties for his “birthday meal.” He had planned to make them on his birthday, but didn’t feel well enough. Usually, I make him whatever dinner he wants on his birthday (well, actually, pretty much any day), but he has been wanting to make pasties and, hey, for our birthdays we get what we want. EJ’s Mom used to make pasties, but this was the first time he had ever made any himself. They are meat pies that miners used to take to work for their lunch. EJ made several–I think about 9 of them. We cooked and ate one each, and froze the others for a later meal. They were yummy.

EJ had bought several bags of carrots the last time he went shopping; they were on sale. While he made his pasties, I sat at the kitchen table and cut up carrots, which I then blanched and froze. I also did laundry, dishes, etc.

Monday afternoon the Jojoba Oil I had ordered arrived in the mail. Tuesday I mixed up homemade shampoo for EJ, using the Jojoba Oil, Castile soap, and Tea Tree Essential Oil. I felt like a “mad scientist” and told EJ–with an evil laugh–that he was my test subject. He used the shampoo for the first time today. He said he liked it. So far so good.

I’ve been researching and printing out recipes for cleaning products. Besides the fact that they are made with common household products–like, baking soda, vinegar, Dawn dish soap, and so on–we’d like to get away from harsh chemicals with unpronounceable names. I’m going to experiment until I find a recipe that I like.

We also plan to make our own peanut butter. EJ often takes peanut butter sandwiches for work. It’s difficult to find peanut butter without a lot of additives. The homemade recipes call for peanuts (or other type of nut), salt, honey, and maybe a little oil. And a food processor with a strong motor. I ordered a good inexpensive food processor and some bulk peanuts (on sale) today. I’m eager to see how our peanut butter turns out.

I’m having a lot of fun experimenting.

Weather or Not

EJ says he worked with a guy once who lived in for a while in–I think–California. The guy said that no one in there talked much about the weather. Probably because their weather is nice most of the time? Here in Michigan, our weather changes a lot and has a big impact on our lives. When I was growing up, before the Internet, we could call a phone number to get the weather report for our area. I would call it often, especially in transitional seasons, to find out what to wear that day. For example, was it going to be cold so I should wear warm clothing? Or would it be warm so I could wear something lighter? Was it going to start out cool and then warm up so I should wear layers of clothing? And even now I check the weather to learn if it’s going to be cold or warm, nasty or nice so I know how to dress: Sweatshirt or t-shirt? Coat, jacket, or nothing? Boots or shoes? Umbrella? Will I have to be careful on ice? Can I work outside? Can we plant our garden? Is it time to put in the window screens for the summer or to take them out for the winter? Is it time to turn on or off our furnace for the next few months? The weather affects just about everything we do.

Also, EJ and I really are very interested in the weather. We love to watch radar on the Internet. I think in another life we could have been meteorologists.

Robin, the first sign of Spring (Photo from Pixabay)

I saw my first Robin on Friday–the day before the Spring equinox. In Michigan, the return of the Robins are a traditional indication that Spring has (or will soon) arrive! Seeing a Robin is very exciting. The Mourning Doves have also returned.

Over the last few days, the weather has been very nice with temperatures reaching as high as 70! I was tempted to put in the window screens so I could open the windows and let the fresh air into the house. I was also tempted to move the patio table and chairs to the deck. However, I checked the weather forecast for the next few days and, yup, just as I suspected, the weather will be cooler and rainy today and the meteorologists are predicting snow for Thursday night, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…the window screens and patio furniture will have to wait.

However, yesterday I did go outside without a coat. The ground had thawed enough that I was able to pull my bird feeder post out of the ground and dig new holes in the new place where I wanted to place it.

My main reason for relocating the post was to prevent Hannah Joy from getting her her tie-out wrapped around it so that I had to rescue her. I had to move the post out of her reach but not too near the raised herb beds so that Theo, our sweet dunderheaded cat, could easily leap from them to the feeder. He loves to try catching the birds that come to the feeders. He never actually catches the birds, but he spills the seed everywhere which Hannah Joy loves to eat. Preventing her from getting to the seed is another reason for relocating the post. I think she will be upset when she learns that she can no longer eat the seed. She has epic tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants. Yesterday while we were outside, she saw a rock just out of her reach on the deck. She cried loudly until I gently kicked it to her. When she saw it wasn’t food she ignored it. Hannah Joy was kept outside and starved by her previous owners and I sometimes wonder what she ate to survive. I’m pretty sure that’s why she’s so obsessed with food, even though she gets plenty of food now.

I also tried to place the post to where both EJ and I could easily see the birds at the feeders as well as the bluebird house in the background. I love watching the bluebirds. I kept running into the house to sit in my and EJ’s chairs to see if we could both see the feeders and birdhouse, then running back out to “tweak” or move the post. After I was happy with the placement of the post, I hung all the feeders on it, trying to position them to prevent Theo from easily access the tray feeder, which is the one he usually aims for. It might not totally block him, but I’m hoping it will make it more difficult for him.

The rooster looking for escape

One of the times that I ran outside, I was surprised to see a rooster loose outside the fence. Yikes! It’s not safe for them outside the fence because we have predators: coyotes, bobcats, and bears–oh, my! I quickly grabbed the closest thing at hand, which was a long stick–really more of a tall plant stalk. It was flimsy, but it was enough to guide the rooster back through the gate I opened for him. No doubt he escaped through the small hole the cats use to get through the fence. Now that the rooster has figured out that he can escape, he has been patrolling that area. I tried to use an old gate to hide the hole from the rooster but make it accessible to the cats. The cats need to get through the fence to get to their food which I keep on the front porch, out of reach of the chickens who like to eat it. Theo likes birds, Hannah Joy likes birdseed, chickens like cat food, everyone likes eating what they are not supposed to. Sometimes I feel as if most of my time is spent trying to prevent the critters from outsmarting me.

My frozen shampoo cakes

Yesterday I made one of the homemade PH-balanced shampoo recipes I’ve been accumulating because I finally got all the ingredients I need. I used 2 Tbsps raw honey, 1 tsp sweet almond oil, 1 can coconut milk, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. The recipes say that coconut milk has a short shelf life so they suggest freezing the shampoo in ice cube trays and only thawing what can be used in a week. I couldn’t find my ice cube trays–I might have gotten rid of them because we have a fridge with an ice maker? Instead, I used mini cupcake pans, which I rarely use it, preferring regular sized cupcakes and muffins. When they were frozen, I took them out of the cupcake pan, placed them in a container, and put them back into the freezer until needed.

I poured some of the shampoo into a bottle to use this week. I used it for the first time this morning. I warned EJ that my hair might look like crap for a few weeks until my hair adjust. I had learned that the harsh chemicals from commercial shampoos strip the natural oils from hair so the body produces more oil to compensate. When switching to a natural shampoo, the body has to go through a “detox phase” in which it adjust to not needing to make so much oil. Many articles said that this detox phase can be a bit tough and they suggest gradually eliminating the commercial shampoo and increasing the natural shampoo.

EJ wants to start using natural shampoo too, but he is allergic to coconut which is the main ingredient used in the PH balanced shampoo recipes I’ve found. Until/unless I find a coconut-free recipe, I’m going to have to stick with the castile soap for him. I am going to experiment with using different oils. I have a recipe I want to on him that uses castile soap, tea tree oil, and jojoba oil. The jojoba oil has proteins and minerals that mimic collagen and is closest to our natural skin oil. It also reduces inflammation, which EJ struggles with. I have ordered the jojoba oil and is waiting for it to arrive.

When EJ woke up this morning, he told me that when he arrived home from work early this morning, he surprised a rabbit at the bottom of the driveway. The rabbit made a dash to get away, but instead of running off to the side into the grass, he ran UP the driveway–where EJ was headed. With EJ driving slowly behind him, the rabbit ran all the way up the driveway and onto the front porch before dashing off to the side and safety. THAT is not something that happens everyday. We have a bunch of rabbits on our property but they mostly stay at the bottom of the driveway and we rarely see them.

The World of No ‘Poo

Last night I heard coyotes. Usually, I can’t hear them when I’m in the house. I only hear them occasionally when I take Hannah Joy at night. However, last night they woke me up with their yowling. Hannah Joy heard them too. She went on “yellow alert” and growled as we both went to look out of the window. The night was too dark to see anything, but the coyotes were so loud that we knew they were very close to the house. Coyote yowls are spine-chillingly creepy.

This morning, I found a message from EJ. He works 2nd shift and arrives home around 3:30 am. He had written: “I saw a coyote on the way home…1/4 mile west of here so you may want to delay opening the coop up until 7-ish, maybe later.” I didn’t open the coop until after 7:30 am, when it was quite light outside, just to be safe.

Yesterday I continued my first steps into the World of No ‘Poo. “No ‘poo” means “no shampoo.” I used my homemade Happiness Shampoo for the first time. Unhappily, my hair felt oily all day but I remembered reading something about a “detox phase” when a person stops using commercial shampoos so I went to the Internet for more information. I read this from Thankyourbody.com :

If you are new to natural shampooing or no ‘poo then you have to be prepared for a detox phase. Commercial shampoos strip your hair and scalp of their natural oils, which is why most people feel the need to shampoo daily. As your hair is stripped of oils the body signals for the scalp to produce more. In other words: The harsher the shampoo the more oils your body produces. As you wean yourself from commercial shampoos it will take time for your body to re-balance itself and stop producing so much oil. In the meantime you can expect extra grease and general “gross” hair until your body balances back out. This can take anywhere from 2 – 9 weeks. (Yep… this is not for the faint of heart.) The good news is that once your body finds its balance you can expect more manageable hair with only “shampooing” every couple of days (or even only once or twice a week.)

Sigh. It is indeed going to take strength and endurance for me to get through the detox phase because I despise the feeling of oily hair. If I can make it through, I expect to have happier, healthier hair, but it’s going to get rough. I did read one article that suggested “weaning” yourself off commercial shampoos gradually by slowly switching over to natural shampoo. I will try that. Today I used my “regular” shampoo, but I will try to use it less and the natural shampoo more often.

I further read that many of the DIY shampoo recipes call for castile soap, which although better for hair than the harsh chemicals of commercial shampoos, raises the PH balance of hair higher than is natural so it’s better to use PH balanced recipes. My Happiness Shampoo uses castile soap, but I found one or two PH balanced recipes to try. I need to get a few ingredients that I do not yet have. One ingredient I need is coconut milk. That presents a slight problem–not for me, but for EJ. He wants to use DIY shampoo but he is allergic to coconut. I’m trying to find a recipe that doesn’t use any coconut. So far I am unsuccessful, but I have only been searching for one day.

I also looked into essential oils yesterday. I keep reading that Young Living essential oils are the best quality. I have a friend who sells Young Living oils, and I’d really like to buy from her. It would benefit us both. But to quote the coyotes I heard last night, “Ai yi yi!” The oils are expensive and I can’t afford them right now.

There are a lot of things I’d like to learn, but the problem with new hobbies is that most of them are expensive–at least initially–and we are not wealthy. Most of the time I start learning a new skill because I want to cut expenses. When I look into how to make it, I then see how much more healthy and/or fun it is to make the item than to buy it.

I think it would be fun to learn about beekeeping so we can have our own honey. I don’t want to invest in a lot of expensive equipment when I don’t know if I can successfully overcome my nervousness around bees. In late 2019, EJ talked to a co-worker who raised bees and made his own honey. The guy wanted more land for hives and he and EJ sort of made a handshake agreement that the guy could put some of his hives on our land. This could be of mutual benefit. He could maybe give us some of his honey in exchange for using our land and/or he could teach us how to do it. The best way to learn something is from people already doing it. They know the best supplies and techniques. He wanted to start in the Spring of 2020, but the Lockdowns last year prevented it. EJ no longer works with the guy. I hope they can reconnect.

There is so much information that learning a new skill can be very overwhelming at first, so I start to gradually expand my knowledge little by little. For example, years ago I began to grow my own herbs. It was overwhelming at first until I decided to learn how to grow, cultivate, use, and store one herb at a time. I learn one and then I move on to learning another. I will learn about beauty products in the same way–starting out with shampoo and then maybe learning about things like “shower bombs.” I also wouldn’t mind eventually making my own cleaning products, but first I will learn about shampoo. I have started a notebook that I am filling with articles and recipes about shampoo that I can easily reference to teach myself.

I’d like to buy the best quality of everything I try to learn, but I have to work within my budget, and when starting out to learn a new skill, I don’t even know if it will be something I can learn or want to continue to do, so I’d rather not buy the most expensive supplies at the beginning. For example, I am teaching myself Tunisia Crochet, which is a new form of crocheting that requires a completely different type of hook than regular crocheting. There are some really awesome, high-quality Tunisia crochet hooks available, but I just bought myself cheaper sets to learn on. If Tunisia crochet is something I want to continue pursuing, I may replace my practice hooks with better ones later on.

I can’t afford Young Living essential oils at this time, so I will get lesser quality to learn on. Yesterday I looked online for essential oil at our local store. I ended up also looking online and bought a few oils/supplies from an on-line site that sells oils that seems to maybe be better quality than the local store but less expensive than Young Living.

I did have some fun looking at the online items from the local store. It sold individual oils as well as sets. The boxed sets combined oils that were used to help with specific things such as breathing, calmness, focus, or energy. The box listed the oils in the set. For example, the “Just Breathe” set included tea tree, peppermint, and eucalypus oils. But the oils for some of the other sets were labeled with things like “Deep Thoughts” or “Dreamcatcher.” I laughed to EJ, “I get where oils like peppermint and lavender come from, but where do they get “Deep Thought” or “Dreamcatcher” oil? Do they siphon off the deep thoughts of people who overthink? Do they have a way to drain and bottle dreams? What if the oils from dreams go bad and give people nightmares?” We laughed about that for a bit. Who says learning can’t be fun?

Happiness Shampoo

Last week we had several warm days that melted almost all our snow. The only bit of “winter” that I saw was a patch of ice in front of the garage door leading into the back yard. I think it’s the last to melt because it is shaded by the north side of the house and the snow gets backed down by my frequent trips to the coop. Although the sun melts the snow there, it doesn’t fully evaporate it before it refreezes at night. It becomes hazardous to walk across it so I put some straw from the coop there to make it safer. Yesterday the temperatures were cooler again and we got about an inch of snow during the night and morning. The temperatures warmed enough to melt most of the snow again.

When our son was young, I used to tell him that Spring and Autumn were when Winter and Summer fought for control. The temperatures warm up, then dip down. The snow melts, then freezes, then melts and freezes. Warm. Cold. No snow. Snow. I try not to fully believe that Winter is over until about May–but even then, a few times in my life there have been May snowstorms. Here in my area of the north, there is a danger of frost through the end of May with a slight risk into mid-June. I love living in the north…but about the time I think, “Oh! Summer is here!” the solstice arrives and the days start to shorten again. Someday we’d like to get a little greenhouse so we can start garden plants early. That might never happen, but we can dream.

Pile of Eggs

The chickens have begun laying eggs again. I didn’t realize that they were until I suddenly spotted a large pile of eggs in the corner of the coop. Since I wasn’t sure how old the eggs were, I left them for a couple days because I had seen a hen sitting in that corner the day before and EJ thought it might be fun to let a few hatch. However, when I saw that no hen was broodily sitting on the eggs, I removed them.

Eggs can be stored in the fridge for several months. We try to stretch them through the winter so we don’t have to buy store-bought eggs. Now that I’m beginning to get fresh eggs again, I am feeding Hannah Joy the older ones. I give her one each day. She loves eggs and repeatedly licks her lips when she sees me bringing with any.

My Tunisian Crochet project

My Tunsian Crochet project has slowed down a bit. Lately it seems as if every time I pick it up, Hannah Joy wants something–to go outside, to play ball, to get cuddles, to eat. She’s not easy to ignore. It’s not as easy to just put down and pick up Tunsian Crochet as it is with regular crocheting. The gingham batter requires working with three balls of yarn at the same time–one for each colored square–and it gets easily tangled up so that I have to untangle it when I pick it back up. I need a block of time with few interruptions, especially when I am just learning the technique.

I am almost out of my shampoo. Who cares, right? I mention it only because I don’t feel like ordering the shampoo from Amazon as I usually do, but I haven’t gotten to the stores much since the Lockdowns began last year. When the Lockdowns began, EJ took over the shopping so I wouldn’t have to wear a mask. This means that I don’t really have much opportunity to stand in the shampoo aisle of the store and decide which available brand I want to try. Yesterday I suddenly thought, “I wonder if there is a homemade shampoo that I can make?” I searched the Internet and–behold!–there are multiple recipes for homemade shampoos! I even already have most of the ingredients. I printed off a couple articles that had multiple recipes in them. I made this one today:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup castile vegetable-based liquid soap
  • 1 teaspoon light vegetable oil or glycerine
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oil

    Combine ingredients, mix well, and put in a recycled shampoo bottle. Use a palm-full of the shampoo or less to lather once, and then rinse with warm water. This homemade shampoo is thinner than commercial shampoo and it won’t suds as much — but it will eliminate oil and grime just as well as the over-the-counter stuff.

I don’t know much about essential oils, but I bought a few bottles a couple years ago in an attempt to learn more about them. I chose to use one oil called, “Happiness” because it sounded so, uh, happy. I like the thought of saying that “I washed my hair with happiness.” I will use my shampoo for the first time tomorrow. Hopefully, it will not burn off all my hair or turn me into a toad or anything like that. If it does, well, it’s still cold enough outside that I can wear a hat if I go anywhere. However, homemade shampoo isn’t filled with harsh chemicals like those in the store–and I can’t imagine that Happiness Shampoo would do something detrimental–so I think I’ll be ok. I’ll use the shampoo for a couple days and then I might try a homemade egg conditioner. I have a steady supply of eggs.

Northern Warmth

Friday EJ drove over to his friend’s house on the other side of the state to help him begin tidying up the place. EJ’s friend has been considering a major move. His Dad died not long ago so I think there is no longer anything holding him to the area.

While EJ was gone, I spent the day getting a few things done. I cleaned the house, did laundry, cleaned out the refrigerator freezer, and put away the little propane heater. We had the heater set out ready to use all winter, but we’ve had such a mild winter that we haven’t needed it. When I told EJ that I had put away the heater, he said, “Oh, oh! Now we are going to get hit with a huge winter storm!” Everyone knows that when we put away winter items too early, we suddenly get hit with huge snowstorms. We are holding our breath but so far there are no blizzards on the horizon.

In fact, the temperatures have been in the 30s and 40s (F) lately and today it reached 52! I wore a jacket when we walked to the mailbox with Hannah Joy. Later I did my chores without any coat on! Our snow is melting away and there is rain in our forecast for a couple of days this week. EJ said that it’s sort of bad that it’s going to rain because the ground is still frozen so the rain will not soak into the ground and we could get flooding. Also, it can be dangerous when we get a mix of warm and cold temperatures because the warmth melts the snow which the cold freezes into ice and makes walking or driving difficult. We are enjoying the Spring-like weather while it’s here, but we also have a lot of ice around so I try to be very careful. We could still get winter weather in March and April, and there have been times (though rare) that it’s even snowed in May.

We don’t want to risk Hannah Joy chasing wildlife and getting lost so we keep her on a tether when she wants outside or on a leash when we walk her. In the summer, I put her on a heavy-duty tether fastened to a t-post. However, I can’t leave the tether out in the winter because it could get hidden by snow and tangled in the snowblower. Instead, I take Hannah Joy out on her retractable leash and slide the handle over the t-post. I had thought carefully about where to place the t-post so Hannah Joy wouldn’t get tangled around trees, bushes, or posts. She can reach the birdfeeder posts, but that wasn’t a problem until we got our cat Theo from the Michigan Barn Cat Program. The Program finds homes for cats that aren’t happy with the pampered indoor life. We adopted two cats from the Program a year or two ago. Theo and Millie enjoy freedom during the day, but I always shut them safely in the snug coop with the chickens at night. The cats help keep the place free of mice, which can eat the chickens’ food and nibble their toes at night.

Theo likes to try to catch birds at the feeder. He is unsuccessful at catching birds, but he often tips the birdfeeder tray and spills seed all over the ground, which Hannah Joy loves to eat. Late last week Hannah Joy ate so much spilled seed that for several days afterward, she pooped out turds that looked as if they had been rolled in birdseed. After that, I took her out on her leash and didn’t let her near the seed. I have tried all sorts of measures to block Theo’s ability to spill the seed but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. I am now planning to move the bird feeder post a few feet away. I’ll still have to figure out how to keep Theo away, but at least Hannah Joy won’t be able to eat the seed. First, however, I will have to wait for the ground to thaw before I can pull up the post and dig a new hole for it.

Yesterday Hannah Joy was complaining that she wanted outside. I suspected she just wanted to eat the bird seed so I ignored her for a while. She gets more and more vocal whenever I don’t leap immediately to do her bidding. I said to EJ, “Watch this!” I got out my camera, pointed it at Hannah Joy, and said, “I’m going to video you throwing a tantrum and share it on the Internet.” She immediately shut up and lay down. She does that every time I try to video her tantrums. She is so funny.

Chickens in the garden

The chickens don’t come out of their coop when the weather is cold and snowy. However, the weather has been so nice lately that they’ve been getting out to enjoy it. Between planting and harvest, we keep the chickens out of the garden but the rest of the year they are free to enjoy it. Their scratching and pooping help improve the soil.

Soon (hopefully) the chickens will begin laying eggs. EJ suggested that we might consider letting a few of the eggs hatch this time. We lost three hens over the winter. We shall see. I’ve never allowed the eggs to hatch before.

A couple of times this weekend we saw an eagle flying overhead. It’s always an awesome sight to see them. I love how the sunlight highlights their white head and tail feathers. I’d like to video them, but I haven’t managed it yet because they either quickly fly out of sight or they fly high enough that the camera doesn’t capture their beauty. Oh, well, one day.

Winter’s Beauty

Last week Texas was hit with very unusual weather cold and snowy weather. Many lost their power, which means they had no heat. Because they live in a (usually) warmer climate, people in the south don’t own warm clothes or have alternate sources of heat. My Texan friend told me that her town’s water pipes frozen and burst so they also had no water for a while. She showed me photos of empty grocery store shelves and she said that the gas stations had no gas because delivery trucks couldn’t get to the town to restock. My heart ached for the state and I prayed a lot for them.

In Michigan, our temperatures also dipped down–to around 0 (F), give or take a few degrees. However, cold wintry weather is normal in the North. We have warm clothes, backup heating sources in case the power goes out, snow plows to keep the roads cleared, people are used to driving in wintry conditions, and we have extra food in case a bad snowstorm hits and we can’t get out.

FYI: Southern people tend to brag a bit about their “perfect’ weather, while Northern people tend to brag about our toughness and resiliency. I do think our harsher winters make us better prepared to handle emergencies–at least, as far as the weather is concerned.

We have had a mild winter with not much snow–at least, not in our area. We haven’t been hit by many snowstorms this year. Mostly we get an inch of new snow here and a couple inches there. The snow measuring stick I made indicates that we now have about a foot of snow on the ground. Warmish days have melted the snow and prevented it from accumulating to higher levels.

I really like winter. Snow beautifies a landscape. Snow has a variety of interesting characteristics. I believe the Alaskan Inuits (Eskimos) have many different words to describe the different characteristics of snow. Some snow is fluffy and light, some is wet and heavy. Some fall in fluffy flakes, some in small ones. When the temperature gets down to the single digits, snow squeaks when we walk on it, which makes me feel even colder. Last week when I walked down the hill to get our mail from the mailbox, the snow was smooth; it reminded me of the fondant that bakers put on cakes. I like the interesting shadows the sun makes on the snow. I am especially mesmerized when the sun makes the snow sparkle like glitter like it did yesterday. It makes the world look magical.

Rodent tracks ending where an owl snatched it for dinner.

The snow allows me to observe the interesting tracks of animals. I can see the paths of deer or turkeys that wander across our property. I can see where rodents scampered and then disappeared into their holes. Occasionally I spot the tracks of a raccoon or possum who visited our birdfeeders. When I went out to do my chores one morning in early February, I saw the tracks of a rodent entering our garden. The tracks ended with an imprint of a large bird–which I suspect was an owl–that had snatched it for its dinner. I would really like to get a book to help me identify tracks of unfamiliar animals.

This winter I have been watching video tutorials to learn how to do Tunisian crochet, which is a form of crocheting that I had been completely unaware of into recently. It seems to me to be a sort of combination between crocheting and knitting.

Hannah Joy wearing her new sweater

I took a break from my Tunisian crochet lessons to design a dog sweater for Hannah Joy. I completed it, but my next step is to make a sweater for my out-of-state friend’s dog. It’s one thing to hold up the sweater at various stages to my dog to see if it fits her, and quite another to make a sweater using only measurements. Once I get the basic pattern worked out, I will use it with different designs. I would like to eventually sell the sweaters and/or my pattern on my website.

My “practice” Tunisian crochet project

While I wait for my friend to send me her dog’s measurements, I have returned to my Tunisian lessons. The instructor usually teaches a specific technique in one video, and in the next video provides a project to make using that technique. I have learned how to change colors and now I am working on a project that helps me practice changing colors. The project is a gingham baby blanket. I didn’t want to make a baby blanket so I am making a gingham scarf instead. I think it is very pretty.

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The forest on a moonlit night

I have a friend who wants to develop a “guided painting” video course. I believe this involves working step by step through a project, similar to the Tunisian crochet projects I do with my video instructor. My friend asked me to be her “practice student.” I don’t have an artistic bone in my body–at least, not when it comes to painting–but she says I can do it and I’m willing to try. She asked me to choose a project to make from many pictures on her Pinterest page. I chose this painting because it is exactly how our forest looks on a moonlit night. The full moon is so bright on those nights that the trees have shadows.

Frozen Hair and Warm Paws

We have had a very mild winter this year. We have snow, of course, because we live in the north, but it has accumulated by a few inches at a time rather than feet. We haven’t had as many frigid days as usual so most of the time I don’t wear my hat or mittens when I go outside. For short trips outside with Hannah Joy, I often don’t even wear a coat.

That being said, we are expecting a little more snow today and tomorrow, and the overnight temperatures this week have dipped into single digits, although it quickly warms up during the day. Yesterday morning when I came in from doing my chores the ends of my hair were frozen stiff, which probably means I’m going to have to change my routine. In the winter, I take my shower as soon as I get out of bed, feed the inside furbabies, take Hannah Joy outside to “do her business,” and then I have about an hour to drink coffee, catch up on the news, and let my hair dry before the sun rises enough for me to go care for the outside animals. This involves giving them fresh water, refilling their food dishes, and opening their little coop door so they can get out if they choose. Of course, the chickens usually prefer to stay in their coop if the weather is cold and snowy, but our two barn–uh, coop–cats always like to get out. If I wait too long to go out to the coop in the mornings, the chickens start eating the cat food. I always put food in the coop at night for the cats, but I put it away in the morning and set out a different dish of food for them on the front porch during the day. It’s the only way I could figure out to keep the chickens from eating the cat food.

Timmy

Now that the sun is rising earlier in the mornings, I go out to the coop right after I feed Hannah Joy…with wet hair that freezes in the morning cold. So I might have to switch to my “summer” routine: Wake up, put on jeans, feed the furbabies, take Hannah Joy outside, care for the outside animals, and THEN come in to take my shower, and sit down and enjoy my coffee.

It’s said that if you want to know where the warm spots are in a house, observe a cat. We keep our thermostat a bit low so we can save on propane. When it gets a little chilly in the house, we turn on our space heater. Timmy, one of our two inside cats, loves to lay next to it and put his paws under it. I think that is really cute.

Rice sock

When we lived in our old house downstate, we kept our thermostat set low and heated mostly with our wood stove. I don’t miss the hard work of getting a winter’s supply of wood, but I loved the warmth and ambience of the wood stove. Wood heat feels warmer than furnace heat. Our bedroom upstairs remained cooler than the rest of the house so we got into the habit of taking heated rice bags to bed with us to quickly warm the bed. Although our one-story house here in the north doesn’t get that cold, I still like to take a rice bag with me at night. I used to sew an old washcloth or hand towel into a bag into which I poured a cup or two of uncooked rice, but these days I simply pour the rice into an old sock and knot it shut. Then I heat it in the microwave for about a minute. The rice retains heat for quite a while. This is an old fashioned trick, although people in past centuries usually used dried cherry pits. EJ tried using cherry pits that he had dried, but we didn’t think they retained their warmth as much as rice does.

Hannah Joy’s harness broke in December–the ring on which her leash is attached fell off–so we ordered her a new one. It arrived on the last day of the year. Her new one is a pretty blue, which looks beautiful against her reddish fur. When her package arrived, Hannah Joy was so excited that she grabbed it and ran off to the bed to open it. Hannah tends to think that EVERY package is for her so we have to be careful not to let her have packages that are OURS. We’ve had a few tugs-of-war.

I started learning Tunisian Crochet in early January, but I set it aside to EJ a pair of slippers because he complained that his feet were cold. He said his new slippers are so warm and comfy that I decided to make me a pair as well–although I used a different pattern. His slippers are more masculine and mine more feminine. My slippers are warm and comfy too.

I would like to design a crocheted sweater for Hannah Joy. If I can accomplish it, I’d probably also sell the pattern. I really like Nordic or Fair Isle designs but they require learning Tunisian Crochet, which is a completely different form of crochet. It seems to me that it’s a blending of crochet and knitting. Each row in Tunisian Crochet consists of two “passes,” one pass consists in putting loops on the crochet hook, and the second pass consists of working them off. The double passes make a warm dense weave. I’m working my way through a tutorial course on Youtube. The woman giving the lessons teaches a technique in one video and then has a simple project to make using that technique in the next. I completed my first item yesterday–it was a simple ear warmer. Since it was practice, I made it for myself, in a color that matches my coat. My next lesson will consist of learning three different ways of changing colors.

Regular crochet hooks can be used for smaller Tunisian Crochet projects but because all the stitches of a row are put on the hook, larger projects require special hooks. I’ve been learning that there are different types of hooks: either long straight ones or smaller hooks with cables that the work can be slid on. I bought myself a cheap set of straight hooks to learn on. Really good hook sets are quite expensive. I will probably have to buy good hooks one at a time as I need them.

I can’t wait to continue learning.

2020/2021

Last year at this time, I was declaring that 2020 would be a year in which we would enjoy a year free of toxic/abusive people, a year of peace and quiet and enjoyment, a year in which we would work on re ccovery and healing. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. 2020 was the craziest, most insane year that I think any of us have ever experienced. I feel as if we should all get “I survived” medals.

Heading into this year, I am making no declarations about what I personally expect, hope for, or am working towards. I do have hopes, expectations, and goals, but I’m not declaring them. I will mostly see what unfolds each day and try to adjust.

As 2021 begins, we are trying to determine if there is a problem with our heating system. We have a geothermal system, which means that heating and cooling is done by exchanging heat with the ground. We have propane backup so if the outside temperature drops below 20(F) degrees, our house is heated with propane. Our house is cheap to heat if it uses the geothermal heat, but if it switches to the auxiliary system, it tends to gulp propane, which is why we keep the house a bit cool. We shouldn’t have a problem with our geothermal system since we just replaced it two years ago but it seems as if our auxiliary heat is kicking in before it should. EJ keeps checking the thermostat, trying to determine if there is a problem or not. Hopefully, there isn’t a problem with expensive repairs. It really feels as if every time we start to build up a little bit of savings, there is some “emergency” that drains it away. Every. Single. Time. The good thing is that we usually have just enough to cover the cost of the “emergency.” I would like to be able to have more than merely “enough” but it is a blessing to have enough. We have never been homeless, hungry, cold, or unable to pay our bills, and we have sometimes been able to buy a few extra things. The need to live frugally has also helped us become creative. So there is that.

On New Year’s Eve, I made homemade pizza while EJ drove to the local grocery store for a variety of chips for our “celebration,” which actually just involves eating and watching favorite movies or television series all day. In addition to the pizza, I also tried my hand at making homemade pretzels for the first time. They turned out well enough although I didn’t think they would because I didn’t think the dough rose enough–whether because, even in the best of times, we have trouble finding a warm enough place in winter to raise dough or because kneading dough is more difficult for me since I fell on the ice a couple of years ago and broke my wrist. We have begun using the dehydrator as a “proofing oven,” putting the temp at its lowest setting with a bowl of water in it to keep the dough moist. When EJ is available, I ask him to knead dough for me.

I told EJ that I ought to get a machine to roll out a sheet of dough for me–like those fondant machines I’ve seen on the Food Network. It would make rolling out dough for crackers more consistent and easier on my hands. Yesterday I thought, “Huh. I wonder what such a machine would cost?” Just for fun, I went looking at Amazon, and surprisingly, a simple model didn’t cost that much. In fact, such a device is actually a pasta maker so we could use it to make our own pasta as well as a sheet of dough for crackers. We could easily save for it. Making our own crackers and pasta would be cheaper and healthier in the long run than buying it from a store.

Then, since I was dreaming, I went looking for peanut butter makers. I have wanted to make homemade peanut butter for a long time, but machines are usually waaaay to expensive. I googled “best machine for making peanut butter” and the best noncommercial option was actually a powerful model of food processor, which several reviewers said they used to make a variety of nut butters. Again, making our own would be healthier. The recommended food processor wasn’t very expensive and we can save for it.

EJ said, “Look up air fryers for our Instant Pot.” He told me a co-worker has an air-fryer and LOVES it. I had trouble finding an air-fryer lid for an 8 quart Instant Pot so I went looking for an air-fryer appliance. I found a cool one that is an amazing 10-in-1 air fryer, toaster, convection, rotisserie, and dehydrator oven combo. The price was reasonable for what it is, but would take longer to save for.

I now have a list of dream machines.

I never considered myself much of a cook. Although I think my Mom was a good cook, she never really taught me or my sisters to cook when we were growing up. And when JJ was young, my time and energy went into homeschooling him. So cooking has been, for me, mostly a duty rather than a joy, even though EJ said he considers me a good cook. But I have had so much fun during the last year learning to use our Instant Pot, experimenting with different types of foods that I think it would be so much fun to have these other items and expand my home cooking horizons.

Tunisian technique.
Photo from tylcblog

For several months, I have been searching for a nordic pattern so that I could make various types of scarves. The patterns that I like require a technique called Tunisian. I thought it was merely a different type of stitch, but it’s actually a completely different branch of crocheting that I never knew existed. In normal crocheting, a person stitches a row, turns the work, and stitches the next row. In Tunisian crochet, the work is not turned after each row. Instead, each row consists of two “passes,” the first pass involves putting loops on the hook going from right to left, and the second pass involves taking the loops off from left to right. Because the loops for each stitch of a row stays on the hook–if there are 50 stitches, there are 50 loops on the hook–a longer Tunisian crochet hook is required. As a beginner, it seems very complicated to me but fortunately, there are how-to videos to show me how to do it. It might take some time, but these are the types of patterns I’d like to learn to create:

I bought this scarf pattern by Hayley Joanne Robinson.
I hope to learn this Tunisian technique, stitches, and patterns.

It appears that even though I’m trying not to have hopes, expectations, or goals for this year, I actually DO have them. Hopefully, I can accomplish these better than I did last year’s. Although, honestly, although 2020 was much crazier than expected, EJ and I have actually worked on recovery and healing so it wasn’t as unsuccessful as it appeared at first glance.

HOLIDAYS

I hope you all had a very nice Christmas despite the challenges of this year.

We have had a Koselig holiday season. Koselig is a concept that is deeply rooted in Norwegian culture. It is the feeling of coziness and being comfortable. It is about being content and creating a pleasant environment. it is about intimacy and warmth.

Our “big” gift to each other was the Bibles that we gave each in early December for what we call Hanukkah-mas-ary because Hanukkah, Christmas, and our wedding anniversary are all celebrated in December. However, just for fun, on Christmas Eve we went to Goodwill to see what treasures we could find. I bought a few books and warm sweatshirts. EJ didn’t really find much this time. Sometimes he finds the treasures, sometimes I do, and sometimes we both do. It doesn’t really matter what we find–the treasure hunting is what we enjoy.

EJ has about 11 days off work for Christmas–from December 24th through January 3rd. We have mostly been hanging out together, puttering around. I made homemade crackers a couple of times. I’ve never made them before, but I thought I’d try it so we could just make more if we ran out rather than depend on the stores. I’ve been trying out different recipes, trying to find the one I like best. I’m also working on my technique. As the quote goes, “Practice makes perfect” and practice is yummy when it involves food. The first recipe I tried, the crackers turned out pretty well but the dough was rather stiff and difficult to roll out. I got distracted when making the second recipe and I forgot to include a key ingredient–the butter. Oops. The crackers turned out ok, but I would like to make the recipe with all the ingredients.

I was thinking about making rock candy but we have had trouble finding the Lorann oil flavors that we like. Cinnamon and spearmint are my favorite flavors. EJ found cinnamon but he couldn’t find spearmint. He said there weren’t many flavors left at the only store we have found them at. He chose butterscotch for himself, but accidentally got Butter Almond. Sometimes I chuckle when I think about making candy because I remember my sister saying she couldn’t make candy one year because we didn’t have enough snow. Our Mom used to quickly cool the candy by placing the pan it was in into a larger pan filled snow that she had scooped from the yard. My sister didn’t consider that the snow was just a convenient method and the candy could be cooled in other ways. Laugh.

I was thinking about also trying my hand at making homemade pretzels. I have never made pretzels before, except years ago when we had a bread machine. The bread machine only lasted a few months and we never replaced it when it broke down.

My homemade suet

The wild birds have eaten most of the suet I made them so I made them more yesterday. I used the deer fat that EJ rendered. The birds like it. 🙂

Besides cooking, I organized the closet in our bedroom. I’ve also been working on a crocheted hooded scarf of my own design. I hope to make either the finished scarf or the pattern available for sale.

One of my hens died. 😥 I am not sure what she died of or even exactly when she died. The chickens all have favorite places in the coop where they like to roost. We have a fancy coop and a wooden dog house inside the 12′ x 10′ shed that is our coop. Most of the chickens like roosting on top of the fancy coop and dog house, but several like roosting inside of them. Anyway, I only count the chickens at night to make sure they are all safely inside and I assumed the hen was sleeping in her favorite place waaaay back in the lowest level of the fancy coop. I only got suspicious on Sunday night so I checked back there Monday afternoon and she was still there. We pulled her out and, yup, she was dead. 😥 I hate losing chickens, although I know that it happens sometimes.

The ring on the back of Hannah Joy’s harness that I attach her leash to broke. I can still attach her leash to the ring on the chest of her harness but she doesn’t like that as much because she tends to get tangled up in it. I’ve ordered her a new harness, which is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. I chose a blue one for her which should look good against her pretty reddish fur.

We’ve had a very mild winter. We only got measurable snow a week or so ago. The temperatures had been relatively warm, but now they are cold enough that I have to bundle up when I go outside. We keep our house a bit cool to save on heating costs so I keep warmer by wearing sweatshirts/sweaters, covering up with a lap blanket, and holding and drinking hot coffee or tea. Hannah Joy likes to sleep on my lap under the blanket, and her body heat also helps me keep warm. However, whenever she hears a noise–a loud vehicle out on the road, the cats having a tussle, or any other noise she finds interesting–she suddenly erupts out of the blanket and my crocheting, the book I’m reading, or the cup I am holding is totally disrupted. I’ve had to change and wash my clothes–and the lap blanket–the last couple of days because Hannah Joy’s eruption splashed my coffee all over me. Silly dog.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">It is our custom on New Year's Eve to make homemade pizza and eat a variety of chips, Fritos, and Doritoes. I will make the pizza tomorrow and EJ will probably go shopping for the salty snacks. In the evenings, we always binge-watch a TV series or many-part movie (such as LOTR). EJ and I have been re-watching one of our favorite TV series on Amazon Prime called Stargate SG-1 for the last week or two. It is leaving Amazon Prime on January 1 so we are trying to get through it. Yesterday we were only on Season 6 so we started skipping to our favorite episodes and we are now on Season 8. Hopefully, we can finish the remaining seasons tomorrow night before the series disappears forever. It is our custom on New Year’s Eve to make homemade pizza and eat a variety of chips, Fritos, and Doritoes. I will make the pizza tomorrow and EJ will probably go shopping for the salty snacks. In the evenings, we always binge-watch a TV series or many-part movie (such as LOTR). EJ and I have been re-watching one of our favorite TV series on Amazon Prime called Stargate SG-1 for the last week or two. It is leaving Amazon Prime on January 1 so we are trying to get through it. Yesterday we were only on Season 6 so we started skipping to our favorite episodes and we are now on Season 8. Hopefully, we can finish the remaining seasons tomorrow night before the series disappears forever.

Merry Christmas

Whatever is beautiful. Whatever is meaningful. Whatever brings you peace and joy. May it be yours this Christmas holiday and throughout the coming year.

Hanukkah-mas-ary

I swear that time has become timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly. I blink and then find that a month has gone by without me noticing. It feels as if time speeds up faster and faster as we get older.

I have mostly spent the last month crocheting gifts for dear friends. EJ went to the post office on Friday and mailed them for me. All but one, which is headed to Canada. I wasn’t sure how much that one would cost to ship, and I feared that it would be terribly expensive. I’ve been shocked at how much it costs to ship items to other countries. EJ asked the postal clerk how much it would cost and it wasn’t that bad so we will ship it as soon as we can–probably Monday.

Our wedding day 30 years ago.

On December 1st, EJ and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. He said that the traditional 30th anniversary is a pearl, but I don’t care all that much for jewelry so I told him that the traditional gift is a new Bible. “Are you making that up?” he asked. Of course, he knew I was. I replied that I had decided that it is the tradition in OUR family. Mostly I said this because I had already gotten him a new Bible–one that I knew he had been wanting. He also got me a Bible that he knew I was wanting.

I called our Bibles our “Hanukkah-mas-ary” gifts because it’s a combination of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Anniversary. We don’t need a lot of things.

Hannah Joy and Hanukkah

Hannukah just ended a couple days ago. I love Hanukkah–both the beautiful candlelight and the meaning. Hanukkah is basically about not letting the dark overcome the light, which seems very appropriate for this crazy year.

We adopted Hannah Joy on December 23, 2017. Her name is a combination of the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays,

Early in December EJ made venison sausage and baloney for the first time ever. It is tasty but a little too salty. However, I’m sure he can make improvements the next time he makes it. EJ rendered the fat from the deer and I used it to make suet for the wild birds. It’s very easy to make suet for the birds. There are many recipes, but I use this one from Audobon:

• 1 1/2 cups shortening (I used EJ’s rendered deer fat)
• 3/4 cups nut butter (any kind)
• 3 1/2 cups wild bird seed
• 1 cup quick oats
• 1/2 cup cornmeal
• ice cube tray (I use square plastic containers that fit my suet feeder)
(I also put in some berries)

1. Mix the dry ingredients of birdseed, oats, and cornmeal together and set aside.
2. Combine the shortening and nut butter in a separate bowl and melt. Stir until completely combined.
3. Pour the melted mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
4. Spoon mixture into the ice cube tray. 
5. Freeze for one to two hours and place in your suet feeder!

The wild birds really like the suet–and so does Hannah Joy. When she’s outside, she always eats the seed/suet that the birds have knocked to the ground. I told her that if she keeps eating the seed, she’s going to turn into a bird and start tweeting. Then I will have to open a Twitter account for her. The threat doesn’t seem to upset her very much.

December 12th snow

Our Winter has been very mild so far this year. I like winter, but I don’t mind getting a mild one every now and then so we don’t have to worry about keeping our driveway plowed or getting stuck in the snow. Not that we have to worry too much about clearing our driveway–for the last couple of years, our neighbor has been doing it for us with his tractor snowblower. He is such a blessing!

Last weekend was actually the first time this year that we got any measurable snow that stuck around. I think we got around 8 inches. When I went out to do my chores this morning, I noticed that it’s warm enough that the snow has begun to melt. It’s not summer-hot outside, but it’s warm enough that I don’t freeze without hat or mittens.

If I blink and find that another month has gone by without me realizing it….I know that this year has been been very difficult but I really hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and that the darkness does not overcome your light.

Happy Thanksgiving

It is early, the sky is still quite dark, but before the day gets busy, I would like to wish all of my fellow Americans a very happy Thanksgiving Day. And everyone reading from other parts of the world, I hope you have a day of great blessing. Thanksgiving is more a thing of the heart than a meal on the table. But the feast is awesome too.

EJ making venison burger

Yesterday EJ did a little last-minute shopping. We were hoping to get another turkey to put in our freezer for a later time–turkeys are always on sale at this time of year. But we waited too long and they were all gone. Oh, well. EJ brought home two deer from his hunting trip so our freezer will be filled. EJ has done his own butchering. He saved some meat for venison steaks and has been turning the rest into burger. Buying a meat grinder a few years ago was a good investment. EJ ran the venison through the grinder once so far, but he will do it again several times to get it finer. He said he would like to try to make venison sausage this year. He will buy supplies after Thanksgiving.

Mincemeat pies

When EJ finished shopping and we got all the groceries put away, EJ prepared the pumpkin pie filling while I prepared pie dough. We made one large pumpkin pie, one large mincemeat pie, and several small mincemeat pies. Mincemeat is my favorite kind of Thanksgiving pie. EJ had bought two different brands of mincemeat to see which we liked best–one was our regular “Nonesuch” brand and the other was a cheaper brand. I used both. The cheaper brand was not as good as our regular brand so we won’t buy it again. It was soupy with fewer chunks of goodness. I never put a top crust on a pumpkin pie (does anyone?), but I used a variety of cookie cutters to make pretty decorations on the mincemeat pies. I was going to freeze some of the small pies but then I thought, “Who is kidding who?” and I baked them all. We will have pie for breakfast.

This morning EJ will cook the turkey in the roaster oven. He offered to make the green bean casserole as well. I will make homemade dinner rolls and prepare some of the other dishes, such as yams, stuffing (from a box), and so on. We enjoy cooking together, especially big dinners like Thanksgiving. Hannah Joy has volunteered to help with cleanup. She lies in the kitchen where we trip over her and gobbles up any morsel of food that accidentally falls to the floor.

On Tuesday, two days ago, Hannah Joy got her stitches removed. The assistant was the one who took the stitches out. She put a muzzle on her to make sure she doesn’t get upset and bite. Hannah Joy trembled while EJ held her close and I cooed comforting words to her. The assistant said that Hannah Joy had pulled out one or two stitches, but everything looked good. I would have been surprised if Hannah had not pulled out a few stitches. She had left her incision alone at first, but I’m sure it began to bother her as it healed. We kept a close eye on her and stopped her if she started licking, but then she started sneaking into the bedroom to covertly lick her owie. At first I was like, “What are you doing in the bedroom, Hannah Joy?” because she usually cuddles with me and only goes into the bedroom when she’s eating something she knows she’s not supposed to eat. Hannah Joy would look at me with her innocent-guilty look that said, “Me? I’m not do anything. I’m not licking my owie.” She makes us laugh. Anyway, it just took a few snips and the stitches were out and then she got lots of lovings from the veterinary staff. I liked our vet downstate, but I like our current veterinarian and her staff even more. They are very caring. I kind of wish I could have them for MY doctor.

In my “free” time, I have been busy working on crocheted gifts for friends for “Hanukkahmas,” named because it depends on which holiday they celebrate. LOL. I don’t know if I will get the gifts done in time–I should have started sooner, but I kept adding to my list and the projects are a little ambitious and are taking time. I had to ask most of them to tell me their favorite color and I’ve had to buy yarn. Well, I will work as hard and fast as I can….

But today I will feast.

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