Thursday, May 12, 2016

Unity Punch

Last Sunday, when I walked into the sanctuary at church, there were some unusual things on a small table up front.  A pitcher of yellow liquid, a pitcher of blue liquid, and a jar with a bit of water in it.  During the sermon, the pastor took each of the pitchers and poured them into the jar, filling it to the top as an illustration to go with what he was saying in the sermon.

Allison was inspired.

Allison was reminded of seeing people pour colored sand into a container at weddings in lieu of using a unity candle.  Being someone who doesn't like the idea of  keeping a lot of sentimental doodads, she doesn't someday want a jar of colored sand that she has to keep, just because it was a symbolic thing at her wedding.

Her solution?

Put punch components up front at the wedding.  Bride and groom each pour into a punch bowl, then the guests drink the punch at the reception.

We laughed so hard when she shared the idea with us at lunch.  We'll see if she follows through with it someday-though she isn't dating anyone so a wedding seems far off at the moment. Or, maybe, it will soon be a "thing" and you'll notice it all over Pinterest.  If so, you'll know who thought of it first. ;-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Chair sleeping

Ever have those nights when you can't get comfy enough to sleep?  Or you get to sleep, only to wake a couple hours later needing to find a new position because the one that was comfy when you fell asleep is now causing you pain?  That was me, several months ago.  My solution was to get a recliner for the living room in hopes that I could sleep, or at least nap, in it when I wasn't sleeping well in my bed and keep from disturbing Clarence's sleep as well.

We went shopping for the perfect sleeping chair.  I liked the first one I tried the best-until I went back to try it again a couple weeks later, at the end of a shopping trip, and found it was only easy to use when I wasn't fatigued.  Back to square one.

Clarence suggested I needed to reconsider the motorized chairs I had already shunned.  While I was in town one day, I stopped back by the local furniture store to take another look.  When I mentioned that I was now considering an electric chair, my salesman was quick to chuckle and tell me that they call them "power recliners" as it sounds much better.

During the several weeks it took for the chair to arrive, a friend sent me the pattern for a neck pillow, advising me that it was absolutely necessary if I didn't want to be sore from sleeping in a recliner.  My chair arrived just before Christmas but I still hadn't gotten around to making my neck pillow.

Yesterday, I ended up taking a nap in my chair.  I'm happy to report that it's a very comfortable chair for sleeping but when bedtime rolled around, I had a lot of soreness in my back and arms.  I thought about my neck pillow, already cut out, just not sewn together.  

Today, I finally got it out and sewed it.  Before sewing the opening closed, I kicked back on it in my bed to see if it felt too soft or too firm.  As I contemplated the amount of stuffing, I ended up with a pleasant 45 minute nap.  If only I had tried it in my chair, I could have had a "power" nap.  ;-)

If you're interested in making one, I used the pattern/instructions found here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bargain tulips

It's been a long time.  There have been several reasons I haven't been around but who wants to hear tales of health, or busyness, or that I've hardly taken a single picture in months (therefore, I can't blog, right?).

I went grocery shopping yesterday.  (It's shaping up to be an exciting post already, isn't it?) I do most of my shopping at our local Kroger which has undergone a major remodel over the past several months.  After all the dust and clutter, it's finally been done for a couple weeks.  

The remodeled store is really nice but I don't think they left a single thing in the same place so I spend a lot of time going back and forth, between forgotten items suddenly remembered (I stink at having a good list) and the totally new layout of the store.

Yesterday, I decided to walk back to the produce area to look for something and my path happened to go through the floral area.  Kathy always finds great deals on flowers but I never see anything like she finds.  Until yesterday.

I was sure the $1.00 price tag was a mistake until I realized that there were several of them, all marked down to $1.

Between the deer, chipmunks, and whatever other critters live around our property, most of the tulips we've planted are long gone so I'm going to enjoy having tulips again, inside where the animals can't steal share the enjoyment.  

As the snow keeps falling today, I'm going to pretend that spring is almost here.  I have the tulips to prove it!

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Last Sunday was Allison's commencement ceremony.  She shared the day with two longtime friends, which made it extra nice.

I stressed about the details ahead of time, mostly the question of what I might be leaving out of my planning.  We used the program from Julianne's graduation as our starting point but I had niggling worries about what I was forgetting to do that I didn't even know I was supposed to be doing.  

The worries were for naught as everything came together beautifully and the kids were happy with it, which was really all that mattered, right?

Each of the graduates agreed to do a special musical piece.  Julianne played for Allison as she sang "He Leadeth Me".  Molly played guitar and sang, Josh played a cajon (that drum box you can see behind Allison) while his brother played guitar and a friend sang.  With only three graduates, it was nice to be able to see each of them share their talents.

The big moment!

Each of the grads had a customized cap.  Allison made hers-she used a pink paisley with a little glitter in the design...perfect!  Molly enhanced her cap with "Now I'm like this cylinder-we're both graduated" and a drawing of a cylinder.  Josh had Star Wars fabric on his cap, which totally surprised me because I don't think he knew the girls were doing anything unusual with theirs.  I loved their creativity and individuality.

This is the FIAR friends group shot.  Our group dwindled down to these three families the past few years and it's amazing to me to think about how long these kids have been friends.  I'm so glad Molly made sure they were invited.

We were delighted that so many people we care about were able to share in the day.  Their presence was so appreciated as we marked this milestone in Allison's life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


For several years when the girls were younger, we had a Fat Tuesday tradition.

I had tried purchasing Paczkis at the grocery store but no one here was all that impressed.  Maybe if we lived near a Polish bakery it would have been different but, as an alternative, I tried my hand at making fried cakes like my mom had made a few times when I was growing up.  They were a big hit and a tradition was born (because, you know, it only takes one time to start a tradition).  One year, as I fried doughnuts in the kitchen, Clarence and the girls ate them in the dining room pretty continuously.  I had no idea how many the girls had consumed until Allison ended up sick in the night from too many doughnuts.

Our schedule changed and we ended up forgoing our tradition for several years because we were at co-op every Tuesday.  Since that is no longer the case, I decided to revive the tradition this year...but I only made a half batch this time!

I tried baking a couple in the oven, and a couple more in the mini-doughnut maker I have, hoping to find a lower fat cooking method that was satisfactory.  Both produced very dry doughnuts so it was back to frying in oil. 

I decided to see if I could cook them on our woodstove in Clarence's cast iron wok and it was surprisingly successful.

My friend who insists we are homesteaders will see this as more proof that she's right.  The woodstove, cooking on it, and using cast iron-all hallmarks of homesteaders, apparently.

Shaken in some cinnamon sugar, they were a tasty dessert tonight.  I'd call it a homesteading success, if I were actually a homesteader.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bathroom remodel

Clarence has been plugging away at remodeling our bathroom for a while now and it is finally pretty much done.  We still need trim around the door but that has to wait for spring, because I'm the painter around here and I don't want to stain and polyurethane the trim until I can do it outside.  I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me to get it done before the weather turned cold...

This is our rotating shower curtain rod.  You know those curved rods they have in many hotel rooms?  This is like that, except that it rotates into the tub when not in use, so the room isn't dwarfed by the shower curtain sticking out into the room.  With our narrow room, this is important to us.

Our Ikea cabinets, sink and faucet.  I don't completely love the sink/faucet combo, but only because it's impossible to wash your hands without water splashing out of the sink.  Otherwise, it's fantastic as we get a full top drawer under the sink, not a partial one with a cut-out for the plumbing.

This is the light fixture that I probably paid too much for, especially when Clarence had to build that box out from the wall in order to mount it.  But, it's really pretty in person and he is so good to me to figure out a way to make it work.

After changing our fixtures from chrome, we switched out the ugly, old, brown register for this brushed stainless one.  I think it's kind of funky and fun.

Another big change is the wall-mount toilet.  I loved the idea of being able to mop around and under more easily and we like the insulated tank in the wall-no more condensation puddles under the toilet in the summer!

I pinned a woven-top curtain on Pinterest a while back, planning to use the idea for the bathroom curtain.  I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out the best way to accomplish the look I wanted and finally had to overcome my fear of doing it wrong in order to  I'm happy with the final outcome and, like many things I procrastinate about due to fear of failure, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

I don't think our paint color is quite accurate in any of these pictures-it's blue with a touch of green in it.  It's a color I chose at Home Depot, in an attempt to match one of the stripes in the shower curtain.

We never had a vent fan in our old bathroom.  I hated having to clean the mildew off the ceiling above the shower, so I'm thrilled to have a (nice and quiet) fan now.  I also love the timer Clarence put it on, so no fears of all our heat being sucked outside because someone forgot to turn the fan off.  Another impulse purchase was a ground-fault outlet with an automatic night light.  We always had a night light plugged in anyhow, so this eliminates the need for that.

Clarence put a lot of work into this project and I am so happy with the outcome.  Thanks for taking a look!

(Many specific products are on my "Bathroom Ideas" Pinterest board if you want to find links to any of these items.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The start of canning season

Our garden is finally picking up speed.  Each year, the trees in our yard shade the garden just a bit more which, in turn, slows down the harvest a bit more.  We have generous friends who have shared their beans, dill, cucumbers, and tomatoes with us long before we've gotten a taste of our own so we've been able to enjoy garden fresh treats while waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.

August finally brought us beans from our garden so, with my friend's dill, I was able to make dilly beans.

In fact, my friend shared so much dill with me that I made a couple batches of dilled carrots as well (though not with homegrown carrots-those prepared carrots from the store are a huge time saver).  Our dill will be ready any day now.  Now that I don't need it.

Recently, Julianne took some meat down to the freezer for me and found the door not quite closed.  Thankfully, I only lost the contents of the door.  Almost everything else was still frozen hard-except some of my berry supply.  My blueberries and raspberries still had blocks of frozen berries but they also had some liquid in the bags that isn't normally there.  After I had already dumped a couple bags of strawberries, it dawned on me that I could thaw them the rest of the way and make something, rather than pitching them all.  As a result of that decision, I tried a new recipe for Bumbleberry jam-blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry-perfect!

 I also tried making blueberry syrup, which are the larger jars in back.  The jam is good enough that it might be an addition to my annual "to-can" list

The first of our cucumbers were ready a few days ago.  I didn't think there were enough to do much with, other than eating them fresh.  I weighed them, though, and had exactly enough for a batch of bread and butter pickles.

Honestly, we aren't big pickle eaters here, though you wouldn't know it by looking at what I've canned so far.  The girls love the bread and butter pickles and we use the dill ones here and there.  I like having them on hand for relish trays I may take somewhere and I have some friends who are thrilled to take care of the excess dilly beans in particular. 

Since making all this stuff, I've canned 21 quarts of green beans and am finishing up a dozen more as I type.  And I was worried we weren't going to get many beans this year.

Our tomatoes are just getting started. Hopefully, they will produce well enough to yield a lot of tomato sauce and salsa this year.  It's been a couple years since we've had a really plentiful crop of tomatoes so I'm hoping this year will be abundant.  Michigan peaches are due soon and I have a peach-tomato salsa recipe we all enjoy so we're keeping our fingers crossed that the peaches and tomatoes will be ready at the same time.

Ah, the joys of gardening.  Every year is different and every year I'm so thankful for the growing number of jars filled with organically grown vegetables on my shelves as the plants start producing in quantity.