Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bits and Bobs...

I have been a bit under the weather this week.  Not sick...just a little head achy and low energy.  Sort of blah, like when you are coming down with a cold.  Last evening I curled up in my recliner with my Kindle and promptly fell asleep about 8:30.  This morning I woke to a gorgeous pink and purple sunrise, feeling great.  Or as great as I can feel until I have my coffee.  Guess sometimes getting enough sleep will cure what ails you.

Although it is only 39 degrees this morning, I have a window open an inch or two and will open it more later when we are promised a 50 degree afternoon.  The tree outside my window is beginning to bud and the little birds are back - about a dozen of them, mostly sparrows and chickadees - perched on the branches, squabbling and gossiping and carrying on.  The sound is welcome after such a long, cold winter.

While I was feeling out of sorts, I spent some time on YouTube.  It amazes me the things you can learn.  I ran across several videos about growing herbs in jars of water.  A couple of years ago I tried growing some vegetables in pots on my window sills, but it pretty much was a dismal failure.  When I order my groceries again in two weeks, I think I will order a few herbs to try and maybe a couple other things like lettuce and celery that they say can be grown in bowls of water.  It is worth a try and might be fun.

The nurse who takes care of my legs three times a week is such a cute little thing.  When I talked to her about using flannel for the bandages on my legs, she didn't think I was crazy (or if she did, she didn't say so), and jumped right in to test the theory.  Anyway, she told me last week they are expecting their first child.  She says she doesn't want to know the gender of the baby until it is born.  I have been going through my stash of fabrics to see if I have enough baby neutral colors of fabric for a baby rag quilt.  I think I found enough yellow and green with bunnies and carrots on it to make a cute quilt.  If there isn't enough, I can always order some fabric online.  It is so much fun to make things for others.

I am looking forward to my grocery delivery today.  I don't often indulge myself, but this time I ordered a box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars.  Life is always happier with a box of Little Debbie Nutty bars.  :)

And now it is back to the sewing machine to sew zig-zag stitches around the edges of the last stack of 4x4 inch bandages.  That will give me around 200 of them and I go through close to 20 per week.  I love it that I no longer need to order more of the commercial ones, but can just wash these in hot, soapy water (to get rid of the salve on them) and they come out just like new.

Love it when a plan comes together and actually works!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Cranberry Juice

So a couple of weeks ago I awoke with the symptoms of a bladder infection.  I opened a quart of my home canned cranberry juice and sipped on it all day.  The next morning the symptoms had disappeared and have not returned.

I have used cranberry juice on other occasions for the same purpose, but used store bought juice, which took several days to work.  I suspect what the makers of cranberry juice advertise as 100% juice, isn't.

A couple of years ago Duane brought me 75 lbs. of fresh cranberries from the Farmer's Market.  There is a vendor there who has the most beautiful cranberries I have ever seen.  I have never found a bad berry and each and every one is a gorgeous dark red color.  They make the cranberries from the store look like poor seconds.

The berries come in 25 lb. boxes.  I had used most of one box but circumstances prevented me from preserving the rest, so I bagged them up and froze them.  Last year I needed the freezer space, so I thawed out the berries, filled canning jars with them, adding water to cover and canned them, thinking I could use them up at a later date.  The later date has arrived.

After drinking one quart of cranberry juice, I saw I had only three quarts left.  It was time to make more, so yesterday I hauled all 29 quart jars of canned cranberries to the kitchen.  I dumped 5 quarts at a time into the stock pot, added an equal amount of water and brought it to a simmer.  I let it simmer for 10 minutes and then ran it through a colander, letting the juice drip into another pot and saving the cooked berries.

Once that was done, I mashed up the cooked berries, added water to maybe an inch over the berry pulp and brought that to a simmer.  Then I drained all of that, extracting more juice.  Again I saved the pulp and will dehydrate it tomorrow.  Have no idea what to use powdered cranberries for, but I can't stand wasting them.

This morning I dumped 7 quarts of juice at a time into a stock pot, added 2 1/2 cups of sugar and heated the juice until the sugar was dissolved and the juice was fairly hot.  Then it went into quart jars and was canned in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  I now have 35 quarts of lovely, ruby red cranberry juice, plus a couple of quarts in the fridge just to drink.

This whole thing was an experiment.  I had only before made juice using fresh cranberries, but it turned out well.

And now, you guessed it.  Time for a little nap.  :)

Friday, March 22, 2019

I Can Be Such a Dunderhead...

So I am at the sewing machine, happily stitching zig-zags around more 4x4 bandage pads.  I had just switched an empty spool of thread for a full one, when the stitches went all wonky.  I fiddled with the dials, trying to adjust the tension to straighten out the stitches.  Didn't work.

So then I went in search of the instruction manual, tearing apart the book case where I thought it was.  Finally found it, buried under a stack of quilting books.  By that time there were books and magazines scattered all over the floor.

Read the instructions.  Tried all the fixes for stitches.  The zig-zags were still wonky.

Frustration is building.  I dug out my other sewing machine, only to find that the spindle that holds the thread was broken off.  Why do they make these things out of breakable plastic?  Better buy some super glue soon.

Gave up and fixed a sandwich for lunch.  Back at the machine, I took a long hard look and discovered I had threaded it with quilting thread by mistake.  Quilting thread is stiffer and thicker than regular sewing thread.  No wonder the stitches had gone all wonky.

 Threaded the machine with regular sewing thread.  Worked like a charm.

 By the time I figured out what was wrong and cleaned up the mess I made looking for the manual and packed up the second machine and put it away, my morning was shot.

 Those who don't sew will likely not understand how frustrating these machines can be sometimes.  And those who do sew will get how something as simple as using the wrong thread can really mess things up.

 Yep.  Dunderhead.

 So then I took a nap, which seemed like the most reasonable thing to do at the time.  :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Most evenings after supper dishes are done, will find me at my desk working on one handiwork project or another.  My computer is my source of entertainment.  I don't own a TV.  I got rid of mine when I realized I hadn't found anything I cared to watch for over 6 months.  Sometimes I will find a movie on YouTube.  Sometimes I listen to music on Pandora.  Then I discovered YouTube had audio books.  Many of the offerings were newer publications.  And that's when I realized how much our society has changed.

Most of the books on my Kindle were gleaned from the Project Gutenberg website, where books can be downloaded in several formats, all for free.  They are mostly books that are out of copyright, so their publication dates range from the mid 1800's to around the 1930's or so.   My taste runs mostly to mysteries, but I have others like Dickens, Mark Twain and other authors of the era.

Upon browsing the audio books on YouTube, I found some of the older books, but also found many newer mysteries.   So I decided to try them out.  What I found was that while the older mysteries had great stories to tell, the newer ones seem to be written more for shock value than for the stories. 

Nearly every mystery contains a murder, and then the hero goes about finding clues to identify and ultimately capture the murderer.  The older mysteries follow a story line with a colorful cast of characters and various clues that lead to a conclusion in the last chapter and the mystery is solved often on the last couple of pages.

The newer books seem to lean toward graphically describing every torture, often prolonged, that the victim endures before having their life viciously ended by the murderer.  And often the bad guy is a serial killer so we can relive these tortures through several victims before he is caught by hard hitting, hard drinking detectives who aren't much better than the bad guy.

I realize that bad things happened during the times the older novels were written.  And sometimes those things are the subject of books.  But most of those authors didn't feel the need to rub our noses in every bloody, gory detail like they do now.

I read for pleasure.  I read to escape the horrors of the day.  If I want nightmares, all I need do is watch the news.

Me...I'll take Agatha Christie's novels any day.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What Will You Do When The Lights Go Out

I'm not talking about how to deal with domestic chores or the feeding and watering of animals.  Nor am I talking about how to start a fire or build a shelter or forage for food.  All of us will have plenty to do what with laundry and meals and dealing with sanitary conditions.  Those who raise animals and gardens will be even more busy.  I am talking about how to keep the kids from killing one another or driving you crazy during the times when, with electricity, they would be busy with their computers or cell phones or watching television.   Or those adult apartment dwellers like this chubby granny who will need to have something to occupy their time when the chores are completed.  Sitting in the dark waiting for the sunrise is sort of a bleak prospect.

My number one suggestion is books.  Real paper books.  I love my Kindle, but unless I invest in a solar charger, when the battery runs down, I am done.  And I am not talking about the how-to books or medical books or survival books most preppers want on their bookshelves.  Those are important, but I'm talking about picture books for the little ones.  Story books, adventure books, girly-girl romance books for the pre-teens.  Mysteries, spy novels, travel books, history and biographies for the rest of us.  Many afternoons and evenings have been wiled away, lost in stories found in books.  Sleepless nights have occurred when I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next.

There are other kinds of books.  For the kids, coloring books and sticker books.  There are all sorts of activity books for kids that not only keep them busy but can also teach.  My mother, who was in a nursing home but still had a very sharp mind, went through so many puzzle books to pass the time and keep her mind active, that my Dad had a hard time finding books for her that she hadn't already done.  There are how-to books.  Learn to knit.  Learn to crochet.  Learn how to build a birdhouse.  Learn just about anything you want to learn with a book.  Remember, without electricity, YouTube doesn't exist.  Nor do Google searches.

You don't need to sell the farm in order to buy books.  My local library has a book sale every summer.  There are used book shops, thrift shops and garage sales.  I checked Craig's List and found a complete set of the 'Little House' books for $3 each and a set of 32 military history books for $30.  The good prices on books are out there.  We just have to look.

Then there are craft supplies.  One year for Christmas I gave my then pre-teen grands small tubs full of craft supplies.  Construction paper, drawing paper, pencils, markers, a small paint set, sequins, buttons, scissors, glue sticks, feathers, art foam, etc.  Kept them busy for hours.  I have a stash of yarn and another of fabric.  And a picnic basket full of sewing supplies.  I make things.  I also have a stash of scrapbooking supplies.  I would bet that some of my grands would love to make small picture albums from those.  And a stash of beads and jewelry making supplies.  One granddaughter gave me a bracelet she made, so I know she would have fun creating necklaces and ear rings. 

Board games are another way to pass the time and have fun doing it.  Usually when my family gets together, sooner or later you will find several of them engrossed in a game of Monopoly or Yahtzee or Sorry.  Playing cards are used for any number of games as well as solitaire.  I need to pick up Uno cards and a couple of the other specialty card games to have on hand.

I know that in a real grid down situation, much of our time will be spent just staying alive.  But we also need some down time to decompress.  The constant stress can wreak havoc on the human body and mind, and when that happens we are useless to our kids, our loved ones and ourselves.    And kids don't always understand the seriousness of a situation and they need to be kept busy when plunking them down in front of a TV for cartoons or video games is no longer an option.

I truly hope it never comes to this.  But the world has gotten so very out of control that I wouldn't bet against it happening.  And if it does, this is just another part of being prepared.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Flannel Update

I am pleased with most of the results.

I cut out 40 bandage pads, 20 of the 4x7 family cloths and 20 of the 6x10  paper towel substitutes  and ran a zig-zag stitch around each one.  I wanted to test them before going crazy cutting flannel.

I am using the bandage pads now.  The nurse was here and applied them to the areas on my legs that needed them.  I use an antibiotic salve on each one.  Without that, they could stick to an open wound, but any kind of salve including just Vaseline would work.  My personal preference is Bag Balm (for cows) to use on scrapes or minor cuts.  My legs are wrapped from toes to knees in Ace bandages and they hold the pads in place.  For use in other areas I have found the first aid tape they sell in stores to be pretty much useless.  It doesn't stick well at all.  I would use duct tape before I would use the first aid tape to hold a pad in place.  I have used the ribbed part of a sock to hold a bandage pad on a cut on my arm, but I need to find a better way to keep them in place where I wouldn't use the Ace bandages.   I think two or three layers of flannel could be sewn together with a zig-zag stitch to provide different sizes or thicker pads, but I will make mine single layered and just use several together if I need more absorption.

I got another dozen or so family cloths cut and then decided to quit being so persnickety about size.  My ruler that I use with my rotary cutter is 6.5 inches wide.  The cloths are now 6.5 x 6.5 inches square.  Went much faster cutting.

I have been using the family cloths for a couple of days and find no problem with them.  They are softer than toilet paper and are very absorbent.  I washed them in my little apartment sized washer on the low water setting in hot water with a little bit of bleach and laundry detergent, and they came out clean with no odor.  In a grid down situation, they can be washed by hand.  Sometimes I think we have become more squeamish and less practical.  Grandma washed diapers for 9 children using a wash tub and washboard.

I need to buy a small trash can with a lid to hold the used ones until laundry day each week.  I folded each cloth and stacked them in a basket that sits on top of the toilet tank.

I don't like the flannel paper towels.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe they are too small and too thin, but when I made a couple larger sizes and double thickness, I still didn't like them.  The ones I have seen in how-to videos online and in Etsy shops are much more elaborate, often using terry cloth on one side and another fabric on top, with enclosed edges and top stitching around each one.  This isn't rocket science.  This is paper towels and I just can't justify the time and expense for making them like that.  So I may just buy some cheap washcloths at the dollar store or maybe use some of my older terrycloth dishtowels  instead and use the ones I already made for handkerchiefs.  I have a big bag that holds more sturdy rags that are from old clothes I cut up and recycled for scrub rags, mostly t-shirts and sweatshirts and pants.  With those and a few washcloths, I likely can get along just fine without paper towels of any sort.

I will definitely be making more of the bandages and the family cloths.  I can dry them in my little clothes dryer, but I think I will look for one of those fold-up wooden clothes drying racks.  I should have one anyway in case we lose our electricity for any length of time making the dryer useless.  If stored in zip lock bags, they will stay neat and clean and can be tucked anywhere for storage.  Because they can be stored flat rather than on a roll, they take up much less space.  Any fabric will eventually wear out so having extras stashed seems like a good idea to me.  Lord knows - I surely do have enough flannel for it!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Up To My Knees in Flannel

Daughter Jill arrived this evening with 26 yards of flannel.  I am going to be busy cutting and sewing.  I have decided to not only make the 4 x 4 inch bandages, but will also try some 6 x 10 inch pieces to use instead of paper towels and some 4 x 7 inch pieces for what is known in polite society as family cloths (washable TP).  The way I look at it, the more I use washables instead of use and toss, the easier it will be to store.  Rolls of paper towels and TP take up space I just don't have.  Fabric can be folded and stored in a much smaller space.  And as a bonus, I will save money that can go for other preps I can not make at home.

So I will return in a couple of days and let you know how it all works out.  In the meantime, if you haven't already read Frank and Fern's latest article, you should.  The link is in the side bar.  It is definitely worth your time.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Back to My Normal Life

I have been busy getting back to my relatively drama free life.  Duane is home and doing well.  After a couple of months of physical therapy and occupational therapy to help him recover from his stroke, his remark was, "Oh, goodie. Now I get to go to heart therapy."  Sometimes we have to make jokes to keep depression at bay.  He says his diet is basically don't eat anything that tastes good.  But in all seriousness, he and his family are grateful that the problem of clogged arteries was found and fixed before he had a heart attack.  There have been many prayers of thanks as well as heartfelt thanks to all of you who have kept me and mine in your thoughts and prayers.

I have been getting back into a sort of routine.  I found some ideas for quilts that will make use of all the leftover pieces of fabric from other projects.  I have been ironing bits and pieces, getting them  ready to cut into little squares and rectangles.  Who knew a person could accumulate so many scraps of fabric, but there they are.  I can't make myself just toss them all.  Not when they can be made into something useful.

I was talking with the nurse who comes in to care for my legs.  In the course of conversation we decided that the 4-inch gauze pads that are used to cover the open areas on my legs could just as well be made from flannel.   If I order the pads, sometimes the delivery person brings them to my door, but most times they are left at the bottom of the stairs and sometimes outside.  A box of 25 pads costs anywhere from $9 to $12, depending where I get them.  If I buy white flannel, cut it into 4-inch squares, run a zig-zag stitch around the edges to keep the fabric from fraying, I can get 90 pads out of one yard of flannel, which is on sale now for 2.99 per yard.  Even including the price of the thread, that's still way cheaper than buying ready-made.  And they can be washed and re-used.  So my daughter is making a run to Joann Fabrics to buy flannel for me.  Looks like I will be busy next week.

Mother Nature is still grumpy.  She is sending us more snow for the weekend.  They say between 6 and 12 inches worth.  At least the temps are now above miserable cold.  We may even see some thawing next week.  I was beginning to believe a new Ice Age had arrived.  :) 

Not much else going on here right now.  I have more canning to do, but that will keep until a couple of my sewing projects are finished.  Nothing I can do about the snow except watch it fall and pile up - from my rocking chair - wrapped in a green fuzzy blanket - with a nice cup of coffee.  They only way to get through another snow storm.  :)

Monday, March 4, 2019


Duane's surgery went well.  The doctors inserted one stent in one artery and two stents in another.  He will remain in the hospital overnight.

His sister called earlier to let me know the surgery went well.  Just a few minutes ago, Duane called me.  He was still pretty groggy, but he managed to tell me about the surgery.  It seems that one of his arteries was 90% blocked. 

I am so grateful that they found it and fixed it.  And I am so very grateful for your response to my call for prayer.  This little online community has a way of taking care of one another that is astounding.  Duane says "Thank you" for all the thoughts and prayers on his behalf.  And may God richly bless each and every one of you. 

Calling on the Prayer Brigade Again

This morning Duane is back in the hospital.  This time he is having surgery to unblock two arteries.  Please. if you are so inclined, keep him in your prayers today.  I will post when I know more.  I thank you all in advance and thank God there are those of you I can ask for this favor.  Bless you all.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Dear Politicians, Both State and Federal:

I see you have been busy devising more ways to deprive we honest, law abiding citizens of our Second Amendment rights.  For instance, in my state of Minnesota, there are two bills pending:

"...One bill calls for universal background checks for any and all gun transfers in the state, including family members passing down an heirloom hunting rifle or shotgun, or a friend giving a gun to another friend. There are fears it could lead to the government compiling a list of gun owners. Another bill allows people to go to a judge with concerns about potentially dangerous people owning guns, and allows the judge to confiscate those weapons before going through due process."  (from the Lakeland Broadcasting Website)

There is no law that will prevent the bad guys from getting their hands on guns.  Your laws will not stop bank robberies, convenience store robberies, gang related shootings or the actions of a man who wants to shoot as many school children or concert attendees as possible.  None of them.  Because criminals don't care about your laws.

So before you get to the point where you want us all to turn in our guns, and don't think for a minute that we don't know that is the ultimate goal of politicians, I really wish even one of you would tell me all about your plans to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, because so far, none of your ideas are working, except to make it more difficult for we - the ones who you work for -  to defend our lives and the lives of those we love from the bad guys.

I'm waiting..........

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Sometimes things go according to plan...

sometimes not so much.

The original plan was to combine all the ingredients for the soup and divide it between the two largest pots I own to simmer it for awhile before canning.  It soon became obvious that there were way more vegetables than would fit in the pots.  As I didn't want to spend the better part of the day cooking and not canning, I devised a Plan B.

I filled each jar 2/3 full of raw vegetables and topped them off with diced tomatoes.   I made beef broth with bouillon cubes and used that for the liquid in each jar.   Because beef bouillon contains protein, I canned the soup at the same times I use for canning meat.

One pint jar didn't seal, so I heated that soup for lunch.  It turned out really good.  There are still two canner loads waiting to be processed, but when all is said and done, I will have 48 pints and 25 quarts to go on my shelves.  It was definitely worth the time and effort.

And now I think I could use a nap.  :)