Sunday, 31 July 2011

product review - plastic wrap

Why do people even use plastic wrap? Known in the UK as "cling film," and among many Americans by a popular brand name "Saran wrap," this thin clear plastic is a staple in kitchens everywhere, and just as universally cursed. It's supposed to form a self-sealing film over any material or shape, thus maintaining freshness of the item covered.

Over the years I've used Glad Cling Wrap, Saran, Target store brand, and various others. Most brands stick to themselves more than their intended recipient, tear easily except for attempts to tear off a piece, and are generally more trouble than they are worth. But we keep trying.

Once I bought a roll of "Sam's Choice" - the WalMart store brand - and was pleasantly surprised. It was thicker, consistently sticky to objects other than itself, and quite strong. But, of course, they discontinued it. I'd almost forgotten the stuff until we moved in to Grandma's house, and she had an old roll in the kitchen. Ah, it was nice while it lasted.

But then, a few weeks ago, I saw a package in WalMart labeled Great Value Professional strength, with a little blurb on the side claiming it was the same as the old Sam's Choice brand. I gladly purchased a box, and even let my Mom know about it.

The Great Value wrap is very thick and strong. It sticks well to most surfaces. This may be hard to grasp, but we used it on our floor glue bucket, to keep the glue from drying out so quickly. We were able to open and close the bucket multiple times, as the glue grew ever thicker on the wrap, without any tears or loss of use. In short, impressive. I do have one complaint (of course). The box is worthless. It's designed for the wrap to pass through a slot in the lid, in theory keeping the wrap from sticking to itself and easy to "start." The problem is that the slot isn't as wide as the roll, so if you use it the edges of the roll don't unroll, tearing off gradually wider strips off the edges until you are left with a big mess to unravel. sigh. I use mine by pulling the whole tube out of the box, measuring out what I need, putting it back in the box, and cutting it off with the tear strip. Very inconvenient, but I guess it's worth it because the product works, and as far as I know no other brand does. I do wish they'd make a better dispenser, though.

Friday, 29 July 2011

What we did yesterday.

I'm rather tired to be typing, so I'll let my little friend do the talking for me.

Yesterday, we went from this:

To this:

Followed by this:

With a little of this on the side:

And then, just to keep from getting bored, I did this:

Thursday, 28 July 2011

product review - razors

Okay, you know me, I can't do anything in a straightforward manner.

I started shaving my legs at age of 10, using BIC disposables. OUCH! Cuts, burns, and not a close shave. Saw that my Granny used Personal Touch razor with disposable heads, so I got one of those and used it until I got married. Bob is the one who taught me to use hot water, which softens the hair and allows a closer cut. Nice!

He used Gillette, so I got the women's Gillette razor with disposable heads (is there a name for that style? I can't think of it.), and it was pretty nice. Then they started adding blades and revamping everything. When Gillette went to the Venus razor, I switched to Schick Quattro because I don't believe in goddess worship. It cut all right, but since I don't shave every day my hair is a little long sometimes, and it clogged up in the blades. I compensated by wiping the blades with a fingernail brush after every pass.

But then! Last week I couldn't find my razor. We were going swimming, I needed to shave. Bob has two Gillette Fusion bodies (because he lost one once); one had just had the head changed, and the other needed a change. So I got the old razor, put a fresh head on, and my life changed forever. Well, that may be a LITTLE dramatic. The Fusions scare me a little because of the single exposed blade on the back, but I can deal with that. It glided through my hair. I felt no pulling sensation AT ALL. And the blades are spaced so that the hair easily slipped through without clogging up. I got done in record time, and had the smoothest legs ever. (Well, if you don't count the varicose veins.)

It was so much better than anything I've experienced before. I wonder why "they" can't make a women's razor this nice. Well, I've long used men's Edge Shave Gel, I guess I can use a men's Gillette Fusion razor. It was just plain NICE, and I have no reason to look anywhere else for an easy, painless, close shave.

probably should write something

There have been some developments...

We got the master bedroom floor clean, finally. Turns out the dried glue does come off, you just have to scrub it. We got all the trim painted and most of it up (haven't framed the door yet because that's the wall I haven't painted yet). We bought curtains and hung them, and picked out a ceiling fan and installed it.

Then, Tuesday, we went to Springdale to visit MIL (it was her birthday - 60!), and went to Lowe's to pick out a new door, door knob, and possibly our bathroom cabinet/sink. We walked around the store for a couple of hours, finally deciding that we would talk to our cousin's husband, who has a cabinet shop, to see what he could do for us. We got a door and knob, and headed out for dinner. I started the van as Bob returned the cart, and it gasped and died. Tried again, and it wouldn't start. huh.

Well, long story much shorter, we got Jesse to come out from Huntsville to pick us up and take us back home. He even stopped at McD's so we could have some burgers. We made it home about 9pm. This morning Bob drove back out in his Mini, replaced a fuse that he suspected. It didn't solve the problem. So he contacted the dealership across the street. They towed him over (for $55!!!!) and promised to diagnose it this afternoon. We didn't hear back from them today.

While Bob was having all that fun, the children and I cleaned the building, the yard, and the house. Tomorrow is the big day; furniture arriving! Most will be stacked in the building, but our beds, chests, and dining furniture will come straight in. Then we get to spend the next 10 years sorting through the boxes. :-)

I started another batch of pickles today, as the cukes continue to do well. And tried a couple of new recipes that we liked. I'm worn OUT.

Monday and Tuesday I walked with Serenity for about a mile before breakfast. The first day she pulled quite a bit, but finally got the hang of it. Tuesday she walked right beside me the whole time. Smart dog! I didn't go out today because I knew I'd be on my feet all day anyway. I hope to go again tomorrow.

Friday, 22 July 2011

garden pics

I'm rather proud of my garden lately... Here is Cedwryck among the cucumbers and tomatoes. A few carrots and onions grace the borders, and maybe a marigold or two.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Yes, it's Wednesday; what's your point?

Monday we woke up with a plan. Our furniture was coming Friday and we wanted to get our new bedroom ready for our bed. The goal - to install our solid bamboo floor. We'd watched several "how to" videos, read the label and the website for our glue, and were motivated.

First we laid out a few rows "dry" to make sure about measurements past the little closet. Bob cut the planks around the door frame, and to start and finish each row. I calculated that we would hit the fireplace (and the far wall) with 2/3 of a plank width left, so we didn't need to "rip" any for the first row. What we did need, however, was more shims - the little spacers that go along the walls. So Bob went to town for shims while I took apart what we'd lain and stacked it in order, and had lunch.

You keeping up? It was after lunch before we got started. But we decided to go ahead, because Tuesday we had 4-H, and if we did it Wednesday and something went wrong it would be too late to fix it.

Anyway, I swept the floor thoroughly, including scraping up paint blobs and miscellaneous dirt, and Bob pried open the 5 gallon can of glue. Now the videos we watched showed the guy quickly and easily pouring the glue straight from the bucket, but that must have been nearly empty because ours was heavy and awkward. It was thick, but runny, so Bob couldn't just scoop it with the trowel like he did for the bathroom tile. He's too smart to be put off with a little difficulty, though, and came up with an empty Hershey cocoa can (it's plastic, but I don't know what else to call it) to scoop out the glue.

So he scooped, troweled, and set in the first row (I helped). After 3 rows we noticed that the boards weren't really staying together. We knew that the videos suggested putting down strips of painters tape to hold the boards until the glue dried, but they indicated doing this over 5 rows together, after the whole room was laid down. But we discovered the most effective way to get the job done was to tape EACH INDIVIDUAL BOARD as we held it into place. Which doesn't even sound that bad, but you have to realize that whoever was holding the board would get at least one body part into the glue, which then dripped onto the floor, and had to be cleaned immediately with mineral spirits. Everyone says it cleans of easily right away with mineral spirits, but only hint about how hard it is to get off if it ever dries. They don't even give tips on how to clean it after drying - just don't let it dry.

Anyway, once we figured out the proper method, it wasn't too bad (just tedious). We managed to get the whole room done without losing our tempers even once. oh, yeah!
We were about 1/3 of the way through when the phone rang, and the caller ID showed "US Government" and I answered anyway. ;-) It was our friendly local transportation office, wanting to schedule our furniture delivery. I thought it was scheduled. She checked - no, that Friday date was the time for it to be turned over to them to be delivered. sigh. Same as when we got our storage stuff. So we scheduled for the following Thursday. Another week. So we could have put off the floor for another day or two, but we were already started.

It was about this time that we noticed the glue was getting nice and thick. Ummm, the glue is about $100 per bucket... it had better not go bad on us half-way across a small room! Bob's brain to the rescue again. He got some plastic wrap (cling film) and covered the bucket in between scoops, and while it continued to thicken, it was at a much slower rate.

I got another phone call from the government, wondering why I hadn't filled out my "completely anonymous" military life survey they'd sent recently. Umm, way to encourage trust in your promises of anonymity! The reason was that the survey had no option for retired folks.

The children cleaned the house, rinsed and mixed the pickles for me, watched a video, and played their harmonicas very loudly.

We finally got finished about 8pm, did Bible time with the children and put them to bed, then had our supper at 9:30 (Bob actually went to Sonic and got us burgers and ice cream). Elijah was so glad to see us when we came in, it was sweet - he just smiled and hugged us.

By the time we got going, I started pouring and troweling the glue while Bob cut the boards, and by the time we finished my hands and feet were pretty solid black and sticky. I washed several times in the mineral spirits, tried baking soda, and finally resigned myself to being sticky for a while.

As of Wednesday afternoon my hands are clean, but I still have spots on my arms and legs. My feet are still pretty black. Last night Taryn and I scraped off some glue, but when I tried again this morning it pulled the skin off so I quit.

We had Taryn take a picture, but I don't have it on my computer yet.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Crispy Sweet Pickles with tips from my mother.
This recipe is what I grew up with. I'd eat these pickles plain on saltine crackers, on hamburgers, or any other way I could get them.

25 to 30 small cucumbers (less amount for larger ones)
1 cup pickling lime
1 gallon water

8 cups vinegar
8 cups sugar
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 teaspoon canning salt

Thoroughly wash cucumbers. Slice crosswise, 1/8 inch thick. Place in a glass or other non-aluminum container.

Dissolve lime in water (use non-aluminum container.) Pour over cucumbers. Let set for 24 hours. (The pickling lime package says to refrigerate, but I have been making these for over 20 years and have always let them set on the counter.)

Drain cucumbers -- NOT INTO SINK. (If you have plants that like limy soil as opposed to acid, pour the lime water around them.) Rinse in clear, cool water 4 times, making sure to remove all the lime. Handle carefully as they are brittle. Cover with clear, cool water and let stand for three hours. Drain. Set aside.

Mix vinegar, sugar, cloves, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber slices. Let stand overnight.

Place cucumbers and syrup in a large pot; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes. (Meanwhile sterilize jars.) Ladle cucumbers and syrup into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles with non-metal tool. Add more liquid if needed. Wipe rim and threads of jar. Cap each jar according to directions with lids.

Process in boiling water bath: pints 5 minutes; quarts 10 minutes. (The new FDA guidelines recommend 10 minutes for pints and 15 for quarts.)

Makes about 10 pints or 5 quarts.

1. check your jars for nicks around the rim
2. use new lids -- the flat pieces
3. you can reuse the rings, but no rusty ones.
4. wash jars, rings and lids in hot soapy water, rinse well.
5. I always sterilize the jars before filling -- this is easy to do. Fill the canner with water, put the jars in, bring to a boil, reduce heat to keep it at a gentle rolling boil for 15 min. Do this while the pickles are boiling.
6. Leave the jars in the hot water with the burner off until ready to fill.
7. Take the jars out one at a time, dumping at least a part of the water into another container (if you dump all the water back into the canner, it will be too full) and fill them with pickles following recipe directions.
8. Be sure to wipe the top edge and the outside "screw rings" with a clean wet cloth before putting the lids and rings on.
9. Follow the directions that come on the box of lids about heating them before use.
10. Screw the rings firmly tight, but not over-tight, and place back in the canner of hot water.
11. Always place hot jars on a folded towel and not the bare counter; the cold against the hot jar could cause the jar to crack.

Onion-ginger relish
This recipe has a little story... I first tried an onion-ginger relish at the Cheddar Gorge cheese factory, absolutely loved it and bought a jar. Their website is here. I shared around at Christmas and New Year's. But it finally went bad, so I started looking for a recipe, and finally found this one. 200 versions of watermelon rind pickles on the web, but only one onion-ginger relish.

2 large quartered onions (I used 10 pearl onions because that's what I've got from my garden so far)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I didn't have that, and the bought jar listed apple cider vinegar, so I used 2 T apple cider vinegar, 2 T red wine vinegar)
1 piece (2 inches long) ginger root, peeled, chopped
1/2 apple, chopped, optional (I didn't use; not in the bought stuff)
1 tablespoon whole coriander, crushed,Or 1 teaspoon ground OPT (I didn't use; the bought jar said "spices" but I generally don't like coriander)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 sprig fresh thyme (I used 1/2 tsp dried - I planted some thyme this spring, but either it didn't make it, or it morphed into oregano)
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place onions in baking dish; toss with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; bake until softened, stirring once, about 45 minutes. Let cool; slice. (I just chopped the onions coarsely and cooked in skillet over low heat with oil, salt and pepper.)

Place onions and remaining ingredients in medium saucepan. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve hot, chilled or at room temperature. Remove thyme sprig before serving. Makes 2 cups.

(We did the official tasting today, and liked it quite well. The only thing is, it's kind of dry. I wonder if I should add water before the simmering stage if I decide to make more and can it.)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I was going to do a short blurb on Facebook, but realized there are several things worth mentioning.

You know Bob is getting money from the VA for being disabled. In spite of the program being called "Disability Benefits at Discharge" he didn't get his first payment until 5 months after discharge. We *thought* there would be a retroactive payment (backpay), but I got tired of waiting and contacted the VA last week. Today we got a letter in the mail, and a deposit in the bank!! Not as much as I'd hoped for (and I can't figure out why), but it is a nice bonus and not to be sneezed at.

We finally got the order for our furniture delivery!!! The movers should be here next Friday. Oh, that means we have to get to work. Anyone want to come visit this week and help lay wood floor, paint, or tile a shower? I'll feed you well. If you want to crawl under the house and hook up the shower, we might reimburse your traveling expenses.

I'm making pickles!!! I have the cucumbers sliced and soaking in lime water. I haven't done this in YEARS and it is so exciting. I really like homemade crispy sweet pickles. There isn't even a poor substitute available in stores.

ALSO, this morning I made one jar's worth of onion-ginger relish. We haven't had an official taste-testing, but the bit I licked off my finger while dishing it up was very nice.

Today we took Sergeant to an outdoor 4-H meeting, and the professional dog lady confirmed Bob's suspicions that "he" is really a GIRL! I kept thinking he was just immature. Anyway, we need to rename her - maybe Serenity. And, while she praised us for bringing the dog out, she said we ought to deworm her again (she'll bring stuff next week), feed higher quality food, and keep the dog out of the cat food and litter.

Our church is having revival meeting this week.

We are trying strawberry omelettes for supper.

In the garden, some freaky caterpillars have eaten EVERY leaf off our walnut tree. The zucchini gave up the ghost. The toms still haven't brought forth fruit. Obviously the cukes are doing well. And yesterday I got my sweet potato slips. Planted out one variety this morning; will do more tonight or tomorrow.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Short and rude

Our church has been singing this song lately, and it gets "stuck in my head." In particular, the line, "I'll have a new body" stands out because it is sung only by the women. So the other day I let loose with just those 5 words. It was enough to vent the "stuck in my head" sensation. But Bob was in the same room, and immediately followed my outburst with the next line, "Praise the Lord!"

Umm, ya think maybe he shouldn't be buying me ice cream? :-D

Saturday, 2 July 2011


I probably won't get very far in typing out an actual post, so thought I'd try a list of what we've got done this week.

I painted the 3 walls of our master bedroom. Yes, 3...actually more like 2 1/2 because of the fireplace... There is another half wall to do, but it hasn't been built yet. So anyway, that's 2 to 3 coats of primer plus 2 coats of color. We chose a light purple color that turned out lighter than I expected. Taryn came into the room not long after I'd finished and was trying to imagine what it will look like all done; she said, "The walls are going to be purple" and I interrupted her because the walls ARE purple, and after a minute of hard looking she was able to see it. I think we decided to wait to trim it out after we get the floor in, because we'll need to measure from the floor up, and all that painting can be done outside.

William learned how to write a "W". Most (maybe all) of the others have been able to write their whole name by this point, but give him a break; he's left-handed. ;-) He's also starting to get that tall, skinny look of most 3 year olds, and starting to talk a LOT (which is a little bit difficult because he still lisps a bit and says "us" instead of "we" - part of the lisping might be because of his underbite, but anyway we are working on it).

Taryn learned how to swim. Riah and Naysha are right behind her. We've been out 4 times now, though yesterday's trip was a bust. The water was warm, and pretty dirty, and first thing I saw a snake... We stayed a few minutes but then decided to go home and have ice cream instead.

We picked the first two cucumbers last night. I guess I better get my canning jars sorted out.

And the big, life changing one: We got our building built. It's 30x40, wood frame but metal sides and roof, on a concrete pad. This means that we can unclutter the house a bit and then (drum roll, please) ORDER OUR STUFF! Remember our furniture, clothes, toys, and books that we had in England? I do. I remember our newish mattress set with great fondness. I remember our solid oak dining table, big enough for everyone to sit at; my computer hutch and chair; measuring cups; Polish pottery; girls' bed; bookshelves... Tuesday we will call somebody and tell them to schedule a delivery date. Finally, 8 months later, we will be moved in.
And then once we get our stuff sorted out, we can use the building for a photo studio on one side and a garage on the other. But the main thing is the beds. ;-)