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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Binney in Idling Motorhome and Stone Wave Informercial

This morning Steveio wanted to fire up the motorhome and make sure the emergency brake was released and not frozen up.  Last thing we want is to be ready to roll in sub freezing temps and not be able to release the brake!  Our motorhome has a type of parking emergency brake that clamps around the driveshaft, and has nothing to do with the actual brakes on the wheels.

It was warm enough today to start it up, and make sure it would release.

Soooo it seemed like a good time to get little Binney, the newly adopted rescue dog, familiar with the noisy idling of a diesel engine while inside of the motorhome.  Finnegan has been with us over an year and takes it all in stride--- because he did it last year and loved it.

We brought both dogs out, and let her hop up in her comfy spot on the loveseat.  (when we actually travel she will be in her crate)  Here is a video of her reaction:

I think she did rather well!~ 

 While it was idling, Steveio comforted her on the loveseat. 

Finnegan was all excited and just wanted us to go go gooooo
(I know the feeling!) 

After a while, she seemed content and happy, so we powered down and shut things off.  I think taking her out there often over the last couple of weeks has helped her to know it's just another place of being "home" with us.  As long as she has her bed, her dish, and chasing Finney with his toys, I think she will do just fine.  We are still working on potty on demand while on a leash...  some of you kind helpful blog readers and my doggie friends have given me some hints and advice.  Slow and steady wins the race....

Now the next thing here is going to sound like an infomercial.  Heck .. it IS from an infomercial!  My friend Linda in Tennessee was in a Dollartree store (the green sign stores where everything is $1.00)   and she bought this pottery cooker thing.  It's an As Seen On TV item.  But... it's only a dollar there at Dollartree!   

She bought it and said that it worked great.  I trust her... so I looked online. Well, you CAN buy four of them in a set for $19.99 plus $8 shipping and handling.  And add $10 and you get four more yadda yadda yadda....   See for yourself:  Stone Wave cooker website informercial

Well, as luck would have it, Steveio needed to run into Appleton to Harbor Freight Tools for something for the motorhome --- a set of magnetic towing lights in case we have a problem with the connection on our wired up Tracker lights... sale with coupon $9.99 

At the same time, we got a free flashlight and tape measure too.... 

While in Appleton, I talked Steveio into heading over to Dollartree to see if they had any of those Stone Wave Cookers.  Sure nuff, the gal showed me and said they were going fast.  Hmmmmm should I buy only one to try it for a dollar?  Should I believe my friend Linda whom I trust and buy four?  2 for the house and 2 for the motorhome?  Should I pick up one more for our other friend Rosie whom I am going to see in Missouri on our vacation?  She wants one too.  Heck... I left there with SEVEN!   4 for the house, 2 for the motorhome and 1 for Rosie.  For a mere $7.00 total! 

this picture I robbed from their website

I read the reviews and personal users tests too where they were tested with kits for lead... all was good. And they are dishwasher safe too.

I picked a recipe off of the website that looked good.  I had little penne rigati noodles instead of spiral rotini noodles, but figured what the heck... gotta improvise.  I had fresh broccoli instead of frozen.  And I had bratwurst sausage meat on hand. It wasn't pre-cooked but I did that portion extra long to cook it thoroughly.  I never follow recipes exactly anyhow! 

here is the recipe copied from the website:

By having four stone wave cookers, I could do two with the noodles and two with the sausage and broccoli portions.  All four of the cookers fit well in my microwave.... and NO splatters to clean up like if I were doing them in regular open casserole dishes!

First I cooked the noodles in 2 cooker units and
 the meat, broccoli and onions in the other 2 ... 

If you only had one cooker, you would have to cook the noodles first, 
and set them aside in a bowl. 
Then cook the meat and broccoli sauce in the cooker. 
And finally put them all together.  
Buying an extra cooker for a dollar more is worth it.

Next I drained the water from the meat/broccoli cookers and the water from the noodles. I would highly recommend a flat plastic strainer like in the pic below.  A lot of the recipes are done with a bit of water in the bottom for steam that needs to be drained out.  Easier to use this flat strainer tipping the cooker to the side over the sink, instead of dumping into a regular kitchen colander to drain that small amount of liquid.

Then I added the cream of celery soup instead of broccoli soup.
 Add the milk. Stir it up good.

I put them in about three minutes longer than the recipe called for....
My noodles got a bit over done, but then I stirred them up and they were okay. 
  I accidentally put too much milk in one of them.  Gotta measure and don't need much. 

The handles were a little warm, but still a lot cooler than the handles on my corelle grab-it dishes!  I poured the noodles on the plate first, and then the meat and broccoli sauce over the top.  You could really just mix the two together into one cooker, because the broccoli cooked down with the meat and made room.  Then you wouldn't even have to dirty a dish, just eat right out of the stone cooker! 

Our dinner is served.
Bon Appetit! 

Now.. if this didn't convince you to run to the nearest Dollartree to get one of these...  
perhaps looking at the recipe book that came with the cooker would: 

or this blog post of other users sharing their recipes: 

There are some really good recipes in there and I am anxious to try a few during the next week or two.  I find most of them are things we normally do eat or buy, but looking forward to making them in the new little cookers. 

The pluses I see when using these in an RV are:

  • Cooking for one person- you can cook a meal in microwave without dirtying a lot of big pots and pans for a single meal
  • Cooking a quick meal in microwave when you are travelling and don't want to prepare a big meal but can eat like one
  • Saving on water when dry camping with by cooking and eating from the same dish
  • Forcing yourself to eat smaller portions by cooking only enough for each serving size 
  • Cookers take up less space in the RV compared to multiple casserole dishes and pans

Of course if we are out boondocking without hookups, it would mean running the generator to power the microwave.  But this meal cooks so fast, that it would not be a long time of running the generator and supper would be ready toot sweet.

Steve gave it his "thumbs up" and said it's a good thing....  ahhhhhhh

I hope you didn't mind this infomercial. Of course I have no monetary interest in this item, just thought it was cool.  Besides, I have to write about something to fill the time before we leave on vacation.  Once we are on the road, I will try to blog daily.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sad Family Weekend, my Foyer Floor, and looking ahead to Vacation Out West

Saturday was a very sad day for our family as our sisterinlaw Shirley was laid to rest.  The funeral at the church was standing room only as so many people who knew and loved her all came to share their experiences and pay their respects.  We felt so deeply for Steve's brother Mark and three daughters, Jen, Heather and Faith, their families and two sweet little grandsons.  The family had taken this photo a while back and it clearly shows the caring and love as they all prayed for the best for her as she was dealing with cancer.

What an emotional and touching family moment. 

On Sunday... we hung around the house and took it easy... well, that is, until Steveio got a bug of an idea in his brain.  (from watching too many episodes of The Rehab Addict on HGtv)  He decided to tear up "just a corner" of the carpeting in the foyer "just to look" and see the condition of the hardwood floor underneath.  We know the entire first floor of house is all maple hardwood flooring from 1913, but didn't know the condition of the actual floors underneath the wall-to-wall carpeting.  Because the carpeting is in such good shape, we have never really ripped any up yet.  (we did peek a bit around the fireplace when we pulled back the carpeting to expose the tile hearth area last spring)  

Well..... of course. like everything else in this wonderful home, 

I swept up the dusty layer after removing the pad as Steve pulled up the staples from the padding. Then he carefully removed the tack strips from the carpeting installation with a prybar and a piece of cardboard to pad it to avoid any more marks on the floor.  The maple hardwood was in such great shape for 100+ years old.  WHEEEEEEEEEE  

On Monday, I cleaned the floor well and let it dry.  
I had a plan in mind. 

The I carefully spread on a layer of quick drying low odor polyurethane for floors. I used a wide foam brush as kindof a pushing motion to spread the poly, rather than stroking and painting it on which would leave bubbles.  Then I shut the pocket doors and let it dry all day.  

I picked up enough lengths of hardwood quarter-round trim and stained that down in the basement. It will be cut to size and put around the edges where it had been removed to install the carpeting years ago.  The intricate cast iron grate on the cold air return easily lifted off to get the poly brushed right up to the edge.

This was SO exciting to "make it pretty" !!!

I left the house that afternoon, to run up to Oconto to babysit a couple grandtots overnight.  The floor had a good time to cure.  Steve was left a BIG HANDWRITTEN NOTE when he got home after work to not walk on it... It's a good thing we have the back servants stairs to get up to the bedrooms, or else he would have been sleeping on the couch overnight.  Tee heee.... I had the dogs with me so so we didn't have any accidental paw prints running through it either. 

I had a delightful evening up at the grandtots' house and it was first time for newly adopted Binney to be around children.  We kept her leashed and harnessed until we could observe her demeanor... which I am pleased to say was gentle and loving.  Both grandtots know how to be respectful of dogs and not mistreat or manhandle them. Soon Binney and Chelsea were best snuggle buds on the couch... and Finney was happily lapping up all the attention from Clayton. 

We did run into one problem though.... little Binney would NOT go pee or poop while on a leash in our daughter's yard.  She held it in hour after hour---- the stubborn little cuss.  I took her out on leash at least 12 times in the 24 hours we were there, and she would NOT go.  Finney did, but Binney refused.   I got her home to our own safe little fenced in potty yard and she broke the dam loose and went and went and went!   

Soooo that means with our upcoming vacation in 3 weeks,  we have some major potty lessons to learn how to go in other places rather than just her safe little fenced in potty yard!   "Pee On Demand"  Today I spent at least four different half hour sessions with her out on a leash in various parts of the far back yard.  None of the times would she relent and go.  Finally I had to let her use the fenced in yard this afternoon.

We have only had her for five weeks so far, and each time we have taken her on walks around town, we realize that she always held it till we got back home.  We never needed a doggie pickup bag for her because she just waited till she was in her secure little fenced in poop yard at home!

Some friends on my dog list suggested moving some of the leftover doggie poop from the fenced yard out to various spots in the big back yard which I did.  No difference.  Finney has repeatedly gone out there each time, but that doesn't entice her to go out there either.  

Someone suggested a training spray from Nature's Miracle that you put down where you DO want them to go, so I will get some of that on Friday when I am in Appleton.

We have about two weeks to get her past this phobia, or else this little lady is going to be holding her bladder for six weeks!  oh my....

Every dog we have had traveled easy and went on demand on the leash when we would stop for a fuel break, or a stretch break, or at the end of the day or during a walk around a campground.  I just didn't think that this would be such a problem, and should have started taking her to various spots in the yard on leash from the beginning to get her used to it, I guess.  

Our Little Binney will have to get with the program and learn how to be a Motorhoming Dog! 

As soon as I am done typing this blog, I will go out with her one more time tonight to see if she will go on the leash.  Sigh. 

We are working on our lists and plans and ideas for 6 weeks Out West.. probably try to explore more of New Mexico, because we shirked on that state last time in our rush to get to Arizona and S. California. But we don't make any real reservations or promises.  We will see where the road takes us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Training a Rescue Dog to LOVE a Motorhome!~

Well, as you all know, we have recently adopted a little rescue sheltie named Binney.  She is still very skittish and shy, and needs encouragement on facing new things.  Slow and Steady wins the race with a damaged rescue dog anyhow.

She has been with us now for just over a month and has come a long way already.  She is comfortable in the house and has started to look around and explore each room without us dragging her in by a leash.  She hangs close to us, and is usually glued to Finnegan's side.  He follows me everywhere, so she does too. They are really two peas in a pod.

With our upcoming vacation in just four more weeks, she needs to get comfortable with the motorhome as well.  I mentioned in yesterday's blog that we were going to start introducing her to the rig and get her used to seeing it, going in and out the door, and where the food and water dishes will be kept.

She travels well in a crate in the car, so we are pretty sure the actual motion and movement will be fine with her once we are underway while in their crates. Plus, she will have Finney with her, as he seems to be her "security blanket".  LOL

It has finally warmed up enough around here, at least above zero, to be able to wander out to the motorhome a few times each day.  I opened up the blinds to let the sunshine in, and turned on the furnace to warm it up a bit in there before heading out with the dogs.  It was pleasantly warm in half an hour, so I went back into the house and harnessed up the dogs.


Little Binney is in the red harness and leash, and little Finney the boy, of course, is in blue! You can't see the harnesses with all that fluffy hair, but they are there and separate collars with tags on them.

Shelties really need harnesses because their fur around their necks (the ruff) is sooo thick, and their heads so tiny. They can slip out of a collar with a quick backwards pull and flip of their head.  Duke used to do it anytime he wanted to sniff something that wasn't within leash reach.  LOL  But he always came back to me on a reliable recall.  With these new rescue dogs, we can not be sure of that, and they are not bonded enough yet to be trusted off leash for a long time yet.

Finney: "We're going in that big blue box!"
Binney: "WHAAATTT???"

We made a couple of laps around the motorhome, 
letting her sniff at it from all angles.
Binney: "It's big, but it's not so scary..."
Finney: "It takes us to new places to SNIFF!"

I was careful to make sure she was back far enough for the automatic steps to come down
without smacking her in the face or scaring her. 
 Finney; "Now we get to go INSIDE"
Binney:  "Inside what?????"

Finney scrambled right up the steps, eager to go inside. He KNOWS what the motorhome represents to him from vacationing and camping all last year.  Binney scooted up behind him, because she hates to be left behind!   Good deal.... They settled right down once they got inside, so I could snap this pic.

 Finney: "See???? I told you there was nothing to be afraid of!"
Binney: "Speak for yourself"

I had a pocketful of treats.  Binney was quite scared and didn't want any. That is, until Finney ate a few.  Soon her timid nature was overtaken by her jealousy of Finnegan getting something she wasn't getting.  She ate one.

Finney: "Just wait.. they keep a whole drawer full of treats in here"
Binney: "One treat is fine, thank you very much" 

She didn't want to move around too much or check anything out right off the bat.  So I came in, shut the door and dropped her leash, still leaving it attached to her harness.  I proceeded to walk around and put away some clean towels, make a list of items to pack, and check the supply of dvd's and power cords.  I acted like it was no big deal, and dropped a few doggie treats around on the floor as I went.  Soon Finney noticed the treats and was off like a shot to swipe them up before Binney had a chance!  Oh well, I tried.

The furnace had made it pretty cozy and warm by now, and I took of my jacket and made myself at home. I figured I would emit how relaxed and happy I was, then she would pick up on the vibes.  I even turned on the tv to make it sound like common household everyday noise.  Finney scooted over to the loveseat and hopped up to make himself comfortable.  Like a shot, right behind him, she hopped up too!  (dontcha love the woven Sheltie Throw I won at last year's Wisconsin Sheltie Rescue Reunion Auction?)

Finney: "See?? I told you it was just like home!"
Binney: "Shut up and stay on your own side of the loveseat, this side is MINE!"

After about half an hour, I pulled them both off the loveseat and let her explore around the motorhome.  She was sniffing here and there, and followed Finney around.  I had a water bottle and poured a bit in the dishes we keep in the bathroom.  She didn't drink any, but sniffed and knew it was there.  Establishing eating and drinking areas for her to become familiar with. 

I put new linens on the bed, and once it was made, I popped both dogs up on the bed with me!  That was fine and dandy with Binney, and she cuddled up close.  It was a good rest, and she relaxed enough to put her ears up and look around and be curious of the surroundings. 

Finney found the basket of toys and had to sniff and drag out one or two. He got a far-away look in his eyes, and I KNEW he was thinking of his old pal Duke, who played with those toys with him.  Games of TUG and FETCH and CHEW and CHASE.  Duke passed away in November, and it is still fresh in Finney's mind.  I know he misses Duke, but little Binney doesn't yet play such rough and tumble games with him.  In time...  in time...

I took Binney off of the bed and let her sniff at the toys.  She was all immersed in the scents coming off them!  I am sure many even smell like Duchess, who passed away they year before in June. She didn't know either dog, but I imagine that she was wondering "where are those other doggies???"

After an hour, we went back into the house.  When Steve got home from work at 4:30, we all went back out again to let her know that Steve is also a part of this motorhomeing thing.  We hung out there another half an hour.  I plan to go in and out a few times each day now so she gets used to being in there.  Ater a week or so, I will set up the video camera one day and leave them both in there alone, to see what they do. 

Setting up a video camera is a great method to see how your dog behaves in your camper when your are gone. The last thing you want is a barking howling distressed dog while you leave to go sightseeing or get groceries.  It is not good for your pet to be so distraught. Plus, it will make you VERY unpopular with your camping neighbors and might get you fined or kicked out of a park!   

We have done the video camera monitoring with our other dogs to "test" them. and they "pass" each time.  We make sure we have all of the windows shut, shades drawn, a fan on for air movement and a tv or radio playing loud enough to drown out any outside noises. Our test videos are very boring... sleeping dogs.. yawning dogs.. up for a lap of water... turn around three times and lay back down.  That is the extent of it. 

These next four weeks, we are also going to practice going potty on the end of a leash out in our yard instead of her secure fenced-in potty area out of our backdoor of the house. That is a "must" once we get underway, that when we take a break, they both need to do their duty in strange places. (and yes, we have doggie pickup bags attached to our leashes at all times)

My oh my, what we go through to take our fur babies camping! But hey, they are part of the family, and I wouldn't want it any other way! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shingles but not on the roof--- and upcoming winter vacation plans

Shingles!!!!  Steve and I had the opportunity to both get our shingles vaccine.  We had to have it done before the end of year, as we were switching health insurance companies, and the new one wasn't going to cover it unless we were 60 or older.  The old company covered it regardless of age.  It's quite an expensive vaccine.

Now, I know there is controversy about if people should get vaccines or not, and I am not up for a debate here.  So please just respect the fact that we made the choice to do it.  We have had two friends in the past who were set back months on end with horrible pain and misery from shingles, and still suffer from nerve damage and painful effects of having had shingles. (Shingles are a virus that is adult chickenpox)

We did our vaccines before the end of December, and thought all was well.  For Steve it was... but dangnabbit, I had to be like 3 in 10,000 people who suffered some sort of reaction!  The injection site got a huge red circle after 7 days, and I started breaking out in an itchy red rash with throbbing pains underneath it on my torso.

I got back into my doc on the morning of the 8th day, and he said it must be a type of reaction, but not sure if it was full blown shingles.  So we are precautionary treating with anti-viral meds and a medicated cream on the rash.  So far so good, no blisters and the rash is fading.  The itchiness is fading and I am not a risk for spreading anything.  Whew!  That was a close call!   Would I do it again if I had the chance all over?  I don't think so.  But hindsight is 20/20.

The weekend was fun with a five year old birthday party for our granddaughter Chelsea.  She was surprised with a party at  the indoor waterpark in TundraLodge, near Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  What fun on a cold winter day in Wisconsin to be inside swimming, splashing, and eating cake and pizza with all of her cousins and little friends!

Then on the RVing front:  we are planning to escape the cold and snow of Wisconsin about mid February.  We can take about 6 weeks vacation time and have to be back by the end of March.  Here is a very basic map of the areas we are headed to.... so if any of you RVers along the way want to "Meet N Greet", please shoot us an email at pfundt@gmail.com    

It's kinda warming up a little out there today, with sunshine!  The temps might reach into the high teens!!!   So I am going to take down the outside Christmas decorations (the inside doo dads and tree are already down)  

Then... as the sun shines on the motorhome and warms it up, I will head out with both of the dogs to introduce little Binney to the motorhome! She needs to become familiar with the sights and smells, plus where the water and food dishes are.  Little Binney rides fine in a crate in our car, so we assume she will do well in the motorhome too.  Finnegan loves it and each place we stop is a new adventure to sniff and see new things.  I think she will follow his lead and latch onto his excitement.  Every dog we have had loves to travel, so I am hoping Binney will too.  Finney's bed is usually up under the dash on the passenger side, so I assume Binney will curl up right snug tight to him as well. 

I will kick in the heater for a while and warm it up, and take inventory of what is in there and what I need to pack up for vacation.  It doesn't take much to load up for vacation, because we leave complete linens, dishes and a lot of clothing in the rig. Our camping gear and lawn chairs etc. are all in the basement bins, as are Steve's tools.  He just needs to add the big air compressor and his portable firepit. All I have to do is add the extra clothes, dog supplies, stock the fridge and bring our computers... off we go! 

The motorhome has already had a recent oil change this fall, the fuel tank is full, enough for the first 800 miles, and the propane has been filled up too after last outing.  We just have to attach our tire pressure monitors, hook up the Tracker and roll away! We will leave the water system winterized until we get south enough to avoid freezing at night.  

It's hard to determine an exact "take off day" because we have to watch the weather forecast not only for Wisconsin to have dry roads to take off.. but watching the weather about 500-600 miles south of us too.  We try to drive a lot the first day or two and cover a lot of ground to get above freezing.  Once we hit warmer temps, we generally slow down to 200-300 miles a day.  

One year we slid our way into St. Louis right after an ice storm and moochdocked in our friend Sam and Donna's driveway  http://samdonna-5thwheelvagabonds.blogspot.com/  and left the next day right ahead of another ice storm!  It was a close call, so we will watch the weather a little closer this time.  Steve's job is pretty flexible that if he needs to leave when the weather breaks a day or two early he can.  Or if it's too bad to leave, he can still go to work a few extra days and not waste vacation time sitting at home waiting for the weather to clear to go. 

We make no plans, no reservations, and just wander as best we can.  We "boondock" alot, meaning camping out without hookups or going to regular campgrounds. We have 500 watts of solar panels on the roof for power, and four large batteries to run off of.  We can run lights, tv's, computers, etc just like being at home when we live off the grid in our motorhome.  If we need to, we also have a generator on board to fire up for extra power or charging.  We even have a built-in washer/dryer on board.  Our water holding tank is 100 gallons, and if we are frugal, we can go 10-14 days on that. We do buy bottled water in gallon jugs for coffee making and dog water drinking.  We learned long ago to never change the dogs drinking water as we travel.  "Long haired butts" on sheltland sheepdogs are NOT good for travelling if doggies are sick with diarrhea!  Been there done that. Hauling along a few  5 gallon jugs of our own home water for the first part of the journey works, but by the fourth or fifth or sixth weeks, we have to start buying bottled water for them.  They are worth it! 

Once we get out west, there is a lot of BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) that we can stay on for free.  I have a lot of notes and maps of good places to hang out.  A few years ago we found boondocking free places just south of the Grand Canyon and spent a lot of time in a high tourist area for no fees. Sitting out in the desert in the peace and quiet is what we crave the most... and boondocking allows us that freedom. 

There are some fellow RV bloggers we want to meet up with if we can, and some fellow RVers that we have known for years to touch base with.  The more we wander, the more we make new friends too... so future Meet N Greets get logged into our next trip!  LOL 

I think we could use some sunshine, desert warmth, and get away from work for Steveio. Last winter we went to Florida, the winter before it was Texas, and the winter before that was out West into the desert of NM, AZ and So. CA.  We found we like that area the best, and can't wait to get back there! 

And.. on the fiber end of my blog, I have been working on some new quilt squares to randomly put together into a quilt.  Perhaps it will go in the motorhome.  We will see.

I am making up the patterns as I go, and arranging half square triangles into interesting blocks.  The fabrics are all woodsy themed prints.  I got them from Joann's on our last vacation in Florida.  They were called Elements Earth marketed by Joanns for them with their own label, and I bought a jelly roll of 2.5 inch strips and a bundle of five fat quarters.  The cream is just a fabric I had on hand to add to the blocks to make more contrast.. plus make the fabrics stretch out further!

On a final note, if you happen to have some extra prayers or good wishes of love and healing, please think of my sister-in-law Shirley who has had another set back in battling cancer.  She is back in the hospital, so prayers and love and support for her family are needed at this time....  Thank You.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

After Christmas and Starting the New Year!

We made it through the Christmas Holidays in pretty good health...  we also made it through the grandkids' school concerts, the tree cutting, the house decorating and the family celebrations.  It was wonderful....   and as it all came to a close, our health declined and the flu bugs and/or colds took over.  We are both sniffling and snorting and coughing and hacking today as I type this!

Our little Binney, the rescue dog, is fitting in nicely.  She is slowly learning all the rules and routines of the house. She has walked around on a harness and leash, and did a lap around the block.  She seems to want to cuddle a lot and hide out in the "safe spot" on the couch next to me. We are bringing her out of her shell slowly as much as we can, and Finnegan is teaching her to follow him around too.  She seems to be really attached to me, so Steve is bribing her with bacon and giving her lots of attention when he is around too. She is a good sport with the photos and dress-up.  LOL

She is not yet playing with toys, but we have gotten some tail wags, some raspy barks (she has been surgically debarked by her previous owners) and some twirls and whirls in happiness as we come down the stairs.  She also discovered that each morning is a great time if we plop them up on our bed for morning snuggles!

It will be a slow road to get her to acclimate to walks, people, other dogs, and camping.  We are sure she will adapt, but we will take on one thing at a time. While we were gone for Christmas Day and then again on New Years Eve, both dogs were safe and sound at Stockbridge Critter Sitters Day Care and Boarding Kennel.  Owner Lisa Martin took good care of them, and let them sleep together in the same crate at night too. Binney is still an escape risk, so it was best for them to be safe at the boarding kennel while we were gone. A strange dog in a strange house and people in and out can be a recipe for disaster.  Best she is at a secure kennel where she can be safely watched while we are gone.  We adopted Binney through the owner of the kennel, who also runs the Wisconsin Sheltie Rescue program.  Lisa is very aware of the needs of a newly adopted sheltie and takes great care of our dogs.

Before the holidays started, I was frantically finishing up three quilts for our grown kids... two king sized and one queen sized.  Whew! I was sewing almost every day, evening and into the night.  I managed to get them all done in time!!!

This is Steve's new toy that he got for Christmas. It's called the Flame Genie and runs on compressed wood pellets. Great for a portable campfire to take along camping!  We have emerald ash borer infestation in Wisconsin and cannot transport firewood for camping. It will also be good in the desert on vacation where firewood is scarce.  Lit up in just a few minutes. Full flames in 10 minutes.  Safe to cook on and smells like a real campfire but no smoke!  Nice....   we got it via Amazon from http://www.pelletfirepit.com/

Here is a little video clip of us lighting it in the driveway on Christmas:

Christmas Day was pleasant and great weather for driving.  We headed down to Belgium, WI to have a family celebration with the other Pfundtner's at Steve's sister Lynn's house.  We gathered for a nice meal, and lots of family laughter and some silly games and gifts of course too.  Since losing Steve's mom two years ago, we all have a sad spot in our hearts by not having her there on Christmas Day. It doesn't seem the same, but we forge ahead and create new memories. Sigh.

On the weekend after Christmas it was time for our family celebration with all of our children and grandchildren.  Our daughter Erin has a very big house, with more than enough room for all the kids and toys and food and sleepovers for everyone!   We dropped the dogs off at the kennel for an overnight and headed on up to Oconto.  It was raining and all of the snow has melted. We didn't get a White Christmas at all.  

It was so nice to see all of the kids and grandkids....  we piled up some presents under the tree and our daughter Erin put together a great meal, with everyone bringing something to share. The house was decorated nicely and the tree was splendid..... and started out like this:

and soon it was looking like THIS:


and here are all of our little Packer Fans in their jammies 
from Granmuddah and Granfaddah Pfun!   

It took until midnight for the wee ones to slow down and I magically got them ALL asleep at one time... on sleeping bags on the floor of the kids' bedroom.  Shhhhhh  I tiptoed downstairs to join in the adult fun.  We played card games, drank, laughed and had a great time....  With Steve leading the way at the head of the table!
Erin's friend Waylen made chocolate pudding shots in these cute little tiny red solo cups. 
The card games were fun and the family had a blast...  
We are missing our son Mike on these type of family gatherings, 
wishing there was one more couple, 
a few more grandkids to add to the pile,
and more laughter and beer for Mike! 

We managed to stay up to about 2 or 3 a.m. before heading off to bed...   but the VERY BEST PART of the whole weekend was when five little Packer Monkeys came jumping in on our air mattress in the play room at 7 a.m.!!!  Oh JOY!!!! This is what I live for, of course!

New Years was the next holiday on the horizon...  we made some hotel reservations up in Iron River Michigan for the family and dropped the dogs off at the doggie daycare again for an overnight.  My sister Linda and her husband Fuzz, along with their brotherinlaw Dave bought the old Mid City Bar in Caspian, MI 2 blocks from where we grew up.  I recall going there as a child and getting penny candy in little brown bags and handing over a dime to old bartender Steve or Rose who counted out our candy to be sure we only took 10 pieces.  Great memories.  Now the bar is owned by my sister and family. This is their first week of operation since taking it over.... and we decided to surprise them! 

We came in masked and decked out in New Years celebration garb... and shouting and hollering about where was the party!!! What a surprise!!! 

 We brought them an antique neon Old Style sign for a "bar warming" present that we all chipped in on.  Old Style is Fuzz's brew of choice, so it really fit the place quite well.  

Family and friends gathered for the evening at the bar
and soon it was time for MIDNIGHT


I was the Designated Driver and got everyone back to the hotel safe and sound.  whew....  In the morning we headed over to my old stomping grounds, Mertin's Cafe.  I worked there from 1975-78 all during high school.  It's now called Main Street Cafe, but to me it will always be Mertins.  We gathered around the "big table" and had a nice goodbye breakfast before it was time to head on home....

and we drove back home to pick the doggies at the day care!   
Colds and flu or whatever overtook us now,
and we have been sick since. 
Made up a pot of chicken veggie soup
and we are taking it easy after a very busy two weeks!