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Friday, December 31, 2021

Out With 2021--- In With 2022

Well, here it is. The last day of 2021.

I suppose I could sit here and reflect back on the past year. I should give some insightful comments regarding what to do in the new year. 

Basically this past year was pretty rough on me emotionally. Losing my mom in such a horrible car accident was one of the hardest things that I think I had to face during the year. Add to that the beginning of the year with losing our sweet little dog Finnegan to cancer, both have made things rather depressing. Of course with all of the pressures with covid piled on top of that. 

We tried to keep an upbeat attitude, and we've always been the "glass half-full" type of people. We've surged ahead with new projects and we've tried to keep ourselves active and out and about. We got in some camping and we got some things done on the house. I look back over the blog over the past year it seem like we really accomplished a lot. But honestly, sometimes I felt like I was just treading water in one spot trying to keep my head above above the edge and not sink. Not give up. 

So as we sit here this morning, sipping a bit more coffee and looking out the windows, we have to look ahead to 2022. It's all we have. So we better look ahead. Looking back can hurt too much.

On the brighter side, we did get some more snow again this week. It was so beautiful coming down and it has covered everything with a glimmering white coat again. Things don't look as dull or bleak when there's fresh snow on the ground.

Starting each day looking out our new bedroom window has been a treat. The first thing Steve does when he gets out of bed is to open up the slatted venetian blind and look out to see what kind of day it is going to be.

I suppose that each day you wake up 
and you're not six feet under,
 it is a pretty good day?

We have been being careful though as far as covid, which has reared its ugly head to such proportional levels. We do get out and about but do some curbside pickups plus we are fully masked and gloved when we go into a store. We've been trying to arrange our shopping trips all at once early enough in the morning get everything and get back home. It's the best we can do until we get past this next phase of the covid omicron mess.

Since it was Christmas vacation for the school kids, we chose a day to bring over a couple of them to hang out for the day. I had wanted to try making the little pecan Snowball Cookies. So the kids came and helped. The girls baked the cookies while Clayton helped fill the birdfeeders and accompany Grandpa haul things to the recycling center.

Here is the recipe, we made a double batch which gave us approximately four dozen larger cookies.  Next time we might make them smaller. 

This was Chelsea's idea of using a spaghetti noodle scooper ladle with the slits in it for lifting them up after rolling them in the powdered sugar.  It worked great! 

Here are the Little Baker Girls, with their newest racks full of Christmas Snowball treats. Since we are getting together on New Year's Day with our children and grandchildren, this will help round out the tray of Christmas cookies (because we've managed to deplete quite a few of the sugar cut-out cookies that we made last week). These will fill in the gaps!

When we were done baking, Clayton jumped at the chance to man the vacuum cleaner. Any machine that goes or rolls or makes noise is a lot of fun in his nine-year-old head. So he very willingly runs around with the vacuum cleaner to suck up any mess that we left behind.

The kids had a treat after lunch. I let them each choose a candy cane off the Christmas tree to stir their mugs of hot cocoa. It's a nice reward for a morning of hard work for Clayton.

Chelsea, the chief Baker Girl, 
enjoyed her Snowman mug of cocoa

Littlest Baker Girl Claire discovered that a candy cane stick will bend and curve in hot cocoa! She eventually bent it up to the shape of a fish hook and let us "catch" her.


When we brought the kids back home we did a pleasant drive through the local Winter Wonderland display. It is set up by the city of Oconto and the Chamber of Commerce in our city campground in our small town called Holtwood Park. What a perfect place to set up a Christmas display, because of the electrical outlets scattered all throughout the park. Plenty of plug-ins for all of the lit-up displays. Plus the slow winding roads in multiple loops to drive around through the array of Christmas festive light shows.
(my camera wouldn't focus good on the LED lights)

The entrance into the park is lined with very tall pine trees. In the past years, they used to decorate them with the high aerial boom lift of the city trucks. The trees keep growing taller and taller and it's become quite an obstacle to decorate them every year. This year they opted to put in smaller artificial metal ring structure trees to line the entryway. That's a pretty good alternative compared to trying to get the large trees lit up, it's different, it's a change, but it's better than nothing.

This person from AerialPicPro took the time to do an aerial view of the entire winter wonderland display with a drone, set to some pretty uplifting music, and posted it. Here is the link:

We are looking forward tonight to our New Year's Eve with babysitting a bunch of the grandchildren while both of our daughters and their spouses attend a wedding from the other side of the family. A New Year's Eve wedding in such winter festive weather should be kind of special. 

We agreed to take the grandchildren here overnight. We wonder who can make it up till midnight? Perhaps the oldest one, Jameson, the teenager? Will he just sack out on the couch? Will it be the two giggly girl cousins Whitney and Claire? They are sleeping together in the new grankids playroom we completed last month. 

Then on New Year's Day the grandkids will all help get everything ready for our own family Christmas celebration together at our house later on New Years Day!! We try to not schedule it on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve so our children and their spouses could have their own celebrations at their own homes, and try to make the rounds of some of the extended family members. 

By delaying it further down the calendar for us, it gives us our extra special time together after all the flurry and rush rush rush is done. We are looking forward to spending a relaxing New Year's Day with a nice time visiting in our home, a big meal, lots of leftovers, and just enjoying being together with the kids and grandkids.

The next day, Sunday, is going to be a very "Special Epic Day" but I can't say anything yet. It's part of the Christmas present that we are giving to the kids and the grandkids. So I will do a special blog post about Sunday later. After the fact.

That's about it for our New Years. Wrapping up 2021 we are very appreciative and happy that we made it through covid. We came down with it in September although we were both vaccinated, we have our boosters now as of December. We also probably had it back in April of 2020 when it first started, but no testing was available then. We are both doing well now, and all we can ask for is to have our health. If you don't have that, what more what do you have? 

We had our little contest this morning 
with our blood pressure cuff. 
I beat Steve. 


Then we also had our little contest with our O2 meter 
and we are both the same. 
Can't ask for more than that


As we sit here and say goodbye to 2021, we are really hoping that things in 2022 turn around for the better. We need to look ahead.

Sip a little more coffee and enjoy the view.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Crabby Christmas - Coach Light - Quilt

 We had a Crabby Christmas!

Since we weren't going to be seeing the kids and the grandkids until New Year's, we knew we would be spending Christmas Eve alone. We splurged with a little errand to Festival Foods to buy their very freshly frozen snow crab legs. It's one of those special treats we only do a couple times a year.

We have an outside propane burner, that's actually part of a turkey deep fryer set up. We don't really deep fry any turkeys, but we do put on a steamer kettle to cook the crab legs. After 14 minutes of plunging them into the boiling water, they are done to perfection.

We made up some mashed potatoes and salads to go with it. Topped off with a glass of whiskey for Steve and wine for me.  Steve and I easily plowed our way through two and a half pounds of crab legs, and it was really a nice treat. 

Then we watched It's a Wonderful Life.... 

On Christmas morning there really weren't any presents to open for each other. Our present was our new tankless water heater system. That was enough for each other, it was quite a splurge, and we both REALLY appreciated it.

Steve got it all hooked up perfectly earlier in the week.  Then he finished up with the recirculating pump plumbing, which means we now have hot water at all of the faucets at all times. Kind of like an on demand system. No more wasting a quart and half of water at the shower, sink or tub in the master bath while waiting for the hot water to come through the pipes.  Plus it is now unlimited hot water, as long as we need it, instead of emptying the tank and waiting for it to reheat a new batch.

It's nice now that we have switched over to natural gas, as opposed to the 40gal electric tank water heater. We sold that on Facebook Marketplace to a young couple. Their water heater had just broken down and they said they really couldn't see spending a lot of money for a new one right before Christmas. We lowered the price in half and said Merry Christmas and sent them on their way.


Christmas morning was relaxing and we had coffee, the music playing and a fire going in the gas fireplace. It was nice to not be rushing off anywhere, although we were missing family on such an important holiday. We know that we will be getting together with some of Steve's family and Pops Pfundtner on Tuesday. And of course our kids and grandkids on New Years, so it was time to just sit back and relax for the day together, alone at home.

We spent the rest of Christmas Day in the sunshine down in the She Shed. It was nice to relax by the tree in our chairs with some soft Christmas music playing on the sound system.

I was working on four corner block pieces for my newest quilt. Now I can finish assembling it a section at a time to put it all together. 

Here are the border pieces that are all ready to go on next. The borders are called "piano keyboard" that will go around the four sides, with a strip of white between it and the main body of the quilt.

This is my happy place. With the music and the sunlight and a lot of projects under my fingertips, the hours just fly by when I am here in the She Shed.  Steve sits in the chair, reading or watching tv, while I am busy with my fibery fun stuff. 

Sewing on my adorable antique Singer Featherweight machine. It is the one that I got in September with my sister, while at the State Fair Park in Escanaba Michigan. It is just delightful to sew on. I have a big computerized fancy machine, but this little antique one is just so much fun.


A couple weeks ago, I had popped into the local Goodwill in Marinette to see if they had a certain lamp base that I am looking for. I didn't find the lamp, but I did find this heavy cast metal light fixture! It exactly matches the other fixtures we had found over the last two years over at Habitat for Humanity ReStore, just a couple blocks away. I have never seen light fixtures like this before, or since, in any store or shop or even online. So it's kind of unusual to run across one more a year after we found the last three. It was $2.99, and then it was the right colored tag for a half price special, so I paid a whole $1.50!

After a little sanding and little scrubbing, I was able to paint it up with two coats of exterior acrylic enamel paint . Now it could become a glorious new light fixture again, and match the rest of the coach lights that we have on our house and garage.

Here's a pic from last year when I painted the other three that went on each side of the garage doors and one by the service door. We also have the first one we found, wired up out on the front porch. Those coach lights were collected in 2019 and 2020.

I am such a "Matchy-Matchy" Girl.... 
 Steve calls it "Prettying Up The Place"

When the lamp was finally dry, Steve went out the side door of the She Shed that leads to the doggie potty yard. We only had a basic everyday little white coach lamp out there before.  He turned off the power and changed it over quickly. He didn't even need the ladder, he used a picnic bench instead. 

He wired it up and in no time it was doing it's job with a motion detector bulb inside. 

Any time we open the door to let out Binney, the light goes on. Also the light goes on anytime there might be some stray animal in our backyard. We have had bobcats, coyotes, opossums, and just recently a couple stray feral cats wandering on through. Binney has never tangled with any of them, and we hope she never has to. With the light flashing on when it detects movements, hopefully it will scare any "intruders" away.


We had a nice visit today with Steve's dad, Paul, and his special friend Sandy. We shared a big pot of chili and a couple games of Cribbage, it was a really fun way to spend the day. (we women teamed up against the guys and won BOTH games!)  The snow started on the way home, and we are due for another 3-5 inches or so tonight.  

Friday, December 24, 2021

Twas the Day Before Christmas

 Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the house ....  time to write a quick blog. 

Yes we are really getting into the Christmas spirit around here. We are enjoying the weather which was especially accommodating for our upcoming holiday. It truly is a White Christmas for us. The snow started floating down with big huge white flakes. Soon everything was covered and fresh and clean, covering over the snow from last week that had partially melted. We really needed new soft fluffy white flakes as a blanket to lift our Christmas Spirits. 

It was so beautiful as it was floating downwards, softly spiraling and gently piling up. I grabbed my cell phone camera and filmed a couple clips looking out various windows of the house. I always send little short video clips to my friend Linda Baldwin in Tennessee. They sometimes get snow down there, but it melts right away. It reminds her of her home state of New York. Each time when I film snow for her, she wants to come up here and flop down and make snow angels. Come on up and visit us Linda! There's plenty of snow to do quite a few angels in the backyard.

My Steveio Christmas Elf was very busy out in the garage yesterday. He halted his insulation installation and decided to help me.  I had given him the measurements for my upcycled project that I had in mind for a desk in the new office. Soon he had the plywood board cut out, and then he went around the edges with the router to take off any sharpness.

He bought brought the board in where I had the fabric waiting in the She Shed. I had found a nice hunk of brown vinyl that had a leather look to it. We spread it out facedown on the floor and I got down on my hands and knees and started stapling. All of the way around the board I went, pulling it firmly and evenly, making nice neat corners. Then Steve took a hammer and did the extra measure to do my staples, pounding them firmly so nothing would come to the surface or scratch the tables underneath.

He carefully carried it in through the rest of the house without upsetting any of our Christmas ornaments or decorations. He wound his way through to the office room while I excitedly got the two tables ready and in position. I had to square them up and make sure there was enough knee room for the antique chair to slide in between them.

We laid down two sheets of rubber non-skid shelf liner on the end table surfaces, and then a couple of the heavy duty Command velcro strips on each corner. That way we can remove this board if we ever want to, and nothing will mar the surface of the tables. I really like how this worked out and I set my little table lamp and a few do dads on the desk.  The silk plant is from Steve's mom, many years ago.

We ran a power cord down off the corner of the desk in the least-traveled area, under and behind the barrister bookcase.  Now I could plug in the desk lamp and my laptop. 

I really like how this office has come together. Before it was kind of a messy catch-all guest bedroom where everything just got kind of piled in there and forgotten about. 

It had the weird doorway that had been reduced from a double wide space down to a single door. Earlier last month Steve had found some beautiful French doors to replace that odd configuration. For now the transom holds our Merry Christmas sign, but one of my upcoming winter projects is going to be to rearrange parts of a vintage stained glass window to make it fit the space. I have a whole bunch of stained glass supplies that I had picked up at an auction, and I think I have enough to do what I need to do to fill it in.

There is just enough desktop space to put my things, or use it to prepare my items for shipping that I sell on Etsy and Ebay.  All of the shipping supplies and printer are on the side wall of this room. Now everything will be within reach, instead of dragging it out to the diningroom table or the island in the kitchen. I can keep my laptop plugged in and set up, instead of stowing it away each time.  I have not had a desk since we lived out on the river from 1997-2012.  

P.S. The laptop is covered with sea turtles, courtesy of a little granddaughter named Chelsea who happens to love sea turtles.  She gave it to me when she got a different one for school.  Isn't that something that I get my 11 year old grandkid's electronic hand-me-downs??? LOL

So here is my finished project......   upcycled end tables into an office desk. Not too bad for $20 worth of fabric, a hunk of plywood, and a couple of unused end tables.

Steve still isn't entirely sold on my creative idea. 
When asked what he thought about it, all I got was:
 "It's okay."


In the mail yesterday, we got the sweetest Christmas card from our dear friend Connie Schulz! She had saved our wedding invitation from 25 years ago!!!!  I was so surprised to get a thick envelope from Connie  (along with a thank you note I had written for all of the help she gave us with our wedding day).

Just think.... she never sent in her RSVP card!!!

In 1997, I made them and printed them up myself, with a Photoshopped sketch filter of the Moravian church where we got married at Heritage Hill State Park in Green Bay, WI.  In 1997, Photoshopping was really new, and I had gone to a week long class on how to work the program when I was the advertising editor for a large real estate company in Green Bay.  We were also the first company in the area to get a colored lazer printer as well!  So I was able to create my own wedding invitations at work as a "side project" to hone my skills.

I carefully placed the invite in the front cover of our wedding album.  Just think, we will be celebrating 25 years this upcoming June.  Looking ahead to another 25 or more. 


Another project that we worked on last week now I can finally post about. The boxes all were sent out and arrived in the mail to the recipients so now I can talk about doing it.

For many years, my Mother had made some special little cookies. They are actually Ritz crackers with Jif peanut butter between them, dipped into melted chocolate of different varieties. They have a taste similar to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

She would make hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of these and mail out boxes to people---  friends and family and coworkers and church friends --- anyone that she knew would enjoy them. I knew it was a huge task every year and she had talked about making batch after batch, day after day, to have enough to give to everybody that she wanted.  It was her "thing".  As the Christmas season approached this year, without her, some of the nephews lamented on Facebook about not getting a box of her special cookies anymore. Sigh. 

Knowing that we were looking ahead to an empty Christmas season without her cookies, Steve suggested that I make a batch in her memory. Then we could mail them out to the people whom she loved. I really was excited to pick up all of the supplies. We stopped at the Mennonite store up the road to buy melting chocolate. They don't sell it in big hunks anymore. Instead they sell it in bulk bags of big huge flat chips called "melts". The clerk told me they melt much better and it's easier to control the melting process. She said less burnt areas if you're using it in the microwave. She said they don't even sell the big blocks of melting chocolate anymore, this is much better. 

If you're looking to buy these, sometimes they are sold in the cake decorating department at Joann's Fabrics and Crafts stores, or in the party supply aisle at Walmart. I was glad we could buy them in bulk because they were much more reasonable by the pound, than in the little packages.

I remember my mother always telling me that she only used real Ritz brand crackers, because the generic or off-brand ones were too soft. The Ritz are more crisp and hold up better during the dipping process. She also used only Jif creamy peanut butter. I know that was always her favorite. I'm not sure if the brand pf peanut butter really matters. But that's what she always used. So that's what we bought,  in a HUGE can on sale.

We gathered all of our supplies and Steve agreed to help me do this because we had a feeling it was going to be quite the process. After all, it was his idea so I'm glad he was here to help me.

We started out with assembling the crackers and spreading peanut butter between them. It's best if you put the peanut butter on the salty bumpy sides of the cracker facing inwards and leave the flat bottom sides of the cracker as the outer surfaces. We noticed that the salty side seem to make little pockmarks or bumps in the chocolate.

I found that a four cup Pyrex measuring cup was the best way to melt a batch of the chips at a time in the microwave. Then using a little tongs, similar to a pickle tongs, works really well to hold the assembled cracker and peanut butter combination.

Steve was my assembler person with the crackers and peanut butter, while I did the melting and the dipping. Each time I would remove the assembled cookie from the chocolate, I would kind of wipe the bottom surface off with a butter knife to get off the excess chocolate but leaving it smooth on the top surface. I would carefully lay them on wax paper far enough apart so they don't touch.

one splotch there in the middle where I dropped the first one

We used white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate all of the melting chips. But then we had to use regular chocolate chip size chips of the butterscotch because they didn't have them in the wide melts. 

The butterscotch melted at a different rate and was a little more rough in appearance and not quite as smooth.

Tray after tray we worked on these little cookies. By the time we were done we had 366 cookies in all!

After the cookies had cooled off and became solidified, we stacked them carefully into little packages and boxed them up to be mailed out. Everybody got an assortment of the cookies along with a note that these are made in Mom's honor. Although we can't promise that we can make them every year, maybe each of us could take turns making them in memory of Mom. I sure have a new appreciation for Mom for the many hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of cookies she made every year! She would mail us two or three dozen at a time to each of our families. I remember some years she had to wait for her next social security check in the middle of the month to come to afford all of the postage. Then she would worry if they got there in time.  Some years she sent multiple boxes to me inside of a large box, so I could distribute them up here at the family gatherings. 

Steve and I had all to do to mail out smaller boxes of 16 assorted cookies to everybody. We shipped out 14 boxes and hand delivered two tins of them ourselves. 

Thank you, Mom, for this family tradition and we hope to continue it in the years to come.


Now that all the hustle and bustle and preparation work has been done for Christmas, it's time to sit back a little bit and relax today. 

We won't be gathering with our kids and grandkids until New Year's, and we are going to drive up and spend the day with Steve's dad on Tuesday, if the weather cooperates.

Although Steve is thinking about doing another row or two of his insulation in the garage, I am thinking I might get out my latest quilt and finish up the borders. I'm going to have some soft Christmas music playing, sit and relax a bit with my coffee this morning, and then try to spend the rest of the day doing things that we both enjoy.  We picked up a bunch of snow crab legs to cook out this evening in the outside propane steamer, and plan to have a relaxing meal at home together.

So for our "Day Before Christmas", it will be just Steve and I, snug and cozy in our little house, sitting by the fireplace and watching the snow outside.

Merry Christmas 


Happy New Year 

to you all!