Wednesday, January 16, 2019

WFMW - Freezer Organization

Let's continue the "clean the fridge" theme, but move onto the freezer. I recently defrosted the freezer in our garage and thought I'd share some of the things I've learned over the years to make that chore a bit easier.

Related image
I didn't think to take a "before" picture of my freezer, and although ours wasn't this bad, if your freezer looks like this one, it needs defrosting!

One thing is to remember to be patient. Let time do its job. You don't want to be scraping and scratching the surface. Just turn the freezer off and remove all the food. (I just pile it on the nearby washer and dryer, but you could bring in a table or use the floor.)

Second, though, it doesn't hurt to help time do its job a bit faster by placing pitchers or bins of hot water on the shelves. (Some people use a hair dryer to help the job along, but that always seemed to be more trouble than it was worth it to me.)

While there is a drain hole in the bottom of my freezer, and I could hook up a drain hose to it, I find it easier to just use a towel to mop up the water.

After two or three hours when all the ice has melted, wipe everything down, turn the freezer back on, and return the food.

Bins come in even more handy in the freezer than in the refrigerator. We have one for chocolate chips, one for nuts, one for vegetables, one for fruits, and one for meats.

As you can see, the "baking" items are on the top shelf, fruits and vegetables on the second shelf, the third shelf is a hodge podge of things that don't fit where they "belong", containers of prepared soups and sauces are on the fourth shelf with the beef/pork bin, and the bottom "drawer" has seafood and chicken. You can barely see that the door bins hold butter, Cool Whip, juices, freezer jam and bread, etc.

How do you organize your freezer? I'm always open to learning new tips and techniques!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Trek through the Jungle

Collier-Seminole State Park
Picnic Area, Boat Dock, Pond at trailhead
A while ago Wayne decided that he wanted to do the 6 1/2 mile loop trail in the Collier-Seminole State Park. He'd done enough research to know that it could be underwater for a good portion of the hike, and so it's wise to plan to hike it in the dry season. That's now, so bright and early Saturday morning we were on our way. The first step, after the long drive (which took us past last summer's hike in Fakahatchee Strand), was to check in at the ranger's station to get a map and the combination to the lock on the access gate.

The name Adventure Trail was quite accurate and actually an understated description. When we checked in, the rangers said the trail was closed because there had been a fire in the area and while the trail had been cleared, the blazes hadn't been repainted. The service road was open, though, and we could walk along that if we wanted. However, once we arrived at the trailhead and didn't see any "Closed - No Trespassing" signs, and did see an obvious trail and marked blazes, Wayne decided we should stick with our original plan. Off we went.

When we hit the Mile 6 marker, we realized we were technically going backwards, but that's okay.

Although it was a pretty rough trail and there were spots of mud and muck, we weren't trudging through ankle or knee deep water, and we had done 1/2 mile without too much problem. 

The next mile took us out of the muddy muck and into a dry cypress swamp.

The painted blazes grew further apart, yet someone had tied plastic streamers to soe trees and bushes, and on occasion it was even possible to follow an obvious path. Much of the time, though we weren't just hiking between trees, but over, under, and even through them!

There were parts without trees and bushes, and in those spots there were plants with sticky burs. We were thoroughly coated with them. These pictures don't do the sight justice at all. (It took an hour to brush them off before we felt clean enough to get in our car.)

Sometime before the Mile 4 post, we couldn't find any more blazes or other markers. Rather than getting lost in the wilderness, we decided to retrace our steps. It wasn't without difficulty but we made it back to the starting place.

It took us four hours to go about 4 1/2 miles. Our usual hiking pace is closer to 3 miles an hour. We didn't realize that we should have packed a machete! So, while plans didn't turn out quite as we expected, that's not deterring us from going back another day to see if we can finish it. Maybe going the other direction will be the key!


As part of our research for this hike, I discovered quite a few interesting websites, non of which mentioned it was closed! If you're interested in this hike, you might be interested in these sites as well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

December's Sewing Project

There may not have been anything homemade in Savannah's birthday package, but there was in her Christmas package. Thanks goes to her parents for suggesting she would like a quiet book. They had actually mentioned it earlier in the summer, but I forgot until the reminder in early December. Since this is a project I'd long been interested in trying, I was happy to dedicate some time to it, and I'm thrilled with the end result. Hopefully Savannah is as well!

It looks like she might be.
Since I scoured the internet looking for ideas, I figure it's only fair to share the ones I chose. If I was being totally fair, I'd add links to all of my inspiration pages, but in reality I took bits and pieces from dozens of sites and created my own version. So, you can do the same as well.

I wanted it to be colorful and fun, with some easy pages and some to grow into. Once the idea came to have a rainbow theme, everything seemed to fall into place. Since I focused on red, yellow, blue, orange, green, and purple, it could just as easily have had a color-wheel theme. Someone had the suggestion to attach some items with magnets, and I thought that was a super cool idea. However, I couldn't get it to work well. It requires super heavy duty magnets to go through 2-3 layers of felt. That's something I can experiment with again in the future. I had a pleasant enough experience with this project that I'm willing to make another one someday.

So, without further ado, here are the finished pages. I think they're all fairly self-explanatory, but feel free to add a comment if you have any questions.

1 - flowers with button centers
2 - zipper page
3 - balloons on Velcro 
4 - shapes on snaps
5 - colored craft sticks in felt pockets
6 - counting beads
7 - pyramid stack using Velcro
8 - felt Tetris-type puzzle

This isn't actually the order in which I have them in the book, but the order that looked prettiest for this picture!

I used thick interfacing (Pellon) for the pages and double-layered felt for all of the pieces. I remembered to follow the tip to put the "soft" side of the Velcro on the page, and the "pokey" side on the pieces, but it still seemed to be prone to snagging and I wonder if there's a better method. I used some scrap fabrics (having the lining match her bapron from last year was unintentional, coincidental, but kind of cool and amazing) with lighter interfacing for the cover, adding an applique on the front (a little off-center) and a pocket in the back before sewing them together. I sewed each set of double pages right-sides together, turned, then top-stitched each page before sewing them all together down the center to make the book.

Here's the order for compiling the pages, with two activities on each 10x20" rectangular page. That seemed to be a good size for me; you can choose whatever size you want. I then cut the cover pieces at 11x21".

It's not as pretty without the top pieces! I just used permanent markers to draw the "matching" shapes freehand.

8 and 1
2 and 7
6 and 3
4 and 5

Once 8/1 and 2/7 are sewn together, then 6/3 and 4/5, and stacked on top of the cover, everything should be in the proper place. Of course, it really doesn't matter what order the pages are in, but if you want to plan in advance, you can. This turned out well enough that I made a second, identical one (except for switching to have snaps on the balloons and Velcro on the shapes and modifying the front page rainbow). Who should my next one be for? And should it be identical, or should I try a new theme?

A Baby Apron

I just sent a birthday package off to our granddaughter. This year someone else did all the making, and I just did the buying. However, last year I made a baby apron for her, otherwise known as a bapron. I'm pretty sure my daughter-in-law mentioned liking one she had seen, because it's not something I could have imagined or created on my own. However, the internet came to the rescue! I just looked at various pictures and made my own pattern and it turned out great.

You can see it modeled on a real live baby over here. Finding these pictures reminds me that I should probably try making a few more. We do have a couple of new babies joining our family this spring. No promises, though!

WFMW - Refrigerator Organization

Last week I shared some ideas I use to make cleaning my refrigerator easier. As I was finishing that post I realized sharing the way I organize our fridge might be helpful, so here you go.

The top shelf is for milk and other beverages.

The second shelf is for leftovers.

The third shelf is for dairy products, except for butter and sour cream which are kept on the top shelf of the door.
Yes, I know applesauce is not a dairy product, but I didn't want to keep it in the fruit drawer.

The top drawer contains cheese and other lunch items.

The shelf under that holds the bin with jam, yeast, and minced garlic, along with soup base, sauerkraut, maraschino cherries and hot fudge. Yes, it's an eclectic mix.

Then there is a vegetable drawer and a fruit drawer.

All of the condiments have a spot in the door shelves. I try to keep salad dressings together in the first bin, the various ethnic sauces in the next one, sandwich spreads and pickles below that, and other sauces at the bottom. Sometimes, however, (like with the Parmesan cheese), things just have to go where they fit!

How do you organize your refrigerator?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Another Levee Hike

There weren't any meetings or other activities on the calendar today, so we went exploring! This was the last levee hike in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, the one that parallels the canal along I-75. (The last one along the L-35B Canal went straight across through wilderness.)

The asterisk marks the end of this hike.

It was supposed to start at the boundary of Markham Park, and go about five miles one way, with no pick-up at the other end, so Wayne decided to hike it alone. That was a wise decision because it turned out to be closer to 12 miles total; that's a bit beyond my daily limit, particularly if it's to be done in less than four hours.

I went for about a mile to make sure there weren't any barriers in the way, then turned around and enjoyed exploring the butterfly garden at Markham Park before doing some reading and relaxing.

The flowers were beautiful, and the art was fun and colorful. I even saw a butterfly or two, but had a difficult time capturing them in a photo.

It was a gorgeous day and we both had a great time.

Next up, although it will be a while before we get to Broward County Parks, will be the New River Greenway. I bet you didn't know there was a New River in Florida as well as Virginia!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Works for Me Wednesday

Although it's been years since I regularly read "Works for Me Wednesday" posts, almost every Wednesday that phrase comes to mind. A couple of years ago one of my New Year's Resolutions was to share my own "works for me" posts on this blog. As you can see here - The WFMW 2017 Edition, it took a while to get that started, and it only lasted a few months. However, since this is the first Wednesday of a new year, I figured I'd try again.

Today it was time to clean the refrigerator, and since it's a brand new year, I decided to be extra particular about it. I was reminded of five little tips that I can share with my loyal readers, things that help make cleaning the refrigerator easier and less time-consuming.

1 - Use paper towels to line the produce drawers.  I don't know how long this has been a habit, but it's been a long, long time, and it's really helped keep these drawers clean throughout the month.

2 - Use bins to corral items. We really only need one in this refrigerator, but having this bin that acts like another drawer is really useful, and prevents the little containers of yeast and garlic from getting buried behind other items.

3 - Have a designated "leftover" shelf. At least for me, having what needs to be used up front and center helps prevent things from getting lost and turning into science experiments. For some reason, having an organized fridge just helps it stay cleaner longer.

4 - Use a toothpick to get in the crevices. Although I no longer have apartment inspections like I did in college, every so often I utilize this little tip from that time of my life, particularly on deep cleaning days.

5 - Even the "permanent" shelves can be removed for cleaning. This was my new discovery today. A while ago something tipped over and leaked into the crevice between the shelf and the support, and although I previously tried getting the shelf out to clean it, today I put more effort into it and discovered that if you lift from the back it will slide out of the front. Hooray!

The original "Works for Me Wednesday" blog hop no longer exists, but I did discover a "Wonderful Wednesday" blog hop here. It looks like it rotates between a few different websites. While it's important to be careful about spending too much time searching for ideas instead of implementing them, and important to be cautious about feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated, avenues like this are a great way to share ideas, so I'll probably be adding my posts, at least for a while.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year's Day Hike - The 2019 Version

I never did write about our New Year's hike last year (although now I have), but we had another hiking day today. This year it was a drop-off, pick-up hike, so I was the driver and Wayne was the hiker. He started at the Cypress Creek Natural Area, followed the Jesup Trail, crossed a couple of cow pastures, did a portion of the Ocean-to-Lake Trail, connected to the Jonathan Dickinson State Park trail system, and met me at the picnic area there. That's a total of 8.88 miles.

Since this trail has a tendency to be under water during the rainy season, he's been waiting months to do it. There was one canal to cross without a bridge (6-inch deep water) but the rest of it was dry as a bone. Earlier he had done a portion when he was slogging through ankle deep water the entire way, so he was grateful that wasn't the case this time.

We were quite surprised when we arrived at the trail head to find a full parking lot, but a quick Google search enlightened us. The Florida Trail Association hosts an annual New Year's Day hike. We think, however, that they took a different route.

the start of the hike

the end of the hike

I greatly prefer being outdoors in January as opposed to August and thoroughly enjoyed our barbecue and time to relax and read. What a great way to start the year!

the obligatory picture of the Loxahatchee River - plus proof of the inaugural outing of my new hat

Happy New Year to you!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Art Deco District

One of the things on Michelle's bucket list for the Christmas trip to Florida was to visit the Art Deco District in Miami Beach and take pictures. This was something we did several years ago, and she wanted to share it with Hayden. When trying to figure out exactly where to go, and checking this blog to do so, I realized I hadn't recorded our first trip yet, although I made a brief mention of it here. I did, however, write about it in my journal, which included the following information:

The idea for our excursion came from the Hiking Florida book, which didn't have an actual map, just a written description: "Collection of Art Deco-style buildings on the National Register of Historic Places" at the south end of Miami Beach; easy; flat terrain.
  • We couldn't find an online map, so followed the book's instructions and had our first stop at the Art Deco Welcome Center to pick up a paper map. (Note that their website states the self-guided tour takes about 1 1/2 hours to do.)
  • Our original estimate of 3-4 miles and 2-3 hours was way, way off.
  • We walked for over 16 miles, and only covered about half of the numbers on the map. (The map included more than just Art Deco buildings.)
  • We had lunch at a Mexican place and stopped for gelato in the late afternoon.
  • I liked the Holocaust Memorial. Even though it was quite disturbing, it was tastefully done and I appreciated the reverence I felt there. For the record, Michelle didn't like that memorial.

Mainly due to expectations not matching reality, we have mixed feelings over this particular family activity. The first couple of hours were great. Then we got tired and hungry and the buildings all began looking alike. However, I recall that after lunch (when we were no longer hungry and not quite as tired) things improved. Overall, and with some perspective, it was a great family day. (The post has now been added. You can find more pictures of that trip over here.)

So, when we decided to go again this year, we knew we didn't want to cover everything. We also had a definite ending time (planes don't wait for late comers) which helped. Once we arrived, we discovered that Miami Beach has a humongous New Year's Eve celebration, and the cost to park was outrageous. We decided that some year we'll have to go back and stay in a hotel on the beach for New Year's Eve and see if it lives up to all the hype. In spite of the crowds (which I'm sure were nothing compared to later at night), we didn't have any problems seeing what we wanted to see. Here are the pictures!

First stop - the top of the parking garage

Second stop - the beach
We saw lots of beautiful and distinctive hotels.

And then explored more along the beach access path.

We had Cuban sandwiches for lunch at the Havana 1957 Restaurant.

It was a beautiful day!