Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WFMW - Post-Easter Clean-Up

Works for Me Wednesday
Our first child's first Easter basket. If you look closely, you can see that the grass was immediately removed. Good thing it wasn't on my living room carpet!
Maybe I'm a party-pooper, but one of the things I hated about Easter, particularly when the kids were younger, was finding Easter basket "grass" all over the house for days. After a few years of dealing with clogged vacuums, I finally got smart and figured out a way to minimize the mess. That involves keeping strict control, but it was worth it to me, and hopefully it didn't ruin my children.

Easter baskets only appeared on the night before Easter, and before Easter Sunday was over, the candy the bunny left was in ziploc bags and the baskets were out of sight, along with the grass. (I know some families have the Easter Bunny come on Saturday, but it's the same principle.)

So, if this is something that bugs you too, next year you know what to do. Of course, I could always outlaw the grass totally, and I've discovered that the paper grass is less annoying than the plastic grass, but it's part of the tradition and brings back great memories of when I was a kid, so we'll keep pulling it out each year.

So, that's what Works for Me this Wednesday. Feel free to add an idea of your own in the comments.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

WFMW - Eggs and Things

Works for Me Wednesday

In honor of Easter this week, I thought I'd share some things that work for us relating to that ubiquitous Easter symbol - the hard-boiled egg.
First, I've learned that you're not to call them hard-boiled eggs, but hard-cooked eggs. Apparently, boiling them is bad news. Maybe, maybe not; you decide. However, here's how I cook the eggs so that they're ready for Easter baskets and egg salad sandwiches:

Place the cold eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Put the uncovered pan on the stove over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn off the stove, put on the lid, and set the timer for 17 minutes. When the timer buzzes, immediately pour off the water and run cold water over the eggs to stop further cooking. Since I've learned this method, I've had success every time.



Second, here's our method for coloring the Easter eggs. I know there are many, but over the years we've found that it's easiest just to collect a few mugs or bowls from the kitchen cupboard, put a tablespoon of vinegar in each one, then fill half-full with hot tap water. Then we pull out the food dyes and have fun. We start with a few drops and keep adding more. Many years ago we discovered that if you drip the dye on the egg itself while in the cup, it makes great swirly designs. What's your favorite way to color Easter eggs? A couple of years ago we tried a method with rice in a baggie; read about it here.


Third, I love my handy-dandy egg slicer, even though I don't use it very often. (You'll notice that it's been replaced since this post.) It's still kept in the "gadget basket" and because it's out of sight, when the only option at the store wasn't necessarily my style, I bought it anyway. And it does make me smile when I use it. After slicing the egg one direction, I rotate it 90° and slice it again, to have perfect chunks for egg salad. (My recipe for that is just simply adding Miracle Whip to the chopped egg, along with salt and pepper to taste, maybe some dry mustard. Nothing fancy but it tastes great.)

Fourth, in addition to plain egg salad toast or sandwiches, which is actually just fine with me, here are some of the recipes we also use to finish off the Easter eggs.
     Creamed Eggs on Toast
     as a condiment for Chicken or Lamb Curry
     Eggs Goldenrod (scroll to the end for that variation)

Finally, best wishes for a very Happy Easter weekend! Feel free to add your favorite tips and tricks and recipes for Easter eggs.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Works for Me Wednesday - the 2017 Edition

One of the New Year's Resolutions I considered was to bring back "Works for Me Wednesday" on this blog. I really enjoyed participating in that blog hop several years ago, and although it's now no longer in existence, I just liked the ring of "Works for Me Wednesday" and feel it's a good way to share with my readers ideas and habits that have been successful in our family.

I obviously didn't start this in January, but it's never to late to make changes and the beginning of the second quarter is a good starting place as well, don't you think? Although I don't necessarily believe in "Spring Cleaning" - it's NOT something that "works for me" - some of the first thoughts that came to mind are cleaning tips.

I've mentioned this before, but one of the things I wish I had known 30 years ago was how to properly clean a shower. I still wouldn't call myself an expert, but since we moved into this house six years ago, I haven't cringed when looking at the shower. I call that success!

So, here's my system. Every single day (right after my shower) I use a squeegee to wipe down the glass doors, then a small towel (kept hanging right next to my bath towel) to wipe the chrome fixture and door frame. That's the main key to keeping the glass clear. Once a week I spray the tile down, about ten minutes before my shower, alternating between Tilex "mold and mildew" remover and Tilex "soap scum" remover. (There might be other products, but we discovered these when Wayne was working for Clorox and they work.) Every couple of months I coat the glass with car wax, which makes the water bead up and helps the squeegee job go faster.

Basically, it took me 30 years to learn that taking a minute (or less) every day to wipe down the shower saves hours of scrubbing time later. I'm sharing this in the hope of saving you lots of scrubbing time.

Note: I'm assuming you're starting with a clean shower. This house was in pretty decent shape when we moved in, but before doing so, we did take the time to thoroughly scrub the tile, check the grout and re-do some spots, and re-caulk around the door frame. I also learned that re-caulking is something that just needs to be done every few years. It doesn't take too long, and makes everything look nice and new again.

If you're not starting with a clean shower, check this post where people gave me ideas and suggestions. 

So, that's what Works for Me this Wednesday. Feel free to add an idea of your own in the comments.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom!


Today is my mother's 75th birthday. In honor of that, I'm spending the day doing things she taught me. If I lived closer, I'd do these things with her; I wish that were possible.

Enjoying Nature - It's a gorgeous day!

Pulling Weeds
Just like Wyatt learned how to identify a dandelion from his mother, my mother taught me the finer points of
weeding.
and feeling grateful the carpel tunnel surgery worked (a condition inherited from her)

Laundry and Ironing and Dishes

Making Relief Society Phone Calls - This dislike of making phone calls is another thing I inherited from my mother, yet she also taught me that it's easier to just do it than to sit around worrying and feeling guilty.

Making a Dentist Appointment - See above. I remember trips to the dentist (with a wood-paneled office and hanging beads in the doorways) and being rewarded for good behavior by stopping at the ice cream parlour afterwards.

Baking Honey Oat Bread (her recipe)

Making Progress on Genealogy - I have fond memories of sitting together filling out pedigree charts and family group sheets.

Fixing Dinner - It's a good day to turn the last of our St. Patrick's Day corned beef into a yummy soup to serve with the fresh-baked bread. I'm grateful Mom taught me how to cook and that she gave me lots of practice in doing so.
Leftover Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup:

That's probably all I'll get to today, but every day I do things I learned how to do from my mother. 
They include crocheting and sewing, cleaning and organizing, reading and writing and studying. I'm so grateful for her! 

So grateful we got to see her last weekend, and that we were able to get a 4-generation picture!
Happy Birthday, Mom!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Grandma's Bibs

Wayne's mom has a tradition of sending a set of holiday bibs to her great-grandchildren and everyone I've spoken to absolutely loves them. They're large enough to provide decent coverage, are easily washed and NOT easily pulled off. Besides that, they're fun and festive. Because someday - waaay in the future - I hope to have great-grandchildren of my own, I thought it would be good to record the instructions. Maybe I'll practice before then on babies of friends.

These start with a small hand towel (maybe it's even called a finger towel). Savannah's measured 11" x 17". Cut a 4 1/2" circle for the neck, and then sew 12" of ribbing into a loop. That is sewn into the circle. Add any decorative appliqué that you desire and it's finished!

I found a couple of tutorials here and here that can help you create your own version.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Baby Blanket

A few years ago someone told me about "wing-tipped" needles, which are used to prepare fabric for a crocheted edging. After a while I finally got one and made a few baby blankets to give away. I felt like preparing a few more for future babies this month, and couldn't find my original instructions. So I don't have that problem the NEXT time I get into this mood, here they are.
I used 1 1/4 yards of 44" flannel from Joann, which happened to be on sale for $3 a yard last week. One yard would be fine, but I liked the idea of making it more square. I also used around 3 ounces of regular yarn. When my grandmother made these, she used the cotton thread, and maybe next time I'll try that, but regular yarn still works.
Trim the flannel so it's even, and round the corners (using a small bowl) if you don't want to deal with mitered corners. Serge the edges and then "poke" the holes using a wing-tip needle without thread. I set my machine to it's widest width and longest stitch. The first one I lined up the fabric so the needle zig-zagged over the serged edges, but the second one I lined up the fabric a little to the right, or along side the right edge of my presser foot. That allowed me to fold back the edge when crocheting.

The first round is the most tedious, because the crochet hook (even using the smallest I had, a size ) is still bigger than the hole created by the needle. It took about two hours, but was the perfect task for our four hour drive to Gainesville. Remember to use every other hole, or the ones furthest from the edge, and make a single crochet in each one, and slip stitch to the beginning stitch.

For the second round, which took about a half hour, chain one, and then do a single crochet in each stitch around. On each corner, I picked one stitch to do two single crochets in to help it lay more flat.

For the third round, which took about an hour, I made the shell stitch edging. The pattern for that is five double crochet in one stitch, skip a stitch, slip stitch in the next stitch, skip another stitch, and then keep repeating. Slip stitch into the beginning of the round and fasten off.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Baby Headband

The internet didn't exist (at least not for me) when Michelle was born over 20 years ago, so I wasn't able to record how I made the little headband for her blessing day. And then I forgot I had done so until I looked for her dress last week. In case I decide to make one again, here's how it's done.


Cut a 14" piece of elastic lace and sew the ends together, using a 1/4" seam. Cut a 9" piece of regular lace (about 1 1/4" wide), gather one long edge and pull tight to form a circle, then sew the short ends together. Cut a 10-12" length of 1/4" ribbon, tie a bow. I've learned it's easier to cut it a bit longer and then trim the ends after making the bow. Then attach the bow to the circle of lace, and sew the circle to the headband, covering the seam.  The final step is to find a precious little girl to wear it! 


Monday, March 13, 2017

Savannah's Blessing Weekend

We had another granddaughter join our family in January, and this weekend we were able to meet her. We also had the chance to spend time with two other granddaughters. Just imagine how much fun we can have with them, and their other cousins as well, in ten years!

Wayne was such a nice grandpa, and shared his blue "juice" with Robyn at lunchtime. She thought that was a real treat. 
I guess I should have expected a playground on the UF campus to be bright blue and orange. Even the rubber chips were dyed blue.
When it got too warm to be outside, we walked over to the Museum of Natural History.

Then it was time for a pizza dinner and Piesano's did not disappoint. The pepperoni rolls were delicious and so were the pizzas - deluxe for the men, bianca for the women, and pepperoni with black olives for the kids.
This was actually a bit later, but I decided to keep the restaurant pictures together. My parents didn't arrive in time for the pizza, so Jeff recommended SweetBerries, and Wayne and I got dessert while they had sandwiches for dinner. Isn't it great that we got to try two Gainesville institutions in one evening?
Our planned "tourist-y" activity was to visit the bat houses. If you're there at sunset and the weather cooperates, you can watch hundreds of thousands of bats leave their nests and fly off to find dinner.

The shores of Lake Alice provided a peaceful waiting spot.
Everything went as planned, and shortly after sunset the bats started leaving. I tried getting a picture, but without much success. You can pretend you were there in person by watching this video. And you can get educated on bats in Florida by watching this one.
 I wonder if Savannah will remember her first exploring day with Grandpa?
In spite of the gray clouds, Sunday was a gorgeous day, and Savannah was given a beautiful blessing by her father. And she got to wear the same dress that Michelle did on her blessing day, which I'm told I also wore.

I hope we're able to take a four-generation picture for a long time to come.
After church we had a delicious lunch of green salad, Texas Toast, "Mom's Lasagna" (from Stouffer's!) and Texas Sheet Cake. I don't know if it was planned or not, but I loved the reminder of Savannah's Texas roots.
And I was grateful for the reminder of my roots, and the opportunity to spend some time, however brief, with my own parents. Thanks for making the long trip!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Saying Good-bye (or Planning a Funeral)

This month I was asked to help arrange a funeral along with the family luncheon for someone in our ward. It was actually a beautiful way to serve and things turned out well. Just in case the opportunity arises again, I thought I'd record some sites I found that were helpful. (See below.)

The internet is a fantastic resource, but I also pulled out the funeral program for my grandmother's funeral to give me ideas. It's a blessing to be able to assign yourself to be the organist, because the hardest task was figuring out the music, particularly the musical number. This program included "How Great Thou Art" for the opening hymn and "The Lord is My Shepherd" for the closing hymn (chosen by the widow because they were her husband's favorite hymns). Family members read a couple of scriptures, gave the life sketch, and shared a poem. After some friends sang "Each Life that Touches Ours for Good" (an arrangement by our good friend Ross Farnworth), the bishop spoke. The actual service was only 30 - 40 minutes long, one of the shortest I've ever been to, but it was beautiful and met its purpose.

We were planning on 60 family members for the luncheon and 59 came. Sybil did a great job of estimating, don't you think?

Some of the things that worked out great were to use tablecloths instead of paper or nothing. I think that was important to me because I remember un-covered tables at the family luncheon after my grandmother's funeral. They're just not pretty, although they are practical, especially with a lot of little children. However, unlike for my grandmother, for this family only the widow was a member of the church; none of the relatives were. I felt we needed to leave a good impression. Fortunately, I think we succeeded.

We wanted centerpieces as well for the same reason. Simple is good, and there were some plastic vases with fake flowers in the Relief Society closet. With some fabric squares from my stash at home they did the job.


I read somewhere to put rolls and butter on the individual tables, instead of the serving table, and that was a great idea. If someone's really hungry, they don't have to wait for the line to form. In addition to pitchers of water, we also put the eating utensils, napkins and cups at each table so they wouldn't need three hands to carry things. Only the dinner plates were on the serving table. We also followed the suggestion to have the cakes on a different table, with room to place plates of cut pieces nearby.

We had the traditional menu of ham, potato casserole, green salad with dressing, rolls and cake, and the estimates below are pretty good. For 60 people, we used 2 Costco hams (10# each), 4 9x13" pans of potatoes, 14# of lettuce with 2# of grape tomatoes and a bag of croutons, 2 16-oz bottles of salad dressing, 1 pound of butter, 9 dozen rolls and 4 9x13" cakes. It actually turned out to be the perfect amount - we didn't run out of food, but we didn't have leftovers coming out of our ears either.

It was a long day, although not quite as long as a wedding day, and I was grateful that Wayne was happy to come along to help. The checklist should have a reminder to wear comfortable shoes! Don't forget to have someone open the building for the funeral home people (although I guess that isn't normally part of the luncheon committee responsibility). Just for future reference, we arrived at 10:30 to make copies of the program and practice the musical number. The service started at noon. The family arrived back from the cemetery around 1:30 and we were finished with clean-up around 3:30. Lots of hands really do make the work light.

Here are a couple of the resources I used, Mormon Share and LDS Women, and here's the checklist for the family luncheon (or repast as our Sybil called it):

Planning Checklist

  1. Call the family to find out the time and place of the funeral, estimated time of the luncheon, and rough estimate of how many family members will be eating.
  2. Get a phone number from the family of a family member who would not mind getting a cell phone call in case the servers need to locate or contact the family on the day of the funeral and luncheon.
  3. Reserve the building. Be sure to reserve enough time for set up, a leisurely meal, and clean up. Funeral preparations take precedence over other uses of the building.
  4. Make sure there are enough paper products in the paper closet.
  5. Assign someone to set up #_____of tables and #_____of chairs to each table by__________(time). (8 People can comfortably sit at the round or rectangular tables.)
  6. Consult the Compassionate Service Leader(s) to plan the following:
    • Decide menu and amount needed of each item. (See the Sample menu.)
    • Call people to make assignments (or if there is time you can pass around an assignment sheet in Relief Society, Primary, Nursery, Library and Young Womens) – Tell them the time and place to deliver their food. You’ll need:
      • help with set up (tablecloths/paper, serving tables, food placement, beverage preparation),
      • help to receive the food (use a tape and marker to write a name on each tray),
      • help to serve the food,
      • help with clean up, and
      • help to return empty dishes after the funeral.
    • Call people that can help on the day of the luncheon:
      • Remind them of time to be there (at least 30 minutes before family arrives to avoid any distracting rushing about).
      • Remind them to label their utensils or dishes
      • Remind them of any other assignments (knives, etc).
    • Take a list of people bringing food so you know who to expect.

Items Needed

  • From the Library:
    • Scissors (a myriad of uses, possibly to cut paper for tables)
    • Tape and marker to label any unmarked dishes, pans, or serving utensils
  • From the paper supply closet:
    • paper to cover the tables - or tablecloths
    • large and small plates
    • napkins
    • plastic utensils
    • plastic cups
  • Bring from home:
    • Keys (main door, library, paper closet, Relief Society closets, and kitchen)
    • Cookie sheets (use to carry leftover food to cars)
    • Aprons
    • Dish towels, wash cloths, and dish soap
    • Unit phone directory (in case you need more help or someone forgets to show)
    • Aluminum foil, Saran Wrap, Ziplock bags (quart and gallon), disposable foil containers (to distribute any extra food)
    • Small Serving Spatulas (to scoop and serve desserts)
    • Sharp kitchen knives (since many units do not allow knives to be stored at church)

Sample Family Meal Menu

  • Meat: Ham 1 feeds 10 to 12 people/Roast/Turkey
  • Funeral Potatoes: 9×13 feeds 12 to 15 people
  • Salads:
    • Bagged Green Salad (add tomatoes and cucumbers; 2 lbs will probably feed 12-15) and Dressing (Thousand Island, Ranch, Catalina and Italian are popular)
    • Jello: 9×13 salad feeds 12-15 people
    • Pasta
  • Fruits (cut watermelon, seedless grapes, honeydew melon, strawberries, and cantaloupe in season)
  • Veggie trays and dips
  • Potato chips
  • Rolls and butter
  • Beverages:
    • Ice Water (buy bagged crushed ice)
    • Kool-aid (bring sugar and measuring cup)
  • Desserts
    • Cakes (Cut into 24 slices per 9×13 pan)
    • Cookies

Setup:

  1. Turn on the heat or air conditioning if needed.
  2. As each food item is delivered – make sure to put tape and the sister’s name on each tray.
  3. Cover tables with paper.
  4. Set salt and pepper shakers at the end of each table.
  5. Place empty cups at each place setting.
  6. Cut butter sticks in half and place on small paper plates. 
  7. Use plants and flowers from the funeral for center pieces if they are available.
  8. Set up two long tables for serving food and cover them with paper.
  9. Place the large paper plates at the beginning of the serving line.
  10. Set out 3 lined baskets for the utensils at the end of the serving line.
  11. Set out the napkins at the end of the serving line.
  12. Set out 1 to 2 big garbage cans with liners (near the exit to the dining area but as far from the serving area as possible).
  13. Set up one long table for desserts. Cover it with paper.
  14. Be sure you have contact numbers for the family and stake/ward/branch leaders in case of emergency.

Just Before the Family Arrives:

  1. Place ice in each pitcher, fill with water and place on tables.
  2. Cut the desserts into small servings, place on small paper plates, and place onto the Dessert Table.
  3. Place food (with serving utensils) onto the table.

During the Luncheon:

  1. Check to make sure the water pitchers are full.
  2. Refill (if have more in the kitchen) the food on the Serving and Dessert Tables.

Clean Up:

  1. Wash dishes.
  2. Put tables and chairs away.
  3. Sweep gym and kitchen floors (Wipe up any spills).
  4. Vacuum hallways.
  5. Take trash to the outside dumpsters.
  6. Ensure all lights are turned off, bathrooms are clean, and building is locked up.
  7. Return dishes and utensils to owners.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Catching Up - Fourth of July Weekend 2016

One of my goals this year is to try to do better at recording our memory-making days here on the blog for posterity's sake. I probably ought to add at least one before January is over! This one was in the draft section, so I might as well start with it, and that will help with my never-ending quest to finish things.
I had a great birthday weekend in 2016, which started with a Saturday walk around Glades Pioneer Park, followed by a picnic. Our timing was perfect, and the afternoon thunder showers didn't start until we were ready to leave.
Son #4 (our Lego fanatic) and his lovely wife came to spend some time with us. They couldn't keep their secret any longer and insisted on having me open my present that night (before my birthday). In case you can't tell, it was an announcement that they were expecting a baby - our 10th grandchild. Exciting news, and we were so happy for them. (The baby has since arrived, which means that someday there will be a post on that - hopefully, sooner rather than later!)
A lot of our celebrations center around food, and birthdays and holidays are no exception. We stopped for ice cream on the way home from our picnic, and my birthday breakfast was patriotic waffles. Wayne shared his Father's Day gift of Omaha Steak burgers for our Independence Day barbecue, and we whipped up our favorite chocolate snack cake for dessert.
All in all, it was a beautiful weekend filled with activities that are now great memories.