40 Bags in – Well, Approaching 40 Bags.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge got difficult about a week ago. Chuck and I kind of hit the wall. Part of that was schedule related. I had some long days and a lot of grading to do. Chuck was working some mandatory overtime, and he needed to carve out time to sleep somewhere in his 24 hour cycles. Excuses aside, we weren’t keeping up.

And then Chuck started the Piano Project. We’ve been looking at our antique baby grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture with many memories, just as lovely. No one in the home currently plays piano, unless it’s in the guise of helping Amigo learn his barbershop music. For that purpose, we bought a Yamaha electronic keyboard. It works well and takes up very little space.

The piano is now destined to be repurposed and upcycled. Can an object be both? This one can. Chuck is currently taking it apart, piece by piece, with a goal of creating bookshelves. As he’s working, we are storing all the pieces. This isn’t helping the de-junking project, but it is going to help create space in a big way.

What’s that keyboard doing on my fireplace mantel?

The felt hammers needed to rest in the living room. That’s Amigo’s Spark Plug award on the left, a white elephant gift in the middle, and a cactus on the right.

A cactus in a tuba. Every home should have one.

Meanwhile, Chuck is working diligently to loosen the strings and remove the sound board of this lovely instrument. I pulled out the dampers today and set them aside.

When the project is done, I’ll post a few “After” shots. I think you’ll like it, readers. Maybe you’ll even forget that I didn’t make it to 40 bags in 40 days. Instead, we attacked a major family project.

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40 Bags in 40 Days

Final Jeopardy Category was Religion. The answer read, “Famous Catholics who’ve publicly answered this question include Susan Boyle (sweets) & Paul Ryan (beer).” The question?

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Of course. Now if you’re not Catholic (I’m not), Lent might not be a time of personal sacrifice. In Wisconsin, Lent might be an opportunity to find the best Friday Fish Fries.

Let’s go a different angle on the “giving up” philosophy. I’ve been slowly and steadily de-junking and de-cluttering our home. My process is fairly simple. I keep an old, worn out laundry basket in my closet, and every time I find something to donate to a thrift store, it goes in the basket. When the basket is full, I take inventory and go to a donation site. The basket doesn’t come home, either – it was worn out or breaking apart, anyway.

I saw the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and thought, “Sure, why not? This will speed up the process of what I’m already doing. Maybe my blogger and reader friends would like to join in, too.” So just in case you’re interested, here are the main links.

Here’s the basic explanation.

You can also like or follow her Facebook page.

Rather than throw out or donate a full bag each day, I’m either throwing something away, tossing a stack into the donation basket, or setting aside something for a potential summer garage sale. No matter what, the “something” will be significant. A tiny key ring or scarf will not be enough to qualify. Can the significance be emotional rather than size? Maybe. I’ll see how it goes.

I started today by sorting through a basket of linens I bought at an online estate auction. The napkins I’ll keep. The bandannas from various fundraisers will go in the donation basket. The basket itself will go out in the sale in June. The scarves? I don’t know yet. I might run them through the laundry and then decide if I’ll wear them, sell them, or send them off in the basket.

I’m not ending with a question for you, readers, not this time. I’m asking myself: can I make it? My prediction is yes. After all, I’m still making room for all the canning jars I bought a few months ago.

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Snow Day – Ice Day prep

We had an inkling that a day off might be in the works. Toward the end of the school day, we saw an email from downtown – the Powers That Be had cancelled all after school and evening events, and the morning wellness appointments had been rescheduled. I slid a little in the parking lot; the freezing rain had begun.

By the time I saw the announcement that our local schools would close the next day, I had already prepped for the possibility of power outages. Sometimes, the two go together. Ice, power outages, kind of like chocolate chips and cookies, Romeo and Juliet, or birds of a feather. It’s not a panic situation, but we’d rather not be forced to travel the slick roads in search of eggs or bread if the trip can be avoided.

Our pantry is pretty well stocked as a general rule. A quick stop for bunny food on the way home from work, and we can feed everyone under our roof.

Blankets: if the heat goes off, we’ll need to double up on blankets. We have plenty, and at any given time most are reasonably clean. Most.

Bean bag chairs. Just kidding – sort of. Amigo has several. Bean bag chairs plus blankets equal a cozy corner for relaxing and keeping warm.

Firewood: Bring in a good stack of dry or relatively dry wood. If the heat is off, we’ll huddle up in the den near the fireplace with bean bag chairs and blankets.

Charge everything that needs a charge. That’s probably the biggest challenge on the list. If I can’t plug anything in during or after a storm, I need to be ready to keep the major tools of life charged. To give you an idea, here’s a list.

  • Smart phones – three
  • Kindle
  • Laptop
  • FitBit (it keeps my vibrating alarm on time!)
  • Is that all? No, but those are the high priority items.

I don’t have a battery operated coffee maker. If we lived in a place where power outages were more common, I’d probably get one. A generator for the freezers would be useful, too. Our two chest freezers are full of vegetables from last summer and meat purchased on sale and a full stock of soup broths (haha). In a short outage, we just leave the freezers closed to maintain their temperatures.

So, folks, how did I spend my bonus day? Power stayed on. Heat stayed on. I relaxed on the couch, watched some HGTV and DIY (no news; after I had the closing confirmed, I didn’t want to see any more news), put a loaf of bread in the bread machine, cleaned a little, sipped my coffee, ran the dishwasher, and a whole batch of small chores. A day like this is a gift, when we’re prepared for it.

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Fun with Canning Jars

The project started like this.

Jars from estate auction

Jars from estate auction

Then we gave the dishwasher a try.

They all fit!

They all fit!

Almost all came out clean. Those that didn’t, well, I might scrub or soak them, or I might just use them for something other than food preservation.

Then we visited one of my favorite vintage and antique stores. I saw all kinds of ways to use canning jars – other than canning.

What is the candle sitting in? More wax?

What is the candle sitting in? More wax? I have marbles. I could do the one on the left.

Simple. Clean them up, surround them with greenery.

Simple. Clean them up, surround them with greenery.

And people are charging amazing amounts of money for these. To give you an idea, the two blue jars surrounded by pretty green decorative wreaths were priced at about the same amount of money that I paid for the entire table full (see top of post).

I can do this. The only question is – will I do it? Will I make the time to do it?

Stay tuned, readers. Daisy has a project in mind.

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Buying a Dishwasher – fun?

We did the research online before heading to the Big Box store. On the short drive there, I tapped into as many Pokemon Stops as I could (to fill my bag with balls, etc.), and Chuck told me all about the features we could get.

Sales Dude in Blue approached, and we welcomed him. He knew what he needed to know, so we asked our questions, got answers, made our decision, and ordered a dishwasher to be delivered and installed in a few weeks.

That’s the short story.

Somehow, within this entire shopping journey, we discovered that we have a great deal in common with Sales Dude in Blue. Gardening, canning, foraging. Foraging! Water conservation, rain barrels, desire to see more cities rewarding those who conserve. Cataract surgery. Cataract surgery? Yes, indeed, Sales Dude in Blue recognized a particular glint that indicates eye surgery, and asked if I was satisfied with my results. For the most part, yes, I answered. If the left retina had stayed attached, I’d be more content.

But anyway, we’re replacing our aging dishwasher in a few weeks. Days, in fact, before Election Day. Oh, my, even the behavior of a major appliance can make me think of November 8th. I sense a theme here.

We didn’t talk politics with Sales Dude in Blue. We didn’t need to. And when we’ve had the dishwasher for a few days and Election Day is done, I’ll have more reasons to sigh with relief.

 

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Lots of Crocks – the results After

I have a 3 gallon Redwing stoneware crock that I bought at an antique mall. I also found a very large (6 gallon, I estimate) that had a huge crack in it. I caulked the crack in the crock, and then set it aside. I plan to plant in both crocks. You can see the #3 at the back of the table.

 

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

Here’s the “before” picture outside on the deck in better light.

Here they are in the sunshine.

Here they are in the sunshine. Some are in better shape than others.

And now, the “After” picture. I was pleasantly surprised with the condition after cleaning. Most were just dirty, not damaged.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Readers, I’m thinking of planting chives in the #2, and maybe succulents in the cheese and butter crocks. What do you think?

 

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Crocks for Planting: The Auction Chapter

I have a 3 gallon Redwing stoneware crock that I bought at an antique mall. I also found a very large (6 gallon, I estimate) that had a huge crack in it. I caulked the crack in the crock, and then set it aside. I plan to plant in both crocks.

I lost out on a few crocks in online auctions, and I was bummed. Then I saw a generic label of “Lots of Crocks” in another auction. On closer examination, I recognized that one was a 2 gallon Redwing crock, dirty and possibly cracked. The others might or might not be good enough to use as planters along with those I already had, but it was worth a try.

Yesterday I brought them home.

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

the five new pieces in front of the 3 qt in back

You can’t get a good look at them in the dark garage, so I moved them outside for some natural light.

Here they are in the sunshine.

Here they are in the sunshine. Some are in better shape than others.

Kaukauna Cheese!

Kaukauna Cheese!

Did it cost one dollar and 59 cents, or one and 59/100 of a penny?

Did it cost one dollar and 59 cents, or one and 59/100 of a penny?

Butter from Sheboygan; and a lot of stain or rust.

Butter from Sheboygan; and a lot of stain or rust.

And finally, the crock that led me to bid on this lot.

And finally, the crock that led me to bid on this lot.

My plan: with baking soda and salt, perhaps a vinegar/water rinse, and a lot of bow¬†grease, I’ll see how these pretty little crocks clean up. Then I’ll decide what to plant in each one. Chives might do well in the¬†#3.

What do you think, readers? Do you think these crocks have a future? Do you have advice for cleaning them?

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Hot, Hot, Hot

It’s unseasonably warm here in the “Frozen Tundra.” The Green Bay Packers held their annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday with a major storm in the morning and extreme temperatures in the afternoon. Why would that matter, you might ask, for a shareholders’ meeting? This meeting takes place outdoors in the bowl of Lambeau Field. The shareholders dress in green and gold, and so on, and so on. If you’re wondering, no, I didn’t go. It’s enough to know I could. There are 360,760 people holding approximately 5 million shares of Green Bay Packers stock.

So anyway, it’s more than warm. In my Prep for Winter mentality, I made a new batch of jelly yesterday. It didn’t gel. I’m blaming the humidity and heat, and I’m monitoring the jars to see if they’re just gelling slowly.

It's pretty, though.

It’s pretty, though.

Also in my Prep for the School Year mode, I picked up a couple of new wardrobe elements on clearance at Kohl’s. I saved far more than I paid; that’s Kohl’s and my shopping savvy.

Bored yet? I don’t want to work outside because of the heat, but I set up a batch of sun tea to brew. My formula (recipe, if you insist) is this. 2 quart mason jars with lids; 3 tea bags per jar; fill each jar with filtered water; let sit in the sun until tea reaches desired strength.

It'll need sugar, but not much.

It’ll need sugar, but not much.

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Prepping for a Storm, the Daisy way

We’re expecting thunderstorms later today. In our part of the country, that means rain (a lot), possibilities of hail, lightning strikes, high winds, and even (less likely, but possible) tornadoes. Power outages can happen, too. We Northerners know how to prep for storms. Here’s my list for the day.

Clean litter box (done). Replace box and cage tray with clean equivalents. Refill hay basket. Pet nervous rabbit who wonders why her dirty litter and crumbs of hay are being taken away.

Here’s the stormy part: Dump dirty litter on brush pile or in compost. Rinse litter box with rain barrel water (we’ll get more later). Set litter box and tray in safe place in backyard to be rinsed with rain water.

Charge everything that might need charging. Kindle. Phone. Laptop. Amigo’s book player, bluetooth headphones, and anything else he might need. Stormy part? When we’re getting lightning, we won’t want anything important to be plugged in. If we lose power, we’ll have communication (phones) and entertainment (audio book player, kindle, etc.). If the power stays off, I’ll consider cooking supper on the grill.

Amigo just told me it smells like rain. Indeed, I see wet pavement outside. Most windows are closed; I’ll close the last few when needed. See you later, Interwebs. We’re hunkered down in our den, curled up with a few books and Amigo’s weather radio. Stay safe out there!

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Winter – and Prepping for Winter

I am a public school teacher. My work schedule coincides with the (arguably outdated) agrarian calendar. I start my school year at the end of August, and I end that school year in the beginning of June. I have my Summer “Off” in between.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a quote I’d heard on a fascinating television show called Unplugged Nation. The expert told the people starting their off-grid trial period that “Off the grid, there are two seasons: winter and preparing for winter.” I’m not off grid, but I can see the sense in this statement. Here at the O.K. Chorale, I spend a great deal of my summer prepping for winter, too.

I prep for winter to make my school year easier on me and the family. My workload, like that of teachers everywhere, is much more than the calendar might suggest. By canning and freezing foodstuffs all summer long, I save money, save time, and provide a better quality product for my family. Here’s an example: rhubarb.

Eating in season and eating locally means harvesting and cooking while it’s ripe. I make rhubarb desserts and rhubarb jams and rhubarb barbecue sauce each and every June. Any rhubarb left after that gets diced and stashed in the freezer. If you have a source of rhubarb growing like a weed in or near your home, here’s the rhubarb barbecue sauce recipe with a few Daisy twists.

Ingredients

8-9 cups of chopped rhubarb (approximately 9 pounds)

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1 medium jalapeno pepper, diced and seeded

2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup honey (local, of course)

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground or crystallized ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large pan and cook over low-medium heat until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Allow mixture to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning. Blend gently with an immersion blender until mixture is smooth.

Ladle sauce into clean, hot pint jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch head space. Add lides and rings on pint jars. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the jars to rest in the boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes. Remove the jars to a safe place (for example, on a towel at the back of the counter) to cool. Label and store after 12 hours.

To use rhubarb barbecue sauce: pour over a pork or beef roast in a slow cooker. Simmer all day until meat can be shredded with a fork. Serve on buns. Heck, serve any way you wish!

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