Another revelation!!!

I can't believe my luck that I happened upon the ad for the Idaho button show in June and connected with Simone Kincaid... I finished another one of the back issue bulletins she sent and it was just fascinating.  When I first started painting buttons they were all about 100 years old and I felt sort of guilty painting on them ...as if painting on them somehow diminished their value....  Not that it stopped me but it almost seemed like a crime to do it to a beautiful old button..
  So it was with some anxiety I approached the button society and not sure how they felt about painting on old buttons.  Now I know they not only embrace what I do, they actually have a category for it.... studio buttons.  Buttons created or embellished by studio artists which include handmade buttons of ceramic, polymer, porcelain, metal, wood, leather, glass, enamel, cross stitch, fabric, raffia and even pine needles.  It also includes buttons embellished with paint, carving, laser cutting, transfers, etc.

Many of the techniques lend themselves to producing a particular design in multiply numbers.  Once a mold is made or carved it is just a matter of reusing it...  I was particularly drawn to the ones that weren't conducive to mass production. And of course I especially loved the ones that were hand painted like the one lower right below and that is where I have found my "spot" so to speak...

I have been wandering from place to place in the house and there is so much that needs to be done that I haven't focused on anything but last night I finally picked up a brush and started finishing some woodpeckers buttons I started in December.

 Mother Nature has tried to dump an entire winter in the month of February.  First we were buried in snow and now we're going to have some subzero temperatures.  This old farm needs lots of care during this time..  All the older outbuilding like the chicken house, gazebo, etc. and even the barn and house need the snow scraped off to keep them from collapsing from the weight.  A vigilant watch is needed to keep pipes from freezing....no fleeing to a warmer climate for us and I'm no help with snow removal this year.


A button snob for sure!!!

When I joined the Idaho Historical Button Society last fall I somehow missed getting on the mailing list for their bulletins so Simone kindly sent me five back issues which are packed with fascinating information.  I read two issues last night and confirmed that I know next to nothing about any buttons unless they are mother of pearl.....and then mostly if they are paintable or not.....
Over the years I occasionally buy a mixed lot of buttons such as this ebay purchase in 2012 but I am mostly again looking for extra large paintable buttons.  Did find quite a few in this batch but somehow could not get motivated to paint on "plastic."  What a MOP snob I am...  Now and forever I will look at buttons differently...  Some of these I used in CQ workshops and they are scattered in bags here and there in the house and in the barn.  They definitely deserve another look.  I am hoping to get back to painting this week and even though I still tire easily I am eager to do something productive.
I am handling pampering rather well though.  Here DIL has my hair in curlers and I am soaking my hands in preparation for a manicure.. But no matter what is going on Morris is right in the middle of everything.  Up until today someone has taken me every day to the mall to walk and I manage a mile now and getting stronger and breathing easier every day.  But today we are expecting a big winter storm and I would rather be home and warm and safe because I know how quickly our road can drift shut.  It is one thing to walk in a warm mall and an entirely another thing to struggle up a country lane that has drifted over...
I am worried about big dog that showed up yesterday near our neighbor's farm.  He has never had a dog and shouldn't.  This dog is St. Bernard size and has obviously recently had a litter of pups.  She's covered in burrs from weeds in the forest and very wary.  DH is trying to find out if we need to call someone to help her. Over the years we have had so many issues with this neighbor over how he abuses animals that I shutter to think that here we go again... I am concerned she has had a litter and hidden them somewhere.


Home and Fat Feet!!!

Home and on the couch with Morris finally...and does it ever feel good.  I went into surgery at six am on a Monday and didn't regain consciousness until midday on Thurs. and then slid  in and out for the next couple days.  By then DH was convinced I was brain damaged and was frantic.  Four weeks have passed and all is getting better day by day.

Some things like the incision that I expected to be very painful was not and others like the tube in my side to drain fluid from my lungs was extremely painful and I hadn't expected that at all... 

The top of the incision peeks above most of my tops and looks like a tattoo of two dragonflies fighting.  Now I am focused on healing and getting stronger.  When I started walking in the mall I would walk 12 steps, stop, take 3 breaths and repeat until I reached 1/2 mile....counting every step and gasping for every breath.  Today I could walk steady for 1 mile with only a few stops to catch my breath... Just call me "Full Speed Ahead (sorta) Krueger".

Up until the day I left rehab my feet were so swollen I couldn't get a pair of shoes on.  In my youth I had taken an inventory of my physical assets and at the top of the list was "a well turned-out ankle" which has been a very desirable asset since the 1700s when shoe fashions included a slight heel. So I was dismayed by two fat feet depleting my inventory of physical assets.  But after gallons of hot lemon water that too is passing...

DH has been a fabulous  caregiver and now my precious daughter-in-law (THE ONE) has arrived as a back up and between the two of them  I hope to be strong enough to be dividing peonies in March.

I want to thank profusely everyone who sent cards, emails, and messages.  DH read every single one of them to me two or three times and they really lifted my spirits.  I love you all.



Surgery postponed until Monday.....


Recognize this pillow?

Some hospitals give them to patients who are scheduled for open heart surgery and yes that is indeed my very own therapy  pillow... I go in Friday morning at 6am.

All summer I was so tired and was out of breath going even to the barn and back.  I kept thinking how had I let myself get so out of shape.  I was due for my physical in early October and planned to bring the issue up with my doctor.  I fully expected her to urge me to get an exercise bike or take aerobic classes at the YWCA. 

Instead she set up an appointment with a cardiologist.  First there was a C-scan and then a angiogram performed.  I fully expected to wake from the angiogram with a couple stents and be good to go.  Instead I was referred to a heart surgeon who informed me that I had a major blockage in EVERY artery and a malfunctioning aortic valve so I am having a quad with a new valve...  Sounds like something you would do to a car.  I hadn't had any of the typical symptoms which I now know is quite common for women.

So I have been busy getting the house and everything in order and am as ready as I will ever be.  DH will be my 24 hour caregiver when I get home and insists he is up to the task.. The surgery is scheduled to take 5-7 hours and I have been repeatedly warned how much pain I will have... Hopefully I will not be gone long from the blog also hoping you all keep me in your thoughts Friday morning.

Now the pillow... my first impulse was to take it apart and get out beads, metallic threads and sequins but reality set it so  I only took  it apart, restuffed it properly and added just lace and trim.  I could hardly show up Friday morning with an "unembellished" therapy pillow...


Julia Child and her deconstructed turkey.......

Some years back I saw a rerun of a Julia Child's television show where she demonstrated her "deconstructed turkey" and I thought it was absolute genius....  I have not cooked a whole turkey in the oven since.... You can still google it and see it.

We have turkey often as it is cheap and so versatile  but it is time consuming and messy to cook the whole turkey ( and messing up my oven and kitchen) and then cooking the carcass separately.  The way I do it is not only easy, it is all done at the same time with no messy kitchen and oven.

In fact I took Julia's deconstructed turkey one step further and adapted it to my slow cooker.... A breast, 2 thighs and legs fit perfectly in my largest slow cooker. I add onion and herbs and beer.... Yes beer...actually stout beer. I had watched a turkey roasted on a open spit on a TV show and it was basted with beer mixed with butter and herbs. I have been using beer ever since.  There are numerous similar recipes on the internet.

The back, wings etc. I put in another slow cooker....the "parts" cooker.  Usually I use this  meat bits and broth for soup but I have a good supply of turkey soup still from Thanksgiving.  The meat and broth from this I will pack in smaller amounts and use in turkey salad, turkey crepes, and in place of chicken in my favorite Chinese chicken dumplings.

I made the corn bread stuffing yesterday and it is in a casserole in the frig.  About an hour before dinner I will baste it with broth from the "parts" slow cooker and bake it and then  use the rest of the broth to make the gravy.... Then I will use up most of the turkey left to make freezer dinners for January...  I love frozen turkey dinners with all the trimmings because (believe it or not!!) there are days I don't feel like cooking...


Unchicken-like behavior

I'm sure there is recorded somewhere proper chicken etiquette but one of my hens  has absolutely no respect for tradition.   In 30+ years I have had chickens they have always been  predictable in their habits.  By instinct they sleep on the roost, lay eggs in nesting boxes, and scurry about for food...

But my Maxine has marched to her own drummer since the day she came.  From the first she talked nonstop and wanted to sit on my lap... which was all OK... but she also refused to roost with the other chickens and eventually came to laying her eggs wherever she pleased.  It's bad enough she does this but now that I am down to two hens the other hen Millie has taken to doing whatever Maxine is doing... 

They have been in molt for about a month and it is time to start laying again and once again I'm going to try to get Maxine  laying in the nice clean nesting boxes ... One website that offers advice suggests putting barriers where you do not want a chicken putting her eggs and I'm going to try that.

I've given up on trying to get her to sleep on the roost where it is cleaner and warmer and will settle for laying her eggs in the nesting boxes...As stimulation  I am fluffing and adding fresh bedding material  each day.. They are always curious when I do anything to the boxes and immediately jump up and check it out.  I bury the faux egg (golf ball) and they immediately have to settle and shift it about to their liking.... My hope that in the midst of all this shifting and settling Maxine will lay her egg  there like a proper chicken.

Another talent Maxine has is she is a leaper... from a standing position she can leap straight up about two feet.  When I am holding a bowl of treats she is leaping up and down repeatedly  to see what is in the bowl. She acts like she should have springs instead of legs... I will give Maxine this though.  She does keep my life as a "chicken mama" challenging.


Gift Certificate and my "Tucker"

When I bought my iron bed at a salvage yard years ago it was in terrible shape and I had no intention for using it as a bed.  I mounted the head end on these posts to use as a trellis for a particularly aggressive rose.  I used the foot end as a gate in another part of the garden..  Everyone loved them.  But by the time the garden was closed to the public, the rose had totally engulfed the head end of the bed so I decided to rescue both ends and use it as my bed.   They are still battered, bent and rusty but I love them.

When we travel what I get homesick most for is my funky old bed.. During the summer I love to use all white vintage coverlets and in the winter I use quilts which I change often.  This has become my retreat....  When it comes to sleep habits DH and I are about as incompatible as possible.. so we not only have separate beds but separate bedrooms.. I need 5 pillows and lots of quilts...he wants a small thin pillow and an electric blanket....   I love to read in bed and listen to a soothing music as I fall asleep... He likes it quiet AND dark.. I've always gone to bed early and risen early and prone to wandering in the night. He goes to bed late , and if his sleep is disturbed can't go back to sleep and wakes up a grump!

And the mattress is another whole area of difference .. He likes his extra firm and I like mine pillow soft.  And a few years back I bought an electric mattress pad which I loved as I had the heat beneath me and PILES of quilts on top.  It died this fall..... 8 days after the warranty expired.  I wasn't going to get another one but I received a Amazon gift card and decided I deserve  a toasty warm bed in January.  It will be here next week.

My bedroom gets very little heat and after the electric mattress pad died I could never get all my parts tucked in snugly.  So on nights I go to bed before DH he  comes and tucks me in... After I get all my pillows arranged he does the sheet, a wool blanket, three layers of quilts and a knitted cover. I love this "tucking in" and I think how wonderful it must be for a child. And for some reason it always makes think of my poor Dad who spent several of his last years in a nursing home.  I used to go and feed him as he had Parkinson's but how I wish I could have been there to tuck him in also.  It is such a loving gesture.


Holiday blues

For years and years I always get depressed during the holidays.  At first I thought it was because the kids were grown and the fun part was gone from Christmas but over time I realized it was the darkness and it had nothing to do with the holidays....  It always sneaks up on me and I'm depressed before I realize it.. Then one day I start weeping for absolutely no reason and think "Oh this again". I have found ways to help deal with it...

First I sleep... If I get up and don't want to face the day I don't.  I crawl back into my wonderful bed, pull my covers up and sleep for hours and hours. I will wake up and fix dinner and go back to bed and sleep all night...a mini hibernation.  If I can sleep like that I figure my body is sending me a message.  It sort of resets my mental state and I do feel better when I finally get up the next day.  I missed a day but I'm better inside.

Second I think green... I buy Amaryllis... lots of them and watch them grow.  This year I started them late and it will be well into January before they bloom.  Also thinking green I will crawl into bed with a notebook and take mental strolls through my garden and decide all the changes I want to make... move lily-of-the -valley to the back of the house, make a special bed for growing parsnips, move the tractor rose somewhere I can see it, etc.,etc., etc. I do this several times through the winter..  By spring of course I have mislaid the lists... but I do remember some of it..

On bad days I used to stay in my nightgown and stitch all day but that recourse is gone. So the last cure all is the kitchen... I put on an apron and cook for hours.. I take my time picking an apron that is coordinated with my outfit for the day.. Having the right apron makes for better cooking----everyone knows that. And having a new apron is even better... I watch the apron rack every thrift store I visit.  I think the cooking aromas are mood elevating but it is also the light.  My kitchen is the lightest room in the house as I took the covers off all the light fixtures, added the highest watts I could,  and I have additional lamps everywhere...

One year I asked my doctor for an antidepressant and she said "NO WAY!" and we had a long talk instead.  She's the greatest..

And magically once winter solstice passes I am cured... I embrace that extra minute or two of light each day.  I can stand on the porch and hear the daffodils swelling under the snow.  I made it another year.

Last night we had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at table 45 in our favorite restaurant. I find it amazing after 43 years we can spend an entire evening chatting away and have a great time. Notice the hair is still there.....

Merry Christmas everyone......


Never say die in the kitchen!!

When I am trying to perfect a recipe I just keep doing it again and again... tweaking the ingredients, temperatures etc. until I get it right... Well occasionally I do give up but not this time...

This is my husband's official 2018 Christmas Stollen and I couldn't be happier... just like his grandmother used to bake for him.  This it absolutely... no more tweaking....have this one nailed!!!!

Last month's attempt was an improvement over several attempts before before but it rose unevenly in the stolen mold and was almost burned on the bottom before the interior was done.  And the candied fruit was pretty much concentrated in the middle.

So yesterday I did more tweaking.. I was more careful about the proofing temperature and more careful about shaping the dough.  Both worked well..  Then I set the oven temperature at 400 degrees and immediately when I put the stollen in I lowered it to 330 degrees.  So it had an initial blast of heat for the rise and then a long bake to prevent overbrowning the bottom.

Then I found a clever solution on the internet for solving the fruit distribution problem.  Ordinarily recipes tell you to roll out the dough and spread the candied fruit   and roll it up...  But when doing this the fruit shifts.  I found a video where you roll the dough out about 1" thick and use your finger to make deep dimples or indentations in the dough.  Then spread the fruit out and as you roll it out the fruit slips snugly in the dimples and ends up throughout the roll.  Why didn't I think of that?

The other day DH came home with the zipper on his jacket sprung at the bottom... I figured by the time I separated it I would need to replace the zipper....but I googled the problem and lo and behold one person suggested liberally applying dish soap to the teeth on the zipper and giving a good tug... worked like a charm and the zipper teeth seem unharmed... Google saves my day often .

Another tech miracle this morning...  Also my DIL called me from a cruise ship in South America this morning on the new What's App she put on my phone.  It was a video call so I could see her live and it was FREE... absolutely amazing.  Of course she has to send me an email when she is going to call as my phone is usually either dead, mislaid or not turned on... 
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