Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The End of the Decade

I hope everybody enjoyed their holiday,whether you celebrated Christmas,Hannukah,or Kwanza. We had a great Christmas,with good cheer and spirit.

Our living room is finished,and it looks beautiful. My sister and mother were full of compliments,and also loved our Christmas tree. My sister told me I should take a picture and submit it to Better Homes and Gardens! She loved the simplicity of it.

Right now we are waiting to hear back from Walter Reed regarding Rick's med board. The military deemed his PTSD,Cogentive Disorder ( combo of PTSD,TBI),knees,and the nerve in his right leg as preventing him from doing what he used to do in the military. Fort Drum emailed us the final Narrative Summary and we read it,and agreed with what they said,so Rick signed it and sent it back to Fort Drum. They have sent it Walter Reed Hospital,and it will get reviewed by doctors there who will make the determination of how much of a percentage Rick will get for disability. So the end is finally in sight.It's a bit unsettling,to have waited so long and gone through what we had to go through,to know have it come down to a matter of weeks and in the hands of a few doctors. Very strange feeling.

Now that Christmas is over,I am finally stress free.I am looking forward to this coming decade.This last one has not been a great one for us,and I will be very glad to see it end. However, I am very optimistic for the next one,excited in fact. I am going to make myself a binder,in which I will keep track of thoughts,plans,etc. My "Manifesto,"for lack of a better term. I will have in the front what I wish to accomplish for this upcoming year ( Rick too) regarding our health,home,garden,homesteading,organization,and things we would like to do for fun. Like I told My Dear Friend Michelle,this coming year is a clean slate,and it is up to me what to write upon it! What we both would like to do is lose some weight. I need to get healthy again,and stop eating my frustrations and sadness. That is probably my main goal for the year.I also need to come to terms with the changes in Rick and not feel bad about "what was" and finally accept and work with "what is." You would think going on 5 years since he was wounded that I would have everything all worked out,but I don't. It still hurts me to see him this way,and I still get angry and sometime resentful. Not nice,but true. This year I am going to iron these things out. That is not to say I won't have my down days,because we all do,but I will not spend so much time dwelling on what our life used to be,because that life no longer exists.However,that is not to say that this life can't be just as good.....it will just be different. That's all.

So...good bye to this past decade,and good riddance!!!! Onward and upward to 2010 and the beginning of a good year. I can feel it and am ready for it!!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!!

It's hard to believe that it's Christmas time again,but here it is. Though I enjoy decorating,etc,I really didn't feel the excitement or the spirit of Christmas until I was grocery shopping on Tuesday. I was making sure I had everything I needed for tonight's gathering,and I found myself filled with happiness. I love having family over on Christmas Eve. We only started doing that once we moved into our house. We always had Christmas Eve at my mom's. Well, it seemed silly to have her do all the work,so a few years ago,we started having Christmas Eve at my house,and Christmas Day dinner at my sister,Linda's house. As I said in my previous posts,we have pork pies,and my sister Linda,her husband Tom,and my mom come up.This year,we are happy to have my nephew Tommy join us like he did last year.

Along with the pork pies,we have peas,cranberry sauce,celery stuffed with cream cheese and olives,and mixed pickles. This year for dessert I bought a pastry tray,full of bite sized treats. Once I am done this post,I will make my pork pies,then I will only have to heat them up tonight.I will then set up my tables. My main centerpiece will be a silver tray filled with cranberries and candles,and under the tray I will put some greenery. I will also put a lot of candles all around the house to give it a nice atmosphere.

Christmas is my favorite holiday.I love the festivities that surround it,and find myself more grateful than at Thanksgiving.I love the decorations,the lights,just the whole spirit in general.

Our living room is finished,and it looks great! We are very excited for the family to see it,especially with all the decorations.We bought two kerosene lanterns with wrought iron wall hangers,and I filled them with red paraffin oil. They look really pretty on the wall. We haven't lit them yet,I think Rick wanted to wait until tonight.

One of things that I like about Christmas is reminiscing about Christmases past. One of my early memories is the Christmas I got my Mrs Beasley doll. I was five. I remember the excitement of it all... Santa Claus! I could barely sleep because I was sure that every noise I heard was the Jolly One downstairs leaving gifts!

On this Christmas Eve,my family wishes yours a very happy,love filled Christmas Day!!!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

H1N1 and Pork Pies

Yesterday was a fairly productive day. We went down to the H1N1 clinic at the high school to get our shots.When the clinic was first announced,it was for kids and those who had underlying health problems,so we were going to bring Zach. Then Friday they announced that in NH the shots were now open to the general public.So Rick and I decided to get the shots as well. We figured,since Zach was in school and he tends to bring home the flu every year,it couldn't hurt. We are not worried,just taking precaution.

The clinic opened at 9:00 AM,and we figured we would get there early in case it was busy. We were pleasantly surprised that we only had 6 people ahead of us. There was no line at the nasal immunization,so Zach got that and Rick and I had the shot. The gentleman who gave me the shot did a great job-I barely felt anything at all,and I complimented him on his expertise!

After we left the school,we filled the car up with gas (it was running low,and since the roads were getting slippery,I wanted the tank full to give the back more weight),then stopped at Cumberland Farms to grab some eggs. We then went home so I could start making my pork pies.

I grew up having pork pies each Christmas Eve. That was the only time of year we had them. My mother says that when she was young,her family went to Midnight Mass,and because you were not suppose to eat before Communion,they would eat their pork pies after church-at about 2:00 AM. Growing up,that was not a tradtion my mother passed on. We always went to 4:00 or 5:30 mass,and had our pork pies after.No Midnight mass for us.

Pork pies are a French tradition-and we are quite French. Both my father's and my mother's grandparents are from Canada,so I am a third generation American. ( I am also part Scottish,Irish,and Abenaki). If there is any mistake,my father's last name was Lessard,and my mother's was Charrette. Can't get more French than that.

This year I made three pork pies to give as gifts-one to our neighbors down the road,one to my father in law Dick and brother in law Spencer,and the third to my brother in law Dale and his practically like a brother roommate,Scottie. Last year Dale and Scottie stopped by on Christmas Eve,and preceeded to eat all my pork pie leftovers,so I figured this year I would make them a pie. My father in law has tried them and liked them,so he too, is getting one.

Pork pies are very easy to make. You need:
1 3/4 lbs ground pork
1/3 cup of onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2-3 small- medium potatoes,mashed
salt and pepper to taste
double pie crust

Heat the oven to 350. Peel,then cube the potatoes and put them in boiling water until cooked.Mash and set aside ( DO NOT use milk or butter).Add salt.
Chop onion and cook in a small amount of butter until translucent.Add the pork,and when the pork is just about cooked,add the cinnamon and cloves. I don't measure any more, because I never use the amount in the recipe. It's all to taste. Add salt and pepper. Drain any fat,and add the meat mixture to the potoatoes. You might need to add more salt. Put the bottom crust into a 9 inch pie pan,and fill with pork pie mixture. Place the top crust on the meat mixture,then make slits in the top crust. Bake for about 30-40 minutes,until crust is cooked. You can make these ahead and freeze them as well.

We always serve our pies with peas,cranberry sauce,mixed pickles,and celery stuffed with cream cheese and olives. I have never deviated from this menu,and probably never will.

After I made the pork pies,I also made Dick a pecan pie (his favorite). Christmas Eve I will make our pork pies. Rick and Brian have gone down south ( North Hampton and Rochester) to deliver the pies and presents. I am staying here to start cleaning for holiday. I also need to wrap Zach's presents. Busy,busy busy!!!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tis No Day For Man Nor Beast Out There

The deep freeze here in NH continues. This morning the thermometer on our porch said 5 degrees,so with the wind chill it was below zero. We were all bundled up at the bus stop. When we came in I asked Rick,jokingly," We love living in NH,right? We must have said that in summer or fall!" In spite of our occasional bouts of Arctic type weather,we still love our state and really wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Last Sunday we got our Christmas tree at a local tree farm,one of those "U pick We cut" places.I had told Zach to be on the look out for a tree that isn't too big. We only have 8 ft ceilings and the tree is put in a corner,so it can't have a big circumference. Well, he found the perfect tree. We did have to trim a bit off the top to accommodate the star,but other than that,it is a great fit. Right after we got home with the tree,it started to snow,so it was snowing while we decorated it,which added to the festive air that happens when one decorates their tree.I was glad the snow held off,because we used the truck,and the back of the truck didn't have any weight in the back,so it would've been on the slippery side,and even though I have lived where there is snow for 42 years,I still do not like to drive in it. This stems from an incident that happened when I was pregnant with Zach. I was coming home from work during a snowstorm,and even though I was not going fast (maybe 30-35 miles an hour),the car spun out,doing a full 360 circle on the highway. Luckily,there were no other cars around me,but it shook me up nonetheless. .Another time,a long time ago,I was driving in the snow and my car went off the road,across the opposite lane.Again,there was no other traffic. Fortunately I was able to get the car out myself,but I was counting my lucky stars because if I had gone off on my side of the road,I would've plunged down a hill into a river. So you can see why I am bit apprehensive about driving when the snow is coming down.

Today should be a nice day. My Dear Friend Michelle invited myself and our mutual friend Shelley to her house for lunch. It will be nice to have some girl time and chat,amid all the chaos that has been going on in our house. Michelle and I always try to get together at least every other week,and I have not seen Shelley since the Fall.

Rick and his brother Brian have gone down to Newington to Dick's Sporting Goods to pick out a gun safe. That is what Rick wanted from Christmas,and since I know nothing about gun safes,he went down to get it. We have quite a few rifles,muzzleloaders, and pistols between Rick and Brian,so it makes sense to keep them in one protected area,with all the accessories that go with them. We had a really nice gun cabinet that looked like a big coffee table,but it's too big for our house,and it got ruined because we put it in the basement. We had some water come in and the sump pump wasn't working properly. So it is no longer functional.
After they get back,they will continue painting the living room.It is almost complete and I hope to post some photos. I tried posting some photos of the outside of the house,but for some reason,the photos won't post. I will keep trying.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An End In Sight?

Things around here have been busy,as I am sure it is in everybody's home this time of the year.We have been painting our living room from a sage green to "Raffia Cream",putting up crown molding,as well as window and door molding. The room is coming along nicely. Rick has been working to tolerance,as usual. He gets real tired because his brain has been working hard and his knees are in so much pain. There was a big source of frustration:the crown molding. Try as he might,even after reading our Home Depot Book and talking to people who have put up crown molding before,he could not figure out how to get the corners to be right. The molding does not sit flat on the wall,it sits at an angle. He spent four days (a few hours a day was all he could take)trying to get the correct angle on one piece of molding. His brother Brian spoke up and said that he remembered that they sell corner pieces that the molding can butt up against-no cutting! What do you know? The crown molding went up in a couple of days.It is now painted and just needs to be caulked in spots.
Our Christmas tree is up,and it looks nice with the white lights and red and white checked bows. I do have some other ornaments on it,but not many. I wasn't sure I was going to like the white lights,having never used them,but it does look good.
Today was a good day. We got the Narrative Summary from Fort Drum via email for Rick to look over. Tomorrow he needs to call his contact at Fort Drum tomorrow,go over the Narrative Summary. It then goes to Walter Reed,where it will be reviewed by other doctors who will make the determination of how much of a disabiity Rick will get. It is amazing to actually see the end in sight,after four years and three med boards. We have learned,however,to keep hope at a minimum,because of all the curves that this process has thrown our way.This way we don't get overly optimistic just to be disappointed again.
Rick's speech therapist also told us today that Rick does not need to go to sessions any more. We were surprised. She said that he has made good progress in his word associations.There will still be issues going forward,because the memory loss is permanent,but she taught him skills to help him remember words, appointments-basically how to make things easier to remember.For instance,,in his PDA,instead of jotting down "Zach's honors assembly at school",he will write only one or two words that he knows will jog his memory. He wrote "Honors"in the time slot it begins.This one word triggers his memory of what the event is.
Rick also had another sleep study last night. When he had the first one in August,he was not laying down-he slept sitting up in the bed. He stopped snoring 9 times an hour. Well,for a real accurate study,he needed to be laying down. So they did the test again,and we should see by the beginning of the New Year if his sleep apnea is worse when he is laying down. It should be interesting.
The woodstove is making the house so nice and warm. It is very cold outside this evening-with the wind chill it might hit the single digits. Up north in Coos County it may hit -30 below.Brr!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fresh Snow

Today here in NH we are having our first big snowstorm of the season. The schools are closed and we cancelled Rick's speech therapy appointment in Manchester.It is snowing quite heavily,and we are suppose to get anywhere from 5-12 inches. We are on the line where the amount of snow changes,here in northern Strafford Country,so any time we see snow amounts on Channel 9 news, we know it can go either way for us.
Though I am not a big snow fan,I do like to see it falling while I am in my little cottage with the woodstove going. There is a very cozy feeling to it. Saturday,we did get some snow as well,maybe three inches. It started while we were outside tying up some loose ends before the snow hit for the season-such as getting all outside furniture,hoses,etc into the garage,getting the outside Christmas decorations and the heat tape for the roof up. It was pretty neat to be putting greenery into our little wagon while the snow was falling.The whole family was outside doing what needed to be done,and we got alot accomplished in just a few hours.
Zach is going outside to shovel the driveway and play in the snow.Brr! It is quite cold when the door opens!
Today is my Flylady day,since I have nothing else planned,and I am going to clean my kitchen. I also need to make some more soap. The lye crisco soap keeps losing color and some of them lose their scent. So I am wondering if I need a receipe with more ingrediants to hold scent and color better,at least for gift purposes. The lye crisco soap for us is fine.It doesn't have to be pretty. I have some melt and pour soap left over from last year and I will use that for my gifts.
I also need to start decorating inside the house.We are going to go to a tree farm and get our tree this weekend. I grew up with a fake tree,and for years after I moved out used a fake tree. After Rick and I got married,I decided that I wanted a real tree,and for 12 years we have had one. Even if we had to go into the woods and cut it down ourselves because we didn't have any extra money to buy one,we have had a real one.
So I am off to give my kitchen a good cleaning and Rick and Brian will be working in the living room. They are putting up crown molding,which has been a challenge for Rick.But it's good for him to work his brain and try to figure out how the cuts are suppose to go,even if he has only one piece up these last 5 days. It's not all the brain injury-his knees make things difficult,and of course,we have had appointments which eat a good portion of the day. He is usually spent afterwards,so he has been working on things when he can.It is going to look really nice when it's all done.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Last Appointment

Today is the last appointment for the med board!
Rick is having an EMG ( electronic nerve testing) done on his right foot. This was the last test that the military wanted,and since there were no openings for appointments when we were at Fort Drum,the appointment had to be outsourced here in NH. There were a few snags and miscommunication with the VA,so the process got held up,but today is the day.
The rest of his NARSUMS ( narrative summaries) are completed,so once Fort Drum receives these test results,the last NARSUM can be written up,then his packet will be sent to Walter Reed for the final review. Whew!
So today is a good day.
I have been gearing up for Christmas. We bought new house lights ( ours had had it) yesterday,and I went into the woods out back and got some greenery. I picked from three different types of pine trees to get a nice mix. I put them in hanging planters by the road,my window boxes,and this year I will put them in our old Cub Scout Chuck Wagon.I usually mix them in with red berries. There wasn't a lot of red berries around where I normally get them this year,so I only have a few branches to use. I will keep the berries in the house,and put small red ribbons in my greenery outside. I have a large wreath I put on the front of the house,and this year I bought two smaller wreaths,one for each side of my french doors. I usually put a wreath on our house door,but this year I bought a door cover that has Santa on it,which is sound activated. It plays the Christmas Song and lights up. I am sure it will be annoying by the end of the first day,but I wanted to do something different this year.
Inside I put the greenery and berries on all my window sills with my battery operated candles (I don't have enough outlets for the electric ones,and even if I did the cords are never long enough)and on my shelf in the dining room. It is this huge old mirror that has a shelf on it and what it's from,I don't' know,probably some bedroom set. I bought it for $60 several years ago,and I love it.I also make a display in a vase on the dining room table.
I am trying white lights on our Christmas tree this year. I have never had white lights,always colored lights,my whole life. I am trying to go for a more natural look,more simple,more old fashioned. I have my red and white checked ribbons,glitter snowflakes,candy canes,special ornaments (using only a few)and Christmas cards that I think are really pretty. I also tuck in some pine cones here and there.
Today is rainy and foggy,so I won't be able to start the outdoor decorating.I will putter around inside,do a couple of loads of laundry,and start writing out my Christmas cards ( which I actually bought four weeks ago!!!!) Rick started supper in the crock pot-pork roast with onion,potatoes,carrots,and garlic.
Still no snow in our neck of the woods. Up north they got a few inches over the weekend,but still nothing down here.I am not complaining!!! :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here it is,Thanksgiving Day.This is the beginning of my favorite time of the year:the Holiday season. Of course, I can appreciate it more now,because I am not working retail when Christmas music starts and decorations get put up the day after Halloween. By the time the actual holiday rolled around,I had had enough of Christmas.

However, today is about giving thanks. I have become more mindful of of my blessings since Rick came home from Iraq. Having a loved one wounded and come close to losing their life on a couple of occasions tends to make one realize what is important in life and what is not.

The main thing I always give thanks for,not just today,but everyday,is that I have my husband here with me. There are days when I get really depressed about what has happened,but I also know it could've been much much worse. So I am thankful for my wonderful husband being able to continue to share the journey of our life together.
The second thing I am thankful for is our son, Zach. He really is a great boy,with a good heart.

I am also thankful for my family and friends. Each of them are a piece of my life's puzzle,and without them,that puzzle would not be complete.

Having a roof over our heads,food on our plates,and clothing on our backs is cause for thanks. There are so many people out there who have none of these things,and I keep them in my thoughts and prayers,especially this time of the year. We have a good friend who has had his house repossessed,and he was fortunate enough to find a house that he can rent to own,so now his family can go from one house to the next without problems. However, I can only imagine the stress of knowing you are going to no longer have a roof over your head,and trying to find shelter for your family by a deadline,especially this time of the year when it's getting cold outside.It is not something I want to experience.

We have had moments when we did not have alot and just buying a turkey would've been too expensive. We have been the recipients of food baskets in the past,and though it was a blow to the ego,our family was fed. So I am even more grateful this year that we have a wonderful dinner planned for today.One never realizes how important food is until you don't have a lot of it. We are very very blessed this year.

Zachary "took care" of our turkey, known as Thanksgiving. This has been a ritual for the last couple of years,and he really likes having the responsibility. We will be eating around 1:00-2:00 PM. My mom is coming over. We went to her house for a few years,but it seems silly for her to cook all that food. So about 4 years ago,she started coming to our house,and she loves not having to cook! My sister and brother in law go to upstate NY to his Mom's,so it's just us and Mom. It's like our little holiday,and I enjoy that. More blessings!!!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beyond LIttle House and Christmas Trees

I had meant to post the link to Beyond Little House,but I forgot to do so. I guess I was too involved in my train of thought.

This morning when I checked to see if I had any comments to my post,Sue from Living the Good Life ( a great blog) had requested the link to the site.

I don't know if you can "get there from here," but the address is: www.beyondlittlehouse.com

Again,it is a great site,full of links to various articles,ranging from ones about the books,to Laura and Rose's relationship,Laura's political views,etc.I think any Laura Ingalls Wilder fan should check it out.The first day I found it ( after being a LIW fan on Facebook) I spent over 2 hours reading it! Only when my eyes got tired did I stop.( Damn these middle aged eyes!!!)

I am always inspired when I read anything about Laura,or if I watch some of the series,or the mini series that came out in 2005. I actually emailed Disney to see if they were going to make another series,this time more based on the books,but they responded they had no plans to do so :(

In fact,last year I decorated my tree with red and white plaid ribbons,lights,and very little else. It looked great.Very simple,not overdone.At first, I thought it might be too "cute",but I was happy to see that wasn't the case. Rick even liked the way it looked. I saw how "Ma" had decorated her house on the mini series with red and white plaid ribbons (which I think were actually fabric) and I loved the look. This year I bought more ribbons,and we will have white lights instead of colored this year.Of course, being on the prairie,trees were at a minimum,so in the books,the Christmas tree was always at church,and seeing it was a source of excitement.

It makes you realize it's the simple things that matter most.

My Dad was born in 1914. Sadly,he passed in 1990 due to complications with Alzheimer's. However,before he got sick he would tell me stories of him growing up,and one of my favorites was of the Christmas tree.

My Dad grew up in a good sized family,and there was not a lot of money. Each child would get one gift,but he said one of the best gifts was the Christmas tree. The tree would not be put up until Christmas Eve,after all the children had gone to bed. When they woke up,the tree would be up,all the candles on it would be lit,and that was part of their gift. My Dad never mentioned what gifts he received when he would tell this story.He never remembered what he got. It was all about the tree. The tree,the food,and how they would all go to his grandparents house,where there was a piano. They would all stand around it and sing Christmas songs.That is what he remembered.

To me that type of memory is the best Christmas gift of all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Simpler But Harder Time

My day generally begins when I get up at 5:45 AM. I get up,have a cup of coffee,make sure that Zach gets ready for school ( "Did you comb your hair? Did you brush your teeth?")and look over the morning paper. Granted,I only read what interests me,but I look it all over nonetheless.Once Zach is on the school bus and the animals get fed, I pop on the computer. I check and respond to emails,go on Facebook,and read my favorite blogs.If I am inspired,I post in my own blog. If our Scout troop website needs updating,I do it.

Then I actually start my day.That is usually around 9:00 AM.

9:00 AM? Hello? The day is already half over for most people!

I just got off one of my newly discovered favorite blogs,"Beyond Little House," and I find myself thinking of how lazy I would seem to the Ingalls family and those who lived in that time.

The day began at o-dark-thirty. Each morning,with no alarm clocks.The men and boys would take care of the animals while the women and girls started breakfast.Then,depending on the time of year,the men would be outside all day long,tending to the crops and assorted farm work. No tractors,no trucks. It was their hard work,sweat,determination,and horse and plow. The women would work all day long doing housework,cooking,sewing,making yarn,soap,and whatever else their families needed. There was no time for these families to sit for a couple of hours on the computer in the morning,or watch a TV show. Each moment of the day was precious. Each member had a vital part in the running of the home and the survival of the family.No wonder they went to bed when it got dark. They were exhausted!

Looking back,it does seem like a more simpler time. There were less distractions. No computers,TV,cell phones,I-Pods,or cars.People were not rushing here or there. The center of their lives was their family and home. Period.

However simpler it might have been,however,it was much more difficult. People worked most of the time,with the exception of Sunday.They did have some time for relaxation,but that was usually at the end of the day. For example, people would not usually stop plowing a field in the middle of the day to do something frivolous. That would set back the time frame for planting. The garden needed to get done,otherwise the family might have enough to eat for the year.Work came first and foremost.

Life was not easy,yet I suspect that they wouldn't have traded it for our lives now. I bet a couple of modern conveniences might be popular,but I can't see them deviating from their basic lifestyle. They would consider the materialism in our society a waste and unnecessary,which it is.

So... it's 9:00 and I am still in my Frosty the Snowman PJs,my toast eaten, my coffee getting cold,and I am somewhat ashamed.I need to get my butt in gear,shower,and get my crock pot beans going.Thank goodness it's not 1880,because I would be hours behind schedule.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Waxy Mess

Now that I finally have the wicks to do my candles, I decided to make some yesterday afternoon. I wanted to make some votives and a pillar.
I prepped my votive and pillar molds,making sure that I had candle sealer over the holes in the bottom of the molds.
I melted my wax,then added the Pumpkin Spice scent. I added quite a few drops-I like a nice,strong scent.Then I added the orange liquid coloring.When I poured my first votive,the color was more yellow than I wanted,so I added more coloring to the batch. This time the color was a darker orange,which I liked. Great!
I poured the wax into the pillar mold.
All of a sudden,wax started coming out of the bottom of the mold! It got all over my stove,so I grabbed a bowl and put the mold in it. In the process of doing that,wax got on my counter and my floor.
Then My Dear Friend Michelle called. She was down at our mutual friend Shelley's house,and they were making rolled candles for a project for Cub Scouts. Michelle had ordered me a square silicone pan for a soap mold,and she had it with her. Would it be OK for her to drop it off?
I looked around my house. I had wax puddles,remodeling tools on the table,tools on the floor,stuff everywhere,and a dirty floor to boot! (At least I had dusted and swept-drywall dust,no matter how much the hall was blocked off,was everywhere.) In other words,my house was a wreak. However, I said,"Sure,just don't mind my messy house."
I usually don't like to have people at the house unless it's neat and tidy. I am trying to get over that. People come to see us,not to critique my home. However, I knew Michelle would understand. Her and her hubby have done the interior work on their home,and she knows what that entails. Plus,my house is a HOME. It is not a museum. There are days when it's disgusting,and then there are days when you could eat off the floor.Yesterday was not a off-the-floor-eating day,however!
After Michelle left, I got all the wax back into the melting pot,remelted it,added extra mold sealer to the pillar mold,and tried again.
Same thing happened.
So I gathered up the wax and put it back in the melting pot again.It's ready to remelt when I need it. I am done with pillar molds. I will stick to mason jars. You put the wick in,fill them up,and it's a gift. My votives did come out great,though. Now I need to make my McIntosh Apple as well as Cinnamon candles.
I can't wait to try my new soap mold!!!Thanks, Michelle!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Confessions of A LIW Fan

I confess.
I am a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan.
I did not know how many other adult fans she had until I started reading blogs about her. One in particular, Beyond Little House,is the best blog I have ever read about LIW. It is the combined efforts of several fans,some of who had their own blogs or websites. They decided to pool their resources and have one site that they all contribute to. It has great information,photos,and links.
Some people cock their heads and look at me funny when I say I love Laura Ingalls Wilder,and that I still read her books,even though I am about 5 days away from my 42nd birthday. "Aren't those for kids?"tends to be the the first question they ask. Well, yes,they are,and no,they aren't.
My first introduction to Laura came in the Fall of 1974 when I started first grade. The Little House on The Prairie movie came out. My family watched the movie,and I remember that I liked it.After that every Monday night at 8:00 PM we watched the series until it ended.I loved the show very much. I had a huge crush on Dean Butler,who played Almanzo. Michael Landon,though very handsome,was a bit old for my Grammar School-Junior High taste.
My first introduction to her books was in second grade. My teacher,Mrs Whittier,handed me a book one day that she thought I would enjoy. It was Little House in the Big Woods. I remember starting the book and not caring for it. Why,I don't remember. For whatever reason,it just did not strike a chord with me at that point. I gave her back the book and told her I didn't care for it. She was very surprised.
Then came Christmas in third grade. My oldest brother and his then wife sent me the complete collection of the Little House series. It was the yellow books,in the yellow box. I figured I would give them another try. I opened Little House in the Big Woods,started to read,and it happened.
I was hooked.
I could not read the books fast enough. At first,they seemed strange,because I had been watching the show,and the show and the books did not jive. It took me a while to figure out that TV shows often use dramatic license,and that the show was
based on the books,not following the books.Once I figured that out,I could enjoy both the books and the show separately. I cannot tell you how many times I read those books.By my twenties,this set had seen better days.I had pages falling out and spines torn. I refused to part with them. I taped and retaped pages.
A few years ago,my son Zach showed some interest in her books. I would let him read them,but the condition of the books left something to be desired. One book ( These Happy Golden Years,one of my favorites)was in three pieces. I bit the bullet,threw out my precious yellow set,and bought new copies. I also bought On The Way Home,and West From Home. I didn't like my new copies as much as my old ones. No illustrations by Garth Williams! How can you have books without his illustrations? As a child they helped me picture their daily lives. I felt bad for my son.
Today,I think I enjoy the books more than the series. Almanzo is a much more dashing figure,saving the town by getting the wheat out on the open prairie during blizzard season,which was very dangerous. His pursuit of Laura was quite respectful and gentle. He seemed very much a man's man.The show made him more a shy,somewhat immature character. There was nothing "macho" about him. I suppose this was because they felt that some older man coming in trying to court a young Melissa Gilbert would not sit well with viewers,so they made him as unthreatening as possible.Personally, I would've loved to have had him as he was in the books.
Someday, I would love to visit all the areas in which she lived. We are planning a cross country trek for next summer (fingers crossed),and we are going to visit historical sites. De Smet is on the agenda.
So....to those who ask,"Isn't that for kids?" I respond yes,it is. However, it's also a look into the history of America. It's a look into the pioneer drive that made this country what it is. It's a glimpse into the life of woman who went from travelling by covered wagon to travelleling by car and plane! How many changes this country went through in her lifetime is staggering.
She lived an amazing life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Big Frost

This morning when we went outside to walk with Zach to the bus stop,the world looked furry and white. We had our first big frost last night. Everything was glittering, ,and it reminded me even more that winter is not too far away. In fact, the Farmer's Almanac is predicting a snowstorm next week. I am hoping that is not the case. It's still a bit early for my taste for snow that stays. I don't mind when it spits snow ( does anybody else out there use that term?)but anything that remains on the ground is not welcome in my yard!
Things have been a bit busy. Sunday I woke up with a migraine that kept me in bed all day. Monday Rick had an appt with his PTSD social worker. Right now Rick is to keep track of what makes him angry,and the steps he took not let it get the better of him. Monday night was our Boy Scout meeting,and this week was also Troop Committee.Rick and I are both on the Committee ( I am Secretary and in charge of the troop website) so we had our meeting while the boys has theirs.Yesterday Rick had an appt with the rhuematologist. We now know that Rick does not have rheumatoid arthritis. That is a good thing. His take on Rick's knees was that the swelling and pain are stemming from the the dead bone areas in his knees. So he emailed Rick's orthopedist (the one who referred Rick to the surgeon in Boston) to see what he wants to do. The rheumatologist says that Rick's knees are not going to get better,and that they will get worse. That was not good news. He did tell us he would call and let us know what Rick's orthopedist says. The second appt was with VerJean,Rick's speecht therapist. The session went well,Rick answered the questions quickly this week.VerJean was happy with how it went. Rick is still dragging out some words when he speaks,though. We are keeping an eye on it to see if any other symptoms come up.
We just got back from having lunch with Zach at school. The school lets parents come in once a year and they have lunch in the cafeteria with their child. It's nice, except this year Zach was too busy chatting with his friend Dale to really talk with us. I suppose he can talk to us anytime! Rick is priming our hallway right now. All the drywall,door frames,mopboards,and flooring are done.
My thoughts are starting to focus on my Thanksgiving menu. Zach picks which one of our turkeys will grace our table,and he is in charge of doing the "deed".
I made some more Christmas Forest soap the other day,and was going to make candles. When I checked my stock I realized that I didn't have enough wicks! BUMMER. While we were out and about on Monday we bought more wicks and four more pounds of wax.The soaps and candles will be my Christmas presents,and I might throw in a mason jar of homemade laundry soap to boot.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Soap Mistakes

I have made a couple of mistakes while making lye/Crisco soap.

My first mistake was where I put the mold to set for a couple of days.Thinking I could get the soap to get to the stage where I could cut it faster, I placed my Pringles can mold in the stairwell up to the attic. I figured the cool air would help speed things along. Well, what I did not anticipate was that I would come down with a head cold and be down and out for a couple of days. So the soap,instead of setting for a day or two,set for four. The other thing I did not think of was how chilly the stairwell to the attic would get.
When I went to peel the Pringles can off the soap,the soap looked fine. It was nice and firm.It set great!
Then I started to cut it. I used the same knife I had used with my first batch of soap which worked fine. It had cut through nice and smooth.
That's not what happened this time.
The soap CRUMBLED as I cut it. I couldn't understand it. My first batch had no major problems. What was wrong? My measurements were the same. I cut another piece. Same thing. I wound up with a small pile of Fresh Snow crumbles.
Rick was sitting in the living room,so he heard me muttering to myself. He came over to investigate and came up with this: The soap was too cold to cut.
He was right! The soap was very very cold. My first batch had set out at room temperature,and the soap was still somewhat on the soft side when I cut it. That doesn't mean each piece was perfect,but they were at least round and not a crumbled mess!
So.....no more letting the soap set in the stairwell.
The second mistake I made affected not only my second batch ( Fresh Snow) but my first batch ( Christmas Forest).
After I had cut my Christmas Forest batch, I put it on a wire rack to cure. Only I don't have a lot of room to leave it out,so I placed it on top of the fridge. After I placed what was left of my Fresh Snow batch in the microwave briefly to heat it up so it wouldn't crumble,I cut it and placed it on top of the fridge with the Christmas Forest soap.
A few days later, I looked on the top of the fridge.
Both sets of soap now had yellow discoloration streaks in them. My Christmas Forest I colored green,and Fallen Snow I left natural. Now they looked awful.
So....what happened?
My guess is the heat from the woodstove,and the warmth from the top of the fridge ruined the color of the soap.That is my only explaination. The Christmas Forest soap had been on top of the fridge for over a week and it was fine. Then we started using the woodstove. The Fallen Snow soap wasn't even up there a few days when the color went south.
I think that is what what went wrong. Does anybody have any other thoughts?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you,Veterans!

Today is Veterans Day,the day in which we take time to thank and remember all the sacrifices members of our military have made to keep us free.Whether they have served in combat or not,they are there to make sure our liberties remain in tact.
Some have made the ultimate sacrfice,some have physical permanent wounds,and some have mental pernmanent wounds we cannot see.
Yesterday at Zach's school,they held a Veteran's Assembly,hosted by the 6th grade. Veterans were invited to attend and be honored. Rick and I went,and he wore his uniform (he found one that fit). It was the first time in a long time that he wore one of this uniforms that he wore in Iraq,and he said it made him feel strange,but he wanted to wear it for Zach because he "wanted Zach to be proud" of him. Rick claimed he could still smell "the Iraq" smell in his uniform,though it has been four years and several washings later.
The ceremony was very nice. The Boy Scouts did the opening and closing ceremony ( Zach joined them,even though he is not in the local troop). There were readings of "In Flanders Field",an explanation of the Gettysburg Address ( which Zach took part in ),a joint recitation of the Gettysburg Address by the 6th grade,flag ettiqutette,and a speech by Major Shaw of the Marines (no relation). The most touching part was the recoginition of veterans. They called out the name of the conflict,then had the vets present who had served in that conflict stand up. They started with WWII,and one lone gentleman stood up. Everyone gave him a standing ovation and a long cheer. I got a bit choked up. We do not have many WWII vets left,so they are very precious.They are an amazing generation of Americans. My father also served in WWII,in New Guinea,so I grew up hearing some stories about the war.Sadly,he passed away in 1990.
Next was Korea,and this gentleman also recieved a standing ovation and some cheers. Korea seems to be the forgotton war,overshadowed by WWII and Vietnam. My uncle Bobby( my Dad's brother) served in Korea.
Next came Vietnam. A handful of gentleman stood up,and they recieved an ovation and some cheers as well.It made me think of how terrible it must of been for some of them to come home to hostility. They were not welcomed with open arms like their predessors,and the VA system at the time was really sad. They were tossed to the side and treated like second class citizens. It was pathetic. To me, if it wasn't for Vietnam vets,the VA would not have been improved they way it has been,nor would any benefits the vets are entitled be improved upon. It has been their ongoing fight for decent treatment of veterans that have made things much better for those who are are serving today. I have great respect for Vietnam vets.My brother in law served in Vietnam,and my oldest brother was stationed on the DMZ in Korea during Vietnam.
Then came Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield/Gulf War/Operation Iraqi Freedom. It seemed like every single head turned towards Rick. He stood up,and he too,recieved a standing ovation,which was fairly lengthy,and the kids started cheering and yelling LOUDLY. I stood next to him,clapping and cheering, with a big smile on my face,trying to blink back tears. It was an amazing feeling to have my husband being cheered and recognized in such a manner. This war is to these children what Vietnam was to my generation,though I was in second grade when the war ended in 1975. These kids are 4-6 graders,so they will remember it far better than I remember Vietnam.
My second brother served in Desert Storm.
There was retired Marine Major who spoke, He spoke briefly about his service,and how he went to Grenada,and if he haddn't been sent to Grenada,he would've been at the Embassy in Beriut where a suicide bomber killed 200 Marines.He asked for a brief moment of prayer for all veterans. Now, bear in mind that there were 4-6 grade children there. I expected some whispering or giggling,as kids tend to do. There was nothing but silence. You could've heard a pin drop. No feet shuffing,no coughing,nothing. Total silence. It was wonderful.
After his speech,I looked at the program and noticed that "Taps"was on it. Rick has a very difficult time hearing taps. If it's on TV, he will leave the room. I leaned over and told him that taps was on the program,to give him a heads up. He said he haddn't noticed. I asked him if him was going to be OK,and he said he was.He stood at attention during it,but later admitted that he almost broke down during it.
It was a lovely tribute.
Let us thank all veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice,not just today,but eveyday. Let us also have a special moment of silence for those in Fort Hood.
Thank you,veterans.We are forever indebed to you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nice Warm Days

Good morning!
The sun is shining yet again in NH. We have been having what I call a touch of Indian Summer.The temps yesterday were in the low 60's,and today in some spots it might hit the upper 60's. That is considered rather warm for mid November around here!
Poor Zach has come down with a cold. He spent Friday night at My Dear Friend Michelle's house,since he and her son,Ethan are great buds. I picked him up at her house Saturday morning so we could go do Scouting For Food. (If you are not familiar with what SFF is,Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts go out and place door hangers (up til this year is was a bag) on people's doors,then the following week they pick them up. People donated canned goods which go to local food banks.) On the way to our meeting spot,Zach informed me that he was coming down with a cold. He started coughing Fri night,and his nose was stuffy. I asked if he felt OK otherwise,and he said he was OK, he could still do SFF. The route took about 3 hours,with two other boys helping at one point,but for the most part we only had one other boy helping us. We placed slightly over 200 door hangers.
That afternoon,we had a birthday party to go to. Rick's nephew,Brody,turned 13. It was mostly adults,Zach and Brody were the only kids there,so there wasn't any running around or anything. I could tell that Zach was tired-he had circles under his eyes,which he always does when he is under the weather-and he was a bit quiet.We didn't stay long,maybe a couple of hours. When we got home, I took his temp,which was 99.5. Low grade fever. So I gave him a good dose of nightime cold medicine,some Gatorade,a box of Kleenex,and he was asleep by 8:30.
Yesterday I kept him in bed all day,and today,even though his fever had gone down,I kept him home from school. He coughed all night,so he didn't get the best rest,and he still doesn't look well. He is taking part in a flag ceremony tomorrow at school in a Salute to Veterans,so I want to make sure he doesn't miss that.
Rick has been working on our hallway/living room remodel. Hopefully my computer will be cooperative and download photos so I can show you the progress.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Brain Work

Yesterday we had two appointments at the VA-the first one was Speech Therapy,and the second was Neuro TBI.
There was not much to the Neuro TBI appt-it was really just a follow up. He did say that because Rick's Sleep Apnea is mild,there wasn't any need to give him an oxygen machine for when he sleeps. Rick pointed out that when he had the sleep apnea testing,he actually fell asleep in an upright position,and stayed that way the whole night. This made the Dr pause,because sleep apnea is at it's worst when one is laying on their back. So while Rick might stop breathing 9 times an hour sitting up,it could be much worse laying flat. He said he would have to talk to the sleep apnea people,and that Rick might have to redo the test.
We go to Speech Therapy every week. I call it Memory Therapy,because it's also designed to improve his memory. The speech therapist,VerJean,is very nice.Rick started with computer exercises to help with the speed his brain works. He also has done some written exercises-she will give him three directions,and he has to remember what they are. Sometimes he did great,sometimes he would forget one or do one incorrectly. The last couple of weeks,she has been having him respond verbally. For instance, she would read two words that sound the same,but are spelled differently and have different meanings ( for example,hole and whole).He would then have to tell her what each of them mean. He has also had to use specific words in sentences. It sounds easy,but for people with brain injuries,it can get tiring. After a while, he starts getting confused and he takes longer to figure things out.He especially gets tired when she asks him questions about his week. This week she inquired about what he has been doing,and he responded,"Remodeling the hallway and living room." So then she started asking questions: Did you get the materials? What kinds of materials did you get? How much crown molding did you need? How many doors are you working with? What color paint are you using? He did forget a few things,and it took him a while to answer a few of the questions,but with a bit of prompting,he did OK. Because his brain was working so hard and he had so much going on in it trying to remember,he was getting more confused and tired. However,the point is trying to get him to work his brain,access his memory,and be able to put into words what he is trying to say. He has had some issues lately with dragging out words. He will be explaining something,and then all of a sudden, he will linger on a part of a word,for example, he will say, "aaaaaaaapple." We brought this up to both VerJean and his Neuro TBI Dr. She noticed it during the session,and the Neuro TBI Dr thought it might be the medications that Rick is taking combined with lack of sleep. He wants us to keep an eye on it,though.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Homemade Lye Crisco Soap

Good morning, it is a beautiful sunny day. I am sitting here in my fleece Frosty the Snowman PJ's trying to fight off an oncoming head cold. It started last night when my sinuses started aching a bit. I couldn't get out of bed this AM to bring Zach to the bus,so I knew that something was brewing ( Rick brought him out,both of us do it every morning). My sinuses hurt when I touch my face and a have a sinus headache. My head also feels a bit "light" and I have a small fever. Once I do this post, I am going to chug some cold medicine and go lay down!
As I mentioned in my post on Saturday, I made some lye Crisco soap. This is my second batch of it. I had made some soap with My Dear Friend Michelle back in Sept ( see "Homemade Lye Soap" post)but I had seen this recipe on Little House in the Suburbs(www.littlehouseinthesuburbs.com) and it seemed so quick and easy that I had to try it.
It worked so well and went so smoothly that I had to try it again. My first batch, I used "Christmas Forest"scent with green coloring,but I don't think I used enough scent. This time, I used "Fresh Snow"and I think I got it where I like it.The only thing I realized was that I didn't have any white coloring. When the lye and Crisco were combined,they created a rather medium pinkish color. I figured it would just have to work.However, when I checked it this morning,the soap is a nice white hue.
Here is the recipe. A Pringles can was used for the mold and this batch fills the can halfway,making about 6 bars.

Homemade Lye Crisco Soap
(with thanks to Little House in the Suburbs)

1 lb Crisco or lard
2 oz lye (I used lye flakes)
6 oz water

Melt the Crisco or lard in a saucepan over medium low heat. While this is melting,pour 6 oz of water into a bowl,then pour the lye slowly into the water. Gently stir to dissolve. Once the Crisco or lard is melted,remove it from the heat. Wait until you can touch the sides of both the saucepan and the bowl without burning yourself. Pour the lye water into the melted Crisco/lard. While an immersion blender is recommended, I do not own one,so I used a hand mixer with a whisk attachment. It took me about 15 minutes at low speed to bring the mixture to trace ( when drops stay visible on the surface of the mixture). At this point,add your scent and coloring. Pour into a pringles can ( I used a canner funnel),and tap the can a few times on the counter to let the soap settle. Let sit for a couple of days,cut,then let cure for at least a week or two.
A couple points: If you do use a hand blender,you need to be very careful.Make sure you have the attachment in the mixture BEFORE you turn it on,and that it's off before you take it out of them mixture. Lye is very caustic and will BURN you if it comes in contact with skin. I cannot vouch for using beaters,so I don't' know if that will splatter too much even on low speed. I can only vouch for a whisk attachment. I ran it on low speed and had no splattering.It worked great.
The other thing is once the lye activates with the water,it will smoke slightly from the heat it causes. The fumes will make you SICK if you inhale them enough so I opened some windows in the work area,put a handkerchief over my nose,and made sure I stayed a good distance from the fumes.
People say to use a digital scale to measure, but I used a regular old food scale we don't use for the lye. I use a regular measuring cup for the water. I use two wooden spoons, one for mixing the lye and water,and the other for scraping the soap mixture into the mold. I keep these with my soap supplies. Anything I use to make soap gets washed very very well right after I am done.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Well, as much as I have tried to download some photos into my computer,it won't work.Some days there is no problem,and other days my computer is just plain ornery. Today is one of those days. I wanted to post a photo of Zach's pumpkin,of him in his Army outfit,and of my outdoor Fall decorations.
Today is a cool,overcast day,a lot of leaves are falling gently to the ground,a perfect New England Halloween type day.Actually,I think that any overcast fall day makes things feel,well,more New England-ish.I can't explain it,but those of you who live in this region may understand what I mean.
Last night,we went Trick or Treating in my old neighborhood.There are alot of old houses in this area,which is called "The Hill".Part of the fun for me is seeing the little ones in their costumes,and the decorating that people do. It was actually a pleasant night,so Zach didn't have to wear a jacket-he had long johns and a long sleeved shirt on under his uniform.He was nice and warm. Rick,bless his heart,kept up with us using his Canadian Crutches,but we did try to keep the pace down for him. He knees were really bothering him once we got home last night. However,like he says, he has only missed one Trick or Treat,which is when he was in Med hold down in Georgia,and since we probably don't have many more left,he is not going to miss another one.No matter how much it hurts.
Last year some kids in a neighboring town knocked over some headstones in the cemetery on Halloween. I think that is one of the most disgusting things anyone could do. What is the point? To prove how cool they are? To me,they only proved their ignorance. Rick and I get very upset at any cemetery vandalism. Let these people rest in peace. Every once in a while we make a trek out in the woods on our neighbors land to an old cemetery. It's in the middle of the woods,nothing around it,except for a couple of old foundations.It's a good way off the beaten path. We like to wonder....how many people lived out here? It's all forested,but the trees are not large.Does that mean at one point this was all cleared so they could have a farm? It's a small cemetery, surrounded by a stone wall,with an entrance,and the cemetery itself has fallen into a sad state. Branches are down all over the place,and the headstones are either broken,or the names are barley visible,or they are sunken into the ground. I wonder if these people have been forgotten,or is it that their descendants just don't know where they are? I wrote down what names I could decipher and tried to find out some info about them,but so far no luck.
Halloween and cemeteries brought on the subject of ghosts the other day. I think there are ghosts.Why not? People's energies/spirits could get trapped for whatever reason. Rick and his brother Brian have seen them when they were younger. They would visit their grandfather up in Moscow,Me.He had an old house. At night,when they would be laying in bed in the upstairs bedroom,they would see a ghost in the doorway ,and they would throw their slippers at it. One night Rick heard a noise and he looked down the grate in the floor into the kitchen downstairs. He saw something sitting at the table. Curious,he made his way down the stairs,and when he looked into the kitchen,he saw four apparitions sitting at the table,playing cards. He said they were sort of grayish see through,and even though you could not see plainly what they looked like,you could tell if one had a moustache,etc. When they saw him standing in the doorway,they all stopped,looked his way,then continued playing cards.He said he was never scared of them,however.I had a friend who lived in house dating back to the Revolutionary War. One time,she opened the door to the basement,and down at the bottom of the stairs looking up at her,was a ghost dressed up like a Revolutionary solider.Her whole family confirmed that they had seen him. Makes one think,doesn't it?
Today I have a headache,so I have only done the dishes,started laundry,and swept. I do want to make some more lye-crisco soap,though. I made some a few weeks ago and it works great. I will have to post about that next time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Changes In Nature and In the House

Today was a beautiful but chilly day here in NH.Our foliage is now past peak,so there are more brown leaves than brightly colored,and many trees are now bare. However,we had a beautiful foliage season.Rick and I always comment at how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful state. 'Imagine,"he said to me,"People come from all over the world to NH see the Fall foliage,and we can just look out of our window and see it everyday." Very lucky indeed. We always impress upon Zachary that he is a very lucky little boy to have such beauty around him all time. He seems to be appreciative of that,which is surprising for a boy of 11.
So now the trees are gearing up for winter,and looking spooky for Halloween. We did have some snow showers last week,and though I always like to see the first flakes of the season,October is a wee bit too early for me.
While there are changes going on outside,there are changes going on inside. We are going forward with our living room/hallway remodeling. Today we bought crown molding,fluted doorframes,door casings,paint,and drywall plaster.We are going to put down lamniate flooring in the hallway,which we put in Zach's room in the Spring,tear down the white paneling (yuck) and old drywall and replace it with new drywall. We are also replacing the doorframes and mopboards. The walls will be pained "Raffia Cream",a fancy name for beige,our molding,doors and ceiling white. Our living room had been started a few years ago( but put on hold due to money issues).New drywall was put up on the walls and ceilingand we painted the room sage. We need to skim some areas on the walls that have dings,and need to put up a new section of drywall on the ceiling. We had an ice dam last year that made water back up,and we had to poke holes in the ceiling to release the water.The crown molding is also going up,and the fluted doorframes,new door casings,mopboards,window frames,window casings,and windowsill. The walls will be the "Raffia Cream",and all the trim,crown moldings and ceiling will be white.
Rick is very motivated to get this done,excited in fact. I like seeing him like this,because he has a hard time getting motivated now sometimes. He took all the measurements today,and we went to both Home Depot and Lowe's. Rick now has a certain thought process since his brain injury,so one has to be patient.Things go slower. The impulse is to give him the answer to help speed things along,but that is not helping him. He needs to do it himself,even if it takes a while. If he is figuring out something,he will go over it a few times before he feels comfortable that he is correct. ( This is part of his Obsessive Compulsiveness that is due to the PTSD and brain injury. He will do something a few times because he is unsure of himself,and it will cause him stress,which he will alleviate by doing it over).You cannot be in a rush.I admit that today I found myself tapping my foot a couple of times,and by the time we were done, I was tired.
Today I did get my bedding washed and the house tided up after we got home. Now I must go make the bed. There is something about settling into a bed with crisp,clean sheets and blankets. It just makes a great ending to the day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Self Sufficiency or Self Reliance?

One of my favorite blogs is Down To Earth,by Rhonda Jean. She lives in Australia and has a great view on life and how to live it. Last week she led a discussion about Self Sufficiency vs Self Reliance,and it led me to rethink my thought process.
My Dear Friend Michelle had started leading me down the path to doing more for ourselves,and emailed me blogs that she was following about homesteading and organization. I delved into it and thought, "We could do this." Alot of the blogs mentioned "Self sufficency",so I latched onto that phrase. We would strive for self suffiency! It might take a while,but we would do it bit by bit.I didn't really think about what it actually meant,but it sounded like what we were trying to do.
Then I read Rhonda's post.
Hmmm.....was it really self sufficency or self reliance we were striving for?? Self sufficiency meant living by your own means only. Raising all your own food,etc with no help from the outside. Now that sounds wonderful in theory,but in practical terms,probably not going to happen,at least for us. We don't have enough room for raising all animals we would require,cows,pigs,etc.We have space for chickens and turkeys. We could have a big garden,but not big enough to sustain us year round. So I have to supplement from somewhere.
The more I thought about it,the more I realized that what we are trying to acheive is actually more Self Reliance. We might have to go outside of our home to do what we have to do,but we could try to keep it to a minimum as much as possible.
As Oprah calls it,it was an "A HA" moment. I know we will never be "Self Sufficent." We do not have means or space. However, we can strive to be more Self Reliant. It might not come as fast as we would hope,because of Rick's ailments,but we can do what we can do,and that is what is important.
Here's to Self Reliance!!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Orthopedic Disappointment

Today we went to the Boston VA to see the Orthopedic Surgeon. We have been hoping that this appointment would be the one where we would find out what exactly is going on with Rick's knees.
We were wrong.
There is nothing that they can do surgically for Rick's knees. They do not require surgery. He examined Rick,and looked at his Xrays,MRI's and bone scans. He told us that he would not have chronic pain if it was a bone issue.He would only feel pain if he were standing,not sitting,and it wouldn't be so painful that it would be make him sick or keep him up at night.He suggested seeing a Neurologist ( nerves) and a Rheumatologist (joints) as well as Pain Management.He had no explaination for the amount of pain Rick is in,which of course he wouldn't,since bone surgery is his area of expertise,and if it isn't bone related,he wouldn't be able to give us any answers.
I was so upset,I started to cry in the office. I feel so bad for Rick,and there is nothing that I can do. He is in so much pain.We had been waiting so long for this appointment,and now we are back to square one. Rick is down about this news,and I am not much better.He says he no longer cares,and he will just plow thorugh the pain and deal with it,but I know that is just his frustration talking. Of course he cares. But how much can one person take?

Med Board Findings

We got back from Fort Drum last Friday night,and the week went well. On Tues Rick had Behavioral Health,and Part 1 and Part 2 of his physical. Behavioral Health is a fancy term for "we are going check to see if you really have PTSD." When we went to check in,we were told that the Dr was not in that week,but they would see when they could schedule us,and would we please have a seat? I was sputtering," If they can't do this appointment this week,I am going to be very very angry," among a few other choice phrases. Rick kept telling me to keep my voice down." Let's not get upset yet," he told me."They wouldn't have had us come here if someone wasn't going to see us." I was amazed that he could seem so calm. "Oh,I'm not, "he told me,"but I am trying very hard to hold it together."
About 20 minutes later, a soft spoken woman came over to us. "Specialist Shaw,the Dr you were suppose to see is not here this week,but we have arranged for you to see another Dr via teleconference from Walter Reed Hospital.Please follow me." We both breathed a collective sigh of relief and followed her to another part of the building.They brought us into the teleconference room,and I must admit it was pretty neat.The Dr was there on a big flat screen TV. He went over the report that the Dr had made in March,and asked us questions. I told him that Rick had a NeuroPsych evaluation in May,and did he have access to that report? He said that while he could pull up a few VA reports,he was not able to pull up that one. I told him I had it,and could we fax it to him. He said that would be great,so I went out to the reception area and gave the soft spoken lady the report for her to fax.
He read the report,then asked,"How old is the Dr that administered this test?" Right away our warning flags went up. " He is older, maybe late 60's or early 70's," I told him."That would explain it," he said. "This test is an old testing method. It really doesn't tell me much. Testing for TBI has changed two or three times." Rick and I groaned. Great. However...." Rick is scheduled for another Neuro Psych eval this week," I told him. " Well,it couldn't hurt,"he said. His initial diagnosis was Cognitive Disorder NOS.Because some of the symptoms of PTSD and TBI are the same,there is no way of telling what is what. Apparently this is a new term they use for patients with PTSD and TBI.
Next was Rick's Part 1 Physical,which consisted of blood work,a hearing test,an eye test,a chest xray,and and EKG. Then we went to Part 2,where his medical history is gone over. When we went in March, Part 2 took over 3 hours. We had to fill out all of Rick's medical history. They then go over everything with him and type up their comments. Since most of the work was done,this time they just went over what was written up in the report before,and added any changes.They want Rick to have an EMG done on his right foot-electronic impulse testing-to see if he has any nerve damage,which we are doing through the VA. Rick now walks on the outside of his right foot because of his knee pain,and it is causing blisters and calluses.He also now sort of swings his right foot out to the side in a sort of semi circle when he walks. They also made note of his knees,his sleep apnea,hypopituitaryism,and his hypothyroidism.
Wednesday was Range of Motion,which was for his knees. I hate when they test his knees, because I know how much pain he is in,and I always get tears in my eyes. I can't help it.He told Rick that each knee should bend to 140 degrees,and his only bend to 90 on one and 85 on the other. He said to Rick," Your knees are messed up." They are waiting for a report from the Orthopedic Surgeon at the Boston VA,whom we saw today to see if Rick will have surgery. I will have to post about that appointment separately.
Thursday was a really big test: the NeuroPsych evaluation. This test determines if Rick has TBI,and at what level. The test he had in May said he had TBI,but it was not a very thou rough report. It didn't say at what level it was,and it was a page and a half. The military wanted something more specific,with a longer report. We went to another town to see a civilian PhD,who the military uses. He was very nice,and conducted a medical and mental health record review,clinical interview,and NAB ( Neuropsychological Assessment Battery).He asked about several symptoms,and out of the 30,Rick had 27. He then gave him testing in the following areas:Attention,Language,Memory,Spatial,and Executive Functioning. The tests took 5 hours. Rick thought it had only been 30-60 minutes. He also thought that he was going quickly on the tests,when in actuality he was going rather slowly.
When Rick was done, the Dr said he could give us a preliminary diagnosis based on the test scoring and his impressions. Here is what the test results showed. 100 is considered average.
Attention: 49 Severely impaired
Language:73 Mildly to moderately impaired
Memory:68 Moderately impaired
Spatial:75 Mildly to moderately impaired
Executive Functions: 83 Mildly impaired
The bottom line is his brain injury is considered moderate.
We were surprised. Moderate? Not mild? We had been told he had a mild injury because he didn't lose consciousness when the explosion happened. We told the Dr this,and he said, "Who told you that? Excuse my language,but that is bullshit." The blast affected his brain globally.Rick was depressed after this appointment,but we were glad that finally,we have a proper diagnosis.
Once the military has all the information,they will finalize the NARSUM ( Narrative Summary),send it to us,then send it to Walter Reed Hospital,where it will be reviewed by doctors who will determine if Rick can be retired,or temporarily retired ( if they think some of his problems might be able to get better). We should know after the holidays.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hi Ho,Hi Ho,Back to Fort Drum We Go

Well,Rick and I leave tomorrow for our last (hopefully)trip to Fort Drum,NY. We have our itinerary,and Rick begins his doctor appointments on Tuesday.It will be a long week,as he basically has only one appointment a day. It would be great if they could do more than one,and get everything done in just two or three days instead of four,but,as with everything in the military,it's "hurry up and wait."
Rick is very nervous,because he doesn't want to have to go through all this another time. I think he is more afraid of his reaction if this is not the last time we have to do this. Rick is great about holding back his anger (and that is due in part to his medication),but if he lets it go,it will not be pretty.People have told us,"What are you having a problem with? You get paid every month by the National Guard,and you will wind up making less than you do now." That is true,however,that is not the point. No one who has been wounded while serving his country should have to wait four years to complete a medical board review. No one. You never know when they will call and say,"By the way,you are going to Fort Drum next week." Usually you do not get much advance notice. What if you have planned to go somewhere? Fly across the country? Do something special with your family? You are at the mercy of the board,and it's when they have a slot to put you in. Whatever is going on in your life is not their problem. Take for instance Rick's knee appointment. This is the appt we have been waiting for for a year. First we had to reschedule because the doctor was going to be on vacation,then we had to reschedule because the med board was going to be the week of our rescheduled appt. As much as we want the med board completed,if they could have waited another week so we could at least find out what they are going to do with Rick's knees,it wouldn't have hurt our feelings any. We are also a bit confused regarding the med board and his knees. First we were told that they wouldn't do the board until Rick knew what was going on with his knees,and if it was surgery,he would have to be fully healed to his ability before they would send him to Fort Drum. Then,two weeks later,we were told that they wanted him at the med board in October-regardless of what was going on with his knees.
It has been an ongoing source of frustration for four years now,and it does not help someone with PTSD. Everytime there is a glitch,it compounds the symptoms.When Fort Drum calls the day after Rick has an appt,and they inquire if he went because the dr's notes aren't up yet,it makes him very angry. He keeps telling them,"I do everything I need to do on my end. My appt was just yesterday,if the notes aren't up,then they haven't been written yet." Or when they tell him to tell his doctors that they need to write more in their notes,that also ticks him off. "I am not going to tell my doctors how to do their job. You want more info,then please feel free to ask them."
One thing we are very happy about is now the military can access VA records electronically. When we went in March, we had to bring copies of all his records. I had to carry them around,and they weighed around 8-10 lbs and were many inches thick.Now we don't have to worry about that. My back and shoulders are very grateful!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Soggy But Fun Weekend

This last week,not only were my allergies bothering me, but I came down with a cold as well. How can I tell the difference? I don't get stuffy with allergies,but my eyes get really dry and itchy. With a cold I get stuffy,and I don't feel well overall. The cold started about a week ago,and I was not going to let it interfere with my apple picking plans with My Dear Friend Michelle. We went Tuesday to Butternut Farm,where the public can pick their own fruit,pumpkins,etc. I got a bag of MacIntosh ( Rick's Fave) and a bag of Honey Crisp ( my Fave). After we were done, Michelle wanted a bite to eat,so we went down to the little restaurant where we meet for our muffin dates. I wanted a cup of tea,so I knew I wasn't feeling well.( I like tea, but am more of a coffee kind of gal.) After we had tea and a muffin, I was suppose to go grocery shopping ( as Tuesdays are grocery days) but I really wasn't feeling well,my stomach was off and on unsettled,and my head was feeling weird. So I called the Boys and asked them if they would mind getting the groceries this week. No problem! I drove home,made up the list,and Rick and Brian went to the store. Now, normally I would have the list already made,but since I wasn't feeling 100 %, I was just going to grab the normal things we usually get. Since I do the shopping,they didn't have a clue what to get,so I had to write it down.
By Friday, I was feeling better,which was good, because Friday night was the beginning of our district Boy Scout Fall Camporee. We had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast all week,and it had been the same-rain. It's pretty well known that any Abnaki District event conjures up rain at some point,so it wasn't surprising.Being involved in Cub Scouts for 5 years,and now in Boy Scouts,one tends to get used to rain. However, one still hopes that the front will move through faster,or will move more to the south. No such luck.
We were fortunate though that we were all set up in camp and settled in our tents before it started raining in the wee hours of Saturday morning ( about 2:00 AM). And did it rain! It rained most of the day Saturday,with some short breaks. The boys,however,had great attitudes and worked well together at all their stations-archery,.22 target shooting,paintball wrist rockets,first aid,troop jeopardy,orienteering,and water rocket targets. Rick and I followed the boys from station to station,though we were a bit behind them because Rick cannot walk as fast as they can. He kept telling me to go on ahead,but I stayed with him. He was in a lot of pain,but determined to do what he could. The other adults were helping run the paintball wrist rocket station.
Like I said, the boys worked very well together,and we did not hear them complain about the weather once. In these type of situations,attitude is everything. If you let the rain get you down,then you will be miserable,and your attitude will affect those around you. Chris,the Senior Patrol Leader,gave the boys a little pep talk before the days events started,and said as much. This was his last district event,as he is working on his Eagle Scout rank,and will be leaving us very soon. He wanted this to be a good weekend for everybody,for the boys to have good spirit,work together,and have fun. It was a good speech,and everyone took it to heart. The boys sang,cheered each other on at the various stations,and had good attitudes. It paid off. The troop won Most Creative for their Mud Cake in the dessert contest,second place in Troop Jeopardy,first place in First Aid,and won Honor Patrol. Honor Patrol is a special award for the patrol that best exemplifies the patrol method-working together,scout spirit,etc. It doesn't matter how many events you place at,the whole purpose of the patrol method is teamwork. Chris was especially pleased,since he had been wanting the troop to win this for a long time,and this was his last chance with the troop to do so. We are so proud of all of them.
We got home late morning on Sunday,unpacked all our gear,took showers,and by 2:00 PM,Rick and I were both sound asleep in our recliners. I slept for three hours,but Rick was very hard to wake up. We had to wake him at 6:00 PM for his morphine,then again at 8:00 PM for his night time meds. He also ate supper,then fell back asleep. Poor guy,he was exhausted but had a great time getting to know the adults and seeing the boys working do what they do.
Tonight is our Court of Honor,and Zach is excited because he will be receiving his first Merit Badge that he earned at Summer Camp-Fingerprinting. It is a basic badge that all first year campers earn. He could've have earned his Swimming badge as well,but it took him a few days to pass his BSA Swimmers Test,and that put him behind. You really have to pass it the first day so you can complete the rest of the of the requirements during the week. That's OK,though! He had a great time at camp. It has inspired and motivated him to work hard,and that is very heartening. Like he says,next year he will kick butt!!! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An End in Sight?

In my last post,I talked about Rick's knee appt being changed and our disappointment. Well, guess what?
It's been changed again!!!
Rick called Fort Drum,NY (where the med board is) to let them know that the appointment for his knees had been changed. When he told them what date it was,they informed him that he would have to reschedule it. He has to go to back Fort Drum that week.
Let me give a bit of history here. Rick has been to the med board three times. For those who are not aware of what the med board is,the med board is a process that those in the military go through when there is question regarding their fitness for duty. It can be a physical or mental problem. Because we live in NH,we go to Fort Drum,NY. Whatever is in question ( sight,mental problems,range of motion,etc) is examined by doctors. They then make their assessment, and write up what is called a NARSUM ( Narrative Summary),which the solider reads,and if they agree with the diagnosis,the NARSUM is sent to Walter Reed Hospital to go before the rating board. Doctors there read the NARSUM,and decide what percentage of disability to give to the solider. The rating is based on how the injury affects how well they can do their job in the military.
When Rick first got back in 2005,he was sent to the med board while he was in Fort Gordon. At that point, he had not been diagnosed with TBI,but chronic PTSD. While his paperwork was in the process of being sent,he received orders cutting him from active duty and sending him back home. The process stopped.
Then, in 2007,he went to the med board again,this time to Fort Drum. It was there that he was told he was testing positive for TBI. On the last day of his appts,he was told that his paperwork was not in order,so they said he would have to come back.
I am Rick's advocate,because of his memory problems,so when we got the word that he was going back to the med board in March of this year,I went with him. We were assured that this would be his last med board,and that what had happened to him in the past was not acceptable.
We went through all the tests that was required-psych,range of motion ( for his back and legs),optometry and hearing. When we went for the TBI testing,the Dr (who was not military) told us that since in his VA records he had tested positive for TBI,there really wasn't any need to have the testing again. That sounded fine to us. We went home and waited.
Then Fort Drum notified us that they wanted more details regarding the TBI,and we needed to schedule a Neuro Psych eval through the VA. Now,in 2007,Rick had attempted to have this test done,but because his PTSD was not under control ( the proper medication and dose were not discovered yet) he could not complete the test. His attention span was too poor. However, on the basic test,he did screen positive for TBI. Well, alrighty then. I scheduled the test. He completed the three hour test in May. We then waited for the Drs notes and diagnosis to be sent to Fort Drum.
In the meantime,the Dr that examined him for Behavioral Health (Ie-psych) at Fort Drum was being rotated ( shipped) out to another unit. By the time the paperwork reached Fort Drum,he was gone,so this part of the NARSUM was left incomplete.That meant we would have to go back to Fort Drum.
Now, since March, there has been more problems with Rick's health. Not only has the TBI affected his memory,but it has affected him physically. After the Neuro Psych eval,Rick had an appt with a Neuro TBI Dr,who checks for any physical problems related to the TBI. He sent Rick for Sleep Apnea testing,since Rick now snores loud enough to rattle the windows (which he never did before he went to Iraq)and for an appointment with the endocrinologist to check his pituitary gland function. A red flag went up because Rick's thyroid barely works,and his primary Dr put him on meds for it ( again, no issues before Iraq). Rick's strength level is also low,as well as his stamina. ( another red flag,no issues before Iraq).
Now the TBI is responsible for his cognitive problems,memory loss,pituitary gland problems (poor functioning thyroid,low testosterone,and borderline cortisol levels),and sleep apnea. We just got the results of this test yesterday. He stops breathing 9 times an hour,and his oxygen levels go down to 88%. We were told if they were that level all the time,he would be on oxygen.
So now,and rightly so,the folks at Fort Drum want to do an update on all these things,because they were not known in March. His knees are also worse,and we have been told that his double vision will not go away.
So he will have to see Behavioral Health, possibly TBI,range of motion for his knees,optomology,and audiology. We go the week of October 12.
The following week we see the knee referral Dr at the Boston VA.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Today we were suppose to go to the Boston VA for a consult on Rick's knees. We have been looking forward to this appointment for weeks,with hope that some plan of action might be revealed. At the very least,we were not going to leave without an official diagnosis.
Then Monday the Boston VA called and said the doctor that Rick was suppose to see was going on vacation,and we would have to reschedule.
We were so disappointed. The person who called did give a bit of information,however. The doctor that Rick was suppose to see does consults on Fridays regarding major procedures. This leaves us with some guarded hope that they may do surgery. We have been praying and hoping that this is the case. He now takes 120 mg of morphine a day,60 in the AM and 60 in the PM. His previous dose was 30 in the AM,30 at lunchtime,and 30 at night,or he could change it depending on his pain level,as long as it didn't exceed 90 mg a day. This was time extended release. His new dose is immediate release. This has dropped his pain level from a 20 down to a 5 or 6,but his knees are still incredibly swollen and there are days when his pain level exceeds 10 ( they use a pain scale 1-10 at the VA to describe how much pain your in. They don't want it more than a 5).
Now our next appt is Oct 13.
If they can do surgery and get some of that pain taken care of so he doesn't have to take as much morphine,or not have to take any at all it would be such a blessing. His quality of life is nothing compared to what it was,and as I have mentioned in a previous post,it hurts and saddens me greatly to see him going through this. We keep praying.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Fall!

The first official day of Fall was yesterday,but those of us who live in NH know that as soon as the nights get cool,the days get comfortable,and the trees start changing color is when Fall really starts. So......Fall for me started in early Sept. Trees in the swamps started changing in August in some places!
The day we got back from our trip up to the White Mountains,I hacked down my corn stalks, tied them into two bundles,and tied them on my wrought iron plant hangers down by the road. At least I don't have to buy corn stalks for decoration this year! I might get one or two more zucchini out of my garden,and that will be it for the season. We did no fall planting this year but are already talking about what we want in next year's square foot garden,how many beds we will have, and where they will be located.
Today we are going to get our pumpkins and some straw bales for our outdoor decoration. I bought Mums a couple days ago. I have a chuck wagon that we had built a couple years ago for our Cub Scout Fish and Run Great Webelos Challenge. Well, no one in the pack wanted to keep it,so it has been sitting in my yard since May of 2008. This year I am using it my display. I removed the cover so now the wagon is open,and in it I will place straw,pumpkins,and Mums. When I am done with the straw,we will put it in the turkey cage.
Our wood is almost all stacked-my brother in law Brian stacked one pile with the help of Zach while we were on our trip,then we stacked some on our screen porch. Rick and Brian used the woodsplitter to make some kindling,which we have stored in a bucket on the porch as well. So far we have not had to start the woodstove,though a couple of mornings we did start our furnace for a few minutes to get the the chill off.
I made a list of soap and candle supplies that I need order,and will be doing that today.
Today and tomorrow we will be helping park cars at the Rochester Fair for our Boy Scout Troop fundraiser. We are also in the middle of our big popcorn fundraiser,and will be selling that as well at the Fair.
Rick and I need to sit down and make a list of what needs to get accomplished before the snow flies. It's one thing to have it in your head,but it is very easy to forget or push it to the side. If we sit down with a calendar,and the list of what needs to be done,we can then decide what day each task will be accomplished. Of course, we need to be flexible,because some days are not good ones for Rick. However, the task will get done.
This time of year I get a very strong nesting instinct. I need to get my home ready before the snow flies,and according to the Farmers Almanac,we will get snow for Thanksgiving. That is not very far away. I want things to be all set,my home cozy. I also get a very strong urge to bake,and I do not need to eat any baked goods,believe me. Chili and beef stew become part of our dinner choices this time of year.Nice, hearty meals.
Our trees are starting to turn lovely colors,and we are blessed to have Red and White Oak,Sugar Maple,Red Maple,Silver Maple,Beech,Black Birch,and White Birch in our yard.(We also have White and Red Pine,but of course those trees don't change colors and I don't like Red Pine,anyway). We would like to attempt maple sugaring again,but we both know if we are going to do it,we better get off our butts and tap our trees. The weather is getting perfect-warm days,cold nights make the sap run. We tried it two years ago and did get a bit of syrup. We made the mistake of not boiling most of it quick enough,thinking we could store the sap for a bit. That doesn't work,you have to boil it when you empty the sap buckets.
Yep, Fall in NH is a beautiful thing!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Homemade Lye Soap

Rick and I are back from our trip,and had an awesome time! It was very pretty and peaceful,and helped to put things into perspective.
Now we are back,and I have a renewed sense of purpose and spirit.
A few weeks ago, my Dear Friend Michelle emailed me and told me that I had to come over and make some lye soap with her. She is always ahead of me in everything,and she had already made lye soap during the summer. As with anything I have never tried, I think about doing it,but it takes me a while to actually do it.
So last week, I went to her house,had tea and an english muffin with her homemade strawberry jam,chatted,then then got down to business.
This is recipe we used from Millersoap.com. and her notes. We actually cut it half,which filled two Pringles cans we used for molds.

24 oz Crisco

9 oz coconut oil

10.5 oz canola oil

14 oz cold water

6 oz lye crystals

stick mixer

non metallic pot

non metallic spoon or spatula

bowl for lye water

measuring cup

digital scale

Sprinkle lye crystals on cold water. Stir gently.
Melt Crisco and coconut oil together over low heat. Add canola when Crisco and coconut oil are melted. Add color and scent to melted oils. We used 2 oz Hayride and A Bonfire scent,and 45 drops of red color. ( We could have used more coloring-it came out rather pinkish as opposed to red. While it was hot,it was mauve! We jokingly called it our "80's soap.")
Put the melted oils in a cold water bath to bring the temp down. When both the oil and lye water containers are touchable,carefully pour the lye water into the oils and begin mixing with the stick beater using short bursts of power-not continuously running the mixer. We achieved trace in about 5 minutes. Pour the soap into the molds. Let set for 24 hours.
We filled the molds too much- the soap started to rise,causing a "muffin top" effect,but once the soap started to cool,that came down. Next time it should only be filled 2/3 of the way.

Now,today Michelle emailed me and told me that she thought she had let her soap sit in the mold too long,because she actually didn't peel off the mold until several days after we made it. She commented that the soap was pox marked,and had formed what looked like a turkey neck towards the top of the mold,with a mushroom type top ( she didn't say mushroom,but I can't remember her exact wording. It basically meant that). Hmmm. I don't think time made a difference,because I took mine out of the mold about two days later,and this is what it looked like.

Pretty funky,huh? I think maybe we didn't get all the air bubbles out when it was poured into the mold,which might have caused this weird result. That and we filled it too high to start with.

It did cut nicely,though. The Hayride and A Bonfire scent initially smelled somewhat like citrus,but now has a strong cinnamon scent. However, it is very mild on the skin,not overpowering like I thought it would be. It leaves skin nice and soft as well.

Anybody else have some funky soap results out there?