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 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?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time Away

The last time Rick and I went somewhere overnight to get away just the two of us was our honeymoon,which will be 12 years ago on the 27th.
With all the appointments and stress that we have been under these last three years,let alone lack of monetary funds,we haven't been able to plan anything nice. Having a husband who suffers from PTSD creates a problem,too. Anything that is out of the usual routine tends to make him really uncomfortable. New places and unfamiliar people make his hypervigilence go up. This was worse before he went on his current medication a couple years ago,and is still a factor,though not as bad.
He is the one who suggested going away for a couple of days.
We need it.
People have no idea the toll that all this can take on people and a marriage. Most of our life is centered around his injuries and ailments. It is not only time consuming,but thought consuming. I worry about him very much,and it's constant. It has begun to define our marriage,and we know that is not a good thing. That's not what our marriage is about. It is about us,not ailments.
We need some fun,and we need to spend fun time together.
Rick reserved a suite at the Darby Field Inn in Conway for a couple of days. We are both so excited to get away,just the two of us! No appointments,no running around. No military,no VA! YAY!
I don't feel guilty about spending some money this time. We deserve this,and it's long overdue.
See you in a few days!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A New View On The World

Rick and I have started our renovations in our living room. We have put money aside for this purpose. We had started a couple years ago,but the room never got finished. We had put up sheetrock on the ceiling ( got rid of those nasty tiles!),painted,put in a hardwood floor,and put up sheetrock walls ( we originally had floral panels with white strips that covered the seams).However, we never finshed the job,leaving us without any molding around the doors,windows, or even mopboards.
Then last winter, we got an ice dam on under our roof,and our ceiling leaked. We had to poke holes in it to relieve the pressure of the water build up. So now we have this rectangular area where the sheet rock needs to be replaced. Since we can't afford a new roof this year,we will make do with heat tape under the eaves of the house. We did that after this ice dam occured,and didn't have any problems for the rest of the winter.
Then, the seals on our sliding door to our deck went.Now, having this sliding door has never been a major problem. The biggest set back was that I had to have long curtains to block the hot sun during the summer,and to give us privacy in the when the trees lost their leaves. This caused a problem,because our dogs, Samson and Sasha,love to lay in front of the slider,and would lay on the curtain,pulling on both the curtain and the rod. This would make the clips that hold the rod up bend down,and I would have to constantly push them back up so they didn't sag.
Once the seal went,we really couldn't see out the door anymore, so we just kept the curtains basically closed.
You get the idea from this photo,with my dog Samson in his typical spot. I took this the morning we changed our doors. It doesn' took so bad from this angle,but...........

.....this a better view. Yeah. You can see why I kept the curtains closed. Even the right side had some mild condensation in it. The left side here,as you can see,was bad. So bad that the bottom inside of the slider started to rust out.It had to be replaced.So..what kind of door do we replace this with? I already knew. French doors with panes and blinds. I love French doors with panes,they just fit the style of home I want.However,the dogs scratch at the door when they want to go out,and they would scratch up the pane dividers. Why blinds? Well, I didn't like they way curtains looked because I live in a small house,and they tend to make rooms look smaller. Plus, I love looking at the trees that are around the front and side of our house. It's very pretty year round. But I did need something to block that hot sun that comes in during the early afternoon and give some privacy.But blinds? The dogs would maul them when they wanted to go out. That wouldn't work.

Then, lo and behold,we were at Lowe's one day, and there they were.....French doors with pane dividers and blinds between the glass!!!Wow! I didn't know they made such a thing! Then I saw the price tag-OUCH! $749! Sigh. We would have to look for something else.Then I got a Lowe's Labor Day Sale flyer. The doors I wanted were on sale for $699. Hmmm...still a bit high,but better. We looked for something compatible at a lesser price,but had no luck. We knew too,that they offered a Military discount(my mother also had called to remind us as well!). We knew we had to replace the door before we could forward with the room,so we said, the heck with it. Let's go for it!! Then the next decision was trying to figure out if we could install it ourselves,or if we should have Lowe's do it. Well, they could do it and take away the old door,but it would cost $499. Not an option. We looked in our Home Depot Do it Yourself Book ( we are equal opportunity shoppers!) and putting in the door seemed pretty straightforward.We went to Lowe's and got the door and the hardware to go with it. I chose a dark door handle and lock set. We thought gold would get washed out once we painted the room beige. We loaded it up in our neighbors truck ( our truck bed is too short) and asked for the military discount. In all,including the original sale price, we saved about $120. Our final price came to around $620. Plus,the door is energy efficient ,which qualifies for a tax break when tax season comes around. Bonus!!!

We stored the door in our garage a few days,then came installation day. Rick's army buddy Paul,who he was in Ramadi,Iraq with,came to help. Our next door neighbor's son,Justin,helped carry the door up the stairs to the deck. Even though Rick,Brian,and Paul were lugging it,they needed an extra person because Rick couldn't carry too much weight due to his knees. As they were carrying it and trying to get it up the stairs,I kept saying to myself,"Please don't drop it,please don't drop it." They didn't. Once the door was on the deck,Justin went back home,and the boys removed the old slider.I then left to go to Michelle's house to make lye soap (this will be my next post!)

When I got back, I could see as I drove towards my house that one door was open. So they doors were in! But how far along were they?They were just cleaning up the area when I walked in the door. The door were in,and the looked GREAT!

It's amazing how much the room is opened up,and looks bigger as well! You can't really get that feel from the photo,but believe me,it's like night and day. The bad thing is it reveals how our deck needs to be redone now!!! You can see how the the railings are curving inwards in this picture. Whoever installed our deck did not use concrete footings,just cinder blocks to hold up the deck in the center sections,so it has settled and the deck is bowing. Another project for next summer!At any rate, I am loving my new doors and the new feel it gives to the house.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sometimes Things Are Too Much

Yesterday Rick and I had an appointment with his social worker. We see her on a monthly basis. The goal is to help with Rick's PTSD. He usually leads the conversation with what is bothering him the most.
Yesterday it was his knees and how much pain he is in. The fact that he is in pain and vulnerable does not help with PTSD. In fact, it heightens it and makes the hypervigilence more pronounced.
Rick's knees have been getting worse for the last two years. He started with a cane,and that no longer helped. He is now on Canadian crutches,which help take some of the weight off his knees,but even that is no longer working like it used to. He also takes morphine,which is also not helping like it did. He saw his primary care physician yesterday in passing,and asked if he could up his dose. Rick's pain on a scale of 1-10 is a 10 on good days. His tolerance for pain is high,so his 10 would be our 20. We have a consult on the 25th down in Boston,and we are going to demand some answers.
As I was sitting there, listening to him tell the social worker about his knees,I felt worse and worse. He told her about how his knees get so swollen that they get to be 19" around,how much pain he is in,and how he just grits his teeth and deals with it. The kicker was when he was talking about Zach.Zach started hunting last year,and he really enjoys it. Rick has always enjoyed hunting,though he lost some of that enjoyment due to the PTSD,but he always did it,anyway. When his knees started getting bad, he would still go,but couldn't stay out in the woods for long,nor walk far. Rick has been taking Zach out back into the woods to go squirrel hunting,and in doing so,has really walked more than he should and is causing alot more pain because if it. But he is determined to do it for Zach,no matter what pain it causes. Rick kept rubbing his knees as he spoke,because they hurt just sitting there.
I started to cry.
It hurts me so much to see him like this,to know the pain level he is enduring. To know that his quality of life has suffered significantly. I try not to let it show,but I couldn't help it then. " He shouldn't be dealing with this, he's only 47," I sniffled. " I can't stand seeing him like this,it's not right." Rick reached over and took my hand. " It's OK," he said. "Don't cry,things will get better."
We are praying that they do indeed perform some form of surgery,and that they can least cut the pain level to where he can actually walk comfortably,and not need pain medication. We can't wait for the 25th to roll around.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

It Works!

My laundry soap has been tested and IT WORKS! Not that I ever had any doubt,of course.It was more or less wondering if I could do something do mess it up! I am always a bit apprehensive about doing something new,and this was no exception.
I let the detergent sit,as was directed.Once it started to cool off, the mixture did thicken. It turned into the consistency of something like the slime we could buy as kids,and a not yet set lemon pie filling. My brother in law Brian washed his blanket and pillow, using 1/2 a cup ( which is equal to a capful of store bought detergent)and some Oxyclean. There was no suds,but that did not mean it didn't work. Suds does not necessarily mean it's working. When Brian took the blanket and the pillow out of the dryer, everything was nice and clean,and had a faint lemony scent,which came from the Fels Naptha soap I used.
I figure the first thing I will have to replace will be the Fels Naptha soap,but the Borax and Washing Soda should last me a few months,as only a 1/2 a cup of each is used each time. This means great savings!!!! I wish I had done this a long time ago.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

Today was my first attempt at making my own liquid clothes detergent. I read several differnt blogs,such as New Life on A Homestead,Little House in the Suburbs and Down to Earth. Each one has a variation on liquid clothing soap,but the ingredients are the same,so I just picked one. I picked the one posted by Kendra at New Life on A Homestead.
The first thing I had to do was find the main ingredients:
- Fels Naptha Soap
-Washing Soda
I had heard of Borax,but I had never heard of Fels Naptha soap,or of Washing Soda. So I checked out Walmart first,since I happened to be in there one day. I may have not looked in the right place, but I couldn't find the Fels or the Washing Soda.
Then,when I went grocery shopping at Market Basket, I checked there. I found the 20 Mule Team Borax and the Arm and Hammer Washing Soda in the detergent aisle. So far, so good. Where was the Fels? It was in the Health and Beauty aisle!!!! Before I bought anything, I wanted to make sure that it was going to be cost efficient to make. I wrote down the cost, but I think I may have thrown it out. I do remember the Fels was .99 a bar. I can tell you that the three ingredients cost no more than $7.50,max. One batch makes 2 gallons,which means for $7.50, you can make several gallons of clothing soap,which is much more cost efficient than buying it. Plus, you reuse the container it's kept in,so that keeps plastic use at a minimum!
Even though I have a headache today, I was determined to make my soap. I was finally out of my store bought soap,so it gave me more incentive. This is what I did,taken from My New Life on A Homestead.

Liquid Laundry Detergent
3 Pints ( 6 cups) water
1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap,grated
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
2 gallon bucket (8 qts or 32 cups)
1 quart Hot water (4 cups)
Hot water

Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints waer,and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax.Stir until thickened,and remove from heat. Add 1 quart hot water to a 2 gallon bucket. Add soap mixture,and mix well. Fill bucket with hot water,and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours,or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup per load.

The first thing I did was break down the measurements to cups and/or quarts. I had a large cat litter bucket set aside,and it is larger than two gallons,so I wanted to make sure I didn't put too much water in. Since it' suppose to equal 2 gallons, I subtracted the 4 cups that is initially put into the container from the two total gallons,so it came to 1 gallon and 3 quarts.
Grating the soap was very easy and took no time at all. The Fels Naptha has a very nice,clean,lemony scent. I dissolved that,which took a few minutes,while my 3 pints of water was heating up. Then I dissolved the Washing soda and the borax in the Fels Naptha water,until the mixture thickened. The only thing was that not all of the powder had dissolved all the way when it thickened up,so I let it go another minute. I put the hot water into my litter container,and poured in the soap mixture. I mixed that up while the remainder of the water heated up. Once it was hot,I poured it into the container,stirred it,and now it is sitting. While the directions call for it to sit 24 hours or until it thickens,some people posted on Kendra's blog that it really didn't need to sit for that long,and some of them used it right away. Some other people who tried it said that their whites eventally started graying.Others said they had no problem. I assume this has to do with what kind of water you have,whether it's soft or hard. You can put a bit of Oxyclean in with it,or use it separately. I always use Oxyclean with all my laundry,anyway,putting it in right after I pour in the detergent,so this will not be an issue for me.
As I type this, my detergent is still hot,and therefore not thickened yet. As soon as I use it, I will post my results.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Nice Cup of Tea

Out of my lavender harvest, I wound up with about 1/2 a cup ( maybe a bit less) of dried blossoms and leaves. Which means : (a) the weather wasn't very cooperative with my lavender picking and (b) I need to plant more lavender.
At any rate, I let them dry for a couple of weeks with the blossom ends in brown paper sandwich bags ( being careful not to let the blossoms touch the bags),then stripped off the blossoms and leaves,and put them in a small mason jar that I keep in the cabinet so it stays out of the light.
There are a couple of things I wanted to try with lavender,one of them being my own tea. Hmmm....lavender tea recipes. The first recipe I tried was in the Country Wisdom and Know How Book. It was a Lavender and Mint Tea recipe,which called for 1 part lavender and two parts mint. much constitutes a "part'? I had no clue,so I tried 1 tablespoon dried lavender,and 2 tablespoons fresh mint ( lavender was the only herb I grew this year). The book did warn against letting the tea steep for too long,especially with fresh herbs. Very well. I placed my amounts in a mesh tea ball,placed the ball in my mug,and poured boiling water over the ball into the cup. Right away the water took on a slight purple green color,and I could smell both the lavender and the mint. After I few minutes, I tasted it,and it was good,basically tasting like the smell of lavender with a twist of mint,but it was too mild for me. I let it sit longer. After about 10 minutes or so, I removed the ball and took a sip.
YUCK! It had turned bitter. Remembering what the book said about letting fresh herbs sit too long,I poured out my tea,disappointed.
The next day, I wanted to try again,but this "part"thing had me slightly confused-I didn't want to keep wasting my lavender trying to get the right proportions.I remembered saved in my 'Favorites" was a website that had Lavender Mint Tea. So I checked out what they suggested. This website suggested 1 teaspoon dried lavender,and 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of fresh mint,letting it steep for no more than 5 minutes. Alrighty,then, I thought I would give that a try. I used the 1 1/2 tablespoon of fresh mint,1 teaspoon of dried lavender,and it came out GREAT! Now, it might not be for all tastes,because it basically tastes like the smell of lavender,but with a bit of sugar,I found it quite good. So now I have found my Lavender/Mint tea. Rick tried it,and he,too,thought it was quite good. The scent was a good lavender and mint mix,and it was very relaxing to smell it while I was drinking it. I think it's a keeper!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Medication

We went to our home away from home,the Manchester VA this morning for the results from Rick's blood work a couple weeks ago. They tested him for everything-cortisol levels,testosterone levels, adrenal fatigue syndrome,etc. Rick has had been very tired doing anything, even walking. He also has has a noted lack of endurance and strength. Not to mention a lack of libido.
Well, his cortisol levels were not too bad,and the Dr did not feel it necessary to put him on steroids,though he did say that if Rick became very ill with the flu or the like that he would want to give him an injection to help him bounce back. No adrenal fatigue syndrome. However...his testosterone is extremely low.
We had always assumed that his being tired had to do with the amount of medication he takes ( which we figured out to slightly over 1,000 pills a month),and his libido has been an issue since he got back from Iraq. It is a symptom of PTSD and TBI. We never thought about hormonal levels,since he's only 47. Well, surprise! His TBI, even though mild,has caused his pituitary gland to not secrete testosterone correctly.
Needless to say,we were both relieved that the Dr found the cause of these problems. Starting tonight, Rick starts using a hormone patch,which he will change every night. If the patch causes any skin irritation,then they will use a topical gel. It should take about 2 weeks before he notices any big changes. This is the approximate time it takes to get fully into the blood stream. Rick is very anxious to start feeling more like his old self.
The only other news we have had is regarding his eyes. The specialist we saw last week said that he felt the double vision that Rick is experiencing was caused by the stroke,and because it's not an eye but a brain issue,there is nothing they can do. It is extremely rare for a patient who suffers from double vision from a stroke to continue to see double.Normally that goes away after a period of time. There is a small chance it could still go away,but because it's been over a year now,it's not likely. I joked, " You don't do anything halfway,do you?"
We go to see an Orthopedist in Boston at the end of the month for a consult. We still don't know for sure what is going on with his knees-what are the dark spots in his bones? Does he have rheumetoid arthritis? They are still considering knee surgery. I hope so. Both knees are so swollen that now his ankles are starting to swell,and the pain can get so bad that it makes him nauseous. This happens even though he takes 6 doses of morphine a day for it. Right now, it does nothing for the pain. If only they can get rid of some it! It would mean so much for his quality of life. Hopefully we will get some answers.
We are also waiting for the results of the sleep study.
As always,many questions, but the answers are taking time in coming.