Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our first time making a cabinet


Preston and the not that old TV.
On Dec. 8 our 3 1/2 year old TV bought from a "Big Box Store" decided to die.  We soon learned that the big box stores are able to sell cheap because they are made with cheap parts.  Some time ago we had heard that with power tools so I guess it applies to everything.  The more we think about things it does seem true.  So, now what do we do...only 3 days away from a Packer game and no TV.  Personally I don't like the looks of the flat screens never have and never will.  I feel like you need to work with them to make them look like they belong wherever you decide to put them.  This time we went to a TV shop where they can't even buy the TVs that the big box stores sell.  We looked at 2 different ones, got measurements and then stopped by the lumber store.  I had an idea in my head that I thought would work in our room.  We have a large 24'x24' family room but the TV has to go into a corner and from what we've learned about flat screens is that when you are off to the side it looks foggy.  So, are we going to be able to fit a 55" and still be able to view at all points in the room?  

This is the corner that we had to work with...there is 3' from the corner to the window and 8' from the corner to the patio door on the right.  So we ran 2x2"s along the walls where we wanted the shelves and this gives us the frame work that we need.

 Next came the oak plywood and with careful planning it was able to be cut diagonally with very little waste.  The shelf for the new TV bows out slightly to accommodate the stand that the TV sits on.  Little by little you can see this come to life.  This is the end of  Friday and the kids kept trying to visualize what this TV will look like so I took newspaper and laid it out, taped it and put it up on the wall to help them "see" it better.  :)
On Saturday we continued because the TV was getting delivered that afternoon.  We got the plywood screwed down and the sides then were put on.  Meanwhile, I have this thing in my head all built.  I guess that's what makes our 28+ year marriage work...Mark and I work very well together.  I knew the next steps and Mark has the patients and skill to make detailed cuts. the TV comes and we are no wheres close to being done so it goes on the floor.  Not something we really wanted to do but at this point we had no choice...the Packer game was the next day.
Finally by game time the TV is resting on it's shelf.  This thing weighs 77 pounds so we needed things to be secure before lifting it into place.

 Day by day goes by...piece by piece gets added.  It has been a slow process but definitely worth while.

 The following pictures show our work as of today...2 weeks after we started.  We still need to add a little more trim and a door...but it is looking so good.  Just as I visualized it and the best looks like it belongs in this room.  Enjoy the following pictures to show more details.

We added details trim on the doors to give it a "raised" look.  

I found these knobs that had the leaf pattern on them to match the trim.  

This runs along the top of the TV...we made our own crown using picture frame wood and a larger piece of the leaf trim.  

Standing back
This is from the kitchen.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Life Lessons

At this time we hear from friends and family via cards and letters.  I opened one today from John and Sandy with a very meaningful story at the end.  It goes like this...

A professor did an experiment for his class.  He took a large jar and filled it with golf balls and asked the class if the jar was full.  They said it was.  He then poured some pebbles into the jar and shook the jar so the pebbles would fill the open areas.  He then asked them again if the jar was full and they agreed that it was.  Next he poured sand into the jar and it filled up everything else.  Once more he asked if the jar was full and the class said "yes!"  The professor then took a beer and poured the whole thing into the jar.  The students laughed!  The professor said, "This jar represents your life.  The golf balls are the important things-family, friends, faith and health.  The pebbles are other things that matter - job, home and car.  The sand is the small stuff.  There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.  Set your priorities- the rest is just sand.  Oh and the beer just shows that no matter how full your life may seem, there is always room for a couple of beers with a friend."  Or as Jesus did- he always had time for a fish sandwich with a friend.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did....Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our Online Christmas Letter

Everyone has been on my case about writing this and I just haven't found the time.  For me to write a good Christmas letter with the usual flare it takes me about a we'll see how this goes early in the morning.

I'm going to pull names out of a hat and do things not in order like I've done in the past.

Jacque bought herself a house in Hartford this past spring and is enjoying life as a home owner.  Her biggest accomplishment was her 4'x4' garden.  I explained to her about square foot gardening and she was intrigued since her backyard we could fit in our kitchen...but hey, remember...she's a land owner now.  Might not be much land but it's hers.  She's currently working on adding more letters behind her name.  You'd have to ask her what it's all about because she lost me when I asked her.  If I have this figured right within 24 years she'll have every letter of the alphabet.

Ah Karlie, our 7 year old with a heart of gold.  Recently you can find her outside with the chickens.  Her favorite is a buff hen that you'll find her carrying around the door yard or giving wagon rides to.  This past spring the girls were playing with the calves and Karlie stepped on a nail that resulted in a ER visit.   Later this past September she started piano lessons and is already excited to play at the nursing home with her older sisters and brother.  She's in the 2nd grade and will be celebrating her first communion this spring.

Next out of the hat is Olivia...our 5 year old bouncing blonde.  She's usually found 3 steps behind Karlie if not in front of her.  It's not unusual for her to come into the house all out of breath telling me about them playing with the calves or chickens.  We are trying kindergarten with her and not pushing it.  The biggest challenge with her is trying to get her to hold the pencil the right way...this makes 2 years now.

Heather...she won't tell you unless you ask her but she's applied at grad schools. (Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota) She took her GRE this past summer which was an experience trying to make it through all the road construction in Oshkosh.  This spring she'll be graduating from St. Norbert's with a BS in Biology (and I think in Chemistry too)  This year she is sharing a dorm room with far so good, I think.  Heather keeps the room more serious making sure they keep to their studies.

Jason and Katie add something different to the family...they know that they can create a stir just by kissing.  Jason still works for Brad Kemink and does his wood business on he side.  He has piles of firewood on the farm that can be seen from the road.  Katie switched jobs and now works at the bank in Fox Lake.  It's closer to home.  She seems to enjoy it from what we's one of those "hush-hush" types of jobs.  These 2 kept out of trouble with their garden this past summer and plans are already being made for a larger one this next year.  Katie also added a flower bed to the front lawn and Jason's talking about taking down some trees on their lawn...does that surprise you???

Preston our Jason wanna-be...likes dressing in jeans and a flannel shirt.  Loves the farm and everything about it.  If the weather isn't nice you'll find him inside playing with Jason's old farm set.  His favorite Christmas music is "Little Drummer Kid" and "Frosting the snowman".  For only being 2 he knows a lot and is very smart.  If you compliment him on his smile he'll continue smiling and it will get cheesier as the compliments keep coming.  Maybe we'll be potty training next year...I don't want to have to say that too many times.

If Hannah gets a chance you can find her at Lambeau field wearing her boots but she needs to dress a little warmer.  She is in her second year at St. Norbert's and is planning on going on her first mission trip the first of the year.  Leaving home is still a struggle for her as she hugs the younger ones and you can see tears welling up.  Her studies are going well and everything is on track.  This past summer she started a new job...she milks cows south of Randolph when she comes home.  This is a new experience since it's in a parlor.

Being in the top 60  Culver's grill master teams in the country is an accomplishment of Aimee's this year. She'll laugh and giggle about this but no one else can say that. Last Dec. she graduated from Marian. Her job search is sluggish so she continues on at Culver's where she is a manager. Her and a friend still live in Fond du Lac where they share an apartment...a nice apartment for FDL.

Angie has had more of an eventful year...took the ACTs for the first time, got her drivers license, got her hunting license and a third job.  Being a junior in high school she's keeping her eyes open for colleges...St. Norbert's might be the top this week.  The new job includes baby sitting a 3 year old little boy on Tuesdays.  Having a drivers license really helps around here.  This past spring she competed in the Solo & Ensemble contest in Beaver Dam and got a first on her class B piano solo.  And a class C duet with Emily won a first also.

Emily has had just as an eventful her drivers license 20 minutes before Angie, took the ACTs for the first time, got her hunting license and took on a third job.    She babysits on Fridays for the same little boy.  Her college choice this week looks like Edgewood in Madison.  I still question these girls if they want to be separated.  Emily's Solo and Ensemble class C piano solo also won a first...clean sweep for the Grahn's!

Finally we come to Ethan a.k.a. Mozart.  He has troubles sticking to what is assigned to him for piano lessons because he likes to compose his own music.  He's really good at driving the older ones nuts and annoys them continuously.  What do you expect from a 9 year old brother?  Goosebump books are the ultimate for him as he always is adding to his collection.

This concludes the Mark and I.  Mark seems to be getting banged up more this year.  If a heifer isn't rolling onto his legs a cow is stepping on his foot.  This year we remodeled half of the old barn and put in new stalls and add 30 cows to the herd.  We did the work ourselves even mixing the cement by hand.  The kids all got an education in barn remodeling, hanging stalls and mixing and pouring cement.  This makes chores much easier and better for Mark.

As for myself, my business keeps me hopping.  I have a fan page on facebook for those of you who want to see my creations and stay up to speed on new developments.  Juggling a business and a family for the past 4 years is not easy but I think I've found my way.  Our garden did well and we grew celery for the first time.  I don't think this family will ever buy celery again.  The flavor is incredible.  I even sold tomatoes on craig's list...LOL

Don't think this family is all about work...All work and no play makes for a dull family.  We took a vacation out east in May.  It definitely made for some memories but not the kind you'd write home about.  We haven't even talked about going on vacation again and we're usually planning the next one by now.  You can read about it here.  We got down to the Henry Villas Zoo in July.  In August we took the kids to the Dells and took the upper boat tour and the hidden canyon tour.

So this concludes our 2011 year in review.  We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Online Cookie Swap

On Dec. 5 my fans from my soap page helped come up with this great list of baking ideas for the holidays. I announced the week before that we'd do this on this day so they had time to prepare some ideas.

Nancy was the first to submit a recipe. This sugar cookie looks great. She said, "I made this one for my kids. We didn't roll them, but made a tube, sliced the tube, then used press cookie cutters to emboss them with animal shapes. Easy, clean, with a playdoh like consistency. Irresistable, both raw and cooked."

Judy commented that this recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cake has become a family favorite. After looking at the recipe I think my aunt has made something similar to this.

Tiffany then stepped up to the plate (sorry for the pun) and suggested this recipe for making home made caramels. Funny thing is, my daughter Jacque and I were just talking about making caramels. Her and a friend made some this past weekend. :)

I've actually met the next participant, Patti owner of Grammas Gifts on Etsy and her blog. Chocolate peppermint pin wheel cookies....another thing I want to try.  They look so yummy!!!

I also met the next person, Peggy with a fun personality it didn't surprise me one bit that this recipe is one of her favorites...Pillsbury Refrigerator Cookies.  Don't believe be about her fun personality just take a look at her shop on Etsy.  

I've known Kelly online for many years, enough to know she's in love with Pink sugar and her family.  She blogged about her favorite recipes hot chocolate cookies and cherry white chocolate shortbread.

Seven Savvy Sisters from Etsy submitted this recipe they like to call Reindeer cookies...they omit the peanuts. We've made them too and used a mixture of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.  Gotta love the drop and leave types of simple.

The Pampered Tush submitted the recipe Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies ...I love anything white chocolate.  Thanks Wendy for making me drool.

Julie from Doodle Bea Greeting Cards on Etsy submitted this chocolate no bake cookie recipe. Julie makes my reindeer poo cards and other occasional cards for me to send with packages.

Rebekah of Hoover Farms made these just today and said they are yummy. Cookie dough bites ....almost sounds like something we've make called cookie dough truffles. If they are anything like them you can't go wrong.

 Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
11 1/4 flour
5 t. baking powder
2 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 t. nutmeg
3 1/8 c. shortening (I use butter)
5 c. sugar
5 eggs
2 1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/4 t. lemon extract
2 1/2 c. buttermilk or sour milk
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  In a large mixer bowl beat shortening for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and beat till fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon extract and beat well.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to shortening mixture, beating till well mixed.  Divide in half.  Cover and chill at least 3 hours or till easy to handle.  ( my notes: this is a very soft and sticky dough...don't over do the flour)

For large cookies, roll dough 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into rounds with a 3 inch cookie cutter.  For small cookies, roll dough 3/8 inch thick and cut into rounds with a 2 inch cookie cutter.  Place 2 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with additional sugar.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or till done.  Remove and cool.  (My notes: I've altered this recipe and it does make many cookies but they do freeze well.  This recipe the way it is written fits in a bosch mixer) This recipe has been made every year in this house.  The recipe comes from a 1985 Better Homes and Gardens Cookies for Christmas cookbook.  

The final recipe comes from a cookbook that my sisters in law put together from my late MIL's recipe files.  Every Christmas she'd make these wonderful bars and now have become fond memories for us.  

Butterscotch Bars
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
3/4 c. butter
1/2 t. vanilla
2 c. miniature marshmallows
2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. butterscotch chips
3 T. chunk style peanut butter

In a glass bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt and butter.  Microwave on high for 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 min. until mixture comes to a boil, stirring twice.  Microwave boil for 2 min., stirring once.  Cool.  Stir in marshmallows and cracker crumbs.  Spread into foil lined 9x9x2" pan.  Chill.  In small glass bowl, microwave butterscotch chips and peanut butter on high for 1-1 1/2 min.  or until chips are shiny and soft.  Stir.  Blend in vanilla.  Spread over crumb mixture.  Refrigerate.  Cut into bars.  Makes 3 dozen.  

I hope everyone enjoyed this cookie swap.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Busy day of a soap maker right before Christmas!

 We are just days before Christmas and I make cold processed goats milk soap.  It takes 4 weeks for it to cure so this week is my last rush to get soap made before the big day.  I decided to take some pictures while I was working to give you an idea of my day.  One thing the pictures don't show are me helping the kids with their homeschooling and reading stories to them.  I was thankful for left overs so I didn't have to worry about stopping to make meals.  From start to finish this is roughly a 12 hour day.
Lye on the frozen milk
I melt all my solid oils first then I add my liquid oils.

Everything gets weighed, you don't use the measurements on the measuring cups.  So this worn out pyrex measuring cup works perfectly for this job.

Add the liquid oils after the solid oils have melted.  This also helps cool the oils down quicker.  :)  

Prepare the mold...I screwed the end on.

Then I line with cling wrap and set my plexi-glass sides in.

I didn't have someone around to take pictures of me mixing everything together but this is the soap in the mold when finished.  It gets covered with cling wrap.  

I wish this part happened every time I make soap...a friend sent this beautiful bouquet to me.  
Repeat all those soap making steps 6 times and you have my day.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Which one do we choose???

This time of year comes and we just have to take a picture of the whole crew for our Christmas card.  At one point this past summer Hannah thought it would be neat to do a vintage one at a studio.  Then Ethan brought up about doing a 50's picture.  These pictures are the result of both ideas combined.  But what do we choose?  The 50's ones are cool but do are the ones that aren't...LOL