Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

Solar Ice Candles


I’ve been experimenting with ice candles and ice suncatchers for a couple years now, so it wasn’t a huge jump to making solar-lighted ice candles.

 

First, I took all the molds outside and then filled them using pitchers of water. (This idea came to me last summer, so every time I saw a Bundt-shaped mold at the Thrift Shop, I snagged it. I’m happy to report that  even the plastic ones worked great, and have yet to crack.)

ice candles-1

ice candles-2

Then I did it all again so there were two of each design.

To release them from the mold, I ran a little hot water in the kitchen sink. They pop out after a few seconds. Sometimes, if the water freezes too fast, there will be a bulge in the ice. You can chip it off carefully, use a warm cookie sheet to melt it flat, or if you’re not a perfectionist, just build up the other side with snow later when you put the two halves together.

Solar Ice Candles-11Solar Ice Candles-5

Now here is the genius part: Solar garden lights will work, depending on their size and the diameter of the hole in your mold, but this Halloween, I found these awesome solar-powered jack-o-lantern lights at K-mart for $5. They change color, so I didn’t have to add food coloring to the water to color the ice!

ice candles-3

Ice pumpkin-14 Ice pumpkin-13 Ice pumpkin-12 Ice pumpkin-10

Now, of course you could use a real wax candle, too; but dang, that’s a lot of candles. And, you’d have to go out and light it. Solar lights come on automatically! Even regular white garden solar lights work, but they aren’t as bright as the one above.

Solar Ice Candles-12

 

Mr. Wonderful even admits this is one for the “Nailed It” File, so please Like, Share, & Pin away!

 

Another fast, cheap, and easy craft idea brought to you by the Pajari Girls. If you’d like a few more ideas, check this post out:

Bundt pan ice candle

 http://pajarigirls.com/2013/01/22/playing-with-water-at-25f/

 

Tea With Auntie Linden


What, you don’t name your trees? This is one of our favorite trees. Mine (Laura) shades my whole front yard in the summer. Lois’ shades the old wood shed/ice house at Cook’s Country Connection. Listen, if Pocahontas could have Grandmother Willow, we can have an Auntie Linden. And like Grandmother Willow, the Auntie Linden in our yard has smacked a guy or three in the head. So shush.

Linden, Basswood, tea, make your own tea

The last time I read Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series, Ayla used Linden flowers to sweeten something. Finally! Something that grows in the near-arctic conditions of Cook, MN!! I searched Wikipedia to be sure it wasn’t just literary license, and discovered many other fun facts.

There is a Linden tree in Gloucestershire that is coppiced (omigod, I didn’t even know there was a word for that!! It means to harvest by cutting tree down to the stump, then letting its shoots start over. It’s technically the same tree) thought to be 2,000 years old. If you live up here, imagine a willow after attempted chainsawing.

coppice

Coppiced tree +1 year. Image Wikipedia.

The name of Linnaeus, the great botanist, was derived from a “lime” tree in Europe–what we Yanks call Basswood or Linden .

Linnaeus… You know, the guy who came up with a universal system for naming things. Binomial nomenclature. ie: Tilia americana. Ringin’ any bells??

There’s more.   “The excellence of the honey of far-famed Hyblaean Mountains was due to the linden trees that covered its sides and crowned its summit.” Beekeepers love Linden/Basswood/Lime trees! The first time I noticed a buzzing noise coming from the tree I park under (Auntie Linden), and looked up to see thousands of honeybees I called my sister in a panic. “Don’t come over!! You will DIE!!” (She’s allergic to bee or hornet stings.) She laughed and said ” They’re just doing what bees do. Leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone. Just don’t piss ’em off.” Roger that.

July2013 069

I read on:

“In particular, aphids are attracted by the rich supply of sap, and are in turn often “farmed” by ants for the production of the sap which the ants collect for their own use, and the result can often be a dripping of excess sap onto the lower branches and leaves, and anything else below. Cars left under the trees can quickly become coated with a film of the syrup (“honeydew”) thus dropped from higher up. The ant/aphid “farming” process does not appear to cause any serious damage to the trees.”

Well, that’s pretty awesome… and it explains all the ants in that area. And it doesn’t hurt the trees! Huh. Here I was all worried that the ants were a sign that one of my favorite trees in all the world was sick. Whew!

It’s also good for making guitars, and even clothing. You can eat the young flowers and leaves, too!

Linden, Bassweed, tea, make your own linden tea

But coolest of all, it has medicinal properties that my body needs, like fighting inflammation and healing the liver.

“Most medicinal research has focused on Tilia cordata, although other species are also used medicinally and somewhat interchangeably. The dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, and the fruit is somewhat sweet and mucilaginous. Limeflower tea has a pleasing taste, due to the aromatic volatile oil found in the flowers. The flowers, leaves, wood, and charcoal (obtained from the wood) are used for medicinal purposes. Active ingredients in the Tilia flowers include flavonoids (which act as antioxidants) and volatile oils. The plant also contains tannins that can act as an astringent.

“Linden flowers are used in herbalism for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. In the traditional Austrian medicine Tilia sp. flowers have been used internally as tea for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, fever and flu. New evidence shows that the flowers may be hepatoprotective. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue). That wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection such as cellulitis or ulcers of the lower leg.

Linden, Basswood, tea, make your own linden tea

Thus, last year I made tea from the flowers and the smaller leaves they were attached to. Honestly, I don’t know if it helped the Stupid Rheumatoid Arthritis. But I’m sure it didn’t hurt. 😉 And it tasted good. Want to make your own? Good. Here’s what I did:

  • when flowers are mostly open, gently pick them and the smaller leaf they are attached to from the bigger main leaves. This year, they are a month behind normal. Big surprise.
  • I spread them evenly on trays in my dehydrator and when crumbly I separated leaves from flowers and put them in old, airtight mason jars for winter.
  • Then, come January I added some Rugosa Rose hips for Vitamin C and voila! Yummy, healthy, tea for two.

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

As you can see, the tea has very little color to it. Go by taste- not color- to judge strength. 3 or 4 minutes should be fine for a cup to brew.

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

You’re welcome.

As usual, if you liked this article, please click “Like” “Share” “Pin”, or leave a comment. Thank you for reading! Loveyabye!

 

 

 

Frost


Here in northern MN, bitching about the weather and the 9-month-long winter is a sport, a hobby, a point of pride, and a way of life. It wasn’t really working for me, though. I have found that hating things I have no control over hurts me a lot more than the thing I am hating. It doesn’t mean I long for -40F in July–I just try to spend less energy on stuff I can’t change and more energy on the stuff I CAN.  So I’m trying to hate it less. Prozac also helps. And a tanning bed. But I digress.

These are my favorite shots (so far) of frost this winter. They are of hoar frost on the Norway Pines and a couple windows in my house, taken on two different days. This lovely wiki article explains the different types of frost. “Hoar” -yes, pronounced just like “whore”…haha.- comes from an Old English word meaning “looks old”. I can hear the Spawn yelling “Nerd Alert!!” already. Whatever.

The window pics were taken during our week-long Get Inked with the Pajari Girls Tattoo Party when it was -30F and colder. (We felt sorry for the  Texan tattoo artist who had never been Up North, but he seemed to man up pretty well. Still working on THAT post.)

The outside pics were taken on a much warmer day. Good thing, too, or I wouldn’t have been outside to hear the cow bell on the Ginormous White Slobbering Dog Who Thinks the Gravel Pit is the Pyrenees Mountains telling the neighbors they are trespassing in their own yard. This is far outside his approved boundary, but he does not agree.

Click on any pic to start a slideshow. (They are better full-screen.)

Another cool slideshow of winter can be found here: Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate. I took those next door at my sister’s house-The Funny Farm- aka our Great Grandparents’ homestead.

If winter is making you want to kill something, seek professional help and/or this post I wrote for our new site www.cookdollarbarn.com. I’m Employee of the Year there. True story.

As usual, if you found this post amusing, helpful, disturbing , inspiring, or not a total waste of your time, please Like, Share, Comment or Pin this shit stuff. If you are raising your hand ‘cuz you fell behind, click the button to Follow Via E-mail. Then you won’t miss anything. These things let me know what you think is worth reading/writing about. Thanks!! Loveyabye.

Solar Powered Furnace


I have been getting a lot of questions about the changes to my house last fall.  (I live very close to one of the main roads in the area, so a lot of people drive by on their way to work, school, or their vacation homes.) “Who are those guys, and what are you doing to your house? What are those THINGS on the south side of the house?” Here’s the scoop. I qualify for AEOA‘s Energy Assistance Program (formerly Fuel Assistance) and therefore also their Winterization Program.  They have an agreement with the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) to install Solar Powered Furnaces (SPF) on lower-income homes. Free.

SPF Installation

How it works:  The sun heats up the panels. Air from my basement is then pumped through the panels and a simple thermostat controls the fan. I usually have my furnace thermostat set at 60F, and the SPF will not kick on unless there is warm air in the panels. The SPF thermostat is set to shut off at a certain temperature(85F), and will be turned down in the summer. The “brain box” takes up very little room in my basement, and very little additional ducting was needed.

Solar Powered Furnace, RREAL

(credit: RREAL.com)

But why?? Why do they do this?

I was pleasantly surprised to find the answers on the RREAL website. Check out their Return on Investment Page For Solar Assistance here. In short, installing the system pays for itself in ten years or so, and lasts over 30 years. It’s a wise investment that goes well with the Winterization Program. It reduces the amount of fuel oil or propane needed (up to 30%!), while also reducing carbon and other pollutants. Kind of like teaching a man to fish instead of just giving him food. For example, one day last week the high temp outside was right around zero, but the sun was shining. The fuel oil furnace didn’t kick on all day, once the sun started hitting the panels. And it was a very comfortable 70 degrees inside!

Unfortunately, according to RREAL, “[i]n 2009, 591,951 households who applied for fuel assistance and qualified were turned away in Minnesota because of lack of funding”. I was on the list for years before it was “my turn.” I would love to write a best-seller and donate back to this program someday. For now, I will write this article and hope that RREAL gets a bazillion orders as a result. They are doing a wonderful thing.

And what if someone wants to install an SPF on their own? Is it cost-effective?

Yes, RREAL installs SPF systems on homes that are not below the poverty line, and businesses too. I am not an expert, but if  I didn’t qualify, I would still recommend investing  in this technology– check out their Return on Investment Page to see if it’s worth it for you or your business. I love mine…there is nothing like having free heat from the sun blowing into the house when it’s winter…and it has dramatically helped me hate winter less.

I hope this helped answer your questions. Any others? 🙂

Through the Window


Every day, WordPress issues Prompts or Challenges. Today’s was “Look through your nearest window for one minute and tell us what you see”.

I hereby invoke the right of Artistic License and also include what I THINK when I look out this window.  I left it pretty much the way it came out of my head…stream-of-conscious style.  I included links so that if you fall behind, you can click to get the rest of the story.

window, snow, cat, houseplants

I Spy…..

  • Big Guy plowing. which means, since I don’t pay him for this service, I will hafta have my sister sleep with him. Good thing they’re married. This pimping out my sister barter system has worked great for me AND him for years. He fixes my brakes, and I say, “Thanks! I’ll have my sister sleep with you!” He delivers dirt for my garden, I say, “Thanks! I’ll have my sister sleep with you!”  You get the idea. Like I said, it worked great….until she had our friend The Electrician on Retainer wire in the tanning bed in the basement of The Barn. She said, “Great, thanks! I’ll have my sister sleep with you!” Poooooor Stewart. We both turned a few shades of purple and I said, “That’s not fair!! I’m not married to him!!” and I have since been thinking of alternate barter items. No, I haven’t paid up–and have since met Mr. Wonderful. Looks like Lois will need to break out the checkbook. Sorry… dollar!
  • and that I need to bank the house. Tricky with arthritis flaring in left wrist and right shoulder. Just kinda going in pathetic little circles…
  • the mail I am avoiding,
  • the steps grampa built  (how the hell am I gonna fix THAT?? They are cracked. 😦 I used to sit on them and wave to the tourists when I was little…squirrel!),
  • the spot where I grow hybrid sunflowers, morning glories, lilies, etc.,
  • Lots of houseplants!  Rosemary, celery, aloe, venus flytrap & sundew (both in terrariums) spider plant
  • GF Peaches, hopefully making sure the surviving Guinea Monster From Hell stays at the neighbors’.
  • the corn husks really need to come down… maybe the crows from Halloween can  stay. Should probably brush them off so they look real-er…
  • Lake Country Power trucks going to help the Lake People, I assume. All the snow has probably downed lines and trees all over.

I’m feeling a little guilty about this half-assed post. But I would feel guiltier if I kept ignoring all the other crap I need to do…. So there ya go. Have a nice day, drive carefully, and loveyabye.

 

Cabin Fever Cures


Friday and Saturday, the winter blues were encroaching. Then my friend Kelly sent me flowers at work to thank me for helping winter suck less. 🙂

winter bouquet

“Thank you for helping me embrace winter.”

AWWWWW! How sweet is that?? Thanks, Kelly! You brighten my winter, too. 🙂

The big gravel pit banks looked kind of intimidating to the 5  year-old, so I broke out the food coloring and some spray bottles. Also reeeeeeeally brightened up the winter landscape.

winter fun, snow art, food coloring, spray bottle

Water and food coloring in spray bottles.

food coloring, snow

Names in the snow. Hygienically.

I always wanted to write names in the snow...

I always wanted to write names in the snow…

Avi's Hippie Snowball

A psychedelic snowball!

writing in snow

There’s always one in every group…

Also, there was some awesome sledding on the gravel pit banks.

Before...

Before…

During…

Hear the fire crackling in the background? We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.

Sledding

Photo credit: Eldest Spawn

clint and avi

Again, Eldest Spawn took this one.

Everybody wants to kill that one bush in the gravel pit…

After

After.

Also, Jill stopped by to model her newest in Funny Farm Fashion. 😉

Baler twine as a hair accessory. True story.

Baler twine as a hair accessory. True story.

All in all, it was the perfect day to ENJOY winter. 30 degrees above zero was reason enough to celebrate. On a related note, the Finns allegedly have more words for “snow” than the Inupiat. Check out the link…Finnish words for snow.

As usual, please like, share, or pin to spread the joy. 🙂

Playing With Water at -25F


One of my latest self-discoveries was that hating winter doesn’t make it shorter, and it certainly doesn’t make me any happier. So, after making ice candles, candle rings, and ice gems/marbles, I went hunting for more crafty ideas on Pinterest and found this genius named Tracy Lynn Conway who had pinned ice sun catchers using a cake pan and/or muffin pans. I was inspired.

The best thing about this cold snap is that I can stand at my kitchen door and watch water freeze. Shut up–it’s verry interesting. Stop judging me!!  Mr. Wonderful found it pretty chuckalicious too, until I sent him a picture.

ice suncatcher

Eat those words, Larry.

This is a fast, cheap, and easy way to fight cabin fever, depression, and/or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is also Parent of the Year stuff. Youngest Spawn is learning all about frostbite and how ice forms.

Tracy made her sun catchers in the freezer, but I had a blast watching the ice form outside. (And at -20, it was waaaaay faster. See her pin/blog for more on using the freezer.) My favorite effect is when the food coloring freezes while dissipating in the water…it looks like psychedelic snowflakes.

TIP: If you want to use multiple colors, wait until the water is almost ice. Otherwise, you will end up with brown sun catchers.

I’d tried making my ice marbles into hanging ornaments, but the curly ribbon always broke when I tried to remove the balloon. (And they were kind of heavy, which is tough on winter-brittle branches.) That’s where the muffin pan came in. I used magnets to hold the curly ribbon where I wanted it.

muffin pan, sun catcher, ice

I like the way the silver curly ribbon catches the light.

Like the other ice crafts, it’s all about catching the light. A Bundt pan has a ready-made hanging hole, as well as ridges.

ice, bundt pan, suncatcher

I only filled it 1/3 of the way..less weight for the string.

Because I didn’t want all the colors to bleed together, I didn’t add the drops of food coloring until it had started to freeze. Therefore, the color only shows from one side. I dribbled more food coloring on the other side like a glaze.

Glazed.

Glazed.

We have these sets of 3 plastic heart containers at The Barn ($.50 per set), and I just knew they would be good for something. Adding lace (also on clearance), and some foofy colored ice cubes I made from silicone baking molds…

sun catcher, ice, heart. rose,

Ice Valentines to hang in a tree.

Looking forward to seeing this in the sunlight.

Looking forward to seeing this in the sunlight.

On the thicker sun catchers, my color didn’t go all the way through, so I finger-painted a quick heart on the back of this one.

sun catcher, ice, valentine,

This is why my fingers are red.

Again, thank you to Tracy Conway for the great tutorial! Here are some other fun things to do with water in the winter:

ice marbles/gems

Make ice gems/ marbles with balloons. And spray yourself and kitchen blue.

Cool-Whip, Ice candle

Make ice candles with Cool-Whip bowls.

Bundt pan ice candle

Ice candle ring from Bundt pan.

Comments? Questions? Tips? Please “like”, share or Pin it! Better yet, vote to make me Employee of the YEAR!! Loveyabye.

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