Sunday, May 31, 2020

Swapping

Two days ago I started making homemade clotted cream. It is simple to make but it takes about 24 hours, so it can't be rushed.  (I now understand why the stuff is so darn expensive.)

I made the clotted cream and my lovely neighbor made cherry almond scones.  And then we each gave half of what we made to the other. It was the best breakfast I've had in weeks: homemade scones and clotted cream - delightful. We'll have to do it again when we can enjoy breakfast together!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cooking


I'm not a big cook. I don't really enjoy it; to me it is more chore than fun. It just takes so much... time. Well, time is something I have in abundance these days, so I've gotten more adventurous in the kitchen lately. So, I present to you, drum roll please...

Moroccan beef and vegetables served on homemade Naan bread. 

Delicious, if I do say so myself. But it's bread, and I pretty much love any and all breads, so it wasn't a hard sell. Nor was it hard to make. You'll find the meat recipe here and the Naan recipe here

I've made these twice now and my Naan turned out much better the second time. The secret was to let the dough rest (in a bowl covered with plastic wrap) for a few hours. It turned out much better than the batch I cooked right away.


I think quarantine has gotten to me and I've officially lost my mind; the footstool talks to me, the pasties were happy to be eaten, and now the Naan seems to be smiling at me. It may be time to go out for a walk.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Too Close to Home


We're a game playing family, but right now these two aren't leaving the cupboard.


They're both great games, but they hit just a little close too home these days...


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Feeding an Army



Last week the kids and I set out to make pasties.



A lot of pasties. The goal was to make enough so we could have dinner and then freeze the rest for another meal or two.

We used this recipe and were quite happy with the results.  (We did add carrots into the mix.)


At the end of the day we'd chopped enough vegetables and rolled enough dough to make 25 pasties and two meat pies. (At the end of the day we got lazy.) Plenty to share with the neighbors, feed us dinner, and stash 20 pasties and one meat pie in the freezer for later.



The only down side - I think the pasties are in league with the step stool. Just look at that smile. I would have thought they would've been more upset at the idea of being eaten...

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Passing the Time


One of the things I did this week to keep busy was make eight gallons of homemade laundry detergent. Not a particularly exciting way to pass the time I know, but very practical. The best part is, I probably won't need to make any more until about August.

For me, homemade detergent is actually easier than store bought. Everything I buy has to be bagged at the store, unbagged and packed in a tote, loaded into the car, unloaded at the dock, and finally put on a luggage cart so  the ferry can bring it over to the Island. Since detergent is mostly water, dealing with the ingredients is a lot less work than lugging big bottles around. (The plumber told us not to use powdered detergent, or dishwasher soap, since we have a sewer grinder.) Plus, a few years, the Grand Hotel was getting rid of 50 pound bags of washing soda. I still haven't used even a fourth of the bag I stashed in the basement. So all I need to get to the Island are small bars of Fels-Naptha soap and the occasional box of  Borax

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent 

1 bar of Fels-Naptha or Zote soap, grated (I prefer Fels-Naptha)
1 cup washing soda
1 cup Borax
Water

You will also need:

Large pot
Blender (immersion or stand) or a hand mixer
Containers to hold approximately four gallons of liquid
Funnel for filling containers

Get your biggest pot; I use the biggest pot we have - the one we use to boil spaghetti noodles. Fill it with water and set in on the stove on high heat. While the water is heating, grate the bar of soap.  Put the grated soap into the water so it can dissolve. This usually takes a few minutes (I think stirring helps the soap dissolve.) You want hot, but not boiling water. (If it boils, you'll get suds.) Once the soap has dissolved, slowly add in the Borax and washing soda - letting what you add dissolve before you add more. Once you're happy that everything has dissolved, turn the stove off and let the mixture cool. This takes a while so I usually just leave mine to cool overnight.

As the detergent cools it will congeal into a thick mass. I like to use my hands to break up the goo into smaller globs. (If you have kids at home, this is a perfect job for them - as long as you're up for lots of booger jokes.) After the mass isn't a mass anymore and more liquidy, use the blender to liquify it even more. The blender / mixer really breaks down the goo and it makes mixing in the water later much easier.

As I finish blenders full, I use the funnel to pour even amounts of the stuff into four, one-gallon jugs. Once I've got the entire pot full blended and into the gallon jugs, I fill the jugs with warm water; giving each one a really good shake to make sure the detergent and the water are well mixed. That's it. Then it's off to the basement until I need it. Usually I give the jug a little shake each time I use the detergent because sometimes it does separate a little (though as yet I haven't discovered a why one batch does while another batch doesn't.) I use about a half-cup of detergent per load of laundry.

I think for tomorrow's project, the kids and I will make pasties...

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Is it Just Me?


I think sheltering in place is finally getting to me and I'm losing my marbles. Not only am I watching way more TV than I ever have in my life, but I think the furniture has started talking to me.

I swear that step stool just asked me to stop stepping on his head.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Spring


Spring is slowly coming to Mackinac. Today I noticed a few crocuses in my neighbor's yard. As I walked by my garden I saw a few hyacinths, tulips and a trillium or two inching their way up. If we can get another good rain and then a few warm days, I bet I'll have some color to brighten things up a bit. And there's nothing like flowers to improve my mood.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day


Wishing a wonderful day to one of the most 
adventurous people I've ever known.
Happy Mother's Day Mom!
Sorry we couldn't go to brunch
with you today.
Hopefully next year we'll
be able to celebrate as a family...

My Mother's Day was lovely. It started at 6:30 with a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee in bed, made 100% by my children.  (They wanted to make sure I didn't get up before they did, and even had the kitchen clean before I came downstairs.) The day ended with a steak dinner with baked and grilled pineapple on the side, and homemade pineapple ice cream for desert. (If you haven't guessed yet - pineapple is my favorite.) It may have been socially distant, but it was a delightful day.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Yum

The other day my friend, Lynn, posted about the doughnuts she and her boys made. My daughter saw the post and decided we needed doughnuts, too. Luckily, we had one of these, so whipping up a batch was a breeze. 

I think I need to reign myself in a bit. Now that I have lots of time I want to bake something sweet every day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Sharing the Love


My husband cleaned off the game shelf the other day, culling the ones the kids have grown out of and the ones we just don't play anymore. Rather than stashing them in the Goodwill box, I wiped them down, put them on the porch and offered them up on our local resideir new owners get as much enjoyment out of them as we did.


Friday, May 1, 2020

More Masks


Keeping busy is helping me deal with Michigan's shelter in place order. I can't imagine not having a hobby right now.

Let me tell you, the binding attachment my mom got me last year has been getting a lot of use this spring! It has made sewing on the ties go so much faster. The only down side - it doesn't like thick home dec. fabric. 

These masks will soon head to one of the hotels downtown and the Mackinac Island Airport.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Missing


I miss my students.

We're trying to meet once a week, just for a little bit of fun. Last week - Scattergories, this week - Boggle or Head Bandz; I haven't decided yet. Let me tell you, if you've never Zoomed with six goofy sixth graders*, you're missing out. I  often hear things like, "How can you stand teaching middle school?" and "How do you deal middle schoolers all day long?" My answer is always the same - sixth graders are wonderful. Sure, they have their moments, but 99% of the time they are an absolute delight to be around. They put a smile on my face every single day. It's on these days that I can't see them, that I appreciate the joy they add to my life even more.

*student images used with parental permission

Friday, April 17, 2020

Today's Agenda


On the agenda for today: vacuuming screens. Once the windows were grime-free, I could clearly see that the windows were only part of the problem.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Making Me Smile



The other day the kids who live down the street left postcards for me on the front porch.

J, the elder, is looking forward to being in my classroom next year, and J, the younger, hopes I am staying inside and staying safe. (Which I definitely am.)


Thank you for writing to me.  There's nothing like a handwritten note to brighten someone's afternoon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

I Love Michigan: Reason #9,452

The Library of Michigan and the Historical Society of Michigan have  put out a call for Michigan residents to document and share their Covid-19 stories. (All the official information can be found here.) They are looking for handwritten, typed and video submissions, created by average people, experiencing this time in history. 

I'm going to encourage each of my sixth grade students to send in a submission. The kids will be thrilled - right in the request they make it clear not to worry about handwriting, spelling or punctuation. (Things they always have to think about with me!)

Friday, April 10, 2020

Today


Today in Things to do to Keep Liz from Losing Her Mind

Washing Window: Inside & Out

A retrospective of her complete lack of window cleaning for, at least, the past two years. She'll take time to deal with all the finger prints, spider poop and  dead-bug filled webs that desperately need  to be removed. 

It's sure to be at hit. That is, if anyone in her family notices...

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Wonderful


I did my first zoom meeting with my sixth graders today. I haven't seen them for three weeks and it was wonderful to see their faces and hear all about what they've been up to. I promised myself I wouldn't cry.

It didn't work...

Monday, March 30, 2020

Keeping Busy


I've been working hard to maintain a positive attitude in light of the current situation. I tend to be an anxious person and often worry about, well... everything. For me the key to keeping my anxiety under control these past two weeks has been to keep busy.

Yesterday's project was my sewing room and it was an all day project. Everything came out of the closet, off of every shelf and out of every drawer. (I even vacuumed inside the drawers.) Every piece of fabric was refolded and organized, and five trash bags of hoarded, I mean saved items were moved into the donation pile or city-approved garbage bags. When I was finally finished I just stood back and smiled. It was one of those jobs that has been nagging at me and it feels really good to cross it off my list.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Sewing


I've been sewing like a mad-woman for the past few days. A dear friend of mine, who is a nurse downstate, asked me to make masks for her. I know there is debate about the merits of cloth masks, but she's a nurse and she wants them. So who am I to argue?



20 of them will soon be headed her way. Sewing them was like a walk down memory lane. They were all made from leftover fabric I hoarded, I mean saved for a rainy day: my daughter's bicycle dress, a Captain Underpants cape, headbands, Jaguar Girl, and more Halloween costumes than I can count. 

I hope they keep her safe. She's got some trying times ahead and anything I can do to help her will be time well spent. 

Stay well Chandra!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Read Aloud


I miss my students. I know it's only been a week since I've seen them, but for me, not seeing them every day is just weird. I worry about them. I know most of them are not upset at the idea of time off of school (at least not yet anyway). Give it a few weeks and a few of them may realize they miss school more than they initially thought. 

When we abruptly left school on Friday of last week, I was right in the middle of reading a book aloud my sixth graders. The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, by Michigan author Paul Curtis, is a wonderful book about a 10 year-old boy growing up in Flint, Michigan. After his older brother continues to get into trouble the family decides to take a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit their grandma. I don't want to share any more for fear of spoiling the ending for one of my students. I hate spoilers! 

I may not be able to read to my class at school, but I can post a chapter on the school website every few days so the kids can keep up. I may not be as good a reader as Jim Dale, but it's better than nothing. Maybe it will help give my students a little sense of normalcy in these completely abnormal times...

Friday, March 20, 2020

Survival


It's been a week. And we survived. I don't mean survived the  Covid-19 virus, I mean the kids and I survived each other.  In case you don't know, my husband is in charge of the Island's drinking water system, so it is important for him (and his staff) to stay healthy. To decrease his chances of exposure, the kids and I have been religious about practicing social distancing.

It's been hardest on the kids. Take two teenagers, add a bit of stress and a huge change in routine and it's just put them on edge. Me as well. Despite the challenge of adjusting to our new normal, the three of us had a pretty darn good week...

S and K built the most amazing blanket fort in the living room.

They spent a lot of time in there this week. It was the perfect place for keeping up on Spanish homework  and watching musicals (Hairspray, Rent and Grease.) We've also listened to hours of the soundtrack from Beetlejuice the Musical. (Yeah, its on Broadway right now.)


My daughter spent time inside writing and drawing in her journal while I organized closets.


All of them...


Once I was out of closets (and drawers) I moved on to cutting and sewing mitten linings,


and then on to the outside portion of the mittens...


I've made fresh bread twice, washed every stitch of laundry in the house, hung all the pictures I've not gotten to since Christmas, and the kids and I cleaned pretty much the entire house. It's probably the cleanest the house has ever been. Kind of a bummer we can't have anyone over to enjoy it. That said, I did manage to spend a little time with friends. 


One evening, six of us spent three and a half hours together. It was wonderful! Besides giving me a break from The Whole Being Dead Thing,  it felt so good to laugh. Normally we all get together for a long weekend this time of year, but that's kind of hard to do while being socially distant. So until we can physically get together again, we've scheduled weekly meet-up like this.

The kids scheduled an online D&D game yesterday so they could  spend some time with their friends. It was  wonderful to see some of their stress melt away - I think spending some time with people (other than their sibling and parents) did a world of good for their moods.

Monday, March 16, 2020

New Normal


Who would have though we'd ever be where we are now. The words "global pandemic" use to be the stuff of movies and video games, and yet here we are in the midst of one.  Michigan schools closed for a minimum of three weeks, restaurants are closed,  and we are all practicing "social distancing" in an attempt to flatten the curve.  (Although my favorite graph so far has got to be Cattening the Curve. Dr. Anne Marie Darling, an epidemiologist, altered the chart because she thought cats would be more "compelling" to people than plain old charts and graphs.  Brilliant.)

So here we are, trying to navigate this new normal. My husband is in charge of the Island's water system, so the kids and I are on "lock down," in an attempt to keep him and the other plant operators healthy. Throughout the past few days, I think the hardest thing for me has been the not knowing. I don't like not knowing. I'm especially worried about my dad; he's 79 and has COPD...

photo credits: Corona Pandemic  Cattening the Curve

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Back in the Day: The Library


I was going through old photos the other day and came across this picture of the Library building that use to be on the property of Mission Point Resort.

I took this picture in 1989 during the first summer I worked on the Island. I think that was the only summer it was there (while I was) because I seem to remember it being torn down in the early 90s. I don't think it had been maintained very well and the architecture certainly wasn't very "Mackinac."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Sense of Humor


A couple of weeks ago when I was off the Island shopping, I noticed this hood ornament on a car in Petoskey. Who cares if it isn't scientifically accurate; it made me smile on an otherwise dreary day.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Connections


This winter during my family's annual Christmas cookie baking extravaganza, I found this recipe in my cousin's recipe book. I almost teared up when I realized it was written in my grandmother's handwriting. Somehow it made it seem like a little part of her was there baking with us. I think that would have made her smile.

Until, that is, my cousin and my mom started disagreeing about how much flour to put in the Nuremburgers. At that point the smile would have disappeared and Grandma would have informed us of the, ahem, correct way to do things. And they would have been perfect...

Monday, January 27, 2020

Who Would've Thought


Hands down my kids' favorite vegetables these days is Brussels sprouts. Which, by the way, I always thought were called Brussel sprouts not Brussels sprouts, but I was wrong. And then there's the question of why no does Brussels not have an apostrophe, but I digress. Anyway...

My kids love them. Like, love them enough to ask to have them for dinner. That said, they have to be roasted Brussels sprouts.  They asked my mom to make them once and forgot to specify the roasted part, and my mom boiled them. Talk about two unhappy teenagers. I think the word "ruined" may have been used to describe them, and as you can imagine, grandma did not appreciate that commentary on her cooking. For the record, she happens to love Brussels sprouts; boiled with lots and lots of butter. 

So, if you are looking for something new to try with your kids, give these a whirl. You might be as surprised as I was. And even if your kids aren't into them, you might be...

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

You'll need: 
  • About 1.5 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts (I use two mesh bags from Meijer to feed 4.)
  • Olive oil, maybe a tablespoon or two
  • Salt and pepper, OR your favorite spice blend (I like this one.)
 
What to do:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (about 205 degrees C.)
  2. Cover your cookie sheet or baking dish with foil for easy clean-up. (This is optional.)
  3. Peel off any outer leaves that look brown or wilty.
  4. Cut the bottom end bit off each sprout.
  5. Slice each one in half lengthwise. If they are bigger than a gold ball, quarter them. If they are tiny, you can leave them whole.
  6. Toss  the sprouts with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Use just enough to coat them. 
  7. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or in a large baking dish.
  8. Sprinkle on your spices.
  9. Roast for 25 minutes or until they are slightly browned on the outside and tender in the center. (My daughter loves the blackened crunchy bits the best.)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Shoring Up


It's been a rough fall / winter on Mackinac. With the water at an almost record high and recurring storms, the shoreline has gotten pounded. 

MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) has shored up a few spots where the road has washed out, but they aren't responsible for private property.


Back before Christmas break my students and I noticed a barge near the school. Of course, we had to go out and investigate.


One of the water-front home owners hired the barge to drop boulders on their property. The hope is  they'll stop the erosion being caused by the extremely high water. I hope it helps. My husband tells me the Army Corps of Engineers predicts the water may continue to rise - up to an additional 18 inches. Yikes...