Brewing up good Halloween Decorations

The Huz and I have been watching a fair amount of DIY’s on the TV lately in order to get some great decorating ideas. We really enjoy going just a bit over board on Halloween and Christmas. We like Halloween because its the one time in an entire year you get to be somebody or something else. The other 364 days of the year its just responsible, boring old me, the workaholic.

We found three really great ideas that we are going to add to our yearly Halloween decor. This first one is the Cauldron.

For the fire underneath we got a board and stapled down some outdoor orange lights. Then covered it mostly with “Great Stuff” foam. We hit it up with some red and black spray paint. While the foam was wet we put a few sticks to make it look even more realistic.

In the light – looks a bit odd.

With the lights out, looks a lot more like a lil fire.

Next we worked on the cauldron. We put on a primer so that paint will adhere to the plastic.

We then put a coat of black matte paint over the primer, we chose the matte paint to take the shininess off of the plastic. After this we added bronzing in spots around the outside to give it the look of age. We also added green paints to the top edge to give the look of boiling over witches brew.

Next is the optical illusion of the bubbling brew. We intend to hang the caldron so we can not fill it entirely with water. We found a perfect little Styrofoam cooler that fits in the cauldron in order to fill the space and is a perfect little table for a small dish that we built to hold the water and mister which will create the look of boiling brew.

The mister we found online. Its a small LED submersible electrical device that works with water and gives the illusion of a witches brew.

Next we got some bamboo and cut it to the length. We then spray painted it black for a darker creepier look. We used twine to tie the three pieces together at the top creating a tripod in which to hang the caldron.

We purchased some decorative chain link at Home Depot. We purchased 10 feet just in case and we used about 8 feet. We also got a green light bulb and a very basic work light with a clamp in order to really illuminate the decor in the yard at night.

Of course the tomb stone is knocked over in the photo.
Not much to look at in the day time.

Since starting to work on the cauldron blog post we have added window decoration where it looks like the house is on fire. The key to that illusion is a lot of fan action on a very reflective material in the window. Also there will be a neighborhood hayride for the kids this year and the neighbor asked as the grand finale that he drives the tractor into our yard to get closer to the creepiness for the kids. Also found out this evening that our neighbors kids calls our house “Halloween Town”.

Here is the YouTube channel you should subscribe to also for more cool stuff where we have recently been getting our inspiration: Wicked Makers

RickabaughReviews approves of Halloween fun and is totally in love with Wicked Makers!

Bonus 3D print!! We made a night light for the little neighbor girls.

Puzzle Time

We are sometimes frugal to a fault, so I make sure that we reward ourselves every now and then. We were getting a quick delicious dessert at Costco for going to visit a friend. We saw that they are beginning to bring out their Christmas decor and gifts as well. Yes I believe it is too early. But that will not stop us from looking at what they have.

We saw some really nice 3D puzzles of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. One has the Hogwarts castle and the other puzzle has the train and some Diagon Alley buildings. Each puzzle was only $25. We were almost to the checkout with the dessert, but I had to get them. And of course I had to get both of them.

Labor Day weekend was a perfect weekend to start a puzzle, it is starting to get darker out earlier. We are not happy about it and we refuse to go to bed earlier so we stay up late and put puzzles together. When opening the castle puzzle we were a bit shocked at how large it will end up being and no we have no idea where we will put it, and yes once it is built it stays built forever.

We already had it started and I stated awwww we should have done a time lapse video of the assembly. The Husband agreed with the next puzzle we will do a time lapse. For the castle we have in-progress photos.

All together the puzzle took both of us working on it for close to 13 hours in order to complete it. The box states that it is for children 8 years and older. I do not know any 8 year olds that would be able to put this together without help. A few pieces were difficult, some tore and had to be glued. Also some steps are not 100 percent clear, and I feel like I am putting together Ikea furniture.

This is the small deceiving box that it came in.
When we opened up the poster base we quickly realized we underestimated its size. Yes it states the finished size on the box. They now have a display built at Costco. It also took them a week to put it together.
Two stacks of puzzle pieces marked with numbers.
Instruction Booklet is very daunting.
And so it begins…
Most important tip is using a toothpick to poke out the slots – front to back, sometimes the paper tore.
And sometimes just use tiny scissors. We then needed to glue this piece.
When putting on the bottom of the castle have one person holding it sideways to accurately pop it on, and use lots of light. No need to strain your eyes.
First half done – on to the Astronomy tower.
Worst piece ever, just fell apart. I think it was piece 58 in the second half.
Now that it is complete – this is all the leftovers.
Just realized it is so big I did not even get it all in the picture.

RickabaughReviews is in LOVE with how this puzzle turned out. It is so much more detailed than expected and incredibly affordable for what you get. This will be a very long lasting quality display piece.

Added bonus – our latest 3D print fun – fall decor vase filler.

They are sooooo tiny!!!
VASE FILLER WIN!!!

Adding Trees to the Rickabaugh Orchard

We stopped by Lowe’s in order to look for the tomato cages that we saw that they had online, which stated they were in store. We never found them, but we did find their newly stocked plant/tree section. We looked at the Rose of Sharons and they we $50.00 a piece. They are still on our list to purchase, but not this trip. Then we found 6 and 7 foot fruit trees for $24.98 a piece. So yes of course we purchased two different plum trees as well as two more different breeds of peach trees.

So our fruit tree count is now up to eleven. We have three raspberry starts, three blackberry starts, two grape vines, four strawberry bushes and six blueberry starts. Also we added 20 stalks of Asparagus this year. So of course we need to look into more veggies that you plant once and they come back every year. Reducing the need to seed save. Which I don’t mind, but less fuss is so much nicer.

I am worried about one of the blueberry bushes, it lost all of its leaves very early in the summer. We do have a great deal of beetles, aphids and squash bugs. I do know that the one apple tree did much better this year due to me collecting beetles and drowning them in soapy water, but I relaxed in my gathering of them because of other pressing matters in life. And we did notice that the one apple tree on the end has been stripped of the leaves from about the middle of the tree the whole way to the ground. I am sure it is the bugs that had previously been named.

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We have noticed that we are getting some more recent help with the extermination of some of the bothersome bugs. Below you can seen our recent pear tree guard. He or she is doing amazing! He or she by the way is completely alarmingly large. Close to three inches long from the tips of its back legs to the tips of its front legs. Get them bugs! Specifically please get the mosquitoes that leave quarter sized itchy welts all over me.

So putting in four new fruit trees took about three hours. We planted and watered. Put up posts and strung the support wires, all four of the support wires for this year. And then of course there was the much needed task of trimming the unwanted branches and training the remaining branches that get tied to the wires.

The first plum tree was extra hard for us to really get into the harsh trimming that espalier style requires. There are so very many beautiful little branches we want them all to survive. So the first tree took the longest. I also think that it also needed the most trimming out of the four trees. Closest to the berry patch we started with the plum trees and then worked our way up along the other fruit trees planted earlier in the spring, this way all three peach trees are in close proximity of each other.

You can see in the back row the Bing cherry tree which will have white flowers in the spring. It may look like it is not doing well but when purchased in February it was shipped bare root. No leaves, and not many branches at all and was the smallest of the trees. In the front row you can see the brand new to Rickabaugh Orchard, Santa Rosa Plum tree. The Santa Rosa Plum tree will also have white blooms in the spring. It is very interesting to see such different views of this plum. There are a few web pages/ orchard websites that will tell you that the Santa Rosa Plum is a self-pollinator. But on the back of the tag it states that cross-pollination with another plum variety is needed to produce quality fruit. Well because I would like it to produce fruit I wasn’t going to chance it and we also purchased the only other available plum at Lowes, a nice Methley Plum.

The Methley Plum also blooms white flowers as well in the spring. The nice part is that both of these plums have each other as good cross pollinators.

Next in the new row of fruit trees is the Early Elberta Peach. This peach tree is a self-pollinator as it states on the tag as well as on all the orchard websites that I have used to research if this is a good pick for our home. I have read that a great deal of self-pollinators do okay as fruit producers. I have also read that when a compatible tree, not necessarily the exact same breed of fruit tree is planted close by the trees produce larger and more plentiful amounts of fruit. Like the curl free peach tree which was planted in the spring and has light pink blooms, the Early Elbert Peach tree has dark pink and sometimes purple blooms in the spring.

The last new tree planted is a Hale Haven peach tree. Also a self-pollinator peach tree which does better close to other peach trees, it is planted closest to the road. This tree has light pink blooms in the spring time. We put this tree last in the line, this type of peach tree requires full sun and it will be getting the best sun out of all of the trees.

Here are photos of after trimming and tying of branches to the wires. It went pretty quick after the first tree, we felt more tired, done with the project, and more confident the trees would be perfectly fine.

Our very adorable Santa Rosa Plum tree planted and trimmed and beginning its new training of branch growth.

Our new little Methley Plum tree planted in the same row and trimmed and trained to the wires.

Very excited to show off our new Early Elberta Peach planted, trimmed and starting her training as well.

Lastly but not least of all the Hale Haven Peach tree planted, trimmed and on board with the branch training game.

RickabaughReviews is very nervous about all these new trees making it through their first winter here, but also approves of trees for the bees and trees for mother earth. oh yeah and finished T-Rex photos!

Berry Patch update

While some areas of the yard get worked on others go by the way side. I have been watering the berry patch but we have not done too much weeding of the berry patch. We have trimmed down out front and planted tulips and we have worked on the veggies, fruit trees and the pond.

The pond had so much algae in it that we could not see the fish at all. We tried one type of chemical for about a month and it did nothing. So very disappointing. We got a very expensive algae eater chemical and of course it worked right away. But along with the new chemical we also took out a good 6 inches of water from the pond. We watered all the veggies and fruits and we pulled out the water hyacinths, they are all dying. Which is very odd. We put them in two big barrels with the algae pond water and I have been watering the plants with that pond water for a few days. Then we scrubbed a bunch of rocks, rebuilt the waterfall and we scrubbed the top 6 inches of the whole top edge the pond liner. It all looks and runs much more smoothly. It has been a week since the all day pond face lift, but it was worth it. We can see the whole way to the bottom, every single rock. Today I added three of the water hyacinths back into the pond. If the pond scums up within the week we will know that we purchased some diseased plants this year.

I split up the one strawberry plant into three and so we now have a short little row of four strawberry plants. We propped up all of the asparagus, because it doesn’t like to stay standing up on its own and lays on top of the strawberry plants and is much bigger than I had anticipated. So we used a few garden wickets to hold them up straight. Now they are in two beautiful rows, one on either side of the strawberry row.

We planted a fall crop of sugar snap peas, which we now have 4 little sprouts so far. We harvested the spaghetti squash. We put up another wire to the three new fruit trees that we are growing Espalier style and tied a few branches down on two of the trees. And so we have been a tad busy and have let the new berry patch get a bit overgrown with weeds.

Today the Huz and I spent an hour weeding the berry patch. Everything in the berry patch is new this year so no berries this year but next year there should be a few. The last thing I want is to waste time and money on plants that die because of neglect. We are going to have to put up some stakes and wires just like the fruit trees, for the blackberries and the raspberries. Just not nearly as extensive thank goodness. But today was rip out the weeds that are trying to choke out the new berries.

In the before photos you can see that there is a great deal of luscious greenery growing.

And in the after photo you can see that the nice little designated areas for the berries to grow and that we already have some stakes out. We just need to put up some support wire. Also in the after photo you probably can not see all over the weeded area is covered in acorns. Which I am going to want to rake up and pile into the woods for the deer/ wildlife this winter.

We did do a time lapse of about 45 minutes of our full hour of weeding. Its a bit blurry but its so crazy to watch in a few short seconds a full hours worth of hard work pay off.

This fall we are planning to continue our chipping efforts of the leaves that fall in our yard and we will be putting down a nice big layer of chipped leaves over the berry patch as well as over the rest of the new fruit tree patch and the blueberry patch too. Free insulation as well as winter nutrient feeding and weed block/deterrent are the three main reasons for chipping the leaves. The other reason is because we have some very large trees with some very large leaves. And throughout the fall we could easy boast about a foot of leaves fall over every square inch of our yard. Or as the huz likes to say “its an insane amount of leaves”

I am very excited to start having the new fruit areas all have a nice bed of fine healthy mulch. I am also very excited because i am going to be able to use the compost in my little compost bin this year as well. I have done so much direct composting right into the raised garden beds because they have fencing around them and animals don’t get into them, that I have not put nearly as much kitchen scraps into the little compost bin as I used to.

RickabaughReviews approves of weeding reluctantly and greatly approves of updates on the 3D printed T-rex!

Trying to save the Bees

Yes I am very allergic to basically the outdoors. They would include trees, grass, flowers/pollen. And living in America in 2020 amid Covid-19 I really have seen how selfish humans can be. I have been greatly disappointed. I am no longer rooting for humans, I am now on team planet earth. With my allergies in mind knowing that I am going to make them worse by adding flowers to the yard, back in mid July I had purchased 4 bags of Gladioli from Big Lots. They were 50% off. Each bag had 10 bulbs, even if only 2 grow from each bag its such a great deal!

I moved some flowers from in front of the shed to the edge of the woods. Hopefully in the spring they will bloom along with the orange day lilies and it will be very colorful at the edge of the woods.

I also took out a lot of over grown weeds from in front of the shed and added 40 Gladioli bulbs. It is late August and a bunch of them have sprouted. They probably will not bloom this year and I will cut them down in the fall and cover the area with mulched leaves to protect everything over the winter. But next year I am ready for some really big color.

The bees love colorful flowers. I have caught them all summer in the spaghetti squash flowers. Even if we were not so successful this year with our squash harvest I would still have planted squash seeds next year, just for the bees. Every morning when watering I would find bees in the big blooms. Bumble bees and honey bees. One morning I found two honey bee butts per flower on the one plant that had five flowers on it. Bee butts in flowers first thing in the morning will make any gardener smile. Our honey bees have not survived but we are hoping that others do.

Last fall I purchased 6 Mums of differing colors and planted them in the space where a very large Pine tree had been taken down. I had read that they will survive our climate if they are planted in the ground. They are most famous in our area in pots for the fall beauty and then usually die. I also read that they will bloom in the spring when planted in the ground but to keep them from blooming in the spring you are supposed to trim the new growth off of them. This will then force them to regrow more tips and then the buds will bloom around the fall season instead. We have plenty of spring flowers for the bees so I was looking for some later colorful flowers in the fall to give the local bees the best boost before winter. I can tell you first hand this worked like magic! Not only that but they all doubled in size and one grew easily 4 times the size it was last year when I planted them.

The husband and I greatly love a lot of color. One flower that has a multitude of bright bold color options are tulips. When we moved in there have been a few amount of tulips every spring. There are about 5 big red tulips out front and one very pretty tulip that blooms out back. Tulips like Gladioli can be purchased easily in their bulb state. I like to purchase bulbs because they come back every year. Yes we just purchased two bags of tulip bulbs that will bloom in the spring. Each bag had 50 tulip bulbs. Each bag cost only $13 so for twenty six dollars 100 bulbs is such a good price. Costco had so many beautiful color choices it was very hard to pick just two bags. We didn’t need to go over board so we stuck with just two. We currently have a great deal of purple early in the spring and then a few red and pink rose bushes that bloom all summer long. What really helped narrow down our choices was the information found on the packaging.

Notice in the upper left hand corner it says blooms early spring. Also we love the double petal look and liked the orange and yellow for in the spring to mix with the blue bells and the purple spotted iris’ that are planted every where.

This mix of late spring blooms has some purples in it but also look at those pretty pinks and of course the double petal look really grabbed our full attention.

Last night we talked about where we would plant the tulips and how we would plant one early and one late close by each other in all the different flower beds. This morning when planting 100 bulbs I figured the colors would not be labeled at all so it would be up to sheer dumb luck at what color showed up where in the spring. This was true for the early spring mix pack. But to my surprise the late spring blooming pack was separated into one bag of purple and one bag of pinks. So when popping the bulbs in the ground it was a great deal more fun being able to alternate and know that these at least are spread out evenly through out the flower beds.

The neighbors rave about how pretty our place is with all the flowers that bloom spring, summer and fall. I had mentioned to the neighbors across the street how we wanted to add tulips and a wishing well to one of the flower beds and they were so excited. I asked why they were so excited and they said they love the wishing well and tulips idea and that if we put them out front they get to look out their front windows and enjoy them as well. I can hardly wait to hear and see all the neighbors just in love with the explosion of tulips in the spring.

RickabaughReviews approves of Costco as well as tulips in the spring for all the little bee butts out there.

Expanding the Yard

In previous posts I have described how the flower bed along the fence line is too deep to comfortably weed. Today I worked on reducing the depth of the flowerbed and expanding the “yard” or grass space.

The plants are two and three rows deep.

I really do not not like stepping in between the plants to weed or trim them. I know that snakes like this area as well as the wolf spiders, so a rogue blade of grass gently touching my leg in the breeze sends me back into the house, weeding done. This area is never taken care of very well.

We want to plant some Rose of Sharon along this fence line, but I insisted that we reduce the depth first so that I can properly take care of the bushes that we get. It is the back half of August and this area is in mostly shade so not too hot to grow grass.

I am looking to basically push back or transplant out the whole front row of plants.

The first step was to dig out a few of the grasses that are in the front row. I transplanted these to the woods.

I dug out two sections of clumping grasses.

One section of clumping grasses was growing in front of some very tall grasses that will stay and the other section was growing in front of the large elephant ear.

I then took a garden rake, which is different then a yard rake, and I raked the mulch back towards the fence in between the plants in the back row. In doing this it exposed the “dirt” or clay below.

Considering the ground is mostly clay we will see how well the grass seed takes to the new grass growing area. We have purchased a shade mix of seed which we will be using more of out front and then we have a grass seed for mostly shady which is what I will use on this area. There is a large maple tree about 10 feet from the fence and it has gotten huge, casting a large amount of shade over the entire side yard. One reason why our garden boxes of veggies do not do as nearly as well as all the neighbors who have their garden boxes in full sun. The previous owners had put in the garden boxes and we didn’t move them.

As you can see I put down grass seed.

I then used the rain barrel water to give it a bit of water right before sunset. It was very nice that there was a light rain the next morning. Just enough to encourage growth not enough to wash it all away.

RickabaughReviews approves of making yard work less of a chore, mow it, don’t weed it.

Unconventional Baby Shower gifts

My cousin is having a baby!!!  It is their first!!!  So very excited.  With having a baby shower during the covid 19 restrictions there are definite reservations of why I am liking the baby registries even more.  Because I have not been able to switch my working to online as many others have been able to and working in the trucking industry I do not want to be any kind of a carrier to anyone who would attend, even more so to the momma to be, so we are, sending a box of helpers (baby gifts) right to the house.

I was able to see all of the wonderful items that they wanted and there are plenty of family and friends who want to spoil the first grandchild on both sides of the family.  I searched both registries over very well.  I personally like to get practical gifts, knowing that they will be useful and money well spent.

We went out and looked over an overwhelming amount of baby gear.  A few things that were not on their registries stuck out at me.  Baby sitting for 20+ years I found a few great items to have on hand all the time, were not on the list.

First and most important I have always found not just for myself but also for the tots who are ride alongs are SNACKS!!!

They are having a girl so we found some fabulous snack containers with pink and purple trim.  We have been using this brand for quite a few years and they have stood up very well to use every single day.

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Along with each item I like to write a cute note of how the item has been helpful to me and the tots I have watched.  Everyone should always have a snack in their purse.

Next on the list is something I wish I would have seen 10 years ago.  There are so many cars and minivans that could use this product especially with leather seats that dent and tear so easily.  Children are not the most gentle or graceful of humans.  I know my cousin loves automobiles and cares a great deal for his vehicles.  I though getting a box of surprises focused on his mastering the parent part of life would be wonderful.

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The trick to surviving kids is – always being prepared.  This is why you should always have a stash of wipes in that netting that is attached to the back of the front seat.  What is even better is the travel capability and always being able to refill the container with whichever brand works best with your child’s skin if it be the cheap brand, the expensive brand, or even the home made kind. I picked out the manliest of the patterns.

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Along side those wipes should be a toy – a quiet toy – Hard books are less likely to have pages tear out from accidental rough play. You never know when your going to have to pull a book out for entertainment at an unexpected moment. Lots of bold colors with beautiful pictures that capture their attention is really great for at weddings, funerals, or religious services.  It is not always about reading all the words perfectly, sometimes its about the message.  This was one of my favorite books when I was watching wee little tikes full time.  It may have a big blue truck on the front and look like it would be a book for a boy.  Now a days girls drive trucks just as much as boys.  Also this book is much more about how to treat others all the time and how to be friendly to even those who are not always nice to you.  I insisted on getting the book with out the husband ever reading it. He really trusts my judgement. When we got home I was so excited to read it to him and when I did, he also fell in love with it.

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It really wasn’t too hard of a sell.  We both love books.  The new momma is a teacher so we know she loves books too.  A nice little note on the inside of the cover lasts a very long time and helps to remind all who read it that this new baby is loved so much more by so many more than just Mom and Dad.

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You can never have too many socks, they are so tiny and they disappear like magic.  Also how do those babies even get them off constantly while sleeping half the time?  Putting the car seat into the car after hitting three stores because its your day to run errands you know you put two on before you left the house, but there is only one now.  Are you going back to all the locations to find your one sock? NO! After all the sleep deprivation you will quickly learn matching socks do not matter.  And 99% of adults will completely understand.  They have been there.  How do you think mismatched socks got popular for kids in the first place? They sell them in odd numbers with not even one sock matching another sock at the stores.

Always have a spare pair of socks shoved right next to those wipes in every car your tot rides in.

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What better way to keep track of the socks when they go into the washer or dryer? I never know if any one has one of these types of bags. Probably because mesh laundry bags don’t come up in everyday conversation a whole lot. Worse case scenario now they have two, one for adults and one for baby. Which might be good because I know a lot of people who have children who have sensitive skin and so they have two kinds of laundry detergent.

Along the line of cleaning, we found this really great cleaning tool kit for bottles and sippy cups. We do all of our dishes every day and we do not even have kids and I know how food and liquids get gross and stuck everywhere. Hopefully this will make it easier.

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The last two little items in the baby box go together as well. Safety first is my every day motto. So when I was looking at all of the safety devices offered to keep kids safe as they are new and exploring I tried to remember what the inside of their home looked like. I noticed that offered were many different kinds of corner bumpers, but I liked the clear the best, least noticeable.

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Of course there are going to be boo boos along they way of growing up. learning to walk has got to be crazy hard that’s why we do it when we are so little less of a distance to fall and we are spongy and bounce back easy and its really nice we don’t remember falling 35 times in 3 hours every day for months.

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Finally!! Well that took forever to finish. Word press changed the editing formatting in the middle of my post. Also it says somewhere that I can choose classic style editing. That’s a fat lie as well.

RickabaughReviews HATES the block style editing. No help ever can be found. you can’t just insert a photo. But they will just take your money and not help with things when you ask.

Learning to bake bread

Sour dough bread can be daunting. I have found it to be easy after a few tries, once you get down the basics.

My homestead role-model, sister-in-law, recently gave me some sourdough starter.  I have never really been a bread baker.  I usually work from a box where you add an egg and or some oil and water stir, pour, and bake – boom – brownies.  But my sister believed in me and was very encouraging.  It was also very helpful that she walked me through it at her house.  But hands down the best was that she let me take photos of the steps and she also made a whole Pintrest board for me of bread baking and other fun gardening tips.

Key point with sourdough is that you feed it, like a small monster that you keep in a jar in your fridge. I do try to feed my starter once a week.  I also try to bake about once a week.  Our neighbors just recently took in two small nieces who needed a home.  So their family went from their happy four to a very busy loving family of six. So I have started baking bread a bit more frequently, and pass a few loaves across the street. Honestly I am doing something baking related every day.  If I am not scrubbing the loaf pans,  I am feeding the starter.  Today I took an hour to mix up two types of bread to let rise all night long.  Tomorrow I will bake the bread. Then the process starts all over again.  Its great fun to make and to give away.

I prepared two types of bread this evening.  A sweet gingerbread and a cheesy herb bread.  I use the same amount as my recipe says for one loaf of bread, but it makes about two nice sized loaves for us. The basic sourdough recipe that my husband found for me is very easy to manipulate in order to try different types or to make smaller or several loaves as needed.

Step 1 is always to clear and scrub down the counter.

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I am planning on sharing some of the bread tomorrow so I got out my regular loaf baking dish for the herb and cheese bread, and two mini loaf baking dishes for the sweet breads.

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I have tried to use Parchment paper to bake bread but it just hasn’t baked as fluffy as when I let it rise in the baking dish for 12 to 20 hours and then bake it.  I spray my baking dishes with generic baking spray for now.  Once I run out of the baking spray i might just grease the pans using my coconut oil.  I am working on taking the original recipe and only altering one tiny thing at a time. I do not want to mess up the bread.

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Next I mix up my starter and then I scoop out 3/4 cups of starter and added 1 1/4 cups of warm water.

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The recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour, I have found I use around 5 cups.

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So I start to add flour and stir.  And stir and stir and stir in some more flour.  Until its a bit thicker.  My sister-in-law uses a Kitchen Aid mixer.  And while it mixes up the dough she works on other things.  I use a fork because I am cheap, we do not have a Kitchen Aid mixer and we also do not have kids that make us multitask every moment of every second.

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I scooped out a cup of the mix and put it in my other mixing bowl. The sweet bread mix then gets a pinch of salt and a big scoop of brown sugar.

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Then two dashes of gingerbread spice.  Also I prep the counter with a small handful of flour.

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This is the gingerbread spice that I use.

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When all mixed together it smells nice.

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I then added flour and stirred until it was dough.

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With flour on the counter, kneading the dough is not hard to do.  There are the chef’s and bakers on TV that will show you a special way to do it.  No one is watching you and the bread doesn’t know any better if you do it perfect or not.  Basically I squish the dough around on the counter until it doesn’t really stick to the counter anymore.  I need you to know that kneading is only difficult if you make it difficult.

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I divided the ball of far less sticky sweet sourdough bread into two and popped them into the two mini loaf pans.

Next I move on to the original mix, the herb and cheese bread. I added 1 dried sage leaf from my garden.  Crushed up a lot, but shown here it is whole.

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A little bit of garlic salt mix, takes care of the salt part as well as the dried garlic.  I have done this type of bread before and I have used measuring spoons.  But this is also a very accurate way of measuring.

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We use a lot of oregano in our house, it is one of the favorites of the spouse.

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My dried Rosemary leaves are much larger than what is shown here.  I enjoy the flavor of rosemary but not a whole lot so I crush up the rosemary leaves.

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And now it is time for the cheese!  Yes in the bowl if you look closely is about 1/3 of a cup of grated Parmesan and Romano.  As well as about 3/4 of a cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  These cheeses are the types we have on hand the most and that is why they go in the mix.

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This is a picture of the very sticky dough.  Too tough to mix with a fork any more but too sticky to let it rise so onto the floured countertop for some kneading.

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In their dishes.  I will cover with a dish towel and let them rise for 12 to 20 hours.  I will not take them out to knead them a second time for them to rise again.  I do not have time for that.  I let them rise a lot and then bake them.  I have found the more they rise the softer and fluffier the bread.  The first time I made bread I only let it rise 6 hours. It was a very dense bread. I have found I make the dough one day, and the next day I bake.

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This was a 12 hour rise time.  What I like to look for are the holes in the dough through the sides of the glass dish – this way I know it will be lighter and fluffy.

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I forgot to take a photo of the baked bread before it mostly got eaten.

So instead I will leave you with a photo of the t-rex head and teeth that the husband is in the process of 3D printing.

RickabaughReviews approves of preservative free bread and also dinosaurs.

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Masks – to wear or not to wear

My husband and I have grocery shopped at Giant for over 10 years.  I have been grocery shopping at Giant before I met my husband, so probably around 20 years.  We have recently decided to not shop at Giant any more.  It has nothing to do with their coupon policy or their bonus card or even their gas rewards points that we have used and loved a great deal.

It has to do with their mask policy.  They have had signs up for six months stating that you must wear a mask while inside the store.  We wear a mask and do not have a problem with this policy, it is for the greater good of humanity.  We didn’t really have a huge problem with people not wearing masks, so long as they keep their distance.  Well they are not keeping their distance any more.  Not only that but the last time we shopped at Giant there were less people wearing masks than people who were not wearing them.  But what was very disappointing was a family who came in to shop. None of them wearing masks, but the adult male was open carrying a gun.  Which basically says to anyone who approaches him, if you tell me to put on a mask or tell me to leave, I will shoot you.

When my husband wrote to two corporate positions at Giant with concern of the fake mask policy because no one is enforcing the health and safety guidelines no response was given, neither positive, negative or even acknowledgement.

Unfortunately for Giant this has put such a bitter taste on where we feel safe to grocery shop that we are now rearranging our normal shopping habits.  We are now looking elsewhere to invest our hard earned money.  We are making a few furniture changes where we can get a small deep freezer.  In hopes that we are able to shop more bulk items at Costco which in turn will save us more money.  In addition Costco has taken the highly contractible and deadly covid-19 pandemic seriously, instead of as a political whimsy, which makes us even more secure in shopping at their facility.

RickabaughReviews approves of basic health and safety guidelines.

Air conditioning hack!

Yes, the central air unit went out again.  And no – no one has an a/c window unit for sale.  The first thing I did was get the air mattresses back out and sleep in the basement.  Is it comfortable? Certainly not, but I have to go to work every day so sleep is what I need.

It was over 90 degrees in the upstairs of the house, where the bedrooms and office are located.  I remember seeing somewhere on line probably about 10 years ago now, how to cool down on a budget.

Start with a Styrofoam cooler, we found some in the attic.

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Then I used a drywall knife.  You can use any serrated knife. I cut a hole in the side, but closer to to the top half of the box. It does not have to be perfectly circular to work.  Do not stress over this part of the project.

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I added some freezer packs to help keep the ice colder for as long as possible.

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I then added ice.  We used what the ice maker in the freezer made, plus some from the ice cube trays that I put in the other freezer previously.

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I used a few pallet boards to balance the fan face down onto the ice and turned the fan on low.  The fan pushes air over the ice. Cooling the air. The cooler air then escapes out the easiest route, the hole that you cut in the side of the cooler.

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The air that comes out of the box is not freezing, but it is much nicer than 90 degrees.

Because I used ice which melts it is very important that the hole that is cut into the box is not closer to the bottom. You don’t want water slowly leaking all over the floor.  In the morning I used the melted ice to water the plants.  This is not intended to be the fix all for air-conditioning.  It did help out until the new fan was put into the central air unit.

RickabaughReviews loves air-conditioning and the neighbor who fixes it for us.