All posts by ruthsoaper

The Post I Wasn’t Going To Write

I had decided not to write a post about New Years resolutions.  I am not one of the seemingly few people who can use the new calendar year to determine to become a better person, then persevere through whatever life may throw at them to bring about those positive changes. If you are that type of person I have great admiration for you, but I simply don’t make New Years resolutions.

I have also read many good blog posts about making resolutions, keeping resolutions, or setting goals for the year rather than making resolutions. I didn’t think there was anything left for me to say on the topic.

It seems, as is often the case when I decide that I’m not going to do something (in this case make a resolution) God has other plans. He occasionally likes to remind me that He is control of my life, so when I say “I’m not going to…” He slaps me upside the head and says “You better…”

My most recent slap upside the head came on Wednesday/Thursday of this past week. When I turned on my computer Wednesday morning it was doing an automatic update “installing update 1 of 3” it said. So I waited and waited and waited while it went through the process including shutting down at one point and restarting and finally it said that the updates were installed. At this point when I attempted to use my computer all I got was a message that said “the system is not responding”. After clicking around a bit attempting to bring my computer back to life and only seeing the same message I told my husband of my dilemma.

My husband sat down at my computer and knowing a bit more about computers than I do he was able to get into a screen that had restore options on it. He attempted a couple of different options but had no success. He then asked if I had my documents and pictures backed up so I wouldn’t lose them if he ran a full system restore. All of my pictures were still on memory cards so they would be safe, but I had not developed the habit of backing up my documents. Most of what I had stored were product labels and I had hard copies so I would be able to recreate anything I lost. While I told him it was ok to attempt the full system restore, he decided instead to take it to a repair shop to see if they could repair it and save my work.

It wasn’t until midday on Thursday that he received a call from the repair shop. They would be able to get my computer running again. It would cost around $120 and would be done by the end of the day. They would also be able to recover my documents – that would cost an additional $100 and would take an extra day or two.

I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would have to remake all of my documents. Admittedly it was my own fault for not backing them up in an alternative location, so I was not willing to spend the extra $100 to have them recovered.

This is not the first time that I have heard of this happening, in fact in the last couple months I have read more than one blog (horror) story of people’s hard work being lost forever when their computer crashes and they had neglected to back up their work. I, unfortunately, did not heed their warning. I will now spend many hours recreating documents, but as I do I have made a resolution to back up each item I make.



  • 1A firm decision to do or not to do something.


My reason for writing this, however, was not to announce my New Years resolution, but to remind you of the importance of backing up your photos and documents. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, I highly recommend that you begin, lest you too get slapped upside the head.

Pizza, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake and a History Lesson

What do you call triple chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting?


That’s what we celebrated yesterday… My Birthday.

When my husband asked me, on Wednesday night, what I wanted to do for my birthday, Friday, I had an idea. If we waited until Saturday to celebrate, we could go  to Stahl’s Museum, then come back home and have pizza and cake.  We could make it a party by inviting friends and family to join us.

My husband wasn’t quite sure what I was talking about since he had not heard of Stahl’s Museum. A couple years back my sister had told me about this local museum that her and her husband had visited and really enjoyed. Since then I have also heard about this fascinating place from another one of my sisters and my dad, but we had yet to visit.

Stahl’s Museum boasts a collection of antique automobiles and music machines. It is free to visit but has a donation box for those who would like to contribute. It is run solely by volunteers and is only open for a few hours on Tuesday afternoons and the first Saturday of each month, so scheduling a visit takes a little planning. A great advantage for us is that it is a little more than 10 miles from our home, only about a fifteen minute drive.

I took lots of pictures, but I highly recommend that you check out their website. If you click on the navigation menu at the top of the page you can view photos of their different collections and take virtual tours of the automobile room as well as the music room. For readers who will never venture to our part of the world, the Stahl’s website is the best option to see their magnificent collection, but for anyone who lives in the area or travels within a couple hours drive I would recommend planning a visit to the museum. IMG_3616

If you visit the museum you be awed by the sounds of these fantastical music machines and stand in wonder as you watch them play.


You will also notice interesting details of the various displays.


Like the matching luggage in the Volkswagen Van


or this small windshield mounted on the steering wheel on some of the cars,


or the extra fuel containers that this vehicle carries. One can is for gasoline, the second is for kerosene that was used to power the lights, and there is a third on the other side that is labeled oil.

The volunteers who were scattered throughout the museum were well educated about the displays and more than happy to share their knowledge and answer any questions.


You will also marvel at the collection of antique signage that is displayed throughout. While it wasn’t my intended target, check out the red “Burma Shave” signs on the wall in the above photo. If you can’t read them, they say – “Angels” “Who Guard You” “When You Drive” “Usually”  “Retire At 65” “Burma Shave”. When I pointed these signs out to my husband he told me that Burma Shave company would set these signs up sequentially along the roadside apparently for entertainment as well as advertising. Being curious about this I did an internet search and found this information to be quite amusing.


While most of the vehicles, understandably, have “Do Not Touch” signs, there are a few that invite visitors to climb aboard and snap a photo. Our Grandson Jackson was ready to drive the fire truck.

Do you recognize the honorary Blues Brother?

You can also preform with Jake and Elwood outside the Big Boy Restaurant.

IMG_3637Our visit to the museum was much enjoyed by everyone in our party which included our friends J&G and Tina and Ken with our two grandbabies. As we were leaving the volunteers encouraged us to visit again and bring friends. I am certain that we will return, and we have already identified friends or family members (our other daughters) who “need” to see this. We learned that while the museum has been open for six years it still seems to be the best kept secret in our community, so in publishing this post I hope I am doing my part to get the word out, and I encourage you, especially local readers, to share this information as well as plan a visit.

After leaving the museum we picked up pizza and all returned to our house where we visited with J&G and Tina and Ken and enjoyed our grandbabies. Eating pizza is always good and not having to cook on my birthday is a great gift, but enjoying the company of  great friends and family is the best gift I received.

and yes, the cake was chocolate-chocolate-chocolate-chocolate-fudge. YUM! 🙂


My Biggest Accomplishment Of 2017

I have been tempted to write about this project several times over the past few months but I wanted to wait until it was finished. It all started back in February 2017 when I received a phone call from my sister, K.C.. She told me that she had been talking to a friend, I’ll call her G, and G told her that she wanted to find someone to make her a crocheted tablecloth. K.C. had told G that I crochet. She wasn’t sure that I would/could crochet a tablecloth or if I would have the time since Spring was just around the corner. “I gave G your phone number, she will be calling you,” K.C. told me.

Well that was something to think about. My past crochet projects have pretty much been done with some of the basic stitches and are small projects that can be completed in a few days to few weeks, slippers, washcloths, hats, baby afghans and such, although lately I had been trying new things, learning new stitches and increasing my skills.  I have always admired crocheted doilies and have several that were made by my mother and my husbands grandmother. They are made with fine crochet cotton and delicate yet complex stitch combinations to create a beautiful motif. Never had I considered making one. Crocheting a tablecloth would be like crocheting a doily only much bigger. I wondered if I could do this.

I didn’t have long to think about it because the next day G called me. She told me she wanted a table cloth, her table was round and measured 48 inches across, she didn’t have a pattern. She was a knitter but when she tried to knit one she discovered that it was more complicated than she thought. I explained that I had never done anything like that before, but I was willing to try. I really didn’t know how long it would take or how much time I could put into it because things get busy on the farm in spring and summer. She said there was no hurry, so we agreed to both look for a pattern that she liked and would fit her table. After a week or so of searching online for crochet tablecloth patterns and emailing back and forth we decided on this pineapple pattern. She was a bit concerned because she wanted the tablecloth to measure 48 inches while this pattern made a 54 inch tablecloth. I told her that I could adjust the pattern to fit by leaving out some of the rows on the edging. That should be easy enough … I thought.

My next step was to obtain the materials I needed. I have all of my Mom’s old crochet hooks so I was certain that I had the right size hook but when I checked the pattern for the type of thread used I discovered that J.P. Coats Luster Sheen is no longer made. Although I searched I couldn’t really find any answers as to what would be comparable and I had no idea how much was in one ball. So I was own my own to decide what to use and prayerfully guestimate how much I would need.

This is the size of the spool I started with compared to how much was left when I finished and the crochet hook I used.

I selected this large roll of Aunt Lydia’s size 10 merchandized cotton. While I was certain that this was a finer thread than what the pattern called for, I liked the length that it was available in (2730 YD/2495 M). Longer thread meant less joins in the tablecloth and with something this thin joins would be difficult to conceal. Since the thread was finer than what was called for I also went with a smaller hook 1.25mm. Yes, believe it or not, there is a hook on the end of that little metal stick.

It was sometime in early March before I actually sat down and got started. In the beginning rounds I struggled to get the stitches tight and even, I crocheted 6 or 8 rounds then ripped it out and started over. I did this several times. Eventually I moved on. I also struggled a lot in the beginning with my eyesight. I was not used to focusing on anything so small, and in reality throughout the whole process I rarely saw the actual hook. It was more of getting a feel for it and realizing that if I didn’t pick up the string on the hook, I was holding the hook backwards and needed to turn it around and try again.

Progress By May 9

With relatively few exceptions, I worked on this project for an hour or two each day usually in the evening but some days I would work on it for an hour or so after lunch as well. It was shortly after I had started it that our power was out  for a couple of days, and I wasn’t able to work on the tablecloth at all because even in the daylight hours I needed supplemental light to work on this project.

There was, what I consider, another major flaw in this pattern. Most crochet patterns that I have used have a stitch count at the end of each row. When a row is complete it is prudent to stop crocheting and count all of the stitches in the row that was just finished. This way the one knows they are on track and won’t discover after completing the next row, or two, or three, that they have made a mistake. As you can imagine it is much easier to go back only into that row to correct errors than to take out and redo two or more rows. This pattern did not have stitch counts listed and there were several times throughout the process that I would come to a point and find that my previous row was wrong, thus I would have to pull out all of the work I had done after making the error in order to correct my mistake. The worst time was when I discovered the error was three rows back. I wanted to cry, but working with wet crochet cotton would only make things more difficult. I truly learned to the importance of stitch counts being listed on the patterns.

As the tablecloth grew my husband determined that it looked like a spider web. He began calling me Charlotte in reference to the book Charlotte’s Web. Each evening, when he would see me crocheting, he would ask “How’s your web coming Charlotte?” My reply “good” or “slow” or “it’s coming” was usually accompanied by a chuckle and sometimes I would hold up the tablecloth to show him my progress.

I was lucky that my own dinning room table was the same size as the table I was making this for, so occasionally I would place it on my table for a fitting. I would usually snap a photo and email it to G to show her how it was progressing. She was patiently waiting and at one time I told her if she decided to find something else I would certainly understand. By this time I had decided if for any reason she didn’t want it I would be happy to keep it for myself. G assured me that she wanted this tablecloth and would be happy to wait as long as it took.

After completing the second round of pineapple’s I put the tablecloth on my table and it was obvious that I would need to add some rounds (that were not in the pattern) in order to make the tablecloth big enough. My initial thought was to add another round of pineapples, but after studying the pattern I could not figure it out. Rather than give myself a major headache and perhaps end up in tears over it I decided that I could add as many rounds of loops as needed to the area outside of the pineapples. I did end up adding several rows of loops.

October 24

I also ended up adding several rows of border. I was concerned that it would look weird that the border did not line up with the edge of the table, but I actually like the way it turned out. I could have continued adding border rows so it would be longer but this the size that G wanted. Although I was enjoying making it, I also really wanted to finish it. The larger it got the longer it took to complete a round. With the boarder rounds it was taking me three evenings of crocheting to complete one round.

Finished December 23, 2017

On December 23 shortly after 2:00 P.M. I crocheted the final stitch and wove in the ends. I was elated. I really I don’t know if I can tell you how good it felt to have this project completed. After putting it on my table and taking some pictures and showing my husband, who was more than impressed, I called G. She wasn’t home at the time and I had to wait until the following day to deliver it. She was very pleased with the results as well.

After it was all done I couldn’t help but do some calculating. I had 20 yards of thread left on the spool so I had used 2710 yards. Using an online conversion site I learned that 2710 yard = 1.539773 or just over 1.5 miles or for those outside of the U.S. 2.478024 Kilometers. Which doesn’t seem far when you are driving or even walking but it becomes a heck of a long way when you are getting there 1.25 mm at a time. While I didn’t punch a time clock my estimated time based on 2 an average of two hours a day for 10 months is 600 hours. Even subtracting an approximated 30 days that I didn’t work on it I would have well over 500 hundred hours into it.

I have to say that it was a great learning experience, and I am so pleased that I took on and successfully completed this challenge. Then the question arises – will I do another one? I learned a long time ago never to say never, but I have no plans to make another one anytime soon. I do feel, however, that finishing this tablecloth before the end of 2017 has prepared me to take on the challenges of 2018.

I wish all of you reading this a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. God Bless!



A Homemade Christmas

As I mentioned in my Pre-Christmas post I had many projects in the works, so today I’m going to tell you about the Christmas gifts I made for my family this year.

My first thoughts were about what to give to my grandbabies Jackson who is 18 months and Adeline who is about 6 weeks. A few weeks ago I had asked my daughter what they needed for the baby. The one thing she mentioned that they didn’t have was a car seat canopy or tent. I’m not sure how much of a need this is because they were making do with a blanket thrown over the handle of the car seat to cover the baby when she was out in the cold. The design of the car seat canopy that attached to the handle would certainly be more convenient. So I decided to make one.

Crochet is usually my medium of choice but since my crochet time was being taken up by another major project that I was working on (I will write about it soon) there just wasn’t time to crochet anything more. While sewing is not something I am really skilled at, every once in a while I get out my sewing machine and pretend that I know what I am doing. This project would be my “once in a while” for the year.

I searched the internet for car seat canopy ideas and tutorials and found many. Then I combined some of the ideas I found and came up with my own design. One thing I have learned from my sister, who is very talented at sewing, is that flannel and fleece are “very forgiving” fabrics to work with. I am thankful for this because if there is a “sewing sin” I will undoubtedly commit it. I selected flannel for this project.

I decided to make it a patchwork blanket, but since I knew that finishing the edges would be a nightmare for me, I decided to use the rag blanket technique. Rather than having finished seams, I could sew the edges together then clip the edges so they would become frayed and fluff up after washing.

I selected four flannel fabrics, placing priority on finding one with a lady bug design. I wanted lady bugs because “Lady Bug” is the nickname that her parents have given Adeline. I think this nickname came by default, as they call her older brother “Bug”, none-the-less Lady Bug is a cute nickname.

The following photos are the end result, although another trip though the washer and dryer will make the edges fluff up and hide any stitching that is still visible.


Designing the straps and the placement of them was mostly done with a prayerful guess since I didn’t have a car seat do to a fitting.


This is the back side since the straps are attached to the other side.

IMG_3561On Christmas Day I found out that my Prayers were answered. It FIT!!! 🙂

Jackson’s gift was next and just what do you make for an 18 month old who appears to have everything? Well I spotted a bag of poly-fil in my craft room and decided to make him a fleece pillow. For this project I decide to forego the sewing and make a tie pillow.


At this point Jackson could use it as a full body pillow, but I am sure it won’t be long before he grows into it


and do boys ever outgrow puppies?

Lastly I needed to come up with an idea of something to make for my daughters. I already had plans to bake banana bread for each of them, give them each a jar of homemade strawberry jam, and a soap and balm gift set,  but I wanted to add a little something more. I was thinking about tote bags or market bags but knew I would not have time to crochet them.  I was searching the internet for ideas and I came across this tutorial for t-shirt bags. Quick, easy, practical, this was perfect. I first took one of my old t-shirts that I had used for painting several times in the past and made a sample. I loved the outcome so I stopped by the Salvation Army Thrift Store to see if I could find t-shirts designs that my daughters would like.


Success! Clockwise from top left – I picked the Disney shirt for Hanna, who even as an adult loves all things Disney; the Spartans shirt is for Lindell who is a Michigan State fan; I bought the fish shirt for Tina, who always enjoys visiting Aquariums; and the House of Blues shirt is perfect for Kara, who is my musician.

In the photo below Kara and Lindell are displaying their bags after opening their gifts on Christmas Day.


Incidentally after seeing me make these for the girls my husband asked if I would make him one, since we often pack up a bag of stuff to take along to the farm. “I’ll give you an old t-shirt,” he offered. One of the things we like about the t-shirt bags over the canvass bags that we use is that the t-shirt bags will wash nicely in the washing machine and dryer, whereas the canvass bags seem to shrink a little more with every washing.  I suspect I will be making more of these in the future.

So this is the results of my crafting marathon which took place December 20- 23rd 2017 and left me with  December 24th to do some holiday baking 🙂

Be sure to watch for my next post – My Biggest Accomplishment of 2017.




Our Christmas Tree

For the second year in a row we decided to cut our own Christmas tree. Last year, and again this year, we cut spruce trees from the farm. When we purchased the farm in 2011 there were many deciduous trees growing on the property but there were absolutely no evergreens. The following spring we placed an order with our local conservation district spring tree sale and amongst the things we ordered were 50 spruce trees, 25 Blue Spruce and 25 Norway Spruce. When the 12-15 inch seedlings arrived we had no idea where we were going to plant them, so we made a nursery area for them within our fenced garden area where they were well tended through the summer. It was a hot and dry summer, and the garden required much watering. It was the summer before we had the pond or the windmill so we carted many barrels of water in the back of the truck, from our house to the farm, in order to keep our garden alive. Having these seedlings in the garden area, where it was convenient to water them, proved to be a blessing and allowed them to flourish. By the fall of that year we were ready to plant them in their permanent places. We decided to line the North and East sides of the back field with some of them, as they would eventually provide privacy and wind breaks.

Over the last five years these trees have received much TLC, they have been fenced during the winters to protect them from the deer, they have been weeded and mulched, and during the droughts of summer we have driven the truck around the outskirts of the field delivering water to each of these trees in attempts to keep them alive. Not all of the trees have survived, but most have with some doing better than others.

We have continued to order Norway Spruce and Blue Spruce seedlings each spring and place them in a temporary nursery area until we decided where we want to plant them. Some of them have replaced spruce trees that we lost, we use some to replace dead Ash and Elm trees that we cut down, and we will also replace the trees that we cut for Christmas trees.

Spruce Trees Line The East Side Of Our Field

It was about 10 days before Christmas, and we had gotten our first decent snow fall, when we went out to cut our tree. My husband and I walked the path along the East and North of the property and examined each tree before we decided which one to cut.


Scout and Trooper were happy to be with us.


We selected this Norway Spruce. We didn’t measure it but I’m sure it was close to 5 feet tall. It took my husband less than a minute to saw through the trunk.


As we walked back from the field we spotted this hen who had made her way through the snow out to the field. We were really surprised to see her there because chickens do not like to walk in snow. My husband picked her up and we gave her a lift back to the coop.


We opted not to trim the longer, upper branches to achieve the “prefect” Christmas Tree shape, but left the tree in it’s natural God-given shape. The short needles and less than crowded branches made adding lights and hanging ornaments easy. And we have been enjoying the simplicity and beauty of our homegrown Christmas tree.


On Christmas Day we added one final ornament after opening the gift from Tina and Ken. We hung the new “Ciani Family” ornament next to the “God Bless the Farmer” ornament they gifted to us last year. I think I am seeing a theme here to complement our new tradition. 🙂