A Birthday Tradition Revisited

In this day and age, it seems that traditions are receiving a bad press.  Many traditions provide a sense of comfort and stability in a world that is filled with chaos. The tradition I started for my wife’s birthday is now over a decade old, and it is a tradition that is now rooted in our family.  Hopefully, this is a tradition our son will carry with him into his marriage, and it will become generational.  What traditions have you started in your family? What have you been doing for years?  What stability have you brought to you and your family’s lives through your traditions?

The following video… I filmed last year, but I was finally able to edit it the way I envisioned these past few weeks.  I hope you enjoy our continued tradition to celebrate the most important person in our household.  After the video, I included the first post I made about this birthday tradition 3 years ago.  Enjoy the flashback.

For the past eight or so years, I started a tradition for my wife’s birthday.  Before this epiphany, I would ask my wife what she would like for her birthday cake?  I would then, like most husbands, go hunt down the desired cake and purchase it from a bakery or sometimes an ice cream parlor.  One year my wife said, she didn’t feel like having a cake or anything.  She was reading about how unhealthy processed cakes were due to all the additives and processed ingredients.  I don’t blame her; I am not a fan of food coloring in my food either.  But, I didn’t have a problem;  she always made my cake from scratch.

My wife knew I was not a good baker, but I felt the gauntlet had been cast down, the challenge had been made, and I needed to step up as a husband and respond in the only dignified way I could and that was to don an apron and start a bake’n. Thus, a new tradition was born.

It is a Woman's World... I love this cook book from 1939.

It is a Woman’s World… I love this cook book from 1939.

I found a book with the most natural ingredients I could find at a Robert’s Bookshop selling used books in Lincoln City, Oregon.  The cook book is pre-WWII, and I figured the war was a definite trigger for over processed foods in our diet as the military rations found commercial labels and entered our grocery stores soon after.

I began searching through the cake recipes and I tried several for my wife over the years.  The first cake I made  was almost a brick, and from then on I got much better.  The cakes from this cook book are not fluffy, light cakes.  They are dense, rich, thick cakes that stick to the roof of your mouth and to your ribs.  They truly are good.  However, three years ago I made Krista the Zesty, Orange Cake, and now I am not allowed to bake a different type of cake or change recipes.  This is the birthday cake that has won my wife’s heart, and so  I have dedicated the past few years to perfecting the recipe and the cake’s presentation.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it's all good... Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it’s all good… Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

When it rains, it pours… The week of my wife’s birthday this year; I had meetings scheduled every night after school, the snow plow truck broke down, and the propane stove and oven quit working.  At least the wood cook stove, was available to make the cake without any problems.  In fact, I prefer the wood cook stove to the propane one when baking.

The icing on the cake... I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake so it has time to chill.

The icing on the cake… I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake, so it has time to chill.

I usually make Krista’s zesty, orange cake in stages.  On the eve before making the cake, I make the orange icing.  After I grated the peel for the orange flavor, I squeeze the fresh orange for the half cup of orange juice needed.  I also grate a lemon for the icing and add the juice of the freshly squeezed lemon for a little more zing.  Once the icing is cooked and thickened, I set it out to cool before placing it in the fridge overnight.

The apprentice... My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The apprentice… My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The next day,  which was luckily the weekend, I began making Krista’s cake.  This year I had help from my son.  He did an excellent job cracking the eggs and adding the ingredients to the mixer to make the cake batter.  He also learned how to juice the oranges and lemon for the batter as well.

In this next shot is our Juice King, which is our citrus juice squeezer.  Krista found it at an antique sale, and it has worked great ever since we brought it home.  I require the use the juicer three different times.  Once for the icing, then for the cake batter, and last for the frosting.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze... Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze… Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

When the batter is ready for the cake pans, I have the wood cook stove revving up to cooking temperature.  The key is to not overheat the oven because waiting for it to cool is time consuming.  I close the flue and open the oven vent.  I also open up the ash tray drawer below the fire box and when it approaches the 350 degrees required, I shut everything down except the oven vent.  I tend the firebox making sure it has enough fuel to cover the baking time of 25 – 35 minutes.  Once I have the fuel and the temperature needed, I place the cake pans into the oven on the same rack.  The oven temperature was so even and the cook time so short, I didn’t need to re-position the cake pans once they were in the oven.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man... I could not help but to feel rush a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, "Bake me a cake as fast as you can."

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man… I could not help but to feel rushed a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, “Bake me a cake as fast as you can.”

The finished product this year was great, except I hate to waste anything, so I added way to much orange icing to the center between the layers of the cake.  I must remember when it comes to presentation, less is more.  However, when it comes to flavor and taste, I still tend to get carried away and put as much frosting and icing on the cake beyond surface allowance.  Good thing I’m not an architect.

Almost finished... All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.

Almost finished… All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.  The toothpicks held the top layer in place to add the frosting.  I placed way too much icing in between the 2 layers, but it was worth it.

Here is Krista’s beautiful, zesty, orange, double layer cake made with orange, lemon zest icing between the layers and drizzled on top of the orange and vanilla butter cream frosting.  Now, my wife has to wait another 366 days for her birthday cake; it’s a leap year.  Unless, our son or I request it as well.

 

 

Temporary hot water? Reality Check… We live off grid (part 3)

The temporary... Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless water heater.

The temporary… Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless water heater. A fantastic fix for our needs that has been temporary these past 4 years.  Stand and hose fittings not included.

I have talked about hot water during the late fall, winter, and early spring months, but I have not really discussed how we have hot water when not using our wood stove.  This is another off grid reality check.  It’s another one of those facts that separate our home life from those on the grid, eventually, I will remedy it.  But, because our hot water system currently functions and at times feels very inconvenient, it does get pushed further back on the list of things that have to be done.

We are living debt-free, and because of that, we have to budget in the things we want and need.  Back in 2012, we desperately needed a hot water system.  We wanted to purchase a propane instant hot water system, but money was running thin.  I had a revelation that there should be a smaller camping rendition of an instant hot water heater out on the market that could get us through until we could save enough money for the big purchase.  Well, I found something that would fit our needs for a hot shower whenever we needed.  The problem with building off grid is once we found a temporary system that works, we rationalize we can use that system for one more season.  We are now four years from our initial “temporary” hot water fix, and four years doesn’t seem that temporary.

As for the late fall, winter, and early spring months, we heat our hot water with our wood cook stove.  Cold water from a water tank enters the lower portion of the stove’s fire-box, is heated, and then returns out of the fire-box back into the water tank it came from.  During the summer months, it is too hot to run a wood stove for hot water and it would be a waste of fire wood to do so.  We instead use an Eccotemp L5 portable tankless water heater.  It uses propane and provides instant  hot water for the shower.  The tankless hot water system is advertised for outdoor camping and comes with a shower nozzle and a water inlet for a garden hose.  I built a frame for the tankless water heater in the bathroom and plumbed the tub’s cold side of the water through the unit.  The unit heats the water to a nice “warm-hot” temperature and sends the water through the showers regular plumbing through the cold side.  I can turn the unit off with a switch to bring cold water back through the plumbing or leave it on and adjust the hot water temp through the cold side of the faucet.  The unit has a safety feature which automatically shuts off after about seventeen minutes in the shower.  I have been caught more than once in the shower as the water reverts to just below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The unit also burns propane, so when we run the unit, we crack the bathroom window and turn on the bathroom’s vent fan above the shower.  It works great, but it also has some quirky flaws.  If someone turns water on somewhere in the house, the tankless water will shutoff providing the person in the shower a nice cold awakening. A drop in water pressure sometimes causes the unit to turn off suddenly, a safety precaution that turns a hot shower to an icy one in seconds.  The unit also drops in temperature once the pressure tanks calls for the cistern pump to engage because it is now heating up water from the outside ground temperature instead of water from the room temperate pressure tank.  The system also needs to be located within arms reach from the shower to reset it once something shuts it off or it increases temperature.  This unit should never be used to plumb a full home at every faucet.  It’s not big enough to handle it, and it is a manual dial system which needs a person close by to monitor it.  Also, when needing hot water for dishes, we have to take a large stock pot to the bath tub, fill it up and walk back to the kitchen sink.  Two pots full work great, one for each the wash and rinse sides of the sink.   This traveling with hot water to the kitchen sink, plus the constant manual needs of the unit are the reasons it is inconvenient. If given the choice between no hot water and this affordable unit, I obviously chose the unit and would again if I had to start all over.  For four years this unit has been our hot water supplier during the late spring, summer, and early fall months, on average 6 months of the year without fail.  A temporary hot water system that was meant to get us by for a season has become an intricate part of our off grid life style.

Mud bogging just to get home... Once mud season hits during spring breakup, we either shuttle back and forth in our 4x4 Suburban or hike it once the ruts get too deep.

Mud bogging just to get home… Once mud season hits during spring breakup, we either shuttle back and forth in our 4×4 Suburban or hike it once the ruts get too deep.

I don’t hate the unit because if I did, it would have risen higher on the to do list long before now, but instead it functions well enough to justify building our driveway this summer with road fabric and gravel to eliminate the mud bogging each year.  After this past winter, we thawed early creating an extra long mud season of hiking the quarter of a mile in the mornings to work and school in the mud.  For the inconvenience of hiking groceries a quarter of a mile, plus relying on a neighbor’s kindness to fix our road each year because of the deep ruts, we needed to place the hot water on the back burner again (pun intended).  I also have radiant floor heat that needs to be hooked up sometime, so we can leave the home in the winter for extended periods of time without fear of frozen pipes when we return.  The radiant floor heat will also require a propane tankless water heater for its own closed loop system, so I will eventually need to purchase two separate tankless water heaters.

If you need hot water and a “temporary” affordable fix, this is may be the unit for you.  However, if you have extra money set aside, then you should skip this unit and purchase a permanent unit for the home water supply.

Reality Check…We live off grid (part 2 our ghost tub)

When deciding what type of features we wanted for our home.  My wife really wanted to use items from the early 1900s.  One of our home’s oldest features is our cast iron, claw foot tub.  We always wanted a claw foot tub for our bath tub and shower.

Restoring Ghost Tub... This is right be fore we installed the tub in the bathroom. Krista had scraped the layers of paint off and added a fresh coat of primer and paint.

Restoring Ghost Tub… This is right before we installed the tub in the bathroom. Krista had scraped the layers of paint off and added a fresh coat of primer and paint.

After searching re-stores and second hand shops, we finally found it on Craig’s List.  We had to drive about 70 miles to fetch the tub from an old house from a quaint, but almost forgotten ghost town.  We purchased the tub at the agreed price of $100.00, which was an incredible deal.  Many of the tubs we were looking at for months were not even half as good, and the stores were asking $350.00.  What a bargain we had found! However, our tub was discounted for a mysterious, chilling reason.  The home we purchased it from was from a home in which several people had died from natural and also possibly unnatural causes.

The previous owners decided to reveal the tale of the tub just before money had exchanged hands.  A little nervous about their reservation to tell us, we proceeded to hear the story about their old cast iron tub, which apparently had some other worldly activity.  The story began with a  series of unfortunate rumored deaths in the home.

The claw... This the old ball and eagle claw style, claw foot tub. We were lucky to find a tub with all four feet undamaged.

The claw!… This is the old ball and eagle claw style, claw foot tub. We were lucky to find a tub with all four feet undamaged.

The current owners explained how the tub was no longer in use and it was strictly used for storing freshly laundered and folded clothes.  Odd, I thought, that the owners wouldn’t bathe in the tub, and it was used only for stacking clean folded laundry.  The owners proceeded to tell us the tub on more than one occasion had filled with water while they were sleeping or out away from the home.  When they walked into the bathroom, the tub was entirely filled with water to the brim. Yet, not one drop had overflowed to the floor.  Like a glass lid cover, the tub sealed the folded laundry in its watery grave.

The owners believed that some mishap must had involved the tub in the home’s sorted past.  They felt that some ghost was haunting it, trying to communicate with the world of the living.  The other thought was some evil demonic force was taunting them to madness, which may have overcome the previous owners.  Whatever caused the water to flow was never discovered, but the owners felt the tub needed to go.  Fear had gripped them for out of their desire to solve the mysterious flooding of the tub, they had shut the water off at the wall as well as the faucet.  There was no way the tub could fill with water if no water was to be had. But, it did.

After the owners finished their story, they proceeded to ask if we still wanted the tub and stated they would not be offended if we said no.  I looked them dead in the eye and said we have come this far; I am still interested and will take the tub off your hands.  My wife, however, was very quiet, but she followed my lead as the owner helped us load the extremely heavy cast iron tub into the back of our suburban.  I paid the man and wife their money said thank you, all the while noticing the heavy renovation they were doing to their home.  Their home would have nothing of its old existence left when they were finished with it.

Once we were on the road, my wife broke the silence by asking me what I thought about our tub and its mysterious haunted past.  I glanced at her with a wink and a smile while driving down the highway and said,  “If there is a demon possessing this here cast iron tub, I truly feel sorry for whatever ghostly force was assigned to haunt a bath tub in the middle of nowhere for eternity. After all, if I were a ghost, there are far more incredible places to haunt in this world than a bath tub in a dying town in the middle of nowhere.”

Shower power... The finished claw foot tub and shower combo. We found the accessories at signaturehardware.com

Shower power… The finished claw foot tub and shower combo. We found the accessories at signaturehardware.com

When we got back to our house we unloaded the heavy cast iron beast onto a piano dolly and pushed it into the living room.  For the next several months it sat waiting  for its several coats of paint to be scraped, and for a fresh coat of the appropriate primer and Rust-Oleum paint to be added. The tub does actually have claw feet, and it was a real trick to set it in place.  I had to use a car jack on wheels and ease it onto the feet.  The original metal pins to hold the feet in place were missing, so we had to improvise with small steel nails.  Once the tub was set the feet spread out locking the tub in place.  We could now take sponge baths in our tub, no longer would we wash next to a bucket while standing in a  giant metal pan.  The tub has running water now, but how I plumbed hot water to it is another trick, and I will save that for a post in the near future.

Addendum:

For the past four years of owning the cast iron tub, there has been no paranormal activity associated with it.  From the story we heard by the previous owners, I wondered if they had gray water backup into the tub which caused the unusual water filled tub, without the water faucet on.  This would explain the flooding to the rim since the over flow drain would of had to be flooded as well.  With laundry usually associated with the tub filling, an old washing machine could easily over tax a slow gray water drainage system with forty or more gallons of water for each load.  We love our claw foot tub, and the story of its sorted past is always fun to tell around a campfire in the summers to guests.

Pauper’s Little Work Space

This was a fun project!

Pauper's Candle Company

I was needing a little space in my house where I could use my laptop, process orders, do bills and store my “office materials” for Pauper’s Candles.  I decided to use the closet space in our guest bedroom.  I totally love the way the space came together.

Contrast old new paint First things first: A fresh coat of paint in the closet before building Pauper’s Little Work Space. Nothing like Bright White paint – I have since finished painting the rest of the guest bedroom

Tool Basket When one does not have a tool belt or tool box, a basket will do.

Stand up Shelf This is a stand alone shelf that I built with re purposed wood from my local dump. I love this shelf!

Desk Parts I wanted a little desk and had found these old table legs at my local dump and thought they would work great for the legs of my desk and the other wood I…

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Wow, What a day!

Thank you Mark and Kirt for making Mother’s Day a day I will remember for a long time.

Pauper's Candle Company

Morning Chores What a great gift – No chores for Mom today.

I woke up to my husband, Mark, saying, “Do not worry about the morning chores, Kirt and I have this.”  When I came out of our bedroom, I was greeted with “Happy Mother’s Day!” and was asked by my husband if I wanted to have a cup of coffee.  My son proceeded to tell me that I could do whatever I wanted today, like read my Bible, do crafts, read a book, play games, and my son said that I could even play with his remote control car outside if I would like.  I had been hearing my son and husband the past few days talk about “Mission Mom” and now I was beginning to see the mission.

Coffee made with love Bringing a cup of coffee to Mom. What a great helper he was with Dad.

I read my Bible while they finished…

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Farmers Market at Sandpoint is set for May 7th

Pauper’s Candle Company will be attending our local Farmer’s Market. We are looking forward to a great season.

Pauper's Candle Company

Krista Baked Goods and Candles in Booth This is our booth and the Sandpoint Farmers Market.

Pauper’s Candles will be at our local Farmers Market starting May 7th this year.  We are looking forward to another great year at the market.  We will be there with our Soy Candles and Air Fresheners as well as having some potted Aloe Vera.

Aloe Vera Every house should have an Aloe Vera plant.

Be sure to come by our booth.  We are located on the street near the food court.

2015 Krista _ Kirt Farmers Market Kirt will be with me at the market again this year. Good Times!

We have added some terrific scents to our candle line and we know you will enjoy them all.  I am totally enjoying Sweet Orange Chili Pepper.  I have been burning it in our bathroom and the scent throw is wonderful.  I also love the Pomegranate candle we are making this year.  It is a scent that I remember from…

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From dust and weeds to lawn

Which way do I go? i ignored the instructions and kept the wheels on and moved backwards. Not proper etiquette, but it worked smoother than instructed.

Which way do I go? I ignored the instructions and kept the wheels on and moved backwards. Not proper etiquette, but it worked smoother than instructed.

After much debate, we decided to put in a lawn in front of our house. I spent the day using a rototiller to prepare the soil.  I added aged compost from the chicken coop and raked it in.  I them planted the seed and added water.  Now, I am waiting for the grass to grow.  I am not a big fan of lawns and would rather have a larger garden instead, but the dust around our home has caused me to re-evaluate my stance on lawns.

Hopefully within a year, we will have a lawn thick enough to possibly play some croquet or just to hang out on.  The relief will be opening the south facing windows during the summer and not having dust blown in with each gust of wind.

If we need the extra space eventually for a garden, my wife and I could build extra raised beds and fence in the area.  However, I don’t see that as a necessity at this time and plan to enjoy a lawn again.