Retrieved from the trash bin

We were fifty minutes into the hour-long Outlander episode “The Deep Heart’s Core” when the DVD player stopped. Didn’t even give us any warning of weird blips or slow motion stoppages–just died. Just as Roger is about to escape from the Indians who are dragging him to New York far away from Brianna. Not only did it stop playing, but the disc wouldn’t eject. Visions of having to pay for a Netflix disc made us disgruntled, as well as the DVD stopping just at the exciting part. It might take us a week to find out what happened to Roger.

Mr. H.C. is handy with pliers and screwdrivers, so he took the thing apart and we physically took the disc out of the player. We retired to the bedroom and watched the last ten minutes on the laptop. Roger escaped.

Now, I can hear you saying, why do you even rent discs from Netflix anyway? Can’t you just stream like the rest of the world?

Well, thanks for asking, but no. We can’t, actually. Because we live in rural Pennsylvania, where there are hills and hollers, and the nearest 5G network is 50 miles north in Pittsburgh. We have three options for internet service: Windstream, whose fastest rate in our neck of the woods is 1 mbps (yes, 1); Dish networks, which everyone knows are worthless when it is cloudy (and let me just say, we have cloudy here); and a hotspot. Which is what we have. It’s serviceable. It works. Sort of. Most of the time. It’s expensive. We don’t have unlimited data. But I digress. This is not a post about our crappy internet service.

The next morning Mr. H.C. took a look inside the player and (unbeknownst to me) tossed it in the garbage.

Let me tell you, this is something that NEVER happens. Mr. H.C. keeps everything so he can fix it someday.

By the next afternoon we had surveyed our options and they were: 1. Buy a cheap one on Amazon for $45; or 2. buy the one they had left at Walmart for $150.  (I would just like to interject here, that when we lived in Pittsburgh, we had a very modern set up with streaming and a decent-sized multi-screen that functioned both as a TV and a media screen, and if we ever got discs we played them through the computer. It all worked smoothly.) DVD players seem so 90s. So I spent some time online the next morning to see if anyone could tell us how to fix it. The best I could come up with was a YouTube video on cleaning your DVD player.

“Maybe it just needs to be cleaned?” I asked him.

“Well, it’s in the garbage, so it really needs to be cleaned now,” he said, as he rooted through the trash and dug it out brushing off some crusted oatmeal. (No, that’s a lie. There was no oatmeal on the DVD player because we are a zero-food-trash- composting family.)

Genius husband then cleaned the DVD player and tried an old disc we didn’t care about, and then ended up watching the whole thing. DVD player is as good as new, which is a great thing, because now we don’t have to spend our Lockdown money on a 90s DVD player. It’s also a great thing, because now we can avoid the news and watch the last few episodes of Outlander. Unfortunately, we’re a season behind, because we live on a country road (almost heaven, but not quite) where there is no streaming (in heaven the light will be all the streaming we need). Oh, I mentioned no streaming already.

The moral of this story is Never throw anything away because you might have to retrieve it from the trash bin. Yes, our recycling place is closed too.

The real moral of the story is Don’t live in rural Pencilbania. Where there’s no recycling and no decent internet. And the yard signs are all for the wrong guy. (I’m debating about whether to put a Biden sign in the front yard, but I don’t want to start a sign war…)

The real, real moral of the story is Can our country be retrieved from the trash bin, cleaned, and fixed so it works once again?



The absolute, very last ever post on the mudroom…maybe


Because it is finally finished. And I have to say this final bit was all Mr. H.C. The only share I had in this last wall was painting one coat of paint on the door.

There won’t be too many words about this, because words cannot describe how completely and utterly finished it looks.

Unfortunately photos can’t do it justice either. Because it is all painted in Sherwin Williams’ lovely creamy white color — Steamed Milk. The same color as the kitchen walls. The same color as the dining room walls. The same color as the living room walls. The same color as the ceiling in all those rooms as well. Yes, we like creamy white walls. And ceilings.

In my humble non-decorator-just-average-person opinion, creamy white walls make a humble cottage look bigger, lighter and brighter, and just all-around more cheerful. And anyone who saw the cottage before, with its orange walls and wallpaper and 70s dark paneling would agree.

So without further ado, here are some befores, durings, and afters of our finally-finished-after-five-years mudroom entry to Apple Hill Cottage. (Trumpet sounds here…)

One can see that it is so new, there isn’t even any art on the walls.

This gallery below shows the progression of the outside wall of the mudroom — from the initial window, cedar shake walls, and plastic ceiling — to what it looks like now:

The next gallery of photos shows the progression of the second wall:

The floor has been done for a couple of years, but it still merits a before and after photo shoot:

The finishing of this room took so long because an exterior roof was necessary before the interior ceiling could be installed. Since the roof was finished this past summer, this winter we were able to proceed with the ceiling:

The last wall to be finished (February/March, 2017) was the wall with the most issues. There is an electric panel two feet from the wood stove; there were wires traveling the whole length of the wall that hooked into the electric panel; and this wall was also the orginal entry into the kitchen before the mudroom was enclosed and was just a porch. When we took off the cedar shakes, the wall was down to its original siding and it wasn’t pretty:

These photos below show the electric panel side of the doorway:

The sliding door that covers the electric panel is made from concrete board and trimmed with wood grain concrete board so it mimics the other interior doors in the cottage, but it is safe for being next to the wood stove. It hangs from the ceiling with pocket door hardware.

One of the best things about having the mudroom finished is that now the doorway into the kitchen is finished as well. In the last post on the mudroom,  I showed you the photo on the left. Now the far right is the finished picture.

Five rooms down, two to go. Three if you count the back porch; four if you count the laundry room.

But who’s counting?

142. Skip the Cleaning Aisle: DIY easy green clean recipes

Earlier this summer several of us were cleaning a commercial kitchen at a children’s camp before camp started for the summer.

There was a lot of grease… everywhere.

My friend Joey introduced me to her recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that cuts grease better than the expensive, commercial, stinky stuff that contains “who knows what unpronounceable ingredients.”

I had been using a natural cleanser of my own — orange vinegar, sometimes with baking soda — which I like a lot, but this one is way better! I liked it so much, I went to the dollar store and bought my own clean spray bottle for it, instead of just using a hand-me-down bottle.

All purpose cleanerAll-Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser:

  • 1 teaspoon washing soda (not baking soda)
  • 2 teaspoons Borax
  • 1 teaspoon Castile liquid soap
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 10 – 15 drops essential oil (Good oils for cleaning use are cinnamon, lemon, orange, melaleuca, peppermint, and lavender.)

Mix all the ingredients and pour into a 16 ounce spray bottle, and get to work on that greasy stove top.

Green cleaning

Dishwasher Detergent

I’ve been using a green cleaner in my dishwasher, but I really don’t like it much. The glasses are cloudy when they come out, and the silverware doesn’t always get clean, even though I rinse my dishes in hot water before I load the dishwasher. I know it’s a waste of water, but I don’t want food collecting in the bottom of my dishwasher. And that’s the bottom line.

So I was delighted when I found this oh-so-simple recipe for dishwasher soap. I remember reading that homemade dishwasher soap was an issue, because Mother-in-Laws come to your house and inspect your glasses for spots. Well, guess what? This is a mother-in-law proof recipe! Here’s my glass bowl, fresh out of the rinse cycle.


Dishwasher Detergent:

  • One part Borax
  • One part washing soda
  • White vinegar in the rinse-aid compartment

We have city water and I’ve used washing soda with great success. I have also heard that citric acid is a great addition to the rinse aid compartment if you have sediment on your plastic ware. But even the commercial dishwashing detergents leave sediment on my plastic stuff, and that’s just one more reason for getting rid of your plastic stuff. If you have citric acid, by all means try some with the vinegar. I was so astounded at how well this worked that I’m not going to bother with it. (If you are someone who wants research behind this, you can go to the blog post “10 things you should know before making homemade dishwasher detergent” by Little House in the Suburbs. Or you can just make this recipe, and be amazed that it’s so simple, and it works so well. Now if only I could discover a shampoo that is so simple and works so well…


And here’s one more cleaner I love to spray on my countertops — both wood and soapstone. It is also a disinfectant, so it’s good for sinks and toilets too. And it is reputed to keep ants away. I can’t say about this for sure. What I can say is that it might work. I sprayed around Henry the Cat’s food bowl when I started seeing ants there, and now the ants are gone. But I’m also being careful to keep it cleaner and his food swept up better. Not only is he the King of Cats, he is the King of Slobs when it comes to the food bowl department.

Cinnamon Disinfectant:

  • 12 oz. hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon oil

Mix together in a spray bottle and shake well before every use. I use a bottle that has a mister option, and I love this cleaner for two reasons: the cinnamon in it smells terrific, and the peroxide in it foams up on contact with dirt, so you can tell it’s working. Use an opaque spray bottle — there’s a reason peroxide is sold in brown bottles. It’s a great addition to your green cleaning supplies. Use it as a disinfectant, on your tile grout, on your floors, or as a bleach replacement in your laundry. I’ve even poured it down our bathroom sink drain. Here’s a great article about using hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning tool.

But I’m not giving up on my orange vinegar — it’s the best on a linoleum floor.