The Challenge of Replacing Paper Towels

As a member of the “baby boom” generation, I will admit to growing up in a time of “plenty.” My parents were raised, married and had children during the depression and war years from 1912 through 1946. Their values and habits of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” influenced how they handled their goods and money. My mother could make a meal out of the smallest pile of leftovers and as children we never noticed or felt deprived. It wasn’t until she passed away and I had to clean out her cupboards and closets that I realized how thrifty she was. I found things like extra thread and saved buttons; scraps of fabric ready to patch knee rips; recipes that started with leftovers; piles of delicate hankies, neatly pressed and folded; rags from used sheets and clothing ready to grab to clean up a spill. There was no stash of paper towels or Kleenex in her cupboards.

By the time I married and had children, those values of thrift had been overwhelmed by advertisements for consumables…don’t fix things, throw them out and buy this new model. Over the years, throwing things away became necessary…things were often made of materials that could not be fixed like plastic instead of wood or metal. Luckily, I married a man who can fix almost anything. His shop full of parts and tools along with his knowledge about how to use them has saved us from throwing things away that just needed an easy fix. While I realize my stash of supplies and tools solve other problems that deal with fabric and clothing, my habits have changed so I’m more dependent on consumables like paper towels and Kleenex. It wasn’t until the supply chain shortages of some items that I realized my behavior has strayed from the values of my parents. This was especially obvious in my use of paper towels. I use a LOT of paper towels in my day-to-day activities…when cooking, cleaning up the counters, preparing food, etc.

Needless to say, when shortages of paper towels appeared I panicked. My impulse was to stock up like crazy…so I’d never run out! The longer the shortages continued, the more I felt that I needed to change my behavior. Obviously, lots of folks manage to keep a neat and tidy kitchen without paper towels!

First Attempt

I was enticed by some ads on Facebook for various substitutes for paper towels made from recycled plastic water bottles ( They looked pretty and they were washable. Why not?

These sheets were about 8″ x 9″

So, I ordered two sets of 12 and the wooden tray to store them in on the counter. The way I use paper towels it had to save money, right? When they arrived, I first put them in the wash. It was like washing pieces of plastic bag…they stuck together! I gently pulled them apart and put them in the dryer on low. Once dry I could fold them in half and stack them up in the wooden tray.

Now came the test. My counters were wet from placing rinsed dishes on the counter while I loaded them into the dishwasher. These cloths would not absorb anything, they just smeared the water around. I rinsed one out and hung it to dry. It took 24 hours to dry. So that experiment was a bust! What a waste of money. I’ll have to see if I can use them for an art project or something.

Second Attempt

I had forgotten that I went through a phase 10-12 years ago of trying to do better about using paper towels. I found in the back of my cupboard a roll of “washable bamboo towels.” The company,, sold these rolls of towels, called The Un Paper Towel to save trees. They are made of woven bamboo fibers and are reusable, machine washable and bleachable. Each sheet is about 11″ square and rips off like a paper towel. It is basically a rayon fabric made from bamboo. This company is still in business too so check them out!

Here is the wrapper that was around the roll of Bambooee towels.

So, I pulled out the roll, tore off a sheet and gave it a try. The first swipe to clean up the water on my counter convinced me! It cleaned right up! Of course, next came the dilemma of how to let it dry. I didn’t want to drape it over the spigot or the handles that open the windows. Luckily, several years ago Bert made me a little drying rack in the kitchen that folded open to let things dry. It has been folded up for a while but it worked great to let the cloth dry.

Here the drying rack is closed and held by magnets to stay closed.
Here is the rack open, supported with chains to keep it at the right angle.

I finally rinsed out the un-paper towel and hung it to dry. A few hours later it was completely dry. After a day or two wiping up water on the counters, I’ll throw it in the wash! Yea!

Now comes the test…can I change my behavior and grab the reusable bamboo cloth? It would be so great to not worry about shortages of paper towels.

So here is a comparison…a roll of paper towels, a roll of Bambooee towels and a clean Bambooee towel ready to grab for the next time.

I’m not sure I’m ready to replace my Kleenex with cloth hankies but if shortages happen, I know I have a stack of pretty hankies ready to go! Thanks, Mom!

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An Anniversary Only We Remember

There are some events that we remember that aren’t written down or honored with a Hallmark card. We really don’t talk about our first date much, but we’ll always remember it. I can’t let today go by without thinking back about how momentous our first date was…of course it was special to us, but those of us of a certain age will remember November 22, 1963…the day President John Kennedy was assassinated…forever. We all know where we were when we heard the news, much like young folks today know where they were when they heard the news about the 9/11 disasters.

For the details of our story, see last year’s post,

This year was our 55th wedding anniversary, but we’ll never forget 59 years ago when we had our first date.

President John Kennedy rides in a motorcade from the Dallas airport into the city with his wife Jacqueline and Texas Governor John Connally.
We’re reminded that our 15 yr. old grandson doesn’t even remember 9/11! I’ll be interested to follow his memories into the future to see what speaks to him!

What events trigger memories for you?

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RIP Deer Friend

It’s hard to let Mother Nature be in charge with our wild animal friends. While we sure enjoyed watching our little deer friend over the last several months we wondered if he/she would make it through the winter. It was very small (about 35 pounds) and had an unsteady gait. It was always alone at the bird feeder and would spend an hour or more during the day just standing there, looking around, munching on spilled seed on the ground.

Bert had recently put out seed on a post that was just the right height for our little friend to just swipe its tongue across the seed.

Unfortunately, a few days ago Bert found it out on the busy road by our house. It looked like it had been bumped by a car but there were no damaged car pieces around. It was certainly dead. I wonder if someone even knew they had hit it. Bert dragged it off the road to rest among the trees on the far side of the road.

I can’t believe we’ve watched this deer for several months and just last week I thought to take these three pictures. So, thanks for the memories, deer friend. Rest in Peace!

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Christmas Traditions: Advent Calendars

I’ve heard “necessity is the mother of invention” all my life and wondered where it came from. Turns out it can be traced back to the year 380 B.C. from the work Republic, written by the Greek philosopher, Plato. The idea behind it is that having a problem supplies additional creativity to come up with innovation solutions. There are several other explanations mentioned, but they all seem to refer to stories about folks that had a problem of some kind and found interesting and creative ways to solve it.

Solving a Problem: Giving Stories a Focus

In the early 1970’s my grandfather was living with my parents in State College. He was approaching 90 years of age and was still able to take care of himself. However, my parents needed to be out of town for several days and thought I could stop by to visit just to check on him and maybe entertain him for a few hours each day.

Grandpa John, about 85 years old.

I was teaching elementary school and was happy to help. Grandpa always had entertaining stories ready to share. I got him talking about what it was like in 1913 when my dad was born. The more he shared, the more I realized I needed to give him a focus to tie his stories together.

I had seen an Advent Calendar project in a craft magazine and decided I’d try to create one with his help. The 25 days leading up to Christmas are celebrated in many ways, from parts of the Christmas story to tiny bits of chocolate. I wanted something that could be changed from year to year.

The next day, I came prepared with art supplies, starting with a piece of Masonite (24″ x 30″) covered with flannel, and a pile of extra felt, fabric and glue.

Then I had him tell me about his house in 1913 when my dad was born. As he talked, I laid out the rooms. Each room provided tidbits of information. For example, when I was asking about what I would find in the pantry, he mentioned vegetables like the pumpkin. Then I added bananas, mostly because they were an obvious shape I could cut out. He had to tell me about the first time he ever saw a banana…he was 8 years old! He was born in 1884 in Minnesota, and bananas came from far away so weather conditions had to be just right to make the trip on the train. In other words, in 1913 in Minnesota there were probably no bananas in his pantry! Oh well. I had already glued them down, so they stayed in the picture.

Over several days we managed to flesh out each room in the house. It was definitely fast free form cutting and gluing but the project served the purposes of keeping him entertained and giving me a project to do.

Over the years, the decorations on the Christmas tree have rubbed off.

Solving a Problem: Giving the Right Kind of Attention to my Kids

For a few years, the calendar was just a decoration at Christmas time. During the late fall of 1977, when Kathy was just 2 months old and Ted was just 1 1/2, I had a problem. Kathy needed my attention and Ted wanted my attention!

The Advent Calendar became a teaching tool! Little slips of paper were put into each pocket showing a drawing of a present or a candy cane. He had to find the right number and “read” the drawing. Each year, the slips of paper had words for him to read. Ted became an enthusiastic learner so that made it fun for me too. As Kathy got older, Ted was teaching her too and so the tradition began.

Of course, over time, the items for each day added up to a pile that probably could have fit into their Christmas stocking…but it was worth it to me to have that distraction every day for a month!

They were a little surprised when they hit preschool during the month of December and asked their friends, “What did you get for the Advent Calendar?” and the other kids had no idea what they were talking about. Explanations were necessary, but I really couldn’t say…our Advent Calendar is just about helping me through a tough month! Oh well, it was worth it!

Now my grandkids are hunting every December morning for “The Elf on the Shelf” and opening little drawers in a wooden Calendar for prizes. I understand completely!

They will surely outgrow the need for these gimmicks, but look out…they may remember the tradition when they have children of their own! Enjoy!

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Dog Coats and Deer Visits

The sun may be shining today, but we woke up to 22 degrees! Ahh…fall weather in Pennsylvania! I’m spending this week making dog coats and usually that keeps my focus inside the house. Lately, however, we’ve had an unusual daytime visitor to our bird feeders that keeps distracting me!

Almost every day…and now several times a day, this small deer has been visiting. We’ve been watching it for more than a month…at first it came only at dusk and was always alone. The larger deer came later in the evening. We wondered if it was abandoned from its herd.

Bert had put a smaller feeder on a post out for some some of the larger birds, and apparently it was just the right height for our deer friend to just swipe its tongue across the seed.

I’m imagining the challenge of trying to get a coat on a deer!

So today, while I’m trying to focus on cutting out and sewing greyhound coats, I’m distracted by an adorable deer outside my window. Frankly, this deer is about the same size as the greyhounds…just with longer legs!

Here are a few of the coats I’ve made recently and my current project:

The collar (or snood) folds up to cover the ears if it’s really cold out.
Green plaid seems to be a favorite with adopters of the Irish Greyhounds.
This tie dye coat will ensure a dog doesn’t get lost in the snow!
As we get closer to Christmas, I’ll start incorporating red fleece into some coats. The lining of this black and white fleece coat will be red.

My thoughts on this beautiful crisp day will focus on sewing cozy coats for our greyhound friends and wondering how our tiny deer will do over the winter. I hope you’re enjoying the day too!

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Quiet Birthday Fun for Grandma

I had a wonder birthday surprise this weekend! My daughter and my grandkids decided to come for a short visit to help me celebrate my birthday! Their school activities have kept them close to home this fall, but luckily, many of those activities were finishing up and they had time to come visit us!

I had not had an actual birthday cake for the last several years, since I had to restrict eggs and dairy. But I could have coconut milk ice cream and thanks to frozen cakes from Sara Lee I was able to pick up an assortment to satisfy everyone.

This was my compromise to putting 76 candles on the cake. Best I could do!

My 15 yr old grandson texted me before they came asking if I would help him make some lip balm…apparently he uses a lot of it because he plays trumpet in the high school marching band he really needs it between performances.

In addition, would Grandma help him and is sister make some soap too! Now this was starting to sound like a fun birthday activity!

So last night we had cake and ice cream.

Say cheese!

This morning after breakfast we got busy. Ben chose the recipe for lip balm that had cocoa butter in it. With the addition of Peppermint essential oil, he felt like he was having a peppermint patty candy bar!

Here is the recipe:

When finished, he had 11 tubes of lip balm. He’ll be able to put one in every pocket! I was ready to help him label them and he said to not bother…he usually just peels off labels! So, I guess one good whiff will remind him these are the peppermint lip balms.

The we started in on the soap. Ben wanted clear glycerin soap and swirled in purple soap tint with a stick. Not my cup of tea…but he loved them!

Kind of looked like a science experiment in the making!

My granddaughter wanted a different mold with orange scent and light orange color.

I think I’ll use this mold another time. They turned out very nice.

While they were waiting for the soap to set up. Ben had to play the pump organ and Anna took a break after shopping at Trader Joe’s with her mother.

This pump organ was built in 1900. Bert’s mother got it around 1960 and Bert rebuilt the inside (he was 14). My grandson (age 15) really enjoys playing it.
Anna just got braces (age 10) so her smile was nice and shiny!

They had to be on the road by 3 p.m. today, so I was glad we were able to get all these projects done today. It was a great birthday for Grandma! Quiet, low key and fun! The hugs were the best! Enjoy!

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Add Stories to Your Family Tree

I noticed the other day as I walked through Cracker Barrel many reminders that Holiday Season is almost upon us! While the ornaments and decorations are always lovely, this year I noticed a large book being offered as a place to have our older relatives jot down memories and stories about their lives. The pages in the book offered writing prompts to help folks focus their stories like…What was it like for you as a child in such a big family? or What were your favorite school subjects?

Here are some sample books from Amazon:

Trying to capture the events of a long life are difficult, but with writing prompts like these, many stories can be captured for posterity. If relatives are nearby, younger relatives could offer to do the writing by listening or recording and transcribing the stories.

Books like these are a great idea for relatives who live farther away, but sometimes all we have are little snippets of memories that come up when we’re eating Thanksgiving dinner together.

These memories and stories can really enhance a simple Family Tree Diagram.

I described how to make a simple Family Tree for young children in a previous post last year (see I’m now suggesting that adding some of these stories will help younger family members understand interesting details of their lives.

I feel fortunate that both my father (Paul Bixby) and my grandfather (John Bixby) were prolific writers and left behind a pretty complete accounting of their growing up years. I’d like to share two stories that could certainly tell my grandchildren a lot about their great grandfathers that they will never meet or met when they were very young and don’t remember them.

Story of the Early Years from Grandpa John

John Bixby (shown top right) 1882-1982.

“I was born on a farm in Aurora Township, Minnesota, December 26, 1882. Eventually I had 3 brothers and 2 sisters: Jacob, Lottie, Abraham, Isaac and Gertrude. The winter of 1882-1883 was a severe one with deep snow and blocked roads. That is the reason I arrived one day late for Christmas!

The first 6 years of my life are pretty much a blank as I remember them now, but I must have grown at a tremendous rate for before I was eight years old, I was raking hay with old Nellie (our work horse) and the new self-dump rake. That fall I was plowing with four big horses and the 2-wheel sulky plow.

The years from 1888 to 1893 were spent in school and helping where I could on my father’s 240-acre farm. The school year back then was a 5 or 6 month term mostly during the winter. My father taught two of those winter terms, the first when I was six. During that winter we learned how to read a bit, count, add and subtract and write our names. When father taught, he would rise at 4:30, do a lot of farm chores, eat a hurried breakfast, pile us kids into the wagon or sleigh, pick up several more kids on the way, put his team in a nearby farmer’s barn and be ready to ring the bell at nine.”

A Memory of Tough Love from Grandpa Paul

Paul Bixby (1913-2012)

“When I was about eight years old I had a calf named Daisy. I had begged Dad to let the new-born Guernsey be mine, and promised to take care of it through the summer until a fall sale would bring dollars to buy my new shoes for school. She was too small to drink from the cattle tank so she was staked out in lush grass near the house. She depended on me for water. Mother had made it very clear that if I were to claim ownership, responsibility for chores also would be mine. Dad had agreed. All was good fun for a while but as the summer weeks passed, other interests lured me. More than once Mother had reminded me to carry water to Daisy.

One morning Mother, Dad and my baby sister Ruth were headed to town and I wanted to go too. It was always fun to go to town with its big grocery store and the Post Office. But going to town meant the chores had to be finished. Daisy couldn’t be left without fresh water.

That morning there had been a note of annoyance in Mom’s call about water. I dallied a bit with the new ‘invention’ I was working on in the shop and in what I thought was plenty of time I dropped my tools and started for the pump with my pail. However, that was when I realized I was too late to finish the chore and still go to town. They left without me!

I was crushed and cried like a baby. I filled the tub properly and sat under a tree to mope and slowly began wondering what Dad might say or do when he returned. When they finally returned, two-year-old Ruthie ran to meet me; Mom said Aunt Clara wondered where I was; Dad glanced at the water in Daisy’s tub and said nothing. Lesson learned…chores before fun!”

Capture Those Shared Stories and Memories

I think one of the most common things to happen when extended families gather over the holidays are the shared stories and memories. Take advantage by encouraging older folks to share these stories with the younger ones. They will never forget those special times. Please enjoy your loved ones throughout the holiday season!

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Autumn Around the Kisner Homestead

Autumn weather is fully entrenched around here now. Parts of northern Pennsylvania had a dusting of snow this morning; here at our house we’ve had temperatures in the low 30’s so far, but not a really hard freeze yet. The changes in scenery are subtle, but as an example, our Japanese dogwood trees a few weeks ago still had green leaves while the seed pods were a beautiful bright orange.

Now, while the seed pods still look orange, they are getting soft. The leaves are now starting to turn color too.
The row of trees all along the front of our property are lovely.

I had designed and painted this quilt block (below) on wood in late August for the front door. It feels like it’s time to put up the quilt block from fabric that I had made a year ago for the late fall season.

This was a good decoration for my front door in the late summer, early fall. See how it was made at
This quilt block, made last year, seemed better suited for late fall. See more about this block at

When I took a walk around the garden today, I was totally surprised that the lavender is still blooming! I may have to grab my shears and snag a few stems!

The carrots that we left in the garden are still doing well. The tops are still green and the carrots should be OK until after Thanksgiving right there in the ground. They actually keep better in the ground than in the refrigerator.

Just a few carrots left in this row. We’ll dig them up next.
These carrots were an experiment. They were planted around mid-August and we weren’t sure they would do well. We’ll harvest them last.
The echinacea have gone to seed and will drop them over the winter. Next year’s patch should be spectacular!
The Butternut trees are losing more leaves every day.
The Red Bud trees keep their leaves the longest.
The neighbors down our street have these beautiful bushes. Glorious color every year!
And our wood pile is ready for cold weather. While our house has electric heat, nothing beats the warmth of wood heat from our stove in the basement. It keeps the floors warm!

So that’s what is happening around our house. Happy Autumn from our house to yours!

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Honey Nut Granola

I was really in the mood for something different for breakfast today. We haven’t had cereal around for a long time but today I wanted to put my frozen blueberries on a bowl of granola. Soooo…guess it’s time to make some!

I found a pretty simple recipe online and gathered ingredients. The original recipe calls this “Healthy Granola” but I decided to call it Honey Nut Granola. The link to the original is here:

Here are the ingredients:

And here is the recipe:

Making Granola

Step 1: I prepped a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with parchment paper and preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: I measured out the dry ingredients and put them into a large bowl. (I did chop the nuts into smaller pieces.)

Pecans and Walnuts

Dry Ingredients: Rolled Oats, chopped nuts, salt and ground cinnamon.

Step 3: Mixed up the wet ingredients in a small bowl before adding them to the dry ingredients: coconut oil, maple syrup and honey (I used 1/4 cup each), and vanilla extract.

Step 4: Mixed up the granola to lightly coat “every oat and nut.”

Step 5: Poured the granola mixture into the prepared pan. I used a spatula to press the granola into the corners.

Step 6: Baked granola in 350-degree oven for about 24 minutes. (I stirred it halfway and pressed it back down in the pan with the spatula).

Steps 7 & 8: Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit to cool completely (at least 45 minutes).

Step 9: I broke the granola into big pieces with my hands and put it all into a large bowl.

Step 10: I stirred in 2/3 cup of golden raisins and let it cool some more.

Cooled granola and golden raisins.

Step 11: I dumped the granola into a gallon ZipLock bag and put it in the freezer.

This recipe is supposed to make 16 – 1/2 cup servings. We’ll see!

Tomorrow’s granola breakfast should be delicious with a helping of frozen blueberries on top! Try it yourself! Enjoy!

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Tis the Season Part 1: Paper, Soap and Fabric

This may be the year we will want to focus on handmade gifts for the holidays. Of course, the latest gadget, tool or toy is always fun to receive, but with supply chains disrupted or delayed you may be forced to consider other kinds of gifts.

Giving a gift you created yourself is sometimes the most meaningful. Many of the posts I’ve written about over the last two years have been inspired by friends and family who have expressed an interest or need for something I can make. Now I can see that others might enjoy receiving handmade items also.

In this post, I’d like to remind you of some of the projects that you or your children or grandchildren could make that would be a special gift for someone. Think about what those folks might need…or appreciate…from a hot or cold neck wrap, novelty soaps for the guest bathroom or a unique gift bag or box to hold a special gift. Most of the projects I’ve chosen here are simple enough for a young person to make (or help make). It helps to make the season special to focus on the recipient of the gift and what they might like to receive.

So why am I talking about this in October? Handmade gifts take time…time to round up the materials and time to gather kids or grandkids around to create together. In this post I will focus on just three mediums: paper, soap and fabric. I’ll save clay projects, skin care items and baked goods for another post.

As a reminder, you can always see and download the whole list of posts I’ve written over the last two years by going to the Welcome page and clicking the link at the bottom of the page. You can download the list to your computer and explore it at your leisure. The most recent 10 posts are always listed on the Welcome page.

Paper Gift Bags

Small gift bags made from recycled calendar pages is a handy way to use some of those extra calendars that come in the mail.

If you’d like to make small gift bags like these, see

By December I can usually count on 5 to 8 calendars arriving for the next year…often with lovely photographs of scenery, animals and inspirational messages.

Once I’ve decided which calendars I will display on my refrigerator and use on my desk, I take the rest and choose the pictures I like. I cut the calendar apart and discard the front and back. The pictures fit in a file folder so can make a gift bag when I need one.

Paper Boxes

Another project using paper starts with heavier paper or card stock.


The very tiny boxes could also have a string or thread attached at one corner and be a unique tree ornament. They can be made from Origami paper, sold at art and craft stores.

Guest Soaps

Everyone seems to be interested in washing their hands frequently and tiny handmade soaps can be a unique addition to any guest bathroom.


Choosing Melt & Pour Soap bases makes these gift soaps very easy…you literally melt chunks of soap and pour it into molds. When cool, they can be popped out and used! There are so many silicon molds available on Amazon and at arts and crafts stores. A basic shape like hearts can be used for many occasions…but the dog bones are fun too!

The Goat’s Milk soap base works well for most people and makes a nice lather.
Clear Glycerin soap works well, especially if you want to try embedding a toy or coin in the soap.
A plain round mold that is deep enough for the toy works well. See
A new coin from the bank will give a kid incentive to wash their hands! See

Fabric Crafts

Most of the projects I make with fabric begin with scraps I already have. If you like to sew, these projects are pretty simple and might really provide comfort to folks on your gift list.

Hot or Cold Pillows or Wraps

How often have you quickly needed a cold compress and have struggled to get ice cubes to stay secure in a washcloth…or pulled a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer to apply to a bruise?

Making a pillow for a headache or a neck wrap that could be used hot or cold requires an appropriate stuffing that can handle being microwaved or frozen. I’ve found whole flax seeds to be the perfect stuffing.

If you really love certain scents, dried flower buds like lavender can be added, but for frequent use, I’d recommend a drop or two of lavender essential oil instead.

Here are some projects that can be used hot or cold.


Bowl Cozy

Here is one additional project that might be a useful gift…a bowl cozy (or hot pad) for a bowl of soup or ice cream:


As you can see, any of these projects can be customized to be appropriate for the season…winter pictures on gift bags, clever mold shapes for soaps, or holiday fabrics for the season. With a few extra supplies around you can make a special gift for any occasion! Enjoy!

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