Places to Party

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jenny's Homefront Strategy....Yes Women Can Weld Too.....
Yesterday I took a long awaited class… a welding class.

Beautiful Artwork made and
displayed by artists onsite.
In Girl Scouts we had a badge called the “Dabbler”. I never knew what that was when I was a scout, but as I have grown older, I think it is a very good description of my crafting/home improvement personality. Some people love to quilt. Some people do embroidery. Some people like to do stained glass. For me, myself and I? I like doing them all.

I like the idea of knowing how to do a bit of everything. You may not be a particular master in all subjects, but just having the ability to know how to do something helps to gain an understanding and an appreciation for those who excel in it. Knowing a bit about a useful subject like welding, gives me the opportunity to use it on small projects that may pop up around the house. Ultimately learning useful skills helps to enrich my families’ lives and helps us to better utilize all our resources when necessary. Skills’ building is definitely a big portion of Jenny’s Homefront Strategy.

Blacksmithing Class is SO MUCH FUN!
So yesterday morning, I carted my fuzzy butt out of bed and took a drive down to Rochester Arc and Flame. If you’ve never been there, it is a wonderful place for learning skills that are difficult to find lessons for elsewhere. Rochester Arc and Flame teaches a wonderful blacksmithing class (taught by a woman) that my husband and I took together (they have “date night” classes for couples). I had never had a desire to do blacksmithing but as we couldn’t get into the welding class at that time, this was a class we could take. I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone. 


Welding class was really interesting as well. The class makeup included people from all backgrounds and age ranges. We had people as young as fourteen to people in their sixties. Men and women. The instructors were very thorough and the class was very hands on.

 My welding leaves a lot to be desired (my welds were never really the size they should be as I have a tendency to rush) but I found the whole process really interesting. They taught us how to do the welds, the stance, the different wires and the different machines. We learned how to differentiate by the sound of the machine whether our amperage and voltage was set correctly or whether via the sound and the resultant weld, we had one too fast/high or too slow.

The hazards of welding were discussed as well and I'm going to tell you, after hearing those, I developed a healthy respect for welders everywhere.

Ultimately, I'll never be a welder, it just wasn't my forte, but I have gained a wealth of experience that may come into use in a future date. Also, I have gained a new respect for those who do this work either as a vocation or hobby. Try something new today. Resume building isn't just for a job, it's important to add to your Life Resume. Even if you discover it wasn't for you, you will walk away with a new found reverence for the skills you learned and a sense of pride that you attempted something that was outside of your comfort range.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Servants of the Great House

I love history. Not the history of when this war was fought or why that date is important, but rather, the history of the common person. After all, very few of us will ever have our names on marques but that doesn’t mean that each and every one of us isn’t important. My interest in history has always been from the perspective of, “what would my life been like if I lived back in (fill in the blank)?

Recently I’ve become enamored with the lives of servants from the last century. While many people may love shows such as “Downton Abbey” or “The Buccaneers” , the fact is that very few of us would have ever lived that lives. Most of us take for granted that three times a day we’ll have a meal and at the end of the day we’ll return home. This was not a certainty for many of our predecessors. A good many in the English society of the 19th century were desperately poor and while a life in service was backbreaking work, it was work and one that offered three meals in one’s belly and a roof over one’s head. So, the poor would cart their daughters and sometimes their sons to the homes of the wealthy or sometimes the middle class to ensure a better life that what they could provide.

“In 1891 there was nearly one and a half million men and women, boys and girls, employed in private households”, cites Frank Dawes in his book, “Not in Front of the Servants” but “by 1921 the number was down to 1,232,046 a decrease of 82,000 people”. The First World War and a better education which provided the poor a means to more media access widened the job market for women especially. By the Second World War the economic landscape had leveled out and few desired to return to the world of being a servant.

PBS’ manor house ( brought modern day people into the realm of this era… some as “The Family” and the majority as the servants, both the “Upper Ten” and the “Lower Ten”. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. You’ll learn things you never thought about. Remember when Cinderella’s sisters call her “a scullery from the kitchen” in Disney’s rendition? Did you have any idea what that was or why that may have been demeaning? The scullery was the person that washed ALL the dishes from the house, and at that point, there was no concern about her “dishpan hands”. Also, it brings you to a different perspective. While there are rich and poor in America to be certain, few of us ever consider that another person is better than us just because they have more money (It could be argued that today’s currency is “Fame”. Our society being the “Cult of Personality”).  But a hundred years ago there was no thought about this in England. It was just taken for granted that your employers were your betters. The rising middle class were the worst in this snobbery trying to emulate established wealthy families.

So if you were a one of the “Lower Ten” or a “Maid of All Work (see Channel 4’s “1900 House” what would your day have been like?

According to Dawes’ research, you would have awoken in an unheated attic around 4:45am. Depending upon your job, you may have to lay fires for the home, prep the cook’s table (Margaret Powell states she started this way in “Life Below Stairs) and then scrub the uneven floor of the kitchen with very caustic soap on your hands and knees. Then maybe clean the knob of the front door, wash the outside stairs and be back in the kitchen to serve the servant’s breakfast, cleaning up afterward. Then more work and lunch and supper to prep for. Your day started this early and may not end until after midnight. For all this work, you may receive 9 pounds or about 18 dollars (US) a YEAR.

Even with this hard work Dawes received hundreds of letters from former servants back in 1972 in which they were very nostalgic for their past lives.

To honor those sometimes nameless, hardworking people I attempted a furniture cream recipe I found. In using this I found it  better to clean the furniture than polish per se.  Dawes relates that the staff general had to make their own cleaning agents as employers rarely provided them.

    “.. servants had to make their own cleaning materials- silver sand and vinegar for scouring copper pots, melted beeswax and turpentine for polishing the floors, furniture polish from linseed oil, methylated spirits, turpentine and white wax…”

Furniture Polish           

4 oz beeswax                          
16 fl oz turpentine
2 ½ cups herbal tea, strained
1 oz soap flakes (I grated a bar of Fels Napa available where the laundry detergent is found in the grocery store).
1 tsp your favorite essential oil (I used Lavender although Sandalwood would have been wonderful).

Now I’m going to suggest a change of procedure from the recipe due to my concern with heating a solvent which clearly states that is flammable. I did this originally and as I did this, realized that this could be very dangerous. While nothing did happen, learn from my mistake.

Melt the wax in a candle melting pot until liquid. Add to this carefully to your turpentine (in another container) and your essential oils. In another pot, place your tea and soap flakes and heat until soap is dissolved. Remove from heat and add your wax/turpentine mixture  to the soap mixture and then stir to combine.Stir to a thickened consistency like mayonnaise. Pour into jars and leave until cool. Cover it and wait about one week.To use, rub the cream into the furniture with one rag and buff off with another.
For a bit of fun see who you may have been living or working in a “Great House”.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Essentially Yours. Using and Understanding Essential Oils.

Your Home Pharmacy.
My father burned his hand on the woodstove when I was about fifteen. “Stace” he yelled upstairs, “what do you got for this”?

I ran downstairs with my bottle of lavender oil and put a neat drop on his hand. The pain almost instantaneously went away. He was shocked. The next time I went to my herb store my herb lady told me that some of my father’s farmer friends had been in to see her and had ordered a bunch of lavender oil. It always tickled me to think of these hardworking farmers out in the field smelling like little old ladies. But farmers are practical people and what works, works.

You see, many of the medicines out there, contact minuet portions of essential oils as their active ingredient but you have to look for them. Thymol is thyme oil. You’ll find myrrh oil in any application that involves mouth pain and that lavender that you see isn’t just for smell.

Essential oils are the power house of the herbal world. I’ve been using them for well over 30 years now for everything from health needs, cleaning and cooking. Before you go out and grab your first bottle there are a few things you need to really know before you use them.


1.      Essential oils are not extracts. They aren’t tinctures. They aren’t fragrance oils. They are the pure plant extract in a small bottle.
Don’t mistake them for each other. A Tbsp of an extract will add flavoring, but the same quantity in the essential oil could be deadly. Essential oils aren’t diluted so you are getting a very powerful dose in a few drops. Oils are used in drops, not Tbsp/Tsp. A good test to make sure that the oil you are getting is pure is to put a drop on a tissue. If it isn’t mixed with anything, when the tissue dries you won’t see the drop mark. If you do, it has something mixed in with it

2.      Their prices will vary wildly.
Because it takes more of one herb to make the oil or that herb is more expensive to grow, oils vary wildly in price. A 1/8 of a dram of Rose Absolute could easily run into $150+ dollars or more simply due to the expense of the oil. The same amount in peppermint or lime may be $3. Frankincense last I bought it was $22.50
for 1 oz.

3.      Most need carrier oil.Most typically cannot be used “Neat”.
Essential oils are very concentrated
essences. Because of this, many can cause chemical
burns if used directly. When oil is used directly, it is called using it “neat”. I advocate using carrier oil unless you know, for certain, that an oil can be used neat. One of
the only oil I generally use neat is lavender. Myrhh is another that I use directly on mouth pain to anesthetize an area, but spit out any additional saliva, you don’t want to swallow it.

4.      Contrary to popular belief, you can cook with essential oils.
I’ve done it many times, but again, it’s all about dosage. Instead of using Tbsp or tsps, you are using DROPS of an oil because of their concentration. Don't think a little is good so a lot will be better. A lot could be deadly. Oils are great in flavoring baked goods; they are good in marinades and can be used in a pinch when you discover you are out of the dried herb.

5.      Oils can be used for years.
Their efficiency will weaken but if put in a cool dry place out of the sun, they are golden.

My herbal “Bible” as it were is Valerie Woodworm’s, “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy”. I’ve used my first copy to the extent that it is literally falling apart and I had to purchase a second. Valerie’s book is excellent as it divides up the uses of oils health, home, and cooking and provides recipes for all. You literally can look up your ailment and find a recipe along with alternatives if you are out of an oil, and make up a massage oil to lessen the symptoms. I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to be able to grab the book and get to work as it doesn’t bore you with tons of historical uses but is strictly a “how to” manual.*

Below are my heavy hitters that I use most frequently and believe most homes should have.

1.      Lavender.EVERY home should own this oil in a large quantity. Lavender is your first defense against burns both physical and chemical. It may not have the instaneous effect on you like my father (it doesn’t me) but it does lessen the burn, heals it and has very calmative effect. This oil was used during WWI to treat soldiers that suffered artillery burns.

2.      Myrrh. Perfect for any mouth pain. Look at your toothpaste, your mouthwash or your cold sore medicine. I guarantee you you’ll see this oil. It provides temporary relief for a mouth sore. Can be used neat in small quantities and I usually spit out any excess.

3.      Tea Tree. Tea Tree is a plant native to Australia and is incredibly antiseptic. It can be used to clean a wound or your kitchen. It’s a heavy hitter when it comes to cleaning.

4.      Eucalyptus. The cold suffer’s friend. Fumes help to open up breathing passages. Excellent in bathwater when one has a horrible cold.
5.      Peppermint. A close friend of eucalyptus, it also helps in bath oils when one is ill. Additionally, great in any tummy trouble. A little goes a long way. Peppermint candy is excellent when one is feeling a bit queasy.

6.      Lemon, Lime, Orange, Oregano, Clove, Nutmeg, Basil. Purely a good idea to have on hand for when you run out of the herb. Gotten me out of a pinch many time and these are relatively cheap. One or two drops are all you need.

* I am in no way associated with this book or author. This is a personal recommendation.



Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Rules for Getting Satisfaction or "So Now What Do I Do?"

So Christmas has come and gone and maybe that new gizmo or gadget isn’t working the way you expected and the company that you bought it from is giving you a hassle when you try to return it. Or maybe you didn’t receive something you purchased at all and now you are arguing with the company that you bought it from. Or maybe you’ve had an ongoing issue that you’ve been fighting and you just aren’t getting the results you want. It’s very frustrating and you aren’t exactly sure of how to get this problem resolved.

 Having worked on both sides of the phone, sometimes as a frustrated consumer and other times professionally as tech support, I can tell you that most people do not argue or present their problems effectively. As someone who has often succeeded in obtaining the desired outcome I’d like to offer some tips that I use to assist me in getting the end result I want.



  1. Don’t be emotional.
    Good customer service agents (CSR) and techs take those jobs because they sincerely want to help you but they are not your therapist. This is easy to say of course and I myself have violated this rule from time to time, but I’m going to tell you that the moment you start fuming, crying or swearing is the moment you’ve been written off. No helpdesk I’ve ever worked at has required me to stay on the phone with an irritate customer who was using profanity and in most cases, our bosses will have us hang up on you. If you are crying, I’m at a loss of what you need from me. Present your situation just like you would if you were in court. Tell me what the problem is, what you did to resolve the problem, what the result was, and what you want to have happen. When you do that, you’ve armed your CSR with a game plan to help you. Be professional, there is no reason to be hostile. As frustrating as it has been, the person on the end of the line has just picked up this call and has no idea what you’ve been through. Be professional and courteous. Honestly, we want to help you. Give us the information to do it.

  1. Be direct.
    When someone starts the conversation with “So…” I know I’m in trouble. Please, don’t lead us down the garden path… just tell me how I can help you…

  2. Are you calling the right helpdesk/phone number?
    I can’t begin to tell you how often and how many times a day we receive calls that aren’t ours. Sometimes the client may give our number out to an end user. Other times they are trying to call another branch. It may sound horrible, but unless you are our client, we can’t help you. It’s not that we are trying to be mean, but our company and our paychecks get paid by our client so we have to have our phones available for the client’s issues. If you find out that the number you called is incorrect, ask the second most important question in the English language… “If you can’t help me, who can? Do you have their phone number?” (The first being, “Can You Help Me?”). In most cases we'll be glad to give it and even transfer you.

  3. Document, document, document!  
    When did you call? Who did you talk to? hat did they tell you? What was the result?

    Every time you speak to someone or email someone make sure you capture their name and when you called or emailed. Also, make sure that you do the physical call as well if you choose to email. This becomes crucial when you need to escalate a problem or write a letter. You need to show that you tried with a good faith effort to get this problem resolved and didn’t just write the corporate office at a drop of the hat. This becomes critical if you actually have to file a case with the attorney general of your state.

  4. Do an internet search to see if there has been a documented case or recall listed. Talk to people. You may find out that there is a known issue/case ongoing.
    I once ordered a computer from a well known computer manufacturer for a relative. This computer was supposed to contain an internal modem which it did not. I spent two days and spoke to 13 people from here, India, and Germany and still didn’t get any assistance. I was venting about the situation at work and a colleague mentioned that the attorney general of my state had a class action suit against this company for the very reason I was having a problem with them. I checked online with the attorney general’s office and found that there was indeed a class action suit against them. I submitted the forms along with all my personal documentation and was quite pleased with the check I received from my portion of the class action suit. All it took was submitting the work I’d done and the proper forms found on the web to get the desired end result for my relative.

  5. Clearly articulate what you want the end result to be and what your next step will be if this isn’t achieved…and follow through.
    Often companies assume that you’ll simply drop the issue if they make it difficult enough. If you’ve talked to the CSR, the supervisor, etc. and you still aren’t getting satisfaction, ask the supervisor for the phone number and/or address of the corporate office and who you should direct a letter to… and MAIL it. Mail has a lot more clout than emails. Someone that has actually taken the time to mail a letter will get someone’s attention. (If they don’t give you the address, Google “(Store name), corporate office, address” and who their CEO is and address the letter to that person.)  In that letter, again present your case, write the steps you took and who and when you talked to the agents, what you want done and a time frame of when this needs to be done. If you discover that there is indeed some history/ongoing case etc. explained that you discovered this is indeed a known issue. If nothing happens, submit a claim form with your state’s attorney general. Google: attorney general, (your state)
A fact that was once presented to me in a training class was that every satisfied customer may tell three people of their experience. Every unsatisfied customer tells an average of ten people. Companies want you to be happy, it simply isn’t good for business if your not. You may not always win, but you may have a better chance if you follow the above steps.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas on the Farm



This holiday season we traveled to my hometown in Mid-Michigan to stay with my family at my childhood home. My brother and I were fortunate to grow up on a farm and I thought I would share some of the images with you.


Chole the Cow..

Mid-Michigan like New York, got hit with an ice storm just before the holiday. Mid-Michigan got hit a lot harder and due to that, a lot of families went through Christmas without power. Instead of caroling, the ceaseless sound of a generator ran through the night but those that had them felt very blessed as those that didn’t had to contend with cold nights and the possibility of freezing pipes.

Frozen Fields..cold but pretty..

Just not having one convenience, and please remember most people didn’t have electricity until the 1930’s or 1940’s so it is a convenience, really makes you appreciate the little things.

This is what the holidays on the farm look like…

Frozen Fences





                                                                                  Cold Farmers


                                                                      Happy Dogs