Thursday, September 22, 2016

Composer Study - Sergei Rachmaninov

To kick-off the 2016-17 composer study, we focused on Sergei Rachmaninov (also spelled Rachmaninoff).

We checked out two CDs from the library so we could listen to pieces by Rachmaninov:

- Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos 1-4 - Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
- The Complete Solo Piano Music - Rachmaninov - Sonatas No. 1 & No. 2 - Corelli Variations

Rachmaninov was born on April 1, 1873 and died on March 28, 1943. He was a Russian composer, conductor, and pianist.

During this late-Romantic period, some of his works are among the most popular in the classical repertoire. Rachmaninov is one of the major composers of the 20th century.

He started playing piano at age four. By 1892, he had graduated from the Moscow Conservatory; and had composed many piano and orchestral pieces.

Five years later, his Symphony No. 1 was poorly received. This sent Rachmaninov in a four-year depression during which time he composed very little until he went through therapy successfully. At that point, he received positive feedback about Piano Concerto No. 2.

After the Russian Revolution, Rachmaninov and his family left Russia and lived in the United States, first in New York City. A month before his death from advanced melanoma, he acquired U.S. citizenship.

So, this month we listened to the following four pieces. Their names and what the girls thought of them follows:

- Piano Concerto No. 1 in F Sharp Minor Op. 1

Sophia thought:
- It reminds me of a ballet.
- I liked the beginning part - it was more dramatic (than a couple of minutes into the piece).
- I hear the piano. It's noticeable, but not as pronounced as some of the other instruments.
- It would be nice background music when I'm doing schoolwork.

Olivia thought:
- I like the beginning. It kind of reminded me of a car chase.
- I hear violins - I like them with the piano.

- Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor Op. 18

Sophia thought:
- It starts out like a "bad guy song."
I like the music when it is less dramatic and more even in terms of volume. 
- I like the trumpet part (about four minutes in).
- The piano music sounds very complex.

Olivia thought:
- It would be something you'd hear at a dance or a ball because of the piano.
- It would be something you could also hear if you were watching a play and people were dancing, but no one was talking.
- I like all of this piece.
- It sounds like it would be hard to play - like something I couldn't play yet.

- The Complete Solo Piano Music - Rachmaninov - Sonatas No. 1 & No. 2 - Corelli Variations

- Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28 - Allegro moderato

Sophia thought:
- It's okay compared to the first two songs.
- This song is quieter - it is just focused on the piano.
- There's nothing that makes this special - it doesn't stand out to me.

Olivia thought:
- I feel like I liked the other two songs more. This one is okay.
- It's a quiet song.
- The notes go faster - it would be too difficult for me to play. I'm not at that level.

- Tema Andante - Variations I-VII

Sophia thought:
- The first minute: it feels like it's at the end of a song or end of a movie.
- There are parts that I like more than others.
- I don't like the parts where the music seems to skip.
- (At about 4:15): it sounds a lot different than the first part.
- This would be a difficult song to count.

Olivia thought:
- It's slow.
- I like this one more than the other one.
- Parts of it sound like a dance.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Outdoor Mom's Journal - June

During our outdoor time in early-June, we went....

The latter part of May and beginning of June was spent outdoors planting. This year I planted blueberries and raspberries in the pumpkin patch that's near the bees.

Spending time with the bees takes about an hour each time we check on them. Each of the hives is doing well; and we've already added the second box so the queen has more room to lay eggs.

I still have strawberries and more raspberry bushes to plant. However, the latter still hasn't arrived from the seed/plant company. Looks like I may have to cancel that order since it's so late for planting this year.

We'll also be doing some staggered plantings of carrots, beans, and other crops so that we have produce throughout the late summer and fall.

•The most inspiring thing we experienced was...

My sister and I visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle. There was both an indoor museum of some of Chihuly's pieces as well as an outdoor garden that integrated his work with nature. One of my favorite sections was one that was done in purple.

There were tall, slender purple glass sculptures along the back of the garden. In front, there were ferns, driftwood, and flowers.

I saw flowers that I had never seen before. It was almost as if someone painted them to match the glass sculptures. The flowers below are African Daisies.

•Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...

We were able to see the Columbia River on this trip. This particular section of it was so interesting because the cliffs on the other side showed layers of rock of various colors.

The terrain was rugged and dotted with fragrant sagebrush. At the bottom of the hill, near the river, were the original roads that were used to deliver mail from one town to the other.

At the International Test Rose Garden, I saw a hydrangea bush that was blue. I have white hydrangeas and have always wanted to have a blue one.

Somewhere it was written that you can change the white flowers to blue by making the soil more acidic. I'm wondering if that's possible, and if it would work on some of the flowers at our farm.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting....

Last week when I left for Seattle, all the garden-in-a-box kits were planted. Also had three flower gardens completely done and covered with mulch. What a difference the mulch makes in terms of finishing it off.

I still have quite a few gardens left that I want to plant this year with perennials (bulbs and native wildflowers), vegetables, and fruit. This summer will be a work-in-progress...a kind of "catch up" time after nine years of caregiving.

One of the things I kept seeing in Seattle were mass plantings of lavender.

At first I thought perhaps it was some other type of decorative perennial. was lavender that smelled incredibly good when it was touched. I wish lavender would grow like that in Minnesota.

•I added nature journal pages about....

Although I didn't add any pages to my nature journal, I do have a couple of topics to write about. When I was in the Pacific Northwest this past week, I saw two birds that I want to write about:
- yellow-headed blackbird. Saw one on the side of the road in Washington.
- killdeer. Saw quite a few in Idaho. Reminded me of the ones we saw when we moved out to Plymouth when I was a child.

I also want to write about the eco-region we saw that was east of the Cascade Mountains: shrub-steppe.

There were plants that I have never seen before:
- sagebrush
- hedgehog cactus

I could add a section about farm animals since I haven't written about them. My sister and I stayed at an alpaca ranch in Idaho; and had the opportunity to see these animals up close.

They were inquisitive and wanted a closer view of us...but not so close that we could touch them.

I also could add a section in the nature journal about wild animals that I saw while on the trip. In addition to the nine wild turkeys in Idaho at the alpaca ranch, I saw this deer on the way back to Seattle. We stopped the car to watch it eat. The young buck, with velvet still on his antlers, seemed unbothered by us watching him.

While we were on the train going from Seattle to Portland, we saw five deer as we headed into Portland. Three of them were young bucks, their antlers still developing.

•I am reading...

During the trip, I read two books about Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy and how to apply that to a homeschool setting. There were many ideas that I'm already doing. However, there were ideas that I want to start incorporating starting next year.

With the girls starting tenth and eighth grades, the time is going by so quickly. I want to make sure that we all are getting the most out of our time together...which is equally as important as the time spent with the academic work we do together.

•I am dreaming about…

One of the things I enjoyed about traveling to the Pacific Northwest was seeing things that we don't see in Minnesota.

On June 4th, when my sister and I arrived in Seattle, we drove to Des Moines (southwest of Seattle) and spent time at a farmers market there.

In the distance, we could see the Olympic Mountain Range. Most of the mountains are in Olympic National Park. Some day I'd like to go was just a bit too far for this trip.

Driving from Seattle to Idaho, we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls. There's a hydroelectric dam at the top of the falls.

On the way from Seattle to Idaho, we stopped at almost every state park. There were beautiful lakes, trees, and/or mountains at each one.

• Some photos I would like to share...

The last stop that we made on the trip was to the International Rose Test Garden in Portland.

The roses were in full bloom. There had to be tens of thousands of flowers and buds on the rose bushes.

Although it was raining on and off, it made for some interesting photos.

The rain drops sat in random patterns on the rose petals.

We saw roses in such a wide range of colors and color combinations. Many times, there were multiple roses blooming on each stem.

There were roses that I didn't even know existed - like the ones that had variegated leaves with yellows, pinks, reds, and whites.

One of the things that intrigued me was that on one rose bush there could be bouquets of flowers that varied substantially in color. They were so beautiful.


Every inch of space was used - even the hills and slopes were covered with roses.

There were unique ways that the roses were displayed - including a triple arch.

At first we went row by row to see each rose.

We would smell them, I would take a photograph of the name plate so I knew which ones were fragrant. I like roses that have a heavy scent.

Other flowers I enjoyed seeing because there were just so many together. I especially liked the single blooming flower surrounded by buds in various stages.

It was difficult to choose a favorite rose. There were so many that I saw that I liked.

I spent some time today looking up the names of the roses I liked and to see if they were available.

With the exception of a couple of roses, all them are available for purchase from either Heirloom Roses or White Flower Farm. Although I know we don't have the same climate as Portland has which lends itself well to helping the roses grow so tall and prolifically, it still would be nice to see which roses would grow here and be able to withstand the frigid winter weather.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Visit to Seattle

A visit to Seattle with my sister has been a combination of seeing things again as well as discovering new parts of the Pacific Northwest.

When we arrived, we stopped at the Visitor's Center and were encouraged to visit the farmers market at Des Moines Beach.

My sister, Mary, and I enjoyed seeing the variety of produce that was already in season. There were even things we had never tasted before: like yellow cherries.

There were lots of food trucks and food vendors. The market was a combination of fresh produce, beautiful flowers, healthy (and some unhealthy) food, and a way to connect with others. There were many chairs and picnic tables set up for people to relax, enjoy a meal together, and talk.

Along our walk to the market, we saw gardens with lavender. The bees loved it.

On Sunday, the highlight for me (and I think Mary too) was the Chihuly Garden and Glass. Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures were displayed both inside and in a garden.

The first part was inside. We enjoyed one section where the glass pieces were on the ceiling and backlit so the patterns were revealed.

Each piece was so unique in color and pattern.

My favorite part of the museum was a section called Ikebana and Float Boats. There were two wooden boats placed on a reflective black surface. In and around the boats were beautiful glass pieces - shining on their own and reflecting on the floor.

The simplicity of the background allowed the pattern of the sculptures to be the focus of the display.

I could have spent so much time just enjoying the patterns and vibrant colors of this display.

Another room had chandeliers. Each view provided a different look and feel to the sculpture.

Even glass that was devoid of color still was amazingly beautiful.

We spent time wandering through the garden space. Glass pieces were integrated right into the landscape.

The colors of the pieces matched or complemented the flora. It was also fascinating for me to such a diverse variety of flowers that I've never seen.

We also had an opportunity to go to the Space Needle. I went up to the top before, but Mary had not been there. Seeing the view of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Ranier never gets old.

After visiting Pike Place Market (which was very crowded), we went to a place that served crumpets. We had never eaten a crumpet before so it was fun to try something new. We found a place that makes cheese and were able to see two batches in different stages.

We took the light rail system to the International District. Visited Uwajimaya. There was a food court, grocery store, bookstore, and household area. There were a lot of items from Japan which I loved seeing.

We looked at the produce section and saw a diversity of food that we normally don't see in Minnesota. One of the things we saw was dragon fruit (the red fruit pictured below). It weighs about 1.25 pounds and costs about $12 per fruit. We didn't get one since it was a bit on the expensive side.

One of the things that I've enjoyed is seeing all the beautiful flowers here. At both the Des Moines Farmers Market and Pike Place Market, there were so many vendors with such a variety of flowers. Peonies are definitely in season here - so fragrant, fluffy, and beautiful.

We've had a fun and interesting start to our vacation. I don't remember the last time I took a vacation with my sister...perhaps when the girls were still toddlers? If so, it has been entirely too long.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Garden-in-a-Box - Planting the Gardens

This is the second year that we are doing the Garden-in-a-Box program through the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. Last year, our club received ten kits from the MSHS which included:
- 4'x3' bag
- 10 bags of soil per garden
- 1 bag of organic fertilizer per garden
- variety of plants - vegetables, herbs, and flowers
- tomato cage
- fencing (which we didn't use)
- spray nozzle for a hose for watering the garden
- support from the MSHS

Olivia planting her garden.

Three of the kits went to families who wanted to make a three-year commitment to the program. The other seven kits are at our farm for youth from our club to work on. Whoever works on the gardens can harvest and keep the produce.

Sophia planting her garden.

This year our club received four more kits for new families who expressed an interest in being part of the project. They each received the same things we did last year, although the garden is a bit smaller: 3'x3' and uses a different bag.

Olivia deciding where to place the plants.

For the kits at the farm that are in the second year, we received:
- 2 bags of compost per garden
- 1 bag of organic fertilizer
- variety of plants - vegetables, herbs, and flowers
- tomato stake
- support from the MSHS

Sophia planting strawberries.

At the farm, Sophia and Olivia each planted a garden; my sister planted two; and I planted the remaining three gardens.

Sophia wanted to customize her garden with two rows of strawberries.

Gardens 1-4.

Olivia had some extra room in her garden, so she tried planting some seeds of vegetables that she had never eaten before - like beets; and some vegetables that she doesn't care for, but wanted to see what they looked like growing in her garden (like mesclun).

Garden 1 is Olivia's garden.

What is interesting to see is that we each had the same core vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Yet, each one of gardens is so different in terms of the way we arranged the plants and seeds.

Garden 2 is Sophia's garden.

In some of the gardens we did both onion transplants (that were grown by seeds) and onion sets. It will be interesting to see and taste the difference between the two types.

This is Garden 4 - one of the gardens I planted.

We had some extra seeds for herbs this year and planted it around some of the plants we received from the MSHS. For example, around the cilantro and basil, we planted the seeds in a circle.

Gardens 5-7.

Again, it was not only a way to use up the seeds, but to see the difference between growing herbs from seeds or transplants.

Garden 5 is one I planted.

The other interesting thing we will be watching this year is the amount of sun and shade each of the gardens receive. We are wanting to know how this will affect the quantity of produce harvested from each garden.

Garden 7 is another I planted. This one has 4 rhubarb plants in it.
One is a transplant from another garden and
three are from ones I ordered from Jung's and
Chisago County Master Gardeners.

I was happy to see the chives come up this year again - both from a planting I did many years ago and also in a container garden we did last year.

Chive blossoms on the plants that are several years old.

We added some seeds for basil, dill, and cilantro to the container garden and hopefully we'll have a lot of fragrant herbs to enjoy this summer.