Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge - December 13, 2017

I've taken a break from doing the Wednesday Hodgepodge due to a rather homeschool-intensive Fall. Am happy to be back this week to read what others have written and answer some questions.

1. 'Hurry less, worry less'...what's your strategy for making that happen this holiday season? How's it going so far?

I've intentionally been trying to scale back this year and be fully present in each activity. Although we have done something holiday related almost every day so far this month, it's not an excessive amount of activities like we have done in the past.

As for worrying less...that, unfortunately, is not something I've done well with this year. It's been a challenging year and medical bills have certainly affected what we are able to do and purchase. I haven't even begun Christmas shopping yet and am not sure when that's going to be possible. It looks like it's a certificates-for-something-in-the-future and homemade-gifts-with-what-I-have-on-hand type of year.

2. Do you have a list of to-dos that need accomplishing in order to prepare your home and/or property for the winter season? What are some of the jobs on your list? Are you a do-it-yourselfer or do you hire someone to accomplish these tasks?

Much of what needed to be done to prepare our home and farm for the winter season is done back in the Fall - before the snow falls. That being said, there are still some jobs that need to be done now that it looks like the cold weather is here to stay.

The most important things are to cover the rose beds and flower bulb beds with straw. With 50 degree weather up until about a week ago, it wouldn't have been good to cover the beds with straw. Now that it is down in the 20s, it is good to do that.

One of the lilies we grew this summer.

We also didn't cover the beehive yet. Again, the sporadically warm weather would have made the covering we put on the hive too hot for the bees.

We also have to get the snowblower out of the barn and closer to the house; and cover it with a tarp so that it is ready to be used for the season.

I also would like to clean out the barn completely before it gets too cold and get all new wood chips down for the horses. Will need to order a shipment of chips while I'm at it.

These are all jobs that we do on our own. We don't hire people to do things that we are capable of doing. We hire people for doing things that are out of our skill set and/or requires specialized knowledge - like electricians and plumbers.

3. According to dietitians surveyed, the most popular health foods for 2018 will be: turmeric, sprouted foods (bean sprouts, breads with sprouted grains, etc), veggies in place of grains, dairy free milk, and pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc).  What's the first thought that ran through your head when you read this list? Of the foods listed which one might you add to your regular diet? Also, can milk really be dairy free? Is it still milk?

Some of the items are consistent with the Whole30 program and others are not. I did the Whole30 back in October and will be doing another round in January. On it, there's no sugar, grains, corn, beans, soy, or dairy. Basically, most processed food is out and all homemade food is the norm.

A typical meal on the Whole30 program.

I felt great while I was on the Whole30 - more energy, no digestive issues, and lost 8 pounds. Re-introduced foods in November and December that were not part of the Whole30 and noticed that the same challenges I was having before have come back. So, there's definitely food that I can't eat if I want to feel healthy.

Fresh fruit also is good on the Whole30.
This was a combination of strawberries, peaches, and lychee fruit.

So, out of the 2018 health foods, turmeric, bean sprouts, vegetables (with the exception of corn and beans), and dairy-free milk (that has no sugar added and isn't soy or rice) would be fine. I probably wouldn't drink the dairy-free milk as a beverage, but would use it in recipes as needed for liquid.

4. The Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet. According to the Pantone site 'Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking pointing us to the future.' What say you? Do you like the color purple? Did you see the movie or read the book-ha!?  Is purple a color you wear often?  If you were in charge of such things what color would you select for 2018?

When I was 8 years old, my family moved to a new home. Each of us kids could choose our own bedroom color. The color I picked: violet. As a teen, I stenciled purple flowers around the top of the walls near the ceiling. There was even purple carpet. 

My bedroom was changed into a sewing room after I went to college. 
The carpet was replaced at some point too.
However, the walls and stenciling - and
even the purple blinds remained.

I still like the color purple, though I would use it more as an accent color than an entire room's color at this point in my life. We have African violets which bloom purple.

I did see the movie The Color Purple when I was in college. It was very moving.

In terms of clothing, I had a purple sweater. However, I donated when I was streamlining my closet using the Konmari method.

If I were in charge of the color selection for 2018, I would pick a color that was unusual. It would be visually pleasing and have a memorable name. "Ultra Violet" seems like such a mundane name for something that's supposed to communicate "originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking."

5. Favorite book read this year?

I've read books this year, but there isn't one that stands out as a favorite one. 

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

Olivia put together this 2,000-piece puzzle last month. It shows the wildlife that is typically seen in each state. There are pictures on the map that show the animals; and charts around the perimeter of the U.S. that name particular animals and what region(s) you can see them.

She glued it together and it is being framed so that the puzzle can be kept in good condition. She likes having a map on the wall plus loves wildlife - so this is the perfect thing for her bedroom.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Countdown to Christmas - Days 6-10

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

St. Nicholas Day was today. We put shoes out last night and by morning they were filled with a variety of gifts.

We had waffles with bananas and strawberries for breakfast. (The comfort bags for children with cancer are in the background. We still need to make a few more fleece blankets before we can bring them to Children's Hospital.)

Eenie wants some of Sophia's waffles. He's been interested in people food recently which is unusual.

He's about 15 years old now and has issues with his liver. He's supposed to be eating special food and taking medicine, but he refuses to take the medicine and isn't eating as much as he should. So, we're supplementing it with meat and some other food to keep his weight up.

For dinner, we had "Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches" - a new recipe that we all liked. We used thicker Italian bread and a combination of cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and mozzarella cheese along with some mayonnaise and garlic powder for the filling. Probably not the healthiest meal. However, it tasted good for a special treat.

Today was the third day of Chalica. The focus was on the freedom to learn together. So, we chose to learn to make a new dinner (the sandwiches).

In the evening, we were going to watch “Monsters University," but Sophia had a 1 1/2 hour dress rehearsal for a children's play that she's the piano and harp accompanist for that evening. By the time we got home, it was close to 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Besides the routine things of the day - like bringing Meenie and Lucy to the vet, having Frontier come out to upgrade our internet service for a higher speed, helping the girls with homeschooling, and taking Olivia to gymnastics and Sophia to the Y, there wasn't much time for anything else.

For the fourth day of Chalica, the intention was to look at how various religions have different traditions through their food and the celebration of holidays. I was going to choose one religion and explore its winter holiday (Las Posadas) through food. I was thinking of going to El Burrito Mercado like we have in the past. In the evening, we were going to watch “Nightmare Before Christmas.” Perhaps next year we can do this instead.

For dinner we had Chinese dumplings which were good.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Again...routine things for part of the day: speech therapy for Olivia, Orkin came out for a monthly visit, went to the post office, and Sophia had a harp lesson in the afternoon in preparation for a few holiday performances she has coming up in the next couple of weeks.

A highlight of the day was Sophia playing the harp at Northwoods while Olivia and I pet the dogs  waiting to be adopted. We saw Winnie again. She's been there for three months now which is a long time. She's such a sweet dog. I don't know why in the world she hasn't been adopted.


There was Prescott - an 8 month old puppy who was intrigued with the harp. He reminded us a lot of Aspen. They have the same general appearance and coloring; and some of the same behaviors.

The third dog we spent time was with Brutus who must have weighed all of three pounds. He's 9 years old and there because his owner died. If we didn't have four dogs already, I think some of these dogs might have gone home with us.

We went to the bank's annual open house which was nice. They had cookies and cider as well as a variety of calendars and gifts. We chose the pizza cutter since the one we had from them many years ago does a great job. If it ever breaks, then we have a replacement.

I get a calendar and pen from them each year. I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't have a physical calendar to keep track of what needs to get done each day.

For the fifth day of Chalica, the focus is on all people having a voice. So, we held an informal vote on what we would have for dinner. Earlier in the week, the girls originally outvoted me by wanting Spam. (Why they like Spam is beyond me.)

However, by the time Friday rolled around, we decided to each have what we wanted rather than have the same thing. In the evening, the plan was to watch “Brave.” Like the rest of this past week, we didn't watch the movie.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

We went to the free community breakfast at the community center around 9:00 a.m. The Lions Club asked that people bring a donation to the food shelf, so we did. The Boy Scouts were collecting the food and looked like they had quite a few donations.

The Lions served a hearty breakfast: eggs, potatoes, sausages, cinnamon roll, and fruit cup. There was orange and coffee for beverages.

Afterwards, the girls visited Santa. Santa helped with installing all the barn quilts that Olivia oversaw, so it was nice seeing him again.

We went to Community Homestead afterwards to get cookies and handmade items.

Since we were in the area, the girls wanted to go to Mr. Deals. We found a few items that were inexpensive...and good deals.

I put batteries in the candle holders and put them in some of the windows; and hung the Christmas stockings by the wood stove.

For a couple of hours, I laid out six quilts that my Mom had started but never completed before she died. Some of the squares were already cut out, and some of them were sewn together. My goal is to get them sewn by Christmas so that I can give them to the girls, my sister, and brother.

For the sixth day of Chalica, the focus is on volunteering. We did that yesterday, so we didn't do that today. In the evening, we were going to watch “A Bug’s Life,” but I wasn't feeling well.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Spent almost three hours at church this morning. Sophia played the harp and piano for the children's choir's annual holiday play. They raised over $2,000 to purchase farm animals for people in need overseas.

She played the piano by herself as well as part of two different ensembles (piano/violin and piano/organ).

At the end of the service, there was the annual St. Lucia procession, song, and story. St. Lucia and her court are that year's graduating seniors. We've known these families now since their teens were in preschool. Hard to believe that they will be graduating in May.

Next year (December 2018), Sophia will be in that group and then in December 2020 Olivia will be there. Again, hard to believe that this time has come. The years went by so quickly, yet I feel like they were full of memories and very good times spent together.

In the afternoon, I helped Sophia with her PSEO final projects by editing them. She had all the information for her final paper and PowerPoint presentation for American Government and Social Entrepreneurship respectively. I just needed to point out if she had any errors in either the paper or presentation. She's done very well in both classes this semester. It was the right choice to have her start with college courses in her junior year of high school.

On the seventh day of Chalica, the original intention was to make a vegetarian or vegan meal. Ended up having honey-glazed BBQ spareribs (the complete opposite of a vegetarian meal) since it needed a longer time period to cook. It was a new recipe that turned okay - nothing special. I baked the ribs in the oven rather than cooking them in the slow cooker and then finishing them in the oven so they weren't as tender as what we're used to eating.

The other goal of the day was to recycle or reuse something that we would have thrown away or recycled. I decided to let go of a project that I was in my Mom's things as I was cleaning out her craft room.

It was a Christmas tree skirt that had been started, but not completed. However, all the pattern pieces were missing, so it would have been more work for me to make than I wanted to invest the time in doing. For someone crafty, it would be easy to create the pattern pieces and complete the tree skirt, so I'm passing it along to the thrift shop.

In terms of recycling, I'm continuing to add to our bags of recycling in the mudroom. Have two bags of items that can be added to the recycling can on Monday.

There was a movie recommended for the seventh day of Chalica - The Lorax. However, we didn't watch it.

Sophia saw a fox in the pasture as she was going out to feed the horses around dusk. She came upstairs and said to look out the window. Sure enough, there was a fox out there. It was rather big and had a long tail that was sticking out behind it. It was getting dark, so it wasn't the best lighting to see the fox.

We have coyotes, but we've never had one in the horse pasture. We have had fox in the pasture before, so it seemed the most likely animal.

Visual comparison of a dog (Aspen's size), wolf, coyote, and fox.

So, Olivia, Sophia, and I went out with flashlights to see if we could find it. Walking in the dark with a small flashlight or iPod flashlight knowing there is a fox around was a bit unnerving.

We saw lots of tracks that would belong to a fox as well as rabbits. Looks like the fox was trying to find dinner.

Example of fox tracks.

I walked under the pine trees in the pasture looking for the fox. "Hey, Mom. Did you know that a fox can climb a tree?" Olivia asked. No, I didn't. A mental image of a rabid fox jumping out of the pine tree and landing on me was enough to re-direct me to an open area of the pasture.

So, we didn't see the fox. However, there was plenty of evidence in the snow of old and new tracks. So, clearly it has been spending time at the farm and making its home here. Who knows...we may see a litter of fox pups this spring!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Countdown to Christmas - Days 1-5

For over ten years, I've done a countdown to Christmas for Sophia and Olivia. I started with brown-construction-paper gingerbread men in a chain. Each one had a date and label on it with things we would do that day.

Eventually, I made an advent calendar with little embroidered envelopes made from wool felt and embroidery floss.

It hung by the wood stove for the first couple of years. One year, I moved it to the banister in the front hall.

Cooper, who was still a young dog at the time, ate some of the envelopes when we were gone. I haven't replaced them so we don't use the calendar anymore. (I need to repair that this year so we can use it again.)

This year, I have the days planned out - special things that we will do each day. Some days have more "exciting" things than others. The point is that we are doing something a bit out of the ordinary to enjoy time together as a family and/or do new things that are meaningful to us.

My overall goals for myself on each day during December/Advent:

-          Start a gratitude journal. I am using a special book for this and am using the following links that have gratitude images and prompts:

I printed and cut each one, and glued it into the gratitude journal. Using Prismacolor markers and colored pencils, I color them and write on them. 

Around them, I am using a kindness calendar that Mothering Arts offered during December. I write about the things I did each day.

-          Clean the house and declutter for 15 minutes. (I'm doing this more in blocks of time rather than each day.)

-          Gather one bag of items that can be donated to the second-hand store. Do this every day until Christmas so we donate 25+ bags of items that we no longer need, but may be useful for another person or family. The money from the sale of the items will help support programs that help others in the community. (Again, this is being done in blocks of time so some days I'm getting more items than other days.)

-          Read one Christmas story each day from now until the 25th. (I haven't started on this one yet since we are still going through the Christmas bins. Will catch up this weekend with reading.)

- Use the Family Reflections during the month and write down what each person says. (We haven't done this yet, but I would like to do this each year from this point forward and see how our answers change.)

December 1, 2017

I walked Scooby by Demontreville Lake while Sophia had her harp lesson. He was so happy after his walk.

We even found a tennis ball on the walk which we brought back with us in the car. He's watching for Sophia to come out of her lesson in the photo below.

I donated three bags of items to Goodwill. Felt good to get them out of the house.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Sophia hosted a blood drive with the American Red Cross as well as oversaw the assembly of 30 comfort bags for children who have cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy.

During the last couple of weeks of November she had purchased lots of items to fill the comfort bags thanks to donations and grants from individuals and businesses.

She instructed people about what to include in the comfort bags - giving each person the opportunity to fill a bag for a particular gender and age group.

Olivia was in charge of giving rewards to each of the blood donors as well as encouraging them to eat a snack. Each donor received a thank you card, heart-shaped window star, one of Sophia's CDs, and a gift certificate to either Kwik Trip, the movie theater, or Pizza Hut.

Family members, friends, and people who were attending the holiday fair in the same building helped create the bags. Below, my sister filled a bag.

This is an example of what was included in the comfort bags:

We tied eight fleece blankets. There are six more that we still need to complete at home.

We were so grateful to have the help of girls who knew how to tie the blankets and enjoyed doing making them.

The bags were created throughout the day by people of all ages.

By the end of the day, all 30 bags had been assembled.

There were 12 blood donors - of which 25% were teens. This was the first time that a blood drive had been held at this location, so the American Red Cross was pleased with the number of new donors as well as teen donors.

We were pretty exhausted by the end of the day since we left the house around 7:00 a.m. and didn't get home until close to 5:00 p.m. Ended up having pizza for dinner.

That night there was a super bright moon. It literally lit up the entire backyard.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

We picked out a tree today from Prairie Restorations. Sophia chose it and ended up hauling it over to the ruler on the post that determined how much it cost.

The girls helped tie the three to the top of the roof of the Jeep.

That afternoon, we had another fire in the fire pit in the backyard. We're trying to burn brush that has been sitting there for quite a while. If we didn't burn it now, birds and wildlife (rabbits and skunks) would nest there over the winter and into the spring. We would have a huge brush pile that would have been there another year since we wouldn't want to burn it when they were nesting in it.

It's nice to have it cleared out now (for the most part). We'd like to create a smaller fire pit next spring and sod around the area that we burned.

Also on Sunday, I cleaned my home office and put things away that were on the floor. Spent 2 hours and 45 minutes doing this. Got rid of 7 bags of garbage, recycling, or donations.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The intention today was to celebrate Chalica - a Unitarian Universalist holiday. It starts on the first Monday of December and goes for seven days. Each day represents one of the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism.

The first one basically is that each person is important. So, there were two things that I wanted to do: have a meal where everyone’s favorite food is represented and watch Meet the Robinsons.

We ended up doing the meal, but didn’t watch the movie since I had a Lions Club foundation board meeting that night.

The meal included: Papa Murphy pizza (Olivia's choice)...

 bratwurst (Paige's choice)...

fresh fruit (my choice)....

and sparkling grape juice (Sophia's choice).

Everyone was happy because there was something that each person liked that was included in the meal.

While I was at the board meeting, the girls decorated the Christmas tree.

They each picked ornaments that they wanted on the tree.

Many of the ornaments are ones we bought in China when they were adopted in 2001 and 2003.

Aspen and Danny oversaw the decorating of the tree.

When we turned the light out, I monkeyed around with the camera. Had fun with creating "light pictures."


The girls wanted to make sure I got a "normal" picture of the tree...which I did:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

This was an unusual and memorable day. Sophia was able to observe three bunion surgeries with her podiatrist/surgeon. He gave that opportunity since she is doing a 4-H project/presentation on the surgical removal of bunions.

After driving on very icy and slippery roads thanks to an overnight rain, freeze, and snow, we arrived at the hospital by 7:45 a.m. One of the surgical nurses showed Sophia where to change into scrubs. 

She was able to observe up close the procedures which were fascinating for her. She learned a significant amount in the three hours she spent in the operating room watching the surgeries. 

There she is taking photos (one of over 400 photos from the morning!) with Dr. Benjamin Clair doing a bunion surgery. Techically, it was a "Lapidus arthrodesis (also known as a first tarsometatarsal or first TMT arthrodesis) hallux valgus correction." 

After the surgeries, Sophia went to the homeschool co-op to take her piano lesson and PSEO course (American Government). It was full day.

While she and Olivia were at the co-op, I dropped off five bags of donations at Family Pathways. I'm up to 8 bags of donations so far this month.

For the second day of Chalica, the focus was on doing something nice for someone else - or being kind in all you do.

So, I wrote two Christmas cards to the Charlie and Yovani through the prison ministry program I'm involved with that focuses on letter writing. I write letters regularly to these two men who are in prison in Missouri and California respectively. I've been writing to Charlie now for a few years and Yovani since earlier this year. 

It's been rewarding and enlightening for me to correspond with both me; and I've learned quite a bit about the prison system. I wish there were more things to help inmates improve their lives, gain marketable skills, and receive a solid education so that when they are released the recidivism rate would be lower.