Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Keeping a Commonplace Book

Last year I began keeping a Commonplace Book. I wanted to copy quotes I had found or heard from various sources. Having them all in one book would be a good reference not only for me, but for Sophia and Olivia.

I had heard about Commonplace Books through some Charlotte Mason websites I refer to as I was developing Sophia's and Olivia's homeschool curriculum.

I started exploring on Pinterest what examples of Commonplace Books look like; and created a board with examples from various Commonplace Books - contemporary and historical.

Some reflect the person's best penmanship, others are a collection of snippets of quotes and bits of articles taped or glued into a book. Others use yellow "stickie sheets" with notes written on them. Some have beautiful drawings or paintings in them, while others cut out images from magazines or books and include them as inspiration.

A page from my Commonplace Book.

The covers range from plain books to personalized collages. One collage on the board shows a collection of words and images from magazines. Another collage incorporates tactile elements - like laces, scrapbook paper, and fabric.

DIY Planner said, "The Commonplace Books of old were series of books, stuffed with scraps, inspirations, snippets of information, sketches, clippings, photographs, poems, jokes, references, and anything else pertaining to the interest of the person who kept it."

A Commonplace Book is a central resource for ideas, quotes, observations, anecdotes, and information you come across during your life. The purpose of the book is to record and organize the information for later use in your life; in your writing or speaking; or in your business.

Commonplace Books differ from journal (which are chronological and introspective) in that they are not organized chronologically. Rather, the authors of these books would have one or two themes for which they sought information from various sources. They would record the information and review it by themselves or with others who had similar interests.

An article in The New York Review of Books noted that authors of these books made “a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality … a way of making sense of the world.”

A page from my Commonplace Book.

Within a Charlotte Mason education, a Commonplace Book is a place to record great quotes, poems, and passages from literature. The children and teens choose what they want to include in their Commonplace Book which eventually becomes a resource filled with noble thoughts of others.

Charlotte Mason Help asks, "Don't you find it interesting that the greatest literary figures in history such as Shakespeare, Tennyson, Dickens, Stevenson, Franklin, J. London...did not take creative writing or composition courses? They copied very carefully passages from classic literature and then tried to write the same passage again from memory without looking at the model.

"They used their own words when needed, but tried to sound like the original author as much as possible. Eventually, this carried over into their own writing."

Charlotte Mason had students keeping their own commonplace books by around age 13. She said, "It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or of any part of it; but not summaries of facts. Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review."

One gets a pretty good idea of a man, his likes and prejudices, 
his quirks and manias, the variousness of his mind 
from reading a commonplace book.
- William Cole

The blog Sage Parnassus noted, "Most people have heard about Thomas Jefferson's commonplace books. The very readable biography by Clara Ingram Judson describes them nicely....[One of the characters] from a perennial, favorite read-aloud, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, kept a commonplace book. It's how Nathaniel Bowditch learned - reading, then writing, then reviewing what he wrote."

A page from my Commonplace Book.

Tips for keeping a Commonplace Book:

– Read often and widely.

– Highlight what resonates with you as you read (e.g., words, anecdotes, passages, stories, information). .

– Take notes while you read.

- Record wisdom, not facts. Don't just record random pieces of information. The point is to have a book filled with wisdom that you refer to in times of depression, crisis, opportunity, or a new job.

- Transfer information from the book to your Commonplace Book.

- Expand what you record from sources other than books. Speeches, videos, movies, or conversations all are valuable resources.

- Use a book that you enjoy writing in. You also can use notecards that you can rearrange as you want. In fact, Ronald Reagan actually kept quotes on a notecard system.

- Don’t let it pile up. Write in your Commonplace Book on a regular basis.

- Look at other people’s Commonplace Books. Get ideas about ways to improve your book.

- Recognize that this is a project for a lifetime.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Outdoor Mom's Journal - January 2016

On the Handbook of Nature Study website, Barb started a Outdoor Mom's Journal. Each month, she answers some questions to give a glimpse into what's happening in her world as it relates to nature.

Last year, I did some entries for my own Outdoor Mom's Journal, but wasn't as consistent with it as I had hoped. This year, I'm trying again. Below are the prompts and my responses for January.

During our outdoor time this week we went....for as short as possible distances since temperatures are in the double-digits below zero. In fact, the time spent outside focused more on functional and necessary more so than optional and enjoyable.

As I write this, there's a Wind Chill Advisory that is in effect until noon on Monday (it started yesterday). The Advisory said:
* Expect wind chills to range from 25 and 35 below zero through Monday morning.
* The dangerously cold wind chills will cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes to exposed skin. This morning it was so cold that it was lowered to only 10 minutes outside.

It offers this precautionary/preparedness action since frost bite and hypothermia can occur if precautions are not taken: Make sure you wear a hat and gloves.

I had to laugh at that. A hat and gloves? Let's try multiple layers of socks, pants, shirts, and gloves/mittens. A scarf or face protector. Some boots. A coat. Even with all those layers, I still come in and my feet and legs are cold.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...seeing the variety of birds visiting the bird feeder. I enjoy seeing so many birds relying on the food we are providing for them. Some of the smaller birds who visit the feeder have their feathers all puffed up to stay warm.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...how horses make it through these sub-zero days and nights.

One winter, after getting our horses, it was frigidly cold. By the morning, one of the horses (Bailey) was shivering. I felt so bad seeing her like that; and called the vet not knowing what to do. I had never seen this happen before. They told me to feed her hay right away and she should stop shivering within five or so minutes. Sure enough, that's what happened.

They also suggested putting extra bedding down so there was a thicker layer between the ground, cement floor, and their bodies. Keeping this advice in mind, over the past two days, I have put nine bales of wood chips down in the barn. It is nice and thick now. I noticed today that Bailey had been rolling in the chips during the day.

One website I visited, Quora, said that "...quite often, even when shelter has been provided for them, they don't use it except perhaps at night or when dozing. They're fine, really. If you can see snow on their backs, that means their body heat is not escaping to melt the snow."

It isn't snowing (it's too cold) so I can't test that theory. Later this week, when it is supposed to snow again, I'm curious to see if that's true.

On Homesteading Today, one horse owner said, "A wind block, free choice hay, and unfrozen water and they will be fine."

Our horses have a barn and plenty of areas that provide a block from the wind and unfrozen water (I have two heated buckets that keep the water from freezing). When the weather started to go below zero and not move above it even during the day, I put extra hay in the barn at night so they can have it i they want it plus extra hay out during the day (on an approximately five-hour schedule). The horses are leaving some of the hay which is good. It means they have enough to keep themselves warm.

In the garden, we are planning...how to expand our vegetable gardens. Last year, we had seven 3'x4' gardens that had different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, herbs, and marigolds. We've tried larger vegetables in the past in the same space, but there's not enough sunlight throughout the day.

Back in the late 1990s, I had a very large garden. That area is now the horse pasture, though, so I can't use it for gardening. In addition, the trees have grown in beautifully so it is more shaded than when we first moved here.

So, I'm thinking of how to change the backyard a bit so we have more space to do gardening - fruit and vegetable. There also are a couple of ways of gardening that I'd like to experiment with (e.g., keyhole, straw bale).

Last fall, I planted a lot of bulbs and transplanted some of the flowers that belonged to my parents. I'm hoping these make it through the winter and that we'll have some new colorful flower gardens.

I added nature journal pages about...I printed some pictures at Target to include with my January nature journal entries. Also invested this past week in some Prismacolor pens and Prismacolor watercolor pencils as a way to expand the tools I use for journaling.

This is what the Prismacolor pens look like. 
The tips are fine which is great 
for printing and handwriting.

I am reading...Wildlife Habitat Education Program manual that is part of the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl reading requirements. As the coach for a junior and senior team this year, I need to read this manual and develop some questions to test the team members. It's an interesting resource. It's just a lot of reading in a short period of time.

I am dreaming about…warmer weather. Even temperatures in the 30s (which are projected for later this week) will feel tropical compared to what the weather is like today.

Two photos I would like to share...are from the last Wildlife Project Bowl meeting. The activity focused on horns versus antlers.

I gave each child and some of the mothers a slip of paper with a description of a quality of either a horn or antler. Each one had to read her/his description and determine if it was referring to a horn or antler.

Once they were in their groups "Horn" or "Antler" each one took a turn reading her/his description. For the most part, everyone was in the right group (there were only two who needed to move over to the "Horn" group). I think everyone learned at least one new thing about horns and antlers.

The photos above show a bison skull with horns (notice they are attached to the skull) and a moose antler. The antler is quite heavy; and it gave us all a good perspective of how large each one is and the weight that a moose carries atop his head.

The bison head is one I've had now for well over a decade. It was from Eichtens in Chisago City. When we were reading the Kaya series (as part of the American Girl books), I wanted to provide Sophia and Olivia with some hands-on experiences related to buffalo. Eichtens said I could look at the bones they had in a pile there. Found the skull with horns which was a great find!

The antler was one that Casey (my dog) found when I was walking her on the Gunflint Trail. It was about mid-Trail and off the side of the road in a forested area. She smelled something and was insistent on wanting to go find it. On our way back home, we stopped on the side of the road and put it in the back of the Jeep. I've had it ever since...a nice reminder of Casey and our many hikes and trips up north.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Waldorf Grain Schedule - A Week of Recipes

When Sophia and Olivia were younger, I remember reading about a grain schedule that was used in Waldorf Kindergarten classrooms. Having a schedule provides children (and families) with a sense of rhythm and predictability.

In addition, according to The Parenting Passageway, "A different grain for each day is...connected to the cosmic origins of the days of the week. A different grain a day fits in with the nourishing weekly rhythm the Kindergarten thrives on."

The website continued, "The most common listing of grains...is the following, taken from The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book:

Sunday (Sun): Wheat

Monday (Moon): Rice

Tuesday (Mars): Barley

Wednesday (Mercury); Millet

Thursday (Jupiter): Rye

Friday (Venus): Oats

Saturday (Saturn): Corn

"Waldorf teachers and those who cook with whole grains attribute different properties to different grains. According to The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book, wheat is often seen as a harmonizer of the organ systems; rice is seen as acting on the digestive system; barley is seen as strengthening to the connective ligaments due to a high silica content and also seen to be soothing to the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines; millet is seen to have warming properties; rye nourishes the head and bones; oats loosens stiffness and increases stamina and resistance to disease; and corn stimulates the metabolism in muscles."

I thought it would be interesting to try following the Waldorf Grain Schedule for a week using recipes I found on Pinterest that I've wanted to try now for some time. On the schedule I used this past week, I switched two days (Tuesday and Friday). Otherwise, everything matches the above schedule.

Sunday - Wheat

This pin for Baked Cheese Sticks led to the Living Well Kitchen. The recipe called for using cheese sticks. These are well-enjoyed by Olivia, and I forgot to tell her that I was going to use the package of cheese sticks for a recipe. Needless to say, between the time they went into the refrigerator and Sunday, only one cheese stick was left.

So, I thought I'd try cutting regular blocks of cheese. I had Swiss cheese and a Monterey Jack cheese on hand. What I found was that the string cheese held its shape whereas the other block cheese melted despite the breaded covering.

I baked the cheese sticks for only 8 minutes. They probably could have baked for less time. They tasted good, despite their flattened appearance.

Baked Cheese Sticks

The only two cheese sticks that retained their shape.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning
1 egg
2 tablespoon water
4 pieces string cheese, cut in half


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In a sandwich sized zip-top bag, mix together the bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. (I put everything in a bowl so as to not waste a bag.)

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and water, and add 2 cheese stick halves, making sure they are well-covered.

Add the egg-coated cheese sticks to the bag with the bread crumbs, and shake until fully coated. Put the cheese sticks back in the egg and shake in the bread crumbs again.

Put the breaded cheese sticks on the prepared baking sheet.

Repeat process with the remaining cheese halves until all are breaded and on the prepared baking sheet.

Spray the tops of the breaded cheese sticks with cooking spray.

Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the cheese is just starting to melt.

You can tell which ones are cheese sticks and 
which ones are from the blocks of cheese.


Monday - Rice

Today, rather than having a Chinese stir fry over rice (which would be something that I typically would have made for a day focused on rice), I wanted to try Rice Paper Rolled Sandwiches that I saw on this pin on Pinterest. The pin didn't lead to a recipe, so it was up to us to figure out what we wanted to put in the sandwiches.

Rice Paper Rolled Sandwiches

We need more practice rolling the sandwiches.

This was a healthy lunch that included shredded cabbage, avocado, carrots, cucumber, and cilantro. We dipped the sandwiches in peanut sauce.

The ingredients ready to be rolled into a sandwich.

There isn't a lot of filling that is needed for each sandwich. If you put too much, there isn't enough rice paper to stretch around the ingredients.

Sophia rolling a sandwich.

We were surprised at how forgiving and flexible the rice paper is after it soaked in water. The key, we found, is to keep an eye on the rice paper as it soaks. One minute it is hard as a rock and the next minute it seems like if you aren't paying attention, you'll have a soggy clump of rice paper on your hands. Ours didn't get to this point, thankfully. One more minute in the water, though, and it would have reached that level.

Sophia and I thought that these type of sandwiches would be especially good in the summer when the produce from the garden or farmers market is ripe and most flavorful. Adding edible flowers would give the sandwiches a decorative and pretty look.


Tuesday - Oats

Our dessert after dinner on Tuesday was Chocolate-Peanut Butter Granola Apple Bites. The recipe comes from a pin on Pinterest that doesn't lead to anything. Found another pin that has the recipe.

Sophia and I liked this recipe. Olivia said she liked the peanut butter on the apple, but not the granola.

It's an easy snack and healthy dessert; and we would make the recipe again. It also could be eaten as part of a meal. They would be something that would be good to take on a picnic since the granola sometimes falls off the apple. The birds and wildlife could enjoy eating whatever falls to the ground.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Granola Apple Bites

A Granny Smith apple covered with 
peanut butter and granola.


2 apples, sliced into wedges (We used Granny Smith which are a bit on the tart side. I think we all would have preferred a sweeter apple)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup granola, your favorite
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for sprinkling (We didn't put cinnamon on the apples)
Semisweet chocolate chips, optional* (We didn't use chocolate chips)

Three ingredients for a simple dessert or snack.


Coat the tops of the apple wedges in peanut butter and sprinkle with granola and cinnamon.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring in 30 second increments until melted. Be careful not to overheat.

Drizzle wedges with melted chocolate. Set on a large platter and serve.


To substitute the chocolate drizzle, you can sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top of the wedges. Or, leave the chocolate out altogether. They’re still delicious.

Olivia eating the apple slice and 
determining whether or not she liked it.

If not eating this immediately, brush each side of apple wedges with a little lemon juice to avoid browning. Makes 16-20 wedges.

Sophia with an apple slice covered in 
peanut butter and granola.


Wednesday - Millet

Today's grain is millet. This is not an easy grain to find in grocery stores in rural areas. I could find it at the local grain store in the bulk bird seed section. However, I thought it might be more appropriate to find it elsewhere for human consumption. So, the co-op is the place to go to get millet.

At any rate, I found a pin on Pinterest that led to the Alkaline Sisters website. Interestingly, the website said that millet "...is one of the six most important grains in the world and sustains one-third of the world's population as a significant part of the diets in China, Japan, Manchuria, and some areas of Russia, Africa, India, and Egypt; and it has an amazing 10,000 years of cultivation history in parts of East Asia."

The website noted that, "Millet is an excellent source of manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium - all of which are key minerals required for optimal health that you won’t find in white pasta."

I underestimated the amount of millet I had on hand, so I ended up using couscous along with the millet. What I should have done was cook each grain separately since each had a different length of time it needed to cook. Millet takes about 18 minutes and couscous about 5 minutes. The former needs to simmer and the latter doesn't. Needless to say, the millet was a bit on the firm side while the couscous was overly soft (event though I did take the pan off the stove).

At any rate, once the millet-couscous mixture was added to the other ingredients, the unusual texture of the grains wasn't as obvious. I still like my recipe for tabbouleh that I've had for a good 15+ years. This one didn't seem to have quite as much flavor. It also was missing the black olives and feta cheese I usually include with my tabbouleh.

It was nice to have fresh produce in the middle of winter.

Millet Tabbouleh

1 cup millet, rinsed
2 cups filtered water
1 tsp celtic sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 cups roma tomatoes, diced small (3-4 romas)
1 1/2 cups English cucumber, diced small (almost 1 cuke)
3 green onions, sliced finely
1 1/2 cups fresh parsley, chopped small
3/4 cups fresh mint, chopped small
1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes


In a medium sauce pan bring water to boil, add millet and then reduce heat to low, simmering with lid on for 18-20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and fluff with a fork.  Allow to cool with the lid off for 30-60 minutes. The texture should be firm but not crunchy and neither mushy.

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed garlic and allow to stand.

Meanwhile chop vegetables as per above descriptions and place in a large bowl.

Add millet when it is completely cool and then pour dressing over mixture.  Toss well, seasoning with sea salt to taste.

Garnish with parsley or mint and serve at room temp or chilled. Flavors will become more pronounced after resting.  Yield: Approximately 7 cups.


Thursday - Rye

Rye is Thursday's grain. The recipe I selected is one that I saw on Pinterest that led to All Recipes; and is for Swedish Limpu Bread. Unless it is started right away in the morning, it takes a bit too long for me to make on a weekday.

Thursdays are now our "4-H Day" with some weeks having up to three meetings (club and committee) that run from morning to late afternoon. The best thing to do would be to make this recipe on the weekend when I have a bit more time, and then serve the bread on Thursday.

I am going to let the bread rise more next time and 
see how that affects the texture of it.
I'm not sure how to bake it differently so that it doesn't brown quicker 
on the sides touching the pan.
It doesn't affect the taste...I just don't like the way it looks.

When I made the  bread, the kitchen smelled wonderful. From the scent of orange zest, caraway seeds, and fennel seeds boiling in water on the stove and then cooling in the mudroom to the hours when the bread was rising twice...it made me think back to being a child when my dad would make bread on Sundays.

When it came out of the oven, he would ask if anyone wanted a hot slice of bread with butter (actually it was margarine since it was less expensive). My sister, brother, and I would run up the stairs to the kitchen and wait patiently which he used the electric knife to cut the bread for us. It was such a special treat for us.

This recipe, for Swedish Limpu Bread, makes enough for two loaves of bread. It is a denser - an very flavorful - bread. It tastes equally as good right from the oven or cooled. We all liked it, and I'll definitely make it again.

The bread has two types of seeds and orange rind in it.

Swedish Limpu Bread

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2 cups water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seed
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups rye flour


Boil water, sugar, oil, salt, orange rind, caraway seeds, and fennel seeds in a saucepan for 3 minutes. Cool until warm.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour and yeast. Stir in cooled orange rind mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Blend in eggs. Add 1 cup flour, and beat 1 minute on medium speed. Add rye flour and enough additional white flour to make a stiff dough.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or until smooth and satiny.

Shape into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning to grease the surface. Cover with a damp cloth, and place in a warm spot. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch dough down, and divide in half. Shape into 2 balls. Let rest for 10 min. Shape into 2 loaves, and place into ungreased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Brush with oil. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes, or until done.


Friday - Barley

Today's recipe is for Barley Beef Soup. The pin on Pinterest led to Better Homes & Gardens.

Had I read the instructions early in the day, I would have noticed that it was supposed to start in the morning in the crock pot. At 5:00 p.m., I realized that I would have to find a quick way to make this soup or we weren't having a normal dinner.

With the exception of Olivia (who isn't a big fan of vegetables or this type of soup), we all enjoyed it and would make this recipe again.

Barley Beef Soup

Beef Barley Soup cooking in the skillet.

Makes: 8 servings Prep: 25 mins Cook: 8 hrs to 10 hrs (low) or 4 to 5 hours (high)


12 ounces beef or lamb stew meat (I used beef stew meat - about 16 ounces)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 14 ounce cans lower-sodium beef broth
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
1 cup peeled parsnip or potato cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a potato)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
2/3 cup regular barley
1/2 cup chopped celery (1 stalk)
1 cup bay leaf (I didn't include the bay leaves. One cup also seems like a very high amount. I would maybe do 1 or 2 bay leaves, but certainly not one cup.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil, crushed (I used Italian seasoning instead)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Trim fat from meat. Cut meat into 1-inch pieces. In a large skillet, cook meat in hot oil over medium-high heat until brown. Drain off fat.

Transfer meat to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. (At this point, I didn't transfer things to a slow cooker. I continued adding everything except the barley to the meat. The barley was cooking separately on the stove. I added it once it was done cooking.) Stir in broth, undrained tomatoes, onion, parsnip or potato, frozen vegetables, barley, celery, bay leaf, garlic, oregano, and pepper.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. It didn't take nearly that long - about 30-35 minutes - basically until the barley had cooked and I could add it to the other ingredients in the skillet.

Nutrition Facts (Barley Beef Soup): Per serving: 168 kcal cal., 4 g fat (1 g sat. fat, 25 mg chol., 492 mg sodium, 20 g carb., 3 g fiber, 13 g pro. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet


Saturday - Corn

Today I made Jicama Salsa with Blue Corn Chips. The recipe is from a pin I saw on Pinterest that led to My Recipes.

The fresh produce smelled wonderful on a chilly January day. It was almost as if summer were here again when I tasted the fresh cilantro, green onions, and red bell pepper.

If I were to make this recipe again, I would chop the jicama, pepper, and onion much smaller. This could be made in the Vita-Mix Mixer so that the vegetables all are finely-grated. I think the salsa would stay on the chips and the flavors would blend with one another better.

It's a colorful salsa that looks so bright 
when it is on blue corn chips.

Jicama Salsa


3/4 cup diced, peeled jicama (Note: one jicama makes about 3 batches of this recipe)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped red onion (I used green and yellow onions instead)
1 minced garlic clove
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
baked blue corn chips


Combine 3/4 cup diced peeled jicama, 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons chopped red onion, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, and 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice in a medium bowl. Serve with baked blue corn chips.

Red Waldorf-Inspired Window Star

A long time ago, I pinned an image on Pinterest that led to a pattern for a Waldorf-inspired window star on a blog called Deschdanja.

There are several patterns featured for window stars - some of which I've already done. However, there was a pattern for a blue star that I had never seen.

So, being that it it very cold outdoors, I created a windows star. It has been a while since I've tried a new pattern and is the perfect day to do it with the windchill in the double-digits below zero.

I chose red kite paper since Valentine's Day is coming up. There are 12 fold/unfolds per point. With eight points, that's 96 folds/unfolds to make this window star.

It was a simple star to make...and a quick creative activity to do on a weekend morning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Learning about History through Movies for Homeschooling

What seems like a long time ago, I found a pin on Pinterest that led to the Heart of Wisdom's post about learning about American history through movies.

There is a list of movies that is divided between time periods. I deleted ones that were marked R (restricted). However, there are additional ones on the list that I believe are R-rated which I would not show my daughters as part of homeschooling and because of their age.

Ideally, we should have started using the timeline at the beginning of the year when the girls began their American History courses. However, we can always go back at a future date and watch more movies that tie into what we are studying if this seems to be a good way to learn for the girls.

So, this week we are starting with the 1815-1860 Westward Expansion section and moving forward from this point on for the remainder of the 2015-16 homeschool year. I've italicized the movies that I want us to watch. I am hoping that they are available through the library at no cost. If they aren't, I will choose other ones to replace them.

Pre-America Period
National Geographic: America Before Columbus
Lost Colony(NR)

1630-1763 Colonial Period
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower
The Mayflower Pilgrims (Amazon Instant Video)
National Geographic – The New World: Nightmare in Jamestown
William Bradford- The First Thanksgiving DVD
Where America Began: Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown [VHS]
The War That Made America: The Story of the French and Indian War
When the Forest Ran Red
Roots (Miniseries 4 DVD)
Freedom & Repression In Colonial America
Benjamin Franklin
Deerslayer (French Indian War)
Hawkeye (1755, 4 DVD)

1763-1783 Revolutionary America
American Revolution Documentaries
Liberty: The American Revolution
The History Channel Presents The Revolution
John Adams
1776 (Musical)
April Morning
Johnny Tremain (NR)
A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation
Just The Facts – The United States Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments/ The Constitution
Benedict Arnold – A Question of Honor
The Crossing
Drums Along the Mohawk

1783-1815 Young Republic
George Washington DVD
Centennial (Miniseries 6 DVDs)
Thomas Jefferson
War of 1812
The History Channel Presents The War of 1812
Louisiana Purchase
National Geographic – Lewis & Clark
Sacagawea – Heroine of the Lewis and Clark Journey
Lewis and Clark The Journey of the Corps (Ken Burns documentary)
The Awaking Land

1815-1860 Westward Expansion
The West (Ken Burns documentary)- ordered from the library to watch during Homeschooling Week 17
Thomas Jefferson (Ken Burns documentary) - ordered from the library to watch during Homeschooling Week 18
Ken Burns: America
Red River
Davy Crockett
Fort Apache
High Noon
Wild West Tech – Gold Rush Tech (History Channel)
Wyatt Earp (PG-13)
Walt Whitman
Into the West

1830-1876 Civil War and Reconstruction
Gone with the Wind
Roots (Amazon Instant video)
The Cause 1861 (Amazon Instant video)
We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears (Amazon Instant video)
North and South (Mini Series Emmy Award, 8 DVD)
The Blue and the Gray (Miniseries 3 DVD)
Hatfields & McCoys (Mini Series, 3 Emmy Awards, 2 DVD)
Gods and Generals (Amazon instant video)
Red Badge of Courage
Friendly Persuasion (Amazon Instant Video)
Civil War Documentaries
The History Channel Presents The Civil War
Dances With Wolves
Gettysburg (Widescreen Edition)
The Civil War (Ken Burns: Commemorative Edition)

U.S. Mexican War 1846-1848
Santa Fa Trail
Gangs of New York (1840s to 1863)
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitmen (100 years from Civil War to Civil Rights)

1871-1914 Industrial Revolution
Backstairs at the White House (Taft to Eisenhower)
Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution
Ford Motor Company Auto Manufacturing
Henry Ford
Thomas Edison
The Great Locomotive Chase
The Vanderbilts: An American Dynasty
American Experience: The Rockefellers
The Men Who Built America
Far and Away (PG13)
Industrial Revolution
Instant Expert: Oil
Empires of Industry: Black Gold – The Story of Oil
Empires of Industry – Andrew Carnegie and the Age of Steel
Spanish-American War
Seven Wonders of the Industrial World
Learn to Read

1880-1920 Political Reform
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Winds of Kitty Hawk
Mark Twain
Teddy Roosevelt – An American Lion
When Giants Roamed: The Golden Age of Steam (The History Channel)
Ellis Island
Christy Complete Series
Anne of Green Gables (Canada)
Mark Twain (Ken Burns documentary)
The Rise and Fall of Penn Station

1914-1933 WWI / Prosperity/ Depression
The Long Gray Line (50 years Westpoint, Amazon Instant Video)
Sergeant York (NR)
Lost Battalion
Spencer’s Mountain
The War: A Ken Burns Film (Amazon Instant Video)
The Aviator
The Dawn Patrol
Twelve O'Clock High
The Color Purple
The Roosevelts (Ken Burns documentary)
Probation (Ken Burns documentary)
War Horse (PG-13)

WWI Documentaries
All Quiet on the Western Front
Biography: Amelia Earhart – Queen of the Air
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Amazon Instant Video)
All the King’s Men
The Grapes of Wrath
The Dust Bowl (Free w Amazon Prime Instant Video)
Cinderella Man (Amazon Instant Video)
J Edgar

WWII Documentaries
War and Remembrance (12-disk series)
The Longest Day
In Harms Way (Amazon Instant Video)
The Pacific Amazon Instant Video)
Tora, Tora, Tora (Amazon Instant Video)
Empires of Industry: Victory at Sea: Mass Producing Liberty
The Great Raid (Amazon Instant Video)
Hope and Glory
The Great Escape
The Hiding Place
Anne Frank – The Whole Story
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Pacific
From Here to Eternity
The House on 92nd. Street
Passage to Marseilles
Watch on the Rhine
Atomic Cafe
Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes
Red Tails

1945-1960 Post War/ Civil Rights
Korea The Forgotten War
West Side Story
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Jackie Robinson Story
The Kennedys
Ethel Kennedy
The Right Stuff
Freedom Riders
Lee Daniel’s The Butler
To Kill a Mockingbird (Amazon Instant Video)
The Help
Rosa Parks Story
Something the Lord Made
Freedom on My Mind
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

1960-1980 Vietnam Era
Spaceflight: The Complete Story from Sputnik to Shuttle – And Beyond
Vietnam Documentaries
Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Mississippi Burning
Martin Luther King Jr
Bay of Pigs
JFK Assassination
Civil Rights
When we Left Earth
Apollo 13

1980-2000 End of the Century
Argo (hostage crisis in Iran in 1980)
The Wolf of Wall Street
Ronald Reagan and the Triumph of American Conservatism
The Challenger Disaster (Amazon Instant Video)
Fall of the Berlin Wall
All the President’s Men
Persian Gulf War
Black Hawk Down
Three Kings (Gulf War, R, Amazon Instant Video)
Untold Stories of Columbine
Game Over in Littleton
Primary Colors

2000- Today
Remembering 9/11
Flight 93 (Amazon Instant Video)
Last Letters Home
Live from Bagdad
The Finest Hour
The Social Network
Supersize Me
Inside Hurricane Katrina
The Blind Side
2016: America’s Obama

Monday, January 4, 2016

Poet/Poetry Study - The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

This year, as part of Olivia's homeschool lessons in English, we are doing poet/poetry studies. We've been doing this for a few years now using the list at the Simply Charlotte Mason website.

In addition to the poets listed there, we also are using the Sonlight book list which includes The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems edited by Donald Hall. We did a combination of me reading the poems aloud to Olivia; and Olivia reading some of the poems on her own.

From the book, she chose ones that resonated with her. The poems follow.

Mother's Song to a Baby
Brian Swann based on adaptations from "Mother's Song to a Baby" from Song of the Sky: Version of Native American Song-Poems and "She Will Gather Roses" from Native American Songs and Poems: An Anthology

this little baby
has been given life
through the medicine man's song
through the medicine man's prayer
for this baby the songs
have been sung

the baby's mother
has taken care of him
with the songs of the rain gods

little baby
in his cloud-cradle
was watched over
by his mother

how the clouds
came up like foam
as if he
was among them
this little baby
was cared for

Taken May 22, 2013


The Cow-Boy's Song
Anna Maria Wells

"Mooly cow, mooly cow, home from the wood
They sent me to fetch you as fast as I could.
The sun has gone down: it is time to go home.
Mooly cow, mooly cow, who don't you come?
Your udders are full, and the milkmaid is there,
And the children all waiting their supper to share.
I have let the long bars down, -- why don't you pass through?"
The mooly cow only said, "Moo-o-o!"

"Mooly cow, mooly cow, have you not been
Regaling all day where the pastures are green?
No doubt it was pleasant, dear mooly, to see
The clear running brook and the wide-spreading tree.
The clover to crop, and the streamlet to wade,
To drink the cool water and lie in the shade;
But now it is night: they are waiting for you."
The mooly cow only said, "Moo-o-o!"

"Mooly cow, mooly cow, where do you go,
When all the green pastures are covered with snow?
You go to the barn, and we feed you with hay,
And the maid goes to milk you there, every day;
She pats you, she loves you, she strokes your sleek hide,
She speaks to you kindly, and sits by your side:
Then come along home, pretty mooly cow, do."
The mooly cow only said, "Moo-o-o!"

"Mooly cow, mooly cow, whisking your tail,
The milkmaid is waiting, I say, with her pail;
She tucks up her petticoats, tidy and neat,
And places the three-legged stool for her seat: --
What can you be staring at, mooly? You know
That we ought to have gone home an hour ago.
How dark it is growing! O, what shall I do?"
The mooly cow only said, "Moo-o-o!"

Taken April 30, 2008.


Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel;
And the former called the latter "Little Prig."
Bun replied,
"You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it's no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry.
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track;
Talents differ: all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut."

Taken January 18, 2013.


The Camel's Complaint
Charles E. Carryl

Canary-birds feed on sugar and seed.
Parrots have crackers to crunch.
And as for the poodles, they tell me the noodles
have chicken and cream for their lunch.
But there's never a question
about my digestion.
Anything is okay for me.

Cats, you know, can sleep in a chair.
Chickens can rest upon rails.
Puppies are able to sleep in a stable,
and oysters can nap in pails.
But no one supposes
a poor camel dozes.
Any place is okay for me.

Lambs are indoors out of the sun.
Coops are built for hens.
Kittens are treated to houses well heated,
and pigs are protected by pens.
But a camel is handy
wherever it's sandy.
Anywhere is okay for me.

People would laugh if you rode a giraffe,
or rode the back of an ox.
It's nobody's habit to ride on a rabbit,
or to try to ride a fox.
But as for a camel,
he carries families.
Any load is okay for me.

A snake is as round as a hole in the ground,
and weasels are wavy and sleek.
And no alligator could ever be straighter
than lizards that live in a creek.
But a camel's all lumpy
and bumpy and humpy.
Any shape is okay for me.

Taken August 5, 2007.


Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Taken on February 2, 2011.


The Little Turtle
Vachel Lindsay

There was a little turtle.
He lived in a box.
He swam in a puddle.
He climbed on the rocks.

He snapped at a mosquito.
He snapped at a flea.
He snapped at a minnow.
And he snapped at me.

He caught the mosquito.
He caught the flea.
He caught the minnow.
But he didn't catch me.

Taken on May 30, 2013.


About the Teeth of Sharks
John Ciardi

The thing about a shark is—teeth,
One row above, one row beneath.

Now take a close look. Do you find
It has another row behind?

Still closer—here, I’ll hold your hat:
Has it a third row behind that?

Now look in and...Look out! Oh my,
I’ll never know now! Well, goodbye.

Taken on January 31, 2008.


The Folk Who Live in Backward Town
Mary Ann Hoberman

The folk who live in Backward Town
Are inside out and upside down.
They wear their hats inside their heads
And go to sleep beneath their beds.
They only eat the apple peeling
And take their walks across the ceiling.

Taken on October 1, 2010.


The Witches' Ride
Karla Kuskin

Over the hills
Where the edge of the light
Deepens and darkens
To ebony night,
Narrow hats high
Above yellow bead eyes,
The tatter-haired witches
Ride through the skies.
Over the seas
Where the flat fishes sleep
Wrapped in the slap of the slippery deep,
Over the peaks
Where the black trees are bare,
Where bony birds quiver
They glide through the air.
Silently humming
A horrible tune,
They sweep through the stillness
To sit on the moon.

Taken on January 31, 2008.


The King of Cats Sends a Postcard to His Wife
Nancy Willard

Keep your whiskers crisp and clean.
Do not let the mice grow lean.
Do not let yourself grow fat
like a common kitchen cat.

Have you set the kittens free?
Do they sometimes ask for me?
Is our catnip growing tall?
Did you patch the garden wall?

Clouds are gentle walls that hide
gardens on the other side.
Tell the tabby cats I take
all my meals with William Blake,

lunch at noon and tea at four,
served in splendor on the shore
at the tinkling of a bell.
Tell them I am sleeping well.

Tell them I have come so far,
brought by Blake's celestial car,
buffeted by wind and rain,
I may not get home again.

Take this message to my friends.
Say the King of Catnip sends
to the cat who winds his clocks
a thousand sunsets in a box,

to the cat who brings the ice
the shadows of a dozen mice
(serve them with assorted dips
and eat them like potato chips),

and to the cat who guards his door
a net for catching stars, and more
(if with patience he abide):
catnip from the other side.

Taken on May 7, 2007.


Good Luck Gold
Janet S. Wong

When I was a baby
one month old,
my grandparents gave me
good luck gold:
a golden ring
so soft it bends,
a golden necklace
hooked at the ends,
a golden bracelet
with coins that say
I will be rich
and happy someday.

I wish that gold
would work
real soon.
I need my luck
this afternoon.

Taken on April 29, 2009.


There were old favorites that she liked as well:

The Three Little Kittens
Eliza Lee Follen

The three little kittens, they lost their mittens,
And they began to cry,
"Oh, mother dear, we very much fear,
That we have lost our mittens."

"Lost your mittens, you naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie."
"Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow."
"No, you shall have no pie."
"Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow."

The three little kittens found their mittens,
And they began to cry,
"Oh, mother dear, see here, see here!
See, we have found our mittens!"
"Put on your mittens, you silly kittens,
And you shall have some pie."
"Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r,
Oh, let us have some pie!
Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r."

The three little kittens put on their mittens,
And soon ate up the pie,
"Oh, mother dear, we greatly fear,
That we have soiled our mittens."
"Soiled your mittens! You naughty kittens!"
Then they began to sigh,
"Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow,"
Then they began to sigh,
"Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow,"

The three little kittens, they washed their mittens,
And hung them out to dry,
"Oh, mother dear, do not you hear,
That we have washed our mittens?"
"Washed your mittens? Oh, you're good kittens!
But I smell a rat close by."
"Hush, hush! Mee-ow, mee-ow."
"We smell a rat close by,
"Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow."

Taken on November 27, 2012.


Olivia also liked an old favorite that had additional verses that we had not heard before.

Mary’s Lamb
Sarah Josepha Hale

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And every where that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go;
He followed her to school one day—
That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

And so the Teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear;
And then he ran to her, and laid
His head upon her arm,
As if he said—“I’m not afraid—
You’ll keep me from all harm.”

“What makes the lamb love Mary so?”
The eager children cry—
“O, Mary loves the lamb, you know,"
The Teacher did reply;—
“And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are always kind.”

Taken on March 23, 2008.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

16 Nature Goals for 2016

Last year, I enjoyed setting and working on 15 nature goals for 2015. For 13 out of the 15 goals, I either met and/or made progress on them. Had I not set the goals, I would not have done or enjoyed as much as I did outdoors as I did.

So, for 2016 I've set 16 goals. Some are new goals, some are continuations of ones I enjoyed last year, and others are ones that I didn't have a chance to complete last year.

1. Take 12 new hikes.
2. Coach the Wildlife Project Bowl teams for our 4-H Club. Last year, I coached our club's first-ever junior team for the Wildlife Project Bowl from January-April. This year, all the team members returned and six new youth joined. There's a junior and senior team as well a three associate coaches that I'll be working with to help the youth prepare for the regional (and hopefully) state Wildlife Project Bowls.
3. Read 6 nature books or publications. There are two new publications for the Wildlife Project Bowl that I need to read this year. That leaves four books that I can select that are my choice.
4. Visit 5 state parks in Minnesota that I’ve never seen. I would like to visit Afton, Fort Snelling, Lake Maria, Frontenac, and Forestville/Mystery Cave. Go as a family when possible, and take the dogs with us on some of the visits as we explore new trails and parks.
5. Visit 4 nature centers that I haven’t visited before.
6. See a National Forest. Aim for Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington (state) in June.
7. Identify and journal about 3 new types of wildlife. I'll use the Handbook of Nature Study for information as well as the internet.
8. Identify and journal about 3 new birds.
9. Do a Nature Photo of the Week challenge using prompts I found from various challenges.
10. Go on 2 camping trips.
11. Plant on our nature trail 10 trees and shrubs that are native to Minnesota. We used to have a closed-loop trail on the back part of the farm when I did an art and farm camp for children.
      After I stopped doing the camp and a development was built adjacent to our property, I no longer had a desire to walk back there. Now, after planting evergreens about a decade ago along the border, they have filled in quite nicely.
       It's time to revisit having a trail again and using that part of the land. I'd like to focus on trees and shrubs that are particularly beneficial to bees and other pollinators.
12. Do 2 entries per month in my nature journal.
13. Attend 4 workshops, classes, or activities at state parks.
14. Visit two new national wildlife refuges in Minnesota (Sherburne and Upper Mississippi). Sherburne is 1 hour and 4 minutes to the west of home; and Upper Mississippi is by Winona – or about 3 hours away.
15. Have 6 picnics when the weather is pleasant and we aren't battling with mosquitoes.
16. Learn 3 new outdoor skills, hobbies, or sports.

Friday, January 1, 2016

52 Weeks to an Organized Home - Kitchen Organization: Counter Tops and Sink (Week 1)

Last year I wanted to do the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home challenge that is coordinated by Home Storage Solutions. On that website, there is a one-page sheet that has the schedule for the year as well as links with information and ideas for each of the weekly challenges.

Below is a list of the 52 challenges that are part of the Organized Home series:

Week 1: Kitchen organization: counter tops and sink (January 4, 2016)
Week 2: Kitchen drawers and cabinet organization (January 11, 2016)
Week 3: Organize pantry, spices and food storage areas (January 18, 2016)
Week 4: Organizing refrigerator and freezer (January 25, 2016)
Week 5: Organize recipes and cookbooks (February 1, 2016)
Week 6: Create a home recycling center (plus dealing with trash) (February 8, 2016)
Week 7: Organize coupons (February 15, 2016)
Week 8: Healthy meal planning and creating grocery shopping list (February 22, 2016)
Week 9: Laundry room organization (February 29, 2016)
Week 10: Laundry organization and schedule (March 7, 2016)
Week 11: Create a house cleaning schedule and organize cleaning supplies (March 14, 2016)
Week 12: Create a morning and evening routine (March 21, 2016)
Week 13: Basement organization (March 28, 2016)
Week 14: Organize your garage (April 4, 2016)
Week 15: Attic organizing (April 11, 2016)
Week 16: Organize contact information (April 18, 2016)
Week 17: Organize mail (April 25, 2016)
Week 18: Organize bills (May 2, 2016)
Week 19: Organize receipts and tax documents (May 9, 2016)
Week 20: Organize files and create home filing system (May 16, 2016)
Week 21: Organizing magazines, newspapers and catalogs (May 23, 2016)
Week 22: Organize passwords, manuals and warranties (May 30, 2016)
Week 23: Home office organization (June 6, 2016)
Week 24: Organize email and digital information (June 13, 2016)
Week 25: Bathroom organization (June 20, 2016)
Week 26: Cosmetic and makeup organization (June 27, 2016)
Week 27: Organize linen closet (July 4, 2016)
Week 28: Organize master bedroom closet (July 11, 2016)
Week 29: Master bedroom organization (July 18, 2016)
Week 30: Organize jewelry and other accessories (July 25, 2016)
Week 31: Organize shoes (August 1, 2016)
Week 32: Back to school organization (August 8, 2016)
Week 33: Organizing closet space for your kids (August 15, 2016)
Week 34: Kids' bedroom organizing (August 22, 2016)
Week 35: Outgrown and seasonal clothing storage (August 29, 2016)
Week 36: Yard and garden storage and organization (September 5, 2016)
Week 37: Organize toys and games (September 12, 2016)
Week 38: Car organization (September 19, 2016)
Week 39: Mudroom and entryway organization (Septmber 26, 2016)
Week 40: Organizing living room and family room (October 3, 2016)
Week 41: Organize dining room and stuff for entertaining guests (October 10, 2016)
Week 42: Organize photos, both physical and digital, plus negatives (October 17, 2016)
Week 43: Craft organization (October 24, 2016)
Week 44: Organize books (October 31, 2016)
Week 45: Create an emergency preparedness kit (November 7, 2016)
Week 46: Organize medicine and first aid supplies (November 14, 2016)
Week 47: Organizing purses, handbags and wallets (November 21, 2016)
Week 48: CD and DVD storage and organization (November 28, 2016)
Week 49: Holiday decoration and gift wrap storage and organization (December 5, 2016)
Week 50: Create home inventory (December 12, 2016)
Week 51: Organize pet supplies (December 19, 2016)
Week 52: Keep a family calendar (December 26, 2016)

This week, the focus is on organizing the countertops and sink in the kitchen.

Before and After: in my kitchen by the phone (east side).
Things just needed to go back to where they needed to be.
A simple solution...it was about five or so minutes of 
bringing items to different rooms of the home.

The link has many ideas for clearing counter space.

Before and after: by the microwave (southeast side).
This took a bit more time because it involved 
finding space in the cupboards for items from my parents' home; 
putting items into the freezer; and 
bringing items to various rooms in the home.

It also has suggestions for decluttering kitchen tools and equipment, but I didn't do that since that falls under Week 2.

Before and after: the southwest side of the kitchen.
This section had quite a few things out to 
make a birthday cake for Sophia and 
food that I hadn't yet had a chance to 
put away after a trip to the grocery store.

Basically this week is focused on taking control of an area in your home that is central to so many aspects of living.

After: the south counter/window space.
There wasn't anything in front of the plants before.
There were some items in front of the two containers (to the right)
that were put away in the cupboards.

For me, it was a matter of having the time now (after a busy month of homeschooling, volunteering, and 4-H commitments) to focus on picking up and going back to the way that I like to have the kitchen looking. Having space on the counter, the sink clean, and room to make food is relaxing and less stressful than looking at items that weren't put in their proper place.

After: sink area (east side).
The African violets like the east window.
There are quite a few bottles on the right side still.
However, these are all ones that we use on an almost-daily basis.
Perhaps if I free up some more space under the sink 
I can put them under the sink so it looks less cluttered.

What the process did, though, was also remind me that I need to add some items to the "To Do" list: re-caulking/re-sealing where the walls meet the counter top; fixing some drawers and a cupboard that are misaligned; fixing the seal on one of the windows; and re-potting plants that are getting too big for their pots.

It would be nice to re-paint everything, get a new lighting fixture, upgrade the windows, and replace the door (which is an interior door that technically should be an exterior door). However, those are major projects that will have to wait until my parents' home sells and there's money available to do these improvements. Even then, I need to consider which are most critical.

Perhaps with a greater focus on having a more organized home and life these things will be done this year.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Nature Goals for 2015 - Year in Review

At the beginning of the 2015, I set 15 nature goals for the year. I accomplished 6 out of the 15 goals completely which makes me happy. These included:
- Visiting three new national wildlife refuges in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas.
- Visiting three new national historic parks in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas.
- Identifying and journaling three new birds.
- Identifying and journaling three new types of wildlife.
- Taking 12 hikes throughout the year. (I actually took 18 hikes this past year - more than I anticipated I would take.)
- Posting a nature photo each week based on the Nature Photo of the Week Prompt List.

I was able to do some part of 7 out of the 15 goals:
- Visit six new state parks in Minnesota as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails (St. Croix, Afton, Fort Snelling, Minnesota Valley, Frontenac, and Forestville/Mystery Cave). Visited 1 out of 6 new parks - or 17% of the goal. 
- Visit 6 nature centers at the state parks and wildlife refuges. Visited 2 out of 6 nature centers - or 33% of the goal. 
-  Do nature studies at least three out of four weeks of each month (36 entries) both online and in my journal. Did 10 out of 36 entries - or 28% of the goal. 
- Try 2 new outdoor sports. Did 1 out of 2 new sports - or 50% of the goal. 
- Have 6 picnics when the weather is pleasant and we aren't battling with mosquitoes. Did 4 out of 6 picnics - or 67% of the goal. 
- Go camping twice during the year at new state parks. Did 1 time (instead of 2) - or 50% of the goal. 
- Attend 4 workshops, classes, or activities at state parks. Did 2 out of 4 activities - or 50% of the goal. 

I did not do anything towards 2 out of the 15 goals:
- Visit two new national wildlife refuges in Minnesota (Sherburne and Upper Mississippi) as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails.
- Learn 3 new outdoor skills and/or hobbies.

Although it would have been nice to have accomplished all 15 goals, I'm pleased that I did something towards 13 of them. Had I not set any goals, chances are I wouldn't have done as much related to nature as I did during the past year.

Below is a final review of how I did:

1. Visit three new national wildlife refuges in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas. ACCOMPLISHED!

- Delta National National Wildlife Refuge in Venice, Louisiana.This NWR is near the very end of the Mississippi River.

The river is very wide at this point and has clearly picked up a lot of sediment along the way.

There is a bench and some informational placards to describe the significance of the area. This actual location did not have a lot of visible wildlife.

However, there's another nearby road that leads to the southeastern most point of Louisiana and that had significantly more birds and waterfowl that were visible from the road. I pulled over many times (as did others) to watch the wildlife - or, in the case of local people, do some fishing.

- Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe, Louisiana. This NWR spans a large amount of space and can best be seen by driving through it on a couple of paved roads. There is a small stop that has a wooden boardwalk/pathway that leads into the bayou.

The sounds of ducks and birds swimming in the water and hiding in the reeds is constant.

There was some vegetation that I had never seen before - like the tree pictured below with brown seed pods. The pods were dry and would rattle. I'm not sure what type of tree it is and could not find it on the internet.

Perhaps my favorite part of the walk was coming across this little tree frog that was nestled in a reed. The reed looked like bamboo, so I wanted to take a closer look. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked inside it and spotted this little green face looking back at me.

- Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge in Hollandale, Mississippi.This NWR wasn't on my list of places to see, yet it was on my way to Greenville, Mississippi where I was spending the night. I thought I'd take a brief detour to see it, and am happy that I did.

Although it was a bit early in the season, there was a monarch waystation at the NWR. It is an enclosed area with a few benches, trees, and variety of plants. The plants - or where they will be - are all marked with signs. There was a little area with water for the butterflies and other wildlife that visit the garden.

Along one of the roads, there was an area of slough. In the Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions areas that were slough, but I had no point of reference since I had never slough before. Now, having visited Yazoo NWR, I know to what she was referring.

There is quite a diversity of landscape within the NWR. The picture above is right across from a wooded area pictured below.

2. Visit three new national historic parks in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas. ACCOMPLISHED!

I was able to see three historical parks, sites, or parkways while in Louisiana and Mississippi:

- Audubon State Historic Site in St. Francisville, Louisiana. This was on my must-see list and, thankfully, I arrived in time to go on a house tour and see the grounds.

The Oakley Plantation is where John James Audubon lived for four months. Yet, during that brief time he painted 32 of his bird pictures here.

The grounds had pathways that led through open and wooded areas.

There were old buildings where people were demonstrating what life was like back in the 1800s.

The displays showed items typical of that time period as well.

The main pathway leading from the interpretive center to house was once a carriage road.

Leading to and from the house, the paved road for cars goes under beautiful old trees.

- Natchez Trace Parkway in Natchez, Mississippi. I didn't take many pictures of the parkway since much of it looked like the photograph below. Although the entire parkway is 444 miles long, I was only on it for a small segment.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful drive and I enjoyed the break from driving on the freeway.

According to the National Park Sevice, "The Natchez Trace Parkway forms an almost continuous greenway, or transect, from the southern Appalachian foothills of Tennessee to the loess soil bluffs of the lower Mississippi River.

"Over its length it crosses four ecosystem provinces, eight major watersheds, and twelve physiographic regions. Forest types range generally from oak-beech in the far south, to oak-pine mixes covering the vast middle section, to oak-hickory dominating in the north.

"Habitats represented within the park are diverse and include: streams, lakes, swamps, riparian woodlands, bottomland hardwood forests, upland hardwood forests, pine and mixed hardwood forests, prairie, fallow fields, and agricultural croplands."

If I ever have the chance, it would be interesting to drive the entire Natchez Trace Parkway.

- Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.It was raining on the day I visited this park, but I still left the car at some spots and explored different historical points and monuments.

It is a 16-mile, self-guided car tour through the park which is quite large - much larger than I thought. The road passes by many monuments that are tributes to soldiers who fought and/or lost their lives in the battle at Vicksburg.

The land was rolling in parts and forested in others, with deep trenches in many parts.

There were beautiful, pink blossoms on trees. This picture below doesn't do justice to how vibrant the blossoms were against the dark tree bark.

I was surprised at how much diversity there was in the land in terms of hills and ravines. For some reason, I pictured battlefields more level. The images I always saw in textbooks were of flat battlefields - nothing like what is pictured below.

The visits to these historical parks provided a completely different and much more engaging view of American history. I'm so happy that I went to each one of them.

3. Visit six new state parks in Minnesota as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails (St. Croix, Afton, Fort Snelling, Minnesota Valley, Frontenac, and Forestville/Mystery Cave). VISITED 1 OUT OF 6 NEW PARKS. 

We visited St. Croix State Park in Hinckley twice this year - once in June when Sophia and Olivia went camping there through 4-H; and then again in September when our 4-H Photography Club had its first meeting there.

I brought the dogs while the girls participated in the club.

It was a  beautiful day with a lovely blue sky accented with fluffy white clouds. Depending on what section of the trails I walked, sometimes the trees were sparse...

and other times quite dense.

There must have been a rather strong storm some time ago because there were a lot of dead trees. Some were standing, providing great places for birds and raptors to perch.

When I came back from the walk with the dogs, they were excited to have their pictures taken by some of the 4-Hers. 

I'd like to explore the remaining five state parks in 2016. By making this goal a priority, hopefully I will be able to see these new parks.

4. Visit two new national wildlife refuges in Minnesota (Sherburne and Upper Mississippi) as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails. DID NOT DO.

I did not meet this goal. I'll carry it into 2016.

5. Identify and journal three new birds. ACCOMPLISHED!

On my trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas I saw four birds that I have never seen before:

- Boat-tailed Grackle in Venice, Louisiana. Included two photos and wrote a few facts about the Boat-tailed Grackle on Thursday, March, 19, 2015.

- Northern Mockingbird in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Wrote about this bird on Saturday,  March 21st. Found out that it likes to make its presence known by sitting high up on fences, vegetation, or wires (which the birds I saw were doing).

Also learned that a male Northern Mockingbird may learn 200 songs in his life. If you hear an endless string of 10-15 different bird songs, it might be a Northern Mockingbird.

- Black Vulture in between Vicksburg and Greenville, Mississippi. I didn't get a picture of this type of bird because I was driving. There were about a half dozen of the black vultures in the median.

I also saw a vulture on the side of the road driving from Vicksburg back to New Orleans. Since there were no cars behind me, I stopped on the side of the road. The vulture just looked at me - much like the bird pictured below - and didn't move from the carrion. It was not going to give up its meal.

I wrote about the Black Vulture on March 23rd. It has a weaker sense of small than turkey vultures (which we see in Minnesota) so they fly higher in the sky than turkey vultures and watch what they do.

They lack a voice box, sro they can only make raspy hisses and grunts.

- Double-crested Cormorant at Lake Chicot, Arkansas as well as in northeastern Louisiana. I wrote in my journal about this type of bird on March 22nd. Found out that they look like a combination of a goose and loon. They are solid, heavy-boned birds that are experts at diving to catch small fish.

They float low on the surface of water. After fishing, they stand on tree limbs to spread their wings and dry out (which is what I saw them do - see photo above for example of two with their wings outstretched).

Another interesting fact: the mouth of these birds is bright blue on the inside.

6. Identify and journal three new types of wildlife. ACCOMPLISHED!

On my trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas I saw three new types of wildlife that I have never seen before and one that I have seen before. I wrote in my nature journal about two of the new types of wildlife and one that I had seen before.

- Nine-banded Armadillo in Greenville, Mississippi. (Unfortunately, the armadillo was road kill, but I was able to it up close.) Rather than show what I saw, I found a picture of a living armadillo to show below. I didn't journal about the armadillo.

- Carolina Anole in St. Francisville, Mississippi. I wrote about the Carolina Anole on March 20th. Found out that its color can range from green to brown. They like forests, shrubs, and vines. They also need sunlight with abundant foliage.

- Eastern Carpenter Bee in St. Francisville, Mississippi. The bees that were visiting these flowers were huge - way beyond anything I have ever seen. They were focused on flying from flower to flower and didn't seem aggressive or bothered that I was so close to them. It gave me plenty of time to enjoy seeing a bee that does not live in Minnesota.

When I was journaling about the Eastern Carpenter Bee, I found out that the dominant females are responsible for reproduction (rather than just one queen), foraging, and nest construction.

Newly-emerged bees have white wings. They later transition to brown and then to a bluish-black. females can sting and males cannot.

Alligator - I took a picture of an alligator that was, unfortunately, in captivity in an aquarium at a state park in Arkansas (see below under #8). This picture, along with some facts, is in my nature journal that I wrote in on March 22nd.

Found out that alligators were native to Arkansas for thousands of years. Their numbers were heavily depleted by unregulated hunting (for purses, shoes, belts, etc.) from 1860-1960 combined with draining of wetlands.

An alligator's gender is determined by the temperature of the nest. Another interesting fact I learned was that alligators in Arkansas don't eat in the winter months. They bask in the sun, but aren't warm enough to digest food.

7. Take 12 hikes throughout the year. ACCOMPLISHED!

I was able to take 18 hikes this year - more than what I thought I could do. I definitely enjoy hiking, and want to continue to do this throughout the year in 2016.

During 2015, I:

- Hiked briefly at Leroy Percy State Park on Saturday, March 21st. The rutted, muddy road that is pictured below was next to the sign for the state park.

As I drove for probably a good mile on it, sure the car would get stuck the mud, I turned around when I came to a gate to the right hand side indicating this road was not the road to the park, but rather would be the next road over.

No one was at the welcome gate or at the visitors center, so I drove around a bit to see if there were any trails. I didn't see any which is quite different from state parks in Minnesota.

I ended up driving to a section where there were cabins and parking at one where no one was staying. The cabins all were along this river that was clearly flooded.

The ground around the river was very saturated.

Many of the trees were submerged in a couple of feet of water. Since it was raining, I didn't spend too much time outside. It was, nonetheless, nice to get out of the car and walk around a bit.

- Took an extraordinarily brief walk through Winterville Mounds State Park on Sunday, March 22nd. Due to the torrential rain and super-saturated grounds, it was not conducive to a pleasurable hike. Yet, I wanted to go to this park because of its historical significance.

The mounds were build by prehistoric Native Americans and the mounds range in height from between 1-2 stories tall.

There were no large animals used for work at the time, so the mounds were all built by hand. The Native Americans took buckets of soil, brought them to the mound, stomped it down, and then repeated the process. 

- Hiked at Lake Chicot State Park on Sunday, March 22nd. The lake is 22 miles long and 1 mile wide. Is is shaped almost like a crescent moon or the letter "c."

The trail that they had at this state park was partially submerged in areas due to all the rain that this area of the state has been receiving.

Eventually, I came to a path that someone made using logs. The first and middle parts were rather secure in the mud. However, the last few logs still had some movement in them, thus the intention of keeping one's shoes dry did not work.

Despite the water-logged path, it was well worth the time spent. All around were countless birds singing - many of which I had never heard before. Periodically, the red-winged blackbird would chime in - a familiar - and welcomed sound in the spring in Minnesota!

My fourth hike was to Franconia Sculpture Park near Taylors Falls on April 30th. The prairie areas (between the grass pathways) were burned or mowed, so there wasn't too much to see in terms of nature.

However, we enjoyed walking around taking a look at the sculptures and spending time on them.

The sky was a beautiful shade of blue.

The next hike I did was on May 9th at William O'Brien State Park. Again, we were with the 4-H Club, except this time it was a smaller group.

It seems like whenever we go, the kids always gravitate to the large rock to sit on.

I like this path because it is level and winds through beautiful trees that provide a canopy over one's head.

At the end of the walk along the St. Croix River, there's a section that you can climb down and explore the water, beach, and little waterfall that tumbles over a creek bed.

It was starting to get dark by the times the kids were done playing in the water and on the beach.

The next walk I took was only a few days later - on May 14th - when our 4-H club went on a short hike around Koi Acres. Because it was raining, we didn't spend too much time outdoors.

We did have plenty of time, though, to enjoy the waterfalls leading to the pond.

The walkways were made from stone and stood high enough out of the water so our feet didn't get wet.

The koi were swimming around the pond - their beautiful colors so breath-taking in the water.

The colors were so bright compared to the overcast day.

The fish were so inquisitive - wanting to get as close as possible to us as we stood by the edge of the pond.

I'm starting to think that the only time I take hikes is with our 4-H club because the next one that I did was a 5K race at Wild River State Park

I had no interest in running the race. Rather, we took our time enjoying the natural scenery.

We saw woods and open prairie.

In the afternoon, there was a rainbow. The unusual thing about it was that it horizontally rather than in an arch-shape. Nonetheless, it was beautiful and I was so happy that we were outdoors to see it.

For the eighth walk, I went back to William O'Brien State Park with my friend, Chris, who was visiting from Arizona. We took a Nordic Walking class on June 13th.

We went on trails that I had never been on before at the state park, so that was a fun experience.

I'm not sure if I would do Nordic Walking again - although it was a great workout. Since I like to take pictures, having the poles attached to my wrists made it more cumbersome to take photos than I would have preferred.

The ninth walk was at Natura Farms in Marine on St. Croix on Thursday, June 26th. We took a tour around the organic farm that was near a lake.

We saw a variety of berries and fruit growing - many kinds I had never heard of or seen growing before.

We saw natural ways of pest control which made me wonder if we would have similar success with the fruit trees at our farm.

I took a very short hike at Big Marine Park (which is a county-owned and operated park) in Marine on St. Croix. It was eerily quiet near the water since there was some sort of sickness that could be spread by the algae on lakes.

The park was treating the lake, but it was still not one that you wanted to go into. Of course, even with a warning, Sophia and Olivia as well as some of the other 4-Hers we were with had reached the dock before the adults arrived and had already put their feet in the water. With a lake as beautiful as Big Marine, I can see why it was tempting to do that.

The 11th hike I took was in Osceola at the Ridgeview Trail - Chisago Loop on July 3rd. I've done the Osceola Loop and wanted to see what this one was like. It started out beautifully with winding paths.

However, the deeper I got into the woods, the worse the mosquitoes were as they would fly in droves - literally - to any exposed skin. Trying to get photos was difficult because the minute I took my hands out of my jacket pocket, they were covered with mosquitoes.

I continued walking through the woods and came to an open area which had slightly fewer bugs. The trail description said that there would be spectacular views of the St. Croix River. I never saw them.

Perhaps I had to go further on the trail...who knows. What I did know was that I didn't have a water bottle, no one knew where I was, and phone service on my cell phone was non-existent. It was clearly time to turn around.

On the way back, I saw some things I didn't see before - like a partially-moss-covered rock. 

The 12th hike was at St. Croix State Park in Hinckley on Satuday, September 13th. Sophia and Olivia were doing the 4-H Photo Club and I took the dogs for a walk. There were nice, paved trails.

Along the trails there were many fall-blooming flowers. It was a great day for a hike.

The 13th hike was at Pleasant Valley Orchard on Thursday, September 17th. After taking a tour of the orchard and the behind-the-scenes operation, we headed out on a nature hike.

We walked past the rows of apples and onto the trail.

Because of the amount of rain that we had been receiving, creeks were swollen and flowing quite rapidly.

The pond was filled and was already showing the change of seasons.

There were beautiful, bright red berries and the sumac was also in full color.

The 14th-17th hikes were all at William O'Brien State Park on Thursday and Friday, September 24-25th. The first hike was just Sophia, Olivia, and me exploring an unmarked trail that high a steep incline and then followed the perimeter of Lake Alice (pictured below). 

Lake Alice was full of weeds like we've never seen before. Not sure why it was like this and if it is indicating some type of issue with the lake.

We were fortunate to see over 30 geese fly in and land in Lake Alice. This is one of the flocks that came in - two more smaller groups joined it.

After we ate lunch, we were joined by another family and we walked along the river. We saw some unusual plant life.

The rocks - as usual - are always so eye-catching to me.

Because we were walking with young children, it seemed like I was noticing smaller things that were closer to the ground - like mushrooms. Never realized how many different types there were along the trail.

We stopped at the end of the trail and spent time tossing rocks into the river.

It was a serene afternoon - despite the light rain.

In the late afternoon, we went on another hike with a different family. We explored another trail and I went on one section that I had never been on before. So - two new trails in one day!

We saw unusual-looking berries. Later found out they are poisonous.

On Friday morning, we went along the St. Croix River again. It's interesting how when hiking with different people you see different things. Today we were more focused on the rocks.

I enjoyed seeing the clouds reflected in the water around the rocks as well as the seeing the kids stand on the rocks. Moments before this photo was taken, it was a bit chaotic as they each tried to find a rock to stand upon.

On the way back from the hike, I spotted this beautiful red and white mushroom. How did I miss this the day before?

The kids also had fun sliding down the rock. It is a very smooth rock - and unless you are sitting on the top, you are prone to slide down.

The 18th hike I took was to Franconia Sculpture Park on Saturday, October 10th. Five months ago, I was here with the 4-H Club, and here I am visiting again with them (although a different group of people).

As the youth were taking photos as part of the Photo Club, I walked around with them. There were tiny pine cones on some of the trees.

Milkweed seeds were scattered on the grass.

The prairie areas that were mowed or burned back in April were now filled with beautiful flowers and grasses.

There were new sculptures to see.

There always seems to be something new to see that I didn't see on a previous visit.

With this goal, I am doing well. I didn't realize how much hiking I do throughout the year. I like the combination of visiting new places as well as seeing the same places within the year and noting the changes in the landscape.

8. Visit 6 nature centers at the state parks and wildlife refuges. VISITED 2 OUT OF 6 NATURE CENTERS.

None of the wildlife refuges that I visited in Louisiana and Mississippi had nature centers. Rather, they had outdoors displays with information about wildlife typical to the area.

Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas had a nature center that I visited and learned quite a bit at about the largest lake in Arkansas, some of the wildlife in the area, and the historical significance of the area.

Saw an alligator, though it made me sad that it was in such a small aquarium.

There was a display on the wall with different patches of fur. You could touch the fur and then try to figure out which animal it belonged to using the images on the wall to help.

There was information a bout the Mississippi Flyway - something that the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl team I am coaching has been learning about over the past few months.

On May 9th, I visited the nature center at William O'Brien State Park.

What was fun about seeing this nature center again was that some of the things that we had studied about during the Wildlife Project Bowl were on display there. I kept thinking, "Hey! I know that!" So, the Wildlife Project Bowl - however overwhelming at times - was well worth the time.

9. Post a nature photo each week based on the Nature Photo of the Week Prompt List. ACCOMPLISHED!

I am so happy to have completed this goal. As I look back on the photos that I took that aligned with the prompts, they definitely captured how the natural world changed throughout the year. I'd like to do some version of this in 2016 and will look for a challenge that has new prompts.

10. Do nature studies at least three out of four weeks of each month (36 entries) both online and in my journal. DID 10 OUT OF 36 ENTRIES.

I started out well - doing two entries on January 4th and 11th. The entries had facts, drawings, photos, a poem, and lots of colors. I spent a lot of time with these two-page spreads (per day).

On January 18th, I did a bird count. It was a simple entry. Planned to do the same thing for January 25th, but never did it.

Didn't do any entries between January 19th-March 18th. On March 19th, I went on a trip to three states. The nature journal entries from March 19th-23rd were filled with photos, memories, and facts. As I look at the pages, I am instantly transported back to the trip and the experiences there. I'm very happy that I documented this 5-day trip.

Took another break until June 12th when I included two photos of the peonies which were in full bloom. The photos showed all the beautiful layers of petals.

Next, on July 7th, I wrote about a hike I took on Ridgeview Trail in Osceola. I included a photo of a rock which caught my eye because part of it was covered with moss. When the photo was developed, it looked like the rock was pink in parts.

So, out of 36 entries, I did 10 entries. I love going back and looking at my nature journal. It brings me back immediately to the time and place I wanted to remember. Maybe setting a more realistic goal would make this seem less intimidating. Either that or I simply need to make a regular time to commit to nature journaling.

11. Try 2 new outdoor sports. DID 1 OUT OF 2 NEW SPORTS

I tried Nordic Walking in June when my friend, Chris, was visiting from Arizona. There are pictures above of the experience.

12. Have 6 picnics when the weather is pleasant and we aren't battling with mosquitoes. DID 4 OUT OF 6 PICNICS

April 30th marked the first picnic of the season with our 4-H club at Franconia Sculpture Park.

It was a beautiful day - sunny and clear...and we didn't need to wear jackets which was nice. Quite a change from the previous year when we had snow well into May.

The next time we intended to have a picnic was on May 9th. When we arrived at William O'Brien State Park it was a little too chilly for the kids to be outside, so we ended up eating in the visitors' center.

We were able to go on a walk along the river, though, which we all enjoyed.

About a month later, on Thursday, June 26th, we went with some families from our 4-H club to Big Marine Park for a picnic. It was a gorgeous day for a picnic in the shade.

After lunch, the kids played on the playground. It was a bit hot in the sun, so we headed out within an hour so they wouldn't all get overheated.

On Thursday, September 24th, we had a potluck picnic when we went camping at William O'Brien State Park with another family from our 4-H club. We had a great dinner - and I introduced them to the way that my dad used to roast marshmallows.

He would roast one until it was golden brown and then ever-so-gently remove the toasted "shell." Then he would re-roast the inner portion of the marshmallow for another treat.

We had a prolonged fall with mild weather (in the 40s) well into December. There was plenty o time to have two more picnics, but I never did.

We have the picnic table from my parents' home in our backyard now. My mom used to love picnics...even if it was in the backyard. Of course, having a view of the lake made it seem like a vacation spot in many ways. I'll miss being able to see the lake.

Although we don't live on a lake, we do have the picnic table as well as pretty parts at our farm. I think it's a matter of making the time to do things that build a connection to nature and to my daughters. These are things/people I value. I need to arrange my life to make them all a priority (not that I don't in other ways...this is just one more way to foster a deeper connection).

13. Go camping twice during the year at new state parks. DID ONE TIME (INSTEAD OF 2). 

We went camping, but it was at William O'Brien State Park - a park where we have camped before. Nonetheless, we had a great time and introduced another family to camping and camper cabins.

The camper cabin is one out of three that are in a circle at William O'Brien. There's another camper cabin in the adjacent campground. This section is a bit more quiet and private.

We made a fire in the fire pit which is always a highlight of camping.

This time we didn't monkey around with food. Hot dogs it was. Simple. Easy. No-fail. Not like some of the other disasters we've tried to make on an open fire.

We hot a potluck picnic followed by s'mores and roasted marshmallows for dessert.

After dinner, the girls played Wild Animalopoly.

The camper cabin is such a good fit for what I enjoy about camping - without all the hassle of setting up a tent. I also feel so much safer in a camper cabin versus a tent...especially after the bear incident in Grand Marais.

Next year, we need to plan to go camping earlier in the spring (perhaps right after the water is turned on in the campgrounds) and summer; and then again in the fall.

14. Learn 3 new outdoor skills and/or hobbies. DID NOT DO.

Nothing new learned here yet. Other activities have taken my time.

15. Attend 4 workshops, classes, or activities at state parks. DID 2 OUT OF 4 ACTIVITIES.

I did a 5K walk at Wild River State Park in June (photos are above) and a Nordic Walking class at William O'Brien State Park in June (photos also are above).