Sunday, March 27, 2016

Detox Your Finances - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 13

A couple of months ago, I checked out Detox Your Finances by John Middleton from the library. It wasn't until this past week that I sat down and read it.


Thankfully, we're finally at a point where the only debt is the mortgage. Other than that: nothing. No student loans, no credit card debt, no medical bills, no second mortgages on the home, no consolidation loans.

The only way this was possible was because of the inheritance from my parents through their home and selling it last month. Although this has been an incredible burden lifted and a pivotal point, it doesn't lessen the fact that I would rather have my parents alive and healthy so they could still be a part of our lives.

At any rate, had I had Detox Your Finances (or any financial book for that matter) when I was in my 20s, I think I would have managed and understood finances better. Now - despite the lateness in my life - I feel like I have a much better handle on this subject.

That being said, there's still a lot of room for education and improvement as I look at and prepare for the rest of my life.

So, this book had some relevant information once I moved through the first 12 chapters that were more heavily focused on debt. The ideas that I found helpful and that I want to keep in mind:
- Try saving first and then spending. In other words, set aside a certain amount each month as savings, and then make the remainder your budget for the month.
- Look at your life to make it more balanced. For example:
.....spend more time with you family and/or friends.
.....spend more time on leisure activities, hobbies, or personal relationships.
.....divide your time between a number of different income-generating activities.
.....devote more time to the local community or volunteer activities.
.....deliberately decide to sacrifice part of your income for a better quality of life.
.....gain independence through self-employment.
.....make a business from something you love.
- Disposing of unwanted possessions can improve your financial well-being.
- Do not go into retirement owing anything on your mortgage.
- Don't invest a lot of money into a home that won't pay itself back. Rather, do little things that can add a lot. For example, declutter the home, wash the paintwork, steam clean the carpets, and add small touches like rails and molding in period properties. Replacing kitchen cabinet doors, tiles, and work surfaces can be an inexpensive way of improving the look of a kitchen.
- Determine your net worth each year. Look at assets (liquid, personal, and investment) and liabilities (current and long-term).
- Start to think five, ten, and fifteen years into the future. What are your financial goals and how are you going to make them happen?
- Know where your money goes every month.
- Check the accuracy of your bank statements and tax notices.

The first thing we must begin to 
teach our children (and learn ourselves) is 
that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. 
We have got to learn to save and conserve. 
We do need a "new economy," but 
one that is founded on thrift and care, 
on saving and conserving, 
not on excess and waste. 
An economy based on waste is 
inherently and hopelessly violent, and 
war is its inevitable by-product. 
We need a  peaceable economy.
- Wendell Berry

- Teach children the importance and basics of money management from an early age.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Artist/Picture Study - Frans Lanting

This week for the artist/picture study we focused on Frans Lanting. Lanting is a photographer which is different than the type of artists who the girls have done artist/picture studies on up to this point. (All have been visual artists who use painting as their way to creatively express themselves.)


According to Wikipedia, Lanting was born in Rotterdam and later emigrated to the United States after being educated in the Netherlands. He lives in Santa Cruz, California and operates a gallery and studio as well as a stock photography services.

Lanting works in many different parts of the world including Amazonia, Africa and Antarctica. His photographs are regularly published in National Geographic, where he served as photographer-in-residence."

For this artist/picture study, we used the book Life: A Journey through Time. It is an over-sized, heavy book from the library that provides large images of Lanting's photographs. It was perfect for observing the details that he was able to capture in his work.

The girls looked at each photo and studied it for a while. I asked them after they observed each one what they could recall about it. Their responses are below.

 Giant Anteater, Brazil

Sophia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a giant anteater.
=> You can only see about the front two-thirds of it. The back legs are kind of missing from the picture.
=> The anteater has a long snout and a very docile appearance.
=> It has a black marking on its fur that is wider than a stripe and slightly curved.
=> It also looks like its paws might be black as well.
=> It has a mixture tan, black, and cream-colored fur all over.
=> It has shortish ears that are kind of cute.
=> It is walking on a bunch of green stuff - grass and leaves.
=> The anteater is in Brazil. ("How did you know this?" "Because it says, 'Anteater in Brazil' by the photo.")
=> The anteater is in the middle of a step (or walking) so one foot is in front of one another.

Olivia remembered:
=> There's a giant anteater. He's really cute!
=> In the background, you can see the outlines of trees.
=> The grass is kind of fuzzy since the picture is mostly focused on the anteater.
=> The anteater has a triangle-shape of black fur and surrounding that is a small outline of white.
=> The anteater's ears are kind of an oval shape an you can see the light reflecting behind them.
=> You can see a lot of details of each of the hairs.
=> The eyes are brown or black...more black.
=> His face is kind of tan.
=> He looks like he has silver hairs in his fur.
=> You can only see half of the anteater.
=> You can see his feet are black. They look kind of like hooves.
=> You can see a little bit of the sky. It's dark blue.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Fall Colors, Alaska

Sophia remembered:
=> This picture is taken in the fall and from where the photographer was standing the landscape is sloping down.
=> The deciduous trees are beautiful colors of yellow, orange, and a little bit of green.
=> The landscape has two sections - the one section has brightly colored mosses and lichens; and low scrubs that are yellow, orange, brilliant red, and golden with a couple of evergreens scattered in it. That's the first half. That's a little bit higher up than the second section. The second section has more deciduous trees with more evergreens, and have little streams and ponds that branch off into smaller streams.
=> To the far right of the picture, you can see what looks like the beginnings of a large lake or pond.
=> The picture has a very festive feeling of autumn and the coming winter. The colors are far superior compared to what we have in Minnesota.
=> It's very beautiful.

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a very pretty landscape of trees and rocks.
=> You can't really see the rocks because they are covered with trees, bushes, and moss.
=> There's a hill at the bottom of the picture and the hill is covered with either grasses or bushes. The bushes are green, light green, yellow, and red.
=> There are some trees scattered around on the hill.
=> There are some pools of water or lakes of water; and beneath the hill there looks like an area that looks like a wetland.
=> To the far right there looks like there's a cliff. Beneath the cliff there's a lake.
=> The trees in the picture look black.
=> The moss looks like it is red, but it may not be moss. I think it may be something else. It could be lichen.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Orchid Native to Peru

Sophia remembered:
=> The background is a pitch-black so the flower stands out.
=> The flower itself has three petals, but they very close together so they almost look like they are one big circular flower rather than three individual petals.
=> The petals are slightly rounded at the top. Each petal has a vein running up the center and two more veins on the side of the center one. The side ones have a more bowed shape to them and they meet at the top.
=> The flower is a very beautiful pink color. Not hot pink because it has a little bit of purple in it, but very eye-catching.
=> The texture looks almost dewy.
=> The main part of the flower is a beautiful pinkish colors. The veins, though, are a darker pink color.
=> The  center of the flower is red and yellow from what I can see. The yellow part almost looks like they have a glow in them. They look almost luminescent.
=> On each of the petals, coming down from it, is a almost stem like part of the flower that extends further than the flower. It starts out pink, but then fades to a yellowish color.

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a really pretty flower.
=> The flower has a circle with three triangles. It's an odd shape.
=> It is pink with a lighter pink on the petals and on the edges of the flower it's a darker pink.
=> On the petals (the three triangle-shaped ones) are two things that hang down. The one on top of the flower is upright.
=> The ones that are on the sides are a dark red and then it goes into a yellow.
=> The one on the top is a dark red.
=> The inside of the flower is a dark red and yellow. It kind of looks like it is glowing from the inside.
=> It has a green stem and it looks like the flower has water on it.
=> There are stripes on the inside of the flower.
=> The background is black.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Flower Hat Jelly, California

Sophia remembered:
=> The jellyfish in the picture has a blueish dome; and in the dome are three lines that are orange and peachy colored. They are attached to the inner part of the dome; and because they are evenly spaced they come together at the top of the dome.
=> On the outside of the dome there are black lines that run up and down the jellyfish.
=> Sprouting out of the top of the jellyfish and around the sides are "sprouts" except a little thicker. They start out a whitish color and then go to lime green and then to pink.
=> There are a couple of the sprout-like things that grow out of the lines of the jellyfish so the bottom part of those sprouts are black.
=> The sprouts that look like tassels that go around the bottom are thinner than the ones on top of the dome.
=> Along with the sprout-like things on the bottom there are a couple of curly ones. They look like curly fries except they are a whitish color.
=> It's a very beautiful jellyfish but a little strange.
=> The background is all black.

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a jelly fish and it is the oddest looking jellyfish that I've ever seen!
=> It has tentacles underneath it and a few on top of it.
=> Some of the tentacles underneath it are white and a darkish gray. They are curled...of kind of curly.
=> The tentacles on the side are black on the bottom and change to a clear-whitish color and then near the tip it is a light, lime green and then it goes into pink.
=> Also, the dome is clear. You can see it - it's like it has arches that are a coral color.
=> On the dome, you can see black lines going up on it. From the lines, are the tentacles that are black on the bottom and change to the clear color and near the tip it is a lime green and then it goes hot pink.
=> The background is black.
=> There's a second smaller dome inside the bigger dome which covers the arches.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The Maned Wolf, Brazil

Sophia remembered:
=> The wolf has the colors of a red fox except it doesn't have a black-tipped tail. The tail goes from a reddish color to white.
=> The legs are longer than that of a red fox and has black stockings. The stockings are higher on the front legs than back.
=> The ears are rather large and the snout and face look more like a German Shepherd.
=> The wolf appears to be standing still, but the green vegetation is blurred so it has to be moving quite quickly.
=> The wolf isn't looking directly at the camera, but a little to the side and down.
=> You can't see the exact color of its eyes, but just the black part of its face.

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a wolf that looks more like a red fox except it is bigger, has longer legs, and it doesn't have the black tip on its tail or ears.
=> On the back of it, there is a black line going down almost to the tail.
=> The face - on the side - looks like it is sticking out like a mane.
=> The face and neck is reddish, but has black fur mixed in.
=> The tail - half of it - is white; and it goes to the tip.
=> It has black feet.
=> The photo is kind of blurry because s/he is running and looking at the camera.
=> You can see its ears that are white on the inside.
=> It has a long nose or snout.
=> In the background, you can see a tree limb and maybe part of the trunk of the tree.
=> The grass is kind of tall.
=> The background is very green.
=> You can't really see the eye color.
=> You can't see the paws, but you can tell the paws are black because it goes almost up to the part where the knee bends.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Cheetah, Namibia 

Sophia remembered:
=> The cheetah has variations of tan and light-golden fur all over its body.
=> On top that the entire body is covered with black spots and dots.
=> The tail of the cheetah is a little fluffy and ends in black.
=> The spots toward the end of the tail are larger than the ones on the body.
=> The cheetah has a little bit of a mane on its shoulder....just a little longer and roughed up there.
=> It also has a bit of white on its body.
=> The cheetah is in the middle of running. In this picture, its whole body is stretched out. It's not touching the ground at all, an ts mouth is a little open.
=> It has short, rounded ears that are close to its head and black lines that are running from the corner of its eyes.
=> Its right front paw is splayed a little bit. The background is browns and golds; and so is the ground.

Olivia remembered:
=> You see a cheetah that is running very fast and it looks like it is chasing its next meal.
=> You can see on the neck some of the fur is standing up.
=> The cheetah is running with its mouth opened and you can see a little bit of its gums and one of its teeth.
=> The front legs are facing forward and the back legs are facing backward - like it's leaping.
=> You can see the fur on its belly.
=> The background is tan and the ground is kind of blurry because the photo is mostly focused on the cheetah.
=> You can see all the spots on it.
=> The tail is straight out.
=> You can see the back of the ears and they are black.
=> The cheetah is a goldish-tannish color. It help them hide while they are waiting their prey.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Composer Study - Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky was a Russian (and later, a naturalized French and American) composer, pianist, and conductor. He is considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.


According to Wikipedia, "Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913).

"The last of these transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical design."

As part of Sophia's and Olivia's homeschooling, I have them listen to six pieces written by different composers. The goal is to expose them to a wide variety of music and see what comes to their minds as they listen to it. It's interesting, to me, to see what memories and connections that music can make. Sometimes the things that are triggered by music are things I wouldn't have even thought of...yet, that's one of the powers of music: to awaken memories that have long-since been forgotten.

The Rite of Spring - Introduction (4:23)
From: The Rite of Spring
By: The Bad Plus

Sophia thought:
=> The notes go together...but at the same time they didn't. It's an interesting combination of notes.
=> It's different from other things we've heard. We've heard music from some composers who wrote music a long time ago. This definitely sounds a lot more modern.
=> It's okay...I wouldn't choose to listen to this normally.

Olivia thought:
=> The notes sounded like they were supposed to go together, but they were very different from one another.
=> It sounds like something you would hear in a mystery or horror movie.
=> It's good, but I wouldn't listen to this often.

************

Sonata for Two Pianos - Moderto (4:10)
From: Stravinsky - Music for Two Pianos 
By: Benjamin Frith and Peter Hill

Sophia thought:
=> It sounds like something from the Nutcracker. (Later on:) Well...not really.
=> I don't really like it. It's too inconsistent. I like the first song

Olivia thought:
=> This is something you would hear during a ballet.
=> It reminds me of someone dancing.
=> I like it. It sounds better than the first song.

************

The Firebird Suite - The Firebird and Her Dance (4:34)
From: Stravinsky
By: Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra

Sophia thought:
=> (At the beginning when it was quiet:) Sounds like it's thinking about starting.
=> Sounds like a ballet when they are creeping around.
=> Sounds kind of "starry" - like twinkling music.
=> I like some parts of this better.
=> I like the flute.

Olivia thought:
=> It starts out pretty quiet.
=> It sounds like the Nutcracker when the rats show up.
=> It sounds like music from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Like Tom getting stuck in something or getting hit on the head.
=> I like this song.

************

The Song of the Nightingale  - Chinese March (4:48)
From: Stravinsky
By: Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra

Sophia thought:
=> I like this one. I like the high parts.
=> This is my favorite one so far.
=> In some ways and in some parts it sounded Chinese. Other parts didn't.

Olivia thought:
=> I like it too because it's fast.
=> I liked the Firebird song more, though.
=> I guess it kind of sounds like a Chinese march.
=> It's good - it sounded different than the music by this composer.

************

Praeludium for Jazz Ensemble (1:47)
From: Igor Stravinsky
By: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Sophia thought:
=> I like the beginning better than this part (up to 1:22). It sounded more like a fanfare.
=> The rest of the song didn't sound extraordinarily special.

Olivia thought:
=> This part (the beginning to :28) reminds me of the box where you wind something and the jack comes out.
=> I kind of like the beginning because someone someone was lighting a firecracker and they were throwing it back and forth.
=> It was okay.

************

Tango (3:27)
From: Igor Stravinsky
By: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Sophia thought:
=> It doesn't sound like a tango.
=> It sounds like something you would hear in a Nancy Drew movie.
=> This reminds me of a mix of an older one - but it also has qualities of a newer song. It sounds like what you'd hear in old movies, but more modern.

Olivia thought:
=> Sounds like someone is trying to sneak around, but is failing really badly.
=> I like this part more (around 1:25-1:49) because it is less loud.
=> I don't think I would listen to this music normally.
=> The ending (after 3:00) sounds just like the beginning.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Find Your Strongest Life - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 12

This week I read Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham. There were parts of the book that were interesting and relevant to what I was searching for when checking it out from the library. However, for much of the book I skimmed it because I wasn't getting as much as what I wanted from it.


I did the online test recommended in the book at stronglifetest.com to determine my lead and supporting roles in life. According to the test, my lead role is advisor and supporting role is creator.

As a side note, I took the test about a month or so ago and my supporting role was caretaker. It's interesting that this shifted because I was still seeing myself as someone who was providing support and/or encouragement to a senior at a nursing home who my daughters and I had developed a strong friendship with over the past three years. He had a heart attack on March 4th, went on hospice care the following week, and passed away on March 15th.

At any rate, this has truly thrown me for a loop because it is one of many deaths that Sophia, Olivia, and I have experienced since 2012 - first my dad in January 2012; then many people at the nursing home who we thoroughly enjoyed visiting and spending time with; then my mom in August 2015 followed by one of our cats (Maggie) in September 2015; and now John.

It's too much loss. Too much grief.

And, perhaps, with John's death I'm seeing in myself a shift away from caregiver/someone who others depended on for either care and/or friendship. Since 2009, when my dad was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, I've been in a caregiver role. I feel like that ended on March 15th. That's how deeply I'm feeling these collective losses.

I'm still a parent. Yet, that is a very different role - to me - than being a caregiver.

So, back to Find Your Strongest Life.  The two roles reflective of who I am at this point in my life are an advisor and creator. A description from the book of each role follows.

Advisor

You begin by asking: 'What is the best thing to do?'

Your thrill comes from knowing that you are the person others turn to for the answer. You don’t necessarily want to be the person who actually makes the changes happen. Rather, what excites you is being valued by others for your insight and your judgment.

You know that the best advice is never general, but rather is tailored to the unique characteristics of the person or the situation.

You can be demanding and opinionated, but above all you are discriminating: "good enough" is never good enough for you. There is always a better arrangement, a better solution, and you come alive when you are called upon to find it. And when you do, you don't question your decision.

The reason people seek you out for guidance is precisely because you are so assured, so confident in your intuition. Instinctively you know this, and you're proud of it.

Your best quality: Your ability to find a solution.

Always: Search for data to support your advice.

Be careful you: Don’t get frustrated by other people’s failings.

Your smartest career move:  Any job where you’re paid to be opinionated.

You know you are an Advisor if: 
- You ask lots of questions.
- You are impatient for things to get done.
- You take pleasure in fine distinctions.
- You are always explaining things.
- You trust your gut.

Your strongest moments are when:
- You discover the few critical improvements that make the difference.
- Someone calls you up out of the blue and relies on your opinion.
- You clarify a complex issue for someone, she acts on what you told her, and you see her succeed.

To make the most of your role:
- Do your homework.
- Learn to tailor your advice to the person.
- Learn to hide your impatience.
- When you find yourself in a management role, be sure to surround yourself with action-oriented people.

Creator

You begin by asking: 'What do I understand?' You aren’t immune to the feelings and perspectives of others, but your starting point is your own insight, your own understanding. You are a thoughtful person, someone who needs time alone to mull and muse and percolate. Without this alone time, events pile up on you haphazardly, and your confusion starts to overwhelm you. So you look forwar to time by yourself - early in the morning, late at night, long flights - and you use this time to get clear.

You are a creative person. What form this creativity takes will depend on your other traits and talents, but whether you write, paint, sing, complete projects, or make presentations, you are drawn toward making things.

Each thing you make is a tangible sign that you have made some sense of the world, that you have organized the chaos in some useful way. You look at what you've made, you take pleasure in what you now understand, and then you move on to the next creation.

Your best quality: Your ability to find patterns invisible to others.

Always: Find time to be by yourself.

Be careful you: Don’t think so long, you never do anything.

Your smartest career move: Any job where you’re paid to produce new content.

You know you're a Creator if: 
- You feel uncomfortable if a day goes by without producing some tangible sign of insight or understanding.
- You push yourself hard, rarely stopping to celebrate your accomplishments. There's still so much left to make sense of.
- You read a lot of nonfiction.
- You are inspired by the achievements of others - not their growth and development, necessarily, but what they have achieved. You are more interested in destinations than journeys.

Your strongest moments are when:
- You figure something out.
- You spend time by yourself reading, writing, preparing your mind.
- A fresh insight dawns on you.
- You have an in-depth conversation with someone.
- You get a chance to show your expertise.

To make the most of your role:
- Take time to celebrate what you've achieved.
- Explain to others that you are at your best when you have time to think things through, that you're not good at making snap decisions.
- Deliberately involve other people in helping you think things through.
- Carry a notebook with you. Insights pop up at inopportune moments, and you will want to have a place to capture them.

What do I do with this information? I don't know. There's a lot to reflect upon given what has happened over the past four years and where I envision my life going in the future.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

This year for St. Patrick's Day Sophia and Olivia didn't make a Leprechaun Trap. It's been a few years now since they made them.

Back in 2012, they had book theme for the trap:


In 2011, they used jewelry as bait:


In 2010, they used a variety of items from their dollhouse and doll toys:


It was important to leave their shoes out so the leprechaun could put some gold coins and gold flakes to show where he'd been:


In 2009, the girls painted and decorated a trap. They used coins to bait the leprechaun to their trap:

 

They enjoyed putting food out for the leprechaun to eat (notice the tiny plate and cup in front of Olivia):


Of course, the shoes were placed out to be repaired since the leprechaun is a cobbler.


The next day, the girls would see what the leprechaun did and if they trapped him. Although they never caught the leprechaun, they enjoyed seeing the messages and special gold coins that were left for them.


This year we had just finished with the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl - weekly practices since January capped off with a regional competition in mid-March. 

Needless to say, much of our time was spent during the past 2 1/2 months preparing for that. We didn't have much time to focus on preparing for St. Patrick's Day. 

We did, however, spend Friday, March 11th, at the nursing home. Sophia and Olivia made mint shakes for the seniors; and I facilitated a Skype call with one of the seniors and his son (and family) in Australia. During the call, I brought John one of shakes which he enjoyed. 

I took a look at the St. Patrick's Day board that I have on Pinterest. Out of the ideas I pinned, I chose a healthy treat for the day which led to Michelle Paige. That website, in turn, led to Fit, Crafty, Stylish, and Happy for a fruit kabob that used green and white fruit.

Sophia with the fruit kabobs.
Aspen is in the background seeing if 
any fruit fell on the floor for her.

To make the fruit kabobs, I used:

1 green apple, quartered and cut into chunks
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 banana, sliced
Green grapes
Wooden skewers
8 oz Cool Whip (though not the full container)

Each of the skewers was slightly different and gave each person a choice in how much fruit of a particular type that s/he wanted.


Our meal was simple that evening and not very Irish. However, we did have a table runner with leprechauns on it and napkins with four-leaf clovers that I sewed many years ago. Dinner was a herb-roasted chicken, salad, corn, and fruit kabobs.


For dessert, we had Green Velvet Cupcakes that Sophia made. She frosted them with vanilla icing and put green sprinkles on them.

The hedgehog salt and pepper shakers are perched on the edge of the plate.


As I looked back on pictures from past St. Patrick's Days, I know that I'm missing some of the decorations. Perhaps they are in another bin in the hobby shed.

  
Window decorations I made a few years ago.
The darker areas are paper designs that I cut out, and
the dark and light green papers are kite paper.

Next year, I'd like to get back to putting more effort into celebrating the holidays. When I look back at photos, it's nice to remember these special moments in our lives.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bringing Nature Home - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 11

For the 11th week in the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I read Bringing Nature Home - How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas Tallamy.


The book is a very detailed and informative resource for those wanting to learn more about the impact that non-native species have had on the environment. There are many concrete steps that the author suggests for transforming one's property into a wildlife-friendly environment using native plants.

What I enjoyed reading about was that the author didn't just focus on mammals. He showed how to attract beneficial insects, moths, butterflies, and a host of wildlife that often are overlooked when landscaping one's property.

One of the photos in the book showed larvae of cecropia moths - the big lime-green caterpillar-looking things with the pale-blue, yellow, and red protrusions from its body. I remember seeing one of these when I was in Kindergarten. My parents put it in a container for me to bring to school because it was so unusual and colorful.

Apparently if you plant black cherry trees in your yard, you'll see more of the cecropia moths since it is its favorite food.

There's another section about woody plants that are ranked by their ability to support the lepidoptera species. I was surprised to see how many hundreds of species can be supported by some plants. For example:

Oak - 534 species supported*
Willow - 456 species supported*
Cherry, plum - 456 species supported*
Birch - 413 species supported*
Poplar, cottonwood - 368 species supported
Crabapple - 311 species supported*
Blueberry, cranberry - 288 species supported**
Maple, box elder - 285 species supported*
Elm - 213 species supported
Pine - 203 species supported*
Hickory - 200 species supported
Hawthorn - 159 species supported
Alder - 156 species supported
Spruce - 156 species supported*
Ash - 150 species supported
Basswood, linden - 150 species supported**
Filbert, hazelnut - 131 species supported
Walnut, butternut - 130 species supported
Beech - 126 species supported
Chestnut - 125 species supported

* Currently have at our farm.
** Will be planting in Spring/Summer 2016.

Another useful section of the book is the list of native plants specifically for the Midwest. There are about six pages of plants that would thrive in this area. As I looked at them, many were unfamiliar. How different the landscape - and types of wildlife that lives here - would be if even a fraction of the native plants were grown.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Artist's Way for Parents - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 10

This week I read The Artist's Way for Parents by Julia Cameron as part of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.


Many years ago, I read The Artist's Way and did the morning pages, artist dates, and questions. It was a worthwhile use of my time and I got a lot out of actively reading and doing The Artist's Way. When I heard about The Artist's Way for Parents I was intrigued to see how it differed from the original book. Although it would benefit any parent, the book is definitely geared more for parents of young children (toddlers, preschoolers, and early-elementary age children).

Nonetheless, there are many activities and reflection exercises I would like to do as mentioned in the book:
- Do morning pages (three pages of longhand daily writing that the parent does alone).
- Take a creative expedition - a once-weekly dual adventure that the parent and child plan, look forward to, and take together. For example, visit the zoo, go to a children's museum, go to a new playground, visit a cathedral, or go to the library.
- Do "Highlights" - a daily bedtime ritual in which the parent and child each share their favorite moment from the day. (In all honesty, this would be easier to do when children are younger. Starting this at a tween/teen age would be challenging.)
 - List 5 thing you love and think about ways you could share each of them with your child. For example, if you like apple pie - bake a grandmother's pie recipe. If you like flowers, go to the plant store together and buy them and draw the flower together.
- Go on an Artist's Date. This is something a parent does alone. For example, outings that would be fun to do (e.g., getting a manicure, attending a concert, visiting a bakery).
- List five adventures you could take with your child. Choose one together and take a creative expedition.
- List 10 "frivolous" things that make you happy but that you believe you no longer have time to do, such as cooking or yourself, listening to classical music, and knitting. Then choose one of these things. This week, spend 15 minutes a day indulging in it.
- Go on a 20-minute walk with your child. The walk should have no agenda. Simply getting out into nature is enough. Allow yourself to take in the sights and sounds. When you return, take pen to page. Did any insights come to you as you walked?
- List three "tools for exploration" that are already in your house. Are they being used regularly or have they been dismissed? The simplest tools are best, and often inexpensive and already at hand.       - List 5 of your favorite interests. Now list 5 interests your child has that you are unfamiliar with. Can you consciously let those interests be hers alone, and allow those interests to blossom?
- List 5 places you could take your child where she could be exposed to flora (e.g., backyard, nearby park, flower section of the grocery store). Let your child have enough time to absorb the scents, colors, and shapes.
- List 5 botanical adventures you could have inside the house. For example, Press flowers between large books. Let a child choose flowers from a florist an then arrange them together at home to display in a prominent place. Another idea would be to purchase a small window box or herb garden and plant the seeds/transplants with a child.
- List your 5 favorite animals. Now ask your  child to name her 5 favorite animals. Find a way to interact with one o the animals (e.g., at a zoo, park, friend's house). After you have done this, ask your child to draw or write about her experience with the animal.
- Take turns with your child to name one thing you are grateful for. Choose one item that you named and ask your child to do the same. Make a "Creative offering" referencing the thing you are grateful for - draw a picture of it, write a song about it, make up a poem.
- List 5 talents you see in yourself. List 5 talents you see in your child. Are any the same?
- See i there is a place that could become a sort of "creative haven" for you or your child. Ideally, there should be two separate places. It is the quality, vibrancy, and thoughtfulness of the space that matters more than the size of the space itself.
- Create a "creativity corner" in your home where your child can go to begin projects. Stock the corner with assorted items that can provide inspiration.
- List 5 creative endeavors you could encourage your child to try. Now list 5 creative endeavors you could try. These needn't be time-consuming or expensive. They should simply take you slightly out of your comfort zone. For example, buy colored pencils and draw the flowers in a window box or write a poem. Choose one item from your child's list and one from your own. Try them.
- Cook something together with your child.
- What was your favorite childhood book? Do you see the themes of this book in your life and values today? Can you give that book to your child?
- Listen to several contrasting types of music with your child. Offer, without judgment, exposure to several styles and eras of music.
- Listen to your child perform something for you. Now plan to take your child to  be an audience member at a local event (e.g., high school concert, gallery, movie, play). When you are done, ask your child to name something specific that they enjoyed or appreciated.
- Take one entire evening and turn of all devices. This includes anything with a screen.
- What steps can you take to improve your own health and nutrition?
- Find one small change you can make in your own sleeping area and one small change you can make in your child's bedroom. Do you notice a difference as you begin bedtime routines?
- What rituals from your own childhood do you remember the most fondly? What small ritual could you create with your children today? Could you bring one of your cherished childhood experiences into your child's life, carrying on the tradition?
- Collect magazines and give each person a pair of scissors, glue, and a piece of poster board. Choose images that speak to yourself and arrange them as you like. Each person in the family should do this and compare the results.
- Play a game. Not a video game. What memories resurface?
- Look for an opportunity where your child can help someone with something. When it is done, ask her how she enjoyed being of service.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How Did I Get So Busy - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 9

For the ninth week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I read How Did I Get So Busy? The 28-Day Plan to Free Your Time, Reclaim Your Schedule, and Reconnect with What Matters Most by Valorie Burton.


This is a step-by-step plan that is well-presented with many helpful ideas. The beginning of the book examines the difference between an overweight body and an overloaded schedule:

Problem:                                      Problem:
Overweight Body                        Overloaded Schedule

WA R N I N G   S I G N S          WA R N I N G   S I G N S

Too much food                             Too much activity
Too much fattening food              Too much work
Eating late at night                       Working late at night
Not enough fruits and vegetables Not enough rest and relaxation
Too much sugar                            Too many options vying for your time
Little or no exercise                      Little or no exercise
Couch potato                                 Automatic pilot—keeps doing what
                                                           s/he’s always done, even if it no
                                                           longer serves a purpose
Won’t say “no” to junk food          Won’t say “no” to anyone’s requests

BOTTOM LINE:                            BOTTOM LINE:

Refusing to change your                 Refusing to change your
lifestyle can lead to serious             lifestyle can lead to serious
health and personal problems.         health and personal problems.

The author goes on to share the Ten Commandments of Self-Care:
1. Use all of your vacation time every year.
2. Commit your time off solely to nonwork-related
activities.
3. Take your rest seriously.
4. Have fun at least once a week.
5. Eat regularly, preferably sitting down.
6. Exercise regularly, preferably standing up.
7. Be fruitful and productive, not busy.
8. Use technology to gain time, not consume it.
9. Connect heart-to-heart with the people who matter.
10. Be led by the Spirit.

There was a pyramid in the book that was similar to Jung's pyramid that I found interesting:

Joy
Financial Health
Purposeful Work
Self-Care
Faith, Family, and Friendships

She also wrote about an old Japanese saying: Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. 

The first step in creating the life you want, is to envision a dream life. To do so, the author suggests writing down activities for each of the following five areas:
- work
- relationships
- finances
- health and physical environments
- spiritual life
for:
- daily
- weekly
- monthly
- annually

Now, what activities would you nee to eliminate in order to make space for this model to emerge in your life? (Use the same categories first mentioned - work, relationships, etc.)

The author encourages readers to create deliberate, daily habits:
- write a vision of your ideal morning and then post the list
- identify a simple way to connect with loved ones in the morning (e.g., breakfast with family, exercising together)
- choose things you truly want to do, not what you "should" do

She also suggested managing household more effectively by:
- having a communication center
- not letting chores pile up
- creating a printed shopping list
- automating your bill paying
- preparing your meals once per week
- having a reserve (e.g., paper towels, toiletries, light bulbs)
- delegating responsibilities

The author closed by saying, "You deserve joy every day. And it's tough to find joy when you are overloaded with activities and rushing from one thing to the next. It's hard to find joy under those conditions because you are unable to live in the moment. Take your joy seriously. Have fun at least once a week. And celebrate your milestones."

At some point, it would be good to go back and do the plan day-by-day and see the impact in 28 days. It would require purchasing the book so I could write in it and use it as a guide/workbook. Until then, keeping these guiding principles in mind will be helpful and worthwhile.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spiritual Practices A to Z: Imagination

Last year I began a "Spiritual Practices from A to Z" in which I explored for two weeks a different spiritual practice. I made it from A to H (January through April) and then stopped. I began working with Olivia on the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail along with having more projects with 4-H and homeschooling Sophia and Olivia. Then my mother died in August; and my sister, brother, and I had to go through the home and possessions that belonged to she and my father (who died in January 2012). Between dividing them among ourselves, donating a lot, and inevitably having to throw a lot away - that has been my focus since mid-August 2015 to now. 

So, I'm picking up where I left off: with the spiritual practice of Imagination. The ideas come from the website Spirituality and Practice. I've noted what I've done and what I've liked to do below. 

Spiritual Practice: Imagination
Enhances: Creativity
Balances/Counters: Rationalism and Imagination

The Basic Practice

According to the Spirituality and Practice website, "In the spiritual life, imagination has two meanings. First, it is a human faculty — the part of us that traffics in images, symbols, myths, and stories. It is the capacity we all have for innovative thinking and creative expression. Second, the imagination is an inner reality, a boundless realm not defined by our senses or reason that we know from our dreams and can enter via certain exercises while awake. The practice of imagination encourages us to use this faculty and enables us to explore the realm.

"Begin by learning the language of imagination. Keep track of the images that come to you spontaneously in association with your feelings and thoughts. Draw pictures of what you encounter in your dreams. Contemplate art and see yourself as part of the picture. Read myths and tell stories. Remember, through the ages spiritual pilgrims have found that it is possible to step into the inner realm of imagination. There you can find fuel for your journey and gifts of wisdom."

Why This Practice May Be For You

The Spirituality and Practice website said, "Unfortunately, many people associate imagination with 'imaginary' and its connotation of 'unreal.' This is a difficult spiritual practice for those who think that everything has to be verified by sensory perception and empirical evidence. Reason also gets in the way of imagination, especially when it is codified into rationalism which regards only logic and analytical thought as valid routes to truth.

"When we discount the imagination, we cut ourselves off from the riches that can fuel our creativity. We limit the ways we can view the world and our own experience. There is much more to life than can be contained in a rational philosophy."

Quotes


Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions.
— Albert Einstein quoted in Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence G. Boldt

We tend to consider imagination too lightly, 
forgetting that the life we make, 
for ourselves individually and for the world as a whole,
is shaped and limited only by the perimeters of our imagination. 
Things are as we imagine them to be, 
as we imagine them into existence. 
Imagination is creativity, and 
the way we make our world depends on 
the vitality of our imagination.
— Thomas Moore in The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life

Books

Last year, when I was more consistent with doing these spiritual practices, I was working on the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail with Olivia which was very time consuming, I chose two books that were more "flip through" than "reading" books, but nonetheless focused on using one's imagination. Below are the links to my reviews of them:
- Where Women Create 
- Cool Spaces for Kids

There were several books recommended on the Spirituality and Practice website that fall under "Imagination" as a spiritual practice including:
- A trilogy of books by Thomas Moore who maps out how the soul is manifested through the imagination. Care of the Soul is a primer on spirituality in everyday life; Soul Mates explores the different cycles and transitions in relationships; and The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life pinpoints magic, play, mystery, and imagination as wands that can renew both our public and private lives.
The Vein of Gold- A Journey to Your Creative Heart by Julia Cameron. This is a follow-up book to The Artist's Way. The author challenges her readers to sift through their lives in order to get in touch with their creativity. The journey to our creative hearts will take us through seven kingdoms including story, relationship, attitude, and possibility. She presents tools of inner play (secret selves, creative clusters, expansion music) which she hopes will lead to personal growth, renewal. and healing.

I ordered both of these books from the library, but they've been on my nightstand now for many months. It seems like there never is enough time to sit down and read a book cover-to-cover. Perhaps it is more of an issue of not making the time. That latter reason is more likely and something I need to address.

Film

Finding Neverland, the story of how James Barre came to write Peter Pan. It is a convincing and tender depiction of the ties between imagination, play, and creativity.

Again, I ordered the movie from the library but never ended up watching it. It needed to go back, so I returned it. At some point I do want to watch this movie.

Music

"Imagine" is one of the most popular ballads John Lennon ever wrote. He asks us to see a world where people live in peace and share what they have with one another. The song connects us to all others who share this dream. Imagination, it asserts, is where our work for a better world begins.

This song I do remember listening to often when I was a college student. I still enjoy listening to this song periodically.

Art

Illustrated card decks are used by many people as a way of getting feedback from their inner world. These systems are also great ways to exercise the imagination.

The Spirituality and Practice website recommends that to use the cards, you lay out all the cards in order and try telling the story they depict in your own words. Or choose just a few cards and allow their symbols to speak to you.

After working with the images, it's suggested that you refer to books, usually packaged with the cards, that give their traditional meanings. Especially recommended card systems are:
- The Shining Woman Tarot by Rachel Pollack
- The Haindl Tarot by Hermann Haindl
- Motherpeace Round Tarot by Karen Vogel
- The Celtic Book of the Dead by Caitlin Matthews
- Soul Cards by Deborah Koff-Chapin.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

Noticing patterns in the clouds above me or in the sand at my feet is my cue to practice imagination.


It's funny...I was just talking with some of the girls in the 4-H group I lead yesterday about watching the clouds. I was recalling about how - when I was growing up - I would lay in the backyard and look up at the clouds with my sister. We would say what we saw in the clouds as they passed by. We could do this for the longest time. There was no rushing...we had all the time in the world to watch the clouds.


The picture above is when I took Sophia and Olivia up to Itasca  State Park to see the start of the Mississippi River. On the way home, we passed by the south shore of Red Lake in the Red Lake Nation (Indian Reservation). There were expanses of beautiful land - untouched - just there to enjoy. Above us, the hundreds of puffy cloud shapes as far as our eyes could see.

• Appreciating the creativity of others, I vow to express my own imagination as best I can.

The trip to the Textile Center was a reminder of how much I miss doing something creative on a regular basis. Even in the year following my dad's death, I made the time to be creative almost every single day.

When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, I remember turning to crafting - doing some familiar things as well as doing new projects, such as learning how to do sashiko (a type of Japanese embroidery).

I have bins of fabric ready to be transformed into something new. Likewise, I have a bin of colored wool in vibrant colors - just like the 4-Hers were using during yesterday's field trip.


There are patterns in my office/crafting room ready to be used. It's just a matter of making the time. I looked at the clothing at the Textile Center and thought, "It would be fun to have an artist design clothing for me.,,unique clothes that no one else wears."


Even seeing outlines of hands of people embellished in different ways was inspiring for me to see.


Now it is just carving out time each week...hopefully again - at some point - time each day to be creative and use my imagination.

Practice of the Day

How to be an artist: 
Stay loose. 
Learn to watch snails. 
Plant impossible gardens. 
Make little signs that say ""yes"" and post them all over your house. 
Make friends with uncertainty.
— Henry Miller quoted in Sacred Journeys in a Modern World by Roger Housden

Spiritual Exercises

Devote an hour or two this week to gazing at clouds. Look for images in the formations — faces, animals, trails, buildings. Let your imagination roam! Also try cloud gazing with a companion. This exercise demonstrates the breath of the imagination, as two people rarely see the same thing.

Journal Exercises

Keep a dream journal. People all over the world and in many religious traditions have looked to dreams for spiritual insight and guidance. Spiritual Dreaming: A Cross-Cultural and Historical Journey by Kelly Buckley has more than 200 dreams from Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Native American traditions.

A dream journal could be devoted specifically to this purpose or dreams could be written in a regular journal. Before going to bed, date the page and write down a question or express a concern.

Record night dreams as soon as possible after waking. On the left side of the page, write a narrative of what happens during the dream. On the right side, draw any images from the dream that are significant. Over time, watch for recurring themes and images. Try to read what they are revealing about life and the possibilities that are becoming available.

Household, Group, and Community Projects

Go to an art or photography gallery. Pick out a beautiful scene and imagine what it would be like to live there. 

We visited the Textile Center this week with our 4-H club and enjoyed seeing the work there.


There were many pieces of art that had a reference to nature.


Trees seemed to be a popular theme.


It was amazing to look at what could be created with fabric, felt, and other textile mediums.


Sometimes the art work even incorporated an element from nature - like a branch.


There were so many types of inspiring art there - from clothing to wallhangings to rugs.


It was definitely a wake-up call that I need to be spending more time creating like I used to do.


The lives of artists revealed on video or in biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies show us the kind of determination and support needed to sustain our inner artist. Sponsor a film festival or a book reading about the creative life; invite artists in your community to serve on a panel afterwards to answer questions from the audience.

I like this idea - or some variation of it. Sometimes I think that the only way some of these types of activities will happen will be if I incorporate them into some type of 4-H activity. In that way, I am actively planning and learning...although not always doing the project (that's something I need to work on) along with the kids.

Volunteer to be a storyteller or reader at the local library, bookstore, hospital, senior center, church, synagogue, or other community center.

I've done this in the past at the nursing home by reading books to the seniors. I did this in conjunction with St. Nicholas Day as well as when we went on a tour of the Barn Quilt Trail. It was something that was enjoyable - both for the seniors and me.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Artist/Picture Study - P. Buckley Moss

Sophia and Olivia have been looking at some of the works of artist P. Buckley Moss. Below the information about the artist, there are six images that they studied. When asked to recall what stood out about the pieces for each of them, I typed their comments as they spoke them.

First, a bit of a background about the artist since none of us were familiar with her work. According to Wikipedia, "Patricia Buckley Moss, also known as P. Buckley Moss (born May 20, 1933), is an American artist. Reared in Staten Island, New York, she is known for her portrayals of rural landscapes and life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.


"Born Patricia Buckley (called Pat) on Staten Island in New York City, she attended Washington Irving High School for the Fine Arts in Manhattan. She had dyslexia and struggled with some of her classes in high school, but was good at art. She received a scholarship to study art at Cooper Union College."

Soon after graduating in 1955, Buckley married Jack Moss. She divorced, remarried, and was divorced again. When she was married to Jack Moss, the family moved to "Waynesboro, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley" noted Wikipedia. "Patricia Moss appreciated the rural scenery and began portraying it in her art. She was particularly drawn to the Amish and Mennonite people who farmed in the countryside and has portrayed their figures in iconic ways.

"In 1967 she had a one-person museum exhibition that promptly sold out, after which Moss started to market her work more seriously. Her unique style, marked by her subtle stylings and the calm nature of her work, alongside the warmth emanating from her subject matter quickly won her widespread acclaim.

"Referred to in 1998 as 'The People's Artist,' by journalist Charles Kuralt, Moss opened the P. Buckley Moss Museum in Waynesboro the following year. Since opening in 1989, the facility has grown to attract roughly 45,000 visitors annually....Today, artwork that Moss signs as P. Buckley Moss is represented in more than 200 galleries worldwide and collected throughout Europe and Japan, as well as the United States."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Skating Party


This picture shows symbols that the author likes: the Amish (symbolizing honest people living with integrity); the roofless houses (abodes of the soul); the reflections of the buildings and the lack of human reflections (Aquinas' mortal and immortal souls); the snow (purity); and the pair of geese (providence and loyalty). 

Sophia remembered:
=> Is a pretty picture that uses only variations of black, blue, and white.
=> In this picture, there are lots of people skating - men, women, and children. They all have black clothes on - black dresses, black pants, black shirts, black hats.
=> The only pops of colors on their bodies are blue mittens and a blue-checkered scarf.
=> They also have the exact same hair color which is a reddish-brown color.
=> It appears to be in the dead of winter because everything is covered in white except the black trees. They don't appear to have any snow on them.
=> At the very front of the picture, there is a fairly large skating pond. Skating on it are a couple of women, a man, and some children. Their skates are black and they look very thin and spinley...but very pretty.
=> Behind that skating pond there appears to be a road. On the road - a little to the right to the skating pond - there is a man who is pulling two children on a sled.
=> To the left of that and down, there is a large blue house. It is very tall. It looks like it could have at least three stories. 
=> On the front of the house, there are nine slits for windows with three in a row (three rows).
=> I really like the color of the house because the blue isn't just one color. The roof is white and there is a black chimney. 
=> To the left of the house, there is a wagon with people in it and a few people trying to get in it. I like to know that they all have black clothes.
=> Behind the people in the wagon, there is a much smaller building. It is also blue.
=> Behind the smaller building there is another building that looks like the first building. It only has 6 slits - so it only has two stories.
=> Behind the man with the sled and the two children, there is a pond with some children and adults on it.
=> Behind the people on the smaller skating pond, there appears to be a barn.
=> The atmosphere in this picture is very cheerful. It has an unusual beauty to it - it's plain, but the colors seem to bring it all together.
=> To the right of the large skating pond, there are two geese who are watching the goings on of the skating party.
=> I like how Moss used only a few colors, but it still manages to look fairly realistic. 

Olivia remembered:
=> There are several skating ponds - there is one in the center and one across the road a little to the right.
=> In the middle of the picture, there is one big tree.
=> There are also two houses, a barn, and a little shed.
=> On the skating pond in the middle of the picture, there are lots of people skating on it. On the edge of it, there are two people sitting in the snow. 
=> On the skating pond, there is a man and woman skating together.
=> The house, in the background across the road, is a big, brick house that has three stories and has three windows on each floor. 
=> You can also see the reflection of the house in the skating pond.
=> The main side of the house that you see the windows on is blue, and the side of the house is black. 
=> The roof is covered with snow, and each end of the roof are two chimney stacks.
=> The people are wearing black clothes, and have blue mittens and scarves with checkered patterns. The scarves and mittens are the same color as the house.
=> There is a road separating the main skating pond and the house, and on the road there is a man pulling two children on a sled.
=> To the left of the picture, there is a wagon with children trying to get into it and there are children who are already on it. 
=> Behind the wagon, there is another smaller house with only two stories. 
=> The house is also the same color and style as the big house in the front of the picture.
=> To the right, behind the road, there is another smaller skating pond with a few people skating on it. 
=> To the left of that skating pond, behind it, is a barn that is also blue and black, and has a roof covered in snow. 
=> To the right of the main skating pond, there are two geese watching the children play. They are brownish and blackish with white lines, and have an orange spot on their bill. 
=> There are a bunch of smaller trees around the place.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Evening Run

This painting reflects the artist's Valley Style paintings. The barn is representative of Shenandoah Valley bank barns that were built into the side of a hill.

Sophia remembered:
=> The picture takes place in winter. There is white snow on the ground and the trees are, for the most part, are leafless. There are some light grayish-brown leaves, but they do look rather bare.
=> Most of the trees gathered around what appears to be a barn. It is a pretty blue color on one side. On the longer side it is black.
=> Behind the barn, it appears to be a silo.
=> The trees are gathered around the barn. However, there are a few that branch out from that. There are a stark black.
=> Standing a little ways in front of the barn is a horse. Not what I would call a beautiful horse, but this horse appears to have some muscle and soulful black eyes.
=> This horse has a brown back and had except for a lighter brown streak running from behind his ears and ends at the end of his muzzle so that his muzzle and nose are the same lighter-brown color. It looks like the lighter brown color runs down his neck to his chest and makes a patch in front of his chest. The lighter patch doesn't stay one color. It has variations of darer brown and in some areas it has almost a reddish color. 
=> The horse has what appears to be quite a bit of muscle. It looks different, though. It looks kind of ripply...and different from other horses I've seen painted.
=> The horse's head reminds me of a little bit of a donkey's head or an old workhorse. It has kind of an elongated face and tall ears. However, its body looks like that of a younger horse - but tired looking.
=> This horse looks fairly plain and a little tired, however there is - at the end of its muzzle - looks like a little smile drawn in black. It makes the horse look all that much cuter.
=> The sky starts out going up from the ground a dark blue color and then lightens to a white-mixed with blue-color and then it goes to a blue color.  
=> There appears to be a thin line of yellow in the sky. 

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a barn. It looks kind of like a barn that you would see in the Swedish way. It has two stories.
=> On one side of the barn it is a blueish color and on the long side it is black. You can tell it is made out of wood planks.
=> There are trees kind of surrounding or near the barn.
=> In the snow, you can see the shadows.
=> To the right of the barn, you can see a horse. The horse looks like it is a thoroughbred, and it looks kind of old, but also kind of young.
=> The horse has a very long face with very tall ears. The horse looks like it is kind of a rust-color and it kind of looks like it has kind of a wavy look to it...but it doesn't look like it has a lot of muscle. It looks like it is kind of thin. 
=> On the chest of the horse it has a lighter patch on it with a lighter rust color, but it mostly a light brown.
=> The face of the horse has a long brown stripe down the face and surrounding the muzzle or nose. 
=> The nostrils of the horse are very big.
=> There looks like there is a slight breeze because the horse's mane is blowing out. The mane is the same color as the stripe on the horse's face.
=> In the sky, starting from where the snow is, it looks like it is a darkish blue...though not quite an indigo. Then it kind of goes up and turns into a very light gray....kind of what you see outside right now.
=> To the left of the picture, in the sky, you can see two very faint lines of light yellow. They fade out into nothing.
=> You can also see a little bit of white clouds behind the trees and barn.
=> There is also, behind the barn, the top of a silo.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Boys on Donkeys

Two boys are dressed in the Old Order Mennonite people of the Valley of Virginia. The barn is the typical bank-barn found throughout the Valley. This is painted primarily in watercolor; and the single tree up front and the series of horizon lines typify Moss' popular and distinctive style.

Sophia remembered:
=> This picture takes place during late summer or early fall. 
=> The sky is a muted yellow with splashes of tannish-brown. It consists of other colors: yellows, browns, and gold colors. It looks very pretty. 
=> The center of the picture the sky is the lightest. As it gets to the edges, it gets darker and you start to see darker browns and blackish shades start to appear and what appears to be red.
=> The ground reflects the sky so it has a lot of the same colors. 
=> More of the right side of the picture, there is a building. It could be a house or a barn, but on the lower half of one side of the building, it is a black and on the other side of the lower part of the building, it is a lighter brown color.
=> The top part of the house has more of the reddish tone mixed in with the brown. 
=> The roof is white colored, but it does appear to reflect the sky - so it has the light golds and browns.
=> To the right of the barn or building, there is a cow and it is kind of hard to see because it is far away - so you can only see an outline. 
=> At the front of the picture, there is a large black tree. It kind of goes up and blocks the building. It just blocks a little of the building....not a lot.
=> Now if you were to cut the picture in half, the right half would have the building, the large black tree and the cow. THe left half would have two donkeys. 
=> The first one - the bigger one - is brown with a little bit of white. It has brown ears and white muzzle and white around the eyes.
=> The smaller donkey that is standing to the right of the brown donkey is gray and white. It, too, has a white muzzle and white around the eyes.
=> On the larger brown donkey, there is a boy. He is wearing a light blue overalls with darker blue stripes running up and down.
=> For his shirt, he has on a checkered shirt with black, lighter blue, and darker blue checks. On the lighter blue checks, there appears to be tiny red flowers on them.
=> The boy has curly, reddish hair and in his right hand he has a switch.
=> On the smaller donkey, there is a younger boy. He has suspenders with light blue pants that has a design in darker blue.
=> His shirt is also a light blue with almost darker blue stars on it.
=> He also has curly reddish hair and he is leaning back on the donkey in a more relaxed position than the other boy.
=> Both boys are barefoot, and have black hats on. The hat part looks like a bowler hat but they have a strap under their chin and the brim of the hats are elongated.
=> There are plenty of trees in this picture - black trees - with wispy branches.

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there are two donkeys with two boys on them. 
=> Behind the boys there appears to be a road. 
=> Next to them, to the right, there is a tree.
=> The sky is a goldish-yellowish color...kind of the color of dead grass, but just a bit darker. There are bits of brown in the sky - so it's probably fall or a sunset. Though it's probably not a sunset because you can't see the sun.
=> The trees behind the road are tall, kind of skinny, and the branches look like they have reddish-brownish leaves on them.
=> To the right of the picture there is a barn that - on the lower half of the barn is black; and on the other half is reddish-goldish...almost the same color as the sky...and that's on the rest of the barn.
=> The roof of the barn is kind of the same color as the sky.
=> To the right of the barn, you can see the silhouette of a black cow. 
=> The donkeys - one of them is bigger and has a brown coat with a little bit of gray mixed in. It has a long face with tall ears with a little spot on the back and a white belly that isn't too big.
=> The donkey also has a white nose and white circles around the eyes. 
=> The other donkey is smaller than the other one, and is gray with hints of black.
=> The donkey has a white nose or white muzzle and white around the eyes and a white belly.
=>The boy on the brown donkey is older than the other little boy; and is wearing overalls, a light blue with dark blue stripes that are going vertical.
=>He is wearing a checkered shirt with light blue checks that are the same color as the  blue as on his overalls, and dark blue checks that are the same color as the stripes on his overalls.
=>There appear to be red lines on the light blue checks that look like a "W."
=>The boy has a pale face and has reddish-brownish hair. He is wearing a hat with a buckle around his face and it has a very wide brim.
=>The little boy is kind of leaning back on the smaller donkey. He has light blue pants and a light blue shirt with black suspenders. On his pants there are dark blue lines that form squares. On his shirt are dark lines that are forming the shape of a flower.
=>He also has the same color hair and same style hat as the other boy...except smaller.
=>The other boy - the one on the brown donkey - is holding a very thin stick in his right hand.

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Children's Museum Carousel

This work was specifically painted for a special exhibition at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. The carousel is on the third floor of the Children's Museum; and was renovated and in use today. There's a small black cat which appears to be looking directly at the viewer. During the Middle Ages, monks often chose the figure of an animal as a way of signing their work, while still remaining humble in the sight of God. The artist chose the black cat to represent her as both an additional signature and as a way of quietly insinuating herself into her work. Essentially, she is the cat who is looking at the viewer who is viewing her work.

Sophia remembered:
=> This picture is a carousel that looks more old-fashioned than what we have now.
=> There are eight horses in it with saddles, bridles, and reigns; three lions spaced in intervals so that they create a guard around the horses.
=> On the horses, the lions, and the outside of the carousel, there are children. Some of the boys have what looks like baseball hats on while others have more of the Amish black hats on. 
=> The girls have pretty dresses on and one has a black bonnet on. 
=> The inside of the carousel has a piece of circular wood that goes around, and the edges look like melting snow or dripping water. 
=> On the that piece of wood there are a couple of different shapes - two oval shapes and two oddly shaped ones. In the center there is a larger oval-shaped one with a couple of curling black trees and a blue sky.
=> Supporting the roof of the carousel, there are thin pillars that go around the edges of it. At the bottom of the pillars there is a fence that goes around the edge of the carousel. 
=> As soon as the pillars get the fence, bottom and top of the fence have blue on them. 
=> The children look like they are having a good time because they are smiling. 

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a carousel with children riding on the horses and lions. 
=> The horses on the carousel detailed and fancy brides and saddles.
=> There's a fence on the carousel and there are children hanging on the fence or leaning on it watching the other children on the carousel.
=> There is one girl on the carousel who is wearing a white dress that has patterns of roses on it. 
=> There are two other girls around the carousel outside of the fence who are wearing dresses with stripes or flowers.
=> There are also boys on the carousel and surrounding it. All of the boys have all-black overalls. They are wearing red, blue, or whitish-color shirts with different patterns underneath the overalls.
=> Also, the boys are all wearing hats. Some of the hats are black with the strap going around their chins - like a helmet. There are other hats that are red, white, and blue...and on the white part of the hat there's a little "I." 
=> One of the lions has a detailed thing on its back that's on its saddle. One of the boys are on it. The lion's mouth is open with its tongue out.
=> Above the carousel where the horses are attached, there is a fancy detailing on it that goes down into a rectangle with a ball on top of it. 
=> Also above that there's these ovals with fancy details on them. The oval that you can see the most clearly has a scene on it with a beach on it and a blue sky with trees.
=> There are pillars that you can see, and at the bottom of the pillars they are painted blue.
=> By one of the pillars there looks like there is a black cat. It doesn't look exactly like a cat.
=> The floor looks like it has a reflection of the carousel...or at least some of it.

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Ocean


This watercolor painting is inspired by the Pacific coast of northern California. The artist uses a porthole format to focus on the drama of nature. She uses the transparent attributes of her watercolor medium to achieve natural effects of light. 

Sophia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a circular one that looks almost like a marble. The most prominent part of the picture are the waves that take up a little under half of the picture. 
=> The waves are beautifully painted and look realistic; and I love the colors.
=> The waves appear to be crashing onto two rocks on either side of the water. The one on the right is taller than the one on the left and has a very different shape.
=> The water has many different shades of blue and black and green, with the tops of the waves white due to the sea foam. 
=> Behind the water you can see green hills and brown parts of land. 
=> The land in the picture is dark and a little mysterious. 
=> There are black trees dotting the landscape. 
=> The edges of the picture go out of the circular marble shape so it looks like it is escaping from the shape it was painted in. 

Olivia remembered:
=> The picture is a circle. In the back of the picture you can see mostly hills and a little bit of the sky.
=> There are a few rock outcroppings, and a few trees on the hill. Some are pine trees and others are trees without leaves.
=> The waves look kind of big - like there is a storm coming.
=> A little bit of the picture - the hills and the ocean - goes out of the circle...along with the trees.
=> The colors in the picture are mostly hues of blue, green, and a few grays, blacks, and whites here and there.
=> You can see white foam on one of the waves. 
=> The sky looks a bit cloudy.
=> There are black lines that show the waves that are outside of the circle.
=> The tops of the waves are a dark blue that fade out to a lighter blue.
=> The rock to the right of the picture looks kind of tall.
=> The rock to the left of the picture kind of looks like part of a dead tree has fallen over.

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The Owl

The artist uses owls as symbols of wisdom in her paintings. However, for this particular painting she is more interested in the owl as a wild creature of the night. 

Sophia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a large owl. It is mostly made up of dark browns, light browns, a couple batches of red, and some smatterings of blue.
=> It has ear tufts and very long, very pointed beak.
=> Its eyes are black and are not huge, but a reasonable size.
=> The owl is sitting on a branch that is a whitish color and has a knot in it. 
=> The patterns of the owl's feathers is in black and his long, pointy talons also are black.
=> You are looking at the owl through an oval shape that is a dark to light purple on the outside and a lighter purple behind the owl. 
=> In the background, you can see parts of black, wispy trees, pale purple trees, and stems of black vegetation.
=> If you look at the oval purple background behind the owl, it almost looks like the veins of an eye.

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture, there is a great-horned owl. 
=> The owl has a very long beak with big, round eyes.
=> The owl's feathers are dark brown, light brown, kind of a reddish color, white, and you can see little tints of blue. 
=> The owl is holding onto a tree limb, and it looks like there is a pond or swamp in the background.
=> Surrounding the owl is an oval shape. Outside of the oval is a dark purple with hints of dark blue. 
=> The owl has kind of white feet with very long talons.
=> There is black detailing for the feathers on the ears and feet. 
=> Outside of the oval, you can see the faded outlines of where the tree branches started.
=> The tree branch looks like it has a couple of knots in it. 
=> In the background behind the owl, there are few black trees. There are also some trees in the background that are a light purplish color.
=> The background also kind of looks like it is a light purple with a light pink that is mixed together.
=> The eyes are black.
=> A little bit of the swamp has some small weeds that are near the bank of it. 

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