Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quilting and Difficult News - Art Every Day Month - Day 30

My goal was to finish the Minnesota State Quilt by the end of Art Every Day Month. I'm pretty close: the quilt top is completed, the backing fabric is cut, and the batting is ready to go.

The quilt top is completed.

However, it looks like the project will extend into December a bit. I found out on Monday that my dad has less than six months to live. He is in a nursing home right now with late-stage Alzheimer's Disease.

Today, I meet with hospice staff to learn more about the services they provide and what I would like for my dad in these last few months of his life, and sign paperwork. (More about the journey that my dad is on is on this website that I'm writing: .)

At this point, in terms of the quilt, I used the scraps from the front of the quilt to patch together a backing. It is far from a "perfect" is a "make do" quilt. My goal is to use up fabric that I have on hand, and create functional items in the process.

Fabric laid out for the backing.

The next step is to iron the fabric for the backing and then sew the pieces together. Then comes the layering of the three components (top, batting, backing), sewing them together, turning the quilt inside out, hand-sewing the edge; and adding yarn ties to secure the three layers in place.

If you would like to see the final version of the Minnesota state quilt when I post pictures of it, please follow the blog (you can do so to the right where there are icons of people already following this blog). 

I want to thank everyone who has visited and left comments about my work during Art Every Day Month. I've enjoyed visiting other blogs and seeing the incredible creativity of the participants. It's been an inspiring month...despite the many difficulties, particularly in the last few days!

Simple Decor to Brighten Winter Windows - Art Every Day Month - Day 29

On Monday and Tuesday (Days 28 and 29 of Art Every Day Month), I made ten window stars. Here are three of them.

It's hard to believe that December and the Winter Solstice - the day with the fewest hours of sunlight - is fast approaching.

Seeing bright colors in the windows on the days when the sunlight seems to moving further south, reminds me of the beautiful colors of spring when the flowers are in bloom...and even of the lovely autumnal colors that have just passed.

On December 1st, the window stars for Christmas and winter go up. Some windows are decorated with green and red stars; and other windows have purple, blue, and white stars. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

H is for Honey Bee Cookies

The next recipe we tried in the Alpha-Bakery cookbook was Honey Cookies. This is a very easy recipe and all the ingredients are ones that we had on hand.

That's one of the nice things about the recipes in the Alpha-Bakery cookbook - they use ingredients that people have around their homes. You don't have to go out and purchase special, unsual items.

The recipe said that the cookies will look shiny when they are done baking. We prefer cookies that are still soft and tend to underbake them a bit (they are still baked, but not brown and crispy).

The top of the cookies are shiny and smooth, just like the recipe said they would be. The honey adds a nice taste to the cookies, and reminds us of the bees that we had here. (The honey is from the hives where the bees lived.)

Honey Bee Cookies


½ cup butter, softened (we used dairy-free butter)
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup honey
1 egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat together the butter, brown sugar, honey and egg in a medium bowl until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Stir in all remaining ingredients.

Drop spoon fulls of dough onto a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set and the edges are beginning to brown. The cookies will still look shiny when they’re done. Allow them to cool.
Link up to the ABC's

Minnesota State Quilt Top - Art Every Day Month - Day 28

Today, for the Minnesota state quilt that I'm working on during Art Every Day Month: I placed all the quilt squares in a way that I thought looked best, sewed the squares together within rows, and sewed the rows together to create the quilt top.

The first step was to put the squares in an order that I liked. For example, the monarch butterfly was originally where the pine trees are located in the picture below.

The squares are placed in an order that I want them.
Shadow (the cat) is looking on.

However, raising monarch caterpillars and releasing monarch butterflies has been such a big part of homeschooling and what I've done with Sophia and Olivia over the years, that I felt like it needed to be a central square.

Close-up of the final layout of squares.

Once the squares were laid out, I sewed the squares together to create seven strips (or rows) that included five squares each.

Five squares are sewn together width-wise
to form seven rows.

After the rows are sewn together, I ironed the seam on the reverse side of the squares so that they laid flat. Then, I ironed each row of squares.  This ensures that they are laying flat when I need to pin two rows together to sew the quilt top.

Once everything was ironed, I began to sew the quilt top together. I started from the bottom of the quilt. I sewed the row with the wild rice to the row with the pine trees. This process was repeated until I reached the top row. 

After all the rows were together, I ironed the quilt top so that it would lay flat. 

Finished quilt top.

As I look at the finished quilt top, I like the fact that many of the fabric squares reuse fabric. At one time, some of the fabric was part of bed sheets, pillowcases, and clothing. I deliberately did not purchase new fabic. Rather, my goal was to use what was on hand.

Despite the resourcefulness and "make do" spirit of this quilt, my favorite part is the appliqued and embroidered squares. Not only did I learn more about Minnesota's many state symbols, but I was able to challege myself to determine how to best represent each symbol.  

For some squares, applique was the best method to create the image (e.g., pine trees, lady's slippers, apple) while embroidery was a more appropriate choice with other images (e.g., carton and glass of milk; walleye; wild rice). 

I liked this combination of applique+embroidery and embroidery by itself. Had the entire quilt been done by the latter method alone, I would not have finished the quilt within a month. The embroidery was very time consuming with some squares taking two days and well over 6-8 hours.

The next step is to sew the top, batting, and background together to finish the quilt. I may simply use yarn ties where the squares meet to secure the three layers together.

With the weather getting colder now, having a quilt will be a great way to keep a reminder to take time each day to be creative.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wild Rice - Final Quilt Square + Wild Rice Soup Recipe - Art Every Day Month - Day 27

The 27th day of Art Every Day Month marks the final square for the Minnesota state quilt I'm making. Today's image is of a wild rice plant. 

According to State Symbols USA, "Minnesota designated wlld rice as the official state grain symbol in 1977. Wild rice (Zizania aquatica or Zizania palustris) is an aquatic grass not related to common rice. Wild rice is native to North America and grows predominantly in the Great Lakes region. For many years, nearly all the wild rice produced in the world came from Minnesota, and most still does."

I used the backstitch and straight stitch
to create this square.
Three different colors of cotton floss are used.

State Symbols USA continues, "Wild rice was a staple food for native American Indians for centuries (particularly the Ojibway, Menomini, and Cree tribes in the North Central region of the continent). Minnesota Indians called wild rice "manomio," which means "good berry" (wild rice has also been called Indian rice, marsh oats, Canadian rice, squaw rice, water oats, and blackbird oats)."

"The plants grow in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams; often, only the flowering head of wild rice rises above the water. The grain is eaten by dabbling ducks and other aquatic wildlife, as well as humans," notes Wikipedia.

Wild Rice Display
This display was part of Homeschool Days
at the Minnesota History Center in 2007. 
The items on the table show the process
that wild rice goes through -
from lake to table.

One of my favorite foods is wild rice soup. This is a recipe that I obtained when I was still in high school, and have been using it ever since.

It is a flexible recipe, so if you don't want ham in your soup, don't put it. You can add something else (e.g., cooked chicken pieces) or don't put any meat in it so it becomes a vegetarian soup. Be creative!

Wild Rice Soup
(from Byerly's)

6 tablespoons margarine or butter (I use dairy-free butter)
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
1/3 cup minced ham
3 tablespoons chopped slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half (I use dairy-free milk)
2 tablespoons dry sherry, (optional)
snipped fresh parsley or chives


In large saucepan, melt margarine; saute onion until tender. Blend in flour; gradually add broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil and stir 1 minute.

Stir in rice, carrots, ham, almonds and salt; simmer about 5 minutes. Blend in half and half and sherry; heat to serving temperature. Garnish with snipped parsley or chives. Amount: 6 cups.

Tip: One-half cup uncooked wild rice=1 1/2 to 2 cups, cooked.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Silver Birches - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 48

For the 48th week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I wondered what possessed me to pick up Silver Birches by Adrian Plass. Supposedly (according to the back cover of the book) this author is "known for his ability to evoke both tears and laughter" and "has written over twenty books."  Silver Birches evoked in me boredom and disappointment more than any other emotions.

The book centers around David Herrick whose wife, Jessica, died six months ago. He is in the grieving process when the book begins and reflects on the absence his wife leaves around the home. He notices little things about her as he looks at the refrigerator, how books are placed on the nightstand, and so forth. He says, "These tiny museums of personal randomness are all that is left to me."

Shortly thereafter, he received an invitation to a reunion from a long-forgotten acquaintance. Although he didn't want to attend the gathering given his recent loss and unstable emotional state, he reluctanctly agreed.

David is joined by other classmates, including the hostess who was one of Jessica's oldest friends.  She told David that Jessica had given her something that she was supposed to pass along to David a few months after her death. 

What was supposed to be a "poignant and moving story" ended up being a long-drawn out, awkward gathering both for the reunion attendees and the reader. I found myself skimming through the majority of the book wondering what the item was that Jessica wanted David to have after her death.

Finally, by the time the guests were leaving the reunion, Angela says to David in an oh-by-the-way manner, "It's from Jessica. It's only a letter."  WHAT? You mean I have endured 179 pages of this book only to find out it's a letter? That, in itself was disappointing.

If that's not enough, the letter is what concludes the book. The reader must endure another 4 1/2 pages of a letter that only the recipient could have possibly appreciated.

Perhaps if the reader felt a connection - any connection - to the characters and what they've gone through, then maybe the letter would be a tear-jerker. For me, it was just a huge disappointment, and made me wish for the time back I used reading and skimming through this book.

Monarchs - Raising, Releasing, and Embroidering Them - Art Every Day Month - Day 26

Yesterday and today I worked on the 11th embroidered and appliqued square for the Minnesota state quilt that I'm making during Art Every Day Month.

This square shows a monarch butterfly - Minnesota's state butterfly. Minnesota adopted the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) as the official state butterfly in 2000.

There's more information about how fourth-graders began the process of designating the monarch as the state butterfly HERE. It's on page 17 of the Minnesota House of Representatives' weekly publication.

Monarch caterpillars appear to feed exclusively on milkweed, which grows throughout Minnesota. According to State Symbols USA, both caterpillars and butterflies are brilliant in color as a warning - the monarch ingests toxins from the milkweed plant which are poisonous to predators.

The male butterfly has small black dots on its lower wings - females do not.

Each year, Sophia and Olivia look for monarch caterpillars around the backyard and in the pastures. They've successfully raised and released many butterflies throughout the years.

Raising Monarchs in 2008

Each fall, once the milkweed pods are ready, they release the seeds from the pods that don't open on their own.

Girls Spreading Milkweed Seeds

Watching the seeds float away in the air and randomly land gives them hope that there will be new milkweed plants in other areas around the farm...and more butterflies visiting them in the future.

Floating Milkweed

Friday, November 25, 2011

30 Day of Giving Thanks - Day 23-25 - Respite Volunteer; Parents+Grandparents; and Sunrise

Wednesday - 23rd - I am thankful for having Mary (a volunteer through a local agency) offer respite services each week for four hours.

The time that she spends with Sophia and Olivia has allowed me to catch up on work that needs to be done; visit my dad when he was hospitalized; handle caregiving responsibilities for both my parents (phone calls, emails, written correspondence, meetings, etc.); and - at times - simply rest.

Today I was able to make some food for Thanksgiving while Mary and the girls took a walk to the back part of the property, played games, talked, and played outdoors.

From Back of Property Looking North

Thursday - 24th - I was happy to be able to spend Thanksgiving here at the farm, and think about how my parents' and grandparents' influence was reflected in the meal:

- My mom's enjoyment in entertaining and putting together delicious meals to serve family and friends. I try to do this each year, and hope that everyone has a nice time and good meal;
- My dad's instruction and guidance in how to make a turkey and stuffing, and cut the meat;
- My grandma's (on my mom's side) guidance on how to bake pies and make homemade pie crust; and
- My grandma's (on my dad's side) recipe for banana bread that I make each year on Thanksgiving.

B is for Banana Bread

My mom was able to be here for Thanksgiving this year; while my dad and grandmas joined us at the table in spirit.

Friday - 25th - Today I was so thankful to be able to see six minutes of absolute beauty in a sunrise.  I have more pictures of the sunrise on this post.

Beautiful Sunrise - Art Every Day Month - Day 25

This morning there was a beautiful sunrise. I was looking out a window that faces west, so I wasn't seeing the sunrise - just the pale blue sky. 

Went downstairs and the view from the east and south windows was stunning! It was if the entire sky was painted in shades of pink, magenta, and lavender.

7:08 a.m. (in the backyard, facing southeast)
The white pines that were transplanted many years ago,
now have exceeded the height of several of the trees
that have always been here.

I heard a rooster crowing down the road to the east.  Reminded me of when there about 40+ chickens here...including several roosters. Enjoyed seeing them walk around the yard and in the pastures.

7:09 a.m. (facing south in the backyard)
I like the outlines of trees in the fall,
especially when they reveal a bird's nest
that was once hidden.

The cows were "moo-ing" in the distance...calling back and forth to one another. I would have missed hearing this sound had the sunrise not been so pretty, and callen me to come out and enjoy it.

7:11 a.m.
(facing east, in the middle of the street in front of the house)
The clouds were a deeper shade of pink
the more I faced east (versus south).

As I was standing in the middle of the street, it was perfectly silent.
Literally - for several minutes - there were no sounds.

No cars.
No farm equipment.
No wind.
No birds.
No roosters.
No cows.

Just complete silence.
It was incredibly peaceful.

7:14 a.m.
(facing east, walking down the driveway back to the house)

As I was walking back down the driveway, I realized that this was the first day-after-Thanksgiving in many years that I was not wearing a coat. Although it was crisp outside, the temperature was perfect...and comfortable.

The smell of pine was strong as I walked on the pine needles that had fallen on the driveway. I let them stay where they are, needles layering upon one another throughout the years.

The black-capped chickadees were singing in the pine trees as I walked past them.

By the time I came back inside, walked upstairs, and opened the blinds, it was 7:17 a.m. The sunrise - with all the beautiful shades of pink, magenta, and purple...are now in my memory and in photographs.

I'm thankful to have been able to see six minutes of incredible beauty this morning.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Thanksgiving Sunshine" - Waldorf Window Star - Art Every Day Month - Day 24

This Thanksgiving it's going to be warm - about 56 degrees, or 5 degrees short of a record high temperature for the holiday. 

In celebration of a rather balmy Thanksgiving, I made this window star in a bright yellow:

This star is made by individually folding small pieces of paper for each point ten times each. With 16 points, that's 160 folds to create this star.

It's not the easiest star I make, nor the most complicated. The easiest star has 4 folds per point and 8 points (32 folds total); and the most complicated has 24 folds per point and 16 points (384 folds total).

Now with the window star done and a break from working on the Minnesota state quilt (for one day) as part of Art Every Day Month, the focus is on Thanksgiving.

I'm hoping for enough (emotional) strength to make it through the day. It's the first Thanksgiving in which my dad won't be joining us. (He is in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease and cannot be safely transported to my home from the nursing home. I also don't have the resources to hire two staff people to help him with his basic needs, feeding, etc.)

This year, with this major change, I ended up not trying a lot of new recipes like I normally do or going the wide range of choices (e.g., several types of quick breads/rolls, several salads).

Instead, I'm sticking with the basics that everyone enjoys; and re-visiting some recipes that I've made in the past that either remind me of times when my father was with us for Thanksgiving or food that my mom would have prepared for Thanksgiving at their home many years ago.

Perhaps the sunshine - the warmth - will help make Thanksgiving one that we can enjoy...but, perhaps, for different reasons. Maybe a walk on the nature trail in the back part of the farm might be fun - and something we've never been able to do since it has always been cold.

Starting new traditions...while keeping some of the old ones...will be important this year (for Thanksgiving as well as other holidays) as inevitable changes are and will be happening.

Embroidered State Muffin - Art Every Day Month - Day 23

This is the tenth embroidered and appliqued square for the Minnesota state quilt that I'm making this month as part of Art Every Day Month.

Minnesota has a state muffin: the blueberry muffin. Not sure if other states have a muffin representative of their state, but Minnesota does thanks to students who wanted to learn more about the government and how laws are passed.

According to this website, "Third-Graders from Carlton, Minnesota proved they could have a law passed. In 1988, their bill, along with 314 others, were signed into law. The idea for blueberry muffins to be the state muffin grew in a Social Studies class. The kids asked themselves this question during class, 'If there was a Minnesota state food what would it be?' The kids thought of blueberry muffins.

Wild blueberries are native to northeastern Minnesota, growing in bogs, on hillsides, and in cut-over forested areas. Cultivated blueberries are grown on farms throughout the state. Each year, Sophia, Olivia, and I enjoy picking blueberries from a berry patch.

We make a variety of food with the fresh berries, make blueberry jam (every other year), and freeze the rest of the blueberries to enjoy during the winter.

For this quilt square, I used the blanket-stitch, a modified blanket-stitch, straight stitch, backstitch, and an edging stitch. All the fabric and floss is cotton.

Now with this square completed, I only have two left. Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, my creativity needs to be focused on the kitchen and preparing food for 16 people; and finishing decorating the home.

After Thursday, my goal is to complete the remaining two squares, and then begin sewing the quilt squares together. Hopefully, the quilt will be finished by the 30th!

G is for Gingerbread Kids

This week, we made Gingerbread Kids from the Alpha-Bakery cookbook. It's been a fun way to try new recipes and integrate several skills and subjects as part of homeschooling (e.g., math/fractions, reading, science).

It was a rather busy week, so we ended up making the cookies in stages, with different family members each doing a different part. Sophia made the dough; we let it sit in the refrigerator overnight; I cut out the cookies and baked them; and Olivia frosted and decorated them.

Since the cookies were made the week of Thanksgiving, we chose to use fall/autumn/Thanksgiving theme cookie cutters. Also, rather than decorating with raisins (as the recipe recommends), we frosted them and used a variety of sprinkles.

The cookies are a soft gingerbread cookie which we like. The flavor isn't as strong as other gingerbread cookies, so this may be one that it's nice to have in the recipe collection, but isn't the "favorite" one that we use on a regular basis.

Gingerbread Kids


•1/2 cup sugar
•1/2 cup shortening
•1/2 cup dark molasses
•1/4 cup water
•3/4 tsp. salt
•3/4 tsp. ground ginger
•1/2 tsp. baking soda
•1/4 tsp. ground allspice
•2 1/2 cup flour
•raisins, if desired (we used frosting and sprinkles instead)


Mix sugar, shortening, molasses and water in large bowl until blended with mixer on medium speed 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients except raisins. Cover and refrigerate until chilled 1-2 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle counter lightly with flour. Roll dough onto surface with rolling pin until 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a 5-8 inch gingerbread cookie cutter. Lift carefully with spatula onto ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate with raisins.

Bake at 375 degrees until set (8-10 minutes). Let sit for about 3 minutes or until cooled. Then carefully remove from cookie sheet.

(If using frosting and sprinkles, decorate when the cookies are completely cooled.)

Link up to the ABC's

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

30 Days of Giving Thanks - Day 19-22 - Educators and Parents

Day 19 - Saturday - Volunteers at the Waldorf School's Holiday Event

The girls enjoyed learning how to make beeswax luminaries with a volunteer at the Waldorf School. He patiently explained how to dip the water balloon several times in the wax, how to apply the greenery, and then re-dip the balloon several times to create the luminary.

Olivia making a beeswax luminary with a volunteer
at the Waldorf School.

At home, we put battery-operated tea lights into the luminaries so that they glow on the nature table without melting the wax.

Both the girls would like to make more luminaries after having the experience of making one at the holiday fair.

Day 20 - Sunday - Mom and Dad

I am so grateful to both my parents for many reasons. One of things that I am very thankful for is the opportunity to take trips with both of them and my daughters during the past couple of years - once my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

All of Us by Lake Saganaga
Mom, Olivia, and Sophia in the front row.
Dad and me in the back row.
We're by Lake Saganaga on the Gunflint Trail.

Since he no longer could drive and my mom has not been able to drive in years, they would pay for a rental  minivan and we would take driving trips to different places. In this way, they could enjoy traveling and seeing places they've wanted to see; and the girls and I had opportunities to travel to places we normally wouldn't have had the chance to visit.

We were able to see the tulips in bloom in Pella, Iowa; the Shrine of the Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin; many Amish farms in Wisconsin; the National Eagle Center in Waconia (MN); Watkins in Winona, MN); and Grand Marais (MN).

The trip to Grand Marais and up the Gunflint Trail was the last trip we were able to take together.  The picture above shows that picture.

Today, on November 20th, I visited my dad at St. Therese (nursing home) and took my mom there as well. Although my dad was resting for most of the visit, he did wake up for parts of the visit, was able to say a few complete sentences, and enjoy some strawberry ice cream that I fed him.

Day 21 - Monday - Homeschool Co-op and Instructors

The girls have gone to a homeschool co-op for five years now and have enjoyed it. The variety of classes and experiences they've had there has enriched what I have taught them at home.

One of the girls' favorite teachers was Ms. Dawn who taught an American Girl class and American Heroes class. Sophia is pictured below on the right with Ms. Dawn. The girls are having a tea party during one of the classes.

American Girl Tea Party at Co-op
Sophia with Ms. Dawn and two other students
at a homeschool co-op class.
(This was taken four years ago
when Sophia was 6 years old.)

This year, Sophia is taking piano lessons, home economics/cooking, and sewing. Olivia is taking piano lessons, American Sign Language, and Music Fundamentals.  All the instructors put a lot of time into preparing for the classes and teaching the students.

Having different adults from whom the girls can learn makes homeschooling even more fun and gives them an opportunity to learn new information in a variety of ways.

Day 22 - Tuesday - Harp Instructor

Sophia has been taking harp lessons from Denise since the end of May, and enjoys playing two instruments now (she also plays the piano). 

Practicing the Harp
Sophia practicing the harp.

Denise has been encouraging and very supportive of Sophia as she has been learning to play a new instrument.

She challenges Sophia to try new pieces that may be difficult and beyond what she believes she can do.  However, once she learns the pieces, Sophia is proud of herself for staying focused and being able to add it to her repertoire.

Denise is working with Sophia to prepare her for her first performance on Christmas Eve at church. She will be playing a piece accompanied by the organist.  In preparation for it, Denise is trying to arrange for another opportunity to perform six days earlier at church during a prelude. 

Having someone help her with these first performances are critical to making Sophia comfortable with performing in the long-term. I am so grateful that Denise is helping Sophia learn to play the harp and share her talents with others.

Poet and Poetry Study - Lewis Carroll

Throughout the school year, Sophia and Olivia are learning about six different poets and six different poems that each poet wrote.

For the first six weeks of homeschooling, we focused on Robert Louis Stevenson. We are now learning about Lewis Carroll (who wrote Alice in Wonderland as well as a wide range of other stories, poems, and other literary pieces), and are focusing on six poems that he wrote.

Below are the six poems that I chose for the girls to listen to:

Those Horrid Hurdy-Gurdies!
A Monody, By a Victim

"My mother bids me bind my hair,"
And not go about such a figure;
It's a bother, of course, but what do I care?
I shall do as I please when I'm bigger.

"My lodging is on the cold, cold ground,"
As the first-floor and attic were taken.
I tried the garret but once, and found
That my wish for a change was mistaken.

"Ever of thee!" yes, "Ever of thee!"
They chatter more and more,
Till I groan aloud, "Oh! let me be!
I have heard it all before!"

"Please remember the organ, sir,"
What? hasn't he left me yet?
I promise, good man; for its tedious burr
I never can forget.

Olivia's reaction: "That doesn't make sense." Sophia's reaction: "It's interesting. You can understand parts, but other ones I think he added for fun."

My Fancy
(March 15, 1862)

I painted her a gushing thing,
With years perhaps a score;
I little thought to find they were
At least a dozen more;
My fancy gave her eyes of blue,
A curly auburn head:
I came to find the blue a green,
The auburn turned to red.

She boxed my ears this morning,
They tingled very much;
I own that I could wish her
A somewhat lighter touch;
And if you were to ask me how
Her charms might be improved,
I would not have them added to,
But just a few removed!

She has the bear's ethereal grace,
The bland hyena's laugh,
The footstep of the elephant,
The neck of the giraffe;
I love her still, believe me,
Though my heart its passion hides;
"She's all my fancy painted her,"
But oh! how much besides!

"It's funny! He loves her even though she footsteps of an elephant, the neck of giraffe, and a very weird laugh," said Olivia. Sophia thought, "He has a strange love."

Brother and Sister

"SISTER, sister, go to bed!
Go and rest your weary head."
Thus the prudent brother said.

"Do you want a battered hide,
Or scratches to your face applied?"
Thus his sister calm replied.

"Sister, do not raise my wrath.
I'd make you into mutton broth
As easily as kill a moth"

The sister raised her beaming eye
And looked on him indignantly
And sternly answered, "Only try!"

Off to the cook he quickly ran.
"Dear Cook, please lend a frying-pan
To me as quickly as you can."

And wherefore should I lend it you?"
"The reason, Cook, is plain to view.
I wish to make an Irish stew."

"What meat is in that stew to go?"
"My sister'll be the contents!"
"You'll lend the pan to me, Cook?"

Moral: Never stew your sister.

Olivia's immediate response: "Do that one again! I like that one!" "Its weird because he would never do that," was Sophia's reaction.

From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!

Sophia said, "I like that one. I liked the description of the crocodile." Olivia thought, "It was unusual because the crocodile's tail was shiny."

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky
(An acrostic poem: the first letters of each line spell the name of Alice Pleasance Liddell.)

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July -

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear -

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream -
Lingering in the golden dream -
Life, what is it but a dream?

"I liked it because of the first letters. I've seen that in a few books before," Sophia said. Olivia said, "I didn't understand or catch that. These poems are strange."

(To Mary, Ina, and Harriet or "Hartie" Watson.)

When .a.y and I.a told they'd seen a
Small ..ea.u.e with .i..., dressed in crimson and blue, cried "'Twas a .ai.y! Why, I.a and .a.y,
I should have been happy if I had been you!"
Said .a.y "You wouldn't." Said I.a "You shouldn't-
Since you can't be us, and we couldn't be you.
You are one, my dear, but we are a .a..y,
And a.i...e.i. tells us that one isn't two."

(The missing words would seem to be: Mary, Ina, Hartie, creature, wings, Hartie, fairy, Ina, Mary, Mary, Ina, Hartie, party, arithmetic.)

"I liked it. That was my favorite one," said Sophia. "I disliked it. I liked the brother and sister poem better," said Olivia.

When I Forgot - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 47

This past week I read When I Forgot by Elina Hirvonen as part of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. The reviews on the  book as well as the description on the back cover sounded intriguing, so I thought it may be a good book to read. 

However, what this was far from the "poignant debut" (Metro) and "potent, fragile, and tender" (New York Times) reviews on the book's front and back covers.

Briefly, When I Forgot, focuses on families who are dealing with mental illness while the world deals with the effects of 9/11.  Unfortunately, the mental breakdown experienced by several people in different families is reflected in the writing which seems fractured and confusing.

Further perplexing was how memories, flashbacks, and shared stories climaxed concurrently in a Helsinki demonstration protesting America's involvement in Iraq.

Although I didn't find this book particularly engaging, there are parts that were more interesting than others. It did offer a glimpse into a sad - and intense - world of mental illness. 
About midway into the book, Ian - who is Anna's boyfriend (Anna is the main character) - was talking about his father who was a Viet Nam veteran.  Ian had visited his father in a psychiatric ward of the veterans' home. Although the visit went well and was pleasant, Ian's father did not recognize him. It was, as if, Ian was a stranger to his father.

He said, "It feels like that was the first time I realized that Dad would never get better. That until that moment I'd somehow imagined that..."

"That you'd be able to save him?"

"Yeah. And then. Then I realized that I wouldn't. That he would never remember me."


Another scene described how Anna had to call the police on her brother (Joona) who was mentally ill and had escaped from the psychiatric unit of the hospital.  When the police arrived, she met them outside her home and stayed there while they went inside to get Joona and bring him back to the hospital.

"Dear Joona, forgive me," I repeated over and over .... Don't let anyone hurt him. Give him something good. Let him forgive me .... Dear Joona. Forgive me."

But when I heard Joona shout, when I heard the cops' tight voices and the slam of the car door, I knew that I would never, ever be forgiven.


Towards the end of the book, Joona writes a letter to Anna and describes his journey in life: "I can't conquer suffering. I can't avoid life. I try to think of time as a landscape. You have to walk through it. When you get to the edge it's over. At the edge there's Light. My life is a journey toward the Heavenly Light."


The few parts that I did find interesting seemed to somehow tie into the challenges I've been recently dealing with as I've been watching my father's health continue to decline due to Alzheimer's Disease.

As Alzheimer's Disease has affected my dad's mind, ability to reason, and comprehend the world around himself (among many other effects), I could see some of these experiences by Ian, Anna, and Joona being a close reflection of what has been happening in my dad's own life. 

Despite these similarities, the author's use of a stream-of-consciousness writing style is one that I simply couldn't "get into." Although it was a translated book (originally written in Finnish), I don't believe that had any impact on my reason for not enjoying it.

Minnesota's State Fish Embroidered - Art Every Day Month - Day 22

This is the ninth embroidered square for the Minnesota state quilt that I've been making during November. (Only three more left to go.)

For this square, I found an image of a walleye (Minnesota's state fish) that was in a coloring book produced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

I debated between doing the image in applique or simply do the outline in the backstitch. I chose the latter since I thought it would be good to have more than one embroidered square (the only other square so far that I have done in embroidery only - with no applique - is the milk carton and glass of milk).

This, by far, was the most labor-intensive square for this quilt. Even though I only used one stitch (backstitch) for the design, the number of stitches, changes of floss color (threading and re-threading the needle; having to do many knots with each color change), added to the time.

So, despite the simplicity of the design, I was suprised at how many hours it took to complete it.  I ended up working on this square over a two-day period (Day 21 and 22) of the Art Every Day Month challenge. 

I think I'll choose something easy to stitch next time - maybe the blueberry muffin. (Minnesota's state muffin. Who knew that there was a state muffin? I didn't...until I started working on this quilt.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Origami Decorations & the Symbolism of Butterflies - Art Every Day Month - Day 21

For Thanksgiving, I decorated the windows with stars and butterflies made from translucent paper.

The colors used were brown, orange, gold, yellow, and red. Some of the patterns had only a single color, while others had a combination of them. The window in the picture above is in the dining room. When we eat dinner in the mid-afternoon it will be light outside so the patterns of the stars will show. 

Less than an hour and a half later, it will be dark outside. The candles will be lit in all the windows throughout the home (one is shown in the right side of the picture - there are actually 3 candles for this set of windows), so as everyone leaves, most of the lights in the home are turned off and they will see candlelights in each of the windows.

That odd-looking butterfly on the right (the orange one with brown body) is my first attempt at making one. Although I consider it a mistake, I ended up using it anyways since I didn't have another butterfly that looked like it fit with this combination of window decorations.

Sometimes overlooking mistakes has to be okay. There truly are greater and more important issues in the world.

I still would like to do a couple more stars for this window before Thursday in gold, yellow, and red. The window shown above is in the family room where Sophia, Olivia, and their cousins play on Thanksgiving.

The window above looks out over the backyard. It also is in the family room near where Olivia works on her puzzles.

Butterflies may seem like an unusual decoration at Thanksgiving. However, this year it is quite fitting. It will be the first one without my dad joining us for the meal.

Because he is now in a wheelchair and requires quite a bit of assistance with meals and personal needs due to being in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease, he will be at the nursing home/care center while we have the Thanksgiving meal.

Like the butterfly, who represents change and transformation, this is one of many changes and adaptations that have had to be made over the past year, particularly in the last couple of months. 

According to a website about animal symbolism, "Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly. She asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the chances of her environment and her body.

"This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. Here the butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature – she asks us to recognize the same.

"To take this analogy a step further, we can look again to the grace and eloquence of the butterfly and realize that our journey is our only guarantee. Our responsibility to make our way in faith, accept the change that comes, and emerge from our transitions as brilliantly as the butterfly."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Babe the Blue Ox - Art Every Day Month - Day 20

For the 20th day of Art Every Day Month, I made another quilt square for the Minnesota state quilt that I've been working on this month. This square features Babe the Blue Ox who was Paul Bunyan's companion.

According to Wikipedia, "Paul Bunyan is a lumberjack figure in North American folklore and tradition. One of the most famous and popular North American folklore heroes, he is usually described as a giant as well as a lumberjack of unusual skill, and is often accompanied in stories by his animal companion, Babe the Blue Ox."

Wikipedia continued, "Babe the Blue Ox, Bunyan's companion, was a massive creature with exceptional strength .... Among other subjects, a myth about the formation of Great Lakes was centered around Babe: Paul Bunyan needed to create a watering hole large enough for Babe to drink from.

The blue fabric is attached to the white background
by the blanket-stitch. The backstitch is used to add details
(e.g., outline of the ear, definition of the legs, horns).

"There are also stories telling that the 10,000 Lakes of Minnesota were formed from the footprints of Paul and Babe while they wandered blindly in a deep blizzard. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were said to give Babe to Paul Bunyan, because they were all 'woodsey' pioneer types."

Paul Bunyan has dozens of towns vying to be considered his home - not only in Minnesota, but across the United States. Kelliher, Minnesota, is the home of Paul Bunyan Memorial Park, which contains a site purporting to be Paul Bunyan's grave.

The most famous statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are in Bemidji, Minnesota as part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Visit Seniors Who Have Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia - 52 Weeks of Giving - Week 47

Sophia and Olivia visited the care center where their grandfather (who they call "Papa") lives now due to his increased needs because of Alzheimer's Disease.  On the day that we visited, Papa was resting. We moved his wheelchair near the couch so we could sit down and be near him.

We placed a blanket on his lap, and then Sophia took out Eenie (the cat) who Papa wanted to see again.

Papa petting Eenie.
Even though he didn't open his eyes,
he did know that Eenie was there.

Sophia put Papa's hand on Eenie's back and Papa began petting Eenie, "Nice kitty," he said. A short time later he said, "Soft." Then he fell back asleep.

While we were waiting for Papa to wake up again, Sophia and Olivia visited some of the other residents.

Sophia remembered that this resident
enjoyed cats and visited her for a bit.
(This resident is in the palliative care/hospice unit
where Papa is living.)

We walked over the unit where residents who have Alzheimer's Disease and dementia live, and were encouraged by several of the nurses to walk around the circle where the residents were sitting and see if anyone wanted to pet the cat and talk with the girls.

Sophia and Olivia visiting with some of the residents
and showing them Eenie.

Sure enough, there were quite a few ladies who wanted to visit with Sophia and Olivia, and who wanted to touch Eenie.

We went back to check on Papa. He was awake, so - with the help of two nurses - transferred him to another wheelchair, got his coat on, and put two blankets on his lap. We headed outside where Maureen (a family friend) and Olivia filled Papa's birdfeeder.

Olivia and Maureen filling Papa's birdfeeder.

We took some time to swing on the modified swingset the care center has in its healing garden. Papa enjoyed the swing, and even grabbed the bar on his side to swing along with Olivia who sat directly across from him.

Papa, Olivia, and Maureen on the swing
in the healing garden.

When Papa was asked if he wanted to see Eenie again he said, "That would be nice." It was a good visit, and one that benefited not only Papa, but some of the other residents at the care center.