Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learning about a Rock's Cleavage

As part of Sophia and Olivia's multi-disciplinary geography study, they are learning about the state rocks for each state in the U.S.A.

One of the questions on the sheet they complete for each rock asks about the rock's cleavage. Up until this year, I did not know that rocks had cleavage.

So, what is cleavage...as it relates to rocks? According to the Rocks for Kids website, "Cleavage is when a mineral breaks with smooth flat surfaces. Cleavage can be described as perfect, good, imperfect, or poor."

Also, clevage can be described as:
  • Perfect 1 way ~ breaks on one perfect cleavage plane, crystals break into slices, sheets peel off
  • Perfect 2 ways ~ breaks into elongated boxy shapes, 90 degree angles
  • Perfect 3 ways ~ breaks into perfect rhombs, pieces look like squished boxes
  • No cleavage ~ does not break regularly
To demonstrate this, the girls put one sheet of paper toweling that was divided into two pieces on the table in front of themselves.

Olivia tearing the first piece of paper toweling.
It separated into a rather even line quite easily.

Then they tore each piece of paper toweling in half.  The first one they did they ripped from top to bottom. The second one they did they tried to tear it from side to side.

Trying to tear the second piece of paper toweling.
This piece appeared more jagged.

One of the pieces has a more even line while the other piece looks more jagged.

The top piece was tore from top to bottom.
The bottom piece was tore from side to side.

How did this activity relate to cleavage? According to Earth Science for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave, "Paper towels are made on a wire screen, creating a straight line in one direction. Pulling on the paper attracks the weakest point.

"The parallel lines on the paper made by the wire screen are thinner than the rest of the paper, and thus the paper rips easily down one of these lines.

"Jagged and irregular tears result when the paper is pulled in the opposite direction. This is like cutting minerals, such as diamonds, along cleavage lines. The mineral splits smoothly and easily along the lines where the molecules line up, but it can smash into irregular pieces if hit across the cleavage line."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Q is for Quick Cheeseburger Pie - ABCs of Homeschooling

This is a recipe that Sophia has been looking forward to making. The Quick Cheeseburger Pie is from the children's cookbook Alpha-Bakery, and was easy to make. Everyone enjoyed it, and it will be one that we'll be making again.

The Quick Cheeseburger Pie has all the components of a cheeseburger: meat, onions, cheese, pickles, and a crust (which acts like the bun). It can be eaten plain or dipped in ketchup and mustard if you want to make it taste even more like a cheeseburger.


Pat In The Pan Pastry (below)
1 pound hamburger
1/2 -3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup dill pickle juice
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped dill pickles
2 cups shredded cheese


Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare pastry (below), and pat in bottom and up sides of round pan 8 inches x 1 1/2 inches. Bake 15 minutes.

Cook beef, onion, and garlic in pan until brown, drain. Sprinkle with salt and flour. Stir in pickle juice, milk, pickles and 1 cup cheese. Spoon into dish.

Bake 15 minutes, sprinkle with 1 cup cheese bake until crust is golden brown, about 15 more minutes

Pat-In-Pan Pastry

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening


Mix these together then cut in 1/2 cup shortening with pastry blender or fork until the size of tiny peas. Sprinkle with 3-4 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stirring with fork after each addition. Mix lightly until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans from side of bowl (add 1-2 teaspoons water if necessary.)

Link up to the ABC's

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Cretan Stitch - Week 4

This week for Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST), the featured stitch is the Cretan Stitch. I had never heard of this stitch until it was part of TAST.

Booklet that I am keeping which includes the
embroidery stitch of the week
plus a  personal and gratitude journal entry.

According to Victorian Embroidery and Crafts, "The Cretan stitch, and its variations, originated in Crete and the surrounding regions. For centuries women in this area have used this stitch to decorate clothing and household linens.

"This very versatile stitch can be used to create beautiful borders with an open plait finish or it can be worked more closely to fill small leaves and flower petals. When worked closely, it gives the appearance of close plaiting. Beads and sequins can easily be added to it. It is also a popular stitch with makers of crazy quilts."

To do this stitch, according to Victorian Embroidery and Crafts,

- Draw two parallel lines.

- Bring the needle from the under to the upper surface of the material, on the left-hand corner of the lowest line but one. The needle in working is always at right angles to these lines.

- Insert the needle in the top line slightly further to the right of where it came out on the bottom line, and take a small stitch downwards.

- Then insert it in the bottom line and similarly take a small stitch upwards. In taking the stitch the thread must be kept to the left of the needle as in the illustration, or the plaiting will not take place.

There are different variations of this stitch depending:

I practiced this stitch and incorporated it onto my journal pages for the week.

Creten stitch around sun, moon, star, and pinecone images.
I tried the stitch with different angles and widths between stitches.

As I have during past weeks, there's a journal entry about what happened and how I'm doing; and there's a gratitude part that includes five people, things, or experiences for which I'm grateful.

Personal and gratitude journal
with an image of Greek architecture.

There are two images from National Geographic magazine of Greek architecture. I like the white-washed buildings, and clean, simple lines - especially of the stairs. Someday I would love to travel to Greece...until then, I can enjoy the images from the magazine.

Heartwarming Animal Stories Review - "Saving Gracie"

For the first book of the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, I chose Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills by Carol Bradley.

This is a eye-opening narrative that shares how one dog, Gracie (a sickly and bedraggled Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) is transformed into a loving, healthy member of her new family after being worn out from bearing puppies at a puppy mill.

Gracie, after being rescued, "seemed too closed off to feel anything but numb. She was so tiny, so devoid of personality." Saving Gracie continued to share information about Gracie (at that time known as Dog 132): "She'd been born in a crate, reared in a crate, and forever confined to one. At last she'd been liberated...yet she seemed incapable of deriving pleasure" from being safe, getting enough food, and receiving human compassion.

Athough the book weaves in Gracie's story, it is more focused on exposing America's hidden puppy mills - commercial kennels that breed dogs in horrific living conditions and churn out emotionally-damaged and disease-ridden puppies for sale.

In particular, Saving Gracie examines the raid of a puppy mill in southeastern Pennsylvania, the aftermath of rescuing hundreds of dogs, and the subsequent court case.  The book also provides a detailed account about legislative changes in that state to address dog abusers thanks to the hard work and  support of Gov. Ed Rendell and his wife, Marjorie.

Based on the title of the book, I thought more of the story would be about Gracie, and her journey from the puppy mill to becoming part of a family.  It wasn't, which was a bit disappointing. 

That being said, learning about puppy mills; this particular rescue (which Gracie was a part of) and its aftermath; and what subsequent changes that happened in Pennsylvania following the rescue was interesting.  There were parts that were a bit overly-detailed and tedious to read; and I found myself skimming through them - more eager to read bout the life of the recovering dogs after the raid.

For example, Saving Gracie describes some of the many challenges puppy mill survivors have to overcome. Even things that many dogs take for granted - solid ground or flooring - is unusual for dogs from puppy mills. "...they were so accustomed to standing on wire that when they finally got the chance to stand on cement floors...it felt so foreign that they tiptoed," the book noted.

It went on to say, "Saddest of all, these dogs had never learned to trust humans. They'd never had any reason to do so, and at the sight of strangers they practically shrank."

The rise of puppy mills happened after World War II in the Midwest. According to Saving Gracie, "Small mom-and-pop pet stores began to give way to corporate franchises...[and] marketing experts...had concocted an easy way to lure customers by putting adorable puppies in shop windows."

In addition, as Americans were becoming wealthier, there was an increased demand for purebred dogs. With pet stores in shopping malls, families didn't have to look in the want ads any more and drive to a farm to examine a litter. They could simply go to a pet store and pick out a puppy. With more prevalent credit card use, people were purchasing animals impulsively, rather than thoughtfully.

To meet this demand, brokers who supplied puppies to pet stores needed more dogs. So, "they zeroed in on Missouri and Kansas, centrally-located states that were home to hundreds of small, isolated farms. Breeding puppies was a boon to Midwestern egg farmers who'd been edged out by large corporations. Farmers could put their empty chicken coops to use by housing dogs in them instead."

The consequence of these early actions could be seen in repeated puppy mill rescues. In Saving Gracie, Bill Smith (founded of Main Line Animal Rescue) dealt with "breeders looking to get rid of older female dogs worn out from having so many litters...The dogs frequently emerged in shockingly bad shape - suffering from mange, bladder stones, multiple tumors, and broken jaws or backs."

In addition, "Smith saw dogs who had undergone more than a dozen C-sections, without anesthesia .... Frightened, malnourished, often without medical attention of any kind, [a mother dog] shivers in the cold days of winter and bakes under the August sun never knowing kindness or the slightest affection, she is a prisoner for profit."

Saving Gracie mentioned many states that have legislation in place to protect dogs. I was hoping to see Minnesota mentioned in the list of states as being proactive and protective of dogs; and against puppy mills.  It isn't...at this point. 

In Minnesota, there is a Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill S.F. 462/H.F. 702 that, according to the Companion Animal Protection Society, "...was introduced in 2011. It is still alive and has a chance to be heard during the 2012 Minnesota legislative session."

CAPS continues, "Minnesota has no state laws, rules, licensing or regulations to address the care of cats and dogs in commercial breeding facilities. That is why this bill is so important. S.F. 462/H.F. 702 will provide basic licensing and regulation for this industry."

By clicking on the link above, there is a list of ways that one can be involved in helping this bill be heard, and hopefully passed during the 2012 legislative session. After reading Saving Gracie, they are actions that I definitely will be taking.

There's also an animal welfare group in Minnesota called Animal Folks Minnesota whose mission is to "to prevent animal neglect and cruelty by creating a modern system of animal care and protection in Minnesota." Their vision is "for the state of Minnesota to be the recongized leader in animal protection, care, and welfare." There are ways to help and actions to take on this website as well.

Anyone who cares even a little bit about dogs should read Saving Gracie. You will be enlightened, and - hopefully - moved to take action in your own state.

Friday, January 27, 2012

3 in 30 Check-in - Week 4

This is the last check-in for the 3 in 30 goals for January.  I set three goals at the end of December to do during January.  Each week, I've been working towards meeting them.  Below, I have the final results of the goals for January.

3 Goals in January

1. Remove photographs from all photo albums and put in photo boxes. I began this process in 2011, but never completed it. My goal was to remove all the photographs so that the photo albums wouldn't continue to damage the images. (Many of the photographs are in albums that are not acid-free.)

This week I took photographs out of four more albums and put them in an archival-quality, photo-safe box.

Scrapbooks ready to have pictures removed from them.

There are still about a dozen albums I need to go through; and plan to do finish this project in February. Given the amount of space that the photo albums take up, I need to evenly divide the project over the month so the garbage can doesn't get overloaded.

Photos transferred from the albums to boxes.
Not only does it protect the photos, but it saves a lot of space.

2. Thoroughly clean and repair the master bedroom. I began this process in April 2011 by cleaning the closet and donating clothing that I no longer wore. I removed the clutter from the closet and either donated or threw it away. I had all the blinds repaired so they were in working order.

This week I had an electrician replace two light fixtures on the ceiling.

The light bulbs worked, but the covers
no longer would stay on the fixtures.
It was time for a change.

The old light fixtures were more than 16 years old, and the screws that secured the light covers couldn't hold onto the worn-out metal threads.  

This week, two new lights were installed and
the wiring for smoke detector fixed.

She also properly attached two light fixtures next to the bed. Apparently, the reason they were so unstable was that when they were initially put in (prior to moving in the home in 1995), the screws weren't put into the box where the wires are located, so they weren't installed correctly.

The lights by the bed are now properly installed.

The electrician also took a look at the hard-wired smoke detector and noticed that the reason it was malfunctioning was that there was a loose wire connection. She fixed that so now that should operate properly.

The next thing I did was clean off the dressing table that belonged to my grandma after several months of just piling items on it. Other matters took more importance over a clean desk (e.g., increased caregiving responsibilities for my parents for the past six months; my father's death and funeral earlier this month; the girls' and my health issues in mid-January).

Good grief...it's a surprise I could find anything.
This is not how I want things to look or be organized.

So, the craft projects I wanted to do (on the right side of the table) and my blue file container that holds bills and other financial papers (on the left side o the table) are back in my office downstairs. Now I can enjoy the photos and items that have special significance to me.

That's more like it...each of the items represent
something or someone who was/is important in my life;
or trips that I want to remember (Australia and China).

In terms of clutter around that area (on the desk and on the floor),
- I took a bag of craft projects downstairs to my office that I want to do.
- Put three bags of items that belonged in different parts of the home back in their proper places.
- Placed the vacuum cleaner and Spot-bot machine in the closet (and out of sight).

Next, I cleaned one of the two bookshelves (the other one is for homeschooling and was set up during August and maintained each week).

Oh my... 

The top shelf has my books and CDs now; and the bottom shelf has homeschooling supplies and some reference books and materials.

That's better. Now things are back to the way they were...
minus the books I no longer want or need.

I was able to get rid of 21 books - 15 of which will be donated to the second-hand store, and 6 to church. There also were items that I was able to recycle and throw away. 

21 books to donate.

During February, I want to wash all the walls and windows; and then paint the accent areas dark green (behind the bed and over the window on the west side of the room) and the walls white. 

I also want to go through the books on each side of the bed, and determine if they can be donated or I want to keep them. Having books on the bookshelf rather than by the side of the bed will help complete the look of a less-cluttered room, and create a more relaxing and calming space.

3. Spend 15 minutes outside each day.

I have been outside each day, although not for the full 15 minutes due to not feeling well. On Monday, I went to the doctor and found out that I not only had bacterial and sinus infections (and needed a prescription and over-the-counter medicine to address those issues), but my blood oxygen level was at 91.

Apparently a person's blood oxygen level shouldn't be that low (it should be 98 or above). With low readings, it means that oxygen can't get into your red blood cells which travel around your body and provide oxygen to important organs (e.g., brain, heart).

I read some interesting information HERE about the impact low oxygen levels can have on your health. It was worth the time to read it since I didn't know much about this issue.

Morning medicine for one day.
(The white container is medicine for my nebulizer
which also helps with breathing - in addition to the inhaler.)

The doctor increased my inhaler use (for asthma) from "as needed" to two puffs a day for four times a day for ten days. Hopefully, that will get that reading up to where it should be by opening up my lungs and making breathing easier. Until then, I have to modify my schedule (and goals) a bit.


The 3 in 30 challenge is such a great way to set goals for oneself. It makes moving towards larger goals possible because of setting smaller ones to achieve each month.

Was I able to accomplish each of the three goals in January perfectly? No. But, in reality, this month was unlike any other month in terms of multiple challenges on many levels. So, I'm okay with not accomplishing everything to the level I expected when I set the goals at the end of December.

What I'm happy about is that I moved forward on several different things that I have been wanting to do, but haven't done. As I look around and see..
...the photos I took out of unsafe albums safely in acid-free/photo-safe photo boxes;
...more space because of less photo albums;
...two new light fixtures;
...a repaired and functional smoke detector;
...two bedroom lights repaired;
...a simplified look to the master bedroom because of less clutter;
...two bags of books to be donated to the second-hand store and church; and
...coats, boots, hats, and mittens that I've been using when I go outside regularly...
I am very satisfied with what I was able to accomplish during an incredibly challenging month.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

P52 Photo Challenge - Self- Portrait - Week 4

When I saw the theme for the fourth week of the P52 photo challenge I cringed. My picture - taken by others or myself - has to be one of my least favorite subjects. If I can avoid being photographed, I will. I much rather be on the other side of the camera.

After taking a lot of different shots with a simple point-and-shoot camera of me looking out the window so the trees and newly-fallen snow were in the background, I didn't like how any of the images turned out.

Took a break...fed the horses and filled up their water buckets...took out the garbage and brought it to the side of the road for pick-up tomorrow...made dinner...and tried again. Except this time it was dark outside. So much for the natural background.

Took some shots with the white walls as the background. Nothing was working. 

Decided to lay down, rest a bit, and think about what else I could do for a self-portrait. Ended up holding out the camera and just clicking a whole bunch of times.  Picked out a photograph I thought that was workable.

After seeing other P52 participants play around with their photos in photo shop programs last week, I decided to import mine to Paint Shop Pro. I never modify pictures with a photo shop program, so this was something new. 

Ended up cropping the image a bit; changing the photograph to black and white; and doing a soft focus. 

This is the final image:

...needing to rest...

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

P is for Pocket Pizza - ABCs of Homeschooling

Continuing with making recipes from the children's cookbook, Alpha-Bakery, we made Pocket Pizza this week. The recipe as listed in the cookbook makes enough for two dinner-size pocket pizzas.

We also varied the ingredients depending on what each person wanted in their pocket pizza - sauce and cheese only; sauce, meat and cheese; and sauce, vegetables, and cheese. 

Pocket pizza that Sophia made
from the Alpha-Bakery cookbook.

Everyone said they would want this again for dinner.

Inside of one of the pocket pizzas.

Pocket Pizza


Pizza dough (below)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup pizza sauce (we used spaghetti sauce)
1/2 cup of each. shredded mozzarella cheese, sausage (we used regular cheese for all but one of them and hamburger instead of sausage)
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1/8-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (we did not use this)
1/4 package (3 ounce size) sliced pepperoni (we did not use this)
2-3 tablespoon pizza sauce (we used spaghetti sauce)
1/2 mozzarella cheese (see above comment about cheese)


Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Prepare pizza dough. Roll into 12 inch circle. (This would result in only 1 pocket pizza for people to share. The dough can be divided into two parts so two people can create their own meal.)

Fold loosely in half; place on cookie sheet and unfold. Brush with oil.

Layer remaining ingredients in order listed, fold dough over filling. Turn edge of the lower dough over the edge of the top dough; pinch to seal. Prick with fork. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Pizza Dough


1 cup flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together in bowl until the dough no longer sticks to the sides. Turn onto lightly floured surface, gather into ball and knead 10 times. Cover with a bowl, let stand 15 minutes.

Link up to the ABC's

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We Have a Winner for the Shabby Apple Dress Giveaway!

Last Monday, January 16th, Harvest Moon by Hand announced a giveway of a beautiful dress from Shabby Apple. 

Photo from Shabby Apple.

Readers had a week to enter the giveway. They imagined themselves wearing the dress when they went to dinner, church, election party, the theater, a fashion event, and weddings. Quite a few readers thought that wearing this dress on a date night or on Valentine's Day would be a great idea.

Once all the entries came in, the random number generator was used. It came up with number....

So...who is number 48?

She said that "...maybe the hubs would take me out on a date in this!"

Her first name starts with...

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter D

And last name begins with...

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted  Letter L

Debra Lee...is the winner of the dress from Shabby Apple! 
If you didn't win the dress, you still can receive a 10% off coupon by simply using the code harvestmoon10off at checkout. There are many beautiful women's dresses from Shabby Applelittle girls dresses from Shabby Apple, and other items (e.g., jewelry, accessories, swimwear, arts and crafts, fitness clothing).

Congratulations to Debra...and thanks to everyone for entering the giveway!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Embroidery Journal Project - January

During January, I embroidered a 12" x 12" image that will become part of a quilt at the end of the year. Each month, as part of the Embroidery Journal Project 2012, I'll be doing an embroidery square that has images that reflect something significant that happened during the month.

This month, by far, the most significant happening was my father's death on January 5th. He died one day shy of his 80th birthday.

In May 2009, he was diagnosed with middle-stage Alzheimer's Disease. This is an unbelieveably cruel disease that not only robs one's mind, but one's body. To see the effects of it during the past 2 1/2 years (particularly during the last six months of my dad's life) was devastating and incredibly sad.

However, despite the grasp the disease had on my dad and the effects it had on his speech and communication skills; ability to do basic living functions - like eating and walking...Sophia ,Olivia, and I still enjoyed visiting my dad and trying to find things that he would enjoy doing.

Girls with Dad-Papa
Dad (the girls' "Papa") dancing down the hallway
at the nursing home.
(Photo taken on October 15, 2011.)

Up until the middle of December when he closed his eyes for the majority of each day, he still liked looking at the birds, looking at photographs, and - most important - just holding hands and knowing that we were there for him.


The image I embroidered is a compilation of different elements:

- the heart, swirls, butterfly, and leaves are from an image that I found on the internet.

- the dove was another image that I re-sized and then inserted in place of a matching butterfly on the left-hand side of the heart.

- the hands are traced from a photograph I took of my dad's hand in mine as I sat by his bedside on January 2nd (the image of the hands are re-sized on the computer so they would fit inside the heart).

- the crosses are traced from a photograph that I took of my dad's casket that was made by the Trappist Monks who live at New Melleray Abbey in Iowa. On the top, there was a wooden cross that was cut out from it and given to my mom so she could have it and remember my dad by it.

January embroidered square
for the Embroidery Journal Project.

The dove and butterfly are symbolic for two reasons:

(1) These were images placed by my dad's door at St. Therese (nursing home) when he was in the process of dying and had died. The butterfly was to let the staff know that the resident is dying and to be more quiet around the person's room. The dove replaced the butterfly when my dad died.

(2) Butterflies represent several things: transition, resurrection, time, and soul. According to the Delta Hospice Society, "The butterfly symbolizes the transition between life and death. The caterpillar forms its cocoon and prepares to leave life as he knows it, to become a lovely butterfly."

When I read a bit about doves, a website said that a dove "...is a symbol of the soul's sojourn after physical life has retired. Slavic legend claims the dove is a symbol of the soul's release from earth-bound duty."

The butterfly and dove were important symbols this month.

The swirls and leaves remind me of the colorful flowers that my dad enjoyed growing. When I was younger (elementary-school age), I remember seeing lots of African violets growing in the house. In the first house I grew up in, he had a multi-level shelving unit with lights where he grew the violets.

When we moved to the house that he and my mom lived in for over 37 years, he planted annuals and perennials in multiple gardens and containers.

Dad with Flowers
My dad on May 17, 2011.
We picked out flowers at the Farmer's Market and
then I planted them in containers for him.
He filled the water pitcher and watered each container.

During the last couple years of his life, he took great pride in having beautiful flowers along the front walkway - ones that he could enjoy from the front window he would look out at each day, especially as his ability to walk on his own diminished and his world became smaller. The flowers and birds were things he could see from his window which brought him great joy.

Peach Flower
 One of the many beautiful flowers that my dad grew
during the summer. This was taken in Summer 2011.

I put the two crosses in the design because my dad was a deacon for over 15 years. When he was younger, he was going to become a priest, but then decided not to pursue that calling. Instead, he obtained his Masters in Social Work and was only a few hours short of getting his doctorate in Social Work.

He chose to work in the public school system as a school social worker - first with junior high youth and then senior high schoolers. While he was at the senior high, he pursued the original calling he had to go into ministry work. So, my dad and mom went through several years of training so he could become a deacon.

Religious Life Board
One of the display boards I made in January
about my dad's religious life.
Many of the pictures are from his ordination and
work in serving others through the church.

 In that role, he baptized over 700 babies (703 to be exact);  presided over marriages and funerals; and ran a program for seniors. He reached people of all ages..and ministered to families in times of happiness and sadness.

Hands representing support
enclosed in a heart symbolizing love.

Although the hands that I embroidered are my dad's and my own...they also symbolize the support and help he provided to countless people through his work/career, volunteering, and church.


As for the embroidery, I chose to use only one stitch for this piece - the backstitch - because I wanted the focus to be more on the image than on using a variety of stitches.

At this point, my knowledge of embroidery stitches is quite limited (straight, back, blanket/buttonhole, and feather). I am concurrently doing the Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST) challenge in which I'm learning a new stitch each week (this past week was the feather stitch). Hopefully, I'll be able to incorporate some of these new stitches into future designs for the Embroidery Journal Project.

All the floss used is 100% cotton. The fabric, likewise, is 100% cotton in white with a subtle white-leaf print. At this point, I plan to use the same fabric for all 12 squares.

The other squares in the quilt will use fabric that I have on hand. With the exception of batting, all the fabric and floss used will be from what I have on hand rather than purchasing anything new.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Feather Stitch - Week 3

It's only the third week into the Take Stitch Tuesday and already I've learned two new stitches (fly and feather) and some variations for one I already knew (buttonhole a.k.a. blanket).

This week, the feather stitch was introduced. Like the fly stitch, I had never heard of it until participating in Take a Stitch Tuesday. This weekly challenge is making me realize how truly limited my embroidery stitching was in terms of stitches I knew and ones that can be done.

I was rather intimidated by the feather stitch - it seemed to be a quite tricky stitch when I read how to do it initially. However, I found a trio of pictures on the Caron website  that somehow helped me better visualize how this stitch is done and found it to be equally as enjoyable as the buttonhole/blanket stitch.

What I also found helpful was marking four rows for each set of stitches as the Pintangle website suggested. I used a water-soluable pen which was much easier to learn the stitch rather than counting each column  (I still counted the rows (e.g., where letters C and E are in diagram 1 above).

Four rows are marked for each sets of stitches
with a water-soluable pen.

I experimented with different numbers of embroidery floss (the red thread has 2 pieces of floss; the rest have 3 pieces of floss); and different sizes of the "U" by varying the number of rows (either 2 or 3 rows with the exception of the purple section which alternatures between 2 and 3 rows to vary the size of the "U").

As with past weeks, I included a journal entry about what happened during the week and a short list of people and things for which I am grateful.

The gratitude list and journal entry are a part of
each week's activities.

This week, I added natural elements like I had hoped to do at the beginning of the year. The feather stitch lent itself nicely to including feathers I found in the pasture during the summer, but never got around to putting in my nature journal.

Trio of feathers I found in the pasture combined
with postage stamps and the stitching.

I also included several postage stamps. I have seen each of the birds shown in the stamps...even the one on the Australian stamp when I went there in 1996.

The dove is an image I like because it reminds me of Olivia (who is 9 years old now). Her name means "peace" and the image of the dove, to me, conveys peace and hope.

P52 Photo Challenge - I Dreamed a Dream - Week 3

Monday, January 16th, was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. There is an excerpt from one of MLK's famous speeches ("I have a dream...") that most people have heard many times.

However, in reading the entire speech, there are many parts that are not as frequently heard. One of the parts that stands out for me is this part:

"We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force ..... They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."

Koi fish taken at Sea Life at Mall of America
on Olivia's 9th Birthday.
(Photo taken on January 18, 2012.)

Why fish for a picture about MLK and "I Dreamed a Dream" theme? When I think of these koi, I remember that just moments before they were peacefully swimming in the water. It was a very serene image.

As we walked by, the koi gathered together quickly and demanded our attention...not in a physically-aggressive way, but by their sheer number in such a relatively small area. 

Even as different fish pushed their way to the forefront, they weren't hurting one another - they were just making us stop, look, and appreciate how beautiful they were (and make us want to feed them).

"We cannot walk alone." I reflect also on MLK's statement as we celebrated Olivia's ninth birthday on January 18th (when we saw the koi fish).

Nine years ago this week, Olivia was born in China. Five days later (on January 23rd), Olivia was found in a basket in the middle of the town square, her mother having made a very difficult decision to provide her daughter with the opportunity for a new life.

Thankfully, ten months later Olivia joined our family and  has since blessed us and others countless times with her gifts of compassion, laughter, determination, and creativity.

She has gone through many challenges in her short life so far (with her health, vision, learning, and sensory issues), but does not complain. She tries to overcome challenges that she is presented with...sometimes on her own and sometimes with the help of others. Truly, bringing home MLK's words: "We cannot walk alone."

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com

Friday, January 20, 2012

3 in 30 Check-in - Week 3

I finally feel like I'm making some progress towards my goals after a challenging first couple weeks of January. 

During the third week of January, I've been trying to get back into the routine of homeschooling; making and filling orders for Harvest Moon by Hand; taking care of the pets and horses; and taking the girls to their activities, medical appointments, and special education.

I've had to make adjustments to my schedule with Olivia being sick for part of the week and Sophia's appointment at the optometrist taking much longer than expected due to significant vision changes (the first major changes in her eyes was diagnosed in March 2011; and now in January 2012 she's had another major change with both of her eyes. She needs new glasses and contacts to address this drop in vision).

Although there were these medical and health challenges, there was some fun this week when we celebrated Olivia's 9th birthday on the 18th of January. Thanks to complimentary tickets, we were able to do a lot of fun things at the Mall of America: see the aquarium, go on rides, and play miniature golf. It was an enjoyable, educational, and memorable day.

Doing something fun in the middle of the month was a nice break and balance with the more "serious" work of these goals. This break came at exactly the right time...it is definitely what I needed. (Maybe I'll have to include a "fun day" or "break day" each month for the 3 in 30 challenge.)

So, during the third week of the 3 in 30 challenge, I made the following progress:

1. Remove photographs from all photo albums and put in photo boxes. I began this process in 2011, but never completed it. My goal was to remove all the photographs so that the photo albums wouldn't continue to damage the images. (Many of the photographs are in albums that are not acid-free.)

This week I removed photos from 8 albums. Although there are more than triple than that waiting to be completed, I felt happy that I completed 1/4 of the project this week.  The old albums are in the trash, the photos are safely preserved now in acid-free/photo-safe boxes, and a lot of room is now available in the closet.

2. Thoroughly clean and repair the master bedroom. I began this process in April 2011 by cleaning the closet and donating clothing that I no longer wore. I removed the clutter from the closet and either donated or threw it away. I had all the blinds repaired so they were in working order.

During the past week, I talked with an electrician and he will be coming on Monday, January 23rd to fix and/or replace four light fixtures and the smoke detector (depending on the condition of each one).

I got paint chip samples and matched the color of the green in the master bedroom that needs repainting. In talking with the salesperson, she said that because the wall hasn't been repainted in at least 16 years, that the paint (most likely) has faded. Doing touch-ups aren't an option...repainting the entire section of the wall where there is green paint is what needs to be done. I'm planning on doing that over the weekend.

I also got paint chip samples for the white walls. Repainting the white part of the walls (the majority of it) will have to be done during another month...maybe the spring when the windows can be open and there is better air circulation.

3. Spend 15 minutes outside each day. Every day this week I've been outside - one time for over an hour; other times for 15-20 minutes; and on Thursday for about 10 minutes.

During the first part of the week, the temperature was in the 20s and 30s - so Sophia, Olivia, and I filled all the bird feeders and did some outside work to clean up the front yard. These were nice days to be outside.

Other days I've worked with the horses - feeding them, cleaning the barn, filling the heated water buckets, and tossing hay down from the loft (in the barn). I also walked around the backyard and picked up items that were left outside in the fall; picked up and stacked cut wood and branches in the pasture; and swept the porch and walkway (I have never done this in my entire life in January in Minnesota!).

Towards the end of the week, the weather nose-dived to well below zero. By Thursday, the temperature was -11 degrees with a windchill of -20. It's hard to believe that just a week ago it was 63 degrees warmer than what it was on Thursday.

When temperatures get this cold, it's not a good idea to be outside for a long time. Frostbite can happen...and at colder temperatures one's skin can literally freeze in a matter of minutes.  So...15 minutes outside can be unsafe...and unhealthy. 

As I look back at the week and this goal, this is the one that I feel like I came closest to meeting.


Despite getting back into a routine during the third week, trying to meet the three goals I set isn't going quite as quickly as I expected.  The goals I chose for January could have happened if I had a lot of extra time and nothing difficult had happened this month.  However, the reality is that these goals are ones that are in addition to what I'm trying to do on a day-to-day basis....extra challenges or not. 

So, I'm thinking that in future months, I'll set one larger goal and two smaller goals. In this way, the challenge won't seem so overwhelming and will be more attainable.

Having some success - however small - each week is important.  It's what will keep me motivated to continue trying to reach the goals I set at the beginning of each month.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

12 in 12: January Update

During 2012, Sophia, Olivia, and I are doing a special challenge that we've named 12 in 12. We are doing 12 different activities that help people in need, animals, or the environment. 

This is what we did during January: 

- Take 1 bag of food to the food shelf. On January 15th, we took a bag of food to the collection cart at church. Once a month, the food is brought to the food shelf for distribution to families in need.

Olivia eagerly put a bag of food in the cart.
The donations are brought to the food shelf in Stillwater.

- Volunteer 1 hour at a community organization that is chosen each month. At the beginning of the month, my dad was under hospice care at a nursing home because of Alzheimer's Disease. From the late-afternoon of January 1st through the early-morning of January 5th (when he died), I was there around-the-clock to ensure he was getting the care and pain medicine he needed.

With the exception of  4 hours of sleep (8 p.m.-midnight) on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights when my brother sat in the room with my dad and mom to ensure everything was okay, I was with my dad about 74 hours during this time period.

Being at a nursing home for that period of time made me acutely aware of how hard the nurses and nursing aides have to work. For example, at night there were 48 residents in the palliative and hospice unit where my dad was living. There was one nurse and two aides there. Granted, this is at night when most of the residents are sleeping. However, my dad (even though he was dying) needed more care than what the staff could have provided.

I held my dad's hand for many hours,
letting him know I was there next to him.

So, this month - rather than choosing another organization at which to volunteer - I chose to spend my time with my dad - which not only helped him, but helped the staff by relieving them of some of the tasks that they needed to do to help him.

The nurses taught me how to do certain things that would provide comfort to my dad; and how to monitor his respiration rate. These were things that I could do during this time that were helpful - both to my dad and the nurses.

I was told that many of the residents go through the dying process and die without anyone there. Being with my dad around-the-clock was unusual...though, they said, a testament to how much he loved and gave to others...and how that was reflected back to him. It is making me think quite a bit about the need for volunteers in the hospice field...and if that may be something that I may be interested in doing in the future.

- Donate 1 bag of clothing to a second-hand shop. On January 14th, we donated two bags of clothing to Family Pathways.

Sophia and Olivia outside Family Pathways
with bags of donations - clothing, toys, and other items.

- Donate 1 bag of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop. On January 14th, we donated five bags of toys, household goods, and holiday items to Family Pathways. (See picture above which includes these bags.)

- Donate 12 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books. We donated 22 books to the new community library that is opening in a neighboring town. The library will be operated by volunteers from the community after the county had to greatly reduce funding to support the library.

The 22 books that we donated to the new community library.
If they can't use them, they will donate them to the local elementary school
for their spring fundraiser.

Whatever books that aren't used for the library will be donated to the local elementary school when they do their spring fundraiser.

Sophia putting books in the collection box
for the new community library.

- Donate $12 to an organization that helps individuals, animals, or the environment. Sophia, Olivia, and I decided to donate $20 to Northwoods Humane Society since finding loving homes for animals is an issue that is important to us. This is the place where we adopted Gretel on March 27, 2008.

We made the donation in memory of my dad. As a side note, the reason I visited Northwoods back in 2008 was because Casey (my dog) had died in February 2008. I was looking for another dog and saw an ad in the paper for a Corgi that was available at Northwoods. My dad's favorite dog was his Corgi who lived in the 1960s and 1970s.

When I saw the Corgi, it was not recommended for families with children. The Northwoods staff suggested a puppy that they had available. Gretel (who was named "Lucy" at the time) was available and immediately we felt a connection with her.

Girls and Me Picking Up Gretel
Olivia, Sophia, Gretel, and me
on Gretel's adoption day in 2008.

Currently at Northwoods there  many affectionate, quiet, or playful cats and kittens who needed families. Whatever personality cat or kitten you are looking for, there is one certainly who would fit that description.

One of the cats waiting for a new home.

I enjoyed playing with Scrambles - who kept sticking her paws out of the cage for me play with and to pet. The girls must have taken dozens of pictures of the cats and kittens.

Scrambles is looking for a family.

There are also many dogs at Northwoods (more about the dogs is written below).

- Write 1 letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives. On January 16th, I hand-delivered a letter I wrote to Angie, my dad's nursing aide, who was so caring and compassionate to him during his time at St. Therese.

She shared a funny story about my dad while I was staying with him at the nursing home. I asked her to tell it again when the pastoral care team did a memorial and prayer service for staff right after my dad died.  It made people laugh (including me) and recall the happier times with my dad.

My letter to Angie, in part, said, "In a time of such overwhelming sadness and loss, humor and the ability to laugh is healing. My dad truly believed that as well. In fact, when he was going through his training to become a deacon, he did a presentation to his class about the value of using humor in the healing process.

"Your patience, compassion, laughter, and empathy radiated from you when you were around my dad. These skills are ones that he had as well….especially before the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease affected his mind and body.

"I’m sure my dad recognized these wonderful qualities in you, Angie; and it is the reason he trusted you to care for him during his last few months of his life."

- Donate 1 bag of pop cans to places that collect them to raise funds. Since we were at Northwoods this month making a financial gift, we decided to donate a bag of cans to them. While we were there, we visited the dogs and cats (see above about the cats).

The girls ready to donate the bag of cans in the collection holder
at Northwoods Humane Society.

All the dogs available for adoption at Northwoods were adults with the exception of one bulldog puppy that was the last remaining one of nine puppies. Her name was "Dottie" (my Mom's nickname when she was growing up).

Dottie the bulldog puppy.

I made a point of visiting each dog, saying her/his name, and spending some time with each one. Some of the information about the adult dogs is heartbreaking - asked how much hours an owner spent with a dog "not too many" or why the dog came to Northwoods "it was tied to the back of a garage" and the owners had abandoned it. A neighbor found the dog and brought it in.

One of the dogs (the one whose owners didn't pay much attention to it) kept bringing me toys. It was so eager to play and get some attention. Hopefully someone will come in soon looking for a dog just like him.

- Donate 1 bag of Purina Kitten Chow (dry) to Northwoods Humane Society (where Gretel was adopted). Sophia and Olivia brought the bag of kitten food to the 4-H meeting on January 16th since the community service project for the month was collecting food and items the kittens, cats, puppies, and dogs need at Northwoods Humane Society.

Donating a bag of Kitten Chow to help
Northwoods Humane Society.

- Spend 1 hour outdoors doing projects that help wildlife. We have enjoyed filling the bird feeders during the month with a variety of seed and suet (homemade and purchased).

Olivia filling one of the suet feeders.

With the weather unseasonably warm this January, this task has been quite enjoyable to do.

Sophia filling the seed and suet feeder by the house.

Even the dogs were interested in filling the feeders...though they were probably waiting for some of the seed and suet to fall on the ground so they could enjoy it.

Gretel patiently waiting for a drop of suet to fall on the ground
as the girls fill the feeders.

- Make and randomly drop off 1 toy for a child to find as part of The Toy Society. I made a hand-embroidered teddy bear that fits in a child's hand, can be slipped into a pocket or backpack, and tucked under a pillow. 

Handmade teddy bear made from a felted sweater and hand-embroidered.
Added a note, "take me home" envelope, and information
about The Toy Society in the package.

Sophia, Olivia, and I had fun putting the teddy bear in the "Customer in Training" cart at Cub, and imagining the child's reaction when she or he would find it and could take it home.

Olivia by the package in the cart.
The teddy bear now just needs a new home.

More information about the project, why we chose Cub as a drop-off location, and what we did is HERE.

- Share 1 time the gift of music (piano and/or harp) or singing with others. The girls sang at church on January 15th at both services.

The girls sang"This Little Light of Mine"
during two church services.

Those were our 12 in 12 activities in January. We enjoyed doing each of these ways of giving, and are looking forward to doing the 12 in 12 challenge in February.