Friday, November 30, 2012

12 in 12: November 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 how we did during November: 

- Take 1 bag of food to the food shelf. We donated a package that contained 12 noodle soups to Family Pathway's food shelf.

Food we donated to Family Pathways.

- Volunteer 1 hour at a community organization that is chosen each month (can be the same one or different one).  We volunteered for the African Library Project again this month. We are now in the sorting process, and have received the packing sheets and address sheets for shipping the books.

We talked with the post office to notify them of the project and the timeline. They recommended a good box size and package weight since books are very heavy. This is important in the United States. However, once it gets to the African Library Project in California, all our boxes of books are put on a pallet and then shrink-wrapped before they are shipped to Lesotho, Africa.

This is such an exciting time because the reality that we have over 1,000 books that will be used to create a brand-new library at a primary school is sinking in. We are so happy for the children and their families who will have these books so they can learn English and have more opportunities because of the resources that they will be receiving.

- Donate 1 bag of clothing to a second-hand shop. We donated a bag of clothes to Recylced Wardrobes.

Sophia and Olivia by Recycled Wardrobes.

- Donate 1 bag of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop. We donated a box and a bag of non-clothing items to Family Pathways.

Donations for Family Pathways.

- Donate 12 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books. We donated 25 more books to the African Library Project.

- Donate $12 to an organization that helps individuals, animals, or the environment. We donated $12 to Northwoods Humane Society.

Sophia and Olivia with Kitten Chow and $12
for Northwoods Humane Society.

The funds will be used to support the animals that are waiting for new families.

One of the dogs needing a new family.

When we visited Northwoods in November, there were only three dogs there. That is the fewest number of dogs that we have seen. The rest of the dogs were all adopted. 

Another dog that was so eager to receive attention.
He was very gentle and would make a great addition to a family.

We were happy to see that Boota and Athena - two dogs that had been there for over two months - finally found homes. They were such gentle animals with sad stories - the former arrived at Northwoods after his owner died; and the latter was abandoned and found in a ditch with her 12 puppies.

Thankfully, they each have new families who will love them and provide a safe home for them.

- Write 1 letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives. This month I didn't write a letter to someone specifically. Rather, I wrote a thank you that was posted in the church bulletin where my Dad went to church (and my Mom still attends). It read:

November includes two events worth noting: National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and Thanksgiving.

Many of you who knew Deacon Don Rinkenberger were aware that he was diagnosed with middle-stage Alzheimer’s Disease in May 2009 and died on January 5, 2012.

Our family is very thankful for those at St. Joseph’s who stepped forward to offer their support, encouragement, and prayers while Don was living with Alzheimer’s Disease as well as following his death.

We also are grateful for both the staff and volunteers who helped with the funeral arrangements, prayer service, funeral mass, and luncheon.

As we come closer to Thanksgiving, we are reminded not only of these blessings, but the blessings that Alzheimer’s Disease revealed to us through Don. We learned about the gift of appreciating the simple things in life that Don took pleasure in such as:

- - a colorful bird at the feeder,
- - the joy of having some ice cream,
- - the comfort of touch, and
- - the reassurance of a gentle voice.

We learned that living in the present moment was all Don and we could do as Alzheimer’s took a firmer hold on him. We feel incredibly blessed and very appreciative of the kindness of those who took the time out of their schedule to spend time with Don or us; to make a phone call to see how we were doing; or send an email acknowledging the challenges of caregiving.

In a homily that Don delivered on December 13th and 14th, 2003, he reflected upon the most precious gift someone can give to another: time. As he said, “It doesn’t cost anything – but it is often unavailable. Time to listen. Time to be with someone: someone sick, someone in a nursing home, someone with a debilitating or terminal condition, or someone who is alone.”

Our entire family is grateful for the time that each of you gave to us during these very difficult past few years.

With sincere thanks,

The Family of Deacon Don Rinkenberger

- Donate 1 bag of pop cans to places that collect them to raise funds. We chose to bring a bag of cans to Northwoods Humane Society again this month.

Sophia and Olivia with the bag of cans.

We like that the cans are recycled and then the amount earned used to support the organization. 

This cat enjoyed playing by sticking her paws out of the cage,
and playing with the paper I had in my hand.

It helps the animals waiting for homes by paying for their care, food, and shelter. The funds also pay for the costs associated with running the humane society (e.g., staff, building, electricity).

This dog was so friendly and happy that we stopped 
to talk to him play with him.

- Donate 1 bag of Purina Kitten Chow to Northwoods Humane Society. We were surprised that there were so many kittens this month at Northwoods. The volunteer who took our donation seemed very grateful that we brought a bag of Kitten Chow.

Two levels of cages with plenty of kittens who liked 
to play with us and with one another.

It seemed like there were more kittens than cats this month.

This kitten kept turning over on her back as she played
with the car keys and paper we had.

It was so much fun playing with the kittens and seeing how much energy they had.

- Spend 1 hour outdoors doing projects that help wildlife. We continued to fill the bird feeders throughout the front and back yards.

Olivia and Sophia filling the big feeder 
by the side of the house.

It has been fun watching the birds this month. There are a few larger flocks of birds - sparrows and black-capped chickadees - that fly from the feeders to various piles of brush or shrubs.

Sophia and Olivia filling the feeders in the backyard.

We made sure that the feeders were filled - especially the day after Thanksgiving when there was snow on the ground. Having the feeders makes it so much easier for the birds to eat.

The male cardinal ate from the feeder the day after Thanksgiving.
There was constant traffic of birds at the feeder all day.

We also made sure that the bird bath was filled. Up until Thanksgiving afternoon, the temperatures have been high enough so that the water hasn't frozen. In fact, on Thanksgiving there were seven birds at one time in the bird bath taking baths and splashing water all over the place.

The most special bird that showed up on Thanksgiving was a beautiful red cardinal.

The red cardinal that showed up on Thanksgiving.

My Dad loved cardinals, and so - in spirit - it felt like he had joined us for Thanksgiving.

- Make and randomly drop off 1 toy for a child to find as part of The Toy Society. I hand-embroidered a wool felt toy this month. It's supposed to be a hedgehog according to the image I saw. However, both Sophia and Olivia felt it looked more like a bear.

Hand-embroidered toy I made.

After packaging the hedgehog/bear, I put it in the children's section at the library. There were packages near the back of the children's section that contained CDs or cassette tapes as well as books. 

The toy by the audio/visual packs 
in the children's section in the library.

I hope the child who finds the toy enjoys playing with it.

- Share 1 time the gift of music (piano and/or harp) or singing with others. This month there were no opportunities to sing at church. Rather, the girls are practicing twice a week with the children's choir for the three times that they will sing during December (9, 23, and 24) as well as during a play at church that has several songs they will be singing.

In addition, Sophia is practicing four songs for the December 23rd church service in which she is playing as part of a harp duet (with her instructor) as well as with an ensemble (harps, organ, and violin).

She also is practicing "On Eagle's Wings" which she hopes to play around the time of her Papa's one year anniversary of his death. We are hoping that the church he and my Mom/Sophia's Nana attended will have an opportunity for her to perform the song at a weekday Mass. This was one of Dad's favorite songs and holds special meaning for our family.

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference,
ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, 
add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.
~ Marian Wright Edelman ~ 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Embroidery Journal Project - November

During November I worked on the 11th quilt square for the Embroidery Journal Project that I've been doing this year. Each month I've embroidered a different design based on things that happened during the month. By the end of 2012 I will have twelve 12"x12" squares that I can make into a quilt that represent the year.

My November quilt square.

The focus for the majority of the month was on Thanksgiving. Although I had good intentions of doing something daily with Sophia and Olivia, it didn't work out that way.

We ended up doing quite a few Thanksgiving-theme activities the week of Thanksgiving instead. I feel like that was more than sufficient and not as overwhelming as trying to do something daily during the month.

Embroidered turkey to represent Thanksgiving.

We hosted dinner here at the farm as has been the tradition since 1995. This was the second Thanksgiving that Dad has not been here. Last year, in 2011, he was at the nursing home in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease. There was no way to safely transport him to the farm nor did we have the nursing staff needed to help him. This year marked the first Thanksgiving since his death.

Coupled with the absence of Dad, was the absence of Mom who was sick and unable to make it. It felt strange not to have both parents there for the holiday.

One of the highlights of Thanksgiving Day was seeing a beautiful red cardinal at the feeder and bird bath in the backyard. I haven't seen the male cardinal for the longest time, and there he arrived on Thanksgiving while I was in the kitchen making food for dinner.

He stayed for most of the afternoon, eating food with the sparrows, goldfinches, and other small birds. He drank water from the bird bath. Dad loved cardinals, so it reminded me of him and gave me comfort knowing that his love of birds has been passed on to me and onto Sophia and Olivia.

Embroidered male cardinal.

Another interesting thing happened during the week or so prior to Thanksgiving: the Christmas cactus that Dad gave me more than a decade ago began to show its pink buds. It never buds this early - it is always around Christmas time when it happens.

Embroidered buds and flowers 
on the Christmas cactus.

On Thanksgiving Day, one of the flowers opened on the left-hand side of the plant. It was beautiful with many different shades of pink. It was the single bloom for the day. There have been many more blooms over the Thanksgiving weekend.

The other curious thing is that there is a plant on the counter near the Christmas cactus that is a succulent/cacti type plant. About 7 or 8 years ago, I purchased it for 99 cents so Sophia could use it as well as other cacti in an arrangement for the county fair. 

This plant now has grown into a small tree, and right before Thanksgiving began showing little pink buds. By Thanksgiving, the entire tree was in full bloom with tiny, pink flowers. It has never done this before. It was a complete - and pleasant - surprise that it even would have flowers. 

Back to the quilt square...on the planter there are two images:

=> Chalice - to represent the ten-month program I'm doing called Wellspring through the UU church. This program has been incredibly inspiring and educational; and I'm thankful that I'm doing it this year.

=> Cross with Deacon Stole - to represent the 808-page book that I completed in early-November after working on it for the entire year. 

The book includes all of Dad's homilies, prayers, and invocations; some of the writing and his journal he kept while he was going through the Permanent Diaconite program; newsletters that he wrote; and items I posted on CaringBridge that reflected what he believed as well as the impact that he had on literally thousands of people throughout his life. 

It was a lot of work; and well worth the effort involved.

Next month marks the completion of the Embroidery Journal Project. I'm happy that I'm doing this project and will have something positive to remember what has been one of the most difficult years of my life.

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Weaving or Queen Anne's Stitch - Week 47

This week for Take a Stitch Tuesday, I am departing from the stitches that are suggested and going back and learning some basic ones that I never learned. Many of the new ones that are being suggested are stitches that I know I won't use - either because they are too complicated too do or require too much effort for a tiny stitch.

So, this week I learned how to do the Weaving or Queen Anne's stitch. I enjoyed this stitch and the variety of looks that can be achieved by varying the widths of the vertical and horizontal stitches.

This stitch can be used as a darning and filling stitch. It depends on how closely the vertical and horizontal lines are placed to one another. The closer they are together, the more effectively they will fill a space. This is shown by a few variations of the stitch in the samplers I made.

I only included two images this week in my journal:

=> Apron - to represent making the Thanksgiving dinner for my sister's family, brother's family, and my family.

=> Cabin in the snow-covered woods - this is what it began looking like on Thanksgiving evening. After a mild and beautiful November, the weather abruptly changed to snow and frigid temperatures on Thanksgiving evening. Quite a change in less than a day!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

P52 Photo Challenge - Food - Week 47

"Food" is the theme for the 47th week of the P52 Photo Challenge. With Thanksgiving a couple of days ago, there was a variety of food that was available at the annual holiday meal at the farm.

I enjoy trying new recipes; and holidays always seem like a good time to have a combination of new recipes with old favorites.

This year, one of the new recipes I tried was Cranberry Salsa that I saw on Have Recipes - Will Cook. I made a similar recipe a few years ago, but like this one more.

The cranberry salsa was served with cream cheese and crackers.

Cranberry salsa that I made.
It is served on top of cream cheese and crackers.

Cranberry Salsa


1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked through for soft or bruised fruit.
¼ cup minced green onions
2 small jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese


Place cranberries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (stop before the cranberries turn mushy.) In a large bowl mix together the cranberries, green onions, jalapeno, sugar, cilantro, ginger and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Arrange the cream cheese on a serving platter and cover with the salsa. Serve with crackers.

Project 52 - p52 weekly photo challenge with Kent Weakley

Heartwarming Animal Stories Review - "Every Dog has a Gift"

For the tenth book in the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, I chose Every Dog has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs who Bring Hope and Healing into our Lives by Rachel McPherson.

McPherson draws on her experience as the founder and executive director of The Good Dog Foundation, the largest animal-assisted therapy organization on the East Coast, to share the amazing stories of dogs that bring hope and healing into people's lives.

One story in Every Dog has a Gift focused on a boy who has autism. After receiving a therapy dog, his teacher noticed that he paid closer attention in class, could read better, and felt better about himself. He had more self-confidence and initiative. "This...has given him a chance to succeed."

Later in the book, another story also focused on using dogs with children who have autism. It said that "the dogs help to prevent and ultimately decrease...meltdowns by being a constant in the child's life....Many kids with autism also need deep pressure to alleviate anxiety and the dogs are trained to supply this deep pressure to the child's back or body."

Another moving story was about a man who was in an induced eight-day coma due to an accident at work. During that time, his leg had to be removed, his mother passed away, and his beloved Rottweiler became very ill and had to be euthanized.

The gentleman said, "I needed something to fill the void in my life and I knew that 'something' was another Rottweiler." The rest of the story talks about how he adjusted to his new life and how his dog went through a training program to become a service dog.

Other stories looked at the benefit of dogs with those who are homeless, veterans, rejected by their families, and who have been abused (physically, mentally, and emotionally).

I learned some interesting things while reading this book:

=>  In the United States, 60-70 percent of all working guide dogs for the blind are Labrador retrievers. Golden retrievers and German shepherds are next in popularity.

=> Approximately 10 million dogs and cats are euthanized annually in the United States. More than half of all dogs that enter animal shelters are put down. (This tied into a story about the importance of spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to cut down on overpopulation and unnecessary deaths of animals.)

The author provided many resources for readers - books, activities, websites, and organizations. A couple organizations that were mentioned that sound like they are doing good work are:

=> Puppies Behind Bars - an organization that trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled and explosive detection canines for law enforcement.

=> Animal Hospice Compassionate Crossings - a philosophy that promotes healing through shared understanding. AHCC offers services to anyone anticipating or coping with the loss of an animal companion. Volunteers visit by mail, by e-mail, by telephone, or in person.

Every Dog has a Gift is an inspiring book about about the power that dogs have on improving the lives of people of all ages. The stories within the book are short and easy to read. The many resources provided by the author will give any dog-lover more ways to enjoy their pets as well as ideas for volunteering or supporting organizations throughout the country.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Activities + 3 in 30 Challenge - Updates #2-4

For November, I set the following three goals as part of the 3 in 30 challenge:

1. Do at least 10 Thanksgiving-theme activities. Last month we enjoyed doing the 13-day Countdown to Halloween. I went through my Thanksgiving file at home as well as images I found on Pinterest that look like fun activities to do, recipes to make, or traditions to begin. 

The month seems to have gone by so quickly. After completing the book I was working on (see #3 below), I  felt like I needed to rest a bit and catch up on other projects. So, Thanksgiving activities - although planned for each day - were set aside until the week of Thanksgiving.

We ended up:

=> Making a fruit turkey made from grapes, a Bosc pear, and blueberries.

Olivia assembling the fruit turkey.

See the original pin for the idea.

Olivia's fruit turkey we enjoyed for dinner one night.

=> Assembling turkey-shaped sandwiches. Here's the original pin where I got the idea.

Turkey-shaped sandwich that Olivia and I made together.
The pupils are cow-shaped cookie decorations she wanted to use.

Sophia's turkey. She chose not to give it pupils.
There are three slices of cheese cut by flower-shaped cookie cutters
and luncheon meat in the center of the sandwich.

=> Creating a fruit and cheese turkey with a melon and Bosc pear for the body; and red pepper as well as fruit and cheese squares for the feathers.

The fruit and cheese turkey.
Guests enjoyed taking the skewer-feathers off the turkey.

This is where I found the idea: pin.

=> Doing a coloring page. Olivia enjoyed coloring a turkey and putting it up on the refrigerator. The pin links to this page with the image.

=> Making cranberry salsa. The pin leads to the recipe on Have Recipes - Will Cook. It turned out really well. Having two jalapenos certainly adds a lot of heat to the dip.

=> Baking Cookies and Cream Oreo Fudge Brownies. The pin leads to the recipe on Kevin and Amanda. The recipe makes an 8"x8" pan of brownies.

Sophia making the 
Cookies and Cream Oreo Fudge Brownies.

Ours turned out okay (the edges were a bit overdone compared to the center) so we didn't use them for Thanksgiving. However, we're thinking that a brownie from the center part, topped with cookies and cream ice cream, some hot fudge, and a cherry might be a special dessert for Sophia's adoption day anniversary which is Monday.

=> Creating a turkey vegetable tray. This pin which links to Living Locurto showed a child-friendly way to present fresh vegetables. Interestingly, almost everything was eaten on the tray by the time it made its way back to the kitchen.

Vegetable turkey that I made for Thanksgiving.

Had the vegetables simply been on a tray, I don't think as many would have been eaten.

=> Making turkey-shaped cookies. The pin shows cookies made from Oreo cookies, whoppers, peanut butter cups, candy corn, and frosting. Bella-Dreams must have a lot of culinary talent and patience because these are much more difficult than they look. 

Sophia and Olivia were given the picture from the internet, and then assembled some cookies.

Sophia assembling the cookies.

They had to brainstorm about how to get the whopper to stick to the peanut butter bar (they cut off part of the whopper); and how to get the candy corn to stick into the oreo cookie (they used frosting and cut the white part off the candy corn). 

Cookies made from Oreo cookies, peanut butter cups, 
whopper candies, and candy corn.

They enjoyed making the cookies and having them out on Thanksgiving.

=> Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This is a tradition I grew up with in my family and we have continued it to this day. As a child, I remember watching the parade while my Dad made the turkey and dressing. Since moving to the farm in 1995, I have hosted Thanksgiving here. I now make the turkey and dressing after learning how to do so from him. 

As the girls watched the parade this year, they would call me in for different parts that they thought I would enjoy: seeing the marching bands, the Rockettes dance, and a Native American themed float with a turtle, tree of life, and other images.

The latter float is one that has been part of the parade for five years now. In addition to drumming which I enjoy listening to, there was a choir and Grammy-winning Native American artist Thirza Defoe singing “The Tree of Life.” The song celebrates the gathering together of many voices in the name of peace, love, and thanksgiving.

=> Hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I hosted the dinner again this year. It was the first one since my Dad died in January of this year, so it was sad not having him with us or being able to see him after Thanksgiving at the nursing home.

Male cardinal that showed up at the bird bath
in the backyard while I was making Thanksgiving dinner.
My Dad loved cardinals. 
It reminded me of him and how much he enjoyed watching the birds.

If that wasn't enough, my Mom called in the morning and said she wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be able to attend. She was in tears at the end of the conversation. I know it was a difficult day for her as well.

21-pound turkey for Thanksgiving.

So, we had dinner, celebrated those having birthdays in November and December; and then everyone went home in the snow (this was after having a mild 50+ degree day in the morning where we were wearing shorts and sweatshirts).

My sister lighting the candles on the cake
for those celebrating birthdays in November and December.

My brother stopped at my Mom's home and dropped off a grocery bag of packages of food from Thanksgiving for her. Thankfully he was able to do that because her blood sugar level was only 178 going into the evening. That is way too low for her, and chances are that by Friday morning it would have been well under 100 (which puts her at high risk and/or close to death). Having the meal before bedtime put her in the safe range which was reassuring.

2. Clean four small areas in the home. There are several areas that I haven't yet worked on during the year-long de-cluttering and organization project I've been doing. During November, I would like to clean the linen/medicine cabinet; finish cleaning the kitchen (under the sink, the remaining cupboards, and drawers); the corner in the mudroom; and my desk.

We cleaned the corner in the mudroom on Thanksgiving morning. I took out all the items that were in the corner from camping, grilling, the girls' outdoor games/activities, and the tool kit. All the items that won't be used now (e.g., camping items, cooler) went to other closets or out to the hobby shed.

The girls went through their games. They kept the ones they wanted and put the ones they didn't want in a bag to donate to the second-hand shop.

I also took all the items out from the tool kit; washed the box and all the tools; and then put back the items that were in good condition and/or that would be used. It looks much more organized and clean now.

After everything was out from the corner, I swept and mopped the floors. I put back only the items that we would be using during the winter. It looks much better now.

In the kitchen, I cleaned four drawers (three left to go). Olivia and I worked on one cupboard by transferring items from bags to glass jars.

I still have the rest of the cupboards to do (eight). Some are going to be more labor intensive because I haven't worked on them at all this year. Others, I worked on during the earlier part of the year and they just need to be touched up.

The kitchen sink and my desk have not been worked on yet. I have some time on Thanksgiving weekend, so will be tackling these projects.

3. Get up to date with projects that I fell behind on while working on my Dad's 808-page book that I completed in October. During October I focused my energy on completing the book that I had been working on since my father's death in January. Since it was a time-consuming project, I didn't have a chance to work on other projects (e.g., Take a Stitch Tuesday, Embroidery Journal Project, African Library Project). By the end of the month, I would like to be back on track with each of the year-long projects I've been doing.

For the Take a Stitch Tuesday project, I learned five different stitches and did five weeks of journaling, gratitude lists, and collages. It feels so good to be caught up with this project. Here are the links to the five weeks (all have multiple pictures of the stitch and journal/collage pages):
For the Embroidery Journal Project, transferred the designs to the fabric and began stitching.

For the African Library Project, I brought five boxes of books into the house to begin the sorting process. My brother brought a half dozen boxes on Thanksgiving so I can pack books that are in plastic tubs into boxes for shipping.

Thanksgiving Weekend Sale!

Harvest Moon by Hand's shop on Etsy is offering 10% off your entire order from today (Black Friday) until midnight on Cyber Monday.

Use coupon code: THANKSGIVINGWEEKEND to get 10% off everything in my store.

Red sunburst window star available
in Harvest Moon by Hand's shop.

Harvest Moon by Hand helps people enhance their homes by offering natural products which are calming and uplifting; and inspire creative and imaginative play in children.

Harvest Moon by Hand reaches its mission by:

- Creating beautiful handcrafted items made of natural, quality materials.

- Creating imagination-inspired, eco-conscious items from materials that would normally be recycled thereby lessening the impact on the environment.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Herringbone Ladder Filling Stitch - Week 46

At this point in the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge, I'm finding that many of the stitches that are being presented are ones that I know that I'm not going to use for some reason (e.g., too difficult to learn, too much effort for too small of a stitch, sits way above the fabric).

So, I've been finding some easier stitches that I have never learned and am learning those. I want to continue doing the challenge of learning a new stitch each week during 2012 as well as combining those stitches into a personal/gratitude journal.

This week I found the Herringbone Ladder Filling Stitch (also called the Interlaced Band) that I thought looked like an interesting stitch.

Herringbone Ladder Filling Stitch.
I chose rainbow colors to remind me 
of the rainbow that Olivia noticed.

The first step is to do two parallel rows of the back stitch (the cream-color floss). Then, with a contrasting color (or colors), you weave under and over the stitches creating "knots" and a woven look.

The rainbow spiral using the 
Herringbone Ladder Filling Stitch.

One of the challenges of doing this stitch is that unless you are paying very close attention and counting both sides of the back stitch, invariably there will be an uneven number of stitches on a free-style design. This creates a less uniform, random look compared to do the stitching on Aida cloth.

Once I was done with the sampler, I included it in my journal along with the name of the stitch, personal reflection about what happened during the past week, a gratitude list of five items, and some images that reflect the past week.

The journal pages for the 
Herringbone Ladder Filling Stitch

The images are:

Round Rainbow - Reminds me of the rainbow that Olivia saw when we were at the Waldorf School's holiday fair. She and Sophia were playing on the playground equipment, and when Olivia looked up she saw the rainbow. This was on her 9th adoption day anniversary so it was even more special.

Christmas Stamps and image of Santa - There are two Christmas-theme postage stamps and image of Santa as a reminder of the holiday fair and getting ready for Christmas...which is now just a little over a month away.

Celebrate Stamp - This stamp is a reminder of celebrating Olivia's 9th adoption day anniversary on the 17th. It's hard to believe that nine years ago she was only 10 months old, in China, and was joining our family. She has been a blessing in more ways than she will ever know!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

P52 Photo Challenge - Harvest/Autumn - Week 46

The theme this week is "Harvest/Autumn." It's hard to believe it's already the 46th week of this challenge. Only six weeks left and I'll be done with this photo challenge.

One of the recipes we made this past week was Apple Kuchen (pronounced "koo-kin"). It tied into studying about South Dakota, and is from the cookbook Eat Your Way Around the U.S.A.

South Dakota designated the kuchen as the official state dessert in 2000 to honor the cultural heritage and traditional foods of their German ancestors. The name Kuchen comes from the German word for cake. It comes in many different forms ranging from a streusel-like coffeecake to this version with a shortbread crust, cream cheese filling, and fruit topping.

The apples we used were from our favorite apple orchard that we visit each year. In addition to the kuchen, we made applesauce and dried apples with the 20 pounds of apples. It's nice to be able to enjoy homemade applesauce and dried apples without all the preservatives that are typically found in store-bought items.

The kuchen, though, isn't something we were able to freeze and enjoy during the winter. Rather, we ate it for desserts after several dinners. It is a delicious recipe and one that we will make again. Here's the recipe:



2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces


1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temperature


3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly-sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl or food processor and mix to combine.

Add the vanilla and butter, a little at a time. Press into the baking pan and bake in the oven until slightly golden but not brown (12-15 minutes, depending on the oven). Cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Make the filling by mixing the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer and beating until creamy.  Add the egg, mix to combine, and pour over the cooled crust.

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Place the apples on top of the filling in two or three columns. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until firm and rich brown in color (approximately 20 minutes, depending on the oven).

Project 52 - p52 weekly photo challenge with Kent Weakley

Friday, November 16, 2012

BluApple Giveaway #giveaway

Harvest Moon by Hand is happy to share another giveaway with its readers. A Little Bit of Everything and BluApple have joined for another entry in the Holiday Gift guide.

The BluApple is a way to keep produce that is in refrigerated drawers and storage areas fresh for a longer period of time. According to Bluapple, "Using the BluApple, you can extend the useful storage life of your produce up to three times longer.

Government experts have estimated a typical family of four throws away as much as $600 worth of spoiled produce each year.

Ethylene gas is given off naturally by fruits and vegetables as a signaling mechanism in order to coordinate uniform ripening. However, once concentrated in your refrigerator or other storage areas, the presence of ethylene gas continues to speed up ripening and hasten spoilage."

You can read the full review here  on A Little Bit of Everything's site.

For your chance to win a BluApple, please enter the giveaway below.

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Disclosure:  I received no compensation for this post

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Healthier Food for Thanksgiving

Welcome to the November 2012 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Healthy Holiday Meals.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they are making healthy choices during their holiday celebrations.


As I was thinking about Thanksgiving and making the annual meal this year, I wanted to include some healthier options. Here are some things I'm planning to include in the menu this year.

Homemade Applesauce

Each fall Sophia, Olivia, and I make homemade applesauce. Normally this is done in September or October. I'm a bit behind schedule so we haven't made the applesauce yet. The apples from the orchard are still in refrigerator ready to be peeled, sliced, and boiled into applesauce.

Olivia Making Applesauce
Olivia peeling and slicing the apples for applesauce.
(Photo taken on October 1, 2010)

During the next few days, we will be canning the majority of apples into applesauce. However, we will set some aside in the refrigerator so we can enjoy homemade applesauce on Thanksgiving.

Turkey Vegetable Platter

Rather than serving fresh cut-up vegetables in bowls or a divided serving try, I'm using an idea I saw on Eating With Food Allergies of arranging vegetables in a turkey shape. In this way, the vegetables are in a more child-friendly presentation which may encourage younger children to try some healthier food. For those readers on Pinterest, this is the pin.

There's another version of a vegetable platter on Living Locurto. The pin is here. This vegetable platter includes two types of olives and pickles, so it has some different items than the platter above.

Homemade Rustic Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Each year we make mashed potatoes. Normally, I just add a bit of milk, salt, pepper, and butter to the mashed potatoes. This year, I found a recipe for Rustic Garlic Mashed  Potatoes that can be made in the slow cooker.

A Job Sophia Likes to Do
Sophia peeling potatoes one year for Thanksgiving
(Taken on November 26, 2009.)

The recipe only has a few ingredients besides potatoes: garlic, bay leaf, chicken broth (or vegetable broth), whole milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Using this recipe rather than a potato casserole filled with cheese and condensed mushroom soup will be a much healthier alternative.

Healthy Jello

When I was growing up, any holiday meal - whether it was Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter - had to have Jello. You're probably thinking, "Jello isn't healthy." Honestly, I was thinking the same thing too.

Yet, according to Mama Natural, "[Jello] is a good source high in anti-inflammatory amino acids like glycine and proline.  Gelatin helps your nails and hair grow fast and strong, promotes restful sleep, improves memory and learning, and even has anti-tumor properties!" It also "helps soothe the intestinal tract while assisting digestion."

Rather than using Jello purchased at the store - which is loaded with artificial ingredients - you can make your own homemade Jello.


2 cups juice (ideally use freshly made or “not from concentrate” organic juice such as grape, cherry, or orange)
2 tablespoons gelatin (e.g., Great Lakes or Bernard Jensen, both of which are hormone-free, all-natural bovine gelatin)
Raw honey, coconut nectar, or stevia (optional)
1/2-1 cup raw fruit or 2 tablespoons fruit rind (optional)


Take 1/2 cup of the juice and put it in a sauce pan on low to medium heat. Wait until the juice is hot and then add your 2 tablespoons of gelatin. Stir constantly until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. Don’t let it sit long or it will start to clump.

Add the gelatin-juice mixture to your remaining 1 1/2 cups of juice. Stir and taste. Add and mix in sweetener if you desire.

Pour mixture into a Jello mold. Put Jello into the refrigerator and let it sit for at least 3-4 hours. Better to leave it overnight.

Please note: Do not use raw pineapple juice as the enzymes in the fruit will prevent the Jello from setting.

I'd like to use this healthier Jello in a recipe I have for an orange jello with pineapple and bananas. Having the  bright orange salad on the table will be a colorful and festive addition to the holiday meal.


Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!

Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tegu Blocks Giveaway #giveaway

Harvest Moon by Hand is happy to share with you a great giveaway that is being sponsored by Tegu blocks and A Little Bit of Everything.

Tegu Blocks are building blocks that have a completely new look. They are full of color and they are  magnetic. This combination of features allows your child to have hours of fun. You can read a full review here.

What I like about Tegu is that they chose to base their company in Honduras, so that they could provide employment opportunities and fair wages to people in Central America. This community truly is being positively transformed by Tegu.

In addition, Tegu works "with local Honduran cooperatives who individually hand pick each mature tree for use. These cooperatives are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and their process facilitates the forest’s natural regeneration cycle. Additionally, [Tegu has] partnered with local communities to support reforestation, donating a portion of revenue to replanting efforts when Tegu blocks are sold."

This giveaway is open to 18+ year old residents who live in the United States.

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Disclosure:  I received no compensation for this post.  Harvest Moon by Hand is not responsible for shipment of prizes.

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Rosette of Thorns Stitch - Week 45

This week's stitch for Take a Stitch Tuesday is another labor-intensive one that creates a little stitch that sits off the fabric (the Open Base Picot). In my work, I like things that lay flat against the fabric - not protrude or dangle off in any way.

So, I found another stitch that I would be more likely to use in my work. It's called the Rosette of Thorns Stitch. It's a variation of the blanket stitch which I enjoy doing.

The image I saw with the instruction about how to do the stitch showed each rosette a bit more rounded than what mine turned out like. One of the reasons is that the Aida cloth I used had larger squares than what the instructions pictured. Instead of using a 14-count (which is what I used), using a 20- or 22-count Aida cloth would give a smoother, rounded look to each rosette.

Rosette of Thorns sampler that I did.

I chose red and blue embroidery floss along with white Aida cloth because the presidential elections were during this time period. 

Once I was done with the sampler, I put it along with a gratitude list, name of the stitch, a personal reflection, and images that reflected the week in my journal.

The two pages for the Rosette of Thorns stitch.

This is what the images mean:

- Turkey - preparing for Thanksgiving.

- Cross with Deacon stole - this is from the card I gave to my Dad when he was ordained as a Deacon. It reminds me of completing the 808-page book that has all of his homilies, invocations, and prayers that he wrote and spoke when he was a Deacon.

It also has a sampling of his writing throughout his lifetime, positive things people wrote about my Dad, and things that I excerpted from the CaringBridge website I kept for him while he had Alzheimer's Disease (e.g., things that I found on his desk and in his offices that reflected his values and beliefs; things people wrote to my Dad on cards and in letters that reflected his positive impact).

- Postage stamps - one has the U.S. flag to represent the presidential election; and two have images of Christmas to remind me of the things I'm doing to prepare for the holiday next month.