Tuesday, December 1st
Had $20 in Kohl's cash and rewards. Sophia, Olivia, and I decided that we would get a special treat: Ghiradelli chocolates in four different flavors; and a Godiva chocolate bar.
As we were looking around the store for things we could all enjoy that was under $20, we stopped at two chairs that had massage backs on them.
So, we spent some time getting free back massages which felt good. We didn't realize how much our backs were hurting until we sat down in those chairs.
Wednesday, December 2nd
Sophia and Olivia are continuing to practice songs on the piano and harp music for upcoming performances at two nursing homes, the Guthrie Theater, and church.
Thursday, December 3rd
This was our club meeting. The girls received a grant from the Karma for Cara Foundation to make bags for youth entering the foster care system. They worked on two types of bags: one filled with school supplies and the other with art and creative expression items as well as games and activities.
We were asked by the City of Scandia (which shares a space with the community center) if we would decorate the Christmas tree. The tree will be used to decorate the space and for the Scandia-Marine Lions upcoming Breakfast with Santa.
It was a good lesson in teamwork, cooperation, and communication.
By the time the children and teens were done, they had the tree decorated, lights on it, and presents underneath it.
Friday, December 4th
We spent part of the afternoon with the seniors at Christian Community Home in Osceola. Olivia received a grant to do Stories, Stitches, and Painting from YSA. With the funds, we were able to purchase a lot of supplies that the seniors enjoyed working with - especially the different pictures to paint.
Some of the items we made - like the lacing cards. We used calendars that had photographs of quilts and cut the images out. After gluing the images onto cardstock, we laminated them. We cut them out and then punched holes around the perimeter of each lacing card. Using colorful shoelaces, we taped one end on the back side of each card. Then the laces were ready to be used.
One of the activities I did was sewing. There were pre-printed panels with different images for pillows, dolls, and Christmas stockings. The seniors picked which item they wanted and helped put straight pins into the fabric (if they were able to do so).
I sewed the item for them on the sewing machine. There was one senior, though, who said that she wanted to sew the stocking by herself. So, we let her try. It had been years - years! - since she sat down at a sewing machine. At 97, we didn't know what to expect.
She surprised us all. We found out that in addition to her many creative talents and teaching skills that she was also a seamstress. She sewed many of her own clothes. Her mother, who was also a seamstress, taught her how to sew.
When she was done, she was so happy that she was able to make her own Christmas stocking.
She showed her friends who live in the assisted living section with her.
I made a Christmas stocking for John, who we've known now for several years. He picked out which pattern he wanted for his stocking. As I sewed the stocking, I would hand him pins that I took out.
He would have to use his fine-motor skills to grasp the pin and put it into the pin cushion.
The video had beautiful images of flowers set to harp and keyboard music.
The third Christmas stocking was for a woman who had just gone on hospice that day. I asked her which stocking pattern she wanted - the one with a green background or red background. She stared at the green background one. So, I picked that one for her.
As she watched me, she noticed the fabric scissors. It belonged to my mom. She picked it up and was moving it - like she remembered what to do with it (although it had probably been many years since she picked up a scissor and cut anything).
One of the girls from our 4-H club held some felt while she moved the scissors. Although she didn't cut anything, I wondered if it was bringing back some memories for her from a long time ago that were comforting. I hope so.
When I was all done, I gave her the stocking. I heard a quiet "Thank you." She held the Christmas stocking and moved her hands back and forth over the snowman.
She would touch the felt and cotton - two different textures which kept her engaged and content for a long time - much longer than she normally is without anything in her hands.
She helped me clean up the table - pointing to things that I needed to put away. She even folded one of the quilted table runners. Perhaps it brought back memories of folding a tablecloth after a family meal.
This was a meaningful way to spend the afternoon and the seniors all seemed happy with what they created. We are going back again next week to some different activities related to sewing and painting...and we'll see what types of stories and memories that the seniors share in that process.
The first weekend of December we always go to the St. Croix Falls/Taylors Falls area. On the way there, we stop at Eichtens.
The exterior of the store was nicely decorated.
It was festive with whimsical touches that we've never seen before.
Inside, there was an array of holiday treats. The first stop: cookies and a hot spiced cranberry drink. (The drink we came back for later.)
Even indoors, there were signs of Christmas.
At another table, there were a variety of cubed cheeses and a spread. It's nice to taste the variety of cheeses. Everything we tasted was delicious.
At another table, there were different types of dip. Our favorite was a chili con queso dip. It was a spicy sour cream based dip that we put on tortilla chips.
Outdoors, we headed over to the blue-eyed buffalo. It wouldn't be the Countdown to Christmas if we didn't take an annual picture with the buffalo. We managed to get Olivia up there, but Sophia said that it would be better (and safer) if she stayed on the ground.
Next year: we'll bring a ladder so she can sit on the buffalo. I think we talked about doing that last year, but forgot the ladder this year.
After that, we went to Interstate State Park. We did some exploring for a while, except we went backwards (from our normal hike) this time.
The river was flowing calmly, and we enjoyed watching it.
The cliffs provide a beautiful view of the river and the Wisconsin side of Interstate State Park.
Read a sign that said that the area where we were walking would have been about 200 feet under the water about 10,000 years ago.
What is left are some amazing rock formations. We went down a rock staircase which was interesting. We realized we should have worn more appropriate hiking boots. For some reason Olivia's boots and my clogs were a bit on the slippery side.
The coloration of the rocks was beautiful.
What was surprising was that there were still ferns growing in December. We never see anything like that.
The rocks have such interesting patterns and shapes no matter where you are in the park.
Things sometimes are sitting precariously on top of one another.
Later in the afternoon, Sophia and Olivia went swimming with friends and then to their home for awhile. They had a fun time seeing them again.