Sunday, February 28, 2016

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

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


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

Problem:                                      Problem:
Overweight Body                        Overloaded Schedule

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

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

BOTTOM LINE:                            BOTTOM LINE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spiritual Practices A to Z: Imagination

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

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

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

The Basic Practice

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

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

Why This Practice May Be For You

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

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

Quotes


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

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

Books

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

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

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

Film

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

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

Music

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

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

Art

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

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

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

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

Practice of the Day

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

Spiritual Exercises

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

Journal Exercises

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

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

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

Household, Group, and Community Projects

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

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


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


Trees seemed to be a popular theme.


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Friday, February 26, 2016

Artist/Picture Study - P. Buckley Moss

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Skating Party


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

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

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

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

Evening Run

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

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

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

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

Boys on Donkeys

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

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

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

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

Children's Museum Carousel

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

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

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

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

Ocean


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

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

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

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

The Owl

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade Concentrate

A couple of weeks ago, I shared two recipes that I made during July 2015 for different strawberry lemonade concentrates. One just had strawberries as the main ingredient and the other had both strawberries and pineapple.

A third variation that I made last summer was Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade Concentrate (the recipe is from Canning Homemade). It makes about 6-8 pints or 3 quarts of canned concentrate. In comparison to the other flavors, the kiwi does not have a strong flavor. In fact, it can hardly (if at all) be detected by those who are drinking the concentrate when it is mixed with water, tonic water, or ginger ale.

Even though the kiwi may not lend itself to strongly-flavoring the concentrate, kiwi has its own health benefits which merit adding them to the concentrate.

According to the World's Healthiest Foods, "Kiwifruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K as well as a very good source of copper and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of vitamin E, potassium, folate, and manganese."

According to Medical News Today, "Kiwis are a nutrient dense food, meaning they are high in nutrients and low in calories."

Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade Concentrate

Some of the cans of concentrate that I made 
so we could enjoy it during the winter.

3 cups strawberries, cleaned and hulled
3 cups kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups sugar

In a food processor or blender,puree strawberries and kiwi in batches.

Transfer strawberry/kiwi puree to a stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat. Do not boil. Add lemon juice and sugar and stir to combine.

Using a thermometer heat to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. Because this recipe has sugar it will get to temperature rather quickly so pay close attention to the thermometer. Remove from the heat.

Ladle mixture into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim, add hot lids and tighten rings just finger tight. Process in water bath canner at a boil for 15 minutes.

To reconstitute, mix one part concentrate with one part water, tonic water or ginger ale. Adjust the concentrate to suit your taste.

***

For a little trivia from the World's Healthiest Foods, "Native to China, kiwifruits were originally known as Yang Tao. They were brought to New Zealand from China by missionaries in the early 20th century with the first commercial plantings occurring several decades later. In 1960, they were renamed Chinese Gooseberries.

"In 1961, Chinese Gooseberries made their first appearance at a restaurant in the United States and were subsequently 'discovered' by an American produce distributor who felt that the U.S. market would be very receptive to this uniquely exotic fruit.

"She initiated the import of these fruits into the United States in 1962, but to meet what was felt to be burgeoning demand, changed its name from Chinese Gooseberry to kiwifruit, in honor of the native bird of New Zealand, the kiwi, whose brown fuzzy coat resembled the skin of this unique fruit.

Currently, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France, Japan, and the United States are among the leading commercial producers of kiwifruit."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

In Winter's Kitchen - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 8

This week I read In Winter's Kitchen by Beth Dooley. The library just acquired the book so I was happy to have the opportunity to read it after hearing good things about it.


I enjoyed the book and the author's style of writing. It was very different than what I thought it would be (more of a cookbook). The chapters are focused on particular agricultural crops and feature farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin who are farming organically and/or in an innovative way.

Some of the parts of the book that I want to remember include:
- In the market, I might find the life I wanted, guided by memories of those I loved and all that I'd left behind.
- The farmers' market was more than the source of a wee's fresh produce; it was a wellspring of inspiration, a weekly calendar of the land's bounty.
- Since the 1960s we've lost an estimated four out of five apple varieties unique to North America, many of which once grew in the Great Lakes region.
- A diverse orchard is a secure orchard because different trees will respond differently to the pressures of weather, pests, and disease.
- Apples embody the endless qualities of motherhood: of risk, comfort, and promise.
- Some say the apples doesn't fall far from the tree, but as our sons mature, I watch myself becoming the child of my children, just as my father sought parental comfort from me.
- As I witness my sons' journeys into adulthood, I vicariously experience their delights and disappointments, a privilege and a curse. I seem to grow older and younger at once, as the child I was, the mother I used to be, and the grandmother I hope to become collapse together.
- German Mennonites brought the best variety (of wheat) Turkey red, to Kansas. IT's a high-gluten grain that makes beautiful flour and wonderful bread.
- The word focaccia, the Italian flatbread, is derived from the Latin word focus, meaning hearth or fireside, the focus of the family and home.
- Modern wheat is unsustainable...We are witnessing the near elimination of diverse strains of wheat, vital to human and environmental health and food security. It requires tremendous amounts of toxic chemicals to grow and process this crop.
- Diversity is essential to our food security.
- GMO crops requires 30 percent more chemicals than non-GMO crops.
- (Commercial potatoes) are bred to size, weight, and starch specifications. TO grow, they're heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals that dull their lives with a white bloom.
- Potatoes are especially porous and absorb everything in the soil as they grow. Thus, when we eat potatoes sprayed with toxins we're ingesting compounds the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed dangerous.
- In June 2014, the British Journal of Nutrition found that potatoes treated with fungicides early in the season, herbicides before harvest, and sprouting retardants contained high levels of dangerous chemicals and metals. Organic potatoes, chemical free, were far higher in antioxidants, minerals, calcium, potassium, and zinc.
- This is what it takes to create a life - the belief that no matter one's day job, the real work is at home and with yourself.
- We do more than just sell vegetables....it's about community involvement, pride, mentorship, and empowerment.
- The St. Paul's West Side Farmers Market: the graphic-design group makes t-shirts; woodworkers build flower boxes, garden whirligigs, toys, and plant stakes. In collaboration with a neighborhood paper, the journalism group publishes a newsletter. The sewing group makes lavender sachets. Lucia Watson helped the group collect recipes from local celebrity chefs for the cookbook. All items are then sold at the markets.
- By 1943....victory gardens produced nearly 40 percent of an American household's food. By comparison, in 2014, a mere 8 percent of our produce comes from local sources, even during the growing season.
- Continued unchecked "Generation Wired" will live shorter lives than their parents.
- When kids learn to preserve food, opening the jar of homemade tomato sauce or dilly beans conjures summer memories and links them back to the garden, to light and hope and warmth yet to come.
- Hmong farmers have introduced over 23 new varieties of fruits and vegetables to our markets along with vibrant herbs and spices.
- Hmong proverb: "Whether you eat or not, at least hold a spoon; whether you laugh or not, at least force a smile."
- The role of food is to help support a healthy, whole person, a positive person who contributes to the community. When you eat good food, you feel good, and you're motivated to do good things and so everyone benefits.
- I'd wake before sunrise just to savor the quiet, the whole house tucked in sleep, breathing in unison.

After reading the book, I'd like to:
* Try to find the T.E.Pippin apple.
* Visit Hoch Orchard, St. Paul's West Side Farmers Market, and Featherstone Farm. In Wisconsin, go to Wetherby Cranberry Company and Love Tree Farm (Grantsburg) for sheep cheese.
* Try grinding our own cardamom and nutmeg.
* Try Turkey Red Wheat by Sunrise Flour Mill in North Branch, Minnesota.
* Fin a recipe for laarb - traditional lettuce-wrapped mix of chopped beef, mint, basil, and bean sprouts seasoned with ginger, fish sauce, chilies, and lime.
* Go to Tomah for the world's largest cranberry festival.
* See if Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping is available at any libraries. It's a very old book.
* Look up Ark of Taste which is an initiative to protect heritage and endangered foods threatened by agricultural standardization.
* See if Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America is available through the library.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Locavore's Handbook - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 7

For the seventh week in the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I read The Locavore's Handbook by Leda Meredith.


The idea of eating locally interests me. Living in Minnesota it is more challenging than, say, living in a more temperate climate year-round. However, this book has ideas for those wanting to eat more local yet who live in more challenging climates.

Some things I found interesting in the book:
- Buying 25 percent of your groceries from local farmers for a year lowers your carbon footprint by 225 pounds - even more than recycling glass, plastic, and cans. (Eating Well Magazine, February 2009).
- Children who will never see a firefly because that species is threatened by pesticide spraying aimed at other insects...much of that spraying is done on behalf of industrial agriculture.
- In the United States, food travels an average of 1,500 mils from farm to plate.
- The gradual disappearance of small family farms over the past few decades has had a devastating effect on local economies and landscapes.
- What you eat for lunch can make a real difference in the world.
- When eating local, do a list of exemptions and rules that you can live with (e.g., salt and pepper don't have to be local).
- The cells in our bodies completely replace themselves every seven years. If I kept up with my local foods diet, soon I would literally be made out of the place where I live.
- The Dirty Dozen: The fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue when conventionally grown: apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cherries, kale, lettuce, grapes (imported), nectarines, peaches, pears, and strawberries.
- Whenever possible choose produce that is local and organic. When you have to choose between local and organic, if it's on the dirty dozen list, choose organic because of health risks. If it's not on that list, then choose local because of the lower carbon footprint.
- The shorter the time from harvest to eating, the fewer nutrients are lost. Food that has traveled thousands of miles and sat on a store shelf for days has less nutritional value than its recently-picked local counterpart.
- 96% of commercial vegetables varieties have gone extinct in the past 100 years. Choose heirloom varieties that aren't suitable for conventional agriculture. Each variety has unique flavors that will be lost to us forever unless those varieties are kept viable.
- Small organic farms restore and revitalize their soils rather than deplete them as conventional farming does. They also protect the green spaces adjacent to the farmed fields, providing habitat for wildlife.
- Ways to eat local: grow or forage your own; go to u-pick farms; join a community supported agriculture farm; and go to specialty stores and cheese mongers that sell local cheese.
- Try a worm composting system using your kitchen scraps.
- Use horse manure that has aged. It's an excellent fertilizer.
- Dandelions were intentionally introduced to North America by Europeans as a source of food and medicine.
- Get "green bags" at www.greenbags.com that release the natural gases that fresh produce gives off. In regular store, these gases cause fruits and vegetables to either ripen or rot. By moving the gases away from the produce, the food stays fresh for days or weeks longer than it would otherwise.
- Buy meat from a farmer (e.g., half a cow, pig).
- Carry a healthy, local snack in your bag so that you're not tempted to purchase something that's not local.
- Carry reusable bags for unplanned trips to the market. Cuts down on the use of plastic bags.
- When you get produce home, wash and dry it before putting it away.
- Start and maintain a list for contents in your freezer and pantry.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Celebrating Valentine's Day - Traditions and Recipes

For Valentine's Day, we typically have a special breakfast. This year, I saw a pin on Pinterest that led to Land O'Lakes French Toast with Strawberry Butter.

We haven't had French toast in a long time, so I thought it would be nice to have. Plus, the recipe is different than I normally I make since it contains both half & half and vanilla.

 
Left: Sophia and Olivia ready for breakfast. 
Looks like Lucy is trying to sneak in.
Right: Shadow sitting in my spot wanting some French toast. 
Aspen has her head under the table looking for 
any food that might fall on the floor.

I didn't make the strawberry butter because we had a fresh fruit on the side. (See below for more information.)

French Toast

French toast that I made.

Ingredients for French Toast
8 (3/4-inch) slices Italian bread
1/3 cup half & half
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
Powdered sugar

Ingredients for Strawberry Butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon strawberry preserves

Directions
Combine 1/2 cup butter, 1/3 cup powdered sugar and preserves in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Cover; refrigerate until serving time.

Cut bread slices with a 2 1/2- to 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. Combine half & half, eggs and vanilla in 9-inch pie plate; mix well. Dip 4 bread shapes into half & half mixture, turning to coat both sides; let stand 1-2 minutes.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 10-inch nonstick skillet or griddle until sizzling; add coated bread. Cook over medium heat, turning once, 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from skillet; keep warm. Carefully clean skillet with paper towel, if necessary.

Repeat dipping remaining bread shapes into egg mixture. Melt remaining butter in skillet and cook bread as directed.

Also for breakfast I made a heart fruit plate after seeing a pin on Pinterest that led to a photograph. I used about 3/4 a quart of strawberries, 1/3 pint of blueberries, and three kiwis.

Fresh fruit in a heart shape.
It was nice having fresh fruit for breakfast.

After breakfast, everyone received a few small gifts in their Valentine's Day bag that I hand-embroidered many years ago.

 
Sophia and Olivia with their Valentine's Day gifts.

We didn't each much lunch - just some Chex mix that I made yesterday - and Russian tea. The breakfast was filling and we knew we were going to have a big dinner.

Aspen and Cooper taking it easy on the couch. 
It was a special day, 
so they got to sit on the couch for a little while.

For dinner we had lasagna that my mom used to make. The recipe came from my Aunt Arlene who served the lasagna one night when we went over to dinner at their home. My mom asked for the recipe so she could make it, and she did which we always enjoyed. It was one of our favorite dinners.

Sophia set the table, and 
the girls put handmade cards by each place setting.
Sophia enjoys Valentine's Day, and 
bought gifts for everyone (they are on the plates).

I use the lasagna recipe as a base and have adapted it to my taste preferences. Each time, I change the recipe slightly. Sophia asked me to type the recipe, so I'm adding my modifications in parenthesis.

Lasagna

Lasagna and French bread.

Ingredients
1 pound hamburger
1 cup onion (I used one onion)
1/2 cup green pepper (I used 1 cup)
3 1/2 cups tomato sauce (I used a 1 pound 13 ounce can)
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup mushrooms, drained (I used a large can)
1 crushed garlic clove (I used a full teaspoon and and then added another half teaspoon)
1 teaspoon oregano leaves (I used 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt ( I used 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (I used 1/2 teaspoon, but could have added more. Didn't want to make it too spicy because Olivia doesn't like spicy food)
1 teaspoon basil leaves (I used 3 large pinches of dry Thai basil from our garden. If I was used basil leaves in a jar, I'd probably use 2 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon rosemary (I used 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon accent (I didn't use any of this)
8 ounces lasagna noodles
2 cups cottage cheese (Sophia used a big container of fat-free cottage cheese)
1 cup Parmesan cheese (Sophia used about 3/4 a container of Parmesan cheese)
2 cups shredded mozzarella (Sophia used about 3 cups)
(1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese)

Directions

Brown the hamburger, onion, and green pepper in a skillet. Drain grease. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, mushrooms, clove, oregano, salt, pepper, basil leaves, rosemary, and accent. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook noodles, rinse, and drain.

Put 1/3 sauce in the bottom of a 9"x13" pan. Top with 1 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 remaining sauce, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 1 cup cottage cheese, remaining sauce, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup mozzarella. (Note: We added ricotta cheese. It can be added in layers at any point.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes. On the first day, the sauce and cheese will be "saucier" and on subsequent days, it becomes more firm...for a lack of a better description.

The lasagna can be cut into individual portions and frozen. It reheats very well.

So, for Valentine's Day, I made the sauce and noodles

Sauce I made for lasagna.

Sophia took over and did the layering of the lasagna.

Left: Lasagna that Sophia made.
Right: We had lasagna and French bread for dinner.

For dessert, Sophia made an incredibly delicious dessert: chocolate cake with 1 1/2 cups of coffee in it. She cut the cake into heart shapes and then covered them with a homemade ganache topping. She decorated each of the hearts with candies.

The dessert that Sophia made. 
I wish the lighting were better to show this dessert. 
She did such a nice job with the dessert. 
It was delicious.

Sophia decorated the living room, family room, dining room, and kitchen with some items that I had made in the past and that I keep in a bin with Valentine's Day items.

  
Some embroidered things I've made in the past.
The tiny shoes on the right are in front of shoes 
that we purchased in China. 
They are the kind that were used for girls and women 
who had their feet bound.

We have to put the items high enough so the dogs won't eat them.

  
Some of the window stars I've made in the past 
that decorated our windows this year.

We learned the hard way that when they are along, they have separation anxiety and will find things they can reach and chew on them.

A window star with the pine tree in the background.
It was snowing outside, so it wasn't as bright as Saturday.
The minimal light still illuminated the pattern.

Today I have been enjoying the beautiful red cardinals at the feeder. There are multiple males and females eating the seeds I put out for them. My parents loved cardinals - especially my dad. Each time I see them, I am reminded of them - of the love they had for one another, the love they had for their families, and for the love they showed towards others.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Outdoor Mom's Journal - February 2016

Each month I'm doing the Outdoor Mom's Journal which is an idea from the Handbook of Nature Study website. Below are my answers to the monthly prompts.

During our outdoor time this week we went....to the barn, around the backyard, and to the mailbox. We were sick so spending time outdoors was at a minimum.

The most inspiring thing I experienced was...seeing cardinals at the feeder outside my bedroom window. I changed the type of birdseed this past week to one designed for cardinals. Sure enough, they started appearing. There are both males and females; and we are hoping that they nest here again this spring.

Cardinal and black-capped chickadee 
at my feeder.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...if the cardinals that I was seeing had lived here before.

I did some searching on the internet and found out that cardinals don't migrate; and tend to live within a .6 to 1.2 mile range from where they were born.

Northern cardinals establish small territories surrounding their nest. Males will chase other male cardinals and intruders away from their territory to protect the young.

They also live to be 15 years old. So, quite possibly, these are cardinals that have been here before or perhaps have been at neighboring farms. Now, I need to figure out how to make our farm the best one for the cardinals so that they will stay here and we can enjoy their beauty year-round.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting....I've acquired the little pond and fountain that my parents used to have on their deck. I remember my dad had some plants and a goldfish or two in there. When the season changed, he gave the goldfish to a neighbor.

This spring, I'm trying to think about the best place to put the pond in the ground. We have another one that is in the butterfly garden that I would like to get going again. The birds enjoyed having a source of water and would sit on the rocks and drink from the little waterfall.

I am reading...the Wildlife Habitat Education Program manual for the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl. This is a 300+ page manual that describes the 16 ecoregions in the United States, the wildlife found in each ecoregion, and wildlife management practices. It's an interesting book packed with information.

I've enjoyed reading articles in the paper that reference some of the terminology and concepts in the manual. Had I not been reading this, I would not understand as well what the articles were referencing.

I am dreaming about…the bulbs that I planted this past fall and hoping that they will bloom this spring. I also am hoping that the roses and lilies that I transplanted from my parents' gardens will bloom here and that they made it through the winter.

A photo I would like to share...at our 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl meeting, I encouraged the youth to bring in natural items that they had collected that wanted to show and talk about with others on the team. There was a diversity of items including: insects, butterflies, antlers, shells, feathers, and even a taxidermied duckling.


A table filled with items from nature that
4-H youth shared with one another.

The stuffed animals were brought by two girls as part of the team mascot contest. Each team (junior and senior) will have a team mascot that they will have with them when they are at the regional meet next month.