Monday, November 5, 2018

The ABCs of Me

On Swap-Bot, I'm participating in a swap that is a bit of game or challenge: The ABCs of Me. The goal is to answer each of the following alphabetical subjects with a one-word or phrase answer.

AGE: 52. Some days I feel younger than that...and other days, I feel every year - if not more - of it.

BIRTHPLACE: Minneapolis - Abbott Northwestern Hospital (which is still around).

CURRENT OUTFIT: I'm wearing a sweatshirt that I've had for a good ten years, pajama pants, and fuzzy socks. It's still early in the morning before I have to go anywhere.

DRINKS: I'm drinking mostly water these days as well as hot chocolate in the morning and evening to get in some calcium to keep my bones strong. Every once in a while a Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi slips in when I'm tired and need to stay awake or drive.

EASIEST JOB: When I look back on my life, the easiest job I had was working at Hardees. I was a hostess so I made sure people's coffee was filled, I would ask people how their meal was and if they needed me to get them anything else, and kept the dining area looking nice. I would collect trays and bring them back to the kitchen to be washed.

FAMILY MEMBERS: My husband and two daughters (ages 17 and 15...soon to be 18 and 16); 4 dogs, 3 cats, and 2 horses.

GRATEFUL FOR: Having a loving family; being raised by compassionate and encouraging parents who had my best interest at heart; having my brother and sister living within 40 minutes of my home; and a home.

HOME DECOR STYLE: I had to look up online the different home décor styles. Based on our home (an 1890 farm home) and the furnishings, I'd have to say the home décor style is mostly Country. That being said, it's also a kind of eclectic home - with some modern pieces and artwork; Scandinavian style with white walls and light coming in all the windows (we have windows in each room with the exception of one room that is part of a two-room bedroom).

IN LOVE WITH: My family and pets. Life is full and rich with each of them in it. I couldn't imagine it otherwise.

JEALOUS OF: Jealousy isn't something that I feel. I think it's more along the line of "I wish" or "It sure would be nice..." - rather than the more negative feeling of jealousy. So, every once in a while I think it would be nice to be like people who have debt-free lives and have their retirement plans fully-funded; and don't have a care in the world.

KINDEST PERSON: My sister. She truly wants the best for others and is compassionate.

LATEST OBSESSION: Taking classes at the arts center. I'm enjoying taking a variety of classes in the visual arts - pottery, Saori weaving, and hand-sewing leather.

The arts center has graciously given our family scholarships (three per person per quarter) to take classes due to financial hardship during the past year. The only thing we have had to pay for is the material fee. The classes have been a bright spot in a very difficult year.

MIDDLE NAME: Marie. That's the name my parents gave me. Elizabeth is my other middle name. That's my confirmation name. It's not legally part of my name, but it is part of my identity.

NEXT PROJECT: I am working on a coil bowl in my pottery class. I have the general design done, but need to fill in the spaces with little balls of clay so that it is a solid bowl. The outside will be smooth because it has a slab of clay as the base/exterior.

I also have quite a few sewing and quilting projects that I have been wanting to do since August.

The other projects I want to work on relate to Sophia's graduation gifts.

As I write this, I'm realizing that creating a schedule or creative goals may be necessary to stay on track with all the projects.

OLDEST LIVING RELATIVE: Within my family (the family I grew up in), I am the oldest living person. If I look at my extended family (with cousins), it is one of my cousins who are in their 70s. I don't think any of them are in their 80s yet.

PROFESSION: Homeschool Educator to my daughters who are a senior and sophomore in high school. Sophia, the senior, also is doing PSEO courses, so I'm assisting at the college level as well by proofing her papers. It has been a fascinating journey - from infancy to college-level work since 2001.

QUIET PLACE: My bedroom. Well, actually, any place in our home and farm is quiet. It is very peaceful here. Even the dogs like to rest Aspen who burrows under the covers and uses the pillows like a human being.

READY FOR: Nothing. It seems like I have a lot of projects and things that need to get done, but never enough time to do them.

SWEET TOOTH CRAVING: I have been wanting to make an apple pie like my mom used to make. She used a combination of Cortland and Harralson apples which would get soft. My sister recently told me the types of apples my mom used. I never knew that. The apples in my apple pie never would get completely soft and I would be so disappointed because it wasn't like my mom's apple pies. Now I'm on a mission to find Harralson apples.

TIME YOU WAKE UP: This morning I woke up at 6:30 a.m. The days are getting shorter, so it's darker in the morning. I used to wake up around 4:00 a.m. and would start doing work. I'm not as energetic these days.

USEFUL ITEM: Toothbrush. I don't know why that was the first thing to come to mind....but it is useful with getting your teeth clean.

VACATION SPOT: My go-to spot for many years - probably more than a decade - was Grand Marais. We have gone hiking, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, ziplining, and boating along the Gunflint Trail.

I haven't been there with my daughters now for many years. I miss it.

My dream domestic vacation is to do a driving trip around the United States - go to every one of the continental states. I've already been to Alaska and Hawaii.

WORST HABIT: Eating food with sugar and flour in them. I know that's not good for me.

X-RAYS: I've had many x-rays. The most interesting x-ray I've had was a live one for the second toe on my left foot. I was able to watch the podiatrist put a needle into my toe and inject a dye which showed there was a leak in the joint capsule. Although I did have a local anesthesia, it was a bit uncomfortable.

I had to have surgery and have a couple of screws in one of the bones in my second toe now.


ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer...the crab.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

My Favorite Pictures of the Month - October

During the month of October, I have many favorite pictures that fall into two groups: fire recovery, retrospective, and "outtakes."


Back on May 5, 2018, we had a fire that destroyed our two-story hobby shed, playhouse, and 15 trees. The fire also melted, warped, or damaged the back of our home, the deck, the car, and 14 acres of farmland. 

So, my favorite pictures are ones that show progress and completion of projects that have been going on for almost six months.

This is what my view was as I walked up the driveway and firefighters were still putting out the fire back in May. There are multiple hoses leading to the backyard because there were many fires and/or potential or fires - the hobby shed, playhouse, barn, yard, yard furniture, deck, and home that needed to be addressed. 

Here's the view now of the new two-story garage. It is moved to the north a bit - where the fence line is (behind the trash cans). The trees that burned had to be removed. 


The view now looking to the west is more open. Thankfully, there are still plenty of trees for the wildlife to use for shelter and food.

The siding on the house and the kitchen window were warped from the heat. About a month later, we had flooding on the entrance to the cellar/basement. That all had to be excavated, a new entry created, and drain tiling put in. 

We had to get two new doors - one for the basement and one for the cellar doors. 


The photo above shows the before picture (taken on May 5th) and the photo below shows both of these jobs completed.

This is another view of the cellar entrance with all the concrete work that had to be done due to erosion thanks to heavy rains and to create a more accessible entry to the basement.

The new deck top (shown to the left in the photo below) was built this past week too. It replaces one that my brother built in 1995 when we first moved her. 

It's bittersweet replacing items that are worn and/or damaged that served us well for decades. So many people or animals have walked across those steps, sat on the edge of the deck, or laid down to read or rest on it. So many memories. 


With Sophia being a senior in high school this year, there are many "lasts." One of those was the last time Sophia would be going trick-or-treating. She asked that I curl her hair which I was happy to do. The picture below shows just the first round of hot curlers - 20 of them. It took 40 more curlers - 60 total - to do her hair. 


 It has gotten quite long over the past couple of years.

She said, as I was curling her hair, that it reminded her of the many times I would curl her hair when she was younger. We talked about the little wigs that the girls would wear to cover their buns when they sang in the children's choir. The black hair pieces had little pearls in them. They looked so cute. 

As I looked back on some past Halloween photos, I found two other years where I curled her hair. One was in 2007 when she was 6 years old. At that time, I used sponge rollers and bobby pins. Her hair was still fine enough to curl it that way.

By 2010, when she was 9 years old, it took 20 curlers to do her hair and we thought that was a lot. Little did we know that 11 years later, we would need three times as many curlers and a ton of hair spray.


For their costumes this year, they went as a bat and a witch. It was relatively warm, so they were excited that they could wear just a couple of layers of shirts and pants. No coats, boots, mittens, or winter hats this year!

The picture right before we took the one above is the one I took below. Although it isn't the photo you'd typically share with others, to me it one of my favorites because both of the girls are laughing. Their personalities and their great relationship with one another are reflected in the photo.

Another photo I like is Sophia with all our dogs. We finally got the dogs on the deck and either facing to the front or side. The dogs were all excited that we were back home from being at the homeschool co-op, so this was a major accomplishment in itself.

It was short-lived. Literally a second or two later, the photo below shows what happened. Dogs running off the deck, Danny getting whapped in the face by Cooper's tail, and Aspen wanting more attention. 

Scooby (the little cream-color pug/terrier) is 11 years old and he sometimes will chase Cooper around the backyard. It looks like he's headed out on a mission to catch Cooper. 

Chaotic and energetic is more reflective of the, again, it makes me laugh when I see this photo.

It's kind of a hodge podge of photos this month. Yet, each one has a special meaning for me as I look at it. The photos are not artistic in any way...yet they represent turning points and everyday life at our farm. To me, these are valuable and meaningful qualities when choosing my favorite photos.

Something that Made Me Happy - October 2018

During the past month, there have been many things that have made me happy.

Something I've been enjoying a lot are the amazing sunsets here at the farm. This one was taken on October 16th.

In a matter of minutes, the sky changed to lighter colors as sun went further down on the horizon.

Another pretty sunset was on October 30th.

Again, in a matter of minutes, the sky has a different look to it with different shades of blues, purples, and pinks.  

This past month, in addition to my weekly pottery class, the girls and I took some art classes together. One that they wanted to do (so I thought I'd try my hand at it) was hand-sewing  leather. We each chose several projects to make. Below, Olivia is ready to start work on making a case for her sunglasses.

Sophia made three projects including a keychain (finished and to the right of the photo), coin purse, and a wallet which she is sewing in the photo below.

The three projects I made were a field note holder (to the left) which holds a little notebook, cards, and money; a keychain; and a clutch.

The clutch can hold an iPad mini, the field note holder, or other items.

This is the inside of the fieldnote holder. I need to get a little notebook that will on the right side of the holder.

We all said that we would want to take a hand-sewing leather class again.

On Halloween, during the middle of the day, Sophia and I took a SAORI weaving class at White Bear Center for the Arts. For two hours, we wove alongside ladies from Bloom.

Bloom is a SAORI weaving group made up of eight ladies. While these ladies happen to have developmental disabilities, they have had two nearly sold-out shows at Homewood Studios in Minneapolis. They gain teaching experience through workshops held during their shows and at White Bear Center for the Arts.

Below - from left to right - is me, one of the ladies from Bloom (dressed as Elvis for Halloween), and Sophia. Sophia went to town weaving and has a very long - and beautiful scarf.

Both of us still need to finish off the ends and cut the strings so they are even. Sophia is really happy with her scarf. For some reason, the yarn on my loom kept breaking (this is the first time this has ever happened), so the finished piece is lopsided. Oh still was fun to create the weaving.

Another thing that made our entire family happy was finding a bin of Halloween decorations in the basement. I thought that some of them were still in the hobby shed when it burned down unexpectedly in May 2018.

Needless to say, I was so happy to find that we had some decorations that were passed down to us by Paige's mother and step-father, like the witch below.

The pumpkin that I used when I was a child was in the bin too!

The pumpkin still has my name on it with a scribble/swirl under it. When I sign my first name only I still will often put a line or swirl under it. I didn't realize I did that earlier in my life as a kid.

I was particularly happy to find both Sophia's and Olivia's candy bags. Since the first time each of them went trick-or-treating and dressed up, I traced one of their hands, wrote their name in the center along with their costume and year. When they got older, they began writing their own name and decorating the handprints.

October also brought many opportunities to volunteer together which made me happy. Olivia and I volunteered to help pack up a nearby library. We packed four racks (six shelves each) of fiction books; the large-print books, and about half a wall of non-fiction books.

We volunteered at the Lions Pancake Breakfast in the middle of the month, and enjoyed talking with some of the senior members of the Lions. The woman on the left helped paint the barn quilts that Olivia designed four years ago. She told us she's the same age as Micky Mouse, which would put her at about 90 years old now!

I coordinated a Service Project Sampler Day for Lions, Leos (the teen version of the Lions), and community members who wanted to volunteer. We ended up doing 14 projects or collecting items for 13 non-profits locally and globally. Afterwards, we had a healthy diabetes-friendly lunch together. (Diabetes is one of the key issues that the Lions work on.)

One of the projects we did was make 16 birthday bags for children whose families are struggling to put food on the table. We donated half to the local food shelf and then the other eight bags to a food shelf about 10 miles away. In addition, we donated over 50 pounds of food to the local food shelf.

At the Lions' Sponsor Appreciation Dinner, Sophia played the harp during the social hour and dinner. Olivia helped her get set-up and the speakers attached and working for her harp.

After having dinner together, the teens who volunteered to help had fun talking with one another, learning to play the harp (for the two exchange students from India and Mali, it was the first time they had touched a harp!), and talking about upcoming events.

So, it was a fun month - filled with beautiful things in nature, crafting, weaving, creative expression, learning new skills, special celebrations and holidays, volunteering, meeting new people, and deepening friendships through service and activities.

There is much to be grateful for and happy about as I look back at October.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Scavenger Hunt - October 2018

For October's Scavenger Hunt on Swap-Bot, there were five things to find:

Something alive

These flowers are in a little prairie garden and perennial flower garden I established this past year. I don't remember what type of plant this is, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the purple flowers still blooming on it.

The flowers are very delicate and cup-like when in full bloom. They are the only flowers in the garden that are still blooming - even after a couple hard frosts.

Something woven

We have had these woven placemats for many years now. I put one down on the bureau in the dining room and placed the Halloween train on top of it so the ceramic wheels wouldn't scratch the wood.

The Halloween train used to belong to Paige's mother and step-father. It is only one of a few Halloween items that we still have after the fire on May 5, 2018, destroyed the hobby shed (where many of our holiday decorations were kept).

So, we are very grateful to have the Halloween train and a few other items as a connection to past Halloweens.

Something you’d never want to find in your house

I was checking on the status of the garage that is being built as a replacement to the hobby shed that burned. Sitting on the ledge in the sunlight was this Northern Paper Wasp.

Northern Paper Wasps are commonly found in Minnesota. They build nests near humans because that is where a lot of wood can be found (e.g., barns, homes, fences, sheds, landscaping, firewood). The wasps use wood to help create their nest.

What I don't like about these wasps is that the queens aggressively defend their nests and their oldest workers join her in that effort. Animals and people who disturb nests may be stung multiple times as wasps do not die after one sting (like honeybees do).

That being said, Northern Paper Wasps are useful insects in the sense that they do a great job of removing plant-devouring caterpillars from gardens. Still, I would not want them in my home.

A poster or marquee announcing an event

This was a recent poster that our Lions Club placed around town to let people know about our Service Project Sampler Day. We held the event when youth had the day off of school. Lions and community members of all ages came to do 13 different service projects (hands-on activities as well as donated items) that benefited 14 organizations locally and globally.

It was a fun event and everyone said they would like to have another Service Project Sampler Day. So, we are looking at having the next one in January. The goal would be to do an event once a quarter.

Something fluffy

This is Lucy, our cat. He is about 15 or 16 years old now. He and his sister, Maggie, came to our farm as kittens. They were wandering around the farm at only a few weeks old. We never could find the mother.

So, we ended up feeding them soft food and milk and they were thrilled to have something to eat. We fed them daily and checked on them many times (they were living in the hobby shed which had a cat door on it thanks to the previous owners).

Eventually, they made their way indoors and lived inside ever since. Although Maggie is no longer with us, Lucy is hanging in there. He is showing signs of aging - like reduced vision in his right eye, loss of weight, and not being able to jump up onto high things any more.

However, he's always eager to sit right next to you and purr; and loves being pet. He's a really good cat. We are fortunate to have had so many years with Lucy.

Monday, October 1, 2018

My Favorite Photos - September 2018

During September, I had quite a few favorite photos. These aren't ones that are artistically skilled in terms of photography. Rather, they represent activities and events I was involved with; and/or memories of things that we did as a family.

On September 1st, a group of volunteers that I coordinated from the Lions, Leos, and community planted bushes and perennials at two corners of an intersection in town. It turned out well, and we received a lot of positive feedback from the community.

On Labor Day, we saw Crazy Rich Asians. What a great movie! 

Afterwards, we went to Dairy Queen. We go there every year on Labor Day. It marks the end of summer for us and the transition to the new homeschool year.

The first week of September, Sophia applied to one college. Within a few weeks she heard she was accepted and received generous merit-based scholarships.  During the third week of September, she applied to another college (also one of her top choices) and heard within two days that she was accepted!

The first weekend in September, there was a big community event. I was responsible for the coordination of the vendors. There were 47 vendors this year (up from 19 in the previous year). One of organizations that was there was the Wildlife Science Center. They brought this beautiful owl.

The day after the community festival and parade, we went to another community parade. There were a lot of floats, marching bands, and people throwing candy.

On Friday, September 14th, the farrier was here to trim the horses' hooves. In the process, while Sophia was holding the lead line, her middle finger got stuck in a metal loop as Bailey jerked her head up. There is a clean, diagonal break. It was buddy-taped in Urgent Care that day; and then examined closer and re-taped a week later by an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hands. 

Because she plays the harp and piano, the surgeon did not want to do surgery on her finger and put pins in it to set the bone. There would be a loss of feeling and sensation in that finger which would not be good. 

So, although the experience was not a "favorite" one, what I (and Sophia) found interesting was the x-ray and how the bones look within her hands.

September marked the first day of 12th grade and PSEO courses for Sophia; and 10th grade for Olivia. How quickly the time has passed.

With senior photos coming up, Sophia needed some shoes to go with her dress. Olivia had fun trying on high-heeled shoes while we were at DSW at Mall of America.

On the 16th, Sophia and I co-led a session at a local church for people who wanted to volunteer to make shoes for children in Uganda through Sole Hope. Sole Hope takes the pieces that are cut from blue jeans and sends them to Africa. Tailors and cobblers there make shoes that are given at no cost to children who have jiggers (microscopic insects that burrow in one's feet and lay eggs).

By receiving medical treatment and a pair of shoes, children go from not being able to walk, run, play, and go to school to being able to do all of these things!

Volunteers make 22 pairs of shoes and assembled 17 Care Kits that are shown below. The Care Kits are given to children and adults to continue at-home care for jiggers (to make sure they don't return). Simple things like Bandaids, cotton balls, safety pins, alcohol wipes, and Neosporin ointment are life savers for people in Uganda.

Later in the week I attended the USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum in Columbus, Ohio. While I was there, I visited Pilot Dogs and had the opportunity to go on a walk with Rudy, the guide dog. Rudy led me safely through an obstacle course while I was blindfolded.

Not being able to see and having to totally rely on a dog to guide me through the obstacle course was quite a memorable experience!

One night in Columbus, the Lions Club president and I went out to lunch in the German Village. It was a nice meal. Both she and I had the buffet and got to sample a variety of German dishes.

On the way back to the free bus that runs throughout downtown Columbus, I noticed these flowers.

While in Columbus, I ate at North Market several times. There was a donut shop with delicious donuts, a bakery, cheese/meat vendor, Vietnamese food, and more. There were all these mini-restaurants (without seating) that you could buy food from.

Towards the end of the month, on the 26th, Sophia got her senior photos taken. It was quite the process for doing her make-up and hair (part of the senior photo package which was nice).

One of my favorite photos that I took as she was getting ready was of her wearing her Chinese headdress. 

After the shots with Sophia in her Chinese headdress and dress, she changed and the make-up artists/hairstylist took her hair down for another look. 

This photo is one that Sophia took of herself on my phone as we were driving between the photographer's studio and a park.

The park had some beautiful flowers - including the ones shown below.

There were many different places that the photographer had Sophia sit, stand, and pose for her photos.

Sophia wanted one of herself laying on the grass in the flowy dress with white roses in her hair. She said she felt like Sleeping Beauty wearing the dress and with the flowers in her hair.

By the end of the month - the 29th - the entry to our cellar was completed. The cement area around it provides easier access to the basement and helps direct rain from pooling near the home and eroding the area by the other concrete slab. Aspen is checking out the step while Danny has already explored the new concrete steps and walkway. He'll like that in the winter since he doesn't like his paws to be in the snow.

The flowers that a friend gave me are blooming well. I don't know what type they are since they are not ones typically seen in the area. They are about 3 or 3 1/2 feet tall; and are perennials.

On September 28th, we helped oversee the first three hours of the blood drive that our Lions Club hosted. Sophia is sitting with Tom, the husband of the club's president. They welcomed people when they checked in to donate blood.

While Olivia was at gymnastics on the 29th, Sophia and I went to a Booya and Bake Sale at a local church. I used to take the girls to this event when they were younger, and would purchase containers of the soup/stew to take home and enjoy during the Fall.

For $9.50, we got two big bowls of soup, coleslaw, a roll, crackers, two cups of hot apple cider, and apple crisp. It was a very filling meal.

Afterwards, we stopped at Eichtens which sells cheese, meat, and other delicious items. They had tables set up with samples of products that we enjoyed tasting. Outside the door to the store, there were containers of these pretty red flowers.

We drove around a bit looking at the first signs of the changing leaves; and then stopped at an apple orchard. We bought some apples to eat plain and then make into applesauce and apple pie. We went down by some of trees and took some photos.

I like the one below because it shows the girls smiling naturally.

By the last day of September, the milkweed pods are getting ready to dry, crack open, and release the seeds. This one I opened to see the progress of the seeds.  They are so orderly as they wait to be caught by the wind and float to a spot to start a new milkweed plant.

So those are some of my favorite photos from September. It was a great month; and one that I can look back on and know that we enjoyed living and experiencing it to the fullest.