Throughout the years, we have explored many hobbies that begin with the letter "C": cake decorating, camping, candlemaking, canoeing, card games, cave exploring, ceramics, cloud watching, coin collecting, collecting (various items), coloring, cooking, crafts, crocheting, cross-stitching, croquet, and cycling.
The girls have enjoyed decorating cakes and cupcakes. Often times, cupcake decorating is done around the holidays and ties into a theme - such as monsters.
October 20, 2012
Another Halloween theme we did for cupcake decorating was owls.
October 25, 2012
One year for a 4-H workshop day there was a cupcake decorating session that Sophia took. She enjoyed learning new techniques for decorating cakes and cupcakes.
February 2, 2013
March 8, 2013
That same year she decorated a cake for my birthday. Sophia spent a very long time in the kitchen frosting and making little blue stars around the top of the cake. The flower in the center had many layers.
June 29, 2013
For Easter 2017, Sophia made a geode cake using fondant, rock candy, gels, and edible glitter. Again, she spent a lot of time on the cake and did a fantastic job decorating it.
This year she decorated cupcakes. Each was filled with a surprise (a Buttersfinger candy and sprinkles). The bunny ears were made from marshmallows cut on the diagonal and dipped in pink sprinkles. There were candy eyes and noses on the bunnies.
The cupcakes were a huge hit at Easter. We didn't bring any back home - so we know that they were well-liked.
When the girls were 5 and 7 years old, I started to take them camping. Although we had gone on many trips up north to Grand Marais by this time, we had never camped.
One of the nice aspects of camping in Minnesota is that many of the state parks have camper cabins. There are bunk beds, electricity, and a table with benches in each camper cabin. Outside, there's a picnic table and fire ring.
Our first camper cabin that we stayed in was at William O'Brien State Park. We went with my sister and her sons who stayed at a cabin within walking distance of our cabin.
We had fun making dinner over a campfire.
August 24, 2008
At night, the girls slept comfortably in their sleeping bags on the bunk beds. Olivia brought many items from home that she set up next to her bed.
August 24, 2008
Sophia brought items too - a stuffed dog, books, and a quilt she made.
August 24, 2008
The girls wanted to go camping again so we took a longer trip to southwestern Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota in June 2012. One of the places we camped was Lake Shetek State Park in southwestern Minnesota.
June 9, 2012
They enjoyed the cabin...though this time is was incredibly hot for June so - without air conditioning - it was a little warm for us. Nonetheless, it was a fun stay.
Once we managed to get the fire going (despite the strong wind and damp vegetation), we had a good dinner. You can't go wrong with hot dogs and s'mores.
June 9, 2012
Another camping trip we took that was quite memorable was to Itasca State Park where the Mississippi River begins. We stayed in one of the historic cabins there. This one was more furnished than the camper cabins and it also had a gazebo where we could eat our meals.
September 4, 2012
We made fires to cook our meals over and sit by in the evening.
September 4, 2012
The following year, we traveled to Jay Cooke State Park near Duluth. It seems like the girls have assigned sides when they stay in the camper cabins.
June 3, 2013
We tried something new for cooking this time. Dinner was made in foil pouches and had hamburger, potatoes, and carrots. We didn't realize that we needed to wait to let the fire go down a bit before putting the pouches in. Our dinner was well done. To add an additional challenge: we forgot to pack silverware. So we had to make do with what we had.
S'mores, though, were highlight of the meal. As with other camping trips, we relaxed by the fire in the evening.
June 3, 2013
By 2017, we were ready to try something new again. We stayed in a yurt at Afton State Park on May 18-19, 2017. It was quite spacious compared to a camper cabin plus it had a wood stove in the yurt.
We went camping with two other families and tried a variety of new recipes. One of our favorite was a guacamole with corn. By the end of the camping trip, it was gone. It was one of the things everyone liked.
We did our typical hot dogs over the fire which was good. Another family cooked beans - so we saw how the grill was used. The next day, another family cooked sausages on the grill.
Next time we go camping, we're going to try some new recipes using the grill.
When the girls were young, we would go to the Minnesota Waldorf School for its Holiday Fair. One of the activities in 2007 was decorating candles. Both the girls enjoyed doing that.
November 17, 2007
We bought some beeswax sheets to do another type of candlemaking at home: rolled candles. They are easy to make and burn well.
December 13, 2007
Another year at the Minnesota Waldorf School, the girls made beeswax candles using balloons. They dipped the balloons into melted beeswax multiple times to create a candle holder. A battery-operated tea light went inside of it and it glowed when it was lit.
November 17, 2012
At a 4-H project day workshop, one of the sessions that Olivia did focused on decorating candles using colored wax.
February 2, 2013
It was a fun and relaxing project to do.
We have gone canoeing locally and up north. The first time that the girls went canoeing was at William O'Brien State Park. Lake Alice is there and it is a good lake to learn canoeing basics.
On June 24, 2012, the girls learned how to paddle and canoe.
We went around the lake and enjoyed the time on it.
About a year later, we went canoeing on Gunflint Lake. We headed out on June 5, 2013.
It was a relatively nice day with a very strong wind. Thankfully, there were parts of the lake that were a bit more sheltered where the waves weren't as big.
We saw loons swimming and diving on the lake. On our way back, we were paddling against the waves which was challenging, water was getting in the canoe, and it was rocking back and forth from the waves. It was an unsettling feeling.
We decided that kayaking felt much more stable and secure for us and that was a preferred hobby/sport. That being said, if there was a canoe available on a very calm lake or river, we would go again.
One of the card games that the girls played when they were younger was one that had 26 needle-felted cards that I made that each had a letter of the alphabet on them. Olivia was learning her letters and Sophia was creating words with the cards.
December 19, 2008
A visit from Ruth, one of the foreign exchange students we had in the late 1990s, brought a Brazilian card game when she visited in 2009. The girls had fun learning a new card game from her.
June 8, 2009
Uno, which their grandma (my mom) taught them, was a favorite card game. Sophia and I were playing a game at a summer program that we led that focused on games that kids and adults could play together.
June 14, 2013
The girls were introduced to caves back in 2010 when we took a trip to the North Shore and found shallow cliff caves along Lake Superior.
September 7, 2010
They would build snow caves in the winter in the backyard which was fun.
December 15, 2010
This was the first time they had been in an underground cave which was fascinating to both of them.
On July 3, 2017, Olivia and I went to Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona. It was interesting to visit a cave outside of Minnesota and see formations that neither of us had seen before.
Two days later, on July 5, 2017, we went to the Lava Tube Cave. This was a completely different experience than we had ever had. There were no tour guides, paved floors, or lighting - except the head lamps that we brought in ourselves.
It was an unmarked cave on the inside (with the exception of some arrows that was spray-painted on an intersecting point to give people an idea where to go). We ended up going the more challenging route that involved crouching and bending down.
It was different than we expected and something we don't see in Minnesota.
Sophia and Olivia have done ceramics through the homeschool co-op since they were very young (kindergarten). Ms. Sandy is their teacher and they have known her since they were five years old.
They have enjoyed painting plates to use at meals.
December 4, 2008
They also have painted figurines, sculptures, and vases. Each year there has been an art show at the homeschool co-op and the girls showed some of the ceramic pieces they painted during the year. Olivia showed the plate she painted.
Sophia showed the dolphins she painted.
At the art show the following year, the girls showed some more ceramics items they painted - like the dragon, Chinese girl, Easter eggs, and squirrel.
April 25, 2011
Ceramics is a hobby that the girls will continue until they graduate from high school and into adulthood, most likely.
We enjoy watching clouds - especially storm clouds that have interesting formations.
September 13, 2007
We all are excited to see sunsets and sunrises that are spectacular and change the entire sky. The series of photos below is a panoramic view of the west pasture and a sunset.
November 26, 2007
Living in the country, we are able to see wide expanses of the sky without buildings to block the views. See cloud formations in unusual shapes - like this "V" formation intrigued us.
May 25, 2008
Sometimes we get in the car and look at clouds. The photo below shows clouds from a tornado that was touching down further west.
Each year, the leprechaun would bring Sophia and Olivia gold coins. These were special coins because we don't normally use coins to buy things - we use silver coins or bills.
They would keep and collect the coins that the leprechaun gave them.
March 17, 2008
They also began collecting state coins in 2011. We would go to the bank and get rolls of quarters to look at. When they found a coin they needed, they would take it and add it to their collection.
July 6, 2011
In addition to coin collecting, there is a category at the country fair called "Collections." The girls have entered collections of tiny figurines, pencils, 4-H pins they earned for record keeping, poetry collections (poetry they wrote), and other items.
One of the collections they have consistently entered in the county fair is their stamp collection. Each year, they pick a different them. They sort the stamps they have and put them in a book or piles by topic.
December 30, 2007
They choose a theme based on what they have the most of that year and/or what interests them the most. Sometimes they have first-day issue envelopes or sheets of stamps to add to their stamps.
July 31, 2008
As they got older, they would add a description at the top to describe their collection (e.g., what countries are represented by the stamps, what type of cat/flower/butterfly is shown).
July 29, 2009
On July 20, 2012, we went to a stamp show. This is one that was close to where my parents lived, so for a couple years my dad accompanied us to the show since he collected stamps as well (a hobby passed down by his mother who worked in the post office and would send my dad first-day issue envelopes).
The girls could look at the different collections that other stamp collectors had and how they displayed them.
For kids, there was a table that had bins filled with stamps they could look through and take up to 20 stamps. This was a big deal. Free stamps!! Many times, the timing was perfect because it was right before the county fairs so the girls could look for specific stamps to increase the number of items for their stamp display.
Each year, the girls have done a stamp collection for the county fair. In August 3, 2012, they did well on their collections. Olivia earned a blue ribbon as well as a reserve grand champion award.
Sophia earned a blue ribbon her collection of floral stamps.
This is something that can be continued into adulthood. However, the hobby has changed a bit since stamps now are stickers rather than ones that you lick or wet with water.
The girls would color a lot when they were younger. My favorite pictures were those they would create. The one below was done by Sophia. It is a picture of she and me holding hands. We are outside with the sun overhead and a blue sky...and a flower is right by us.
September 7, 2007
November 23, 2007
Coloring also was done for homeschooling in workbooks and art books. Olivia enjoyed these type of books the most.
May 20, 2008
She enjoyed using markers more than crayons.
November 4, 2008
As she got older, she preferred Prismacolor colored pencils over crayons and markers. She was able to be much more precise and could do detailed work on her drawings and colorings.
February 8, 2011
There were projects that I had the girls do that focused on coloring - sometimes in traditional ways and other times in ways that challenged them.
April 27, 2013
The girls colored pictures for Color-a-Smile in 2016 and 2017.
The pictures are sent to seniors who are in nursing homes or homebound, veterans, and servicemen and women. It's a great way to share one's love for coloring with those who need their days brightened or some encouragement.
In addition to baking, the girls have done a lot of cooking. Sophia started cooking when she was about 1 1/2 years old. She loved being in the kitchen and helping make a variety of food. Using the juicer and making fresh orange juice was a treat.
Sophia learned how to do solar cooking at a Girl Scout activity one year.
October 4, 2007 - solar cooking
They have made food for meals - like guacamole.
March 12, 2008
April 20, 2009 - smoothie
We have incorporated cooking into homeschooling. Olivia is holding an Edible Earth she made. This was a fun science project we did.
August 12, 2010
Sophia has learned to make meals - like chicken stir fry using a wok.
September 1, 2012
It's been fun watching the girls' cooking skills improve throughout the years; and good knowing that they are knowledgeable and skilled enough to cook on their own when that time comes.
Although both of the girls have done a lot of crafts, Olivia seems to be the one to do a wider variety of crafts than Sophia.
She has done etching since she was 4 years old.
January 17, 2008
She has done crafting as part of homeschooling. Below she colored paper jewelry and a pyramid as part of a unit study on Egypt and Egyptian history.
February 6, 2008
Sophia created an Easter topiary one year. She painted the terra cotta planter and then added the moss-covered egg-shaped tree.
March 24, 2008
Olivia has done paint-by-number paintings for many years. One of the first ones she did was of Buddy the dog. She was 7 years old when she did this painting.
February 11, 2010
Sophia saw a project she wanted to try that involved wood, lots of nails, and colored string. She found a font she liked and we printed out "Believe." She cut it out and then attached it to the wood. Once she hammered in the nails, the paper letters came off.
July 14, 2013 - Sophia string art
This was a labor-intensive project that turned out very well. She received a blue ribbon at the county fair on it which she was happy about.
I introduced crocheting to the girls when I was teaching the home economics course at the homeschool co-op.
May 18, 2009
Sophia made a little crocheted doll rug. She's doing a presentation to the class about some of the projects she made - included the crocheted rug.
I also introduced cross-stitching to the girls when they were 7 and 9 years old. Olivia is practicing on large gingham fabric. Sophia had small gingham fabric to learn to do the cross-stitching.
January 14, 2010
This wasn't a hobby that either wanted to take to the next level using Aida cloth and embroidery floss.
One of the hobbies that the girls were introduced to by a family friend was croquet. During the summer, they would play croquet in the backyard.
In June 2012, we went to Rhubarb Days in Osceola, Wisconsin. We were surprised to see "Dog Croquet" there.
Olivia had to play it since she loves dogs and croquet.
As a parent, this is one area that I didn't do well with: teaching the girls to ride bikes. Cycling was a huge part of my childhood, so I'm not sure why I didn't teach them early on (the best time to learn).
It wasn't until our first exchange student, Ruth, came back for a visit that Sophia learned how to ride a bike. Ruth was persistent and encouraging, and wanted to see Sophia cycling.
June 3, 2009
Sure enough...she learned thanks to Ruth. She was 8 years old at the time. After that, it was like she had been riding forever. She rode her bike all around - even on the front lawn.
September 8, 2009
February 15, 2011
On April 5, 2011, the weather was pleasant enough to go outside for an early bike ride. At the time, the cycle that we had was three-wheeled - two for my bike and one for Olivia's bike that attached to mine.
She enjoyed riding along and getting a feel for what it was like to do cycling on her own one day.
Sophia was comfortable on her bike and was always well ahead of me.
We are eager to get out in 2018 and start cycling again. There are some bike trails around our area that would be nice to explore when the weather is cool and there are no mosquitoes.