Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another Storm...and Storm Damage

Clouds Over Home
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann
The sky over the house during the most recent storm changed rather quickly from this to heavy rain - so much so that the mudroom ceiling was leaking and covered part of the floor with water.

I have never seen it rain so hard in such a short time period as it did today. Combined with high winds, high temperature, high humidity, and a thunderstorm...we were anticipating having to go in the basement.

The girls got everything ready if we needed to downstairs - dog leashes, cat carriers, and their handy-dandy blankets filled with "treasures" and tied with jump ropes.

Luckily, we didn't have to go in the basement. We just spent the evening mopping up water on the mudroom floor, shelves, and window ledges.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baby Wrens in Nest

Baby Wrens in Nest
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann

One of the nests in the backyard has 5 baby wrens in it. The girls are watching the birds as they grow.

We checked on them again on July 31st and they have full wings and their eyes are open.

Baby Wrens
Wrens on August 2nd - http://www.flickr.com/photos/picturesbyann/4868600550/

By August 4th, when we checked on them again, the nest was empty. All were grown and had flown from the nest.

Needless to say, the girls are thrilled. It's been such a great homeschooling science lesson!

July Journal Quilt

This is the most recent journal quilt I made. It's about 9" x 12", and is the 7th one in a series of quilts I've made this year (I started in January).

Some elements of the quilt that aren’t visible in a picture and/or are more subtle:

-The Soft Texture of the Fabric: The white fabric is from a used bed sheet and the red backing and trim is from a dress that I got at a free clothing giveaway that didn't fit properly.

-Dragonfly on the Backing: The red fabric features a pink dragonfly on the back in the center. There are two lighter-printed (and still red) images of a dragonfly also on the back. This reminds me of all the dragonflies that we saw on our trip to La Crosse. Dragonflies also symbolize renewal, positive force, and the power of life in general. In addition, dragonflies frequently represent change. Since they live a short life, it knows it must live its life to the fullest with the short time it has - which is a good thing to keep in mind.

-Sashiko Embroidery on the Candle: I did a simple running stitch horizontally for the entire height of the candle. The yellow flame has 31 little crosses on it. This represents the sashiko (a type of Japanese embroidery) quilt that I worked on a lot during July.

-White-on-White Quilting: I did some free-motion quilting (very, very basic…nothing fancy) to secure the three layers together.

Below are the major activities of the month and how they are symbolized in the quilt:

4th of July: The girls rode horses in the parade and did very well. This was clearly a highlight of the year, and will be remembered for many years to come. The 4th of July is represented in the quilt by:

- The colors red (backing/border/dad’s hand), white (background), and blue (Olivia’s hand, blue candle with blue sashiko stitching, blue symbol for water [on the left hand side of the quilt], and the blue ink used for the word “believe.”

- There also is a purple star in the lower right hand corner of the quilt. The star has 4 lines (for the fourth of July).

Trip to Colorado: From July 6th-9th, I helped my dad take a trip from Minnesota to Colorado to see his younger brother who was suffering from diverticulitis. Both my uncle AND dad have Alzheimer’s Disease. Although it was a needed and much-appreciated visit for everyone involved, it also was extraordinarily physically exhausting and emotionally—draining.

It was incredibly difficult to see how much the disease has robbed my father of his mind over the past year since his diagnosis. Yet, despite these “behind-the-scenes” difficulties due to Alzheimer's, my dad provided tremendous encouragement, support, and love to his brother.

Seeing his put his arm around his younger brother’s shoulder, give him a hug, or simply hold his hand were probably some of the most powerful images I have from that trip. One photo in particular that I took – a close-up of my uncle’s hand holding my dad’s hand – is one that I like the best. It shows how love can transcend obstacles (like Alzheimer’s Disease); and how powerful the sense of touch can be to healing and comfort.

Helping, caring for, loving, supporting – these are represented in the outlines of the hands on the quilt (the red handprint is my dad, the orange is my mom, green is me, blue is Olivia, and purple is Sophia).

4-H and the Chisago County Fair: Sophia and Olivia joined 4-H this year, and were able to exhibit projects at the Chisago County Fair. In the quilt, there are 4 green “H”s that represent the 4 “H”s in 4-H: head, heart, hands, and health.

Trip to La Crosse: On July 19th-20th, I took my mom, dad, Sophia, and Olivia to La Crosse (Wisconsin).

The trip is represented in several ways on the quilt:

-The blue candle in the center represents the votive chapel at the Shrine.

-The candle flame has little yellow crosses.

-Two wavy blue lines – represent the girls swimming, laughing, and having fun in the water.

-Two orange “U” shape lines – represent smiles and good memories from the trip.

-One red “V” shape – represents an eagle and our visit to the National Eagle Center.

Crafting for the Washington County Fair: Sophia, Olivia, and I have been busy crafting this month as we get ready to enter projects in the Washington County Fair. The outlines of our hands represent the handiwork that we are doing.

*´¯`•.¸.• *

“I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see.”
~Duane Michals, Real Dreams

There’s one part of the quilt not yet addressed – the word “Believe.” This is hand-stamped on a piece of fabric from a bed sheet. It was sent to me through a swap on Swap-Bot. The sender had tied a handmade booklet with this fabric that was stamped repeatedly with “Believe.”

During July, the word “believe” seemed to be a recurring theme:

-I believe in the power that horses have in helping children who have sensory integration dysfunction, speech delays, and physical delays/disabilities. It’s amazing what therapeutic horseback riding has done to help Sophia and Olivia over the past 4-5 years that they have been a part of the riding programs (this is Sophia’s 4th year and Olivia’s 5th year riding).

-I believe in the power of love and compassion – particularly as shown through my dad and uncle as they support one another in their journey through Alzheimer’s Disease; and my parents as they support one another as they both struggle with different aging issues.

-I saw my parents’ strong religious faith and the meaning it has for them – belief in something greater than this world that they cannot see, but trust is there – as we journeyed to The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

-I believe in the power the arts and creativity have to help me work through grief issues and other difficulties in my life. The arts (and crafts) give me an ability to create beauty or find hope amidst sadness – it’s a way to create items that can be passed along to my daughters (some they receive now and others they’ll receive when they are older).

The author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, said, "Dare yourself to believe in your creativity, wherever it may lead you. Trust that where it leads, is exactly where you're supposed to be. Your authentic self knows where you're headed. Don't wrestle with Spirit, collaborate with it."

-I saw Sophia and Olivia believe in themselves and talk with confidence about what they had learned with the 4-H judges at the Chisago County Fair.

-And, I have to believe that the emotional difficulties and struggles I am experiencing right now – especially as they relate to caregiving and loneliness - will lead to a greater good. I don’t know what…but hopefully it will make some positive difference in the world at some point.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One Side of Votive Candles

At The Shrine of Guadalupe, there is a beautiful Votive Candle Chapel. These are some of the many candles in the largest candle rack in the United States. The rack contains 576 votive candles; and measures 14 feet high and 12 feet wide on each of its four sides.

My parents, Sophia, Olivia, a friend of the family (Maureen), and I visited the Shrine. For me, this was one of the prettiest places at the Shrine. I could only imagine how beautiful the chapel is in the dark when many of the candles are lit and glowing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Following a Buggy

Following a Buggy
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann
Sophia, Olivia, my parents, and I visited La Crosse on July 19-20th to see The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the way, we stopped in Cashton, Wisconsin, at the cheese factory as well as several Amish homes.

As we approached the cheese factory, we followed a horse and buggy. It went a bit ahead and pulled into the waiting shed to the right of the picture. In the shed, there were several buggies and horses waiting while the drivers were working or shopping.

Following a horse and buggy at such a slow pace gave us all time to enjoy the countryside and the various farms we were passing. We visited several farms where we purchased hand-sewn and crafted items, baked goods, and fresh produce. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Angel the Eagle

Angel the Eagle
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann
Angel is one of the eagles at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota. The birds here have been rescued and rehabilitated. The goal is to release them into the wild.

However, there are some that can't fly up or out a certain distance which means that they would be unable to get food in the wild. Without food, they wouldn't survive.

So, at the Eagle Center they are used for educational purposes and cared for (they have time inside and outside each day).

Some interesting facts we learned about eagles:

- An eagle can see a rabbit up to 3 miles away.
- All adult eagles have white heads and tails, which they get in their fourth or fifth years. The brown or speckled eagles are birds that have not yet reached adulthood.
- Eagles will sit on the edge of the nest and expel waste 5 feet away.
- Females have larger wingspans than males and weigh approximately 30% more.
- Eagles weigh between 8-14 pounds with a body length of 30” to 43”. (Just a quick side note: Olivia is 44" tall.)
- Most nests are about four feet wide and three feet’ or more deep.
- Eagles spend about 92% of their winter days just sitting

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Learning the ABCs through ATCs

H is for Horse ATC
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann
This is an artist trading card (ATC) that I made for the alphabet book that I gave to Olivia last year for her birthday. It is made from wool felt (front and back) and hand-embroidered. It is the standard size (2 1/2" x 3 1/2").

The alphabet book was made for Olivia as she was learning the alphabet. The thought was to give her a tangible way to learn the alphabet and words that begin with each letter while exposing her to a variety of artwork that she could touch. It’s important that children have art that they can touch and interact with…something that many museums don’t allow. ATCs give children this opportunity.

In some cases, she has to think what the connection is between the artwork and the letter (e.g., “U is for udder,” “I is for iris folding), while others are obvious, like this ATC ("H is for horse").

There are 52 cards total in the book (26 made by me; 26 made by other artists/craftspeople throughout the world). Within the book, there are a variety of methods used with the ATCs: collage; embroidery; iris folding; coloring and rubbings with Prismacolor color pencils; needlefelting; origami; weaving, and beadwork.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Being Involved in 4-H

This was Olivia's first year in Cloverbuds (for K-2nd grade students who aren't old enough yet to go into "regular" 4-H). Cloverbuds were able to enter four projects that they did into the county fair.

Olivia entered a pillow she made in her Little House in the Big Woods class, a set of painted matroyshka dolls with horses on each doll, a paint-by-numbers picture of a dog in a doghouse, and a sewn/stuffed Santa decoration.

As the older children had to do, Cloverbuds are interviewed by a judge about their knowledge about the project they did, the goals they had for the project, what they learned, what they would do differently, etc.

Olivia's projects are behind her - to the left and right. She's holding the ribbons awarded to Cloverbuds.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Christmas in July

Finally finished this advent calendar. I started the envelopes back in the winter around Christmas, but then didn't finish.

This past week, I finished attaching the pockets to the ribbon and doing little knots of fabric between the pockets (so the pockets won't slip).

Sophia and Olivia are wondering what I'm going to put in the pockets this Christmas.

When I was cleaning my office and organizing my fabric, I came across a bag of Christmas fabric. The girls and I took a look at the different items and chose what each of us wanted to make. So far:

- Olivia made a stuffed Santa toy (it's probably a good 18"-24" high),

- Sophia embellished and then quilted a wall-hanging from a pre-printed quilt piece, and

- I've made an apron, two potholders, an oven mitt, and wall-hanging.

This has been so much fun making these items plus the advent calendar. There's something to be said about crafting for Christmas in July. It's so much more relaxing and enjoyable than trying to craft when things are more hectic.

There are some Christmas items in my Etsy shop (Harvest Moon by Hand) that are available right now. If you purchase 2 items, I'm offering 15% off your order (excluding shipping).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Love and Support

I took my dad to Colorado to see his brother who is very sick. Dad and Uncle Richard spent some time sitting on the couch today.

My dad was comforting Uncle Richard and listening to him describe his pain (he has diverticulitus). This is above and beyond having Alzheimer's Disease (which both Uncle Richard AND my dad have).

Uncle Richard's hand is on the top, my dad's hand is on the bottom.

This is one my favorite pictures from the trip because it shows the true purpose of the trip: love and support.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

June Journal Quilt

I'm making a journal quilt each month this year. This one is 9" x 12". A color copy and description of the meaning of each component was sent to two partners on Swap-Bot.

Below are the major activities of the month and how they are symbolized in the quilt:

My Birthday: I turned 44 years old on June 29th. This is represented by the 4 pieces of purple fabric in the background (4 decades) and 4 flowers (4 years). There are 22 hand-stitched “V”s to represent the grass…or 44 stitches total. Since my birthdate is the 29th, I sewed 29 clear beads onto the purple fabric. My favorite colors are purple and green, so the background fabric is purple, and the grass, stems, and leaves are green.

Visit from a Previous Resident of the Home: On Monday, June 21st, an 82 year old gentleman who lived in this farm home came by for an unexpected visit.

Room by room, he went through the home recalling wonderful memories of a boy living with his aunt and uncle during the summer. (His parents were both working and when he was out of school during the summer, they didn’t want to leave him alone by himself. So, his aunt and uncle took care of him for many years during the Depression and early- to mid-1930s.)

There are 15 wavy lines on the quilt on the purple section. These represent the 15 years we’ve lived in this home.

A New Bike: As a child and teenager, I use to ride my bike quite a bit. I’m not sure what happened to that bike, but as an adult I have never had one. The last time I remember riding a bike was when I was in Beijing, China, adopting Sophia. There was a bike rental place near the hotel, and it looked like a fun thing to do. It was…and probably was one of the most comfortable and memorable bike rides I’ve ever had.

The wavy lines represent my hair blowing in the wind as we coast down hills while bike riding (the lines also represent the 15 years we lived in the house…as noted above).

Father’s Day: Father’s Day was June 20th. My dad has Alzheimer’s Disease, and it is definitely progressing each month. Last Father’s Day, he had just been diagnosed with middle-stage A.D. As a family, we didn’t know what this year would be like. I am incredibly thankful that my dad still knows who I am. In fact, a couple of days ago when I called him, he picked up the phone. “Hello?” “Hi, Dad. It’s Ann.” “ANN MARIE!” he exclaimed. “Dorothy, It’s Ann Marie!” I almost cried. Just to hear my name said with such enthusiasm. It’s a gift. A simple gift. But one that I am incredibly thankful for each time I hear it.

There are several elements that represent Father’s Day in this quilt: on each of the stems I’ve hand-written the following advice that our fathers gave us (I got my dad’s words from a book he wrote many years ago about his memories growing up as well as thoughts as an adult):
-“Be thrifty – save money and prepare for the future.” (This was advice my dad received from his dad.)
-“Do a job that you’ll enjoy, will be challenging, and give you the opportunity to make a difference.” (This was advice my dad gave me when I was offered my first “real” job out of college. The pay was very low, but I was given an opportunity to raise money for a multi-disciplinary arts organization that had a strong educational and performing focus.)

On the other two stems are favorite memories that we have of our fathers:
-“Times we’d relax, rest, and simply enjoy as a family time together. I remember times on a blanket in the yard at Springdale Farm.” (This was a memory my dad had of his family when he was a boy.)
-“Seeing how happy and moved he was when he watched the video ‘All I want is your love.’” (This was a video my sister and I made for him one Christmas while we were still in college. She and I drove to Illinois where he was born and lived during his childhood/teen years; videotaped relatives talking about memories they had as well as different homes that my dad lived in or visited. We then edited/created a video with the help of some of my friends at college. For years, all my dad would say when we asked him what he wanted for Christmas was, “All I want is your love.” So, that’s what we named the video. Needless to say, when we presented the gift and he watched it, it was a tremendously moving experience for everyone. My dad wrote about that gift many years ago and said, “…it was and will be a treasured gift. Despite college and a very busy schedule, you and Mary really did a super job of production, interviewing, and giving a very memorable gift.”)

Dad’s Eye Surgery: My dad had eye surgery in early June. I accompanied him to surgery since my aunt was being buried that day at Fort Snelling and my brother was taking her there.

During this time, he told me how proud he was of me and appreciated everything I have done for him. “Did you ever imagine that you would have to take care of your father like this?” he asked me. “No, but it has and will always be my pleasure to help you, Dad.”

Getting Ready for the County Fair: This month my daughters and I have spent a lot of time getting ready for the county fair. We enjoy making projects and entering them into the open class competition. We’ve been working quite a bit on handiwork projects this month – embroidery and sashiko (Japanese embroidery) mostly. After two months of working on doing the sashiko fabric (and over 13,600 stitches later), I’ve finally finished.

I represented the sashiko embroidery by the tiny straight stitches in the grass (the grass also represents my age as noted above).

Flowers are Blooming: The lupines, roses, yarrow, tiger-lilies, peonies, and bee balm are all in bloom now. There are purples, reds, pinks, whites, oranges, and magentas…so many rich, beautiful colors around the yard. The flowers on the quilt represent the bright colors and beauty that I see when I see the flowers in the front- and backyards.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dad's Pink Rose

Dad's Pink Rose
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann

This was one of my dad's favorite roses in his front yard. There was a storm in the afternoon, so there are drops of rain on the petals.

He has a variety of roses and annuals along the front walkway. The roses are my favorite...and I think they are his favorite also.

14 months ago my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. At that time, he seemed forgetful, was struggling with expressing himself (didn't remember some nouns), and had very little interest in things that he enjoyed doing his adult life - like gardening.

After being diagnosed and being put on two medicines (now he's on 3), there was an improvement in his mood and he had a renewed interest in things like caring for his roses.

Although he still struggles on a daily basis, and the disease is robbing him of his abilities, simple things - like the beauty of a rose - are things that lift his (and my) spirit.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sophia in 4th of July Parade

Sophia and Olivia rode horses in a parade about an hour south of here. This was the first time they rode in a parade. Needless to say, this will be something both girls remember for years.

There were a lot of volunteers for the therapeutic horseback riding program she and Olivia are involved with this year. The horses were decorated...and were the riders to match their horses.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Baby Birds with Open Mouths

This is a nest that's under the awning of the hobby shed. There are 5 baby birds in the nest. It's a 90+ degree day, so they are pretty hot under there. They are hoping for some food.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hand Stitching Sashiko Fabric

I'm finishing the last section of applique. I'm sewing (by hand) the sashiko fabric I did onto a white piece of fabric. This will be the quilt top.

There are over 13,600 hand-stitches in the quilt (not including the ones I'm blanket-stitching now). This has been one of the most labor-intensive - yet calming and meditative - projects I've ever worked on.

Once I'm done blanket-stitching the pieces to the quilt top, I'm giving it to a professional quilter who will use her long-arm sewing machine to do some custom quilting on it as well as add the binding around the edges (I'll need to finish the binding by hand-sewing onto the back of the quilt).

My deadline for finishing the quilt: July 31st. Right around the corner.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lemonade Cake

Lemonade Cake
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann
This is a new recipe I made for Sophia's 9 1/1 year old birthday. It's a lemonade cake. The wild blackberries are growing throughout the farm. Have been eating them fresh, made 8 pints of jam, and a blackberry cobbler.

One night we ate the lemonade cake with some fresh wild blackberries that are growing here. Another day, Sophia ate a slice of cake for lunch with a few crackers, a handful of wild blackberries, and some cucumber slices (from the first cucumber that we harvested from the garden). It was a light lunch, but filling.

This is the recipe for the cake:

Lemonade Cake
(Bundt Cake Bliss)

Cake Ingredients:
1 small box lemon-flavored gelatin
¾ cup hot water
1 box (18 ounces) lemon cake mix
4 eggs
½ cup oil

Frosting Ingredients:
1 (6 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
½ cup sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan using butter and flour and set aside. Combine gelatin mix with water and set aside. Thoroughly combine cake mix, eggs, and oil. Add the gelatin mixture and beat for 3 minutes. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the pan.

Combine the lemonade concentrate with the sugar. After the cake has cooled 15 minutes, gently loosen it from the sides of the pan. Pour 2/3 of the lemonade mixture over the cake in the pan, allowing it to run down the sides. Wait 10 minutes and invert the cake onto a serving platter. Pour the remaining lemonade mixture over the top of the cake.


Note: I made the mistake of adding 6 ounces of water to the cake mix since I thought all the ingredients were part of the cake (the original recipe didn’t have the ingredients divided into cake and frosting sections; and I didn’t read the recipe thoroughly to see that the lemonade concentrate and sugar were not part of the cake itself).

I used water because I didn’t have concentrate on hand, but needed to make a cake for Sophia’s 9 ½ year old birthday. Despite the extra water, the cake turned out quite well – it was moist, flavorful, and delicious (even without the frosting). It tastes equally good warm and cold.