Thursday, May 31, 2012

12 in 12: May Update

During 2012, Sophia, Olivia, and I are doing a special challenge that we've named 12 in 12. We are doing 12 different activities that help people in need, animals, or the environment. 

This is how we did during May: 

- Take 1 bag of food to the food shelf. We put a bag of food in Elim Lutheran Church's food pantry collection box. The food shelf supports anyone in need in two local communities.

Bag of food we donated to the food shelf.

- Volunteer 1 hour at a community organization. Sophia volunteered by being a part of Special Music Sunday at church. She performed two pieces as part of an ensemble. (See picture at the end of this update.)

This involved two hours of being at the two services, a half hour practice with the ensemble four days before the services as well as a half-hour warm-up before the first service. She also practiced countless hours at home so she knew the pieces well enough to perform them from memory.

We also volunteered for the African Library Project. Through them, we are collecting books to establish a library in Lesotho, Africa. More about the project is written below. There were three donors this month to the book drive, so we drove to pick up the books.

The girls with some of the books they collected
for the library in Lesotho, Africa.

Once we had them at home, we sorted through them and then placed them in bins. (We need to wait to ship the books until we have collected 1,000 of them.)

- Donate 1 bag of clothing to a second-hand shop. We donated two bags of clothing to Recycled Wardrobes in Lindstrom. They offer a selection of women's, children's, and men's gently-used clothing; as well as housewares, home decor, and collectable items.

We arrived during a thunderstorm.
Needless to say, we opted to take a picture
from the car instead of outside.

Recycled Wardrobe's goal is to keep clothes out of the garbage; and give low and no cost resources to others. They are a collection site also for cell phones for women escaping from domestic violence situations as well as eyeglasses for the Lions Club.

- Donate 1 bag of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop. We donated 5 bags of craft supplies and household goods to Family Pathways in Forest Lake.

Sophia and Olivia outside Family Pathways
with items to donate.

For many years, we have donated items to Family Pathways because the profits from what they sell in the thrift shop support programs that benefit the community such as:

• non-medical senior services, including advocacy, companionship, and respite care, to seniors 60+ years old so they may continue to live independently in their own homes.

• food to adults and children in crisis through their food shelves and community advocacy program.

• youth service programs that benefit children, teens, and their families.

- Donate 12 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books. We donated 15 books from ones that we have read to the African Library Project. Sophia, Olivia, and I are collecting 1,000 books so a library in Lesotho, Africa can be established at an elementary school. 

More about the project and how to support the book drive (either by donating books or money to help pay for shipping and/or purchasing books to reach the goal) is HERE.

Olivia and Sophia holding 15 books that we are donating
to the African Library Project.
We will be sending them to Lesotho, Africa, so
a children's library can be established there.

- Donate $12 to an organization that helps individuals, animals, or the environment. Sophia and Olivia chose Northwoods Humane Society again this month. We are hoping that dogs and cats (and puppies and kittens) find good homes soon.

Lucy is looking for a home.
She was so eager to be pet; and pushed herself
right up next to the fence.
She'll make a wonderful companion to
a person or family who loves dogs.

- Write 1 letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives. I wrote a letter to my friend, Yoshiko, who lives in Japan. I've known Yoshiko since I was in high school. We have written letters (originally on thin, "onion" paper to save money) and now alternate between writing letters (via snail mail) and emails.

We have enjoyed hearing about one another's experiences in high school, college, first jobs, and careers - and the similarities and differences between life in Japan and the U.S.

We have celebrated birthdays, holidays, and special milestones in one another's lives. And, we also have been there for challenging times - our own health issues as well as deaths of our fathers (hers many years ago, and mine this year).

Throughout the years, she has been able to visit the U.S. many times - including three times to Minnesota. The last time she was able to spend a couple of weeks at the farm; and Sophia and Olivia were able to learn more about Japan, and get to know Yoshiko. We also were able to show Yoshiko some things she had not seen on previous trips to Minnesota.

Her friendship, support, and encouragement throughout the years has been invaluable. Perhaps, most touching, was a handmade card she made after my father died. She went through her photos and created a color collage of images of my dad, her, and our family from each of her visits to Minnesota.

Her beautiful words and thoughts about my dad, and what he meant to her, were touching. Between her written words and the collage of images from times when my dad was healthy and not affected by Alzheimer's Disease, I felt incredibly fortunate to have someone as caring and compassionate as Yoshiko in my life.

- Donate 1 bag of pop cans to places that collect them to raise funds. For the past four months, we donated cans to Northwoods since the girls are committed to helping animals find permanent, loving homes.

This month, we chose to donate cans to the local Lions club. The Scandia-Marine Lions club is part of the world's largest and most effective service club organization. According to the Lions website, the members of the organizations "do whatever is needed to help their local communities.

Everywhere [they] work, [they] make friends. With children who need eyeglasses, with seniors who don’t have enough to eat, and with people [they] may never meet."

Sophia and Olivia putting cans in the can collector.

The cans collected by the Lions are used to support projects that benefit the local community (e.g., scholarships, youth recreation programs).

In addition to local projects, perhaps the most well-known projected that the Lions do is related to vision. They conduct vision screenings, equip hospitals and clinics, distribute medicine, and raise awareness of eye disease. Their goal is to provide vision for all.

There are boxes that people can donate their used eye glasses to the Lions. Throughout the years, we have donated many pairs of glasses - both youth and adult - to this project.

- Donate 1 bag of Purina Kitten Chow (dry) to Northwoods Humane Society. We brought a bag of Kitten Chow to NHS, and this time we saw lots of kittens who would benefit from the donation. In fact, there were eight kittens available for adoption.

Two of the kittens looked exactly like Maggie and Lucy. (These are two of the cats who showed up at the farm one day as 3-4 week old kittens. The mother cat was no where to be found; and we ended up feeding them milk and soft food until they were able to eat hard food. Eventually, they trusted us enough to bring them indoors and make them house cats versus barn cats.)

These kittens look just like "Boo" when she was at this age.
They were so playful, and
both the girls enjoyed playing with them.

We were happy that many of the cats that were available for adoption last month had been adopted. Milo, a gentle and affectionate cat who had been there for about two months, finally was adopted!

It was fun to play with this cat.
He enjoyed trying to catch the wristband of the camera,
standing on his hind paws, and getting attention.

- Spend 1 hour outdoors doing projects that help wildlife. We cut small pieces of wool yarn and placed them on the top of a birdhouse as well as different places in the backyard that the wrens and other birds were visiting this month as they built their nests.

Olivia holding one of the bird houses that contains
seven wren eggs.

On May 22nd, we enjoyed watching a wren fly from her nest to the yarn pile and select different pieces that she wanted. Sophia and Olivia would put more pieces of yarn out for the wren while I cut the yarn. 

Butterflies at the hummingbird feeder.
Within five minutes of filling the feeder,
the butterflies were drinking from it.

We also are filling the hummingbird feeder since the hummingbirds have returned this month. Every day - since about May 20th - the hummingbirds have been drinking from the feeder.

Not a great picture....but it shows one of the
hummingbirds that visits the feeder.

Since there are more insects and worms available now, visits to the bird feeders have decreased. However, we still keep them filled so that the birds that like seeds have easy access to food.

Olivia filling one of the bird feeders that's 
by the side of the house.

We fill and change the water in the birdbath every couple of days. Many varieties of birds enjoy drinking from and taking baths in the birdbath each day. The cardinals seem to be the ones who like taking baths the most, while the finches enjoy drinking the water.

Gretel watching Olivia fill one of the feeders
that is in the backyard.

- Make and randomly drop off 1 toy for a child to find as part of The Toy Society. This month I made a stuffed elephant. The pattern is from a Japanese sewing/craft book. It is made from wool felt and stuffed with wool from sheep I use to raise.

Hand-embroidered toy for someone to find.

We placed the elephant, along with a label that said it was free, in the front legs of a coyote that was displayed in the visitor center at William O'Brien State Park. Sophia, Olivia, and I attended a program about owls; and afterwards enjoyed walking around the center and learning more about wildlife that lives in Minnesota.

The toy waiting to be discovered.

- Share 1 time the gift of music (piano and/or harp) or singing with others. Both the girls participated in a piano recital through the homeschool co-op on May 6.

Olivia playing "My Favorite Pets" at the recital.

They have a break from piano recitals until December. However, they'll select a piece to play for the winter recital this fall.

Sophia playing a sonatina at the piano recital on May 6th.

Sophia and Olivia sang two songs at each of the Mother's Day services at church. In addition, when family members were invited to come up to sing one of the songs, I joined the girls and sang as well.

Sophia and Olivia singing with the children's choir
on Mother's Day.

On May 20, Sophia performed "Canon in D" with her harp teacher, two violinists, and an organists; and "Tis a Gift to be Simple" with her harp teacher and an organist at both church services.

Sophia playing the harp at church.

3 in 30 June Update #1

Last Friday, I wrapped up my May goals for the 3 in 30 challenge, and set new ones for June. So, the ones listed below - although for June - also had some activities that needed to be done during May.

This week, I focused on the third goal (doing our 12 in 12 project) because Sophia, Olivia, and I still had some activities for May that we needed to complete before starting on our June activities for 12 in 12.

I also have been working on the backyard butterfly garden and the little garden by the patio (weeding as well as planting some perennials and annuals); and trimming trees by the hobby shed. That seems to have taken a lot more time than I anticipated, so my first and second goals will have to wait another week. 

Here's what I did during the past week:

1. Paint the accent areas dark green (behind the bed and over the window on the west side of the room). I did not work on this project.
2. Clean the floor in my office. I vacuumed the floor, but didn't go through any of the bags or bins.

3. Do the 12 in 12 project throughout the month. Sophia, Olivia, and I have been doing a special project we named 12 in 12 in which we do 12 projects per month that benefit people in need, animals, or the environment.

During the past week, we wrapped up the May 12 in 12 activities with:
- donating a bag of food to the food shelf;
- making a hand-embroidered toy and then randomly placing it in a public place for it to be found;
- spending time outside filling bird feeders (with seed and hummingbird food), filling the birdbath, and checking on the progress of a couple bird nests;
- donating two bags of clothes to a thrift shop; and
- donating five bags of non-clothing items (mostly craft supplies) to another thrift shop.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Butterfly Chain Stitch - Week 21

This week for Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST), the featured stitch is the butterfly chain stitch.

To do the stitch, I did three vertical stitches. These can be done in the same length or varying lengths. In the picture above, the red group of stitches are in a 5-7-5 pattern while the blue stitches are in a 7-5-7 pattern.

Around the middle of the stitch, I did twisted chain stitch in the other color. So, with either pattern noted above, that would be on the fourth (or middle) row.

I chose red and blue for the embroidery floss and white Aida cloth for the fabric because it was Memorial Day weekend during this time period.

As with the other weeks, I combined the samplers with a journal entry, a list of things for which I'm grateful, and images of things I saw or did:

- Red and white check background - Sophia, Olivia, and I went to a picnic at Stone House Museum on Memorial Day. We also grilled a Caribbean-theme meal and enjoyed eating homemade ice cream outdoors on Sunday.

- Pot of lavender - In the backyard, there are three different types of flowers that are purple that are blooming right now. The butterflies are visiting them and drinking nectar.

- Arrowhead arrow - The girls and I went to William O'Brien State Park and learned about Ojibwe dream catchers and the symbolism of each component. We learned to make one, and each of us took one home.

- Hummingbird - Not only is the hummingbird visiting the feeder multiple times each day, but lots of butterflies. Also saw something that looked like a hummingbird, but wasn't. It is a white-lined sphnix moth. Found a video that shows how the moth looks and flies. It is also called the hummingbird moth or hawk moth.

- Trio of owls - Sophia, Olivia, and I went to William O'Brien State Park on Saturday and learned about owls, and then dissected an owl pellet. It was an interesting program.

- Pond image of a frog, irises, and dragonfly - The pond in the pasture is very high this year thanks to many thunderstorms recently. The irises are in full bloom - more than I've ever seen. The frogs still are singing which is unusual. Usually they sing in April and then stop. It's been wonderful hearing them for such a long period of time. The dragonflies have returned, and are flying about the farm.

10 Things to Try to Cook While Camping

In June and September, Sophia, Olivia, and I are going camping. We'll be headed to two state parks - one in southwestern Minnesota and the other where the Missippi River begins in north-central Minnesota.

The last time that we went camping, the girls enjoyed cooking over an open fire. This time, I wanted them to learn some different things to cook for all the meals - including breakfast.

So, I have found ten things to try while camping: 

1. Campfire Cones - I already told the girls about this one. Needless to say, they are thrilled. I think they like the fact that they can create their own cones with ingredients that they want.

2. Bannock - This is a bread that could be made at any meal.


2-3 cups flour
1-2  tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2-3 tablespoons oil, butter, or lard
2/3 cup warm water


Put everything but the water in a bowl and mix with your fingers until crumbly. Slowly add water and mix until dough feels soft. It may seem that you don't have enough water, but keep working the dough until it holds together. Don't add more water!

Take a small handful and wrap around the end of a green stick, like a marshmallow roast. Knead it so it stays together. Cook over coals for about 10-12 minutes, rotating to cook evenly. Eat as is, or add a bit of jam or honey.

3. Steamed Carrots - Both the girls like carrots, so this would be a good vegetable to have for dinner one night.

4. Cheese and Cracker Bread - Something simple for lunch or before dinner while we are waiting for it to cook. From the picture below, it looks like the cheese is melted so it spreads easily on the bread.

5. Campfire Eggs - I'm hoping for eggs without ashes in them. However, they can always be picked out, I guess. This will be nice if it works - no need to carry a heavy fry pan to make eggs in.


1 orange
2 eggs
Salt and pepper


Cut the orange in half and eat the fruit, leaving two orange peel “bowls.” Crack one egg into each half of the orange and salt and pepper to taste. Carefully place the “bowls” on the edge of the campfire and cook for about 5 minutes, rotating the oranges with sticks as needed. Then eat your eggs right from the orange!

6. Hobo Hashbrowns - These potatoes would be made for breakfast.


1 potato
1/8 cup chopped onion
1 sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper


Chop up potato and onion and place in center of tinfoil. Salt and pepper to taste and add rosemary. Wrap contents tightly in tinfoil and place on hot coals. Let cook for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes have softened. Add a little ketchup, if desired.

7. Campurritos - We've made breakfast burritos and sandwiches at home, but never camping.


16 eggs
1 pound sausage (optional)
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon olive oil
6 medium potatoes, chopped
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
4 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
8 or 9 tortilla shells (16-18 for smaller campurritos)
Salt and pepper to taste
Tin foil for wrapping
Optional: salsa and/or hot sauce


Chop potatoes and boil until soft. Chop green onions and set aside. Crack 16 eggs and cook over low heat until you have soft, scrambled eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute yellow onions and garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add sausage to onion mixture and cook all the way through.

In large bowl combine sausage mixture, scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese, green onions, parsley, and salt and pepper. Divide ingredients into 8 or 9 tortilla shells. Roll and wrap in tin foil - ready to throw on the fire. Heat for about 20 minutes.

8. Summer Sausage Hobo Packets - I remember making a hamburger and vegetable version of these packets when I went camping with my family as a child. We may modify the following recipe based on what the girls and I like to eat.

1 pound summer sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
1 medium green pepper, cut into strips
1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into strips
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 small yellow summer squash, sliced
1 pound chicken tenderloins, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup butter, cut into eight cubes
1/4 cup prepared Italian salad dressing

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Gently stir in the chicken and tomatoes. Divide mixture among eight double thicknesses of heavy-duty foil (about 12 in. square). Top each with a butter cube.

Fold foil around mixture and seal tightly. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender. Carefully open foil to allow steam to escape; drizzle with dressing. Yield: 8 servings.

9. S'mores Pops - These seem like an easy alternative to traditional s'mores.

S'mores Pops Recipe


3 chocolate bars, melted
12 large marshmallows, toasted over a campfire
1/4 cup crushed Golden Grahams® cereal
12 paper lollipop sticks or round wooden sticks with one pointed end


In small pan, melt chocolate until it can be stirred smooth. Dip each toasted marshmallow halfway into melted chocolate. Insert stick into chocolate side of marshmallow; sprinkle with crushed cereal. Place on plate; let stand at room temperature until chocolate hardens, about 1 hour. (OR...skip the lollipop sticks and eat right away while the marshmallow and chocolate are still warm.)

10. Grilled Pizza - I have wanted to make homemade, wood-fired pizza for a long time. Camping is an excuse to do that. 


Frozen pizza dough, defrosted
Spaghetti sauce
Grated mozzarella cheese
Toppings (such as chopped peppers, onions, black olives, or pepperoni)

Set the grill rack about 5 inches above the coals, which should be white-hot when you start cooking. For each pizza, take a fist-size piece of dough and roll it out thinly. Prick the crust with a fork before placing it on the rack.

Grill the crust on both sides until lightly browned (about 3 to 7 minutes per side). Flip the crust once more and spoon on sauce, cheese and the toppings of choice. Grill another few minutes to heat the toppings.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Friday, May 25, 2012

P52 Photo Challenge - Favorites - Week 21

For this week's P52 challenge, the theme is "favorites." One of my favorite and enjoyable things to do to relax is take nature walks.

Living in the country on a small hobby farm, nature is all around me. Simply going down the road has given me some wonderful memories of wildlife; sunsets and sunrises; and the changing seasons.

Sometimes going on the nature trails at a state park is a welcome break. Last night, for example, Sophia, Olivia, and I went on a birding hike led by a naturalist at William O'Brien State Park.

Earlier in the week, we went with the girls' 4-H club to tour Panola Valley Gardens. The gardens were beautiful; and included a variety of perennials and annuals. There were water features in the gardens as well as ponds with fountains.
Looking through the top of a gazebo at
Panola Valley Gardens.

Sculptures and gazebos enhanced the gardens. This combination of human-created art and natural beauty always is inspiring to me.

Project 52 - p52 weekly photo challenge with Kent Weakley

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Embroidery Journal Project - May

For this month's embroidery journal project, I struggled to think of something that would reflect the month. No patterns seemed to capture the main highlight of the month: Mother's Day.

The other major holiday this month is Memorial Day, but that one reminds me too much of Fort Snelling National Cemetery - where my father (who was a veteran) was buried in January of this year.

Sophia, Olivia, and I will be taking my mom there over Memorial Day weekend. I may change my mind and incorporate a small symbol somewhere on the quilt square, but at this point I did not include one. My dad's death still is a difficult memory.

So, the flowers represent something that I enjoy seeing. In fact, this year on Mother's Day there are flowers already blooming which is very unusual for this time of year. The beautiful purple butterfly weed dominates the garden in the backyard, and is attracting monarchs and other butterflies each day.

A couple bushes by the house have deep pink flowers set against dark green leaves.

The wild irises in the west pasture just started to bloom the last week of May. The horses don't touch them, so they stand out amongst the neatly trimmed grass the horses have eaten.

The eagle seems oddly out of place with a basket of flowers. It needs a bit of explanation: this month I have seen eagles a number of times. One of the most interesting times was seeing an eagle that has made its home along 35W heading towards Minneapolis. For years, two eagles nest there and spend the spring, summer, and fall around the tree.

Whenever my dad and mom would come to visit me at the farm, my dad would mention if he saw the eagle or not. Ever since he pointed out the eagle nest, I look for it (and its family). The girls (especially Olivia) are interested in seeing if the eagle (or eagles) are there as well.

On May 19th, the day I moved my mom from the transitional care unit to the assisted living apartment, I looked out my car window. Not only was the eagle there...but it was in flight. It was carrying a huge branch back to its nest.

I have never seen the eagle that lives there flying nor have I seen it carrying anything. It was one of those times I wish I could have pulled over on the side of the road and watched it.

The other symbol in this month's embroidered quilt square is in one of the flowers. It's the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist church.

According to the UUA, "The flaming chalice combines two archetypes—a drinking vessel and a flame—and as a religious symbol has different meanings to different beholders.

"Chalices, cups, and flagons can be found worldwide on ancient manuscripts and altars. The chalice used by Jesus at his last Passover seder became the Holy Grail sought by the knights of Wales and England.

"More recently, feminist writer Riane Eisler has used the chalice as a symbol of the 'partnership way' of being in community. Sharing, generosity, sustenance, and love are some of the meanings symbolized by a chalice.

"As a sacrificial fire, flame has been a central symbol for the world's oldest scriptures, the Vedic hymns of India. Today, lights shine on Christmas and Hanukkah, eternal flames stand watch at monuments and tombs, and candles flicker in cathedrals, temples, mosques, and meeting houses. A flame can symbolize witness, sacrifice, testing, courage, and illumination.

"The chalice and the flame were brought together as a Unitarian symbol by an Austrian artist, Hans Deutsch, in 1941. Living in Paris during the 1930s, Deutsch drew critical cartoons of Adolf Hitler. When the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940, he abandoned all he had and fled to the South of France, then to Spain, and finally, with an altered passport, into Portugal.

"There, he met the Reverend Charles Joy, executive director of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC). The Service Committee was new, founded in Boston to assist Eastern Europeans, among them Unitarians as well as Jews, who needed to escape Nazi persecution. From his Lisbon headquarters, Joy oversaw a secret network of couriers and agents.

"Deutsch was most impressed and soon was working for the USC. He later wrote to Joy:

There is something that urges me to tell you... how much I admire your utter self denial [and] readiness to serve, to sacrifice all, your time, your health, your well being, to help, help, help.

"Thus, Hans Deutsch made his lasting contribution to the USC and, as it turned out, to Unitarian Universalism. With pencil and ink he drew a chalice with a flame. It was, Joy wrote his board in Boston,

...a chalice with a flame, the kind of chalice which the Greeks and Romans put on their altars. The holy oil burning in it is a symbol of helpfulness and sacrifice....

"The story of Hans Deutsch reminds us that the symbol of a flaming chalice stood in the beginning for a life of service. When Deutsch designed the flaming chalice, he had never seen a Unitarian or Universalist church or heard a sermon. What he had seen was faith in action—people who were willing to risk all for others in a time of urgent need."

Learning about the meaning behind the flaming chalice was new to me. It's part of a program - a spiritual journey - called Wellspring that I'll be embarking on in September through the UU church. (I went to an introductory meeting in May.)

One of the goals is to learn more about your faith...your beliefs...and what defines you as a person. I thought I'd get an early start this month; and begin reading and learning more about what I value and what motivates me to try to make a difference in this world.

3 in 30 May Goals Update - #4 + Goals for June

My goals for 3 in 30 and the progress I made on them are below.

1. Finish the projects I did not complete during the past four months.

- Clean half my office - This project is done during the third week of May.

- Finish cleaning the blue room - This project was done during the third week of May.

- Finish "Shaking Off the Bonds of Stuff...for Lent" - I did not do anything with this project.

- Put trimmed branches from trees in backyard in the firepit - This was done during the first week of May.

- Paint the accent areas dark green (behind the bed and over the window on the west side of the room) and the walls white - I did not do anything towards meeting this goal during the past week.

2. Do the Biology of Behavior program. I've written about this in previous posts, so I won't go into detail here. Sophia, Olivia, and I continued to use acidophilus and grapefruit seed extract three times a day (before each meal). There have been a couple days where we didn't take a dosage at one of the meals. We will do this for five more weeks. The girls also are taking two multi-vitamins a day (one at breakfast and one at dinner).

This past week we added taking one tablespoon of Mineral Rich each day. (Mineral Rich is a blend of essential minerals and over 70 trace minerals. It supports the health of bones, muscles, teeth, hair, skin, and nails; and contains vitamins B12 and Biotin.) Its flavor is cherry. The girls like or are okay with the taste. It's not my favorite flavor, but it's tolerable.

Sophia and I also added taking a B-Complex vitamin. Olivia was unable to take the vitamin in pill form, so I'm going to see if I can find an alternative form that will be easier for her to take. Out of all the pills we take, the B-Complex, by far, is the worst tasting one. (The exception to that is the grapefruit seed extract in liquid form which Olivia takes in a bit of water. She has to follow it with a teaspoon of peanut butter.)

We also have been watching our sugar and carbohydrate intake. This continues to be the weakest area of the plan since there aren't specific meal plans or ideas to follow - just the encouragement to watch the consumption of these items.

3. Do a nice Mother's Day meal. This was worked on and completed during the first and second weeks of May.


As I look at the list, not everything was completed. However, what I did complete I am very pleased with (e.g., cleaning half my office, cleaning the blue room, putting trimmed branches from the trees in the backyard in the firepit, completing four weeks of the Biology of Behavior plan, and having a nice Mother's Day meal).

The first two projects were very time-consuming; and the Biology of Behavior a definite healthy lifestyle change.


My goals for June:

1. Paint the accent areas dark green (behind the bed and over the window on the west side of the room). This has been a project I've wanted to do since January. I don't want it to roll into the second half of the must be completed by June 30th.

2. Clean the floor in my office. There are bags of items and some bins that I would like to put away in the closets to free up some space. I'm sure there will be items that will donated or recycled. 

3. Do the 12 in 12 project throughout the month. Sophia, Olivia, and I have been doing a special project we named 12 in 12 in which we do 12 projects per month that benefit people in need, animals, or the environment. During January-April, we were able to do everything within the first three weeks.

During May, it's been a challenge to finish (partly due to health issues with my mom; and packing and moving her from the transitional care unit to assisted living apartments at the care center). If I make 12 in 12 one of my 3 in 30 goals, then I can focus on this rather than adding another project and feeling like I can't do everything that I want to get done.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Bullion Knot - Week 20

This week for Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST), the featured stitch is the bullion knot. I put off learning this stitch as much as I could...until the new one for the 21st week was introduced today.

It reminded me of the French knot which I find challenging. At least with that one, my final product looked half decent. With the bullion knot...well...that's another story.

Words such as "embarrassment," "amateurish," and "laughable" come to mind when I look at what the stitching looks like. It is what it is...and for some reason it just wasn't one of the stitches I found easy to do.

Suffice it to say that the two small embroidery samples are included with the journal entry about what has happened over the past nine days; a list of five things I'm grateful for (one of which was seeing an eagle carry a huge branch to its nest); and images of things I saw during this time period (the first hummingbird of the season, dragonflies, and flowers).

What I didn't find was an image of a monarch I could include in the collage. I wish I did...there have been so many of these beautiful orange and black butterflies flying around the backyard. It's been a joy to see them each day.

Olivia and I went on a walk through the pasture this evening; and she and I found four monarch eggs on milkweed leaves. She brought them indoors to raise, as she and Sophia have done in the past.

Between the monarchs, the many migrating birds that have returned, and the little wren who kept coming back for little pieces of wool yarn that I had cut and the girls put out - it was a day filled with lots of wonderful natural things.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

10 Things to Do this Summer

With summer beginning next month, it's time to think ahead about what activities we'll be doing for the next three months. Some of the things that will be happening on regular basis or take more time are:

1. Equine Vaulting - Sophia and Olivia started learning this sport in early May, and both thoroughly enjoy it. (Equine vaulting combines gymnastics and dance on a moving horse. There's a national organization that has some interesting videos and links.)

2. Homeschooling - I homeschool Sophia and Olivia throughout the year, though the summer is a bit more relaxed than the "traditional" school year of September-May. There are some subjects and activities that I want them to complete before officially beginning fourth and sixth grade this fall (e.g., third and fifth grade math).

We also tend to do more field trips and hands-on learning. For example, visiting the Raptor Center is one place that we plan to visit.

3. Camping - The girls have asked to go camping in a camper cabin again this summer. There are many cabins throughout the state, and I'd like to pick an area that they (and I) have not been to in the past - like the southwestern part of Minnesota. There's Lake Shetek State Park which looks like it would be an interesting place to visit.

Some of the pelicans at Lake Shetek
in southwestern Minnesota.

Part of camping will be cooking over a fire which they enjoyed last time I took them camping. This time...there's a surprise dessert: campfire cones. With absolutely no nutritional value or health-redeeming quality...they'll be thrilled.

4. Trying New Recipes with Fresh Produce - With a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit available from farmers' markets and pick-your-own berry patches, we will be trying new recipes each week. Having the girls pick the produce and help make a meal, makes them more invested in trying new food.

5. Seeing Where the Mississippi River Begins - When I was a child, my parents took me to walk across the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park. This is such a positive memory I have, that I would like Sophia and Olivia to experience the same thing.

The Mississippi River Begins
The place where the Mississippi River begins.

6. Doing the I Can! Programs through the DNR - There are I Can! Programs that teach children and adults how to rock climb, canoe, fish, and do other outdoor activities. There also is a calendar of activities that are held at the different state parks throughout the state. It would be good to aim for at least four activities per month.

7. Participating in 2 County Fairs (4-H and Open Class) - As the girls have done for several years now, they will do and then show 4-H projects at one county fair; and then do other projects and show those through the open class division at another county fair. Both Sophia and Olivia enjoy competing, and earning ribbons and money for the projects they do.

8. Doing as Many of the Items on the 50 Things to Do  Before You're 12 List - The list includes 50 fun outdoor activities that every child should do before s/he turns 12.

Many of the things on the list, the girls have already done. However, there are still quite a few ideas on the list that will be done this summer - like geocaching and fossil hunting - that they haven't yet done.

9. Making a Photography Alphabet Memory Book  - Have each of the girls take a picture on their digital cameras of something they saw or did that begins with a different letter of the alphabet. For example, letter d (Dairy Queen), letter s (sculpture park), or letter m (miniature golfing). At the end of the summer, print the pictures and have the girls create an alphabet memory book.

10. Do Some of the Things Sophia and Olivia Suggest - When asked what they wanted to do this summer, they came up with these ideas: horseback riding; playing lots of board games; swimming (pool and lake); rock climbing; seeing elk and caribou; going to the library; going to the science museum; seeing some movies; going to Canada; seeing Mt. Rushmore;  and going to the Waterpark of America.

Some of these things are feasible (e.g., swimming, playing board games, going to the science museum), while others will have to wait (e.g., seeing Mt. Rushmore). It would be nice to take a fall trip to see Mt. Rushmore.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Little Wonders' Days

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal - May Update

In my life this week…

Sophia, Olivia, and I enjoyed seeing the sheep, alpacas, llamas, and goats at the annual Sheep and Llama festival on the 12th.

One of many alpaca we enjoyed seeing.

If pasture space and funds were unlimited, the girls (and I) would have been quite content bringing home several alpacas and a flock of babydoll sheep.

In our homeschool this week…

We finished reading Dobry and started reading Miss Hickory. Both are Newbery Medal Award Winner books. The former was set in Bulgaria; and after reading the book we feel like we know a bit more about the country.

The latter book is one that is engaging and imaginative; and has many animals in it.  Needless to say, Olivia and Sophia are enjoying this book much more than Dobry.

We studied two character qualities this week from the Character First  curriculum: flexibility and deference. Hummingbirds and timber wolves were the animals that tied into these traits; and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment and Charles Young were the people who illustrated the traits.

The girls completed the school year through the homeschool co-op on Monday. Their weekly classes in piano now will switch to bi-weekly in June for the summer. Sophia's classes in sewing and cooking end. She will continue cooking next year and start taking ceramics again since she has enjoyed that class in the past.

Olivia's classes in American Sign Language and music fundamentals also end. She will be taking new classes next year: art fundamentals and ceramics.

Sophia's harp lessons ended on Tuesday and she will switch to bi-weekly lessons starting in June as well.

We continued to work on core subjects as well (e.g., math, reading, geography, nature, science, history, penmanship, art).

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

In looking for quotes about mothers and daughters for a post about Mother's Day, I came across something called "Mother Culture" - basically the simple steps that Charlotte Mason described for weary mothers to "refill" themselves.

Charlotte Mason, whose philosophy and methods I try to incorporate into homeschooling, believed that parents are meant to be inspirers. To do so, we must take time to do the things we hope our children will do in their own lives in years to come.

Billy Graham said, "Mothers should cultivate their souls, that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children." We must grow, if we want to do our best for our children. Both our future happiness and usefulness depends on our growth. Therefore, taking time for oneself - a.k.a. Mother Culture - is vital.

I am inspired by…

Artists and crafters who participate in Take a Stitch Tuesday on Pintangle as well as those who post images on Flickr.  Each week I am learning a new embroidery stitch, and am amazed by the creativity of others.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Saturday - I am helping my mom move from the Transitional Care Unit to an assisted living apartment.

Sunday - Sophia is performing on the harp twice at church. At each service she is playing two pieces. Canon in D she is performing with her harp teacher, two violinists, and the organist. For 'Tis a Gift to be Simple, she is performing with her harp teacher and the organist.

Wednesday - We are participating in a curriculum fair sponsored by the homeschool co-op.

Thursday and Friday - Olivia receives speech therapy and help with reading through the local elementary school.

My favorite thing this week was…

Definitely spending time with Olivia and Sophia at the Sheep and Llama Festival.

A little flock of babydoll sheep.

What’s working/not working for us…

What has been challenging is caregiving for my mom who lives 50 miles away while trying to homeschool. Although she is receiving 24/7 care in the Transitional Care Unit at a nursing home, there still is about 1-6 hours each day spent dealing with health-related issues; making phone calls or writing emails on her behalf; and preparing for more independent living.

Her diabetes is still not under control - especially her evening readings which have been extraordinarily high. This factor is preventing her from returning home since health care costs for 12 hours of care per day would run about $11,700 per month.  Assisted living - although not cheap - is significantly less than 12 hours of home care.

Between my mom's health issues and my dad's health issues and death this fall/winter, it has affected what I wanted to accomplish this year in terms of homeschooling. Some of the schoolwork I want to wrap up this month or during the early summer. Other things just will have to be rolled over to next year.

Things I’m working on…

On a personal level, I am doing Take a Stitch Tuesday each week. Learning a new embroidery stitch weekly and then incorporating it into a journal with a written entry, gratitude list, and collage items has been a good way to express my creativity as well as deal with grief issues related to my dad's death.

I also am reading one book per month related to animals. This has introduced me to books that I normally would not have read this year. Reviews are posted under "Heartwarming Animal Stories Reading Challenge." (See the link on the right hand side of this post under the topics that I have written about.)

I’m reading…

I just finished It's a Meaningful Life - It Just Takes Practice  by Bo Lozoff. Started browsing through Everyday Spiritual Practice - Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life that's edited by Scott W. Alexander.

I’m cooking…

This week the focus was on using what was on hand rather than purchasing more groceries. Periodically, it is nice to use up what is in the refrigerator and freezer.

I’m grateful for…

Fans and air conditioning. Today the temperature was easily in the upper 80s. That's too hot for me. Having cool air blowing and circulating throughout the house makes homeschooling, cooking, baking, and living much more bearable.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

From Thich Nhat Hanh:

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Friday, May 18, 2012

P52 Photo Challenge - Mothers - Week 20

For this week's P52 challenge, the theme is "mothers." With Mother's Day on this past Sunday (May 13th), I was able to take a picture of my mom while she was listening to a card being read to her. Since she doesn't like her picture being taken, this was one way to get a picture of her - while she was distracted.

One of the gifts that my mom (and dad) gave to me was involving me a wide variety of activities when I was a child and teenager. I think of all the after-school activities, lessons, and groups that I was a part of, and that introduced me to subjects enriched my mind, body, and spirit.

The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.
~ Elaine Heffner ~

Some of the activities I have pursued as an adult (e.g., sewing, quilting, gardening), while others enriched my life and gave me interesting memories but no longer are a part of it (e.g., Medical Explorer Post, Girl Scouts, ballet).

Some of the activities I've chosen to continue with my daughters (e.g., baking/cooking, 4-H, biking, playing the piano, photography, volunteering/service), so the best parts of my childhood - the legacy of my mom (and dad) - is reflected in Sophia and Olivia.

I cannot forget my mother. She is my bridge.
When I needed to get across,
she steadied herself long enough for me to run across safely.
~ Renita Weems ~

On Mother's Day this year, I wanted to have a picture taken of three generations of females: my mom; my sister and me; and five granddaughters.

As I looked through past pictures taken on Mother's Day, there was never one taken of the three generations of women/girls together. I'm so happy that there finally is one.

What children take from us, they give.
We become people who feel more deeply,
question more deeply, and
 love more deeply.
~ Sonia Taitz ~

I like the quote from Ms. Taitz. Without a question, being a mother creates a depth of feeling that one never thought possible. How rich my life has become because of Sophia and Olivia.

Even though the theme this week is about mothers, there was a underlying feeling of loss and sadness this year as my dad was not with us. It's hard to believe that it has been four months since he died.

The picture below was taken last Mother's Day. I wanted to have a picture of mom, dad, my sister, brother, and me together because I didn't know what 2012 would hold. I am so grateful this picture was taken.

Family Picture - 1

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while,
but their hearts forever.
~ Unknown ~

I think the same can be said with regards to parents, but in a slightly different way: Children hold their parents' hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. Truly, the memories and love for my mom and dad will always be in my heart.