Saturday, June 30, 2012

Embroidery Journal Project - June

This month for the Embroidery Journal Project, the central image is a dream catcher. I chose this design because it reminds me of trip that Sophia, Olivia, and I took to southwestern Minnesota to visit Pipestone.

In Pipestone, there is the Pipestone National Monument which has many quarries where Native Americans are actively working on them. When we visited, there must have been a lot of rain recently because the quarries were flooded and were being drained.

Quarry that was being drained of rain water.

Inside the visitor center, there were displays about items that the Native Americans made from pipestone.

Pipes from Various Tribes

Examples of pipes carved from pipestone.

There were other beautiful items created from beads and leather.

Pipe Bags
Pipe bags that were used to carry pipes.

After we looked at the visitor center, we went on a walk around the area. They were re-establishing the prairie, so there were lots of prairie plants and birds singing among the grasses and flowers.

Walking through the Prairie
Olivia and Sophia walking on the trail through the prairie.

Another symbol on the quilt square this month is a flower. Throughout southeastern South Dakota, we saw lots of pasque flowers (South Dakota's state flower). They were in pale shades of pink and cream.

A representation of the pasque flower we saw in South Dakota.

The red feather represents the many colorful birds that are visiting our feeders. There was one young male cardinal who was just starting to get his brilliant red feathers. He was at the feeder and was flapping his wings continuously.

The monarch butterfly represents the monarch caterpillars we have been raising indoors. Olivia and I found a couple of caterpillars earlier in late-May or early-June. They have been eating the milkweed leaves we provided for them for food.

An embroidered monarch butterfly.

On June 28th, the first butterfly emerged. We are waiting for the second one to emerge.

The center part of the dream catcher.

This quilt square marks the sixth one that I've done this year. All the squares are on the same white fabric, and use cotton embroidery floss. By the end of the year, I will have 12 quilt squares - each representing the highlights of a particular month. I'm excited to put them together in December.

Clothing Style as a Homeschool Mom

Today's prompt for the Summer Blog Challenge is: Post a photo of an outfit that either is your style or you wish was your style.

Clothing and keeping current with styles has never been a high priority for me. For me, there are so many more important things I rather spend my time, energy, and money on.

As for my "style," I've always worn clothes that are loose-fitting. I do not like clothes that are tight or uncomfortable, especially if I have to wear them for long periods of time. Comfort has been and will always be a priority.

Because I no longer work in an office, I do not need business attire. Now, as a stay-at-home mom who homeschools my daughters, my wardrobe is substantially different than it was when I was working out of the home.

With the clothes I wear at home, it doesn't matter if I get them messy from the activities we do with homeschooling and/or running a household (e.g., cooking, baking, art, painting, gardening, working with the horses). I would much rather have Sophia and Olivia see me relaxed if my clothes get dirty than upset that I ruined a good sweater, shirt, or pants.

I have a limited wardrobe that I wear in public. These generally are not clothes I wear at home because I rather keep them in good condition. That being said, I do need to update my wardrobe. The last time I went shopping for myself was in September 2011 - right before a trip to New England with Sophia and Olivia. I needed some clothes to wear since we would be out and about each day.

Perhaps a goal for the balance of the year would be to invest in a few nice, comfortable pieces of clothes that are current. I found some that I like:

Cardigan, basic white shirt, and jeans from Anthropologie. 
The cardigan is plain on the front but 
the sides and back have a patterned fabric.

Include some scarves or other accessories
(like the necklace in the photo from Anthropologie, 
bracelets, and earrings).

Cardigan, shirt, and shorts from J. Crew.

Perhaps I'll save some money and go shopping in the fall for some new items. Until then, I can take a look at what stores have clothing that I like, and that best reflect my personality and interests.

P52 Photo Challenge - School's Out - Week 26

This week for the P52 Photo Challenge, the theme is "School's Out." Since we homeschool year-round, school technically isn't "out" just takes a different form.

During the summer, we do more outdoor and science/nature-based activities. We have been using the state park system a lot so far this summer. It has had many educational and fun naturalist-led programs that we have done since Memorial Day weekend including:

- going on an evening bird hike;
- dissecting an owl pellet and learning about owls;
- making a dream catcher;
- learning about fish and making a fish print;
- exploring life in glacial potholes (found lots of tadpoles and eight different forms of invertebrate life);
- rock-climbing; and
- canoeing.

Even when we're doing something relaxing and fun, the girls are always curious and want to learn more about what they see.

In the photograph above, we are looking over the side of the canoe at the water striders and other insects that are on top of and/or in Lake Alice. A bit later on this canoe trip, we spotted a beautiful white swan swimming by the shoreline.

It was a wonderful - and memorable - way to spend a Sunday morning.

Friday, June 29, 2012

3 in 30 June Update #4

My goals for June for the 3 in 30 challenge:

1. Paint the accent areas dark green (behind the bed and over the window on the west side of the room). This was completed during week #3

2. Clean the floor in my office. I didn't have a chance to work on this project. Just looking at what needs to be looked at, put away, recycled, or donated is - at this point - simply overwhelming.

Rather, I:

- concentrated this past week on my third goal (the 12 in 12 project),

- weeded and planted some annuals,

- helped move my mom from the assisted living apartment back to her home,

- helped Sophia and Olivia with their 4-H projects including: fine arts (jewelry making), crafts (origami and paint-by-numbers), dairy cattle, foods/nutrition (two cookbooks and dairy-free cookies), pets (dogs and hedgehogs), digital photography, quilting, needlework, wildlife biology (muskoxen), sheep (by-products of sheep), consumer education, geospatial (geocaching), and horse (equine vaulting).

Olivia working on her dairy cattle 4-H project.

The county fair is coming up on July 11th at which time all the projects have to be completed. The girls have learned a lot this year, and have done some new projects they had not done in previous years (e.g., geospatial, wildlife biology, sheep, dairy cattle, consumer education).

- participated in a free canoeing program through the state park system, and spent a couple hours canoeing with Sophia and Olivia, and

Canoeing on Lake Alice at William O'Brien State Park.

- went rock climbing with Sophia and Olivia (another free program through the state park system).

Olivia (on the left) and Sophia (on the right) rock climbing
at Interstate State Park.

3. Do the 12 in 12 project throughout the month. This project was worked on throughout the month, with the final project being completed on June 27th. To read a summary of what we accomplished, and to see lots of pictures of what Sophia, Olivia, and I did throughout the month, please see this post

How To Dissect an Owl Pellet

There were plenty of topics that came to mind as I thought about writing a "how to" post (the prompt for today's Summer Blog Challenge.

I could write about how to:
- make a window star
- make homemade ice cream
- can and freeze fresh produce so it can be enjoyed during the winter
- make hand-embroidered toys
- travel with children and tweens

Instead, I chose something a bit untraditional: how to dissect an owl pellet. This is an activity that we did at William O'Brien State Park during the Memorial Day weekend. They had a variety of free naturalist-led programs, and this is one that the girls enjoyed.

First, we learned about owls, the types of owls that live in Minnesota, and the definition of an owl pellet. According to Wikipedia, a pellet is "...the mass of undigested parts of a bird's food that some bird species occasionally regurgitate. The contents of a bird's pellet depend on its diet, but can include the exoskeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur, feathers, bills, claws, and teeth."

We each chose an owl pellet that had been sterilized. These can be obtained from companies on the internet - there are many from which to choose.

Some people chose to use tools to  pick apart the pellet - like the wooden stick and tweezers that Olivia is using in the photograph below. 

As this is being done, different items are discovered. For example, in the photograph below you can see part of an animal's jaw and teeth.

Since the pellets have been sterilized, sometimes it is easier to use your hands to get the tiny bones and other items that are in the pellets. Sophia ended up doing this since she found the tweezers and stick a bit cumbersome to use.

As you're going through and removing items, it is interesting to set aside the fur that was regurgitated. It's surprising how much fur is in one that is in one pellet (see picture below).

As you go through the pellet, lay the items you find on a sheet of paper. The picture below shows the items that Sophia found in the owl pellet she dissected.

When you are done dissecting the pellet, you can use a reference sheet that has the names of bones and skeletons of small rodents that an owl typically would eat. Sometimes it is possible to create almost an entire skeleton from one pellet. 

(As a side note, the majority of the state parks in Minnesota are offering a variety of free science programs throughout the summer. These are a wonderful way to augment and enhance our homeschool science curriculum.) 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer of Color - Week 4

For the third week of Summer of Color, I made a trio of window stars as I've been doing for each of the weeks of the challenge.

The color inspiration this week was Strawberry Lemonade Punch. Before creating the stars, I did the Chip It! program through Sherwin Williams to come up up with the colors of the featured ice cream.

Then, based on the paint chips shown above, I chose the closest colors of paper I use for the window stars. I picked gold, yellow, lime green, and pink paper. 

The first star I made is a ten-pointed one that features gold and yellow paper:

Then I made an eight-pointed window star that included all four colors:

I also did a star with six points and three of the colors (yellow, lime green, and pink):

In terms of complexity, these were all very easy stars to make. The first star had only 8 folds per point (80 folds total). The second star had 6 folds per point (48 folds). The last star had 12 folds per point (36 folds).

So now I have 12 stars that I've made for the Summer of Color - each with different color combinations and patterns. Since there's only a couple of weeks left, I'll continue making stars. It's challenging me to create some new variations of stars in colors I normally wouldn't combine.

Last year, I felt like I did a wider variety of projects beyond window stars - including quilting, sewing, and embroidery. Although I'd like to do different projects, I think limiting myself on one thing is helping me to stay focused and have a theme with this year's Summer of Color.

Do you have a favorite pattern or color combination this week?

5 Simple Laundry Tips

After 28 years of doing laundry, these are five key things that I have learned:

1. Less is more.

Use a little less detergent than the amount recommended on the box. Detergent manufacturers suggest more than the amount needed to effectively wash your clothes. In fact, fabrics can deteriorate over time if too much detergent is used.

2. Dry clothes outside.

When possible, hang wet clothes outside to dry. There's nothing like sheets, towels, and clothes that have dried in the sun.

Sashiko Fabric is Stitched
Sashiko fabric I hand-embroidered 
drying on the clothesline. 

That being said, the clothes can be stiff sometimes. If this is an issue for anyone in your family, simply put the clothes or other items that the person will use in the dryer for 5-10 minutes on low heat to soften them.

Drying Clothes Outside in Freezing Weather
Sophia holding one of her tops that we tried to dry 
on the fence in November 2007 in frigid weather.
Needless to say, all the clothes froze in stiff shapes like this shirt did.
So much for drying clothes during the colder months.

3. Load size matters.

Packing clothes into the dryer prevents the wet load from tumbling so the hot air can do its job. Conversely, drying too few items means they'll cling to the dryer drum rather than tumble.

08/04: Laundry 4, in the tumble dryer

4. Similar items go together.

Put items of a similar weight together to maximize drying time. If there are heavy pieces (like towels) mixed with lighter items (like socks or a short-sleeve shirt), the lighter items will take much longer to dry.  Just be sure not to pack too many heavy pieces in the dryer at once or it will take a long time to dry them.

5. Get Children to Help

Most children who are four years old and older are capable of putting away their own clothes as well as sorting and folding laundry. This teaches practical life skills as well as simple math skills (e.g., sorting colors, sorting similar items, matching socks).

Trying to Wash Clothes
Olivia learning how people use to wash clothes by hand. 
(This was taken at Gammelgarden Museum in May 2012.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

12 in 12: June 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 June: 

- Take 1 bag of food to the food shelf. We donated two bulk packages of noodle soup (12 per container) to the collection container at Cub Foods. They, in turn, bring it to the local food shelf.

Sophia and Olivia with the food they are donating this month.

- Volunteer 1 hour at a community organization that is chosen each month (can be the same one or different one). We are continuing to donate our time to the African Library Project. We are in the process of collecting 1,000 books so a children's library can be established in Lesotho, Africa.

Olivia and Sophia with some of the books they received
for the library in Lesotho.

The girls had an article written about them in the local paper, and that resulted in some more donations of books which was exciting!

Although not an organization, we have been helping my mom in her transition from the Transitional Care Unit to assisted living apartment, and finally home on June 27th. It's been a four-month journey that began with a fractured ankle on February 28th.

Mom holding a stuffed bear at Costco.
Sophia and I helped her shop for basics that she will need
when she returned home on the 27th.

Sophia and I also picked out flowers for my mom and I planted them in the middle of June in containers. We've been watering the flowers so that they were ready when she returned home.

Five containers of flowers. 
There's also a container with tomato plants
for my mom/the girls' grandma.

On June 27th, we helped my mom/the girls' grandma pack her belongings at the assisted living apartment, work with the moving company, go grocery shopping, help unpack some of her belongings at home, and set up the containers of flowers along the front walkway.

- Donate 1 bag of clothing to a second-hand shop. We found a bag of clothes to donate to Family Pathways this month.

Sophia with a bag of clothing.
The money that Family Pathways earns from the sale of clothing and
other items is used for its programs that 
support those in need in the community.

- Donate 1 bag of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop. I cleaned out a small dresser and found a bag of household items and toys that we donated to Family Pathways.

Olivia holding a bag of toys and household items.

- Donate 12 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books. We donated 32 books this month to the African Library Project. We are excited that these books will help children in Lesotho, Africa, learn to read.

Sophia and Olivia with some of the books
we donated this month.

- Donate $12 to an organization that helps individuals, animals, or the environment. Sophia and Olivia wanted the donation to support the animals at Northwoods again this month. We all are very committed to helping this organization find permanent, loving families for the animals who are there.

Casper is looking for a home without other cats.
It sounds like he was being picked on by the other cats.
He is such an affectionate cat.

There were many new cats, dogs, and kittens this month. There were a few animals that we recognized from the previous month. I was so surprised to see Lucy - a gentle lab still there. The owner had to surrender her because he had to go an assisted living facility that didn't allow pets. If Lucy was good with cats, I would have adopted her in a minute. Hopefully she finds a new home soon.

Sophia with a young lab. He was a happy, friendly dog.
Lucy, the other lab, is in the kennel next to Sophia.

- Write 1 letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives. This month I wrote to Sr. Ruth Ann who works at St. Therese. I first met her back in October when my dad moved there. She was a reassuring and compassionate person who provided my dad and our entire family with a lot of support through a very difficult time in our lives.

She also provided support to my mom when she was at the Transitional Care Unit at St. Therese from March 1st-May 19th. She listened, talked with, and prayed with my mom; and took her to mass when she was able to go.

- Donate 1 bag of pop cans to places that collect them to raise funds. Sophia and Olivia chose Northwoods Humane Society as the recipient for the cans this month. The last time they donated here (in April), it was raining. I think they were happy that it was a sunny day when they dropped off the cans. 

Olivia and Sophia putting the cans in the can collector.

The cans are recycled and the money earned is used to support Northwoods as they find homes for the animals who come there.

One of the dogs at Northwoods who needed a home.

- Donate 1 bag of Purina Kitten Chow to Northwoods Humane Society (where Gretel was adopted). We donated the Kitten Chow this month and got to see lots of kittens who would be eating the food. 

There was a cute little black kitten that looked just like Shadow. The kitten was equally as vocal as Shadow. There were more litters of kittens in other cages - all needing families to care for them.

The girls holding Kitten Chow and $12 to donate to
Northwoods Humane Society.

The kitten who looked like a miniature version of Shadow.

- Spend 1 hour outdoors doing projects that help wildlife. We continued to feed the birds at the feeders we have here. It's been fun this month because the parent-birds and showing the young-birds where the feeders are and how to find food. 

Sometimes the parents will feed the young birds, and other times the young ones are old enough to eat on their own. The ones that are learning how to fly will flutter their wings quite a big - even when they are eating or sitting on a branch.

Two birds at one of the feeders.
The one in the back is a young cardinal.

- Make and randomly drop off 1 toy for a child to find as part of The Toy Society. This month I hand-embroidered a little pig from wool felt and stuffed with wool from sheep I raised. 

Toy that was made for a child.

We chose to leave the pig, along with a note explaining that it was free and left to be found, at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. We put the pig by the loon in the Visitors' Center (the loon is Minnesota's state bird).

The toy waiting to be found.

- Share 1 time the gift of music or singing with others. Sophia and Olivia each played the piano when their grandma returned home.

Above: Olivia playing the piano with her cousin Addy looking on.
Below: Sophia playing the piano for her grandma.

Olivia also brought her glockenspiel along, and played some of the songs she's learned. Olivia just started percussion lessons this summer and the glockenspiel is the first instrument she is learning how to play.

Olivia playing the glockenspiel for her grandma.

(As a side note, the glockenspiel is "composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone; however, the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's are metal plates or tubes, thus making it a metallophone. The glockenspiel, moreover, is usually smaller and higher in pitch.")