Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Blog Challenge - Days 8-15

June 8 - Not including blogging, your favorite guilty pleasure.

I enjoy having hot chocolate with marshmallows every morning and evening. The mix is homemade using a dry milk powder and cocoa drink mix. The original recipe also calls for creamer and powdered sugar, but I’ve eliminated these figuring they only add extra calories and sugar that I don’t need.

The marshmallows have to be miniature ones…not the large ones. The smaller marshmallows melt better.

If I were to really indulge, I would use the chocolate milk from the local dairy farm with whipped cream (instead of marshmallows). On a recent tour, I found out that the chocolate milk is whole milk. No wonder it tastes so thick and rich.

June 9 - Your worst cooking disaster.

Oh my…I can’t even begin to isolate just one cooking disaster. Because I’m cooking basically all the meals each week (rarely do we go out to eat), there’s lots of opportunities for disasters.

There’s nothing dramatic like fires in the oven or on the stove (thankfully). I do recall some burnt dinners, horribly-flavored meals, and food that was less than appetizing (visually and taste-wise).

One of the recent ones that didn’t turn out was fry bread. This recipe was supposed to tie into the children’s book called “The Very Last First Time” that’s part of the Five in a Row curriculum (FIAR). The FIAR Cookbook generally has delicious and easy recipes.

The fry bread dough was easy to make. It’s when we started to cook it that things took a turn for the worse. The amount of oil seemed excessive, first of all. Then the oil began to get hot and started smoking. This, in turn, set off the fire alarms.

Fry Bread Cooking

Meanwhile, the fry bread tried to cook in the hot, sizzling oil. One side got overly done, so I flipped it. The dough then began cooking on the other side. Unfortunately, that side got overdone quickly as well, so I had to take the fry bread off the stove.

As we sat down to taste fry bread, we realized that the oil-soaked bread had no flavor and was partially uncooked in the middle.

All in all…a complete disaster. We knew that we would not make fry bread ever again.

June 10-- Cost aside, famous art piece you would have in your home.

I would enjoy having one of Claude Monet’s paintings of water lilies. According to Wikipedia ( ) , Water Lilies is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by this French Impressionist artist who lived from 1840-1926. The paintings depict Monet's flower garden at Giverny; and were the main focus of his artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts.

I like Monet’s work towards the end of his life because it reflects how he truly saw the world – without detail. Like Monet, much of what I have seen since I was 13 years old is also blurry (but mine is due to astigmatism, not cataracts).

Although I have glasses that can correct my vision so I can see the detail of leaves and grass from a distance, I have grown accustomed to seeing the world blurry, softer, and more subdued. When I wear my glasses, there is – to me – way too much detail. Seeing individual blades of grass, the veins of leaves – it’s unnecessary and almost distracting.

I enjoy seeing the colors and how they blend together. When I look at the rising or seeing sun, or look at a bed of flowers – it’s the beauty of the color…not the detail…that I enjoy. I have often compared my vision to Monet’s paintings and how he painted what he saw.

So, having one of the paintings in the Water Lilies series would remind me and others of the beauty that I see reflected in nature each day.

June 11-- Best day of your life.

For me, the best day or days of my life aren’t the monumental ones – like Sophia or Olivia’s adoption days or a special celebration of some sort. Although certainly highlights and very good days in my life, they were also stressful and involved a lot of people and paperwork.

Girls and Ann in China in 2003

These days represented a loss and substantial change for Sophia and Olivia because they were both raised in orphanages in China for the first 11 and 10 months of their lives respectively. Knowing that they were being removed from what they were familiar with (although with good intentions of being adopted and being part of a loving family), it nonetheless is a traumatic and challenging experience.

On the adoption days, when I thought about it from an infant’s perspective as well as the nannies who cared for the girls and other babies and children at the orphanages, I couldn’t help but find it to be an emotionally difficult day for everyone involved. These days were certainly life changing and the start of a wonderful life together. They were also bittersweet on many levels. It’s the days and years that follow that are the ones that individually and combined create some of the best moments in my life.

So, as I reflect about the “best” day in my life, I am unable to isolate one particular day. Rather, the best days of my life are ones that are spent quietly spent either at home surrounded by those I love and nature; or spent exploring and learning about a new place.

Raising Monarchs in 2008

Simple…quiet…peaceful with those I love. These are the qualities that make up some of the best days in my life

June 12 - Worst injury you've had and how it happened.

The worst injury I had resulted when I was 16 years old and walking across the road. I remember standing at the curb and needing to cross the road with my friends. After that, I don’t remember anything until waking up at the hospital in the emergency room.

Apparently, I made it half way across and a young driver hit me with her car in my right knee. I was flipped onto the hood of her car, rolled and hit the windshield with the left side of my head. I rolled back off the hood of the car and landed on the road.

I was in the hospital overnight after having my head stitched. The following day, I was sent home to recover. I remember not being able to go to school for quite a while.

The lasting effect from the accident is a bump on the left side of my head where it was stitched; and stiffness in my right knee when the weather changes. Other than that…everything is fine.

June 13 - How you see yourself by the end of the year.

Nine things come to mind when I think of how I see myself by the end of 2012. I will:

- have completed the 12 in 12 challenge that Sophia, Olivia, and I are doing. Each month during 2012, we are doing 12 service projects that benefit people in need, animals, and the environment. At that point, we should have a good idea what we want to do in terms of volunteering as we move into 2013.

- be in the middle of the 8th year of homeschooling my daughters. It’s hard to believe it has been that long.

Visible Horse - Skeleton

- have completed several challenges that have stretched my creativity and helped me to learn new skills this year: Take a Stitch Tuesday, Art Every Day, and Summer of Color.

Couching Stitch on Felt

- have explored a new area of Minnesota that I had never been to before; and re-visited two areas of Minnesota that I have been to before (the north central and southeastern parts).

- hopefully be able to take the girls to Fargo, North Dakota and some surrounding towns near the MN-ND border in September when we visit Lake Itasca. This will give the girls the experience of visiting another state in the United States.

- be actively participating in a spiritual growth program at the UU church, and deepening my faith and spiritual practices.

- have continued to positively and effectively deal with grief issues with my father and continue caregiving for my mother.

- continue moving towards living a cash-only, debt-free lifestyle.

- have worked with Sophia and Olivia to collect over 1,000 books and raise $800 to establish a children’s library in Lesotho, Africa.

Books for African Library

June 14 - Give your followers 15 tips to get through life.

1. Accept yourself for who you are, and not be dependent upon what others think about you.

2. Use your manners when dealing with others (e.g., say thank you, excuse me, please).

3. Respect seniors and treat them with the dignity that they deserve.

4. Create positive memories with your children that will last them a lifetime. Give them things to remember that will make them smile, laugh, and get them through days that are more difficult when they are adults. Allow them to play, create art, and creatively express themselves.

5. Read to learn and read for enjoyment. Reading a variety of books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers can enrich your life and help you learn about things that are new to you.

6. Donate your time and resources to causes that are important to you. Both time and resources are equally valuable to non-profit organizations. Remember your family and friends who also may need help at some point in their lives. Sharing what you have – time, skills, things (e.g., clothing, food) – can help others in need.

7. Connect with nature on a daily basis. Even if you are unable to get outside on a particular day, take time to enjoy the birds at the feeder, look at the sun rise, or watch the clouds move.

8. Be open-minded and refrain from judging others.

9. Focus on living in the moment. There’s no point in dwelling on the past or looking always to the future. We can’t change what has already happened, so why focus on it? Move on and live today better.

10. Have a strong spiritual practice. Follow and know what you believe; and create a life where your beliefs/faith is reflected in how you live your life.

11. Live within your means; and be content with what you have; and. Save half of what you earn; use cash only when paying for items (not credit cards); and don’t take a home equity loan out to pay for medical bills or consolidate bills.

12. Have pets; and love and care for them as you would your own children. Find ones that would live well in the space you have (apartment, home in the city, or farm), your budget, and interests. Care for your pets with compassion and love them so their time with you is special and memorable.

13. Learn about heroes and what they did to make a positive impact in this world. Determine what you are passionate about and act on it. Do something with your life that will make a difference…don’t just talk about it.

14. Strive for balance in your life. Working all the time isn’t healthy. Take time to do fun things with those your family or friends. Remember that there are plenty of free or inexpensive things to do right in the community. If you’re able, take some time to take short trips – either with others or by yourself.

15. Be eco-friendly. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. It’s something that becomes a habit if is done on a daily or frequent basis.

June 15 - Post a photo you took that you're proud of.

Polar Bear Laying Down with Head Up

Despite knowing that it could rip a person apart in a moment, I still think the polar bear looks cuddly. This particular one kept walking around, but not going into the water. Sophia and Olivia thought it would enjoy swimming...instead it would hide behind the rocks and peek out. It would walk near the water, and then turn around and head in the other direction.

I am convinced it was doing that on purpose. Like it was playing a game. might have been an already long morning for me and I could have been imagining things.

Nonetheless, I like the picture not only because I like polar bears, but because of the memory of spending part of the day watching this bear and its antics.


desiab said...

Thanks for joining the challenge. I enjoyed reading your catch up post and laughed when I got to the fry bread story. Laughing with you of course -- not at you. :-)

Julie Jordan Scott said...

You taught me some new stuff today. I didn't know about Monet and his cataracts. I also didn't know there were 250 (!) paintings in the series. How fantastic!

THANK YOU for posting your link to the Facebook Summer Blog Challenge page!

Here are my 15 tips for life.

Unknown said...

I love your photo!!! Great pos!!!

Witch Vera said...

Whoa, what a good visions you got there, all the best with them ^^

I love volunteering too.. It never failed to give me the sense of satisfaction of contributing something to the others.. :)

Rita said...

I've never tried making fry bread--goodness! Sounds harder than I imagined.

The little girls look so cute in that photo! ;) I thought, also, of just the wonderful, ordinary, calm days as my favorite days. When I think back to when Dagan was little--it was just the day to day things that made us laugh and we just enjoyed each other's company. Those were great days. And my days now are great days, too.

Great advice, too. :)