Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hawaiian Bread Rolls - Saw It/Made It

Olivia enjoys Hawaiian Bread Rolls, and I have been looking for a recipe that comes close to them. I was very happy to find an image on Pinterest that lead to The 350 Degree Oven which has a copycat recipe of Hawaiian Bread Rolls.

The person who created the recipe said, "The addition of pineapple juice and sugar add a wonderful sweetness and impart a tenderness to the finished rolls."

One pan of Hawaiian Bread Rolls.

I would have to agree. These rolls were light and sweet. Not exactly like the store-bought Hawaiian Bread Rolls, but tasty enough that everyone wants them again.


3 c. bread flour
1/2 c. tangzhong
4 T. unsalted butter
3/4 c. pineapple juice
1 egg, beaten
6 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. yeast


Combine the butter, pineapple juice, egg, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and tangzhong into the bottom of the bread machine pan. To make the Tangzhong, see the bottom of the recipe.

On top of the wet ingredients, dump the flour. Form a well in the flour, and add the yeast to the well. (Do not allow the yeast to come in contact with any of the wet ingredients yet).

Place the pan into the bread machine, and turn on the “make dough” cycle. (You can knead and combine by hand or with a dough hook attachment on a stand mixer – but you will need to knead for at least 15-20 minutes, then cover and rise for an hour until doubled in bulk.

When the dough is ready, turn out onto a lightly floured counter, and cut the dough into 16 even pieces. (The dough will be sticky, so use a light touch, and flour if needed.)

Shape the pieces into little balls, coating with flour to prevent sticking, and lay in a grid pattern in a 9″ x 9″ square pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise another 45 minutes. (The dough will be very sticky – so make sure you coat your hands and counter top with flour – try to handle the dough as little as possible. It doesn’t matter if the little balls are perfectly round and smooth.)

Heat the oven to 335 degrees, and bake the Hawaiian rolls for 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Delicious rolls for any meal!


To make Tangzhong, I found a recipe from Cooking is Easy.


1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup water


Mix flour and water until it is completely dissolved and no lumps remain.

Place the pan on medium heat. Begin stirring constantly as the mixture heats up. It will begin to thicken. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 65 degrees Celsius, you can tell because while stirring the mixture it will start to have “lines ” for every stir. When it reaches this stage, it is done.

Set aside. Cool to room temperature before adding to the Hawaiian bread dough. You can pour it into another container and keep it covered to keep it from drying out or simply stir it until it is cool.

Friday, March 29, 2013

3 in 30 - Update #2, 3, and 4

The goals that I have for the 3 in 30 challenge for March include:

1. Do several homeschool field trips and activities. 

In mid-March we went to a bluebird house-building workshop at one of the local state parks.

Sophia making a Peterson bluebird house.

There was a 45-minute presentation with slide show about blue birds followed by about 45 minutes of building a bluebird house.

A volunteer helping Olivia build her bluebird house.

We volunteered at the nursing home on the Friday before St. Patrick's Day and made Shamrock Shakes for the seniors and their family members.

Sophia transferring the shakes to individual cups 
for the seniors and their families.

About 30 people participated in the event.

Olivia adding crushed chocolate 
to the top of the shakes.

We enjoyed making and serving the shakes; and doing the special event for the seniors and their families.

The finished shakes before they are served.

We also went to a local co-op and took a class about saving money. We learned about special member discounts, demonstration days, coupons, and free items that the co-op provides to members and visitors. When we went shopping afterwards, the girls each picked out a free piece of fruit since they are 12 years old or younger. Plus we used our membership discount and bag discount.

Today we are volunteering at the nursing home again. Sophia is going to play the harp for about 45 minutes while Olivia and I serve the residents angel food cake with strawberries and a beverage.

In the evening, we are going to a Seder meal at church. We volunteered to do the shopping for the event and did that on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. We're looking forward to seeing how the meal and potluck come together.

2. Finish 30 Days of Lists. I started this challenge in September and did about 15 days worth of lists. This month, I would like to complete the remaining 15 days.

I did not work on this project at all this month. Although I wanted to complete it, it wasn't a top priority given other activities that needed my attention this month.

3. Do one cleaning/de-cluttering project each week.

I had four areas that I wanted to concentrate on during March. These are some of the last areas that I need to do in the entire house. (During 2012 and early 2013, I've been focused on organizing, de-cluttering, and simplifying the home. It's been a long-term project, with each month having small goals to get to the final result.)

During March, I worked on three areas of the home:

=> the fabric bins in my office - which I wrote about in the first update of the month.

=> the linen/towel/medicine closet. This was a multi-hour project, yet the result was worth the time investment.

Before (top two pictures and picture below): 
This is what happens to a closet when you neglect it for a long time.

It is much easier to find things now, and only the items that we will use are in the closet.

After pictures - What a relief to have this project done!

=> a section of my office that had lots of items that needed to be put away.

Before - A section of my office that I needed to go through.

The remaining bin and decorative box hold photographs while the other box has files that don't fit into the file cabinets I have now. At some point, I need to go through my file cabinets and recycle the items that I don't need any longer. That will free up space to file the items in this box.

After - A lot more free space in my office
once I put away, recycled, or donated items.

Even leaving these few items in place in my office, I feel like there is now significantly more floor space and a less cluttered look. It feels good to get this done.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Artist/Picture Study - John James Audubon

We are continuing our art/artist study during this homeschooling year by studying John James Audubon. 
Audubon, a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter, was born on April 26, 1785, and lived until January 27, 1851.

He was noted for his comprehensive studies to document all types of American birds and for his beautifully-detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America, is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species.

For the art/artist study,  Sophia and Olivia looked at six different paintings that Audubon created. They looked at each image for some time and then orally recalled things that they remembered about the painting. The images they looked at as well as their comments are below.

Wild Turkey.

Sophia remembered:
=> The turkey had very vibrant colors and it isn't normally the kind of turkey you'd see around here.
=> It had a red wattle. It looked swollen and long and bigger than a chicken's wattle. It had splotches on it.
=> I'm fairly sure it was a male because of all the colors and patterns. 
=> It looked like autumn because of the corn stalks.
=> He was a very tall bird. John James Audubon got close to him or he had very good eyesight.
=> There's a feather that was on its back that had exquisite detail.  
=> It had a horn or spiky thing on its head covered with fuzz.
=> It had a long neck.

Olivia remembered: 
=> I thought the turkey's leg was more pink.
=> I liked how the brown feathers had black on them towards the end.
=> Looks like the turkey was from Asia because there was a stick that looked like bamboo by it.
=> The center leaves were kind of lime green.
=> There was a small red patch towards the bottom of the turkey - right above the leg. There were squigglies by it.
=> On the face there were long, black feathery stuff. It looked like a horse's tail.
=> The ground was a darkish green. There were leaves on it.


Baltimore Orioles.

Sophia remembered:
=> There were three orioles and I think there was one female. She isn't like the ones we see here - she was darker in some places and lighter in others; and not quite as detailed.
=> The nest looked like a weaver bird's nest and it was longish.
=> One of the birds had its head tilted up towards the female because it was on a lower branch. It looked like it was going to sing.
=> Around the leaves it was goldish and it went around them.
=> There was some grass woven in it. It was the same darkish blue that the birds had on them.
=> The background was a simple creamish color. The detail was in the birds and picture itself.
=> The flowers were large with softish edges. There were colors within the flowers - like a reddish color.

Olivia remembered: 
=> The oriole's feet and beak were lightish blue.
=> The male oriole had its tail feathers spread out. It was kinda cool.
=> The leaves were very large. They were dark green and the rim around them was paler.
=> The branches were brown.
=> The birds were bright orange.
=> All of them were standing on branches.
=> The birds also had black and white on them.
=> The rest was made out of string-like vines - like grape vines. They were brown.


House Wrens.

Sophia remembered:
=> There's a family of two adult wrens and three babies; and the babies are inside a black top hat.
=> The black hat was impaled in the center and there was a stick poking out of it. That's how they got it to stick up.
=> The parents are brown, black, and a dark burnish-orange color.
=> In the mouth of one of the parents, there's an insect; and it didn't look very appetizing to me.
=> On the top of the hat there were pools of water - like it had recently rained.
=> The babies weren't very colorful. There were ash-gray, white, and maybe a little orange around their beaks.
=> The branch is sitting straight up and there are other ones that are sticking out.

Olivia remembered: 
=> The mother wren had a spider in her mouth.
=> The hat had some white stuff on it.
=> The one with the babies had its wing hanging out a bit.
=> The parents' tail feathers look like a pheasant's tail feathers.
=> The father who was sitting on top of the hat was the guardian.
=> The branch had blueish moss.
=> The babies looked like they were crying out.
=> The babies were pale in color. Most of their bodies were inside the nest - except their heads.


Great Horned Owls.

Sophia remembered:
=> The back of the smaller owl's ears looked like orange flames so it gave the impression the ears were on fire.
=> The talons are extremely sharp. One looked longer than it should be (the upper one).
=> They look very majestic but I don't see any like the great horned owl like I see in this area.
=> The beaks look two-dimensional.
=> The colors aren't very bright. The colors are more subtle and don't jump out at you.
=> There are browns, grays, and reds used in the picture.
=> The feathers on their chest are a tawny-goldish color.
=> The beak is black and shiny.
=> On the big owl, there are two holes in the beak - like little nostrils.
=> They are big owls. You can see why they are called "great."

Olivia remembered: 
=> The owls' feet were super bushy.
=> The owls' talons were really long.
=> The owl on the lower branch - on the top of the forehead is black. It's jet black up there.
=> The beaks seem more diamond shaped.
=>  I saw gold, black, and a tinge of white on the owls.
=> The eyes are gold.
=>  The branch had blueish moss on it.
=> The feathers down by its legs got pale. You couldn't really see them.
=> I wonder why they are called "horned" when they have any.


Pileated Woodpeckers.

Sophia remembered:
=> There were four pileated woodpeckers and they were black, white, and red. One of them had a blue tinge around its beak.
=> The tree/bush that they were sitting on had black berries.
=> Two of the pileated woodpeckers had their beaks open like they were having an argument or talking.
=> One of the pileated woodpeckers has a worm that has a dark splotch for its head.
=> Their talons are very sharp and pointy; and they are black. A few of them have a blueish tinge to them.
=> The leaves are a pale green in some spots. Other spots are light yellow. All have dark splotches on them.
=> Their feet look like they were meant to grab trees - because two of the claws were facing up and two were facing down.

Olivia remembered: 
=> One of the pileated woodpeckers had a worm in its mouth.
=> The pileated woodpeckers had blue on their beaks.
=> One of the pileated woodpeckers had its red part all puffed up.
=>The pileated woodpeckers' feet are blue with black claws or talons...or whatever you call them.
=> The berries looked more like wine grapes to me.
=> The two birds at the bottom were squabbling. They had their mouths open.
=> The wings had black with white on them.
=> The leaves look like they were dying because they were brownish.
=> There was a lot of bark on the trees.
=> They had black and white feathers.


Wood Ducks.

Sophia remembered:
=> There are four wood ducks and one is in a hollowed-out log and laying on a bunch of white downy feathers. A few of the feathers have fallen out.
=> The third duck is the most colorful - dark green, black, orange, white, blue, and a little bit of purple. He has his wings half spread.
=> The leaves are a light green with darkish veins.
=> Two of the ducks have their mouth open like they are having a conversation.
=> The female ducks aren't quite as vibrant as a male duck. The males have more vibrant colors.
=> The feet are orange in color. Because they are sitting on branches, they are splayed wide since they aren't made for that.
=> I like this picture. You don't normally see these kinds of ducks.

Olivia remembered: 
=> One of the wood ducks is in a log and there are a bunch of white feathers.
=> Two of the wood ducks look like they are talking with one another.
=> One of the male ducks has its beak open to the female in the log nest; and you can see its pink tongue.
=> The colors of the male wood duck are very pretty - green, purple, pinkish, brown, white, black, and pink around the eyes.
=> The feet are kind of ribbed and they have tiny claws.
=> Some of the leaves look like web feet too.
=> The female has a pale, brownish-grayish chest.
=> Looks like dead grass growing out of the top of the log nest.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Outdoor Hour Nature Challenge - Squirrels

This year we have been experiencing a rather long and snowy winter, so we have done many of our nature studies indoors or outdoors for a limited time. Needless to say, we are looking forward to spring.

For this week's Outdoor Hour Nature Challenge, we focused on squirrels. We read from the Handbook of Nature Study book as well as looked at the Handbook of Nature Study blog for ideas and information about squirrels. We also read a couple of new books this year about squirrels since we did a study about squirrels last year as well.

Squirrel at Feeder
Last year the girls built a squirrel feeder and put ears of corn on it.
The squirrels enjoyed visiting it and eating the kernels of corn.

We talked about different squirrels that we have seen around our yard as well as unusual ones we have seen at different locations in Minnesota. The black and albino squirrels are ones that stand out as the most memorable ones.

Albino squirrel
Albino squirrel we saw at the 
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington.

This past summer we visited Lake Shetek State Park in southwestern Minnesota. There was an interpretive center there that had a variety of [dead/stuffed] animals on display that visitors could touch. One of the animals was a squirrel.

The girls and I took the squirrel and skunk displays outside and took a couple of pictures in a more natural setting. Sophia picked the squirrel to take pictures with while Olivia picked the skunk. 

They were having fun and joking around as they were putting the squirrel and skunk in different settings (e.g., on the grass, holding them, on the tree trunk). Those pictures are some of their favorite ones from the trip.

Holding the Squirrel
Sophia holding the squirrel that was on display at the
Lake Shekek State Park.

During the winter, we do see some squirrel activity - mostly squirrels trying to get some food from the bird feeders.

Squirrel Eating at the Birdfeeder
Squirrel eating a seed at one of the bird feeders.

We also see evidence under the pine trees that they have been eating.

Driveway - Pinecone and Seeds
Pine cones that have been eaten by squirrels.

We also see little squirrel tracks in the snow.

Squirrel Prints in Snow
Squirrel tracks in the snow in the front yard.

Sophia and Olivia both wrote in their nature journal after we read the different books, talked about squirrels, and looked outside for evidence of squirrels.

Olivia's journal entry about squirrels.

Sophia also drew some images that tied into what she wrote about squirrels.

Sophia's nature journal entry about squirrels.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Shamrock Shakes and Fudgy Mint Squares for St. Patrick's Day

This year in preparation for St. Patrick's Day we tried two new recipes: Shamrock Shakes and Fudgy Mint Squares.

Shamrock Shakes with whipped cream and 
crushed chocolate chips.

The recipe for Shamrock Shakes is from a website called Hoosier Homemade. We made the shakes for about 30 seniors and family members at a local nursing home for a pre-St. Patrick's Day party.

Seniors and family members at the 
pre-St. Patrick's Day party.

The shakes are very easy to make, and were well-received by people of all ages - from 10 years old to 98 years old.


2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 - 1 1/2 cups milk (depending on how thick you want the shake)
6-8 drops of green food coloring
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon mint extract (depending on taste)


Place all ingredients in blender and mix. Transfer to two cups.

Sophia is transferring the shakes to cups.

Top with whipping cream and crushed chocolate chips.

Olivia topping each shake with 
crushed chocolate chips.

In the picture on Hoosier Homemade, they topped the Shamrock Shake with whipping cream and a chocolate gold coin.


The second recipe - fudgy mint squares - Olivia made for a 4-H Food & Bake Show. The recipe is from Taste of Home. Unfortunately, due to an ice storm it was cancelled. So, we ended up with a delicious 9"x 13" pan of fudgy mint squares.

Fudgy Mint Square that Olivia made.

They take some time to make since there are three separate layers. Yet, it is well worth the effort.


10 tablespoons butter, divided
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 drops green food coloring, optional
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


In a microwave, melt 8 tablespoons butter and unsweetened chocolate; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs, sugar and vanilla. Beat in chocolate mixture until blended. Gradually stir in flour.
Spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until top is set.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining butter until fluffy. Add cornstarch; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in milk and remaining egg. Beat in extract and food coloring if desired.

Pour over crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine chocolate chips and cream. Cook and stir over medium heat until chips are melted. Cool for 30 minutes or until lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Pour over cream cheese layer. Chill for 2 hours or until set before cutting. Yield: about 4 dozen.

Nutritional Facts for the Fudgy Mint Squares

1 serving (1 each) equals 132 calories, 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 31 mg cholesterol, 54 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 2 g protein.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Carl Sandburg - Poet/ Poetry Study

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on January 6, 1878. His parents, August and Clara Johnson, emigrated to America from Sweden, and renamed their family "Sandburg."

The Sandburgs were very poor; Carl left school at the age of thirteen to work odd jobs, including laying bricks and dishwashing, to help support his family. At seventeen, he traveled to Kansas as a hobo. He then served eight months in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war.

Eventually, Carl became an editorial writer for the Chicago Daily News. At the same time, some of his poems were being published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. His free verse poems celebrated industrial and agricultural America; American geography and landscape; and the American common people.

In the twenties, he started some of his most ambitious projects, including his study of Abraham Lincoln. From childhood, Sandburg loved and admired the legacy of President Lincoln. For thirty years he sought out and collected material, and gradually began the writing of the six-volume biography of the former president.

The twenties also saw Sandburg's collections of American folklore, the ballads in The American Songbag and The New American Songbag (1950), and books for children. In the 1930s, Sandburg continued his celebration of America with Mary Lincoln, Wife and Widow, The People, Yes, and the second part of his Lincoln biography, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Carl Sandburg died in 1967.


After learning a bit about Carl Sandburg, I read Sophia and Olivia six poems over a period of time. The poems as well as their reactions to them follow.

Under the Harvest Moon

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

Sophia thought: My favorite part is the beginning is because it is soft and pretty. I could envision it. I liked the part about the rose. It's soft and sweet, and I can picture the harvest moon. He did a very good job of describing it.

Olivia thought: It was good. I liked the part with the moon ("under the harvest moon when the soft silver drips shimmering over the garden nights...."). I like seeing the moon. It's interesting. I like how he thinks the leaves are like little hands.


Theme in Yellow

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

Sophia thought: I like that the jack-o-'lantern being a goofball, but they know he won't hurt them. He's trying to scare kids, but it's not working. I liked the part when they joined hands and sang about ghosts and love.

Olivia thought: Sounds like to me that he likes to write his poems about autumn. I like this one towards the end part about the jack-o'-lantern that fooling the children. When he first started, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then when you read it again, I knew what he was talking about.


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Sophia thought: I liked the part when the fog is sitting overlooking the city and sea. I can picture a cat sitting there overlooking the city. 

Olivia thought: I liked the part when the fog coming on cat feet because I like cats. The fog would be creeping along the ground...just like a cat.


Young Sea

The sea is never still.
It pounds on the shore
Restless as a young heart,

The sea speaks
And only the stormy hearts
Know what it says:
It is the face
of a rough mother speaking.

The sea is young.
One storm cleans all the hoar
And loosens the age of it.
I hear it laughing, reckless.

They love the sea,
Men who ride on it
And know they will die
Under the salt of it

Let only the young come,
Says the sea.

Let them kiss my face
And hear me.
I am the last word
And I tell
Where storms and stars come from.

Sophia thought: I haven't really seen a lot of sea, but the poem reminded me of the sea in Hawaii and how it was pounding. Also, I believe the part about how only the young should come because the sea isn't always calm.  

Olivia thought: That was a good poem. I liked it how the ocean was pounding against the rocks. I also like the part about how the sea knows where the storms and stars come from.


Between Two Hills

Between two hills
The old town stands.
The houses loom
And the roofs and trees
And the dusk and the dark,
The damp and the dew
Are there.

The prayers are said
And the people rest
For sleep is there
And the touch of dreams
Is over all.

Sophia thought: I liked it because you can picture the houses and dusk between the two hills. Also, I think it would be cool to live between two hills. I liked the last couple of lines - about the touch of dreams is over all. It is peaceful and calming. 

Olivia thought: I liked the poem a little bit. The place sounds nice since it is between two hills. I liked the part that says that the "houses loom" because it would be interesting to see how this looks. 


Who Am I?

My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of
universal life.
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I
reach my hands and play with pebbles of
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs
reading "Keep Off."
My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive
in the universe.

Sophia thought: I like this poem because truth speaks the truth. He's right because it is elusive. The part about the blood and guts is gruesome. About the part when he talked to God and he's been to hell...truth probably did all those things. 

Olivia thought: I kind of like how the first part was in space and he talked about the stars. I thought that the name of the poem was a good one. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

10 Tips to Prepare for the Farmers Market

This summer Sophia, Olivia, and I are thinking about participating in the local farmers market. There will be vendors who produce and sell vegetables, fruits, baked goods, plants, flowers, and crafts. Home based business owners also will be there.

In preparation for this potential venture, I have been gathering some tips from others who have experience in the field. These are top 10 ideas to get started:

1. Have an inviting space. Some tips I found about creating an inviting space include:

Know your target audience. It's important to think about who your target audience is and focus on attracting attention from this market. For example, if you are selling items for children, then ensure that the theme of your display is vibrant and young. The theme should complement your items, not outshine them. The attention-grabbing booths seem to be ones that are clean, bright, and colorful.

Invest in a 10' x 10' tent. Since the farmers market is held outside, a canopy/tent is a great investment. It’s useful to have panels on each side that can roll up or down, depending on the weather. Determine how well the tent will perform in wet weather and in high winds; and if you can hang things from the tent’s frame. Tents like these can be purchased at discount stores or online.

Gather white sheets from thrift shops or garage sales to cover tables and/or use as booth dividers if the canopy you're using doesn't have sides.

Create fabric pendant banners to decorate the tables and tent. This tutorial explains how to make pendant banners.

Two Buntings
Two buntings that I made.

Have colorful pom poms to decorate the front and ceiling of the tent. Martha Stewart has a pom pom tutorial.

Use height to fill your booth and attract attention. Boxes that you packed your merchandise in, covered with the same cloth you use for your table, can create different heights. Having different levels allows your items to be seen from further away and by more people at once. Use magnetic hooks or clips to attach to your tent’s legs and hang packaged merchandise from them.

Decorate the pavement with chalk - write "welcome" to make your space more inviting.

2. Use cute signs for prices and information.

This tutorial shows how to make tabletop chalkboard signs that stand up on their own. Another idea is to use craft sticks and chalkboard paint.

Have a big arrow sign outside the tent to bring people in. Keep with the chalkboard theme by cutting some scrap wood and spray-painting it with chalkboard paint. Here's a tutorial about how to do that.

To make a large sign, have an office supply store print your logo. Use spray glue on the back and attach it to a piece of foam core.

Have a sign that says, "I take orders!" This could be used for a variety of items. For example, bringing a sample book that shows the pictures of the window stars that I make and samples of the paper colors available would be helpful to have.

Summer Solstice Star Collection
Examples of window stars that I make.

Or, if we decide to sell Watkins products, orders can be taken and brought the following week.

3. Have business cards available.

Have business cards on the tables for each person who is crafting. If you have a shop on Etsy, put a discount code on the back of the card so you can track how much traffic/business is a result of the booth at the farmers market.

One way to display and store business cards is by using a leftover mint tin.

Outside of an Altered Altoid Tin
Altered mint tin with a quilted top and interior.
Inside of an Altered Altoid Tin

Another way is to have a larger sign inviting people to take a business card and visit your shop on Etsy.

Every product should have a tag on it with all your contact information. I just use my business card, hole-punched with a ribbon. This gives both the buyer and, if the item is being purchased as a gift, the recipient your contact information.

4. Accept credit cards.

Many crafters/vendors mention that a good percentage of their sales are done via credit cards. Paypal has introduced Paypal Here an attachment that goes on a smart phone that allows credit card payments to be taken.

If you do accept credit cards, make sure you have a sign posted with the type of credit cards you accept. Not everyone is going to ask if payment by a credit card is accepted, especially folks who may be new to farmers market/craft show shopping.

5. Use antique or upcycled items to display products.

Use old luggage to create an interesting display of your products. The link shows the old luggage as also having a miniature shelving unit in it to add extra display space.

Since we'll be at a farmers market, we can tie into that theme by displaying small items in egg cartons. Other farm-related items could be incorporated into the display as well (e.g., chicken wire, barn wood).

6. Plan and determine what you want to sell.

Take time to plan the summer and what will be offered each week (if it changes). Have a variety of items at different price levels (inexpensive to expensive) to reach a broader customer base.

Greeting Cards
Set of upcycled greeting cards 
made from wallpaper samples.

If possible, have a small space to demonstrate what you are making. People are curious to know how things are made. Depending on what product you sell, you can prepare a few things beforehand so you can show the steps or if you don't want to let people to know your secrets, just show them how it is completed.

Learning the Feather Stitch
A sampler in progress.
Doing the feather stitch.

Don't put too many items on your table(s). Try to find the right balance between showing what you have to offer and giving people a variety from which to choose. A cluttered table is not selling.

7. Take items that are necessary to doing business.

Make a list of items that will be needed, and ensure you have them at each week. Some suggested items include:

=> Apron or waist pouch with pockets for change
=> Art/Craft items for sale and extra inventory to replace all the items you sell
=> Bags, boxes, and packaging materials for purchases (include a business card in each bag)
=> Basic beauty kit for you (e.g., brush, lip gloss, hair-ties, barrettes, hand lotion, deodorant)
=> Binder clips (to keep table coverings from blowing around)
=> Box to store extra cash and credit cards slips
=> Broom/dust pan (small one is fine)
=> Bungee cords
=> Business cards and holder/sign
=> Business license
=> Calculator
=> Camera
=> Candy to give away and a holder for it
=> Cash – $120 is a good amount to start with. $40 ones, $40 fives & $40 tens
=> Cell phone
=> Change of shoes and clothes (in case it rains)
=> Clipboard for customers to sign credit card slips
=> Clothespins
=> Cooler with ice
=> Craft show/farmers market details (e.g., starting time, break-down time, organizer’s contact info)
=> Credit card processor
=> Credit card sign (don’t assume people will ask)
=> Displays
=> Dolly or luggage carts
=> Extra backs for earrings and other extras suitable to your craft
=> First aid kit (e.g., band aids, pain relievers, eye drops, allergy medicine)
=> Fishing line (good to hang stuff from tent and affix items to table)
=> Folding chairs (though it is better to stand than sit)
=> Garbage bags
=> Insect repellent (all natural so you don't spray chemicals around other people)
=> Invoice/receipt book
=> Labels and price tags (Beautiful labels will add to your overall presentation, shabby labels will detract from it. The most important factor is legibility. If you have terrible handwriting print out you labels. Ensure your spelling and grammar is correct.)
=> Lint Roller
=> Mints
=> Mirror
=> Money-marking pen
=> Notebook for mailing list sign-up and for writing down custom orders
=> Pens, markers
=> Paper (scrap to write notes on; and nice paper for last-minute signs)
=> Paper towels
=> Paper weights
=> Plastic sheeting for rain coverage (to cover your tables in an emergency)
=> Promotional materials besides business cards (e.g., stickers, pins, pencils. People love freebies)
=> Safety pins
=> Sales tax chart
=> Scissors
=> Sewing kit (needle and thread)
=> Sheets/material for sun protection pinned to tent back wall or sidewall (if needed) (use white to match the tent/canopy)
=> Signage (both on the tent and on the tables)
=> Snacks
=> Stick pins (pin lightweight objects to table to keep from blowing away and pin the edges of table cover to keep from blowing)
=> Sunscreen
=> Tablecloths or sheets to cover display tables
=> Tables
=> Tape (double sided, duct, scotch, packaging. Better to be prepared than not.)
=> Tent/canopy with removable walls (white is recommended)
=> Tent weights or buckets of sand for weight OR pre-formed concrete filled buckets for tent poles (especially useful when setting up on asphalt)
=> Tissues
=> Toilet paper
=> Tools (e.g., screwdriver, hammer, pliers, wire,zip ties, crafting [to make any repairs])
=> Twine or rope
=> Water
=> Wet wipes and hand sanitizer
=> Window/glass cleaner for the mirror

8. Talk with customers and potential customers.

Think about an opening line to say to your customers when they visit your booth. For example, “Hi, let me know if you have any questions.” Anything beyond that - as an attempt to keep a potential customer in the booth longer through conversation - can have someone leaving quicker than desired.

One tip that I found interesting was that when people compliment your work, don't say "Thank you" because that is a conversation stopper. Say, "Yes, they are great because..."

Remember to smile - even if you are not selling a lot and are disappointed in sales; are hungry, or grumpy. Someone said, "I’ve walked out of booths before just because the people behind the table looked disinterested or unhappy. No one wants to interact with miserable people, especially for an items that aren’t the necessities of life."

Standing is a much better vantage point for engaging customers. Sitting down has the potential to send the message, “I’m taking a break, don’t disturb me,” and that is not what you want. Although taking breaks is a necessity, try to stand as much as possible…you can rest later.

Put a little tray with something edible on your stand. Often times, this will make people stay at your booth a bit longer. Staying with the farmers market theme, this booth offered candy in a chicken feeder.

9. Make visiting your booth fun and the sale memorable.

One vendor offers lottery tickets to her customers. She makes her own lottery tickets for her shop on Etsy. Each customer receives a lottery ticket. On one ticket, there is a code for $25 of free products in her shop. This is the tutorial for making lottery tickets.

Invite people to sign up or drop their business card into a container for a free drawing to win a piece of your artwork. Have them include their name, address, and/or email address. Instant list for future marketing purposes!

Run a farmers market weekly special and use signage to promote the details. It’s important to give an added incentive to purchase something from you that day. Take one of your lower-end products and create an easy way for people to purchase more of them (e.g., buy 2, get 1 free).

Have some items available for children who will often bring their parents to your table. You might make a sale that way.

Wool Felt Bears & Bunting
Set of bears with bunting.

When completing a sale, wrap it nicely - either placing it in a special bag or gift wrapping it. Add a little freebie (e.g., a postcard, coupon, button, lottery ticket  for a discount on a future purchase).

Handmade Gift Bags from Vintage Children's Books
Bags made from vintage children's books.
(Available through Harvest Moon by Hand.)

Have live music. In our case, Sophia could play her harp and have a collection dish in front of her.

Sophia Denise and Elizabeth at Fair
Sophia with her harp instructor after
a performance at the County Fair.

10. Be Presentable.

Consciously or unconsciously, customers often base their purchasing decisions on their first impression of you. Be clean, neat, well dressed, and well groomed.

Also consider wearing a name tag or having your business logo inscribed on t-shirts.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Outdoor Hour Challenge #44 Mammals: Rabbits and Hares

During February, we decided to re-visit the Outdoor Hour Challenge #44: Rabbits and Hares on The Handbook of Nature Study's blog after we fostered a rabbit through the Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society. Brooke (the rabbit) came to us very nervous and shaking. We gave her the opportunity to have some quiet space to herself and get comfortable in her new (temporary) home. 

The first day, Sophia played the harp for Brooke, and she seemed intrigued with the sound. Her ears perked up, and she listened intently as Sophia practiced many songs.

Brooke listening to Sophia play the harp.

We fed Brooke fresh lettuce each day as well as one tablespoon of treats (e.g., carrots, broccoli, celery) and one teaspoon of fruit (e.g., bananas, strawberries). 

Olivia with Brooke and her lettuce/treat bowl.

Within a few days, she was visibly calmer and interacting with us. She attended an adoption event a week later, and was adopted. People who saw her before coming to our home and at the adoption event were amazed at the transformation.

Despite our success with Brooke, we had no prior knowledge of caring for rabbits. It was a wonderful opportunity for  Sophia and Olivia to observe a rabbit up close and be responsible for her care. 

Although we had studied about rabbits prior to doing another nature journal entry about them, this time we had a different perspective and interest in them.

Sophia's nature journal page.

The girls each wrote some facts in their nature journals about rabbits based on a couple of books that we read.

Olivia's nature journal page.

Olivia also left part of a page of her nature journal open so she could include a picture of Brooke. 

The second page in Olivia's nature journal about rabbits.
This is the top half of the page. 
She left half a page for a photo (not shown).

She has many pictures to choose from. One of the ones we like is the picture of Brooke sitting next to Olivia who was laying on the floor. A split second later she hopped over Olivia. 

Brooke ready to jump over Olivia.

Outside there are countless rabbit tracks in both the front and backyards. One of the places the rabbits are using for their home is under a huge brush pile in the backyard. They also are gnawing on some of the branches that were from the apple tree that are in the pile.

Rabbit Tracks
Rabbit tracks in the backyard.

The dogs are fascinated with the rabbit tracks, and trying to find where they are hiding in the backyard. Cooper (the puppy) even crawls into the brush pile a bit to try to get a closer look at them.

Rabbit Cat and Dog Prints
Rabbit and dog prints.

We enjoyed learning more about rabbits - both domestic and wild - through this nature study.

Brooke by two of her favorite toys.