Friday, February 28, 2014

Crazy Quilt Journal Project (CQJP 2014) - February Quilt Square

This is the second month that I'm participating in the Crazy Quilt Journal Project. The project aims to promote the art of crazy quilting and expand the participant’s individual artistic creativity and technical knowledge.

The entire quilt block for February.

My goal is simply to learn how to do individual crazy quilt squares. I'm not following any patterns, so last month I lucked out and the pieces seemed to work together and lay flat. This month...I wasn't so lucky.

This is one section that didn't lay flat.
Just did some simple stitching over it,
and will hope for the best when I sew everything together.

There were several parts of this month's quilt square that I just could not get to line up properly and lay flat after sewing them. It is what it is...I can't stress out about something so insignificant in the greater scheme of life.

I'm using a variety of trims I have on hand.
To this red one, I added two different colors of beads.

At any rate, I'm continuing to use only the trim and embroidery floss that I have on hand. I want this quilt to be something that uses up what I have rather than a project for which I have to go out and purchase supplies. It's that "make do with what you have" mentality that I grew up with and still guides my life today.

This section shows a variety of trims, 
buttons, and embroidery stitches.

One of the things I'm learning is that these quilt squares take a lot of time to create. They aren't something that can be completed in a morning or afternoon. Starting next month I would like to do the machine sewing of the block during the first week of March, and then do all the hand-stitching for the next couple of weeks. In this way, I won't feel rushed, and can perhaps add even more tactile elements to the crazy quilt square.

5 of My Favorite Things and Me - P52 and 52 Week Photo Challenge 2014 - Week 9

Although the theme for this week's 52 Week Photo Challenge 2014 is 5 of My Favorite Things and Me, I wanted to use another photo that I took at the International Wolf Center in Ely this past week.

At first glance, this photograph is of a single image. Yet, for me, this image represents five of my favorite things:

=> Traveling and exploring a new area. In this case, I had never been to Ely or the International Wolf Center before, and enjoyed being there and Duluth from February 23rd-26th.

=> Wildlife. I'm always excited to see wild birds and animals, especially when they are up close and I can see individual feathers or hairs....the detail of their eyes...or watch them breathing. Such little things, but ones that inspire me.

=> Spending time with Sophia and Olivia. We had so much fun driving to and from Ely; and going dog sledding and ice climbing. These type of memories are ones that I cherish; and I hope they do too, especially when they are older.

=> The outdoors. Being connected to nature and spending outdoors always lifts my spirits. I am so thankful that my parents encouraged me to spend time outside when I was young since that has continued well into adulthood.

=> Education. Learning about new subjects, and challenging myself to continually learn about things I don't know is rewarding. By homeschooling Sophia and Olivia, I am able to learn something each day. Taking field trips and visiting different organizations and businesses always results in learning new information.

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Composer Study - Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin was born in Northeast Texas around 1867, just outside of Texarkana, and died April 1, 1917 in New York of dementia. He was an American composer and pianist, who achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was dubbed "The King of Ragtime."

During his brief career, Joplin wrote over 40 original ragtime pieces, two operas, and one ragtime ballet.

Maple Leaf Rag (2:58)

This piece, composed in 1899, was one of Joplin's early works, and became the model for ragtime compositions by subsequent composers for at least 12 years thanks to its rhythmic patterns, melody lines, and harmony.

As a result, Joplin was called the "King of Ragtime." The piece gave Joplin a steady - if unspectacular - income for the rest of his life.

Despite ragtime's decline after Joplin's death in 1917, the Maple Leaf Rag continued to be recorded by many well-known artists. The ragtime revival of the 1970s brought it back to mainstream public notice once again.

Sophia thought: It's quick. I liked that it was so fast. I don't like it as much as The Entertainer. That's the song I was thinking of when I first heard this one.

Olivia thought: It's interesting. I'm not sure I like this type of music. I don't think I liked anything about it.

The Entertainer (4:42)

One of the classics of ragtime, The Entertainer returned to top international prominence as part of the ragtime revival in the 1970s, when it was used as the theme music for the 1973 Oscar-winning film The Sting.

Composer and pianist Marvin Hamlisch's adaptation reached #3 on the Billboard pop chart and spent a week at #1 on the easy listening chart in 1974.The Sting was set in the 1930s, a full generation after the end of ragtime's mainstream popularity, thus giving the mistaken impression that ragtime music was popular at that time.

The Recording Industry Association of America ranked it #10 on its "Songs of the Century" list.

Sophia thought: It's like I can hear what he normally sounds like when he plays faster. It sounds like he's having to restrain himself when he goes slower. I like that there are same parts in it, but he plays them differently. I'm not sure if I like all the crescendos. I like the first part better (more than the second part around 3:00). It kind of goes all over the place.

Olivia thought: I like this one. It's a little bit fast and little bit slow. It's quiet. I like that it changes between loud and soft. 

Elite Syncopations (3:59)

This piece shows Joplin's potential for innovation. Although the heading simply states "Not fast" - fast in this instance must be seen as a relative term. It is likely that many of the pianists at that time were ragging any tune they could, and playing it at breakneck speeds to show off their skill.

It has been widely agreed that Joplin's intention was that his pieces not be played at outlandish speeds, but in a controlled manner appropriate for the content. "Not Fast" did not necessarily mean "Slow."

Sophia thought: It's quiet...I don't really like that. I like the ones that he wrote that have more of a beat.

Olivia thought: This reminds me of the kid on Charlie Brown who plays the piano. I like this one. It's calming. 

The Strenuous Life (5:16)

In 1900, war hero and soon-to-be Vice President Theodore Roosevelt published his collection called The Strenuous Life. In it he advocated that Americans should not rest on their well-earned laurels an be be complacent, but that they should always work hard to accomplish more. He detested idleness, thus the title of this collection of speeches and essays starting with an address he made in 1899.

Within a year President William McKinley was assassinated, and Roosevelt was now in charge of the country. In 1902, Roosevelt looked to African-American leader Booker T. Washington as an advisor for appointments of black personnel in his government.

It was the fact that Roosevelt actually sat down with Washington for a White House lunch that outraged many parts of the country, yet fortified others. Joplin was inspired by this show of strength, and named his most-recently composed rag The Strenuous Life in honor of Roosevelt.

Sophia thought: It's something that you'd hear at a dance. I don't like it that much. But, I could listen to while knitting - it was easy to listen to and not distracting.

Olivia thought: I don't really like this one because it's a little too slow and quiet. I guess it was relaxing.

Palm Leaf Rag (3:30)

This piece is the first rag that Joplin sold to a Chicago publisher. It provided a new distribution base and a fresh audience for his works, which had already reached far by reputation. Palm Leaf Rag is smooth and graceful and contains sophisticated syncopation as well as some asymmetry.

Sophia thought: It's pretty...and it is smooth. I like it better than the one I just listened to (The Strenuous Life). Maybe it goes a little faster - it flows more evenly.

Olivia thought: Not my favorite. All the songs kind of blend in. The way he's kind of playing the notes. 

The Chrysanthemum - An Afro-American Intermezzo (4:31)

Following the failed opera tour, Joplin went to Chicago for a few months, and then returned to Arkansas to visit relatives. In Arkansas he met Freddie Alexander, a 19-year-old woman, and was so taken with her that he dedicated The Chrysanthemum to her.

Probably because ragtime was considered in many circles to be a disreputable form, Joplin sought to endow this rag with more dignity by portraying it as “An Afro-American Intermezzo.”

Sophia thought: It's kind of a lonely piece. It's sweet...and sounds pretty.

Olivia thought: It reminds me of the book named The has the same title. I liked the beginning the most. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Georg Philipp Telemann - Composer Study

Georg Philipp Telemann (March 14, 1681 – June 25, 1767) was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family's wishes.

After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law. However, he ended up settling on a music career instead. He settled in Hamburg in 1721, and became the musical director of the city's five main churches.

Telemann was one of the most prolific composers in history and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time. Many people  compared him favorably to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, who made Telemann the godfather and namesake of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also personally knew.

Telemann's music incorporates several national and popular musical styles (e.g., Italian, French, Polish). He remained at the forefront of all new musical trends and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.

Sophia and Olivia listened to several pieces from CDs that we checked out of the library including:

=> Wilbert Hazelzet Sonnerie - Telemann- 6 Paris Quartets
=> Georg Philipp Telemann - Six Orchestral Suites - Overture Suites - La Stagione Frankfurt
=> Telemann - Ouverture Comique - Collegium Musicum 90 with Simon Standage (Director)

Quatuor No. 1 in D Major - Movement 1 - Prelude Vivement(2:25)

Sophia - I definitely like this one. It is light and sounds like something you would hear in France. I really like the flutes.

Olivia - You can definitely hear the violin and flutes. I really like the violin and flute together. It sounds like something you would hear at a party.

Quartuor No. 2 in A Minor - Movement 6 - Coulant (5:24)

Sophia: This is something you would hear in a dream. It is light and airy. The harpsichord seems to add a little more substance.

Olivia: I really like this one. I like it more than the first one. It sounds like something you'd hear in a ballet. I like the harpsichord.

Suite in E Flat Major - Aria I: Preso (:54) and Aria II:Vivace (1:17)

Sophia: I like this one [the Aria I: Preso] - it sounds very majestic. I wish it would last longer. The second one sounds like a jig. It's fast and quick. Out of the two, I liked the first one better.

Olivia: This one is quite fast. I'm not sure I like these two pieces as much as the second one we listened to. I could hear the flute and it sounded like organ or piano.

Suite in E Flat Major - Aria VI: Tempo di Minue (Allegro) (2:24)

Sophia: This sounds like something you'd hear with people dancing. It sounds fancy. I can imagine people dancing to this.

Olivia: This sounds like something you'd hear at a ball with people wearing wigs. It's something from Liberty Kids.

Concerto in E Minor for Recorder, Flute, and Strings - I - Largo (3:37)

Sophia: I think the music sounds high. I don't really like this. It's starting to sound the same as the other pieces.

Olivia: It's something that you would hear in a sad part of a movie. It's slow.

Ouverture in F Sharp Minor -VII Courante (151)

Sophia: I don't like this one. It doesn't stand out from the other pieces. It's not a quiet piece.

Olivia: It's not my favorite one. It gets better as the music goes on, though.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Apricot Mint Couscous Salad - North African Food for Eastern Hemisphere Study

Sophia has been studying about Africa which is part of her homeschooling about the history, culture, and geography of the Eastern Hemisphere. One of the activities that she wanted to do was make food that would be typically eaten in Africa.

Looking through Pinterest, I came across a pin for an Apricot Mint Couscous Salad from North Africa. It led to Mezze and Dolce. The salad serves 4-6 people as a salad or part of a mezze platter.

Sophia with the Apricot Mint Couscous Salad she made.

The salad is easy to make. The only labor-intensive part is chopping all the fresh ingredients. It tastes very good, though we did end up adding some more ingredients to make it a bit spicier and more flavorful.


1 3/4 cup couscous (we used millet because that's what we had on hand)
15 dried apricot halves
1/4 cup minced shallot
1/4 cup finely sliced green onion
1 large handful Italian parsley, chopped (we didn't have any fresh, so we used a palm-full of dried parsley)
20+ mint leaves, julienned
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh jalepeno (we used about 3/4 teaspoon...or maybe a bit more)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper


Cook couscous according to package. Cut dried apricots in half and stir into the couscous for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking. Strain, rinse with cold water, and let sit to dry while preparing the rest.

Chopping the mint.

In a large bowl, combine minced shallot, green onion, parsley, mint, and jalapeno.

Adding the mint to the other ingredients.

Mix in the couscous to coat. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Montague was a good helper.
He wanted to be in the picture with Sophia.

The salad may need more herbs, spice, or seasoning depending on your taste.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Framed - P52 and 52 Week Photo Challenge 2014 - Week 8

This is the eighth week of the P52 and 52 Weeks Photo Challenges, and the latter selected the theme of "Framed."

There were some clever ideas that I've seen that use empty frames propped at an angle in the sand and there's a person in the distance within the frame...or others holding an empty frame with their face behind it. Lots of different ideas for using actual picture frames.

Had I allowed more time perhaps I would have been more creative. it is...the end of the week and the eve before leaving on a multi-day dogsledding and ice climbing trip. I was pressed for time.

Looked around the house and out the windows and realized: the entire house is filled with window frames. So I looked out many of the windows to see the views. All are different variations on the same theme: high drifts of snow - some almost as tall as the 4-foot high fence around the backyard. In the driveway, the 6-foot high fences are almost buried. It's been a challenging winter.

One of my favorite views is from this window:

It's one of many pine trees around the farm. This one is on the west side of the house so it provides a nice windbreak (as do the other ones that are in two rows along the driveway).

Beyond the pine tree is the west pasture. The sun is slowly making its way north as it sets. Right now, the setting sun is southwest of this window. By summer - it will be directly ahead. Needless to say, the sunsets are magnificent...especially when the entire summer sky is all different shades of lavender, magenta, and blue.

Until then...I look at the big banks of snow and wonder when it will melt and where it will go. Perhaps there will be a big pond this spring. Those spring peepers will be singing quite a bit in a couple of months...even better when they have a nice pond to hide in and swim around in.

Lots of memories as I look out this window...perhaps that's why it is one of my favorite ones.

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Your Favorite Book - LEGO Quest #8

This weeks challenge for LEGO Quest is to create something from a favorite book. The design can be anything from the book: a character, object, scene, design or feeling.

Olivia created a town inspired by a book that she had recently read.

The town with four homes, trees, flowers, animals, and butterflies.

Each of the homes had its own furnishings, people, animals, and items on the roof (like butterflies or a cat).

The homes each had a bed and a table.

On each table and bed there were different items.

The small items came from different Friends LEGO sets. They certainly help with distinguishing the little homes from one another.

Friday, February 21, 2014

John Philip Sousa - Composer Study

John Philip Sousa (November 6, 1854 – March 6, 1932) was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known mostly for American patriotic and military marches.

Because of his mastery of march composition, he is known as "The March King." Sousa's best-known marches are The ThundererThe Washington PostThe Liberty Bell, Semper Fidelis (Official March of the United States Marine Corps), and The Stars and Stripes Forever (National March of the United States of America).

Sousa's mother was of Bavarian ancestry and his father was Portuguese. Sousa began his career playing violin; and studying music theory and composition under George Felix Benkert and John Esputa.

His father enlisted him in the United States Marine Band as an apprentice in 1868. After leaving the band in 1875, Sousa learned how to conduct. From 1880 until his death, he focused exclusively on conducting and the writing of marches.

He eventually rejoined the Marine Band and served there for 12 years as director. On departing the Marine Band, Sousa created his own band. He toured Australia and Europe; and developed the sousaphone, a large brass instrument similar to the tuba.

On the outbreak of World War I, Sousa was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander and led the Naval Reserve Band in Illinois. Following his tenure, he returned to conduct the Sousa Band until his death in 1932.

The Thunderer (2:57)

This piece was written in 1889. The origin of the name is not officially known, though it is thought  that it gets its name from the pyrotechnic effects of the drum and bugle in the score.  The Thunderer also is one of his most famous, and easy to perform. It was also the election theme for ABC News from 1968 to 1972.

Sophia thought: The trumpets are certainly an important part of it. It's like something you'd hear at the end of a movie. I liked this song a lot because it had a nice rhythm. 

Olivia thought: This sounds mostly like trumpets. It was loud. I liked it. It kept repeating itself in some parts - I liked that. It sounded good when he did that.

The Washington Post (2:44)

In 1889, the owners of The Washington Post requested that Sousa compose a march for the newspaper's essay contest awards ceremony. Sousa obliged; and The Washington Post March was introduced at the ceremony on June 15, 1889, and it became quite popular.

It led to a British journalist dubbing Sousa "The March King." Sousa is honored in The Washington Post building for his contribution to the newspaper and his country.

Since then, The Washington Post has remained as one of his most popular marches throughout the United States and many countries throughout the world.

Sophia thought: It sounded like the song they played in Mary Poppins when they were riding the carousel horses. I didn't like this one as much as The Thunderer. I preferred the trumpets in the other just sounded more defined. I liked that this song had drums.

Olivia thought: It sounds like something you'd hear in The Wizard Oz when they are singing the song about the Yellow Brick Road. I liked the other song because it seemed faster. I also couldn't really hear the trumpets in this one, but I could hear the drums.

The High School Cadets (2:51)

In 1890, Sousa was commissioned to write a march by the high school of Washington, D.C. (later known as Central). The school's famous High School Cadets drill team asked Sousa for a better march than National Fencibles, which he had written for a rival school. They got one: The High School Cadets.

Sophia thought:I think it's something you'd hear at an old-fashioned fair. I think I liked this one better than the second one because it sounded more magnificent.

Olivia thought: It sounds like music that would play when there are chases in movies - like The Pink Panther - when there are fast parts and then it slows down and then it goes fast again. Sophia is is something you'd hear at an old-fashioned the Polk County Fair. I still like the first song the best.

Semper Fidelis (2:51)

"Semper Fidelis", which was written in 1888 by Sousa, is regarded as the official march of the United States Marine Corps. This piece was one of two composed in response to a request from United States President Chester Arthur for a new piece to be associated with the United States President. The words Semper Fidelis are Latin for "Always Faithful."

Sophia thought:It's kind of dramatic. I liked the cymbal part (at about 1:20). I liked this because it felt longer than some of the other songs. The other ones just seemed so short.

Olivia thought:  This is something that you'd hear that you'd hear at a lively square dancing. It sounds like of like that. I think this is my favorite song so far...maybe because it reminds me of a square dance.

The Lambs' March (2:09)

This is a lesser-known march that Sousa composed. The refreshing melody is tuneful and infectious, and while not as difficult as many marches, it maintains that wonderful and unique quality for which Sousa is known.

Sophia thought: It doesn't sound like a lambs' march. It's something you might hear at a circus. The ending was rather abrupt. I still like the first march that Sousa wrote the best.

Olivia thought: It sounds like someone is fighting a bull with all the excitement going on. This wasn't my favorite. I liked the title of it, though.

The Stars and Stripes Forever (3:41)

This piece is a patriotic American march widely considered to be the magnum opus of composer Sousa. By a 1987 act of the U.S. Congress, it is the official National March of the United States of America.

Sousa composed the march on Christmas Day, 1896. He and his wife were on an ocean liner on their way home from a vacation in Europe. Sousa had just learned of the recent death of David Blakely, the manager of the Sousa Band.

So, Sousa composed the march in his head and committed the notes to paper on arrival in the United States. It was first performed at Willow Grove Park, just outside Philadelphia, on May 14, 1897, and was immediately greeted with enthusiasm.

Sophia thought: I recognize this song! It certainly changes a lot - there's loud parts and softer ones; and he introduces different instruments. I like the flutes because they are high and pretty.

Olivia thought: There was one part that I really liked - the really loud part. I also like the part with the flute (around 2:20). It's much quieter. 

Ecovillages - New Frontiers for Sustainability - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 9

This week for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I took a momentary departure from fiction books and read Ecovillages - New Frontiers for Sustainability by Jonathan Dawson. The book gives an interesting insight into the growing interest in ecovillages and the successes that existing ones have had since their inception.

According to the book, "The ecovillage movement was born when the ancient idea of intential communal living met the burgeoning international green movement of the 1960s and 1970s .... [It is] a human-scale settlement, harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future. In other words, a peaceful, socially just, sustainable community."

Generally ecovillages have several principles in common: self-reliance, decentralization, and spiritual inquiry. There seems to be a shared commitment to ecological restoration, rebuilding community, global justice, and service to others.

Alternative, holistic education seems to be the core activity and largest single source of income for many intentional communities. The central "function of ecovillages is to develop new ideas, technologies, and models that it then shares with the wider world."

What resonated with me was that the "knowledge and skills of the small-scale farmer and artisan were viewed as strengths to be built upon rather than a problem to be solved." This philosophy fits so nicely with the community in which I live where there are many hobby farmers and craftspeople. Rather than having all these individuals work independently, it would be interesting to see what would happen if this group of like-minded individuals came together in some way.

Another philosophy that seems to make ecovillages cohesive is that the people are committed to social, ecological, spiritual, and economic concerns.

They "see themselves as being in service to a wider cause, generally phrased in terms of ecological restoration, strengthening community, nurturing the local economy, and/or deepening spiritual insight. Most are engaged in educational and other demonstration activities as a way of communicating their message and insights to the wider world."

This reminds me of the farm and art camp that I founded and directed here at the farm back in the late 1990s to early 2000s. 

Many of these same issues and purposes - growing organic food; educating children and their families about how to use fresh produce; giving youth (6-18 years old) opportunities to work with and be mentored by artists - all are very similar to what an ecovillage may strive to do.

Further, the camp program provided economic (paid) positions to teens and adults. There also were many volunteer opportunities for people within a wide age range - from 12 years old to seniors; those who were volunteering on their own to those; individuals who part of a restorative justice program (youth and adult first-time offenders); and employees coming with a large corporate group (e.g., 3-M, Aveda) to help make a difference.

Many ecovillages focus on environmental education - both within their community as well as by offering programs at local schools. Another draws on the experience of "midwives and medicine men [to] research...medicinal plants and herbs."

In terms of food production, "much effort is put into the production of food within the community."  One ecovillage, for example, "is about 75% self-reliant in vegetables, and buys its grains and other food from a network of organic suppliers that it helped to establish."

One ecovillage, The Ladakh Project, "introduced the first solar greenhouse...enabling villagers to grow vegetables all year round."

Another ecovillage is committed to preserving land by reserving 90% of it for "open space for organic agriculture, woods, meadows, and wetland." In this way, "people are more healthily and sustainably integrated into the non-human world."

From Back of Property Looking North
View of the back part of our farm looking north towards the barn.
(Photo taken in October 2011.)

An ecovillage in Scotland created "Trees for Life...with the vision to restore a wild forest, which is there for its own sake, as a home for wildlife and fulfill the ecological functions necessary for the well-being of the land itself."

Some ecovillages have looked at natural ways to supply heat to their homes and buildings. Some rely on wood while other generate electrical power on-site by solar panels, wind generators, and micro-hydro units.

"A core objective of [ecovillages] is to demonstrate that it is possible to make a living from the products growing on their own land. This has led to the development of a wide range of traditional crafts, including basketry, rustic gate making, woodturning, spinning, weaving, and felt making." Other ecovillages have craft studios where "beautiful ceramics, textiles, carvings, and candles" are produced.

Sophia Making a Beeswax Candle
Sophia making a beeswax candle.
(Photo taken in December 2007.)

Another strong commitment ecovillages have is voluntary simplicity - or the conscious decision to live more simply. The goal is to live a low-impact lifestyle.

One of the challenges that ecovillages have had is "food-processing at the village scale as an economic activity." Because of corporate regulations and rules regarding "stainless steel, refrigeration, and fluorescent lighting," the minimum investment required for food-processing today has driven many small-scale enterprises out of business."

There are some excellent resources on the internet for those interested in ecovillages:

=> Global Ecovillage Network
=> Fellowship of Intentional Communities
=> The Camphill Movement

In terms of peace work, activism, and international solidarity, I was very impressed with Plenty - a non-profit organization that is doing amazing work throughout the world. There are many national and international projects that could be adapted to a local level for smaller ecovillages.

There is another organization - Trees for Life - that aims to plant 10 million trees in 10 years. (Their work started in the early 1980s with the planting of fruit trees in India. The emphasis was on creating awareness, training people to plant and take care of trees and providing them with the resources needed to accomplish their tasks.)

Trees for Life hopes to create "...a movement in which people join hands to break the cycle of poverty and hunger and care for our earth."

According to their website, the strategy to reach this mission is that "each person or community that is helped pledges to pass on to at least two others their experience, knowledge and/or materials to get started. This starts a chain reaction—a movement—that can spread to many other people and communities. In this way, we demonstrate that by helping each other people can unleash extraordinary power that enriches every life."

Fence with trees
Trees that we planted in the pasture. 
They are growing more each year and providing shelter 
for the birds and wildlife now.
(Photo taken in September 2007.)

I found Ecovillages - New Frontiers for Sustainability to be an inspiring and informative book. There were so many practical, life-sustaining ideas packed into this book. It also gives me pause for thought that trying to establish a local ecovillage would be a meaningful way to bring together like-minded people who would support one another - especially in difficult economic times.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

52-Week Money Challenge

One of the things that I am trying to teach Sophia and Olivia is the value of saving money. Whenever they receive a gift or earn money, half of that goes into savings. I'm hoping that by learning this skill early in life that it continues well into their adulthood and makes life significantly easier for them.

One of the ideas I recently found on Pinterest that led to WFMY News 2 was for a 52-Week Money Challenge in which you can save almost $1,400 by the end of the year.

According to the website, "The concept is simple. Each week, you deposit the number of that week of the year into a savings plan. For example, the first week of 2014, you would deposit $1; the second week, $2; and so on and so on. By the end of the year, you will have saved close to $1,400."

There's a handy 52-Week Money Challenge Chart that can be printed out to help track how much to save each week and the total amount that has been saved each week throughout the year.

Why is saving so important and why does this challenge seem intriguing? According to the WFMY News 2 website, "Financial experts advise people to save six months to a year of their annual income. Saving that amount can be overwhelming for a lot of Americans who don't by nature save money for the future. The 52-week savings plan is less intimidating and is fairly easy to do. Besides, everyone loves a challenge, right?"

A jar with $28 saved so far this year.

So, here it is already Week 7 in 2014. So far, there's $28 saved in the jar by following the plan:

1                                    $1                                $1
2                                    $2                                $3
3                                    $3                                $6
4                                    $4                                $10
5                                    $5                                $15
6                                    $6                                $21
7                                    $7                                $28

At some point, I'm going to open an account dedicated just to this challenge. It's better to have it safe at a bank and accruing some interest than to have it sitting at home.

It's not too late to start, if this sounds like a good challenge to undertake in 2014. There are plenty of things that can be done with $1,400 at the end of the year...including investing that money or continuing to build upon it in each subsequent year. It's better to start somewhere than not to start at all!

Weekly Detox Mixture - DIY Tutorial

On the Whole Living website, Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., founder and medical director of the Ultra Wellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, suggests some simple ways to maximize your body's ability to process waste.

I thought I'd try them...even though there isn't a measurable way to determine if they are effectively doing what he claims.

A Cleansing Soak

Epsom salts, baking soda, and lavender essential oil.

Once a week for 20 minutes, sit in a hot bath that contains a handful of Epsom salts, 10 drops of lavender essential oil, and a half cup of baking soda.

I used about a half cup of Epsom salts that I poured into a bowl. Then I added the baking soda.

Adding baking soda to the Epsom salts.

Next, add the ten drops of lavender essential oil.

Adding the essential oil to the Epsom salts and baking soda.

Add the mixture to the bath water.

Pouring the mixture into the water.

This combination draws out toxins, lowers stress-related hormones, and balances pH levels. This was quite relaxing and smelled wonderful. I would do this again.

Water with Lemon

A glass of water and lemon.

Sipping room-temperature water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning stimulates digestion and helps to flush toxins.

Squeezing lemon juice into the water.

This was a rather tart beverage. Perhaps it was because I used the juice from half the lemon.

Water with lemon juice...
plus a lemon seed at the bottom of the glass.

Maybe a slice of lemon or less lemon juice would taste better.

Regular Exercise

Any type of exercise that increases your heart rate and creates sweat (e.g., sun salutations, brisk walking, jogging) helps your body rid itself of anything it doesn't need. Fifteen minutes a day is beneficial; and 30 minutes is ideal.

Go Hot and Cold

Finish your morning shower by alternating between water temperatures as hot and cold as you can stand. The technique increases circulation, which in turn flushes the lymphatic system.

(This information was from a pin I found on Pinterest that led to Whole Living. The photographs are ones that I took as I tried the recommendations.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lace Pottery Bowl - A DIY Homeschool Art Project

Olivia enjoys working with clay, and I happened to have some air-dry clay in my supply closet that I thought would be fun for her to use.

The first step to making a lace pottery bowl was to cut off a section of the clay and get it soft enough to roll out.

Then, Olivia rolled the clay out in a circular shape.

Next, she took a lace doily and pressed it into the clay using the rolling pin. She went over it many times so the impression would show up in the clay.

When she done, Olivia removed the doily from the clay.

The placed the clay into a shallow bowl that doubles as a small plate, and used a scissor to trim the edges.

She left the clay in the bowl so that it can harden in that shape. It will take 2-3 days for the air-dry clay to be dry.

When she is done, she will paint it with acrylic paint and seal it with Mod Podge. It is not a bowl that can be washed in the dishwasher. Rather, it will be something decorative that can hold items like jewelry.

(The idea for this project came from a pin on Pinterest that led to A Bit of Bees Knees.)

Amazingly Easy Way to Clean the Dishwasher...Naturally!!

This winter has been a tough one for the dishwasher. With almost two months of temperatures below zero on most days, the water line to the dishwasher was often frozen. The water supply couldn't reach the machine, so it wouldn't work.

Now, with some above-zero temperatures, the dishwasher is working again. However, before I used it I wanted to clean it thoroughly. I found a pin on Pinterest that led to One Good Thing By Jillee that showed step-by-step how to clean a dishwasher thoroughly. I was curious to see if her enthusiasm about her method would translate into a sparkly-clean dishwasher for me.

Dishwasher before

She first recommends pulling the bottom rack out of the dishwasher to look carefully that there are no hard chunks of food that can plug the drain or damage dishes. I didn't find anything, so I moved onto the next step.

This is the part that bothered me the most. 
No matter what I did to clean the dishwasher using pre-made cleaners 
that are available in big-box stores, this would not get clean.

I filled a dishwasher-safe mug with one cup of plain white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher.
As she said, "Using the hottest water available, run the dishwasher through a cycle – except for the cup of vinegar, the dishwasher needs to be empty."

A cup of vinegar ready to go through a washing cycle.

The purpose of this step is to sanitize the dishwasher, remove any grease, and dispel the musty odor.

If vinegar isn't available, a packet of unsweetened lemonade mix in the soap cup can be used. Note: do not use other flavors as they may stain the inside of your dishwasher. (This step can be eliminated if an all-natural cleaning of a dishwasher is preferred)

The packaged of unsweetened lemonade mix 
soaking up some water that was in the cup.

Since I hadn't used the dishwasher for quite a while, I did both the vinegar and lemonade mix in the same cycle. Figure it couldn't hurt to double-dose the dishwasher and thoroughly clean it.

When I opened up the dishwasher, there was still some discoloration on the floor of it that I had hoped would be gone. There was still one more step, so I was hoping that would do the trick.

So, I sprinkled one cup of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher and ran it through a short cycle using the hottest water. The purpose of the baking soda is to freshen the smell of the dishwasher as well as brighten up the look of the inside of your appliance by removing stains.

When the dishwasher completed the second cycle, I opened it and was greeted by a burst of steam.

Once that cleared, I looked at the floor of the dishwasher and that stain was gone! I could not believe it!

The dishwasher looks and smells clean. This method works so much better than those chemical-cubes that come with the dishwasher to sanitize it. And, because these items - vinegar, baking soda, and unsweetened lemonade mix - are readily available, cleaning the dishwasher is something that can be easily and routinely done.

Natural Orange Cinnamon Cleaner

One of the things I'd like to work on this year is to transition to a more natural lifestyle - one that doesn't have as many chemicals in it.

One of the easiest ways to reduce chemicals is by making your own cleaning products. One of the recipes I recently found on Pinterest linked to Dollar Store Crafts and My Own Labels for Natural Orange Cinnamon  Cleaner.

The cleaner smells incredibly fresh; it cuts through grease; disinfects; and is inexpensive to make.

To make a batch of homemade cleaner, add orange peels to a mason jar. I used three large oranges and a clementine for a quart jar.

Add a few cinnamon sticks for a spicy scent.

 Then fill it up with white vinegar. The more citrus peels used, the less the cleaner will smell of vinegar.

Let sit covered in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks then strain into a spray bottle. If you would like a stronger spice smell when strained, add a few drops of cinnamon essential oil.

Use within about 6 weeks and make smaller batches so that you always have some fresh cleaner on hand.