Monday, March 31, 2014

Monthly Journal for Tweens and Teens

Each month this year I am having Sophia and Olivia do a different monthly journal. There are so many interesting formats and ideas to recording one's thoughts. As I looked at Pinterest, I can across a pin for one that focused on gratitude. The pin itself doesn't lead to anything.

Luckily, though, it had the blog listed at the bottom of the image so I was able to trace it back to Second Chance to Dream which provided a link to the downloadable sheet.

Olivia's March journal entry.

I liked that this activity focused on things that the girls could be grateful for:

=> Relationships I am grateful for
=> 3 strengths
=> One overlooked blessing
=> Financial strengths
=> Spiritually I'm grateful for
=> People who've helped me
=> Activities I enjoy

Sophia's March journal entry.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Good Life of Helen K. Nearing - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 14

This week I read The Good Life of Helen K. Nearing by Margaret O. Killinger for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. I was hoping to read more about Helen's life (as well as her husband, Scott's life) that focused on organic gardening, vegetarianism, pacifism, and hard work as primary components of their 'good life.'

The book ended up revealing more than what I truly needed to know about Helen and Scott's personal life; and some of their decisions that had a negative impact on one another. There were several sections in the book that honestly are not that essential to what I want to know about how they conducted their lives in terms of simple living, organic gardening, and a healthy diet.

Granted, they are part of Helen's life, yet Killinger's inclusion in the book made it awkward - at times - for me to read the information. It was too much information...and not the kind that I wanted to read.

At any rate, there were many things mentioned about how they chose to live their lives which is what did - and still - that I find interesting. Below are some of the points that stood out for me:

=> "They proposed an ethic of simple living based upon production rather than consumption, allowing nature rather than the market economy to set the terms for their choices."

=> Their primary vegan diet, often eaten with wooden chopsticks and out of wooden bowls, became central to their life together.

=> They "touted their organic diet, deeming processed foods such as bleached flour ,white sugar, and polished rice 'poisons' and eschewing 'habit-forming drugs' such as caffeine, cola nut extract, nicotine, and alcohol."

=> Sometimes they followed a mono-diet where they would only eat one item such as apples throughout the day. They also fasted regularly or drank a liquid, fruit juice diet in order to rest their digestive systems.

=> What I liked was reading the description of a typical meal when Helen traveled: "Oranges for breakfast. For lunch ripe olives, nut cheese, whole wheat bread, honey, and apples. Tonight I shall have some oranges and dates."

=> They practiced "wellness" based upon this vegetarian diet in combination with physical fitness and productive professional work.

=> "Nature and this rural aesthetic offered spiritual renewal, as well as home-based moral and social reform. The city was the antithesis of this idyllic world; nature was sacred...around which daily life could be ordered."

=> They avoided debt, bartered when they could, and sought cooperative ventures.

=> They had clearly-defined work schedules - four hours a day devoted to bread labor or basic work, four hours to professional interests, and four hours to responsibilities as citizens.

=> They used simple, second-hand tools, which Nearing meticulously maintained, and they avoided the use of domesticated animals.

=> They were extraordinarily austere and frugal. I liked their philosophy of believing that "a rural lie of voluntary simplicity promised not only self-sufficiency and a reduction of one's economic needs through a spiritual commitment to 'enoughness,' but also a way of life that would be environmentally sensitive and sustainable.

=> Helen kept her mind and spirit active by reading about a range of topics - from world politics to vegetarianism to UFOs.

=> She expressed her spiritual connection to the natural world through yoga, astrology, meditation, Ouija board sessions, and contemplation in their wooden yurts.

=> She believed that heart-shaped rocks had mystical powers. She enjoyed giving children wishing stones.

=> One of the things that I liked was that she published a book called Wise Words on the Good Life: An Anthology of Quotations in 1980. She compiled hundreds of quotations that she had collected. She organized them into chapters on country life, labor, gardening, simple living, solitude, health, building, and old age.

=> Her husband, Scott, said: "Do the thing you believe in. DO it with all your might. And keep at it no matter what. The life we have been living is so far away from the really worthwhile goals of life that we've got to stop fooling around and move toward a new way of living."

As I finished reading the book, I was left with a feeling of wanting to know more about their life in Maine as was briefly described in the book: "...cellar shelves teeming with jarred goods, an outdoor table for shared meals, hand plows, a lush herb garden, meticulous wood piles, and a sun-filled greenhouse."

As a friend of both Helen and Scott, Nancy Berkowitz said in an interview, "There's a whole thing about Helen and Scott. And there is a myth, there's a mythical Helen and Scott, and there's who they really were. And I think people have to figure that out themselves, what part of the myth they're going to take on and what they can read between the lies and see how it really was."

Ultimately it comes down to what Helen wanted she and Scott to be remembered as: "That they tried their best in the circumstances in which they were. They weren't perfect, but they tried to do their best." Do the best that you can [in the place where you are], and be kind."

Mixed Media - LEGO Quest #12

For the twelfth LEGO Quest challenge, the focus is on mixed media. Mixed media means to combine one or more other objects or art mediums with a LEGO creation. The creation can be subject.

Here is a list of some items that can be combined with a LEGO creation: beads, cardboard, clay, drawings, edible materials, found objects, fabric, glue, ice, jewels, marbles, metal, paintings, paper, plastic, sand, stone, wax, wire, and wood.

For Olivia's creation, she chose to make a walking bridge over a river.

The non-LEGO items she added included stone-carved animals, a shell, and rocks.

 She put the rocks in or near the river.

The turtle and duck were in the river, while the little animal near the bridge was on the grass by the flowers.

This was the first time that Olivia combined non-LEGO items with a LEGO creation. It was definitely a stretch for her and challenged her to think out of the box in terms of creating a scene.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Composer Study - Stephen Foster

Stephen Collins Foster (July 4, 1826 – January 13, 1864), known as the "father of American music," was an American songwriter primarily known for his minstrel and parlor music.

Foster wrote over 200 songs; among his best-known are "Camptown Races," "Oh! Susanna," "Old Folks at Home,"  "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," "My Old Kentucky Home," and "Beautiful Dreamer." Many of his songs remain popular more than 150 years after he wrote them.

Sophia and Olivia listened to six of Foster's songs by listening to two CDs from the library:
- Beautiful Days - The Songs of Stephen Foster. 
- American Dreamers - Songs of Stephen Foster. Thomas Hampson was the vocalist on this CD.

We also found a version of Oh! Susanna on YouTube since the one featured on Beautiful Days was too slow of a rendition of it. It didn't sound like the version we had heard before, so we found one that was more high-spirited and fun to listen to for that song.


Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (4:17)

According to Wikipedia, "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair is a parlor song that was published by Firth, Pond & Co. of New York in 1854. Foster wrote the song with his wife Jane McDowell in mind.

According to Wikipedia, "Jeanie was a notorious beneficiary of the ASCAP boycott of 1941. During this period, most modern music could not be played by the major radio broadcasters due to a dispute over licensing fees. The broadcasters used public-domain songs during this period, and according to a 1941 article in Time magazine, "So often had BMI's Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair been played that she was widely reported to have turned grey."

Sophia thought - It seems like it would be a song that you would hear in an opera...or maybe something you'd hear at a fancy dinner. I probably wouldn't listen to this on a daily basis. It's too old-fashioned. I liked the music, but not the singing.

Olivia thought - It sounds kind of sad. [Someone starts singing:] That was startling and different. I kind of understood what he understood at some points. I liked the music...I just didn't like the singing.

Dancing on the River (4:25)

Sophia thought: I like this one because it's something you'd hear at a party that Laura Ingalls Wilder might have gone to. It sounds like something they would have danced to in Laura's time. [A new percussion instrument is playing:] Are those castanets? 

Olivia - I like this one. It sounds like something you'd hear at a very lively party out west. [A new percussion instrument is playing:] It sounds like a horse clopping around on a hard surface - like bricks - or a person is tap dancing.

Beautiful Dreamer (3:53)

This is a parlor song by Stephen Foster (1826–1864). It was published after Foster's death in March 1864 by Wm. A. Pond & Co. of New York. The first edition states on its title page that it is "the last song ever written by Stephen C. Foster. Composed but a few days prior to his death."

Sophia thought: It sounds like something you'd heard on a mid-summer nights dream. [A guy starts singing:] I don't like it!! I take what I said back. I think it's a good song but I could have done without the singing of that particular guy. I liked the lyrics about the "beautiful dreamer" part.

Olivia thought: The beginning of it before the man starting singing of relaxing music that a person would be playing while sitting on the deck or porch. I think I like it too, but without the singing. It was a relaxing song. 

Campton Races (2:40)

"Gwine to Run All Night, or De Camptown Races" (popularly known as "Camptown Races") is a minstrel song that was published by F. D. Benteen of Baltimore, Maryland, in February 1850.

In one of the most widely-familiar uses of "Camptown Races" in popular culture, the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon character Foghorn J. Leghorn sings the "Dooh Dah" refrain repeatedly in most of the 26 cartoons the character appears in between 1946 and 1963. But while the character sings other parts of the song's melody, he does not sing any other lyrics.

Sophia thought:I like that one. It was better than the other ones that I've heard so far. It had a nice rhythm and I liked the singer's voice. 

Olivia thought: I like this song because it's something you'd hear on the radio. I liked the singer's voice and the instruments that they used.

Note: The girls liked this song so much they listened to it again. I think they also needed a "pick me up" song after listening to Swanee River.

Old Folks at Home (Swanee River) (3:38)

This is a minstrel song written by Stephen Foster in 1851. It is the official state song of Florida.

Sophia thought:I don't really like this song. It's slow. It just seems quiet and sluggish.

Olivia thought: I think Tia has sang this song before. I liked the music - it would be music that you'd listen to calm yourself down. It sounded like they used the piano a lot in this song.

Oh! Susanna (3:56)

"Oh! Susanna" is a minstrel song that was first published in 1848. It is among the most popular American songs ever written.

In 1846, Foster moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and became a bookkeeper with his brother's steamship company. While in Cincinnati, Foster wrote "Oh! Susanna,"possibly for his men's social club.

The song blends a variety of musical traditions. The opening line mentions "a banjo on my knee," which refers to a musical instrument with African origins. The song takes its beat from the polka, which had just reached America from Europe.

The lyrics are basically nonsense, as characterized by lines such as "It rain'd all night the day I left, The weather it was dry, The sun so hot I froze to death..." and "I shut my eyes to hold my breath..." (second verse).

Sophia thought: [First version we listened to on CD:] They murdered this song. I don't like it.~~~[New version:] It was certainly interesting because he jumped up on a telegraph pole and might have been electrocuted in the version we listened to. I liked the bango - it was definitely country. 

Olivia thought: [First version we listened to on CD:] It's different. It's slow. I don't like this version of it. ~~~ [New version:] I like this version better. It's more lively. It's quicker. It had some strange lyrics. I liked the banjo music.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sara Teasdale - Poetry/Poet Study

Sara Teasdale, who was born on August 8, 1884, in St. Louis, Missouri, had such poor health during her childhood that it was only at age 14 that she was well enough to begin school. She started at Mary Institute in 1898, but switched to Hosmer Hall in 1899, graduating in 1903.

Teasdale's first poem was published in a local newspaper, Reedy's Mirror, in 1907. Her first collection of poems, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems, was published that same year.

Teasdale's second collection, Helen of Troy and Other Poems, was published in 1911.  Critics praised this collection of poems noting their romantic subject matter and lyrical mastery.

From 1911 to 1914, Teasdale was courted by several men, including the poet Vachel Lindsay who was truly in love with her but did not feel that he could provide enough money or stability to keep her satisfied. She chose to marry Ernst Filsinger, a longtime admirer of her poetry, on December 19, 1914.

Teasdale's third poetry collection, Rivers to the Sea, was published in 1915. In 1916 she and Filsinger moved to New York City, where they lived in an Upper West Side apartment on Central Park West.

In 1918 she won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1917 poetry collection Love Songs.

Teasdale died on January 29, 1933, when she was 48 years old.

Below are six poems that Sophia and Olivia listened to and shared what they thought about them.

Wishes (from Sonnets to Duse, 1907)

I wish for such a lot of things
That never will come true -
And yet I want them all so much
I think they might, don't you?

I want a little kitty-cat
That's soft and tame and sweet,
And every day I watch and hope
I'll find one in the street.

But nursie says, "Come, walk along,
"Don't stand and stare like that" -
I'm only looking hard and hard
To try to find my cat.

And then I want a blue balloon
That tries to fly away,
I thought if I wished hard enough
That it would come some day.

One time when I was in the park
I knew that it would be
Beside the big old clock at home
A-waiting there for me -

And soon as we got home again,
I hurried thro' the hall,
And looked beside the big old clock -
It wasn't there at all.

I think I'll never wish again -
But then, what shall I do?
The wishes are a lot of fun
Altho' they don't come true.

Sophia thought: It's a certainly interesting and strange. It seems like not a lot of the little girl's wishes are going to come true. I think she feels disappointed and sad, but she'll keep wishing because it's so much fun. The part that stands out for me the most was when she was looking for a kitty cat.

Olivia thought: It was okay. I think I liked the kitty part the most because it was kind of cute. I thought it was cute because she might end up getting a cat. She felt sad that the balloon wasn't by the big clock.


Snow Song (from Helen of Troy And Other Poems, 1911)

Fairy snow, fairy snow,
Blowing, blowing everywhere,
Would that I
Too, could fly
Lightly, lightly through the air.

Sophia thought:I liked this one a lot because of the way she starts it. It sounds like something like a child would say. When you're reading this I could imagine snowflakes against a dark blue sky with fairies sitting on them.

Olivia thought: I liked this one because it is kind of like when we have small blizzards here. The snowflakes are sometimes really big, and that reminds me of fairies.


Twilight (from Helen of Troy And Other Poems, 1911)

Dreamily over the roofs
The cold spring rain is falling,
Out in the lonely tree
A bird is calling, calling.

Slowly over the earth
The wings of night are falling;
My heart like the bird in the tree
Is calling, calling, calling.

Sophia thought:It sounded kind of melancholy because it had that kind of sadness to it...I don't know how to describe it. I liked the first half of the poem better than the second half because it sounds a bit more cheerful. 

Olivia thought: It reminds me of a really sad movie or if someone was killed really painfully. I liked the beginning - the first two lines - because it sounded like it was going okay. 


Grandfather's Love (from Helen of Troy And Other Poems, 1911)

They said he sent his love to me,
They wouldn't put it in my hand,
And when I asked them where it was
They said I couldn't understand.

I thought they must have hidden it,
I hunted for it all the day,
And when I told them so at night
They smiled and turned their heads away.

They say that love is something kind,
That I can never see or touch.
I wish he'd sent me something else,
I like his cough-drops twice as much.

Sophia thought: That's a funny one, especially the part about the cough drops. It seems like this girl needs a bit more encouragement about finding the gift that her grandfather sent. I think it could have been a little bit longer because I would have liked to know if she found the love or gift...or understood it.

Olivia thought: I think it's a good poem. I think it's my favorite one because it's funny. I don't think the person really understands about love or what's going on. I know that because she is looking for love, but she doesn't know that she already has it. 


April (from Rivers to the Sea, 1915)

The roofs are shining from the rain,
The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.

Yet the back yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree-
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.

Sophia thought: I liked the first line or two because it's cheerful. But, I don't really see how it sounds like April. It sounds like it's more like March. I think I would have liked it if it were a paragraph or two longer. It seemed a little short for what she wanted to say. 

Olivia thought: It sounds like the poem is set in August or September because it sounds really dreary - the clouds going by and the rain. The unchanging tree sounds like a pine tree. I didn't picture anything when I heard the poem.


May Night (from Rivers to the Sea, 1915)

The spring is fresh and fearless
And every leaf is new,
The world is brimmed with moonlight,
The lilac brimmed with dew.

Here in the moving shadows
I catch my breath and sing
My heart is fresh and fearless
And over-brimmed with spring.

Sophia thought: I like how this poem rhymes and how the grass is new. Although this year I'm hoping that all the snow is gone. Look outside: it's cold and there's a lot of snow still on the ground. I felt like spring should be here...which it is not. 

Olivia thought: It kind of made me think of a really grassy place and nothing would change. Everything would stay the same. I like this one because it reminds me of one of the Easters that we had here, and there wasn't snow. I think the moonlight part was nice.  


Monday, March 24, 2014

Looking Down - P52 and 52 Week Photo Challenge 2014 - Week 13

We had the opportunity to visit Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm with the 4-H club in which Sophia and Olivia are members. Although we were hoping to feed the baby goats, they had already been fed for the evening.

Nonetheless, when we visited the kids (as the baby goats are called), and looked down in the many big white bins, we were greeted with adorable little ones...eager to be pet and get some extra attention.

Many were hoping we came with bottles, yet - even though we were not bearing food - they still enthusiastically clamored up the sides of the bins to get close to us.

I remember my dad telling me when I moved to the farm to never get goats. He said they eat absolutely anything they can find. We got to see this happen: some of the babies like to nibble on Olivia's and Sophia's hair.

We had a lot of fun seeing not only these goats, but the many dairy goats that are used for producing goat milk, cheese, and soap. The meat goats are kept in a different barn that we didn't visit.

The girls now want to have goats...though I think they are more fascinated with the tiny ones they were looking down at in the bins. The bigger ones weren't as captivating as the babies.

After the tour of the barns, we were able to sample some of Poplar Hill's goat milk and cheese. Sophia and Olivia both enjoyed the milk and cheese, and we ended up buying a quart of milk. Within a couple of days, the milk was gone. Clearly it was a hit!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gathering Blue - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 13

This week I read Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. Many years ago I read Lowry's book The Giver which I enjoyed. Gathering Blue is equally as intriguing and thought-provoking.

Gathering Blue is a social-science fiction book. (According to Wikipedia, "This is a sub-genre of science fiction concerned less with technology and space; and more with sociological speculation about human society. In other words, it 'absorbs and discusses anthropology,' and speculates about human behavior and interactions".)

This book also is a dystopian novel. (Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by a focus on mass squalor, suffering, poverty, or oppression, that society has often times brought upon itself.)

The story centers around Kira, an orphan with a twisted leg, who lives in a world where the weak, injured, and physically-handicapped are cast aside.

After her father is killed "by beasts" in the forest when he went hunting and her mother died, Kira fears for her future after a fellow villager and her group of women followers have burned the home that once belonged to Kira and her mother.

She is spared by the Council of Guardians; and is provided a room in a large building along with two other children who are artists who have special gifts. In Kira's case, she is a gifted weaver and is given a task that no other community member can do. Thomas, another youth who lives on the same floor as she does, is a talented carver. A third child, no older than a toddler, lives on the floor below them; and is a gifted singer.

The children are content in some respects - they have better places to live, better tools than they did before, and good food. These are all things that people in the community struggle to secure (adequate jobs, food, and shelter).

Yet, despite these positive improvements to their lives, there is a sense of discontent among all the children. What troubles each one is that they are told what to create rather than allowing them to creatively express themselves in the way they feel comfortable. This is highly frustrating for these youth who all have creative talents that are not allowed to be fully expressed.

In addition, there are quite a few secrets and lack of forthright communication between the adults and these artist-children. Mysteriously, all of the parents of the children who have been brought to the large building have passed away.

With answered questions, Thomas, Kira, and Kira's friend Matt soon find themselves in a world filled with mysteries and secrets. All that they have come to believe is challenged the more they ask questions and find answers from unexpected people who come into their lives.

Late in the book, Matt discovers a parallel community where "broken people live." The people in this community help each others. Those who can see, guide those who cannot. Those who can't walk are carried. Those who have no hands are helped by those who have hands.

The "broken people" marry one another and have healthy children who grow up and choose to stay because they want to share in that way of life. There are gardens, homes, and families. There is no arguing, and people share what they have and help one another. Babies rarely cry, and children are cherished. This community is in stark contrast to the one in which Kira and her friends live.

This 215-page book was one that I finished reading in two days. Once I started, I didn't want to put the book down. Lowry's writing is suspenseful and engaging. She also has another book, Messenger that I would like to read this year.

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

We're in the middle of a reconstruction project because of an ice dam. Much of my time recently has been spent packaging up items and putting them in other rooms while three rooms are being worked on.

Because my time is limited, I took a look at a pin on Pinterest for Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken. I needed something that I thought everyone would enjoy eating and that was quick and easy to make. This recipe met both requirements.

It was so simple just to put the ingredients in the crock pot and let it cook for me while I did other things. Everyone liked the taste of this recipe and would definitely eat it again!

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken that I made.


6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used 3 chicken breasts)
1/2 cup diced onion (I used a whole medium-size onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I didn't include these)
3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed in 3/4 cup water
sesame seeds for garnish
sliced scallions for garnish


Place chicken in bottom of crock pot and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a small bowl mix onions, garlic, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, oil; and red pepper flakes. Pour over chicken cook for 3-4 hours on low or 2 hours on high. Do not over cook as chicken will dry out.

Remove chicken to a cutting board and shred. Mix corn starch and water, stir into sauce. Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes or until thickened.

Serve rice, topped with chicken and drizzled with sauce. Garnish with sesame seed and scallions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Looking Up - P52 and 52 Week Photo Challenge 2014 - Week 12

For this week's theme of P52 and the 52 Week Photo Challenge, the theme is "Looking Up." At first I was thinking literally: the sky, sun, moon, clouds, constellations...the list could go on. 

But then I thought, as I was looking back at the pictures I took this week, about the one I took of the flock of robins that visited our tree with the bright red berries next to the driveway.

There are five robins that landed within seconds of one another in the tree. 
Four are facing the house and one is facing the driveway. 

Seeing so many robins flying between this tree and the crab apple tree was such a day-brightener.

Given the long, cold winter when I saw these beautiful robins I thought, "Spring is finally coming. Things are looking up!" Before long the snow will be melted and there will be buds on the trees. Flowers will be emerging from the soil...and the gardens will be planted.

I'm hoping this happens sooner than it did last year. (We had a big snowfall on May 6th.) I'm eager to get outside and start mowing the grass, planting flowers, and maybe even plant a few new trees this year!

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

James Whitcomb Riley - Poet/Poetry Study

This month we have focused on learning more about James Whitcomb Riley (October 7, 1849 – July 22, 1916) who was as an American poet, writer, and best selling author.

During his lifetime, Riley he was known as the "Hoosier Poet" and "Children's Poet" for his dialect works and his children's poetry respectively. His poems were sentimental or humorous, and of the approximately one thousand poems that Riley authored, the majority are in dialect. His famous works include "Little Orphant Annie" and "The Raggedy Man."

Riley began his career writing verses as a sign maker and submitting poetry to newspapers. Because of an endorsement from poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, he was rewarded with jobs at Indiana newspaper publishers during the late-1870s.

Riley gradually rose in prominence during the 1880s through his poetry reading tours. He went on a touring circuit first in the Midwest, and then nationally, holding shows and making appearances on stage with other famous talents.

Riley never married or had children. Following the death of his father in 1894, Riley began regretting his choice not to marry or have children. To compensate for the lack of his own children, he became a doting uncle, providing his nieces and nephews with a generous amount of gifts.

Because of his generosity towards his widowed sister-in-law, their daughters, and his nephew and new wife, Riley was well loved by his family. Riley returned to live near Indianapolis later in 1893, living in a private home in a small suburb. He developed a close friendship with his landlords, the Holstein and Nickum families. The home became a destination for local schoolchildren to whom Riley would regularly tell stories and recite poetry.

Riley compiled his poems of most interest to children into a new book entitled Rhymes of Childhood. This book became his best-selling book, and sold millions of copies. It has remained in print continually since 1912, and helped earn Riley the nickname the "Children's Poet."

Below are six poems that Sophia and Olivia listened to and their reactions to them:

Little Orphant Annie

Inscribed, with All Faith and Affection:
To all the little children:--the happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones--Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you

Wunst they wuz a little boy woudn't say his prayers,--
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputter, an' the wind goes woo--oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' cherish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

Sophia thought: The grammar wasn't great...that's what made it cute. I liked the part about how if you don't watch out the goblins will get you. I actually really liked this one. It wasn't hard to understand. It was meant for kids. When I think of this poem, I think of bright colors for some reason.

Olivia thought: It was good I guess. It was a poem you could say to little kids who would really freak out. Or a poem you'd say at Halloween. I liked the beginning part when he talked about when Annie came and did a lot of stuff around the house.


The Bumblebee

You better not fool with a Bumblebee!--
Ef you don't think they can sting--you'll see!
They're lazy to look at, an' kind o' go
Buzzin' an' bummin' aroun' so slow,
An' ac' so slouchy an' all fagged out,
Danglin' their legs as they drone about
The hollyhawks 'at they can't climb in
'Ithout ist a-tumble-un out ag'in!
Wunst I watched one climb clean 'way
In a jimson-blossom, I did, one day,--
An' I ist grabbed it--an' nen let go--
An' "Ooh-ooh! Honey! I told ye so!"
Says The Raggedy Man; an' he ist run
An' pullt out the stinger, an' don't laugh none,
An' says: "They has be'n folks, I guess,
'At thought I wuz predjudust, more er less,--
Yit I still muntain 'at a Bumblebee
Wears out his welcome too quick fer me!"

Sophia thought: I didn't like this one quite as much, though I did like the beginning part about how you can't mess around with a bumblebee. I can see one of us doing that - picking up the bumblebee and getting Mom! 

Olivia thought: It was funny, but then towards the end it got a little confusing. I definitely liked the beginning because that's something that Dad would never do. He doesn't like bumblebees or wasps...or anything that really stings. 


A Barefoot Boy

A barefoot boy! I mark him at his play--
For May is here once more, and so is he,--
His dusty trousers, rolled half to the knee,
And his bare ankles grimy, too, as they:
Cross-hatchings of the nettle, in array
Of feverish stripes, hint vividly to me
Of woody pathways winding endlessly
Along the creek, where even yesterday
He plunged his shrinking body--gasped and shook--
Yet called the water "warm," with never lack
Of joy. And so, half enviously I look
Upon this graceless barefoot and his track,--
His toe stubbed--ay, his big toe-nail knocked back
Like unto the clasp of an old pocketbook.

Sophia thought: It didn't really have a point. I didn't like it. I think this one is one of the bottom ten of all the poems I've heard. When I heard it, I didn't really see any color in it. I pictured the boy in overalls in the 1900s.

Olivia thought: It was interesting - if that's the right word for it. It wasn't my favorite one because it was strange. It didn't really make any sense to me.


There Was a Cherry-Tree

There was a cherry-tree. Its bloomy snows
Cool even now the fevered sight that knows
No more its airy visions of pure joy--
As when you were a boy.

There was a cherry-tree. The Bluejay sat
His blue against its white--O blue as jet
He seemed there then!--But now--Whoever knew
He was so pale a blue!

There was a cherry-tree--our child-eyes saw
The miracle:--Its pure white snows did thaw
Into a crimson fruitage, far too sweet
But for a boy to eat.

There was a cherry-tree, give thanks and joy!--
There was a bloom of snow--There was a boy--
There was a bluejay of the realest blue--
And fruit for both of you.

Sophia thought: I thought it was something you could see or hear in a child's poetry book - the picture of cherry tree and the blue jay. For some reason, it reminds me a little of Johnny Appleseed. I don't know why. Maybe the cherries make me think of apples. Also when I think about cherry trees I think about the one we planted for Noni that never did well and never produced a cherry.

Olivia thought: It was good. I liked the blue jay part because I like blue jays. I could imagine a blue jay sitting the cherry tree.


The First Bluebird

Jest rain and snow! and rain again!
And dribble! drip! and blow!
Then snow! and thaw! and slush! and then
Some more rain and snow!

This morning I was 'most afeard
To wake up when, I jing!
I seen the sun shine out and heerd
The first bluebird of Spring!

Mother she'd raised the winder some;
And in acrost the orchurd come,
Soft as a angel's wing,
A breezy, treesy, beesy hum,
Too sweet fer anything!

The winter's shroud was rent a-part
The sun bust forth in glee,
And when that bluebird sung, my hart
Hopped out o' bed with me!

Sophia thought: This was kind of bouncy. It wasn't something that I normally would listen to. It was so bright and cheerful. It wasn't my favorite...definitely. Also, it was kind of hard to understand in some parts when there's bad grammar. 

Olivia thought: I liked it. At the beginning it talked a lot about the weather and how the person was startled with the sun. It was definitely interesting. I couldn't picture the bluebird.


The Pixy People

It was just a very
Merry fairy dream!
All the woods were airy
With the gloom and gleam;
Crickets in the clover
Clattered clear and strong,
And the bees droned over
Their old honey-song.

In the mossy passes,
Saucy grasshoppers
Leapt about the grasses
And the thistle-burrs;
And the whispered chuckle
Of the katydid
Shook the honeysuckle
Blossoms where he hid.

Through the breezy mazes
Of the lazy June,
Drowsy with the hazes
Of the dreamy noon,
Little Pixy-people
Winged above the walk,
Pouring from the steeple
Of a mullein-stalk.

One-a gallant fellow
Evidently King,
Wore a plume of yellow
In a jewelled ring
On a pansy bonnet,
Gold and white and blue,
With the dew still on it,
And the fragrance, too.

One-a dainty lady,
Evidently Queen
Wore a gown of shady
Moonshine and green,
With a lace of gleaming
Starlight that sent
All the dewdrops dreaming
Everywhere she went.

One wore a waistcoat
Of roseleaves, out and in,
And one wore a faced-coat
Of tiger-lily-skin;
And one wore a neat coat
Of palest galingale';
And one a tiny street-coat,
And one a swallow-tail.

And Ho! sang the King of them,
And Hey! sang the Queen;
And round and round the ring of them
Went dancing o'er the green;
And Hey! sang the Queen of them,
And Ho! sang the King
And all that I had seen of them
-Wasn't anything!

It was just a very
Merry fairy dream!
All the woods were airy
With the gloom and gleam;
Crickets in the clover
Clattered clear and strong,
And the bees droned over
Their old honey-song!

Sophia thought:It kind of reminds me of The Secret Garden and the "Mary Mary Quite Contrary" song that was sung. It's a kind of garden that we could never grow. I like the image of the king and queen.

Olivia thought: It kind of reminded me of Tinkerbell that was a Queen that was yellow and made out of pixie dust. The "Merry Fairy" reminded me of Mary who was in charge of the "Tinker Fairies" in Pixie Hollow. 


Shadow - LEGO Quest #11

For the 11th week of the LEGO Quest, the theme is "Shadow." The goal i s to build something, or a number of things, that you think would cast a great shadow.

Take your creation to a sunny spot, inside or outside on a sunny day. Observe the shadow it casts. Move it around until it makes the shadow you like best. Notice how the shadow changes when it is cast on a wall, compared to the sidewalk, compared to the texture of a tree trunk. Where do you like the shadow best?

With that in mind, Olivia created a building with trees that would cast a shadow onto the lawn.

She worked on creating activity within the building as well as outside with the butterflies in the trees.

Inside, the girls had a basket of goodies.

Olivia also brought some LEGO flowers indoors for the girls to enjoy.

Outdoors, the trees west casting shadows in unusual shapes.

The branches definitely created an interesting effect on the board.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Flights of Fancy - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 12

This week I read Flights of Fancy by Peter Tate for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

The book features myths, legends, and superstitions related to 30 birds. The author lives in England so some of the birds are ones that live or migrate to that part of the world. However, there were quite a few North American birds that had fascinating stories associated with them.


There's a story about St. Kevin (498-618) who is an Irish saint similar in philosophy to St. Francis of Assisi. He preferred the company of animals to humans; and seemed to have a mystical command over them.

Once, during Lent, a blackbird landed on St. Kevin's outstretched hand and laid an egg there. Remaining perfecting still until the egg hatched, St. Kevin illustrated the character qualities of patience and gentleness.


I had never heard of a crossbill before, so it was interesting to read the story associated with this bird. Apparently, "...prior to [Jesus's crucifixion], it was held, crossbills had perfectly straight bills, but as Jesus hung above Golgotha, a crossbill swooped down and tried to help him by removing the nails.

"During this vain attempt, the crossbill's beak became twisted and its breast stained with Jesus's blood, hence its red plumage."

There's a poem called "The Legend of the Crossbill" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellows that shared this story:

On the cross the dying Saviour
Heavenward lifts his eyelids calm,
Feels, but scarcely feels, a trembling
In his pierced and bleeding palm.

And by all the world forsaken, 
Sees He how with zealous care
At the ruthless nail of iron
A little bird is striving there.

Stained with blood and never tiring,
With its beak it doth not cease, 
From the cross ’t would free the Saviour,
Its Creator’s Son release.

And the Saviour speaks in mildness:
“Blest be thou of all the good!
Bear, as token of this moment, 
Marks of blood and holy rood!”

And that bird is called the crossbill;
Covered all with blood so clear,
In the groves of pine it singeth
Songs, like legends, strange to hear.


Look we saw on Gunflint Lake in June 2013.

In some cultures, loons (also known as "divers") have been closely associated with both the beginning of the world and the end of life.

Olivia with Eagle
Olivia next to an eagle in 2010 at the 
National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota.

While eagles are considered to be strong and powerful birds, it it their vision that is often praised and singled out: "eagle-eyed" is still a widely-used phrase to describe someone who is incredibly meticulous and misses nothing.

The expression comes from the myth that eagles could look directly at the sun without blinking. Shakespeare referred to this myth in Henry VI, Part III (Act II, Scene I):

Nay if thou be that princely eagle's bird
Show thy descent by gazing 'gainst the sun.

I remember when I was growing up, my mom would often refer to my sister as having "eagle eyes" since she could find what my mom was searching for and/or needed. I never seemed possess that same quality.


Geese on Ice
Geese on ice in April 2011 at William O'Brien State Park.

In ancient China, a goose was considered to be a messenger between heaven and earth.

Throughout history geese have been widely sacrificed for grave offerings and on summer solstice. "The western tradition of eating roast goose at Michaelmas (September 29) may well have its origins in the sacrificial offerings of pagan times."

"Geese were also eaten on St. Martin's Night (November 11), an occasion on which the 'divination of the wishbone' or 'merry thought' took place: two people would pull the wishbone of the goose, and the person who broke off the larger piece could either make a wish or have the guarantee of good luck."


In parts of Central Europe, it is believed that the magpie was the offspring of the dove and raven - the dove representing the positive aspects of the magpie's personality and significance, and the raven the negative.


St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, was said to have sung duets with the nightingale.


Romans feared owls because they believed the birds were the messengers of death. The Pima Indians of Arizona believed that owls "contained the souls of the departed and that if an owl was heard hotting at the actual moment someone died it was a sign that it was waiting for that person's soul."

Pelican Flying Overhead
Sophia, Olivia, and I were so excited to see a pelican in flight 
in June 2012 at Lake Shetek State Park in southwestern Minnesota.

"In Europe in the Middle Ages, the pelican had the reputation for being a truly pious bird and so became a symbol of Jesus, associated particularly with the Eucharist and the Passion of Christ. This connection arose because it was widely believed that the pelican possessed a special ability to restore its offspring to life by feeding them with its own blood, echoing Jesus's words at the Last Supper, 'this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.'"

Juvenile Robin
This is a juvenile robin that Sophia, Olivia, and I spotted 
on June 9, 2012 in South Dakota.

In Greece, there's a legend that says that Jesus used to feed robins outside his parents' home. A close bond was formed between Jesus and the  birds. Many years later, the "robin refused to leave Jesus's tomb until he had risen from the dead. It then sang with the angels as Jesus ascended to heaven."


This bird, in heraldry, represents filial duty and gratitude.


Almost universally, the swallow is regarded as the herald of spring.

"The ancient Chinese...believed (just as the Romans did) that it was especially lucky if swallows nested on a house, and unlucky if they flew away. People even went to the length of erecting special nesting ledges to encourage the birds to stay."


In Norse mythology, the woodpecker was the bird of Thor, god of lightening and thunder. "Just as Thor had red hair, so the woodpecker has a splash of red on its head.

"Thor had a magic hammer, Mjolnir; the woodpecker hammers on trees. Thor sent lightening to the earth, often striking trees; woodpeckers' holes resemble the holes made by lightning bolts."

Wren with Something in her Mouth
The wren has some food for its babies who are in the house
in our backyard on June 6, 2008.
Every year we have one or two families of babies in this birdhouse.

One traditional saying warns that:

He that hurts a robin or a wren
Will never prosper on sea or land.

We enjoy seeing wrens during the spring, summer, and early-fall. My spirit is always lifted when I hear the wrens return and sing in the pine tree and apple trees right by the back of the house. They are the first birds I hear in the morning as I wake up. With such a beautiful song so enthusiastically sung, it makes getting up in the morning all that more pleasant.

Small - P52 and 52 Week Photo Challenge 2014 - Week 11

At the base of one of the pine trees in the front yard, there is a little wooden door. A pathway of stones leads up to it, and feathers found on nature walks we've taken are placed in the front yard of this home.

This year, we are going to add more elements to this area. We have been looking at pictures of fairy gardens to get some ideas for making this space a bit more magical and fun to look at throughout the year.

I'm thinking miniature shrubs and flowers would make this a welcoming and prettier place to look at and spend some time.  Now we just need to wait for the ground to thaw and the temperatures to climb a bit more before we can start to embellish this tiny area of our front yard. Until then...we'll continue to gather ideas.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fasting and Feasting

When I was growing up, Lent was an important time of the year. We were strongly encouraged to give something up - to make a sacrifice - during the 40-day period. As an adult, this time period is still one that I incorporate into my life, though in a somewhat different way.

For example, one of the things I am doing this year is 40 Bags in 40 Days. Although Lent began last Wednesday and I only needed to get rid of six bags by today, I have found 8 bags of items to donate and 18 bags of trash or recycling...26 all together.

In the process, I found major leaking on my home office ceiling and in the walls that are going to result in a significant repair and renovation of that room and the living room (the room adjacent to my office). Needless to say, I'll have more than 40 bags by the end of Lent.

Another thing I'm doing is trying to prepare and serve more wholesome food - more "real" food - during this time period. One of the recipes I made was for Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup.

As I looked at ideas on my Lent board on Pinterest, I came across a pin for a poem called Fasting and Feasting by William Arthur Ward. After changing a couple of sentences or words to make it more relevant to me, I thought it held some interesting and alternative ideas.

Below is the poem alternating with some photographs I have taken throughout the years.

Fasting and Feasting

Lent should be more than a time of fasting.
It should also be a joyous season of feasting.
Lent is a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others.

ACEO No Longer Available - Fire in the Sky - Hands-on Tactile Art for a Child to Play With

Fast from judging others; feast on the goodness in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on healing powers.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent: feast on gratitude.

Bird at St. Therese

Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on positive guidance.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives: feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Girls Running on Trail at William O'Brien State Park - Homeschool Phy Ed

Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on assurance.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Floating Milkweed

Fast from facts that depress; feasts on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Polar Bear Laying Down with Head Up

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that supports.

Dandelion Bouquet

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

One of the things I'm trying to do is move my family away from processed food and transition to more "real food." One of the recipes that I came across was for a chicken noodle soup that is made in the slow cooker or crock pot.

The recipe came from a pin on Pinterest that led to Stacy Makes Cents which featured recipes for 100 days of no-processed meals crock pot style. One of the links led to Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup on Adorkable Recipes. It is absolutely delicious...probably the best chicken noodle soup I've ever made.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
serves: 6-8 (conservatively...I think it could serve quite a few people than that)


5 cups chicken broth (or bouillon) (I used 5 cups of water and 5 bouillon cubes)
5-6 cups water
2 cups carrots, sliced thin
1 cup celery, sliced thin
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used a generous teaspoon of pre-minced garlic)
2 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp dried basil (I used about 1 teaspoon dried basil)
1 tsp pepper
2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (I used part of a leftover whole chicken)
1 cup dry egg noodles (I used 1/2 cup of shell noodles; 1/2 cup of barley; and 1/2 cup of organic flower rice)


Mix all ingredients except the noodles into the crockpot pot. Keep chicken breast whole (or use pre-cooked, cut up or shredded chicken) and cut up or shred before adding in noodles during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Cook on high 4 hours, then turn to low until ready to serve.

Monday, March 10, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days on the Start of Lent

This past Wednesday, on the first day of Lent, I began a "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge. The goal is to go through one's home and get rid of a bag of items that are no longer needed or meaningful each day (with the exception of Sundays). This will lead right up to Easter - so in about 1 1/2 months, the house will have undergone a transformation and spring cleaning.

The idea came from a pin that I saw on Pinterest that led to White House Black Shutters. To get started with the cleaning process, there are some ideas on another pin that leads to an image that provides ideas for cleaning by "themes" rather than specific areas.

Well, this is rather embarrassing. 
I just kept piling up books I wanted to read and things I wanted to do.
This started around mid-December when my Mom was hospitalized and 
almost died because of an allergic reaction to medication she was given. 
During the month in the hospital and transitional care, she had multiple strokes. 
She's now receiving health care in her home 24/7.
She's had two more TIAs (mini-strokes) in February.
Needless to say, organizing and cleaning were put on hold during this time.

For example, going through the entire house and organizing home decor, toys, junk drawers, closets, or tops of desks. For the first couple of days, I focused on bookshelves.

Before and after pictures of one area that has
homeschooling books and supplies.

I thought this process would be a good way to get some spots organized in my home that I have put off for awhile.

This bookshelf holds some of my homeschooling curricula and teacher resources; and
the bottom shelf holds Sophia's homeschooling books and notebooks.

Going through the bookshelves that have our current homeschooling books on them was a good way to look at what we still need to cover this school year, and what we can let go and cover another year.

Another thing I wanted to address with the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge was putting things away in my office that I had brought there to get out of the way. The rest of the "public areas" of the home - the living room, dining room, family room, kitchen, and hallways - are orderly. My home office is not a room that people go in, so I had been using it as a place to simply place things until I had more time to clean and organize.

Caregiving and homeschooling have been taking top priority up until this point.

When I was cleaning other parts of the house, I put items on the floor in my home office.
It became kind of a "dumping ground."
I spent time going through each item and putting it back where it belonged, or 
donating it if I no longer felt it was needed or meaningful

However, the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge is help re-focus my efforts on things I need to do that are still important.

This area just needed to have things put away - in closets and on shelves.
It didn't take that long to do.

On Saturday - only 3 days into the challenge - the focus became even serious. In the process of putting things away, I opened the closet door and noticed water - sitting water - on some of my shelves. Couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

Starting taking things off my shelves, only to realize that this is going to turn into a major project that involves some significant water damage in my home office because of the recent heavy snowfall combined with warmer temperatures that we are currently experiencing.

This was my first indication that there was a problem:
standing water on the bookshelves in the closet. 

I was stunned at the amount of water that had seeped into the home somehow and into the walls.

This is only a fraction of the water-damage that has occurred in my home office.
This is at the top of the ceiling - 
out of normal vision unless I'm standing on a chair.

From what I'm seeing, there will be a lot of repair work over the next few months with re-roofing, and new insulation, shelving, carpet, and sub-flooring.

I had to empty all the shelves because water from the roof leaked into the house,
onto the walls, and onto the shelves. 
Many homeschooling books and resources were damaged.

The office connects with the living room, so I'm not sure what level of damage has been done to that shared wall.

An area on the ceiling where water from the roof has leaked in.

What's so strange is that it has been frigidly cold for the entire winter. There was a short, multi-day period during the third week in February that was warm (in the upper 20s/low 30s), and then there was a huge snowfall (11 inches) followed by temperatures and windchills in the -10 to -25 degree below zero range.

This week, the weather is in the 20s to low-40s. The substantial melting happened on Saturday and Sunday. I'm sure there will be more today since the temperatures will again be in the 40s.

Another area where water is coming into the home.
I'm surprised at how quickly the water came in
and the damage it has done that's visible.
I'm sure once the sheet rock and carpet is removed, 
we will see the full extent of the damage. 

Had it not been for this challenge, I would not have been working to clean my office and most likely would not have discovered three areas where water is leaking from the roof into the home...down the walls...into the walls...and onto the floor.

Even after having a neighbor boy shovel off the roof and get the majority of the snow and ice off of it, I noticed late yesterday afternoon that water is still coming in. The insurance company is sending an adjuster and contractor out hopefully in the next day or two to fix the problem.

At any rate, I've worked on bookshelves that hold homeschooling and personal books; my home office; and the piano in the living room.

Focused on putting away the items that belonged elsewhere; and
putting out only the piano music that we are currently playing.

Another way that I'm going to be looking at streamlining my life is by updating and condensing some items. For example, I had a rolodex in my office that had business cards, return labels on envelopes, and pieces of paper with names and numbers. I entered the information into my iPhone so that all the contact information is now in one place and accessible wherever I am.

All the contacts in the rolodex 
are now in my iPhone.

I no longer need the rolodex now and have happily tossed it. This creates more space in my office while making one aspect of my life more efficient.

At the end of the first (short) week (Wednesday through Saturday), I have eliminated 26 bags from the house. Of those, 8 bags have items that are being donated to the secondhand store, and 18 bags are filled with trash or recycling.