Friday, May 30, 2014

101 Days of Summer - Week #1 in Review

Our 101 Days of Summer officially started on Saturday, May 24th. Some of the activities we were able to do and other days we ended up doing other activities.

Day 1 - Saturday, May 24 - Make Honey Butter Ambrosia and Blueberry Muffins; and Clean Out the Hobby Shed as a Family.

I had originally planned to go to the St. Paul Farmers Market in the morning with Sophia and Olivia; and to St. Croix State Park in the afternoon as a family with the dogs. However, we decided that we had enough food on hand and didn't need to go to the market. We would use up what we had before getting more food.

Homemade honey butter ambrosia on blueberry muffins.

For breakfast, we made Honey Butter Ambrosia which turned out amazingly delicious. We used it as a topping for homemade blueberry muffins.

Throughout the day we focused on cleaning the hobby shed. It had become a holding spot for holiday items, items that were broken and needed to be tossed but were too big/not appropriate for the garbage can (e.g., microwave, scanner), and items that we no longer needed (e.g., outgrown clothes, VHS tapes, books).

Over the past four years or so the shed had become neglected. More pressing issues (e.g., caregiving for my father who died in January 2012, caregiving for my mother, homeschooling, parenting) took higher priority.

Before and after pictures of the hobby shed.

We made significant progress on the shed. In fact, the entire first floor is done - all the trash, recycling, and donations are either taken our or ready to be taken out this week.

Before and after pictures of another area of the shed.

It is such a great feeling to have so much open space - on the floors, in the cabinets, and on the shelves! Even better was working together as a family and getting done a huge job in a shorter period of time.

Day 2 - Sunday, May 25 - Immigrant for a Day at Gammelgarden Museum.

Sophia, Olivia, and I went to Gammelgarden for the "Immigrant for a Day" event. Each year the museum has a free day filled with activities for children and adults. This year the focus was blacksmithing and ice harvesting.

Making holes in metal.

We watched the blacksmith work on creating a plant holder, saw some of the items they would have constructed back during the early immigration years (e.g., square nails), and looked at a display about blacksmithing.
Heating the metal.

It was interesting seeing the variety of tools that he used.

Using a hammer to create a shape in the hot metal.

Sophia and Olivia seemed to enjoy watching the blacksmith work. The only other time we have seen a blacksmith is at Fort Snelling and the girls were very young at that time. I'm not even sure he was doing any work at the time - it may have been just a costumed guide explaining what a blacksmith would have done at Fort Snelling.

Diorama about ice harvesting.

We went to the second floor of Gammelgarden and looked at the exhibit about metal work and ice harvesting.

Then we went back outside so the girls could do some of the activities there - like hauling two pails of water on one's shoulder using a wooden board and pulling a block of ice on a sled.

Sophia seeing what it is like to hold and carry two pails of water.

These were new activities this year so it fun to try our hand at some things that the immigrants would have had to do - like hauling water and ice blocks.

Olivia pulling a sled with a block of ice on it.

The water in the pails wass surprisingly heavy and awkward. Whoever was carrying the water must have been very careful not to create too much movement otherwise the water comes out of the buckets.

We also watched a demonstration about how an ice block lifting tool was used as well as an ice harvesting saw.

Reece, the intern, demonstrating how to use the ice block lifter.

Although my mom and dad didn't harvest their own ice, they did have blocks of ice delivered to their homes to keep the freezers cold.

Reece showing how to use an ice saw.

My mom remembers the ice delivery cart being pulled by a horse down the alley at her home in Minneapolis.

Despite being 150 year old, the saw worked beautifully.
I think everyone - including Reece - was pleasantly surprised.

This would have been in the 1930s - when she was under ten years old. I'm not sure how long her family waited until they could afford an electric refrigerator and freezer. I'll have to ask her some day how old she was when they no longer had ice block deliveries.

Day 3 - Monday, May 26 - Memorial Day - Make orange floats and put flowers and plants in planters.

Originally I thought we'd make a silverware holder for a Memorial Day picnic. However, when the girls and I discussed it we thought, "Do we need to have one more thing around our home that we only use once a year?" We decided that we didn't.

So, instead we thought of other things we could do for "Make Something Monday."

I made an orange float using the orange cream pop and vanilla bean ice cream. It was delicious! The girls preferred to have their ice cream a bowl.

Orange ice cream float.

In the afternoon, Sophia, Olivia, and I planted Gerber daisies and spider plants into two yellow pots for the former flowers and two hanging plants for the latter plants.

Aspen and Cooper watching as the girls planted Gerber daisies.

Gerber daisies and spider plants are both supposed to help improve indoor air quality. We'll see if we notice a difference.

The two Gerber daisies planted and enjoying the sun.

I also re-potted my African violets. Two of the plants are blooming and doing well. The other three plants have stayed about the same and not bloomed since January 2012.

All the African violets in new pots.

Not sure why they don't bloom. I wish they would because the blooms are all different colors. Maybe they will now that they are in new containers.

Day 4 - Tuesday, May 27 - Go to agility training with Cooper and Aspen.

It rained all of Monday night and most of Tuesday which changed our original plan of going on a field trip to Big Marine Lake Park to hike and have a picnic. So, we simply went to dog agility which was fine. It's still falls under the "Take a Trip Tuesday" theme.

Olivia and Aspen.

This is the third time that Aspen has accompanied Cooper to agility training. The first time she was so nervous that she sat in her kennel cab and didn't want to come out. The second week, she was bolder and got to meet some of the "big dogs." This week, she wanted to be out there with them doing agility.

Sophia with Cooper waiting for their turn.

The class focused on going through tunnels, going through weave posts, and doing a series of jumps in different configurations.

Aspen intent on watching the older dogs do agility.

Cooper did very well on all the equipment.

Cooper going through the weave poles.

It's been so fun to see how much he has changed, improved, and grown in confidence since he first began. Sophia now is in charge of him during the class so that she can start preparing for the dog show in July.

Day 5 - Wednesday, May 28 - Read "Your Hometown Clean Water Tour" and hang oriole feeders and nesting bag in trees.

Wednesday's focus is on water. Originally we were going to go to Lake Alice at William O'Brien State Park, however we needed to have a morning at home to focus on homeschooling. So, instead I found a colorful brochure about helping protect water quality in my files.

The booklet is produced by the USDA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service which offers them as a free resource. The girls did the pre-test to see how much they already knew about water and water preservation. Sophia got 8/10 and Olivia got 7/10 correct. After Sophia read the booklet, they could easily answer all the questions correctly.

We also hung three oriole feeders in the crab apple and apple trees.

Olivia hanging up an oriole feeder in the apple tree.

Olivia's made the feeders last year from two colors of wire. Sophia cut and put the orange halves into the feeders. Both girls hung a feeder in the trees.

Sophia hanging up an oriole feeder in the crab apple tree.

Olivia also worked on a bag that she filled with sheep wool (carded and yarn pieces) and some of Cooper's fur.

Olivia making the wool a bit fluffier.

We put those items in an empty onion bag and hung it to the crab apple tree near the hummingbird feeder.

Olivia hanging up the nesting bag in the crab apple tree.

We did this because there was a goldfinch who was trying to get pieces of the rope that hung the feeder to the tree. We thought we'd give her some more natural items to work with for her nest.

Day 6 - Thursday, May 29 - Take photos for 4-H photography project and observe bees; and start making the weather observation station.

On Thoughtful Thursday, Sophia spent some time on the mudroom roof and took pictures of the crabapple tree in blossom. She enjoyed watching the variety of bees that were visiting the blossoms and capturing them on film.

Sophia taking pictures of blossoms and bees.

Olivia began assembling her weather observation station. There are different components that need to fit together. Once together, they will be placed on top of a two-liter bottle.

Olivia working on assembling her weather observation station.

This will be one of Olivia's 4-H projects - to create the weather observation station and then keep a weather log for one month to see how the weather changes during that time period.

Day 7 - Friday, May 30 - Make ice cream floats and serve them to seniors at the nursing home.

On Fridays during the summer we are going to do projects that we see on Pinterest that we want to try. One of the things that we wanted to do was try a variety of ice cream floats for a 4-H project. Each year the county 4-H program chooses a theme and youth can do any projects related to the theme.

This year's theme is "Candyland." On the Candyland board there is an ice cream float area, so we thought it would be fun to find a variety of recipes for floats and make some.

When the volunteer director at the nursing home called to ask if we would help her at the root beer social today, we were happy to help.

Ice cream float made with cherry 7-Up and vanilla ice cream.

We changed the root beer social to an ice cream float social with root beer floats, orange creamsicle floats, cherry 7-Up floats a.k.a. Cupid floats, and grape floats. The latter three floats were all recipes that we found on Pinterest.

Sophia and Olivia ready to serve floats to 
the seniors at the nursing home.

We brought small bottles of orange, cherry 7-Up, and grape pop since we weren't sure if any of the seniors would want the non-root beer floats. We were pleasantly surprised - as I think they were - that there were so many flavors of ice cream floats to choose from.

It was a fun afternoon - making the floats, listening to viola music, and talking with the seniors.

Artist/Picture Study - Pierre Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, born on February 25, 1841, was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style.

He was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, and was the child of a working-class family. As a boy, he worked in a porcelain factory and was given the opportunity to paint designs on fine china because of his drawing talent.

Before he enrolled in art school, he also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and decorations on fans. During those early years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters.

Renoir experienced his initial acclaim in 1874 when six of his paintings were hung in the first Impressionist exhibition. In the same year, two of his works were shown in London with Durand-Ruel.

In 1883, Renoir spent the summer in Guernsey where he created fifteen paintings in a little over a month. Most of these feature Moulin Huet, a bay in Saint Martin's, Guernsey. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel, and it has a varied landscape that includes cliffs, bays, and beaches.

In 1890, he married Aline Victorine Charigot. After his marriage, Renoir painted many scenes of his wife and daily family life including their children and their nurse, Aline's cousin Gabrielle Renard. The Renoirs had three sons.

Around 1892, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. In 1907, he moved to the warmer climate of "Les Collettes," a farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer, close to the Mediterranean coast. Renoir painted during the last twenty years of his life even when he was wheelchair-bound and arthritis severely limited his movement.

He developed progressive deformities in his hands and ankylosis of his right shoulder, requiring him to change his painting technique. It has often been reported that in the advanced stages of his arthritis, he painted by having a brush strapped to his paralyzed fingers, but this is erroneous; Renoir was able to grasp a brush, although he required an assistant to place it in his hand. The wrapping of his hands with bandages, apparent in late photographs of the artist, was to prevent skin irritation.

In 1919, Renoir visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with those of the old masters. He died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, on December 3, 1919.

Below are six paintings that Renoir created that Sophia and Olivia looked at for a while and then orally recalled the details that they remembered.


The Umbrellas, painted in two phases in the 1880s

Sophia remembered:
=> In the picture, the sky is a blue with grayish clouds covering most of it.
=> There are a lot of people walking on what appears to be a busy street.
=> The majority of people have blue umbrellas that look the same.
=> At the front of the picture, there was a woman wearing a blue dress and has a brown basket on the crook of her arm. She has red hair and a kind of far-away expression.
=> Behind her and to the right is another woman who looks a little bit older and has a fancy blue dress and hat. She is reaching down as if to take the hand of a girl wearing a blue coat, little hat, and black boots. She is holding a hoop and stick.
=> Behind her is a girl who is a little bit older who has her hands on the younger girl's shoulders. She has reddish hair, a blue coat, and black boots.
=> Behind the fancy lady there is another woman who has closed her umbrella and is looking up at the sky.
=> Behind the lady with the basket is a man with blue pants and a blue handkerchief who appears to be looking down the street.
=> Almost all the people have at least two blue things.
=> Nobody is smiling, but they don't look sad. They all kind of have expressionless faces.

Olivia remembered:
=> The main color in the picture is mainly blue.
=> The women are wearing all blue outfits - blue coats, blue dresses.
=> There's a woman who is holding an umbrella in her right hand and a baby in her left hand.
=> The child is a carrying in her left hand a wooden hoop and stick.
=> There's a woman in front of them and she is holding a basket in her hand.
=> Almost all of the people are carrying umbrellas and they are blue. Almost all of them look the same.
=> There's a tree in the background - you can only see the top - and the colors in the tree are blue, bit of a yellowish-greenish color, dark green, and an olive green. You can see a bit of white along with some brown.
=> The people aren't smiling in the picture.
=> There were some men in the picture. One is putting down his umbrella or folding it up. The other one is kind of walking straight.
=> There's another child in the picture. I think it's the oldest sister of the other one.
=> They are outside - it is a dark cloudy gray.


Two Girls at the Piano, 1888

Sophia remembered:
=> The color of the picture is mostly red accented with other colors.
=> There are two ladies in the picture. One of them is sitting on a stool trying to play the piano. She appears to have some trouble doing it, so the older sister-mother is standing on her left-hand side with her right hand on the back and her left hand ready to flip the page of her music.
=> They are both wearing red dresses. The older lady has a black collar, black around the end of her sleeves, and a black hem around her dress. Her red hair is pulled up in a bun.
=> The younger girl has a black collar, black at the bottom of her sleeves, and a black band around her upper arm. She also has a black sash that goes around her waist. Her red hair is pulled back with a red ribbon and it is hanging down her back.
=> She is staring at her music rather near-sightedly.
=> The piano is a brown color and looks rather old. It has on the right hand side a candlestick built into it so she can see what she is doing even at night.
=> On top of the piano there is a vase of flowers. To the left of that, it appears to be sheets of music.
=> The walls are red flecked with orange and yellow. There is nothing on them.
=> The girl is sitting on a fancy brown stool that has quite a few legs.

Olivia remembered:
=> In the picture there is a piano and two women and the woman and the girl are both wearing red dresses.
=> The girl is sitting on a stool that has four legs and has a thing that can rotate it to make it higher or taller.
=> The piano keys on the edge look yellowish to show that it is kind of old.
=> Attached to the piano is a gold thing that has a candlestick in it.
=> On top of the piano is piano books and a vase with flowers that are red, white, and yellow.
=> The wall behind it is a light color that has a rusted reddish color with polka dots on it.
=> The wall next to it is red with orange and yellow mixed in it.
=> The girl's hair is in a ponytail that has a bow in it. It is hanging down her back.
=> The woman has her hand on the sheet music and it looks like she is going to flip the page. Her other hand is on the girl's back and it looks like she is making her sit up taller since she looks like she is slouching.
=> The girl's foot appears to be on a pedal or one of the pedals.
=> The woman's dress has a fancy black collar and black rings on her sleeve - or a band at the end of the sleeve. At the hem of her dress it looks like there is some kind of black fluffy thing like lace.
=> The girl has kind of the same outfit except her sash is a bow that has ribbons hanging down the front. She has fluffy little things that poof out at her shoulders, and she has two black bands on her sleeve - one at the top and one at the bottom.


 Portrait of Mme Monet, 1872

Sophia remembered:
=> There is a room with purple walls and a wooden floor flecked with different colors.
=> There is a whit-ish couch with pictures of flowers, birds, and leaves.
=> The couch has two big cushions propped up and one on the floor as a foot rest.
=> Sitting on the couch with her feet slightly propped up is a woman - not very young but not old enough to have white hair. She has long, black hair that's tied back with a black ribbon and a pink flower in her hair.
=> She is wearing a blue dress with a vest/jacket over it that  goes down to about four inches above the hem.
=> To hold the rest together is a white ribbons that reaches underneath her throat.
=> She has pink pink-reddish lips and dark eyes that are toward downward engrossed in a book.
=> Her feet appear smaller than her body and appear dainty propped up on the pillow.
=> On the bottom of the couch there are ruffles all around it to make it look fancier.
=> Up on the wall behind her and a little to her right are three large glass leaves that are painted red, gold, and a little bit of orange and brown.
=> On the left-hand side of the painting are the letters "A. Renoir" which are the painter's initials.

Olivia remembered:
=> There is a white or cream colored couch with flowers and a bird on it. There are two cushions. On one of the cushions you can see the bird. The other cushion you can't see it because the woman in the picture has her back to it.
=> There's another cushion that's under her feet that's like a foot rest.
=> Behind her to the left side or corner of the picture, there are three decorative fans which both have different colors on it: gold, green, brownish, and red.
=> The woman is wearing a blue dress that has these flower or lacy designs on it.
=> She is holding a book and she seems very focused on the book.
=> Her hair is black and it appears to be in a ponytail. It looks like something that men would have worn back then.
=> You can't really see her face since it is bent down over the book.
=> Her feet are very, very small for her body. She is wearing tiny black shoes.
=> The walls are the same blue as her dress. They are just plain blue walls.


The Swing, 1876

Sophia remembered:
=> There is a forest with a paved path. Further down the path are four women - two with brown hair, one black, and one blonde hair - all dressed up kind of fancy.
=> A little ways in front of them are four more people - two men, a woman, and little girl.
=> On the left hand side of the painting there is a big tree that a man with a tan hat and brown beard is leaning against. He's looking a tanother man with a tan hat, blue coat, and black boots that is talking to a woman with reddish hair that's pulled up on top of her head.
=> She is wearing a dark blue skirt and on top of that skirt is a white dress with blue bows all down the front and one on either side holding up the white skirt so you can see the blue skirt.
=> She is wearing a necklace that is made out of some type of black material with a charm hanging from it.
=> behind the man in the blue coat and black boots leaning on the tree is a girl with blondish curls, black shoes, blueish white socks, and a little blue dress.
=> You can't see the sky in the picture and there are trees all around the path in the picture.
=> It appears to be some time in the fall because there are leaves all on the ground. But people aren't wearing coats so it must be early in the fall.

Olivia remembered:
=> There are eight people in the picture. One of them is a child who is waiting for a turn to go on the swing.
=> The woman by the swing appears to be stepping on top of the swing.
=> There are two men. One appears to be talking to the woman and the other man.
=> One of the men is leaning against the tree.
=> There are some other people off to the side that appear to be talking.
=> The shadows of the trees near the base appear to be blue.
=> The woman that is standing or stepping on the swing is wearing a white dress with blue bows on the front.
=> You can't see the sky.
=> The ground just has shadows on it because of the trees that are blue-ish and black-ish.
=> The hair of the people that you can see is brown and dark brown.
=> One of the men who is leaning against the tree and the child is wearing a hat. 


Mme Charpentier and her Children, 1878

Sophia remembered:
=> This room has a lot of different things and lots of colors in it.
=> The wall is a brownish flecked with different colors and has two red strips running floor to ceiling.
=> On the left hand side of the wall are two black peacocks, and one of them has its tail all out. Very pretty!
=> On the right hand side next to the other  chair that's checkered.
=> In front of that is a jar of flowers in different colors, a little jar of wine, and a cup and plate of grapes.
=> Next to the table is a small couch. The couch is a reddish color that has flowers all over it.
=> Sitting on the couch are two people - one is a woman with very short brown hair that is slightly curled. She is wearing a lot of jewelry - bracelets on both arms, earrings, and rings.
=> She is wearing a long black dress with white lace trim. The top of the dress is collected at the top like a cape and a ribbon. The top of her dress is scalloped a bit, and instead of showing her skin there's a camisole so you don't see any of her chest.
=> Her eyes are far away and her lips are slightly pursed. 
=> Sitting next to her is a girl with blond hair, black shoes, and a little blue dress. The dress is light blue with lace on the front and little blue buttons. At the shoulders is more lace that falls down almost like a cape. 
=> The girl is looking at who appears to be her sister.
=> There is a dog on the floor next to the couch that is black and white. His eyes are half closed. He has a black collar with gold dots. Sitting on him is another girl - slightly older than the first with reddish-blonde hair and dressed in the same shoes and same blue dress.
=> The floor is wooden but most is obscured by a red rug with a yellow square on the outside and sa smaller one on the inside. 

Olivia remembered:
=> There is a woman and two children and a dog.
=> The walls have some red stripes on them but the rest looks like it is wood. It looks like they have painted over the wood.
=> One section of the wood wall has two black peacocks and another section of the wood wall has a big white peacock with its tail all out.
=> The floor is wood, but it half covered with reddish-brownish and yellow rug. It has red and brown flowers on it.
=> On the rug there is a table and chair...a lawn table and lawn chair. 
=> The table has a china vase with red and white flowers.
=> There is a silver jug that is either filled with water or wine, and a silver cup. There also is a china plate with green grapes on it. 
=> There is a couch that is the same color as the walls with different color flowers on it.
=> There is a woman in a black gown sitting on a couch with a young child.
=> The child has blondish-brownish hair and is wearing a white and blue dress. The white is lace on the dress on the front with little blue buttons; and around her shoulders it goes down and looks like a cape.
=> By the child there is a dog - a black and white dog - with a black collar with gold dots.
=> On top of the dog is another girl who kind of looks like the girl on the couch, and she's wearing the exact same outfit.
=> The dog does not look happy because the child is sitting on top of him.
=> The woman has a gold broach on her dress and she has some gold bracelets on her right arm and a few gold rings on her right hand as well.
=> In the left hand it appears that she is holding something gold. 


Children in the Afternoon at Wargemont, 1884

Sophia remembered:
=> There is a room with blue paneled walls and on the right wall there is a window that looks out onto green grass and some trees.
=> On the window sill, is a kind of large pot that has red flowers and a basket with some brightly-colored things in it.
=> Next to the window is a brown table with feet like a piano's so you can it. It has a brightly-colored tablecloth with different patterns - squares, triangles...
=> Sitting next to the table on a brown chair with a blue-ish green cushion is a lady with long brown hair pulled back into a braid with a red ribbon. She is wearing a white dress with red dots all over it.
=> She has black shoes and dark red socks.
=> She is embroidering something with black thread on a white dish towel. 
=> Standing in front of her is a little girl with blondish-brown hair and is wearing black shoes, black socks, blue dress, and what looks like an almost white pinafore.
=> The bottom of her dress has a little bit of lace that goes around it.
=> She has placed a doll on the lady's lap. 
=> The doll appears to be porcelain and has black shoes with brown soles and is wearing a white dress. She has a brown hat and a red ribbon around it.
=> Behind the little girl is a couch. The top of the couch is white and the cushion part is black stripes with blue and green getting lighter and darker.
=> Sitting on the couch is an older girl with slightly curly hair that the same brownish-gold color hair as the little girl, except a little darker. She is wearing black shoes, black socks, blue and white checkered skirt, and a dark blue shirt with three-quarter sleeves.
=> She is engrossed in a book she is reading.
=> The floor is brown with flecks of color that kind of look like the veins of a leaf.
=> The window has curtains around it that are tied back with a frilly piece of fabric.
=> The drapes are brown, red, and an assortment of different colors.
=> Renoir painted it so it looks like the room is divided into light and dark. 
=> The girl sitting on the couch is in the darker area filled with blues and blacks. The woman and little girl seem to be standing in the lighter area filled with the browns, the reds, and the golds. 
=> I really like this picture because it has depth. 

Olivia remembered:
=> There is a woman and two children. The woman is sitting on a wood chair on a blue cushion, and by the side of her there is a table.
=> On top of the table there is a basket with a bow around it. Also on the table there is a pot that has legs that has some red flowers.
=> Above the table there is a window that looks out where you can see a forest of trees.
=> In the woman's lap there is a doll. The child is holding the doll so it doesn't fall out of her lap.
=> The woman appears to  be holding an outfit for the doll.
=> The girl is wearing a blue dress with white buttons and lace on it. It looks a bit like a sailor outfit.
=> Behind the girl there is a blue couch with dark blue stripes all over it.
=> On the couch there is the other girl. The girl looks a bit older and looks haughty...not very nice.
=> She is wearing a skirt with checkers on it. She is wearing a dark blue shirt.
=> The woman is wearing a white dress with reddish-orange-ish dots on it and a red ribbon around her waist.
=> The woman and the two children have their hair up in ribbons.
=> The woman is wearing red socks with black shoes. 
=> The two girls both have black shoes. The younger one has dark blue socks and the older one has black socks.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Homemade Honey Butter Ambrosia

A few weeks ago I visited Autumnwood Farm as part of the Local Bite Challenge. For 100 days, the challenge is to eat locally. Each week there is a new mini-challenge; and one of the first ones was to try something new. This could be done one time or for all 14 weeks of the challenge.

Homemade honey butter that we put on top of 
homemade blueberry muffins.

So, at Autumnwood I found gourmet honey butter that was made with five ingredients and no preservatives. It was incredibly good. Rather than pay $6 per jar for the honey butter, I was curious to know if I could make something similar at home.

So, I searched on Pinterest and found a pin on Pinterest for Honey Butter Ambrosia that led to One Good Thing.

Just like the honey butter that I purchased, there were only five ingredients: sugar, heavy cream/whipping cream, honey, butter, and vanilla. Since I hadn't tried this recipe before, I wanted to see if it was similar to the purchased one so I made only half a recipe.

After making the honey butter and letting it cool in the refrigerator there was no question that we had found either the exact recipe or one that was very similar and tasted identical to the purchased one. From now on, I'll be making full batches and keeping some and sharing with others.

To make the honey butter, you'll need:

1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream/whipping cream
1 cup honey
3 sticks butter (or 3/4 lb), softened
1 tsp vanilla

To make the honey butter, combine the sugar, cream, and honey in a sauce pan. Heat on medium high heat and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.

Put the softened butter in a blender or food processor (I used a Vita-Mix mixer), and pour the hot mixture over the butter. Blend on medium speed until mixed well. Add vanilla and blend again.

Pour mixture into a container, cover, and let cool in the refrigerator. Keep refrigerated since this is a dairy product.

The honey butter looks frothy on top, 
but can be stirred in once it cools.

Half the recipe above makes enough to fill two half-pint/jelly jars with some left over. The full recipe makes enough for two pint-size jars or four half-pint/jelly jars also with some left over.

Honey butter on a homemade blueberry muffin.
The blueberries were hand-picked from a pick-your-own farm and frozen.

We have used the honey butter on blueberry muffins, English muffins, crackers, and toast. You could also put it on freshly-made bread, yogurt, oatmeal, bagels, waffles, French toast, or pancakes. In terms of calories, the honey butter is about 19 calories per teaspoon.

Something That Makes Me Smile - P52 and 52 Week Photo Challenge 2014 - Week 21

As I looked back on pictures that I took during the past week, one that made me smile was of Sophia and Olivia with three of the seniors that we took for a Stroll & Roll activity at the nursing home.

Sophia and Olivia with three seniors who we always enjoy seeing 
when we visit the nursing home. 
We make a point of trying to see them each time we are there.

On Friday, we visited the nursing home to take some of the seniors out on the fitness trail. There's a paved path that leads from the nursing home, past the fitness center, and in front of the clinic and hospital.

The pathway was created last fall, and some preliminary landscape features added (e.g., trees, dirt mounds, rocks). This spring they added concrete pads for benches and exercise equipment. Hopefully soon these features will be added.

There were three seniors in wheelchairs and two seniors who walked the half-mile trail. Four of the five seniors had never seen the trail. For all of them it was a mood-lifter to be outdoors and feel the sunshine and breeze; and see the sea of dandelions over the vividly-green grass. When we returned, we enjoyed juice or water and talked for a bit.

We talked about doing the Stroll & Roll regularly during the summer so that these seniors and others who enjoy being outdoors can get away - even if it's for an hour - from the nursing home.

Posted on: 

Monthly Journal for Tweens and Teens

This month for the journal page that Sophia and Olivia are keeping, I found a pin that led to a cute "Day in the Life" page.

This was an easy and fun way to document one's day - from the time the day started and ended, what was eaten, people seen, and clothes worn.

One section asks what the girls did to make someone else smile. Olivia said she showed pictures of our new puppy, Aspen. Sophia said it was telling me that she was going to make me breakfast in bed. (I even picked out a recipe that I saw on my Facebook feed that looked delicious that Sophia said she would like to try to make!)

Olivia's journal entry for May.

One of the boxes focuses on a highlight of the day. For Olivia it was that she had a nice day. For Sophia it was going to the chiropractor and getting her back fixed.

Sophia's journal entry for May.

They also noted a challenge they experienced during the day. For Sophia it was taking Cooper to agility training. (He was so excitably and completely "off" on a couple of the activities because we had just introduced Aspen to our family five days prior to training and Aspen had come along to agility training to watch.)

Olivia's challenge for the day was a math problem she was having trouble with in her math book.

By the end of the year, the girls should have a nice reminder of some of the highlights from the past year. Perhaps they also will be interested in selecting one or more of the pages to use for keeping a journal in 2015.

Kitchen - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 22

This week I read Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. It is actually a novella and a companion short story - "Kitchen" and "Moonlight Shadow" - told through the eyes of a pair of contemporary young Japanese women.

The stories focus on themes of mothers, love, kitchens, tragedy, transsexuality, loneliness, loss,  grief, isolation, hope, and redemption. Out of the two stories, I preferred "Kitchen" which included all of the aforementioned themes.

In the story "Kitchen," a teen girl's (Mikage's) grandmother dies, and she is left with no family. She is devastated by her aloneness. Even after being taken in by a classmate, Yuichi, and his mother (who is transsexual) she is unable to shake her feeling of being alone in the world.

Mikage's solace is the kitchen, especially the cooking and sharing of food which is her salvation. Yet, that's not the main focus of this room. Rather, it is in and through kitchens that Mikage feels loss, is saved from despair, and reconnects with life.  Further, through food from kitchens, Mikage realizes and nurtures love.

I found this book to provide interesting insight on different types of loss and the bereavement process. It explored how survivors - those closest to people who have died - adjust or find escape in places or things associated with the person who passed away.

One of the things that stood out for me was what Eriko (Yuichi's mother/father) told Mikage: "If a person wants to stand on her own two feet, I recommend undertaking the care and feeding of something. It could be children, or it could be house doing that you come to understand your own limitations. That's where it starts."

Eriko continued, "If a person hasn't ever experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is. I'm grateful for it."

There was one description of a time when Mikage was along in Yuichi's home after Eriko died tragically and unexpectedly. She said, "The room was so unearthly quiet, I lost all sense of time being divided into seconds. I felt that I was the only person alive and moving in a world brought to a stop. Houses always feel like that after someone had died."

Those few sentences immediately brought me mentally back to the time that I went into the my parents' home after my father had died three months earlier. My mother was in transitional care at a nursing home and I needed to pick up some things for her. I remember entering the home to complete silence - no welcoming announcement ("It's Ann Marie!" - as my dad would often greet me with), no movement, nothing. Just silence. It was literally like time had stopped on the day my father died. The spirit and life of the home was no longer there.

So, reading Yokomoto's words deeply resonated with me. I had never heard anyone describe that deep feeling of aloneness - of silence - of loss. I felt less alone knowing that probably others have felt that same sensation.

Kitchen was recommended to me by a friend, and I'm glad he suggested I read it. Had he not mentioned it, I don't think I would have found it; and been able to enjoy and reflect upon it as I did.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

101 Days of Summer Fun

With Memorial Day weekend only a couple of days away, it was time to plan the summer and the activities we hope to do.

After looking at weekly themes on Pinterest, I decided on the following schedule for our family:

Monday - Make Something Monday. This can be something we build, a craft project, or a new recipe we try.

Tuesday - Take a Trip Tuesday. This is the day that we will go to a park, take a hike, see a movie, or go on an outing.

Wednesday - Wet and Wild Wednesday. We'll be going swimming, doing something water-related in the backyard, or heading to a water park on these days.
Thursday - Thoughtful Thursday. Thursdays will be days to try science experiments, volunteer, or visit the library.

Friday - Fabulously Fun Friday. We'll be doing something we found on Pinterest that interests us.

Saturday and Sunday. These are free days. We can do whatever we want...and it doesn't have to fit into a theme.

This is a tentative schedule dependent on weather and our energy levels. We may see something different than we had planned and do that instead. But at least this is a starting point.


Day 1 - Saturday, May 24 - Go to the St. Paul Farmers Market. Go to St. Croix State Park in the afternoon with the dogs.
Day 2 - Sunday, May 25 - Immigrant for a Day at Gammelgarden Museum
Day 3 - Monday, May 26 - Memorial Day - Make a silverware holder for a backyard picnic.
Day 4 - Tuesday, May 27 - Take a short hike and have a picnic at Big Marine Park.
Day 5 - Wednesday, May 28 - Go to Lake Alice at William O'Brien State Park.
Day 6 - Thursday, May 29 - Do the Mentos Soda Pop Drop. 
Day 7 - Friday, May 30 - Make an apple-printed canvas tote bag for visits to the farmers markets.
Day 8 - Saturday, May 31 - Go to the Minneapolis Farmers Market in the early morning.  Go to the Canine Carnival at the Wildlife Science Center OR Discover Aviation Day at Blaine Airport mid-day to the afternoon.


Day 9 - Sunday, June 1- Get a trampoline. Go to Fort Snelling State Park.
Day 10 - Monday, June 2 - Make beef and broccoli over rice.
Day 11 - Tuesday, June 3 - Go to French Regional Park and have a picnic with grandmother.
Day 12 - Wednesday, June 4 - Make a backyard water garden.
Day 13 - Thursday, June 5 - Do a science-related 4-H project for the County Fair next month.
Day 14 - Friday, June 6 - Make some of the candy and treats for the Candyland project for the 4-H County Fair theme project. Go to the Chisago City Farmers Market. 
Day 15 - Saturday, June 7 - Rhubarb Days in Osceola, Wisconsin. 
Day 16 - Sunday, June 8 - Celebrate Whitsun by making a snack.
Day 17 - Monday, June 9 - Finger print art.
Day 18 - Tuesday, June 10 - Como Park Zoo. Go to the Forest Lake Farmers Market. 
Day 19 - Wednesday, June 11 - Make a sprinkler using PVC pile that has been drilled with holes and put into a square shape.
Day 20 - Thursday, June 12 - Make a fairy garden.
Day 21 - Friday, June 13 - Make a dog agility chute.
Day 22 - Saturday, June 14 - Go to the Mill City Farmers Market with a Backyard Beekeeping focus.
Day 23 - Sunday, June 15 - Wannigan Days in Taylors Falls.
Day 24 - Monday, June 16 - York fudge peppermint patty cookies.
Day 25 - Tuesday, June 17 - Pick strawberries and/or go to Abdallah Chocolate Candies in Burnsville for a tour.
Day 26 - Wednesday, June 18 - Play some water games in the backyard. Go to the Scandia Farmers Market for an ice cream social. (Ice Cream stamp)
Day 27 - Thursday, June 19 - Learn about Canada and do some Canadian activities.
Day 28 - Friday, June 20 - Make a tin can grill and then make lunch on it.
Day 29 - Saturday, June 21 - Summer Solstice - make a sun cake. Go to the Afton Strawberry Festival and Afton State Park. Visit Marine Log Cabin on the way back home. (Ice Cream stamp)
Day 30 - Sunday, June 22 - Create a backyard beach.
Day 31 - Monday, June 23 - Make a vertical garden with succulents.
Day 32 - Tuesday, June 24 - Go to the Minneapolis Farmers Market, Walker Art Center, and Midtown Global Market. Make midsummer strawberry meringue layer cake.
Day 33 - Wednesday, June 25 - Go swimming. Go to the Lindstrom Farmers Market on the way home.
Day 34 - Thursday, June 26 - Make a density column and multi-color rose.
Day 35 - Friday, June 27 - Make a pool noodle obstacle course.
Day 36 - Saturday, June 28 - Go to Art Soup in Elk River (a community festival) OR Pet-a-Palooza at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. There's a community band concert at William O'Brien State Park in the evening.
Day 37 - Sunday, June 29 - My birthday. Had thought of going to Harkin Store in New Ulm (one of the Minnesota History Center sites) for the Afternoon of Leisure event. However, with a puppy that may change what is possible.
Day 38 - Monday, June 30 - Sophia's half-birthday. Make a half-birthday cake, half-plates, and so forth.


Day 39 - Tuesday, July 1 - Go to the Bell Museum.
Day 40 - Wednesday, July 2 - Hook up the hose to 20 liter bottles with holes. Go to Wild River State Park.
Day 41 - Thursday, July 3 - Make a biodome. 
Day 42 - Friday, July 4 - Make fireworks cookies with Pop Rocks. 
Day 43 - Saturday, July 5 - Go to the Stillwater Farmers Market, and then head over to the Gibbs Museum and James J. Hill House in the later morning.
Day 44 - Sunday, July 6 - Fly a kite.
Day 45 - Monday, July 7 - Do a backyard rope bridge.
Day 46 - Tuesday, July 8 - Pick blueberries. Also do the Christmas Crafting in July class. Leave for Grand Marais. Stop at Jay Cooke State Park on the way to see the suspension bridge.
Day 47 - Wednesday, July 9 - Go on a day-long horseback ride on trails along the Gunflint Trail. Experiment with essential oils and mosquito repellent that day. Go kayaking after that.
Day 48 - Thursday, July 10 - Go zip lining. Also go kayaking and motor boating on Gunflint Lake.
Day 49 - Friday, July 11 - Go on a shorter horseback ride along the Gunflint Trail. Go on an afternoon sailing trip for about 1 1/4 hours. Drive to Silver Bay and go swimming and enjoy the indoor water park. Make a rock mandala in the evening.
Day 50 - Saturday, July 12 - Go rock climbing at Tettegouche State Park in the morning. Go sea kayaking on Lake Superior in the afternoon at Split Rock Lighthouse. See Enger Tower in Duluth. Go swimming in the evening.
Day 51 - Sunday, July 13 - Go to Hay Lake Museum and Erickson House (Ice Cream Stamp). Also make homemade pizza.
Day 52 - Monday, July 14 - Make molasses horse treats.
Day 53 - Tuesday, July 15 - Go to the Minnesota State Capitol and see the LEGO version of the Capitol building made with 75,000 bricks.
Day 54 - Wednesday, July 16 - Bring 4-H projects to the County Fair. Use cooling mists to handle the heat.
Day 55 - Thursday, July 17 - Make a fruit solar system. Go to the Hugo Farmers Market.
Day 56 - Friday, July 18 - Celebrate Olivia's half-birthday. Make a tarp throwing game and a natural play area outdoors.
Day 57 - Saturday, July 19 - Visit Stone House Museum. (Ice Cream stamp). Do archery at William O'Brien State Park.
Day 58 - Sunday, July 20 - Pick up projects at the County Fair.
Day 59 - Monday, July 21 - Make Olive Garden salad dressing.
Day 60 - Tuesday, July 22 - Go to Mill City Museum.
Day 61 - Wednesday, July 23 - Make a water pinata. Go to the Scandia Farmers Market.
Day 62 - Thursday, July 24 - Go to the book club for Children of Green Knowe and learn about/make a topiary and have an English tea. "Travel" to Mexico to learn about the food and culture in the afternoon.
Day 63 - Friday, July 25 - Make an insect hotel.
Day 64 - Saturday, July 26 - Go to the Marine on St. Croix Farmers Market. Make an ice cream sundae with sea salted caramel.
Day 65 - Sunday, July 27 - Play a game of lawn bowling.
Day 66 - Monday, July 28 - Make glow-in-the-dark bubbles.
Day 67 - Tuesday, July 29 - Bring open class projects to the County Fair.
Day 68 - Wednesday, July 30 - Go to the County Fair and see how we did. To cool down in the afternoon, put a tarp under the slide and put a sprinkler on it.
Day 69 - Thursday, July 31 - Experiment with solar cooking and see what's the quickest method.


Day 70 - Friday, August 1 - Go to the White Bear Lake Farmers Market. Celebrate Lammas by making bread and using local honey.
Day 71 - Saturday, August 2 - Go to the Alexander Ramsey House and do the "Time Capsule for Kids" program.
Day 72 - Sunday, August 3 - Do chalk games on the tar.
Day 73 - Monday, August 4 - Make flower fruit bites.
Day 74 - Tuesday, August 5 - Go to the Bakken Museum. In the afternoon go to the Marine Mill and get the Ice Cream stamp int the library.
Day 75 - Wednesday, August 6 - Go to the aquatic park in St. Louis Park.
Day 76 - Thursday, August 7 - Do the exploding craft stick reaction.
Day 77 - Friday, August 8 - Make a toss game with cans.
Day 78 - Saturday, August 9 - Go to the St. Paul Farmers Market (for major canning/food preservation items). Go to a drive in movie.
Day 79 - Sunday, August 10 - Do active hopscotch.
Day 80 - Monday, August 11 - Make a biosphere.
Day 81 - Tuesday, August 12 - Go to the Minnesota History Center.
Day 82 - Wednesday, August 13 - Go to the water park at Wild Mountain.
Day 83 - Thursday, August 14 - Do the book club for Dragon of the Lost Sea at Gammelgarden in the morning. In the afternoon, learn about Iceland - the food and culture.
Day 84 - Friday, August 15 - Go to the Chisago City Farmers Market. Make strawberry lemonade.
Day 85 - Saturday, August 16 - Go to the Oliver Kelly Farm and do The Useful Art of Pickling activity. Go to Spelmanstamma at Gammelgarden in the afternoon.
Day 86 - Sunday, August 17 - Make a pie.
Day 87 - Monday, August 18 - Make taco pizza.
Day 88 - Tuesday, August 19 - Go to Love Tree Farm in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, for Pizza Beyond the Pond.
Day 89 - Wednesday, August 20 - Go to Bunker Beach Water Park in the morning and the Scandia Farmers Market in the evening.
Day 90 - Thursday, August 21 - Go geocaching.
Day 91 - Friday, August 22 - Play the glow in the dark ring toss.
Day 92 - Saturday, August 23 - Make homemade bagels.
Day 93 - Sunday, August 24 - Go to the Woodbury Farmers Market. Do a random act of kindness.
Day 94 - Monday, August 25 - Sew some geometry cards.
Day 95 - Tuesday, August 26 - Go to the Forest Lake Farmers Market and/or go camping in a camper cabin.
Day 96 - Wednesday, August 27 - Play a game of growing wet sponges at a bulls eye.
Day 97 - Thursday, August 28 - Experiment with ways to cook on a rocket stove.
Day 98 - Friday, August 29 - Make an ice cream sandwich cake.
Day 99 - Saturday, August 30 - Go to the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Make crescent roll taco dinner.
Day 100 - Sunday, August 31 - Go to Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area during the day; and have a family board game at night.


Day 101 - Monday, September 1 - Make peach cheesecake ice cream.


Throughout the summer, I'd like to pick fruit at The Berry Patch (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), Covered Bridge (blueberries), Natura Farms (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and grapes), and Pleasant Valley Apple Orchard (strawberries and apples).

Kira-Kira - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 21

This week I read Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. It received the Newbery Medal in 2005.

The story focuses on the Takeshima family - a two-parent household with three children (Lynn, Katie, and Sammy), set in the 1960s in Iowa.

The parents own an Asian supermarket, but unfortunately it goes out of business. They move to Georgia and live in a small apartment, having to work in hatcheries to make ends meet.

Katie loves her older sister, Lynn, who sees even ordinary things in the world as kira-kira, a Japanese word for glittering. Born in the United States to Japanese parents, the girls face prejudices at school - especially in Georgia - and watch their parents endure hardships to make ends meet in a predominantly Caucasian culture.

When Lynn gets sick, Mr. and Mrs. Takeshima take their hard-earned money to purchase a home that Lynn always dreamed about when she was younger. Their hope is that Lynn will recover. Initially, the move seems to improve Lynn's health. However, Lynn experiences a relapse from distress when Sammy is caught in a metal animal trap owned by Mr. Lyndon, the owner of the hatchery.

As a preteen, Katie becomes the primary caregiver for her younger brother and dying sister while her parents work long hours at chicken processing plants.

While the parents are working long hours, often the children sit and/or sleep in the car in the parking lot. It is when she is waiting in the car for her mother that Katie meets and becomes friends with a girl named Silly Kilgore.

Silly's mother supports having a union at the hatchery, but Katie's mother does not. She simply wants to ensure that she has a job and doesn't appear disrespectful to those who are paying her wages. She is willing to endure less than ideal work conditions - including unreasonable long hours without breaks - just to have some money to pay for Lynn's growing medical bills.

After Lynn dies, the family searches through everything in the house for items that had a connection to Lynn. Mrs. Takeshima even sends Katie out to the garbage to go through it and find anything that Lynn touched.

These items are used to create a special altar in honor of Lynn. The family feels that Lynn's spirit will stay around as long as they have her belongings around, though Katie thinks that Lynn's spirit will only stay around 49 days after she dies from an old story her uncle told her.

Shortly after Lynn's death, a vote is taken regarding the union. Mrs. Takeshima votes in favor of the union so that a three-day grief leave for families handling adversities can be implemented. Although she knows it's too late for her family, it won't be too late for the next family suffering grief.

Lynn's ultimate death from lymphoma brings out a range of challenging emotions for the family, but as they begin to heal, they take a trip to California — a place where Lynn always wanted to live — in her honor.

This book, though written for middle school youth, has subjects that have been part of my life for some time now - caregiving; high costs of medical bills and how it can negatively impact one's family; and processing grief and loss issues.

As a historical fiction book, I enjoyed it. It made me aware of the many challenges that Japanese Americans had back in the 1960s - the decade when I was born. I also was not aware of the difficult situations in factories and hatcheries during that decade; and how poorly people were treated.

Some of these issues - fair treatment for workers and prejudice - still, unfortunately, exist today. Hopefully in my lifetime this will change.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Local Bite Challenge Update - Week #4

Over on Ever Growing Farm there's a 100-day Local Bite Challenge. It’s an experiment to see how much local food a person can live on within certain parameters (e.g., distance, budget). The first four weeks of the challenge are now complete, and this week we already are in Week 5.

The first few weeks of the challenge our enthusiasm was high and we were committed to trying to eat as much locally-grown and locally-produced as we could. We tried new food, planted seeds for peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes in a seed-starting greenhouse, and had some meals that were made with 100% local ingredients.

And then Week 4 happened. There was too much going on between homeschooling, caregiving, house re-construction (due to an ice dam that happened in early-March), volunteering, and the girls' activities.

Finding the time to consciously and deliberately choose locally-made and locally-produced food simply was not high on my priority list. Because I was pressed for time, I simply went to the grocery store and Autumnwood Farm with Sophia and Olivia and we picked what we needed to get through the week.

That being said, we did find some locally-produced cheese and meat products that we enjoyed during the past week such as beef snack snacks and cheddar cheese curds.

Clearly the beef sticks were a hit. 
The cheese curds we limit to 2-3 curds per serving so they last longer.
Both products are from Wisconsin which is relatively close to where we live.

A product we tried that was new to us was Velvet Bees gourmet honey butter. We have used this on homemade biscuits that are hot out of the oven and the honey butter just melts into them.

We're trying to make this last, but clearly this has been something 
that we've enjoyed during the past week.

The honey butter is different than what I've tasted before. Perhaps it's the addition of cream and vanilla that make a difference. We looked online for some recipes for honey butter that use the five ingredients noted on the jar and came across a couple that we will be trying. It would be nice to be able to make our own butter rather than having to purchase it.

The label on the honey butter jar.

I also went to another grocery store to get some food for a quick dinner. It had been a long day and I just needed something easy to make. As I was walking past the bakery section, I saw there was bread that was on sale.

Even better: it was locally-made bread!

The price was $3.39 for the loaf, but it was marked down to only $1.69. It is great for toasting, but a little too fragile for making sandwiches. The honey butter on this natural grain bread has been a simple, locally-made meal that we have enjoyed on several mornings.

We also bought skim milk and chocolate milk from Autumnwood Farm as we have been doing since the start of the Local Bite challenge.

The seeds that we planted during the second week of the challenge are so tall that we had to take the top of the table-top greenhouse off. However, the plants seem real spindly and small compared to ones that are available in stores now. It probably would have been better to start the seeds several months ago so they were ready to be planted outdoors now. I think we'll just be purchasing some more sturdy plants that are a bit further along so that we get some produce out of our garden earlier in the summer.

Nonetheless, the seedlings we planted still can be planted outdoors and we'll see if they produce vegetables. Either it will take the whole season for the plants to grow or we'll have a super-huge crop of vegetables late in the season.

So, it's been a mixed week for us. We had some successes in terms of trying new locally-grown/produced products and enjoying the ones that we have since the beginning of the challenge. At the same time, we had some challenges with being able to thoughtfully choose locally-grown/produced food when presented with limited time due to the demands and responsibilities of daily life.