Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Outdoor Mom's Journal - November

During our outdoor time this week we went....hiking at Interstate State Park.

The views of the St. Croix River area beautiful. Sophia enjoyed watching the river from a high point on a cliff. The other side of the river is Instate State Park - but the Wisconsin side.

There are lots of rock formations thanks to glacial movement and lava flows that happened at one time in Minnesota's history. There are outcroppings of rocks that you can climb - like Olivia who is on one of the smaller rock cliffs below.

The patterns of the rocks and subtle differences in color are intriguing.

We also went to Franconia Sculpture Park. Olivia enjoyed the swings.

We walked around and explored some of the sculptures there.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...hearing huge flocks of geese fly overhead as well as in the distance. There had to be hundreds of geese in multiple "V" formations.

Look closely - there are hundreds of geese.
Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) do the geese know what direction to go when it is cloudy and overcast? 

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting....nothing at this time. Everything is dormant and the ground is frozen.

We did say that a priority next season will be the flower garden in the middle of the backyard. It has a rosebush (rather large) and lots of lilies that my dad gave me. Would like to develop it more so that it is colorful through the growing seasons and attracts more butterflies and hummingbirds.

I added nature journal pages about...still not doing well with this. I had hoped to add pages each month - at least one per month at a minimum. Back in the summer - around June or July - I wanted to add some entries and then never did. Month by month passed, and the task became more overwhelming. Perhaps during December, I can get back on schedule.

I am reading...
the November/December issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer. There are always interesting articles in each issue; and I always learn something new.

I am dreaming about…
the beautiful weather we have been having recently. It has been in the 40s and 55s - almost 60 on Tuesday. This is unseasonably warm which has been enjoyable. It makes Fall chores and errands all that much easier when there's not a lot of snow and ice on the ground. 

Photos I would like to share...
this is a recent sunset that caught my eye.

The photos were taken less than 30 seconds from one another. The sky changed in intensity with more golds in the previous shot and more lavenders and pinks in the latter photo below.

The sunset has shifted more towards the southwest now. This is the best time of the year (also spring) for seeing the sunset. During the summer, the sunset is further north and it is blocked by the neighbors' barns, home, and trees. Even though they are 500-600 feet away from us, it nonetheless affects how much of the sun itself we can see as it goes below the horizon. 
Thank you to Barb the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the idea of doing an Outdoor Mom's Journal.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sophia's 16th Anniversary of her Adoption Day + Caramelized Ham and Swiss Cheese Sandwiches

November 26th marked the 16th anniversary of Sophia's adoption day.

Minutes after we first met each other in China.

It's hard to believe it has been that many years since we were in China. Time goes by way too quickly.

Left: On Sophia's adoption day - November 26, 2001 (11 months old).
Right: Sophia 16 years later at a jewelry-making class.

After a special breakfast of waffles with maple syrup, we relaxed since it was a Sunday. During the afternoon, Sophia, Olivia, and Paige went to see "Justice League" at a local movie theater. They enjoyed it.

For dinner, we had Caramelized Ham and Swiss Cheese Sandwiches - a recipe from Taste of Home. We've had these before, and they are one of Sophia's favorite sandwiches.  The recipe below is for one batch. I make 1 1/2 batches - or 18 sandwiches. The sandwiches fit in a 9"x13" pan. There are plenty for leftovers the following couple of days after they are made.


1 package (12 ounces) Hawaiian sweet rolls, split
1/2 cup horseradish sauce
12 slices deli ham
6 slices Swiss cheese, halved
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Spread roll bottoms with horseradish sauce. Layer with ham and cheese; replace tops. Arrange in a single layer in a greased 9-in. square baking pan.

In a small skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour over rolls. Refrigerate, covered, several hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake, covered, 25 minutes. Bake, uncovered, 5-10 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Note: these sandwiches can be re-heated in the microwave. They taste delicious on the first day as well as on following days as leftovers.

Dinner - the ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches and a variety of vegetables.

Typically we have done some type of special dessert in the past. However, we had leftovers from Thanksgiving, so whoever wanted a dessert had either cookies or ice cream.

We have in the past also had Sophia and Olivia choose a gift from China that we bought when we adopted them in 2001 and 2003. We haven't taken out the memory bins yet, so they haven't chosen what item they want.

In the evening, there was a beautiful sunset.

The sky and clouds were a variety of shades of oranges, golds, and purples.

It was a nice way to end Sophia's 16th anniversary of her adoption day.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Cinnamon Roll Turkeys and Thanksgiving Dinner

A long time ago I pinned a recipe for Cinnamon Roll Turkeys that led to the Pillsbury website. I thought it would be an easy and fun breakfast to have on Thanksgiving morning while we prepare the other food for the main meal.

Our version of the cinnamon roll turkeys turned out quite different from the food-styled pictures on the Pillsbury website. Nonetheless, it was a quick breakfast before we dove into the food preparation for the Thanksgiving dinner.


The ingredients include:

1 can (17.5 oz) Pillsbury Grands refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
10 slices bacon
5 candy corns
5 red mini candy-coated chocolate candies (I didn't use these)
10 candy eyeballs
15 mini pretzel sticks, cut in half


Heat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper.

Set icing aside. Separate dough into 5 rolls; place about 3 inches apart on cookie sheet. Unroll each roll about 1 inch; tuck dough into roll to create neck of turkey.

Bake 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack; cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towel-lined plate. Cut bacon slices in half. Tuck 4 halves of bacon into back of each cinnamon roll so they stick up and look like tail feathers.

Drizzle tops of rolls with icing. Decorate turkeys with candy eyeballs, candy corn and candy-coated chocolate candies. Before serving, place halved pretzel sticks underneath each turkey to resemble turkey’s feet.


We had 13 people gathered at the farm for Thanksgiving.  We were missing my nephew and niece, and my nephew's girlfriend. However, my nephew's girlfriend's sister and brother attended Thanksgiving at our farm which was nice. They had never been to one of our Thanksgiving dinners before, so it was nice having them here.

There was a prayer on Pinterest that I saw that was printed onto a table runner.  It is a simple one, but one that is "general" enough to not offend anyone. It is:

Thank you for the food before us,
The family beside us, and
The love between us.

I planned on having someone say it before the meal, but it didn't work out that way. I forgot the cheesy potatoes and dressing that were staying warm in the oven, so the meal started out a bit less "formal" than I thought. That's fine...everyone was eager to begin eating anyways.

We had the traditional components to the Thanksgiving meal that family members expect or request: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, cheesy potatoes, banana bread, and salad. My brother brought the rolls and beverages; and sister brought the pies and brownies.

This year, I made some new recipes including: peppermint cookies and blueberry pound cake. I made molasses cookies (my grandma Olive's recipe) and oatmeal raisin cookies, but there were plenty of other desserts to choose from so we didn't offer these as an option.


After dinner, we had a bonfire in the backyard. We had a rather large brush pile because of branches that came down due to storms this past summer.

We wanted to burn the brush pile before rabbits and birds began using it for their winter homes and spring nests. If that was the case, we'd have these huge pile of branches and sticks lasting until next Fall. They have plenty of other brush piles to use on our farm.

After we had dessert, the kids and teens played games, played the piano, and talked. There was lots of laughter which was good to hear.

My brother, sister, and I went through pictures and books that my parents had and chose ones we wanted. The others we agreed to let go. There are many more slides, photos, and books to go through still.

It is quite a process - even 2 years and 3 months after my mom died (and 5 years and 10 months after my dad died). It's the personal items - the photos, especially - that are the most difficult to go through. However, the longer it has been, it has gotten a bit easier. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanks & Giving Ideas in Preparation for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I wanted to take some time to reflect about ways that I have been thankful and express gratitude; and ways that I have been giving. 

There was a free printable chart that I found on Pinterest that has lines for keeping track of both categories that was created by How Does She

I am thinking about having this list available on Thanksgiving - a blank one - so people can  fill it in. I'm not sure how well it would go over and if people would do it. Nonetheless, it would be a good tradition to start - even if it is with the immediate family.

It would be nice to be able to take a look at the list as the years go by - what changes, what stays the same, what's important, and what are ways that we have given of ourselves to others? I would have enjoyed being able to look back on what we all would have wrote five, ten, fifteen years ago. It's not to late to start creating memories and new traditions!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Celebrating Olivia's Adoption Day

This year marks the 14th anniversary of adopting Olivia. It was low-key year because I'm recovering from foot surgery (done on November 14th).

For breakfast, I made pancakes and we had real maple syrup from Canada.

Thursday was a homeschooling day, so the girls worked on the subjects they needed to focus on.

In the afternoon, the girls and Paige went to the YMCA to enjoy some time in the pool and walking around the indoor track. They picked up a Papa Murphy's pizza and brought it home for dinner.

While they were gone, I made brownies. When they came home, they brought mint chocolate chip ice cream to which I added pieces of the brownie and Andes mint pieces. I put the ice cream mixture back in the refrigerator while we ate dinner.

We had a nice meal together and then ate dessert.

For Olivia's special gift, she took a jewelry making class at White Bear Center for the Arts on Saturday, November 18th. She made two rings and a pendant from clay-metal. It's clay that is fired in a kiln and turns into metal. Olivia really enjoyed the class and making the rings.

At some point (probably on Sophia's adoption day celebration which is on November 26th), we will go through the memory bin of items that we brought back from China. Olivia can pick an item from the bin to use or display as she has done each year since she was adopted.