Saturday, March 31, 2018

Something that Made Me Happy This Month - March

For the "Something That Made Me Happy This Month - March" swap on Swap-Bot, the goal of the swap is to tell three partners something that made me happy this past month (e.g., an event I  attended, a book I read, a movie I  watched, a new person I met).

One of the things that stands out is spending time at Northwoods Humane Society. Sophia plays the harp while Olivia and I pet the dogs waiting to be adopted. They all responded so well this past month.

There were large and small dogs of various ages.

It has been a great program that Sophia started a few years ago.

The dogs do significantly better than the cats out of their kennels. They seem to be able to relax a bit more than the cats.

Another thing that made me happy was seeing a raptor at the One Stop Donation Drop that Sophia coordinated; and that Sophia, Olivia, and I spent time setting up, overseeing the event, and cleaning up.

The raptor was from the Wildlife Science Center and did a fantastic job staying calm during the entire six-hour event. Its wing was injured in an accident, so it came to the WSC for recovery and now it used for education since it can't be safely released into the wild. It's being taken care of quite well, and the bird is healthy now.

Another highlight of the One Stop Donation Drop and Blood Drive was collecting 15 units of blood - or the potential of saving 45 lives.

Another way that we helped saved lives this past month was packing food for Feed My Starving children. The children who receive the meals through FMSC gain weight and the necessary nutrition to thrive rather than struggle. When we heard how many children would receive meals because of the two-hour packing event, it made me very happy!


Something that makes me happy is that the girls still enjoy visiting Franconia Sculpture Park to see the large-scale sculptures. They also practice their photography skills while we are hiking around the park. This is something we've done now for well over a decade.

A final thing that made me happy during March was working with seniors at the nursing home to create 20 welcome baskets for incoming residents.

We started this idea a little over a year ago. Each of the baskets that the residents make is given to a new resident when s/he moves into the nursing home. It's a nice way to let the new resident know that s/he is thought about and welcomes to their new home.

My Favorite Pictures of the Month - March

As I looked back on the pictures I took during March, many of the ones that stood out for me were ones that represented thoughtfulness and/or service.

We had multiple snowfalls during March and many times Olivia shoveled the deck, patio, and a pathway to the car. This helped the dogs so they didn't get stuck in the snow and us so that we didn't get snow in our shoes.

Sophia shared her baking skills and made several desserts for Easter. These are muffins that are frosted to look like Easter bunnies. The inside is filled with a chocolate piece of candy and sprinkles.

The girls and I packed food at Feed My Starving Children. We did this with the Lions and Leos from our district.

We also had a fun time when we made an Asian-theme meal with my sister (the girls' aunt).

We were happy to see wildlife return now that it is Spring (though it doesn't feel like it is Spring with all the snow on the ground and the cold temperatures). The Sandhill Cranes have captured our attention as they return and look for food on the snow-covered ground.

On St. Patrick's Day, we entered a competition as a family at the library. There were about 10 teams total competing to finish a 550-piece puzzle in the quickest time. We finished the puzzle in less than 1 hour.

Early in March, I had foot surgery (the second one in four months). This one was an easy and quick one - a tendon release of the second toe. I was awake during the surgery which was interesting.

The podiatrist drew a happy face on my second toe when he was done with surgery.

We kicked off the month with coordinating a One Stop Donation Drop and Blood Drive. Sophia coordinated the blood drive and recruited 15 donors - which will save 45 lives.

Olivia spent a good percentage of the afternoon knitting hats for newborns on a round loom.

I started out the month by making a new pattern for a window star. It actually combines two different window stars to create a new pattern. 

So, creative arts, volunteering, being of service, a successful surgery, winning a puzzle contest, wildlife, enjoying a meal with a family member, and the culinary arts - all were highlights during March. These photos are some of my favorite pictures which reminds me of these highlights.

Outdoor Mom's Journal - March

During our outdoor time this week we where special. Most of our observation of nature this month was done from the home looking out or from the car since I had foot surgery at the beginning of the month.

Looking at turkeys from the car window.
We stopped along the side of the road to watch them.
(Taken on March 21, 2018.)

The surgical boot I am wearing isn't the best footwear when there's lots of snow and ice on the ground.

Yet another big snowfall - about six inches - on March 31st...
the day before Easter.

The snowfall this year has been more than we've seen in a long time. When it melts, we should have a nice pond in the west pasture.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...seeing raptors this month. At an event that we coordinated and hosted on March 3rd, we were able to see a hawk up close.

It is cared for by the Wildlife Science Center in Stacy, Minnesota. It had a wing injury in the wild, and now lives at the WSC and does educational programming.

The other neat thing I've been seeing a lot of is groups of eagles flying together. I've never seen 3 or 4 eagles flying together until this year. It's amazing to see!

In the photo below, we were driving home from errands in Forest Lake and happened to see the eagles flying overhead. It appeared that there were two pairs of eagles in this group.  

Four eagles circling above.
(Taken on March 31, 2018.)

We were at a stoplight, so Sophia took out the camera and photographed the eagles so we could remember them.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...
how the earth shifts so much from season to season, yet it not noticeable. Yet, through photographs, it's clear things are shifting.

For example, this is a morning sunrise on March 1st. The sun is rising and I can see it through the trees from the family room in the house.

By March 25th, I need to walk to the end of the driveway and look to the northeast to see the sunrise.

In less than a month, that's quite a change. 

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting....still nothing. By this time in the past, we sometimes have seen early flowers and perhaps some of the strawberries in the keyhole garden begin to emerge from the ground. Not this year. The ground is still frozen solid.

We are trying to figure out how to deal with wildlife (rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons) that will eat the produce that we grow.

One of the raccoons that has been
spending time here at the farm.
They are quite agile, so fencing has to be solid
so they don't eat all the produce that we grow.
(Taken on March 3, 2018.)

I'm not sure how to deal with raccoons that clearly can climb up and over fencing.

I added nature journal pages about....
nothing yet for March. I want to go back and add some photos and information about the sandhill cranes that have been migrating back. They have been gone since the Fall, so it's nice to see and hear them again.

Sandhill cranes walking in the snow.
(Taken on March 21, 2018.)

I am reading...An Eagle Named Freedom. Seems like there are so many things going on that I don't get blocks of time to sit down and read this interesting book.

Hope to have it done soon and start on a new book.

I am dreaming about…seeing flowers and green grass again. It's been a very long and cold winter. 

A photo I would like to share...
Sophia, Olivia, and I were walking at Franconia Sculpture Park on March 9th. The sky was so blue and clear that day.

It made a beautiful background for some of the sculptures.

Thank you to Barb the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the idea of doing an Outdoor Mom's Journal.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Blogging from A to Z Theme Reveal: Hobbies

Next week I will begin the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April. I have done the challenge in two years (2013 and 2017). This will be my third year.

During 2013, the theme was homeschooling. I chose one topic for each day and Sophia, Olivia, and I did activities related to the topic (e.g., Agriculture, Baking, Composer Study, Drama, Etiquette, Flower Arranging).

During 2017, I focused on going through my homeschooling files that I created from the time that Sophia and Olivia were in preschool. Some of the files were still relevant while others I decluttered and recycled in the process.

Each day during April, I picked one of the files to focus on - either doing a hands-on activity or sharing some information from one of the files. On the average, there were three different topics that I wrote about each day - all starting with the same letter.

This year, I will be focusing on hobbies that I have introduced to my daughters to through their childhood and teen years. Some were done as part of homeschooling, while others were areas that we explored because we were interested in the subject or activity. These are hobbies that anyone of any age could try as well.

I had wanted to do an A to Z of quilting blocks using fabric that I had on hand. In that way, I could go through the bins of fabric and keep what I wanted, donate what I no longer needed, and use some of it for making quilt blocks. That may be a topic that I do more casually throughout a year - taking two weeks at a time to create a block rather than a day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Photo Scavenger Hunt - March

On Swap-Bot, I signed up for a electronic swap that is a photo scavenger hunt. For the swap, the participants needed to find six items, take a photo of each one, and share the findings with their  partners.

Here are the items for March:

An animal that is not your pet:

I was driving Sophia home from harp lessons on Wednesday, March 21st and we were passing beautiful, open land about 10 minutes from our home. In the distance, there were two large birds. Pulled to the side of the road to get a closer look and saw that they were sandhill cranes.

The day before, the first day of Spring, I had heard a sandhill crane flying by our home. The 21st was the first day that I saw a pair of them.

This is sure sign that Spring is here...despite the snow on the ground!

A funny or unique poster or banner that your saw on a wall or building somewhere:

This is a sign for a business that is about 15 minutes away from us in a town that has strong Swedish roots.

It struck me as funny the way that they chose to depict Swedish people and a family restaurant. I don't see people looking like this around the area. The sign did catch my eye maybe that's the purpose of it.

A beautiful sky - clouds, sunrise, or sunset.

This is a sunrise on March 25th. It is looking northeast from our farm.

The clouds were shades of pink and lavender beyond this golden orange sunrise.

Your favorite mug or cup.

Olivia gave me this mug for Christmas. I like wildlife and we've seen foxes on our farm, so this mug is a nice reminder of seeing them.

The design of the fur and tail - with tiny patterns that are colored in randomly also is something that I enjoy looking at. Coloring and art are things I've enjoyed doing as a child and adult.

Something cluttered or messy.

We have a hodge podge of dishes - some belong to sets, others are random pieces from the thrift store, and others are ones that the girls painted in ceramics classes throughout the year.

Since we're a homeschooling family, we eat all of our meals at home. Every once in a while we will go out for something to eat. However, the majority of our meals are eaten here. So, that means we go through a lot of dishes each day. Regardless, I needed to reduce the number of dishes so they are easier to find ones we need and put them away.

So, I took everything out of the cabinet plus the extra dishes in another cabinet and we went through each plate, cup, mug, bowl, salt and pepper shaker. We got rid of ones that were chipped or ones that we didn't particularly care for any more. It still looks like a lot of dishes. However, the majority of the dishes are ones that we typically use within a two-day period.

Something purple or mostly purple.

These are some of the grand champion ribbons that I have won at the county fair for items I've entered. There have been awards for needlework, food preservation, writing, and collections.

The ribbons hang on a closet knob in my home office. The other closet knob holds the reserve grand champion ribbons and additional grand champion ribbons that didn't fit on the other knob.

My daughters and I enjoy competing in the county fair each year. We've been doing this now for 11 years. We're looking forward to the upcoming season and entering projects in a variety of areas.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Kikkomen Recipe and Sampling Party

I was chosen by Kikkoman and House Party to sample some Kikkoman products with family and friends. In the party pack, there was a $25 gift card for food, aprons, fabric markers, coupons for Kikkoman products, and recipe booklets. Each of the guests received an apron, coupon, and recipe booklet.

Olivia, Sophia, and my sister, Mary

We made two recipes together (chicken tacos and a beef stir fry), and sampled others I had made ahead of time (the soup and salad needed longer cooking and/or cooling times).

On Sunday, March 25th, we tried the following recipes found on Kikkoman's website:

Chicken Tacos


1 tablespoon Kikkoman® Sesame Oil
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup 1/2-inch diced onion
1/2 cup 1/2-inch diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup Kikkoman® Gluten-Free Less Sodium Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce
1 tablespoon Kikkoman® Gluten-Free Less Sodium Tamari Soy Sauce
6 (4-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
Optional: 2 cups tri-color slaw (green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots)
Optional toppings:
Additional Kikkoman® Gluten-Free Less Sodium Teriyaki and Kikkoman® Tamari Soy Sauce
Fresh cilantro leaves
Sliced green onions
Toasted sesame seeds
Pickled ginger


Cut and prepare chicken and vegetables as noted above.

Prepare the garnishes as well.

Heat Kikkoman® Sesame Oil in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to brown.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion and bell pepper; cook for 3 minutes more.

Stir in Kikkoman® Gluten-Free Less Sodium Teriyaki Sauce and Kikkoman® Tamari Soy Sauce and cook for 2 minutes more.

Spoon equal amounts into warmed tortillas and top with cabbage slaw.

Serve with any desired toppings.

Makes 4-6 servings.

4 servings: (including slaw) 5 servings: (including slaw) 1.5g saturated fat 1g saturated fat 450mg sodium 360mg sodium 10g sugar 8g sugar 0g trans fat 0g trans fat

Teriyaki Meatballs


⅓ cup Kikkoman® Panko Bread Crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons Kikkoman® Soy Sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
¼ cup crushed pineapple, drained (optional - I didn't use)
Vegetable cooking spray
¼ cup Kikkoman® Teriyaki Takumi, Original


Combine panko, egg and soy sauce in large bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

Add ground beef and pineapple; mix until thoroughly combined. Shape into small meatballs, 1 inch in diameter.

Arrange meatballs, 1 inch apart, on foil-lined shallow baking pan, lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake in 375º F oven 12 to 15 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. Immediately transfer meatballs into large bowl and pour in teriyaki sauce. Toss well to coat all pieces evenly with sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 appetizer servings.

Light and Zesty Quinoa Salad


1 cup quinoa
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup Kikkoman® Rice Vinegar
2 lemons
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ tablespoon sugar
4 cups baby spinach, chopped
¼ red onion, finely diced
½ cucumber, diced
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 avocado, sliced into cubes
¼ cup pomegranate seeds (I didn't use these since they weren't available)


Cook quinoa per package directions and place into the fridge to cool completely.

Meanwhile, whisk together olive oil, rice vinegar, the juice from two lemons plus the zest from one, salt, pepper, and sugar.

When quinoa is cool, assemble the salad by tossing the quinoa, spinach, onion, cucumber, peppers, avocado, and pomegranate seeds with the dressing.

Makes 4 servings

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chinese Soup


8 cups (2 quarts) chicken broth
1/4 cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced 1-inch piece
fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon Kikkoman Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 square firm tofu, cubed
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup sliced green onions


Pour chicken broth into a 5 to 8 quart slow cooker. Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, ginger, sriracha, white pepper, sugar and tofu.

Cook on low 6 to 8 hours, or high 3-4 hours. Serve garnished with cilantro and green onions. 

Makes 6-8 servings


We also made a beef stir fry that didn't have a recipe. It was one we made up ourselves.

Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry


1 pound beef sirloin steak, cut into strips
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup fresh mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup canned bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup Kikkoman Stiry-Fry Sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Kikkoman Soy Sauce
Olive oil
White rice, cooked according to package directions


Mix together the cornstarch and soy sauce. Add the sirloin steak and let sit for 5 minutes.

Chop and prepare vegetables as noted above.

Heat some olive oil in a wok. When hot, add the beef sirloin steak and cook until browned. Remove from wok.

Add a little more olive oil in the wok. When hot, add the onions, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and bamboo shoots. Cook until crisp-tender.

Add the stir-fry sauce and meat; and cook longer until vegetables are at desired doneness.

Serve by itself or with rice.