Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hobbies that Begin with "D" - Blogging from A to Z Challenge

During the 2018 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, 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.


These are some hobbies that we have done throughout the years that begin with the letter "D": dance, digital arts/photography, do-it-yourself projects, dog agility, dog sledding, dog training, dolls, dominoes, drama, and drawing.


Sophia and Olivia have enjoyed exploring dance - either through lessons and activities or by watching dance performances.

One of the activities we did in 2007 was attend a historical day at Fort Snelling about WWII. In one of the buildings, there were swing dance lessons since swing dancing was popular in 2007. Sophia said that it was hard to learn the steps...so that was a good challenge for the day.

April 14, 2007

During July 2007, Minnesota Dance Theater had a Cinderella dance camp for children. Both Sophia and Olivia attended it, though they were in different classes because they were two years apart in age.

It was a fun introduction to ballet, and they enjoyed dancing with the teens during class; and seeing the adult dancers get their pointe shoes on and/or practice in other rooms.

July 20, 2007

During the 2007-08 homeschool year, Sophia took dance at the homeschool co-op. The girls did several dance performances at the end of the year at a recital.

June 1, 2008

The following year, Olivia took dance at the homeschool co-op. She did four dances in the recital - including one solo. The other girl in her dance class was sick and Olivia was given the choice whether to do her dance or not. In the afternoon at class, she said she'd do the dance.

Sure enough, when it was time for her to do the dance she got up - by herself - in front of the audience and did her dance.

I was so impressed at how brave she was. Everyone clapped for a long time. Olivia had a huge smile and was clearly proud that she did the dance.

May 11, 2009

Since both girls were born in China, it has been important to introduce them to various forms of Chinese dance. At the Dragon Festival on July 12, 2009, they were able to see two forms of dance. One was the Lion dance which we all enjoyed.


Another dance they saw was one about the water goddesses. The girls thought the costumes and dance were beautiful.

One of the events we went to for many years was the Festival of Cultures - a local free event at the high school. In 2012, there were Native Americans who did a dance. There was a variety of clothing worn by the youth.

April 20, 2012

For one of the book club sessions, we read a book and did activities that related to it. Dance - specifically ballet - was referenced in the book.

August 23, 2013

So, the girls learned some basic dance positions and had fun trying on my pointe shoes that I wore when I was a teen taking pointe lessons.

Digital arts/photography

The girls have been learning to take photos on digital cameras now for many years. Their photos have improved from snapshots to ones that have required learning new skills.

This is a tulip in our backyard.

Sophia - May 7, 2016

The girls also take photos of places we visit - like Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls.

Olivia - August 2016

On trips, they take their cameras and document what they see - like this spider's web in California.

Sophia - October 18, 2016

They look at things from different angles - like these tiny beach plants.

Olivia - October 20, 2016

Sometimes they do close-ups to see the detail of things that they may miss otherwise - like snowflakes on the metal gate in the pasture.

Olivia - January 24, 2018

Looking at lines and directing the eye where to go was a good assignment in Olivia's photography class at the homeschool co-op.

Olivia - January 30, 2018

She was especially proud of this photo of our piano that demonstrated the concept of a line and directing the eye where you wanted it to go.

Olivia - March 6, 2018

Do-it-yourself projects

On January 11, 2011, the girls built a squirrel feeder to keep the squirrels away from the bird feeders. They put ears of corn on long screws that they put through a wood plank.

Within three days, the squirrels had found the feeder and were eating the corn off the cobs. It was a fun project and something that benefited wildlife. 

Continuing on the food theme, the girls also learned to make their own butter using heavy whipping cream and a hint of salt. They shook jars of cream until they turned to butter. 

February 8, 2011

Another do-it-yourself project was learning to use a log splitter to chop wood. We had many trees that had come down during a storm.

So, on October 20, 2011, we rented a log splitter and the girls learned how to use it. They were 10 and 8 years old.

The girls split a lot of wood; and it was used in our woodstove during the winter. They could see the connection between the work they did and the benefit during the winter. They were able to enjoy many fires and stay extra warm on cold nights. 

One of the woodworking projects that we have done is make bluebird houses. The girls and I took a class at William O'Brien State Park in 2013 where we each made a bluebird house.

March 16, 2013

Using power tools is something that we wanted the girls to be comfortable using. At 10 years old, Olivia was using a scroll saw for a woodworking project.

July 1, 2013

By 13 years old, she was using a nail gun to work on the framing of the barn quilts that she created for the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail. 

September 6, 2016

Having mentors who are willing to lend their equipment and teach the girls how to use it, is something for which we are grateful.

Dog Agility

One of the favorite things we did with the dogs was dog agility at Total Recall. Cooper loved agility - partly because he got a lot of food rewards. However, the different activities were fun - like walking up and down a plank. The one below is a small one. He "graduated" to the A-frame which was even more exciting for him.

November 19, 2013

There were bars to jump over. They started low and gradually got higher the better the dogs got.

November 26, 2013

There were obstacle courses that Cooper and the girls went through.

December 3, 2013

It was a great way to work with obedience while doing something that was fun for both the dog and girls.

March 18, 2014

Dog Sledding

On February 24-25, 2014, Sophia, Olivia, and I went dog sledding in Ely and Duluth. Our first experience was with Wintergreen which is owned by Paul Schurke. He went to the North Pole with Will Steger and Ann Bancroft in 1986.

Paul is pictured with the girls in the photo below (he's right behind them). He is such a nice guy, and we were happy to have had the opportunity to meet him.

Sophia had her own team of dogs at Wintergreen. Olivia and I shared a team because she didn't want to handle the dogs on her own. It was a smart decision because there was a fresh snowfall and the dogs and we all had to work a bit harder as we went through the heavy snow.

Our next experience was at Positive Energy Outdoors. These dogs were very different than the ones at Wintergreen. At Wintergreen, the ride was more leisurely. At PEO, it was more like racing which was invigorating as we went across lakes and open fields.

Olivia and Sophia were able to hook up some of the dogs. Olivia is hooking up one below.

The dogs were eager to pull the sleds.

Sophia went on one sled and was able to operate it which she enjoyed. Olivia and I were riding for part of the trip which also was fun. It gave a different perspective as we traveled through the area. It also gave us time to warm up.

As I recall, the temperature was in the double-digits below zero. With the wind, it was even colder. It gave us a great appreciation for what the explorers who traveled to the North Pole went through.

Dog Training

Before we were able to do dog agility, we had to do dog obedience. The dogs had to be able to be off-leash in order to do some of the agility activities.

November 19, 2013

There were activities that the dogs did on leash and others they did off-leash.

November 19, 2013

It was something that both Cooper and Aspen did; and both looked forward to going to the weekly class.


When I was growing up, I didn't play with dolls. I had one that I took care of, but didn't play with her. The girls, however, loved dolls. They had quite a few and each had her own name and personality.

In the picture below, Sophia said as she came down the stairs wearing the bright pink hat with a doll tied around her waist, a scarf around her hips (that draped to the floor), and her ballet bag over her shoulder. "I'm a Mom!" 

November 10, 2007

Sophia saved her money to purchase an American Girl Doll. It was a big deal at the time because the dolls were expensive - about $100.

December 7, 2007

I would make dolls and figurines for the girls. Olivia enjoyed playing with little dolls I made that hand-painted faces, hand-embroidered clothing, and wool hair.

December 24, 2007

One year, the girls received a surprise from a woman who sent them each an American Girl doll. Her daughter no longer played with dolls and she wanted them to go to a good home. Needless to say, the girls were thrilled!

October 18, 2008

For their birthdays and holidays, they would get an accessory or clothing items for their dolls. For Olivia's 6th birthday, she received a hat for her doll. She tried it on before giving it to her doll.

January 16, 2009


One of the games that the girls played was dominoes. They would play either by the number of dots and/or the colors. On September 8, 2010, we were staying up north in Grand Marais at a home rental on Lake Superior.

In the evening, my dad (who was in the late-stages of Alzheimer's Disease) played a game of dominoes with Olivia. He was able to match the colors at that stage in his life.

I am so grateful to have taken this picture of the two of them playing this game together.


Sophia and Olivia had informal and formal drama experiences when they were growing up. At home, they would put on various costumes - or combine hats, crowns, masks, and outfits - to create characters and act out stories.

One of Sophia's characters that she created on October 27, 2007 was "Princess Wrestler." I'm not sure where she got the idea for this character.

At the homeschool co-op, Sophia took an American Girl class. On April 7, 2008, she was in a play that focused on Josephina. Sophia was playing Clara, Josephina's older sister. She made the rebozo, and I decorated the blouse to match the picture in the book.

She was so excited to wear the earrings (clip ons)...just like Clara. She had a costume change in the play. Again, we used the book for reference to create the costume. She memorized all her lines which was impressive. 

The following year, on April 6, 2009, Olivia was in first play at the homeschool co-op. She played Christy Kennedy in "On the Banks of Plum Creek" (a Laura Ingalls Wilder story).

The costume she wore was made by a seamstress who I hired many years ago when I did a farm/art camp for kids. The seamstress created costumes for kids to wear that represented a variety of times in history (from the mid-1800s to 1970s).

Also on April 6, 2009, Sophia was Molly in the American Girl play for her homeschool class. She was the lead in the play which was very exciting for her.

She had been in a number of plays now in the American Girl class she took. With each one, the number of lines she had has increased. She memorized her lines for each play so she didn't read from a script.  

Another way that the girls were involved with drama was through church. On April 18, 2009, the theme of the drama was "The Train of Life."

The children sang a song (Life is Like a Mountain Railroad) and recited a poem. They dressed as train conductors and had train whistles.

A couple months later, in June 2009, the girls were in productions of The Chocolate Milk Cow at St. Croix ArtBarn. Sophia was one of the farmers and Olivia was a sheep.


It was their first introduction and experience with community theater. They had a lot of fun; and it was a very good experience for them.


The girls enjoyed drawing when they were growing up. On February 25, 2009, Sophia drew a picture of her on a horse. This is her dream to have a horse. The barn on the right side is our barn in the backyard/pasture. The apple tree is one that is in the backyard that she enjoys climbing in.

In Spring 2009, Olivia drew a picture of her with Casey (who died in February 2008 unexpectedly due to a twisted stomach).

I transferred the drawing for her onto a piece of fabric so she could embroider it. She worked for a long time on this embroidered pillow. 

She missed Casey a lot, and  having something that she created and could enjoy each day was important to her. Sewing and embroidered helped her process her grief.

Drawing in our nature journals also has been a way to creatively express what we see outdoors. In the entry below, Sophia drew a hawk and then noted that she saw two of them that day.

February 15, 2011

Olivia did a printing and drawing curriculum for homeschooling when she was 8 years old.

September 14, 2011

She enjoyed doing the lessons because they taught her how to draw animals and learn some facts about them. 

September 14, 2011

Around the holidays, I would sometimes have the girls do drawings. On the "Countdown to Halloween" in 2012, one day focused on mummies. The girls challenge was to draw a mummy and decorate the burial case with different images.

October 26, 2012 - Sophia's drawing is on the left and
Olivia's drawing is on the right.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Ann.
I really loved reading about all your activities. You've all done so much and lead such rich lives.
I particularly loved the girls' photos. They have a great eye!
I hope you enjoy the rest of the challenge.
Best wishes,

Unknown said...

Wow! All of you are so enterprising. Lovely pictures too.

Jui said...

This is just beautiful! I loved reading about it all. Nice digital photography. It is inspiring to see interest in these many hobbies. Best wishes to you all in future. Keep up the good work!

Shalzzzz said...

Dance anyday for me for I am a trained Indian Classical Dancer of 10 years. My husband would prefer drama :)
Exercise for Dogs
Eggs On Toast

Rita said...

Wow! These posts are priceless! You will be able to look back on these and enjoy them over and over again. :)

A Joyful Chaos said...

Love everything you were able to pack into live. It sounds well lived instead of parking out in front of a TV.


Sue McPeak said...

My goodness, but your girls and you are well rounded in all things with Letter 'D'. I agree with Rita...these posts are priceless and book worth. For sure a photo scrapbook. I see Letter 'S' in your future.
Sue at CollectInTexas Gal