Sunday, September 30, 2018

Outdoor Mom's Journal - September 2018

During our outdoor time this month we Taco Daze on September 8th where we saw an owl from the Wildlife Science Center. It is such a beautiful bird.

In the middle of the month, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, with the Lions Club to attend a leadership convention. On September 20th, I participated in a walk to raise awareness about diabetes. It had to be about 90 degrees that day with super high humidity. Thankfully, it was a relatively short walk and we could return to air conditioning later that afternoon.

On September 26th, Sophia and I spent time at a park in Edina to take her senior photos. The photographer thought this would be a lovely location for Sophia, and it was. Here's the fountain - the showpiece in one of the gardens.

One set of the photos was taken by a hedge. The four roses on the ground are ones we brought that represent each member of our family.

There was a flower floating in the fountain.

On September 29th, we went to do some exploring around our area. We stopped by Eichtens - a local restaurant - and saw these pretty flowers.

Afterwards, we went to the apple orchard and looked at all the apples on the trees. We bought some apples to enjoy at home.

We didn't pick any apples from the trees. We bought the ones that were already picked in the little store at the orchard.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...seeing a variety of flowers still blooming this month. On September 14th, one of the rose bushes was still producing beautiful flowers.

These white flowers were blooming in Columbus on September 21st.

Even at the end of the month, on September 26th, there were beautiful flowers. A few days later, though, there was a frost and the flowers were done for the season.

This is another flower at the park in Edina that had gorgeous flower beds.

This is one of my favorite types of flowers with the variety of bold colors all in one bunch.

The simple white flowers were in another garden - kind of a moon or evening-type garden.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...
what type of flower these purple ones are that I was given by a friend. She got them at a local woman's home who has a wide variety of unusual flowers.

On September 29th the flowers were still doing well. They grew a lot taller than I anticipated.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting...on September 1st, the girls and I helped plant two gardens with a variety of trees, bushes, and perennials at an intersection in town.

The gardens are on the southwest and southeast sides of the intersection and look really nice. 

There are a variety of colors of perennials; and types of plants. 

This was a joint project between our Lions and Leo Clubs, the City, an environmental group, and community volunteers.

It was nice to do this legacy project for the community to enjoy.

Whenever we pass by this intersection now, we can remember our time planting and helping make the community beautiful.

I added nature journal pages about...
I did not work on my nature journal this month.

I am reading...
nothing related to nature. Homeschooling has started again and it is taking a lot of my time.

I am dreaming about…
days when there are no flies, boxelder bugs, hornets, and wasps. It seems like it has been a particularly challenging year with these pests.

A photo I would like to share...
the milkweed pods are drying out and getting ready to spread their seeds. It's just a matter of a week or so now.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

September Scavenger Hunt

I'm participating in a swap on Swap-Bot during September where I need to find and photograph five items as part of a scavenger hunt. Below are the items and my photos:

1 - Something inside something else

During late-September and early-October the milkweed plants become filled with seeds. Eventually, the pods dry and crack open; and the tear-dropped shaped seeds that are attached to bright-white fluff are prodded out by the wind and carried off to a new place.

Since the girls were young, we open the pods and spread the seeds, letting the wind carry them where they want. I am happy to see many more milkweed plants in the ditches and in the pastures of our property.

We saw quite a few monarchs this year, too, so the effort is paying off in attracting them to our farm.

2 - Something in a package or grouping of 3

I'm taking a pottery class and am learning some new techniques which I've never done before. Below are three different plates of varying sizes that I made.

The pattern on the first one is rolled onto a slab of clay; and the other two are rubber stamps that are pressed into clay.

A container or wood block is pushed into the center of the pieces that are resting on a thick piece of foam. This creates the shape.

Depending on the size of the container or wood block as well as how hard you press, it will determine how high the sides are.

The largest piece is dipped in two different colors of glaze; and the two smaller pieces are dipped in one color of glaze.

3 - Something other than your car that has 4 wheels

Our car is the first vehicle in a line of vehicles spanning the length of our driveway (minus the area where the dumpster is still located as we continue the clean-up and rebuilding after the fire).

The three trucks all belong to the local electric company which is doing work on the garage and barn as well as re-positioning the electric lines that go into our home.

There were multiple electricians here that were doing different aspects of the jobs. Collectively, it is a big project.

4 - Something that floats

This is a flower that was floating in a beautiful water fountain where my daughter had her outdoor senior photos taken. We lucked out in terms of weather - it was in the mid-50s and partly cloudy.

After taking some photos inside at the photographer's studio, we went to a lovely park that had multiple flower gardens, water fountains, a gazebo, hedges, benches, and evergreen sculptures.

5 - Something polka-dotted

This was a bit more challenging to find. We don't have polka-dotted items in our home, so I had to go to Wal-Mart and see if they had bolts of polka-dotted fabric. Sure enough, there was a wide variety of colors and polka-dot sizes.

As I looked at the colors, I was thinking that the combination of polka-dotted fabric would make a cute quilt for a girl. Sophia and Olivia are a bit too old now for this type of fabric, but they would have liked it when they were younger (though Olivia would have liked reds and blues).


This was a fun challenge and certainly made me look around my home, yard, and a store to find everything!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Spend the Day with Me - Saturday, September 15th

On Swap-Bot, I am doing a swap called "Spend the Day with Me" in which participants take photos of how they spent a day. So, I brought my camera along to document how I spent Saturday, September 15th.

After doing the normal tasks in the morning - like letting the dogs out; feeding the dogs and cats; eating breakfast; and getting ready - Sophia, Olivia, and I left for a full day of errands and activities.

The first stop was dropping Olivia off at gymnastics. She moved up a level this Fall and her lessons are two hours now.

Then I dropped off Sophia at the YMCA where she could work out and take a shower.

It was time for many quick stops to do errands: the post office (to mail a grant proposal for a quilt retreat/service activities we want to do in February 2019), a bank (to pay the mortgage and to change my mortgage statements from being online to being sent to me), another bank (to withdraw some money for an upcoming trip), the feed store (to get grain for the horses), and the library (to get a book about ceramics and wheel-thrown pottery).

I picked up Sophia and took her to Starbucks where she got a free rewards drink.

We picked up Olivia from gymnastics and then headed to a home that my sister is looking at purchasing. I'm excited because she is only 20 minutes from us now! This home has everything she is looking for in terms of everything being on one floor (except the mechanicals and a bonus walk-out level) and her design/style tastes.

After listening to the inspection report for about 40 minutes with my sister, brother, my sister's Realtor (Sherri), and the girls, we headed to Mall of America to get some clothes and shoes.

Normally, we don't go shopping at the Mall of America. However, there are a limited number of stores in our rural area, so sometimes having a wider variety of stores is necessary.

We parked on a new floor and area and came in through Sears which carries Lands End clothes. Perfect! Because I wear cardigans almost every day and Lands End carries the most comfortable ones, I was able to stock up on them. Got a couple black ones (typically what I wear), a navy one, and - because the girls insisted: lilac.

Onto the other end of the shopping spectrum with a stop at Nordstroms for Sophia. She had to get some items for wearing under her Chinese dress for her senior photos. Talk about service in that department! I was impressed with how the employees work with each of the customers to find exactly what they need.

As we walked by one area, there were people working on sculptures made from cans of food. We found out that it is called Canstruction which is a national nonprofit committed to ending hunger.

This year marked its 13th year at Mall of America; and Canstruction - according to the Mall of America's website - was doing a "unique design/build competition showcasing colossal sculptures built from thousands of ordinary cans of food.

"Highlighting the creativity and compassion of top local architectural and engineering firms, these astounding structures are helping to change the world– by lifting the spirits of those in need, by raising public awareness, and most importantly, by collecting millions of pounds of food for Second Harvest Heartland."

While we were watching them build the sculptures, we could hear the laughter and screams from the rides in the center part of Mall of America.

We stopped for a quick refresher at Orange Julius and then onto Maurice's for a couple more pieces for Sophia's senior photos (a top and jacket) and a pair of jeans for me. The only options were mid- and high-rise jeans.

Having already been through one era of high-rise/Mom jeans, there was no way in the world I was going to try a pair on again.

This is not me...but an example of the dreaded high-rise jeggings. 
(This image came from an insecure website, 
so I'm not going to link to it.)

Where were the low-rise jeans? Apparently they don't carry them anymore. I was shocked...and distraught. What should I do?

I decided I'd try the mid-rise jeans and jeggings. The sales person asked what size I wore. I had no idea. I'm not into shopping or clothes like I used to be. She picked out small and medium for me. What? I thought I once wore extra-large jeans?

To make a long story short, after trying on about a dozen pairs of jeans and jeggings, I settled on  medium/short jeggings. The waistband is tight which - multiple sales people said - has to be tight so they stay up. They loosen up as you wear them, so if they start out loose then they will fall down. Well, we don't want that to happen.

So, although they aren't my ideal style due to the higher waist, I was really happy to see that my size has gone down. When I first started wearing clothes at Maurices many years ago, I was an extra-large. About a year or so ago, I went down to a large. Now, I'm in a medium which is encouraging and reflects a change in eating habits (significantly more vegetables and fruit; less carbohydrates; slightly more protein; and rarely a Diet Coke - compared to 2-4 pops a day at one time).

As a side note: when I came home and looked online, I found out that Maurices still makes low-rise jeans. The Mall of America just doesn't carry them. So, I'm going to return the jeans and get a low-rise pair in the right size.

After that, we made one more stop for shoes at DSW. There are rows upon rows of shoes at discounted prices.

Of course, the girls always enjoy trying on the impractical super-high-heel shoes that they would never wear.

After much looking, Sophia found a pair of black shoes with gold trim for her red Chinese dress. They will look nice with the dress and her headdress.

Olivia found a pair of high-top Converse canvas sneakers to wear instead of her black boots and sandals. She was happy that they had her size (which is a rather small women's size).

By the time we were done, it was well almost 5:20 p.m. By the time we would get home and make dinner, it would be in the 7:00 hour. So, we decided to stop and pick up a pizza and cheese bread for dinner.

We had not eaten a "normal" meal since breakfast (lunch was relatively-healthy snack food we ate in the car), so having a hot dinner was good. We all didn't realize how hungry we were!

After dinner, I walked out to see the delivery that had come while we were gone. It's the siding for the back of the house. This will replace the siding that was warped due to the fire back on May 5th. The window also was delivered and is in the garage.

I noticed that one of the roses has a couple of flowers on it. Despite the heat (92 degrees and humidity in the 70s), it is doing well. Found a Japanese beetle, though, which is not good. It was starting to destroy the leaves on the roses. Had to put an end to that or else it would completely strip all the leaves from the roses and move onto another bush or tree and do the same thing.

After dinner, I helped Sophia type her application for being a 4-H county ambassador. Normally she would do the typing, but she broke her third finger on her right hand on Friday morning.

Her finger got stuck in a metal opening in Bailey (the horse's) halter/lead line, and when the farrier was here and Sophia was holding the line, Bailey jerked her head up abruptly and Sophia's finger twister and the bone broke.

Right now, her finger is "buddy taped" to the fourth finger to provide support until she can see a hand specialist this upcoming week.

This is what her hand looks like - you can see the diagonal line on her third finger - just where the bone is broken.

There is quite a bit of bruising on the third finger. It is at a slight angle too compared to the other finger (though it's not as obvious in the photo below as it is in real life). This may pose an issue since she plays the harp and piano. We'll have to see how the orthopedist can better line up her finger this week.

In the evening, I caught up on reading the paper.

There was an interesting article about how the state parks are collecting prairie seeds with the help of the public. There are quite a few sessions coming up where people can help collect the seeds which are then planted to expand the prairies.

I had the t.v. on for a while, but ended up falling asleep with it on. Woke up around 10:15 and turned it off. Ended up going to bed I was so tired.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day - History, Projects, and Food

It's hard to believe that Labor Day has already passed. Where did the summer go?

I was looking on Pinterest and found a bit of history about Labor Day. The pin led to Cross Cards, and had a quick background on the holiday.

This past weekend was focused on getting some writing projects done; reading and taking notes from library books that I've had for a while; coordinating a planting project for our local community; finishing doing the syllabi for homeschooling courses I'm overseeing for the girls; helping Sophia set up her schedule for her three PSEO courses and courses at the homeschool co-op; and making food for the upcoming few days. 

Our annual tradition is to go out for a treat at Dairy Queen which we did again this year, after seeing "Crazy Rich Asians" at the local movie theater. This is the last Labor Day that Sophia will be living at home. Next year, she will be college. We are now entering the phase of "This is the last..." It's a bittersweet time as we watch Sophia get ready for her next phase of life at college; and yet sad as we realize that our time of having both the girls living together with us is coming to a close. 

Now to focus on the memories we are creating and traditions we are enjoying:

Planting Project for the Community

I was asked by the City Administrator if I could get some volunteers for planting two large gardens that mark the intersection that is at the central point of our city. On Saturday, September 1st, Sophia, Olivia, and I - along with 9 other volunteers planted a variety of perennials and bushes, watered them, and then put down mulch. 

It was a lot of hard work, yet we are happy we had an opportunity to plant these gardens that our neighbors, community, and visitors alike can enjoy.

There is fruit on some of the bushes. Supposedly they are edible.

Here are the volunteers (minus two teens who left after about an hour of work since the younger one wasn't feeling well in the heat).

This is what the garden on the southwest side of the intersection looks like.

This is another view.

Olivia concentrated on planting perennials.

Sophia planted both bushes and perennials.

Here we are again by the finished garden.

This garden is on the southeast side of the intersection.

The is another view of the garden.

Needless to say, after working for three hours in the upper-70s and low-80s, we were ready to come home and enjoy the air-conditioning and get cleaned up.

Making Food

I used the new salsa maker that Paige got at the State Fair. We had one a long time ago, but from overuse, it finally broke. He got one as a surprise on Friday. Today, I made lots of food since prepping some of the ingredients took a fraction of the time with the salsa maker. 

First, I made four batches of salsa using tomatoes that were given to me from one of the volunteers who helped with the gardens on Saturday. I used onions and a jalapeno from the farmers market; and garlic from a friend who is a farmer. 

Next, I used up a zucchini to make spice bread.

I used a cabbage, several carrots, and an onion to make coleslaw. Miracle Whip, vinegar, and sugar along with Watkins Coleslaw Seasoning made the dressing. It tastes like coleslaw you get at KFC except with more flavor.

Also chopped up green peppers and put them in 1/2 cup packages to use during the winter. This saves a lot of money. The 12 cups of green peppers that I froze (24 packets total) were only $5...compared to $1+ per green pepper I would have paid during the winter.

Crazy Rich Asians

The girls had wanted to see "Crazy Rich Asians" since it came out. 

So, on Labor Day we went to see it as a family. It was fantastic! It was very funny...though touching and sad in other parts. There was a lot that brought back good memories of our trips to China. I think we also learned more about Chinese culture and family expectations.  

Dairy Queen

As we do each year, we go to Dairy Queen on Labor Day...the last day before we officially start homeschooling. 

Paige had a chocolate malt, I had a small vanilla cone with crunch topping, Olivia had a small Oreo Blizzard, and Sophia had a small caramel sundae. 

We had a good Labor Day weekend this year. I hope to continue to put a lot of effort into these "last" holidays this year so that we can all look back and have good memories of this pivotal year.