Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Rascal - Book Review

For many years, I've had Rascal by Sterling North on my list of books to read. It's a Newbery Honor Book and typically you can't go wrong with one with one of these books. This was the case with Rascal - it was an engaging, well-written book that I enjoyed reading and would recommend to anyone who likes autobiographies, wildlife, and history.

The book is set in 1918 when children freely played outside and explored the natural world. Sterling had an interest in the natural world and wildlife, and brought in wild animals to care for during this childhood.

During this time period of his life, he and friend went into the woods with a dog who discovered a den with a mother raccoon and her babies. Unfortunately, the den was disturbed and the mother and babies separated for a brief period of time. The mother and all but one of the babies were able to get away. The remaining one, later named Rascal, was cared for by Sterling in his home.

During Rascal's early life, he was easy to care for and wanted to spend all his time next to Sterling. They were inseparable and went on many adventures together. Rascal was free to come in and out of the family's home.

As Rascal grew older, he became more inquisitive and got into trouble with some of the neighbors - mostly with eating food they were growing in their gardens. At this point, the neighbors said that in order to keep Rascal he would have to be on a leash and contained in cage.

Sterling reluctantly built a very large outdoor cage, but it was not the life he wanted for Rascal. There needed to be a time when Rascal was released back to the wild since no wild animal should be captive. The right time came for this transition.

The book has a bittersweet ending - there's the loss of friendship and companionship, yet it is mixed with freedom to live one's life and freedom from captivity.
Rascal is a relatively short book - 189 pages - and is worth reading...especially on a cold winter day when it is better to  be inside where it is warm.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Festive Maple Bacon Onion Cheese Ball

For Thanksgiving, I made a Festive Maple Bacon Onion Cheese Ball. Everyone who tried it liked it, and it's one that I would make again.


16 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 - 1/3 cup Stonewall Kitchen Maple Bacon Onion Jam
Dash of pepper
1 cup finely shredded Colby Jack cheese
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped (I didn't use, but would do so next time)
1/3 cup parsley, chopped (I used Italian parsley because there was none of the regular kind. I would use the regular kind next time and try to chop it more finely)


Mix cream cheese, jam, cheese, green onions, and pepper. Chill until stiff (about one hour, though I let it sit in the refrigerator overnight). Drop onto parchment paper. Form mixture into cheeseball, using parchment paper to prevent sticking. Roll in chopped pecan/dried cranberry/parsley mixture. Serve chilled.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Favorite Photos - November 2019

When I look back on November, I am happy I took photos of the special things we did as well as the ordinary things that make everyday life meaningful for us. 

At the beginning of the month, we went to a wind symphony concert where Sophia attends college and heard her play the harp in a piece. This is the second week in a row that we went to a concert there. I'm happy she chose a nearby college so we can enjoy seeing her perform.

My sister and I spent a day together doing holiday activities. She wanted to see a new boutique hotel that had tours, so we went in the afternoon. Interestingly, it used to be a convent and about 100 nuns lived there. It was later turned into office space, and one of the offices was for the Minnesota Composers Forum, where I used to work.

The Celeste is now a hotel and the renovation and preservation efforts are beautiful. Below is a picture of the bridal suite with 18 foot high ceilings and a chandelier over the bed. This was part of the original altar in the convent.

The ceiling in the bridal suite also has a stained glass window that can be back-lit.

Throughout the month, there have been some spectacular sunsets.

It was a month to be grateful, and one things I am grateful for are the pets we have. This is Meenie. She's about 17 years old now.

The weather started getting colder. We don't have firewood yet for the winter, so we are using a little electric heater that looks like a woodstove. Danny and Scooby like the warm air that blows out of it.

I received sad news this month that one of my uncles died. He was the husband of my Aunt Marilyn, my dad's sister (pictured as a child in the photo below). My dad is on the right, with arm protectively around his little sister.

My cousin, James, texted me the photo. We had a good conversation and caught up as he shared the news about the death of his dad and declining health (and memory) of his mom.

Olivia and I went to a nursery to get some outdoor decorations for winter. There was a cute little sleigh with a fake reindeer in one of the greenhouses.

I decorated the windows with window stars that I had made in previous years and kept. I was able to decorate five windows with a variety of gold, orange, and brown stars.

On the 17th, we celebrated Olivia's 16th adoption day. We tried a new restaurant in Dinkytown (the University of Minnesota campus). It was really good and we enjoyed each dish that we tried.

There was another beautiful sunset.

On the 26th, I took Sophia out for bubble tea and a poke bowl in another part of Dinkytown. Because of her schedule and Olivia's homeschool co-op, we didn't go out for dinner as a family that night.

Sophia came home from the afternoon of Tuesday, November 26th through Sunday, December 1st. It was nice to have her home again for a longer stretch of time than just a weekend. Danny was so happy to see her.

Olivia made caramel rolls - a recipe that my dad used to make growing up. We realized that we could have added a lot more rolls (he and we use Rhodes dough to make the rolls).

On Thanksgiving, I had four helpers while peeling and slicing apples for the apple pie. They are looking at Sophia who is walking by the chair. I had just left for a couple of minutes and lost my space...only to find Scooby and Eenie on the chair I was using.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on the 28th. There were 11 family members at the dinner.

Cooper looked out the window on Thanksgiving. We chose not to fill the birdfeeder otherwise he would have barked all afternoon at the squirrels wanting to eat at the feeder.

Three of the four dogs hung out with the cousins on the family room floor.

I like this picture of Aspen and how alert she was as Eenie sat next to her. He is Meenie's twin (pictured above), so also around 17 years old.

On the day after Thanksgiving, we packed food with other Lions and family members at Feed My Starving Children. This is the second year that I have coordinated this packing event, and was pleasantly surprised and happy that 36 people wanted to pack food!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Composer Study - Johann Sebastain Bach

The second composer that Olivia is studying during the 2019-2020 homeschool year is Johann Sebastain Bach. According to Biography, he was born on March 31, 1685, in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany.

The website also stated that "Bach had a prestigious musical lineage and took on various organist positions during the early 18th century, creating famous compositions like Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Some of his best-known compositions are the Mass in B Minor, the Brandenburg Concertos and The Well-Tempered Clavier. Bach died in Leipzig, Germany, on July 28, 1750. Today, he is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time."

Bach's family had many musicians in it which stretched back many generations. His father, Johann Ambrosius, worked as the town musician in Eisenach, and it is thought that he taught Bach to play the violin when he was very young.

At the age of seven, Bach went to school where he studied Latin, religion, and other subjects. His Lutheran faith would influence his later musical works. By the time he turned 10 years old, Bach found himself an orphan after the death of both of his parents.

His older brother Johann Christoph, who was a church organist in Ohrdruf, took him in. Johann Christoph provided further musical instruction for Bach and enrolled him in a local school. Bach stayed with his brother's family until he was 15 years old.

Bach had many careers during his lifetime: composer, organist, and teacher. By 1740, Bach was struggling with his eyesight, but he continued to work despite his vision problems.

In 1749, Bach started a composition called The Art of Fugue, but did not complete it. He tried to fix his failing sight by having surgery the following year, but the operation left him completely blind. Later in 1750, Bach suffered a stroke. He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750.

Interestingly, during his lifetime, Bach was better known as an organist than a composer. Few of his pieces were published during his lifetime. Still Bach's compositions were admired by those who followed in his footsteps, including Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

His reputation received a substantial boost in 1829 when German composer Felix Mendelssohn reintroduced Bach's Passion According to St. Matthew.

For this composer study, Olivia focused on six pieces by Johann Sebastain Bach:

Magnificat in D

This piece was written for five soloists, a five-part choir, and orchestra. Bach first composed a version in E-flat major for Christmas in 1723 and then reworked that music in D major in 1733 for the feast of the Visitation. The Latin text is the canticle of Mary, mother of Jesus, as told in the Gospel of Luke.

Olivia thought:
- I definitely can hear why it's a Christmas song. It has a peppy, cheerful sound.
- At 1:21, this part sounds familiar...at least the way they are singing it.
- The second part sounds like a completely different song.
- I liked the first part better because the singing was better.
- I like the songs where it is just the music....at least for these studies. I prefer the songs without the singing.
- The third one sounds like an opera.
- 18:12: NO! Way too much energy for this type of music.
- 20:45: again, it sounds like an opera. A very cringy-opera. I do not care for operas.
- The ending sounds the first part.
- The first and last parts are the best.


This version is played by Jascha Heifetz on the violin. It was recorded on September 16, 1970.

- It sounds sad, yet happy. Just the way that the violinist is making the sound go from louder to softer.
- There's a little bit of repetition in areas.
- This reminds of an old-fashioned horror movie where there's a climax and you don't know what's going to happen.
- I kind of like listening to a single instrument. I can hear the tune better. There's no singing or other instruments.
- I think Scooby likes this part (starting at 4:24). He sat up when he heard this.

Jesus, bleibet meine Freude from the Cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben - mov. X, BWV 147

The Cantata BWV 147 was written in Leipzig for the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and was first performed on July 2, 1723. It was written for trumpet, two oboes, bassoon, two violins, viola, basso continuo, and a standard four-part choir of soprano, alto, tenor, and basso. It comprises ten movements.

Lyrics for mov. X:
GERMAN (original)
"Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
Meines Herzens Trost und Saft,
Jesus wehret allem Leide,
Er ist meines Lebens Kraft,
Meiner Augen Lust und Sonne,
Meiner Seele Schatz und Wonne;
Darum lass ich Jesum nicht
Aus dem Herzen und Gesicht."

ENGLISH (original)
"Jesus will always be my joy,
My heart's comfort and essence,
Jesus is there through all suffering,
He is my life's strength,
The desire and sunshine of my eyes,
My soul's treasure and bliss;
Therefore I will never let Jesus go,
Neither from my heart nor from my face."

Olivia's reactions:
- Definitely a song you would hear in the church.
- I think I've heard the song or the rhythm, but not the words before.
- It kind of reminds me of the Hunchback of Notre Dame because it sounds like it is something you would hear in France.
- I like the instrumental part more than the choral part.
- It is relaxing, but at the same time, it could put you in a good mood.

Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 29 - Diane Bish

This piece is performed by Diane Bish on a pipe organ.

Olivia's reactions:
- It has a very fast tempo.
- I like this piece. It kind of reminds me of a gothic castle with a large organ.
- At one point, I heard one section repeat itself.
- I do not think Bach would have played on this type of organ (that Diane Bish is playing on) since they didn't exist at that time.

Brandenburg Concerto no. 6

This is the last movement of Bach's sixth (and last) Brandenburg Concerto, BWV 1051. This concerto is unusual in that the highest-pitched instruments in the ensemble are two solo violas.

Olivia's reactions:
- Sounds like dance music.
-  It would be hard to sing with this piece.
- It is a pretty fast tempo.
- I don't think I can pick out the two violas with the other instruments.
- I like this piece. It is definitely one I could listen to again.
- I like it because it doesn't have singing in it.

Art of the Fugue - Contrapunctus 9 played by Nageeb Gardizi

Olivia's reactions:
- It seems like Bach has a thing for fast pieces.
- It is actually nice to hear a piece on the piano because most of the pieces you pick aren't on the piano. They are on harpsichord from that time period, I think.
- I liked that piece. Out of all of them, this one was my favorite because it was short and there was no singing.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Paul Gauguin - Artist Study

Paul Gauguin, who was born on June 7, 1848, and died on May 8, 1903, was a French post-Impressionist artist. Unappreciated until after his death, Gauguin is now recognized for his experimental use of color and Synthetist style that were distinct from Impressionism. Gauguin's art became popular after his death, partially from the efforts of art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who organized exhibitions of his work late in his career and assisted in organizing two important posthumous exhibitions in Paris.

His work was influential to many modern and French avant-garde artists, such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Gauguin was an important person in the Symbolist movement as a sculptor, printmaker, painter, ceramist, and writer. He was an influential proponent of wood engraving and woodcuts as art forms.

In The Yellow House by Susan Rubin, the story is told about how Vincent Van Gogh missed the company of other painters, so he invited Paul Gauguin to come live with him in his Yellow House in Arles.

So, for two months, in Fall 1888, the two men painted side by side. Their artistic styles, however, were very different. Vincent painted what he saw around him; and Paul painted from his memory and imagination. Vincent painted quickly, while Paul worked on paintings over a period of time. Vincent was messy and disorganized, and Paul was tidy and organized.

Below are six paintings that Paul Gauguin created. Olivia studied each of them and shared some things that she remembered about them.

Peasant Woman and Cows in a Landscape
Watercolor, 1889
Private collection

Olivia remembered:
- There are two cows and a woman.
- One cow is black and white; and the other is brown and white.
- The cows appear to be milk cows; and it appears the woman is getting ready to milk the black one.
- In the background, you can see some trees that look they are on top of a slight hill.
- The trees look very odd - they look like really misshapen potatoes with horns or arms sticking out of them.
- One of the trees looks like it could be a person with two horns sticking out of their head.
- There is a brick wall that looks like it has been made into the side of the hill.
- The woman is wearing a white cap, a white shirt with a skirt over it; and she looks like she is wearing a yellow apron.
- There are some clouds in the distance that look like they are storm clouds.
- There are also some black spots that are on the top of the picture by the trees that looks like some black paint was spilled on it.
- There are these spots on the trees that look like a hand...sort of.
- There are some flowers on the hill as well.
- The ground looks like it is a dirt road or just dirt on the road.
- It looks like summer with flowers that have already bloomed. The trees are mostly bare, but there are a couple of branches that look like they have leaves on them.

Night Café at Arles
Oil on jute, 1888
Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia

Olivia remembered:
- There are seven people in the picture. One is the owner of the café and the other six are customers.
- One has a mustache. Another one has their arm on the table with their head on it. The other four are sitting at a table together and it looks like they are having a conversation together.
- In front of the customers and behind the woman, is a pool table. Underneath it, by the leg of it, is a cat.
- There are three pool balls on the table; two are white and one is red.
- The woman appears to be standing in front of a table or counter, and she has one hand resting on the table and the other propping up her head.
- She has her head slightly tilted so she can see the customers.
- There are two bottles on the table next to her - one is made from blue glass and the other one is green.
- On the wall behind the table is a picture. The only thing I can point out in the picture is a lamp.
- Someone or several people in the café is smoking because you can wisps of smoke.
- The walls are brown on the bottom half and the other half is bright red.
- The owner (the woman) is wearing a white shirt with what looks like a long black dress over it.
- The woman has black hair and the people appear to have brown or black hair.
- On the table with the four people, you can see some bottles.
- Two of them appear to be Asian.
- The cat is white with some black and brown spots.
- You can't tell where the light is coming from, but you can see the shadow of the pool table on the ground.

Old Women of Arles
Oil on canvas, 1888
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Olivia remembered:
- There are four women in the picture, two trees, a pond or lake, and a red picket fence.
- Next to the fence is this big green thing that looks like boulder that looks like it is covered in moss and has a face on it.
- The women all have blue or black shawls on it that makes them look like kimonos and have little hats or bows on their heads.
- On the pond you can see the reflection of the shore and the sky with a cloud in it.
- There is also this weird thing in the middle of the cloud's reflection in the water that looks like a lily pad in the shape of a top hat with white spikes coming out of it.
- There is a white path and the two women in the background are walking on the grass.
- In the left corner of the picture, you can see some tree branches hanging down.
- You can't see the top of the two trees on the grass. You can just see the trunks.
- The two women that are closest that you can see have their hands folded under their shawls.
- The fence is made out of wood.
- The women all have blank or calm and peaceful looks on their faces.

The Vision after the Sermon - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Oil on canvas, 1888
The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Olivia remembered:
In the picture, there is a man fighting with a person with wings also known as an angel. 
They are surrounded by a bunch of nuns who are in a circle.
- Some of the nuns are sitting with their hands in their laps while two look like they are having a conversation. One appears to be praying.
- There is a cow or what I think is a cow in the picture; and kind of splitting up the circle is a tree.
- This tree has green across the top of it and looks like it is very durable.
- The man who is wrestling with the angel and losing has black hair and a beard.
- Both the angel and him are barefoot, and are dressed in the same black robes as the nuns, except they don't have the white thing around their necks or the white ear flaps.
- The ground of the picture is red. I think they are outside.
- One of the nuns looks unhappy because she is looking towards the two who are talking and she has a look of displeasure on her face.
- The angel's wings look like they are a golden-bronze color.
- The cow is brown with small light-colored spots.

Portrait of Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers
Oil on canvas, 1888

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Olivia remembered:
- In the picture, you have Van Gogh sitting on a stool painting.
- On the stool or table there is a vase of sunflowers and his palette with paint and paint that looks like it has been mixed.
- On the walls in the background are light blue.
- Van Gogh has brown hair with a red beard.
- There is a window behind him. Out of the window, you can see trees and another wall, and a yellow path - or something that is long and yellow.
- Next to his painting there is another easel, but you can't see what's on it. It looks like it is taller - possibly - than the other easel and maybe a bigger canvas.
- Van Gogh is wearing a full suit that is a little bit lighter than his hair color. His shirt is white and he may be wearing a bow tie and a waist coat and jacket. The waist coat, jacket, and pants all match.
- Two of the sunflowers towards the bottom are short. They are very dark in color and it looks like they are hanging down.
- The sunflowers kind of look sad in the blue vase.
- The table looks like it is made out of wood and it has slats - like an outdoor table.
- The paint on the palette is blue and white. The white paint is bright, and the blue paint is dark. It looks like he is mixing the white paint with the blue paint to get a lighter blue. Maybe to do the face.
- He is holding a paint brush in his hand. He could have been just holding it and looking at his picture.

Christmas Night, The Blessing Of The Oxen
Oil on canvas, 1902-1903
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana

Olivia remembered:
- The picture has two cows and six people in it.
- Two people look like statues...and they may be statues.
- The other four people are standing around the cows - 2 standing in between them, 2 standing on the outside looking at the women.
- They all have their heads wrapped up in scarves or shawls to keep the cold out.
- One of the cows is black and white. The other one looks like it could be white with a palomino color.
- The black one has two white stockings (markings) on the front feet.
- Behind the women and the cows, there are some buildings. Two look like they are houses and one looks like a church.
- Behind the houses, there looks like there is a hill or an island because in the distance there looks like there is a river or lake. On the other side of the lake's shore is another city with a church.
- You can tell it is late in the evening because it looks like the sun is starting to set.
- The ground that the cows are standing on has snow on it and a dirt path. The snow kind of has a greenish tint to it.
- The two figures to the right of the picture are on this covered section that is stone and has two steps. They look like they could be statues.
- The sky was kind of orange at the horizon line.
- It is a bright picture, but at the same time it could be a dark picture.
- The two statues are taking cover underneath a half-dome.
- The two women who are standing in between the cows don't have legs. It looks like they weren't painted in.
- The two women who are standing in between the cows are facing one another so you can't see their faces.
- The woman by the face of tan cow looks tired - she has an aura of exhaustion around her.

My Favorite Photos - October 2019

This was a rather unusual month for us. It started with Olivia recovering from pneumonia and a double-ear infection. On October 10th, I had spinal surgery to address an injury from a car accident in November 2018 and the next day Sophia had a follow-up oral surgery due to complications from wisdom teeth removal in June 2019.

Aspen, one of our dogs, had surgery to remove a growth on her back left leg on October 21st. She had to go in to get it re-stitched because she opened it up by licking it at one day. She's been wearing a cone ever since then.

With that being said, there were some times I was able to capture some photos. Below are some of my favorite ones.

Normally we see some frogs on the window at night trying to catch bugs. This grasshopper, by far, is the largest and perhaps creepiest thing I've seen on the window yet.

On October 2nd, I took Olivia to the hospital after the walk-in clinic suggested she be admitted. She was struggling with getting over pneumonia and ear infections that she had since September 18th. A positive thing that came out of this visit was that she did not have to be admitted to the hospital. Instead, they gave her both prednisone and albuterol (on top of the other medications she was already taking). These helped her start feeling better and not coughing as much. So, it was a very good visit to the doctor.

On October 3rd, Scooby had made himself comfortable on the pile pillows on the cedar chest. I think of it as his own little throne since he is sitting higher than everyone else in the room.

We went to college to visit Sophia and have a meal in the dining center. As always, the food was excellent. Each of us had a different entrée.

The next day, the 4th, Olivia and I went back again to visit Sophia. We dropped off a couple of breakfast sandwiches that I made and froze in preparation for my surgery on the 10th. Our favorite part of the meal that day was the dessert: an ice cream/cookie sandwich, ice cream cone, and strawberry malt.

I washed the sheets on the bed and brought back the comforter when I was done. Aspen had wrapped herself in it. She looks comfortable on a chilly, rainy day.

On the 6th, I was washing blankets. I brought out this blanket from the dryer and cover Danny in it. He looked so content and toasty warm on another chilly day.

I created another care package for Sophia with the saying, "Orange you glad it's Fall" on the inside box flaps. It was filled with a variety of items that were orange or had orange in the packaging. She was surprised and happy to receive the package. 

As I mentioned above, I went in for spinal surgery on October 10th. In a matter of less than a morning, the nerve that was pinched that went from my neck to hands was released. I went in with pain and numbness in that arm and hand that was constant from November 2018 to the 10th. I left with NO pain or numbness. It was amazing! The only pain I have now is in the back of my neck at the surgical site. It should heal by mid-November or so.

Sophia came home on the 10th so she could have her surgery the next door. The dogs were thrilled to see her.

On the 13th, we celebrated 29 years of marriage. Olivia helped Paige pick out the bouquet of flowers. I like the autumnal colors and variety of flowers.

By the 18th, I was up and around and starting to walk longer distances. Olivia took her bike and I walked behind. We had a nice 2-mile ride/walk on a beautiful day.

We have been seeing beautiful sunsets throughout October.

Olivia is working on repairing and quilting two quilts. Cooper is looking out the window to protect Olivia from squirrels and rabbits.

On another walk/ride that Olivia and I went on, she rescued 16 woolly bear caterpillars as they were crossing the road. I'm not sure why they like crossing the road. They have plenty of natural elements on the sides of the road.

Here's a close-up of one of the caterpillars.

During October, we had the back garden completely trimmed down with the exception of a rose bush. It has been a challenge since we've moved in. I refuse to use chemicals in the gardens, so there's always weeds and grass in it. This year, I started pulling up the weeds and grass and replacing them with perennials. I got about 2/3 of the garden planted. Next Spring, I'm hoping that the perennials will overtake the weeds and grass.

One of the flowers we planted  were cleomes. They are about three feet tall and a beautiful shade of purple. Last year I harvested the seed pods. This year, I'm letting them drop to see if they will re-seed themselves and we'll have more next year.

Danny and Eenie enjoyed sitting in the sunlight one afternoon.

Since I'm still not able to drive because of the surgery, my sister took me out on a leaf-watching drive. Down the road from us was this big osprey at the top of a pine tree. Its talons were grasping either edge of the top of the tree. Its legs looked so powerful; and its body reminded me of a strong chicken body.

This is one of many beautiful roads around my home that we traveled down. The colors were so pretty against the blue sky.

This is my favorite oak tree in our northwest pasture. I'm taking the photo from the road looking south.

Some of the leaves on one of our trees.

This is a hibiscus that bloomed. Olivia and I got the hibiscus tree in Spring 2018. It did not overwinter well indoors, so we put it outside in Spring 2019 just to see what would happen to it. It went from having very few leaves to being filled out by the Fall. In October, there were two blooms - both orange. We were thrilled! There are many blooms on the tree so we should be seeing more in the next couple of months.

One of the sunsets that was eye-catching during October. I like how the colors of the sky and clouds are reflected in the pond.

Milkweed seeds are now formed and the pods are splitting open. The wind carries the seeds to new places where plants will grow next Spring. On many walks I've been taking, I pick the pods and spread the seeds to further distribute the milkweed seeds. I'm hoping to see a lot of milkweed plants next Spring and Summer for the monarchs.

In late-October, there was a lone thistle that was still bright purple. A week later, when I went by it on a walk, the color had faded substantially. This is a black-and-white version of the thistle. I thought all the textures of the plant and flower were interesting.

An  overcast day made a good backdrop for these tall weeds/grasses that were along the road.

This view of the northwest part of our farm never gets old. This is the view from the road. I like the golds, rusts, and browns of these trees with the bright white birch bark interspersed in landscape.

These milkweed seeds are ready to fly away. The afternoon sun illuminated the fluffy white floss that is attached to the seeds.

The wild cucumber vine is dried at this point in the season. The spikes are still sharp. We had always believed that this plant was invasive. It isn't. It's actually a native plant to Minnesota, and can grow 30-foot vines (or longer) that attach themselves to trees, fences, and other plants. If you don't want this plant to spread, it's important to take it down before the pods dry and the four seeds drop from the pod.

This is the view from the street of our home. The lawn was just mowed and leaves picked up. I can't believe how tall the pine trees have gotten in the front yard. They make the home look so small.

Inside, we decorated for Halloween. We lost a lot of our Halloween decorations in the fire at our farm in May 2018. So, this year I bought some lights for our windows. These lights were quite bright since they had groupings of lights rather than single ones. The window stars are ones I made this year.

The last weekend in October we went to the annual awards ceremony for 4-H. The centerpieces had two items by them on each table representing different 4-H project areas. At our table, we had a stuffed dog and ceramic rabbit.

Sophia earned several awards for her participation in 4-H for ten years, serving as an Ambassador last year, and for project records she did.

Olivia also earned her ten-year pin and certificate as well as many project record pins.

On one of the days counting down to Halloween, we had "Boonilla Shakes" and ghost-shaped pancakes for breakfast. Danny thinks that we've set a place for him at the table next to Sophia. He's ready for a pancake!

This month we each received refurbished bikes from an organization that gives bikes to youth and adults. In our case, we lose all our bikes in the fire last year and were unable to replace them. This organization was able to find a bike for Olivia that has three wheels so she can ride a bike! She has challenges with balance, so the bike she received is perfect for her. The minute she got on it, she was able to ride it. It even has a basket to carry her jacket, food, or even a small dog who may get tired from walking and need a ride.

Five years ago, Olivia planted this tree in the front yard. It now towers above her.

Sophia also planted a tree in the front yard and hers, too, stands well above her head.

It was a good month...despite the multiple surgeries. We were able to do a lot, see the leaves changing, and do fun things together as a family.