Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Composer Study - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The second composer that Olivia is learning about this month for her composer study is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There is a book that I checked out from the library called Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? by Yona Zeldis McDonough that had some interesting information in it. The book is geared to younger children, but the facts are still relevant:

- He was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. Six children had come before him, so he was the baby of the family. Only Wolfgang and his big sister, Maria Anna, lived past their first birthdays. At that time, when babies or young children got sick, there were no medicines like there are today. So, sadly, it was common for children to die.

- Mozart learned to play the clavier (a type of stringed instrument that also had a keyboard) at the age of three. By the time he was five, he was composing music. At eight, he had learned to play the violin and organ. 

- Mozart was writing music even before he learned to write words.

- When he was happy, he would write an allegro. When he felt sad, he would compose a slow tune, called an andante. 

- When he was young, he and his sister went on tour with their parents. On tour, Mozart was often sick. Most days, he gave concerts in the early afternoon and evening. Sometimes he might give three concerts in a single day. He composed music in the morning and at night. Sometimes he stayed up all night and didn't go to sleep until dawn.

- Mozart overworked himself and also may have suffered from kidney disease. The disease might have been what kept him from growing. He was always small for his age, and he remained short all of his life.

-  When he was on tour in London, his father was sick and needed to rest to get better. They left London and went to Chelsea for seven weeks so his father's health could improve. During this time, Mozart and his sister could not practice their music because the noise might disturb their father. So, 9-year-old Mozart composed his first symphony, Symphony in E-flat. At that time, an orchestra was made up of at least eight different instruments.

- His father recovered from his illness, but on the way back to Salzburg, Mozart caught smallpox. At that time, since there was no vaccine, many people died from smallpox. He eventually recovered from smallpox. 

- Mozart wrote his first opera before his 13th birthday. Although he would compose several great operas later in his life, his first attempt wasn't a success.

- When he was in Italy, he heard the Miserere written by composer Allegri. The music had never been printed. When Mozart heard the music being performed in the cathedral, he was amazed by it. He ended up that he wrote it note for note - the first time it had even been outside the Pope's choir room. 

- He enjoyed playing cards, billiards, and writing to his family. He liked writing funny and silly letters to entertain and amuse those to whom he wrote letters.

- When he was 21 years old, Mozart fell in love with Aloysia Weber. However, his father said no. He insisted that Mozart help support the family. 

- By July 1778, his mother died in Paris. The climate there was chilly and she suffered from earaches and sore throats frequently, and always said it was cold despite there being a fire in the fireplace.

- His father blamed him for his mother's death because she had accompanied him to Paris. In response and to deal with his sadness, he composed music at a furious pace.

- He married Constanze in 1782 and set up their home in Vienna. He left Salzburg permanently.

- Mozart and Constanze struggled to make ends meet. They used their wooden furniture as firewood. When they ran out of money, Mozart would teach, give concerts, and compose music. 

- Other times they had a lot of money, but Mozart spent it as quickly as he made it. He bought fancy clothes and gave big parties with music, dancing, and lots of food. He even had his own coach, which cost a great deal of money.

- Constanze and Mozart had six children, though only two sons lived more than a year. 

- In 1787, Mozart became the chamber composer for Emperor Joseph II. This was the most important job Mozart ever held. He composed music and gave performances. 

- In 1786, Mozart wrote The Marriage of Figaro. The following year he wrote Don Giovanni. In 1790, he wrote Cosi fan Tutte, and finally, his last great opera - The Magic Flute - was written in 1791. Many people think that these operas are Mozart's finest works and that the years in Vienna were the most productive in his whole life. They also were probably the happiest years of his short life.

- He composed his last three symphonies in about three months. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to hear them played. He was so accurate that the music performed today is exactly as it was written. There were no corrections at all because Mozart didn't need to make them.

- In July 1791, a very strange thing happened. Mozart was alone in his house. A stranger wearing dark clothes and a dark hood came to the door with an unsigned letter. The letter asked Mozart to write a requiem (a piece of music composed to honor a person who has died). The letter promised Mozart a lot of money for the job. For the next several months, Mozart worked on the requiem. He thought about it all of the time. His health declined and he felt like he was writing the requiem for his own funeral. Soon he could not get out of bed and it became hard for him to breathe. 

- On December 4, 1791, he asked his friends to join him at his bedside. Together, they sang different parts of the requiem. The next day, he died. He was only 35 years old. 

- Mozart wrote more than 600 works including: 41 symphonies, 27 piano concertos, 5 violin concertos, 27 concert arias, 23 string quartets, 18 Masses, and 22 operas. 

- In 2002, on the one-year anniversary of the September 11th attack, choirs around the world sang Mozart's requiem for a span of 24 hours in a global effort to honor those who died.

Olivia listened to three of Mozart's pieces and then commented on them:

- Serenade No. 13 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

According to Mozart's 5 Greatest Masterpieces (redlandssymphony.com), "There's no evidence Mozart even cared that much about this piece. He sketched it out really quickly while he was writing 'Don Giovanni,' but no one bothered to publish it until 40 years later, long after he was dead.  

Olivia thought:

- You hear this all the time. That first 20 seconds is what everyone knows...and then no one knows the rest. 

- The next part sounds like it is about an octave higher.

- This sounds like a very hurried piece. It sounds like someone is moving around quickly or trying to get somewhere quickly.

- Something dramatic is happening around the 2:00 mark. Then it just repeats again. 

- They repeat that familiar part many times. It's nice to hear it again. 

- This potentially would be an easy song to learn because there are sections that repeat. You could probably memorize it because it repeats a lot.

- It changes near the end. It goes back to the beginning and then ends.

- The Magic Flute - Queen of the Night Aria

- Red Lands Symphony noted that with this piece The Magic Flute, Mozart kind of invented the musical. Opera had existed for about 200 years, but The Magic Flute wasn't really an opera. 

It was a Singspiel - a song-play - which was a genre of theater popular in Germany featuring spoken (rather than sung) dialogue interspersed with songs. A Singspiel was a pretty lowbrow artform, and most were simple comedies written for lower-class audiences and performed by itinerant actors traveling from village to village. 

Until Mozart. The Magic Flute dragged Singspiel from the town square onto the stages of Austria's prestigious theaters. This gave the genre legitimacy in the eyes of the upper class and established a theatrical tradition that would eventually lead to Broadway.

Olivia thought:

- I would have to say that I never envisioned it that way until I saw the performance.

- It made the song seem a lot darker - the fact that she was disowning her child and gave her a knife.

- The makeup and costuming that made it look a lot darker and creepy. 

- I've heard the part where the queen is having high vocalization in a movie. I think it was the Barbie Swan Lake movie. It's been in some movie that we watched when we were younger.

- It kind of makes me want to see other parts...but in other ways no because it is so long and I'm not a huge fan of opera...plus it is in a different language. 

- I like the music to it. I feel like I've played a part of it before. I've played an aria, but I don't remember which one. 

- Requiem

This is one of the most moving pieces in all of classical music. The fact that he wrote it on his deathbed and it had to be completed after he died only makes it that much more impressive. 

Olivia thought:

- It sounds like it is more on the dark, sad side - the notes, how fast it is going. It sounds like there is a pedal in there.

- I wasn't expecting the opera (chorus). Well...I wasn't expecting that. It definitely makes it sound more dramatic. 

- It sounds like something you would hear in a sword fight. There's a lot of tension with going back and forth.

- It sounds like something you would hear at an important person's funeral - maybe during the procession or at the very end.

- All of his pieces are on the dramatic side. It would be interesting to see if any of his pieces aren't as dramatic. Though maybe that's his thing. 

Butterscotch Toffee Squares

For Christmas this past year, one of the gifts in my stocking was Best of Relish. There were a lot of simple recipes that looked delicious. Butterscotch Toffee Squares was one that I wanted to try because I thought it would be one that everyone would enjoy.

This recipe was very easy to make and, indeed, everyone like the bars! They don't make a huge amount - just a little 8"x8" pan. They taste amazing right out of the oven. They reheat nicely in the microwave for that pseudo-right-out-of-the-oven taste. 


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup milk chocolate toffee bits (such as Heath)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Line with foil, letting edges extend over 2 sides. Coat foil with spray. 

Sift flour and baking powder. Beat butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla with a mixer until blended. Turn to low speed, add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Beat in toffee bits. Spread evenly in pan.

Bake 22 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan with foil.

Makes 16 bars.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Composer Study - Ethel Smyth

This is the final year of Olivia's homeschooling and we are listening to the works of nine composers this year. The first one who we read about and listened to three works of is Ethel Smyth. 

According to Wikipedia, Dame Ethel Mary Smyth was born on April 22, 1858, and died on May 8, 1944. She was an English composer and member of the women's suffrage movement. Smyth's compositions included works for piano, songs, orchestral works, chamber music, and operas. 

Smyth was marginalized as a "woman composer," as though her work could not be accepted as mainstream. Yet when she wrote more delicate compositions, they were criticized for not measuring up to the standard of male composers. Nevertheless, she was granted a damehood, the first female composer to be honored in this manner.

When she was 17 years old, Smyth first studied privately with Alexander Ewing. He introduced her to the music of Wagner and Berlioz.  After a major battle with her father about her plans to devote her life to music, Smyth was allowed to study at the Leipzig Conservatory. However, she left after a year because she was disillusioned with the low standard of teaching. While she was at the Leipzig Conservatory, she met Tchaikovksy, Grieg, and Dvorak.  

Her final major work was the hour-long vocal symphony The Prison that was first performed in 1931. In addition to composing, she was a writer and, between 1919 and 1940, she published ten highly-successful, mostly autobiographical, books.

In 1910, Smyth joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WPSU) which advocated for women's suffrage. She gave up music for two years to devote herself to this cause. Her "The March of the Women" that was written in 1911 became the anthem of the suffragette movement.

In 1912, WPSU members went to break a window of the house of any politician who opposed votes for women. As one of the 109 members who responded to this call, Smyth attacked the home of Colonial Secretary Lewis Harcourt. Harcourt said that if his wife's wisdom and beauty had been present in all women, they would have already won the vote. 

During the stone-throwing, Smyth and 100 other women were arrested and served two months in Holloway Prison. She said, in her book, Female Pipings in Eden, that her prison experience was of being "in good company" of united women "old, young, rich, poor, strong, delicate." They were putting the cause they were imprisoned for before their personal needs. 

Smyth said that the prison - including the hospital ward - was infested with cockroaches. She was released early, due to a medical assessment that she was mentally unstable and hysterical.

Below are the three songs Olivia and I listened to, and her reaction to them:

The March of the Women - YouTube

- Very upbeat with the fast pace.

- The lyrics were good. Even without the pictures (on YouTube), you could figure out what she was fighting for. 

- It sounds like something you would hear in church with the choir singing. It sounds like a hymn with the lyrics and melody. 

- I liked it. It was nice. Very different from some of the other pieces we've heard.

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth: The Wreckers Overture - YouTube

- Feels like music during a fight scene in a movie. 

- There was a part (early on - around :33) that sounded like a dance.

- It sounds like someone is trying to sneak around and things are going badly (at 1:20).

- Feels like it is music from the Wizard of Oz...especially when they were sneaking around the witch's castle. 

- Or it sounds like music from a play or a ballet recital. The whole piece would be played for the entire ballet. It has different feelings throughout it. 

- It's like it is telling a story. 

- There's a lot of variety in it. It makes it interesting. It keeps you on your toes because of how much it changes. There's no pattern to it. 

- If you were going to play this on the piano, it would be challenging because there doesn't seem to be no repetition. You would have to learn the whole piece. It would be extremely hard to memorize this piece.

- It was a nice ending with the drums in it. 

Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in D Minor: I. Allegro non troppo - YouTube

-     - This seems kind of sad and depressing…maybe more melancholy.

-    - This is more of a soothing piece than the overture.

-    - This seems less dramatic than the last piece.

-    - I can hear the strings better, but I can hear where the piano is playing solo.

-    - I don’t think they have the violin or cello playing by themselves – it’s just the piano.

-    - The ending just kind of softly went out versus the last one that went out with a bang.

-    - It’s a beautiful piece.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Red Velvet Pupcakes

With four dogs, I'm always looking for some new treats to surprise them. Taste of Home had a recipe for Red Velvet Pupcakes in its February/March 2020 issue. I made this - without the frosting - and all the dogs love their pupcakes. I've made this recipe twice now and the dogs are super excited about these treats each time I call them in from being outside by saying, "Who wants a pupcake?" 

The version I make without the frosting and the little crunchy bone decoration are more than sufficient for the dogs. They aren't that appealing to look at without all the toppings, but the dogs don't care. 



1 beet (about 3/4 cup), diced 

1/4 cup strawberries (about 3 large strawberries)

1/2 cup applesauce

1/4 cup carob powder

1/3 cup nonfat yogurt

2 eggs

2 cups oat flour (I did 1 cup all-purpose flour and then pulverized 1 cup of oatmeal to make oat flour)


1 block Neufchatel reduced-fat cream cheese

3 tbsp nonfat yogurt

1 tsp cornstarch or tapioca flour

Mini dog biscuits, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place beet in the bowl of a food processor. Add the strawberries, applesauce, carob powder, and yogurt. Blend until smooth. 

Add eggs and flour; pulse until just incorporated. 

Pipe or spoon the batter into mini-muffin cups, making sure the tops are rounded and smooth to ensure even frosting. 

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. 

Place cream cheese in a stand mixer and beat, adding yogurt and cornstarch as cream cheese loosens. Beat until fluffy and smooth. 

Frost each pupcake and top each with a dog biscuit if desired.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+ (Book Notes)

Being in my mid-50s and having read some of Suze Orman's columns and books, I came across The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+. 

There are a lot of good tips which I wish I would have known at a much younger age. She has excellent advice that I can learn from now and that I can share with Sophia and Olivia, even though they are only 18 and 20 years old. 

Below are some of the things I found interesting:

- Fear, shame, and anger are the main obstacles to wealth. They cause youto do the wrong things and miss out on the smart choices that can move us toward our financial goals.

- The only way to conquer fear is through action.

- What I don't think is healthy - emotionally or financially - is when an adult child living in your home doesn't contribute to household costs. This has nothing to do with tough love. This has everything to do with continuing to be the strong, supportive parent who helps guide your children to become their best selves.

- Parents should be directing their money into their retirement savings accounts.

- The money that parents spend on their adult children is money they really should be socking away for their future, yet they can't stop themselves from being the provider. This is an unhealthy financial dynamic.

- Differentiate between financial assistance that helps with kids' needs versus money that funds their wants. 

- Resist co-signing for loans for your adult children. 

- A big problem is the "it's only" syndrome. It's only $100 or $200 a month to help with the rent. It's only an extra $20 a month to keep paying for their cell plan. Add up all the ways, big and small, you continue to provide support to an adult child. See how much "it's only" is costing you every year. 

- A hard no to: helping with a loan for a new car for an adult child, carrying an adult child on your health insurance and cell phone plan, and kicking in money for their vacations.

- If a child needs a car, they should be shopping for a used car that they can pay for with the shortest-term loan possible. 

- If your child is working, they should cover their share of the health premium.

- Consider how reducing your support for others will enable you to achieve your ultimate retirement goals: security and not needing your family to support you later on.

- Make sure you are helping your adult child become financially independent.

- If you reduce your monthly spending by $500 or $1,000 a month today, that's $500 or $1,000 a month you won't need to generate in retirement. 

- Moves to make during your working years:

---Prioritize paying off all debt before you retire.

---Embrace living below your means.

---Save more for retirement...in the right accounts.

---Have a plan to work longer.

---Consider long-term insurance.

- Ditch the landline and use cell phone only.

- Keep FICO score very high keeps auto premiums lower.

- Retirements savings must take precedence over paying for college.

- Spend the least amount you can for a reliable car. If you need to take out a loan, commit to a term that is no longer than 36 months. 

- There are three ways to save money today that you can then use without owing any tax in retirement: a Roth 401(k), a Roth IRA, and Health Savings Account (HSA)

- Plan to work until you are 70.

- Use the Social Security benefit calculator to get an estimate of what you may qualify for: www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/estimator.html 

- Visit kerryhannon.com about career transitions and great jobs for those who are 50+ years old.

- Long-term health premiums are lower for those in their 50s and 60s because as you age, a pre-existing health condition could be grounds to deny you coverage. And the longer you wait, the higher your premium will be.

- See suzeorman.com/retirement to learn more about key features to shop for in an LTC insurance policy.

- If you are intent on not moving, make paying off your mortgage before retirement a priority. Tackle remodeling work today that will accommodate the needs of an older version of you.

- If you plan to stay put:

---Pay off the mortgage before you retire. Ideally, pay it off by age 65.

---Be able to pay your essential living costs (e.g., housing, groceries, utilities) guaranteed income (e.g., Social Security, pension payout, an income annuity you purchase at retirement).

---Don't rely on a reverse mortgage to pay the bulk of your expenses.

---Consider whether your home will be socially isolating to an 80+ you.

---Think through whether your home will be physically challenging for an older you (and your friends).

- The steps up to your front door.

- That you must climb stairs to your bedroom

- How you step into the tub to take a shower

- A narrow hall or doorway that doesn't allow a walker or wheelchair through.

- A bedroom on the main floor or a room that can be easily transformed into a bedroom and a bathroom on the main floor with a walk-in shower that has a bench are what allows you to stay in your home longer.

- Look around your home and see how plausible and comfortable it will be to stay in your home if you become ill, arthritic, or injured.

- Changes to make today: better lighting, more light switches, replace throw rugs with wall-to-wall carpet, and professionally-installed grab bars in the bathroom.

- Go to the National Association of Home Builders for their "NAHB aging-in-place remodeling checklist."

- Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) contractors are who you want to do remodeling.

- If you need to borrow money for remodeling, doing it while you are working will be easier to get than when you are retired. Before doing this, you have to look at how much that will eat into your retirement. Moving may just be the best thing you can do to ensure that you have the money you need for your 80s and 90s,

- Contact mortgage lender to ask for an “amortization schedule” that will have your loan paid off by the time you are 65.

- Find more monthly cash flow to put towards your mortgage payment.

- An emergency fund should be large enough to cover your basic living expenses for eight months.

- Aim to spend just 3% of your portfolio in the first year of retirement and then adjust that amount for inflation in subsequent years. 

- Your home is aging too which means more wear and tear on top of the regular maintenance costs. How old are your roof and HVAC system? If your intention is to stay in your home for 20 or more years, the reality is that you will likely have major maintenance expenses.

- Consider what tasks you do today that you might not want to - or be able to - keep doing long into retirement. Snowblowing, gardening, regular housekeeping, and general upkeep.

- A reverse mortgage can create extra income in retirement by using some of your home's equity. The income you receive is tax-free. 

- A reverse mortgage is a bad idea if you need it to cover the majority of your fixed living costs in your 60s and early 70s. Don't use it keep up with rising property tax, insurance, and maintenace; or if you will move in less than 5-10 years. Don't use it for wants (vacations, RVs) or pay off credit card debt. 

- You don't have to repay any of the money on a reverse mortgage while you remain in the house. It is only when you move or die that the borrowed money must be repaid. 

- Think about how your home will work for you when you are 80 or 85. If you can no longer drive or want to drive, is there convenient public transportation, taxis, Uber/Lyft so that you can get around easily? How far do you live from town or friends? 

- In your 60s, keep investing for a long retirement, delay starting Social Security until age 70, and enroll in Medicare and supplemental coverage.

- When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse is entitled to just one Social Security benefit. If you have the high earner delay until age 70, you lock in the highest possible benefit for the surviving spouse.

- Medicare doesn’t cover long-term costs.

- If you don’t have a reliable income stream that can support you for a long life, then you are probably going to make your life and your kids’ lives more difficult.

- Retirement sources that offer guaranteed income: social security, pension, and income annuity that you purchase.

- Focus on a lifetime payout for a guaranteed income. Consider an annuity that will continue at the same level for the surviving spouse.

- Look at deferred income annuities. Buy the annuity today, but don’t start the payouts until a set period of time, such as 5 years or 10 years.

- An income annuity with a cash benefit will pay you a lifetime benefit, but if you die before your total payouts equal the up-front premium you paid, your beneficial will continue to get payments until total payments equal what you paid for the income annuity.

- Do not invest with any company that has any form of a grade with even the letter B.

- Have a separate bear-market emergency fund in retirement that has at least two years of living expenses in it. If you expect that you will not cover all your living expenses from guaranteed income, then keep three years of expenses in super-safe accounts that you can tap whenever you need to and know the money will be there for you.

- Invest equal amounts in five different CDs: 1 year, 2 year, 3 year, 4 year, and 5 year. When the 1 year CD matures, invest it in a new 5 year. You will have a CD maturing each year. That will pay you more interest than if you kept all of your money in a 1-year CD.

- You would need $1 million in order to withdraw $40,000 or 3% in your first year.

- Subtract your current age from 110. That is how much you may want to consider keeping in stocks. Mutual funds accomplish this since they have a variety of stocks in one fund.

- Treasury bonds are the best option for a retirement portfolio. They are the safest type of bonds.

- Must-have documents: a living revocable trust with an incapacity clause; will; advance directive and durable power of attorney for health care; and a financial power of attorney.

- Check all beneficiaries to make sure they are up to date.

- Ask your kids today what they want and spell that out in a will.

- If more than one child wants something, have an open discussion while you are still alive.

- Name an executyor of your will.

- Keep docuemnts in a waterproof and fireproof box that is easy to grab and go at a moment’s notice.

- If the documents are in a bank safe deposit box, make sure the name of trust’s successor trustee (and maybe even one more family member or someone you trust) is also listed on the account.

- Spell out your final wishes. If you don’t want your family to overspend, put that in writing. It will make it so much easier on them.

- Patience and perseverance must prevail in the years to come. When it comes to your money, you have to accept – and expect – that your money will have its ups and downs.

Monday, September 13, 2021

If My Life was Made Into a Movie

There's a swap on Swap-Bot called If My Life Was Made Into a Movie. I thought it would be fun to imagine what a movie about my life would look like.

The Synopsis

Experiencing the Harvest Moon is a film about Ann's discoveries, new experiences, and moments of awe throughout her 55 year old life. She was born in Minneapolis and spent the first six weeks of her life on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake where her father was a director at a boys camp. These first days of her life foreshadowed one that would be connected to nature and working with children. 

After living in Minneapolis for seven years, her family moved to Bass Lake in Plymouth, Minnesota, and she enjoyed the outdoors with her sister and brother. After college and getting married, she moved back home and then to Charlotte (NC), San Francisco (CA), Minneapolis (MN), and finally to a ten-acre hobby farm in Scandia, Minnesota, where she has lived since 1995...26 of her 55 years. 

Life at the farm has been a series of learning experiences - running a Community Supported Agriculture farm; founding and operating a children's camp focused on the arts, nature, and agriculture; and taking care of a host of animals - dogs, cats, horses, sheep, chickens, turkeys, fish, and even a hedgehog. 

Hosting exchange students from Brazil and Japan laid the foundation for starting the adoption process. During 2001 and 2003, two daughters who were born in China were adopted and have been the highlight of Ann's life. 

The farm became another place of discovery for the girls, as homeschooling became a way of living and learning for the family. With one daughter now a junior in college and heading for Thailand for a semester of college and teaching children how to speak English; and another daughter a senior in high school doing three college courses each semester, 2021-22 will be a year of transition, challenges, and excitement for Ann and her family.

The Cast

Who would play you? I would want Meryl Streep to play me in the movie. In every movie she has been in, I have been impressed with her creative talent and versatility in playing diverse roles. I also read a book in August 2020 called The Good Among the Great by Donald Van de Mark. He pointed out many different qualities that great people tend to possess. One person who embodies all of the qualities is Meryl Streep. So, because she exemplifies a great person - someone who has qualities that I would like to have - I would want her to represent my life.  

What other actors and actresses would be in the movie, and what roles would they play? Paige would be played by Albert Brooks. He was in a movie with Meryl Streep called Defending Your Life. It's an excellent movie that focuses on fears and how they hold back people from completely enjoying and living one's life to the fullest. Albert is a very funny actor - both in words and actions - and he makes me laugh. He would be a good representative of Paige. 

For the girls, Sophia would be played by Ziyi Zhang who is a Chinese actress best known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. She has an impressive background in the arts and reminded me of Sophia and her talents in the arts as well (especially piano and harp).

Olivia would be played by Ming Na Wen. She is best known as the voice of Fa Mulan in the Mulan animated film series. She was also Melinda May in the series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Since Olivia loves to do Tang Soo Do and she regularly watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ming Na Wen seems like a logical choice.

The Soundtrack (including links to YouTube)

What would be the main theme song? Make Me a Channel of Your Peace. I love this version of the song with a full orchestra and chorus singing it. The lyrics are: 

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there is doubt true faith in You

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness only light
And where there's sadness ever joy

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul

Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we are born to eternal life

What song would be played as you started school as a child? I looked up popular songs in 1971 - when I would have been 5 years old. Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens was on the list. I do remember hearing that song. However, I heard more as a teenager when my dad would listen to WAYL - The Big Whale (easy listening music) - in his home office which was next to my bedroom. The lyrics are:

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rains new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

What song would we hear when you fell in love for the first time? In college, I loved seeing The Wallets at nightclubs in the Twin Cities. I happened to come across a video of The Wallets at First Avenue. It was taped in 1987 - so either my Spring semester of my junior year or Fall semester of my senior year. Also found a live recording of a performance in Moorhead. There are a lot of songs on the almost two-hour recording. At the 1:10:46 mark is Body Talk and at 1:17:10 is Totally Nude which both were very popular. 

What song would be played when we're seeing how you handle a stressful situation? Under Pressure comes to mind immediately. I listened to the Queen/David Bowie Remix version SO many times as I drove to visit my parents as they were aging and their health was declining. I would play it very loud as I drove to the nursing home to see my dad.

I also would play it when I went to the geriatric psychiatric unit when he was placed there because of Alzheimer's Disease. It was a horrible place and he should not have been there. Thankfully, it was only for 11 days, but, nonetheless, it was not the place for someone with a cognitive decline (vs. someone with a mental illness - it's two completely different issues). He came out of there unable to feed himself because they had him so doped up on pills. So, yeah....Under Pressure is what immediately comes to mind.

What song would we hear when you're sad? Young@Heart Chorus singing Fix You. This song was sung in the movie that documents the true story of the final weeks of rehearsal for the Young@Heart Chorus in Northampton, MA. The chorus members average age was 81, and many of them had to overcome health adversities to participate. 

This song, Fix You, was sung by Fred after the death of his friend, Bob. This song was supposed to be a duet with Bob. He tributed the song to Bob and Bob's family was in the audience so there were lots of shots of his family reacting to the song. When I first heard this song, my father was in the middle- to late-stage of Alzheimer's Disease. It captured exactly how I felt at the time of wanting to fix my dad...to take away all the struggles he was experiencing due to Alzheimer's, but realizing I couldn't. 

The lyrics are:

When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something, you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try, you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something, you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face and I
Tears stream down your face
I promise you, I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face and I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And finally, what song would we hear as the movie ends and the credits are rolling? Another song from Young@Heart Chorus and movie that I like - especially for the lyrics - is Forever Young

This version of the song was sung to prisoners at Hampshire County Jail, and is a very powerful and touching scene in the movie. The chorus learned that one of its members died that morning, and they went ahead with the performance. I'm sure the death of their beloved friend was on their mind. 

The main reason I like this song is that the message is one that I would want to impart to others, especially my daughters as they go through their lives.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay
Forever young

Forever young
Forever young
May you stay
Forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
And may you stay
Forever young
Forever young
Forever young
May you stay
Forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay
Forever young

Forever young
Forever young
May you stay
Forever young

Applesauce Spice Bars

 Over the past few months, I have been trying a lot of new recipes. This one, for Applesauce Spice Bars, used ingredients that I had on hand. It has a mild spice flavor, with the ground cinnamon and allspice. For my taste, I would have doubled the cinnamon and allspice, and added some other spices - perhaps ground cloves and ginger. 

I did not make the frosting with the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. This would have made it more of a dessert bar rather than a breakfast bar. 

Olivia liked the flavor of this, but didn't care for the raisins. I liked the recipe and would make it again with more spices. 


2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup applesauce

1 cup chopped walnuts (I didn't use them)

1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter with brown sugar until light and fluffy. 

Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with applesauce; mix well. Stir in walnuts and raisins. Spread batter into a greased, 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; blend well. Spread over warm surface. Cool completely; cut into bars.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Plantation Bars

Last month I entered several items in the county fair, and one of the categories was for nonbaked bars. I found a recipe for Plantation Bars that I had wanted to make. This simple 4-ingredient recipe was easy to make and one that everyone liked...including the judge. I got first place for this entry!


1 pound (6 or 7 pieces) white almond bark

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup peanuts, without hulls

4 cups Rice Krispie cereal


Melt almond bark in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Add peanut butter and blend. Add peanuts. Stir in Rice Krispies and pour the mixture into a buttered 9x13 inch pan. Chill. You also may drop by teaspoonfuls on wax paper and chill.

Monday, September 6, 2021

My Favorite Photos - August 2021

 Below are some of my favorite photos from August. First, Olivia finished one of the barn quilts that she commissioned to do. The "F" is for the clients' last name.

Sophia moved back to college. As a junior now, she has made some good friends at college and I love seeing how happy and settled she is on campus.

At the Carver County Fair, I had a chance to feed two parakeets that sat on my hand.

Olivia finished a barn quilt for another client.

My sister and I went to Owatonna, Minnesota, and saw this mural on the ceiling and upper walls of the Owatonna Arts Center. There was so much to see - lots of details - in the mural.

Connected to the arts center is a museum at the location where the state's orphanage was located. It was actually a rather sad and sobering place to visit. However, the stained glass windows in one section were beautiful.

Also at the orphanage museum were the old light fixtures. 

In one of the cottages that held the boys, there was a row of sinks. 

There was also an old movie projector.

At the Owatonna airport, there is a statue of three Air Force jets. 

Returning back home, we stopped in Faribault. There's a beautiful mural on the side of a building. I really like the bright colors, the different skin tones of the hands, and that the Braille letters are below the four letters that spell love

My sister was a good sport and sat in one of the Tilt-a-Whirls on the main street. They don't move. She's just leaning to one side. 

My sister and I also went to the Steele County Fair that is about two hours from where I live. It was really fun to see a county fair that I had not been to. At one time, the Minnesota State Fair was located at the Steele County Fairgrounds.

At one of our Lions club meetings, I arranged for the local sheriff and K9 unit to come to our meeting. Here, they are showing an example of how obedient and focused K9 Viking is when he is working.

Then there's time for play. The reward is a yellow ball. The officer swung K9 Viking in the air which he likes. This also shows how powerful of a grip the dog has on an object.

I went to the State Fair on August 30th this year with Olivia who was competing in 4-H. While she was being judged, I went to the Ag-Hort building. The floral kaleidoscope was there again this year. This is one of the images I took through the viewfinder. 

This is what the floral kaleidoscope looks like. You spin it around and then look through one of three viewfinders.

Olivia won a blue ribbon on her Diamond Dotz picture. It's an image from Harry Potter. 

Olivia and I went to the Fine Arts building at the State Fair. There are so many interesting pieces to look at. This is a collage piece.

This is a needle-felted moose. It was about 2 1/2' x 3 1/2'...quite big and an ambitious project. 

It was 3-dimensional and the head and antlers stood out from the foam background quite a bit. There were even eyelashes on the moose!

August was a month filled with day trips, art, history, and transitions back to school and Fall. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

End of Summer Rice Salad with Ground Cherries

One of the items in my CSA box last week was ground cherries. I have never tried ground cherries and thought it would be good to see what they were like. They come in paper husks that need to be removed, leaving a little gold fruit. They have a unique flavor that I'm not sure how to describe. 

Looking online, I came across a recipe for End of Summer Rice Salad with Ground Cherries. It's a flavorful salad and very easy to make. I plan on making it again this week to use more of the ground cherries; and the tomatoes and basil we have here growing in the garden and containers. 


1 1/2 cups cooked rice

2 cups greens of choice (spring mix, arugula, kale) (I used spring mix)

1 cup heirloom tomatoes or cherry tomatoes diced

1/2 cup ground cherries

1/2 small red onions diced small

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup of loose fresh basil minced

1 to 2 tsp ground sumac (I didn't use this)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black ground pepper


Cook the rice as per the package instructions. Once cooked, let cool slightly. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside (olive oil, lemon juice, basil, sumac, salt, and pepper). 

Prepare the vegetables and place on serving plates, along with the rice. Drizzle dressing on top and serve immediately. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

August 3-2-1

3 things that made me happy in August

I enjoyed seeing the flowers blooming in our yard and at places we visited. One place that we went to was Noerenberg Memorial Gardens. There were flowers and grasses that I had not seen before, so it was fun to see these different plants.

I liked seeing a variety of bees on the flowers.

The second thing I enjoyed during August was going to several county fairs. We missed the one that the girls have competed in for 4-H. However, Olivia and I competed in the Washington County Fair and earned some ribbons and cash for our entries. I was happy to see some of my photos earn blue ribbons.

I entered ten colored pictures. This one is my favorite one - a forest scene in autumn.

I also colored an abstract one in colored pencils.

My triple-ginger cookies earned first place too. Having fresh-, crystallized-, and dried ginger adds a lot of flavor to these cookies.

The girls and I enjoyed seeing the chickens and roosters at the fair.

We had lunch in the 4-H building together.

Another fair we went to was the Carver County Fair. This sheep was asleep as we passed by.

We were able to feed parakeets.

There was also an area with exotic wildlife that you could feed or look at. 

Olivia sat in a Tesla. She is intrigued by this car.

I liked this succulent horse sculpture. 

The third thing I enjoyed during August was spending a day with my sister. She was traveling on my birthday, so she wanted to know if I wanted to do something in August. We ended up going to the Steele County Fair - about 2 hours away from where we live - and explored that area.

We started the day with Tom Thumb mini donuts.

While in Owatonna, we went to the Owatonna Art Center and the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children. The building below was once the third-largest institution of its kind in the nation. There were probably 16+ buildings in addition to this one where the children and teens lived, ate, played, worked, and learned.

The art center had a beautiful ceiling and upper-wall mural. It was based on books and was so rich in colors and details.

Heading home, we made a lot of stops including in Faribault. This beautiful mural was in the downtown area. I like the various skin colors of the hands, the ASL signs for the word Love, and the Braille letters that are under the black letters. 

The Tilt-a-Whirl was invented in Faribault. There are a couple of stationary units on the main street. I had my sister move from side-to-side as if she were on the ride. She was a good sport about it and humored me with doing that.

2 things I'm looking forward to in September

One thing I'm looking forward to in September is seeing the flyover at Taco Daze. I have been working with someone who is coordinating a flyover of a Huey helicopter that was flown in Vietnam as well as four military aircraft. 

The aircraft will have the smoke coming out of them and will do a couple passes. 

On the final one, it will be the missing man formation. 

I'm excited to see how this as well as the vendor area (which I've been coordinating) comes together after 4 1/2 months of preparation and planning. 


The second thing I'm looking forward to in September is cooler weather and rain. The summer was brutally hot and humid. Parts of our lawn still have not recovered from the scorching temperatures. The gardens had to be watered a lot and still suffered. Having rain and the cooler weather hopefully will help the flowers, shrubs, grasses, and trees as we move into autumn and winter. 

1 thing from August that I'd rather forget

The one thing from August that I'd rather forget is a colonoscopy. My dad had one-third of his colon removed due to colon cancer, so I'm on an every-five-year check because of that. Thankfully, the prep process and time have been condensed which makes it easier. The good news is that I had no polyps this time (the first time - when I was in my 40s - I did). 

The feedback I got was that it was clear that I was eating healthy and taking care of myself. So, that made me feel good. 

The changes that I've made over the past couple of years, especially this year with doing the 75Hard Challenge in for 75 days starting on January 1st and maintaining many of those habits since mid-March, have paid off!