Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Happiness Scavenger Hunt #1

There are three swaps on Swap-Bot that are all Happiness Scavenger Hunts. I thought it would be fun to do them since I enjoy photography and looking for things and people that make me happy is always a good thing. 

For the first Happiness Scavenger Hunt, there are six things to look for and photograph. Something that:

You think is beautiful - There are two things that I think are beautiful - one is outside and the other is inside. There was a beautiful sunset the other night. At the horizon, the sky was gold, magenta, pink, and orange. 

Higher in the sky, it was a pale lavender and shades of blue. 

Inside, there's a little Christmas village that is on our dining room bureau. Two of the buildings and some of the figurines belonged to my mom and dad. The set is the St. Nicholas Square collection that Kohls has carried for decades. When my parents died, I inherited the set. It was stored in the hobby shed when it wasn't Christmas. 

In May 2018, the hobby shed burned to the ground while we were away from the farm. I thought I had lost the Christmas village. I did, in fact, lose quite a few pieces. However, I was in the process of bringing holiday bins to the basement in January 2018 rather than putting things back in the hobby shed, and several pieces were saved because of this. 

At any rate, this year I was looking at thrift shops for St. Nicholas Square pieces and found a building (Sophia's Dance Theater) and the ice rink with movable figures. I also added a horse-drawn sled and tree that is for harvesting maple sap. 

So, this is what the little village looks like now. I like it because it reminds me of my parents and there are so many little details that make the scene a beautiful one.

Makes you smile - Sophia was home from college for Thanksgiving weekend. She makes me smile all the time. She was excited to do whatever we had planned which I enjoyed. We went to a small town event where different families and community groups decorated Christmas trees that will be up during December. The Lions were serving grilled brats and hot dogs, chips, cookies, and pop. We had a brat for lunch.

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we went to another small town that had a Lighting Festival going on. A church was doing an Advent activity where you could make a wreath. Sophia sat right down and started assembling a wreath for our family. We each took a turn affixing the greenery to the tree slice. At home, there are five white candles that go in the drilled holes.

On Saturday afternoon, we went to a tree farm that is about two blocks from our home. She and Olivia wanted to hide in the trees from Paige. So, there she is hiding behind a tree smiling.

Is your favorite color - My favorite color is purple (I also like green...but I think purple is my top favorite color). The traditional dress that Olivia wore for one of her senior photos is purple. It was a dress that we purchased when we adopted her in 2003 at the age of 10 months. I'm so happy that this dress still fits her and that she has this special remembrance from the country where she was born. 


Smells amazing - On Thanksgiving, the whole house was full of the fragrance of spices and herbs. The table had all the food on it and smelled wonderful. There was pumpkin spice bread; applesauce with ginger and cinnamon; homemade dressing with herbs from our garden (sage, rosemary, and oregano), lemon curd, Brussel sprouts with maple syrup and bacon; turkey seasoned with herbs; and more. 

You love to wear - As the weather is getting colder, I am really liking this new coat that I got a couple of months ago. It's kind of a teal/green color, is puffy, and has a hood. It's been keeping me nice and warm on these cold days...sometimes too warm. So, it should be great once the weather dips below zero.

Feels good to touch - My dogs feel good to touch. The fur on each one has a different texture - from silky smooth to fluffy to coarse. It's comforting to have each of them sit or lay by me and to be able to pet them. 

This is a picture of Cooper. He is nine years old and has kind of coarse - yet soft - hair.

This is Scooby. He's 14 and has fluffy fur.

This is Aspen and Danny. Both have very smooth, silky fur. They are the softest ones out of all the dogs and the type of fur I like to touch the most. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Thanksgiving Table and Food

Thanksgiving 2021 marked a year where we could gather. It was such a contrast to last year - 2020 - when COVID-19 and the pandemic affected getting together in large groups. It was so nice to be together again!

The day started out early - around 7 a.m. I took out the turkey and ham from the refrigerator, and began cutting the onions and celery for the dressing. I sauteed the onions and celery with butter and mushrooms. Seasoned it with dried herbs from our garden plus salt and pepper. The house took on the "Thanksgiving smell" at that point. 

I prepped the Brussels sprouts side dish and green beans with shallots. Next, I took out all of the silver and dishes that I wanted to use.

By this time, the girls were awake and started helping me. Olivia wanted to polish all of the silver. Sophia put in the whole cloves where I had scored the ham. After she was done, I poured a bunch of honey over the ham since the girls wanted a honey ham.

Sophia peeled 9 potatoes. We didn't do a lot this year because my brother and his family brought cheesy potatoes. What we didn't know at the time was that he brought a sheet that his school cafeteria uses. It barely fit in our oven! At any rate, as Sophia was peeling the potatoes, Danny (the dog) supervised.

Olivia polished the silver while Nessa (one of Sophia's roommates from college who was staying with us over the Thanksgiving weekend) ate breakfast. 

I had purchased a bouquet of flowers for the table and decorated the windows with windows stars earlier in the week.

By 1:30 p.m., the table was set. We used the china plates that we received from our wedding, the silver forks/knives/spoons from Paige's parents (with some of the silver from my parents since we had 14 guests and the silverware sets are for 12 people), and glassware from our wedding. There were a few glasses that belonged to my mom and dad too. 

The napkins were from 3 sets - one that belonged to us and two that belonged to my parents. When they died, I inherited them. My sister and brother didn't want them. 

This is one side of the table. I got a new table runner this year. The two silver pieces on the runner are to put hot dishes on. They expand to the size of pan or plate. 

Everyone arrived between 2 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. It took that long to put the finishing touches on the food, everything into serving dishes, and the food onto the table. 

In the scramble to get everything on the table, I realized (in retrospect) that I didn't take any close-up pictures of the food. So, on this side of the table, there's gravy, pumpkin spice bread, wild rice pilaf, mashed potatoes, dressing (from a box), homemade dressing (my dad's recipe), lemon curd, applesauce with ginger and cinnamon, and cheesy potatoes. 

On this side of the table, there's a 13-pound turkey (which is small compared to past years); fresh fruit salad; Brussel sprouts with maple syrup and bacon; green beans with shallots and mushrooms; pickles; homemade rolls; gravy; and honey ham. 

After dinner and dessert (pumpkin pie, French silk pie, brownies, and homemade nut goodie bars), we played games. There was a game of Life going on in the family room.

We had a game of Millennial Loteria (Bingo) in the dining room. 

There were some funny images on the card. 

After Jim's family, Jordan, and Yari left, a game of Skip-Bo was played. Then Mary and Colton left, and Sophia, Olivia, and Nessa continued playing Skip-Bo.

I did the dishes since the majority of them had to be hand-washed. There was a lot of glassware and china that can't go in the dishwasher. This is one side of the kitchen with both counters and the sink full of drying dishes.

This is the other side of the kitchen with the counter full of drying silverware, pots, pans, and miscellaneous dishes.

We all had such a nice Thanksgiving, and enjoyed spending the time with one another. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

A couple of months ago I saw a recipe on Facebook for Apple Cider Doughnut Cake. It led to a pin on Pinterest. Earlier this week, I wanted to make the recipe and got all the ingredients for it. 

When I clicked on the image, it was just a picture - no recipe. Of course...no directions. Then I noticed a recipe to the right of the picture. However, as I read it closer, it was a different recipe than what was pictured. The recipe calls for additional ingredients: 1/2 cup of melted butter, 3 or 4 eggs (the picture showed 3 eggs), 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 cup of shredded apples. The measurements for the spices were different too. 

The recipe indicated it was a Betty Crocker recipe. So, I looked up an Apple Cider Doughnut Cake recipe by Betty Crocker on Google. Sure enough, there was a recipe. Like the typed recipe on Pinterest, this one didn't have applesauce either, but it had butter. 

I decided to create my own recipe - a combination of all of the recipes - to see what happened. The recipe I created was:



1 box of yellow cake mix

¾ cup apple cider

½ cup applesauce

4 eggs

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup shredded apples


3 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Put the cake mix, apple cider, and applesauce in a bowl, and mix together. Add the eggs. 

Then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and shredded apples. 

Put into a bundt pan that has been sprayed and floured. 

Baked at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. 

Remove from the pan to the cooling rack. Brush cake with 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Cover with a mixture of ¼ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. 

The recipe doesn't really taste like a doughnut. It is more of a cake. It is very light and fluffy. Looking at the picture on Pinterest, it looks like the recipe could use more of the sugar-cinnamon topping. 

Would I make it again? Yes. I'm not sure I would add the nutmeg next time. I'd like to see what the cake tastes like with just the cinnamon. I would use the 1/2 cup of applesauce again in lieu of the 1/2 cup of butter (as is shown in the Pinterest picture) because I think it is healthier to use applesauce versus butter. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

My Favorite Photos - October 2021

 Below are some of my favorite photos from October

Olivia and I visited a pumpkin patch on October 1st. They had a truck and fall display that I thought would make a nice back-drop for a picture.

Olivia and I are doing a survey of the different types of trees at our farm. She's collecting a leaf or needles and pressing them. I'm taking her photo by the trees to show their shape and size. 

The roses continued to bloom well into October.

My sister and I went to Marine Mills Folk School's grand re-opening. 

Olivia and I went to Springboard for the Arts open house. Down the block from the arts organization was a barber shop. This hand-painted bench was outside the barber shop.

The fire station held an open house. They lit this house on fire and closed one of the doors in the house to show how it can protect the items and people in that room. For the rooms that didn't have the door closed, everything in the room was burned. It was a very powerful lesson.

We went to the Twin Cities Corn Maze. It was a fun way to spend part of the day.

My sister, Olivia, and I went to an apple orchard. We also went on a hayride while we were there. 

Olivia and I spotted an eagle one morning when I was taking her to the homeschool co-op. This eagle was at the end of our road.

Paige and I celebrated our 31st anniversary. These are the flowers he gave to me.

Here's another tree at our farm. The chairs belonged to my parents, and I inherited them when they died. We had the tree planted when it was about 10 feet tall - so a little more than twice Olivia's height. We have lived here since 1995, so I like seeing how tall the trees have gotten during that time.

This is a willow tree that we planted on the nature trail at our farm in the early 2000s. So, it is about 17 or 18 years old now. 

This is part of the back part of our farm. All those trees we had transplanted when they were about 5-6 feet tall. The previous owners had planted a ton of little pine trees in a nursery-type area. They were all planted very close to one another. We knew that we needed to have them transplanted or they would have grown all together and none would have done well. The trees now are doing very well and have created a private area again.

In mid-October, I went to the back part of our farm and spread milkweed seeds. 

There was a gentle breeze, and I enjoyed watching the milkweed seeds fly off in the wind.

My sister and I went to the grand re-opening of White Bear Arts Center. This is one of the paintings in a gallery. I miss having cats. We had cats from 1989 until earlier this year when our last one died. 

At WBCA, one of the exhibits looked at upcycling items to create art. The flowers below are made from plastic bottles and are hanging from the ceiling with a clear thread. A fan gently blew air on them and they moved slightly. The reflections would move on the cement as well. 

This was an upcycled art piece that used plastic bags to create the mushrooms. The artist crocheted them - both the tops and stems.

At the WBCA grand re-opening, there were some art cars. This one caught my eye.

There were lots of messages on the car, including this one: 

During October, I've been helping Olivia learn to cook. We are doing a 4-H online cooking/baking program. This one taught her how to make cheese-filled meatloaf that was wrapped with crescent roll dough. 

For Olivia's PSEO Digital Imaging class, she needed to do a photojournalism story. We stopped at a local nursery that has goats and geese. 

On the Friday of Halloween weekend, Olivia came home for dinner. I made homemade lasagna, salad, and pumpkin pie. 

On Halloween morning, the sun was rising as the moon was still high in the sky.

I liked the beautiful blue sky behind the pine trees in our front yard. The lights mark the front yard and one side of our driveway. They are up for Halloween. In a few weeks, they'll change to Christmas lights.