Monday, December 27, 2021

Happiness Scavenger Hunt #2

Earlier in December, I did the Happiness Scavenger Hunt #1 on Swap-Bot. This is the second Scavenger Hunt in a series of three.

The goal is to photograph something that fits each of these six categories. Something that: 

You are thankful for - rain and snow. After a drought this summer and seeing the impact on the grass, flowers, shrubs, and trees, any type of moisture we get I'm thankful for. 

On December 3rd, there was rain and snow...kind of a sloppy mixture. There wasn't a lot, but there was enough for the ground to be wet and raindrops to cover leaves and drip off of tree branches.

I'm hoping that the plants and grass make it through the winter with whatever rain and snow falls.

Makes you laugh out loud 

For the past few years, we have tried to take a photo with the dogs and girls by the tree. When we had two dogs, things were a bit easier. With four dogs, it has become more challenging.

We all end up laughing as the dogs try to find a spot to sit and girls try to get them to face forward. The only one cooperating right away was Scooby. I think he just wanted to get the photo done.

After a good 20 pictures, we finally had one that turned out good enough. The girls and dogs all are facing forward, and the girls both are smiling. 

You use all the time

I use my sewing machine quite often. It's my favorite sewing machine even though it is very basic. I've had it since I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the late 1980s.

Olivia is using to make a bag that she started on Christmas and finished on the 26th. 

Reminds you of a happy memory

On Christmas Eve, I made a maple twist coffeecake. This is a recipe that was from family friends of my parents and then one that my mom made around the holidays. They made the maple twist coffeecake on a traditional-size pizza pan. The one we had is much larger, so I made a double recipe. It took 4 hours to make - from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. The center coveted piece was large enough that there were 4 pieces...instead of the single one that a single batch makes. It reminds me of Christmas Eve growing up when my mom used to make this recipe.

For Christmas, we quarantined again this year. This time, however, it is because Sophia is leaving for a semester to study abroad in Thailand. She needs a negative COVID test before she leaves on January 4th. So, we are not taking any chances with the omicron variant. If she tests positive, then she cannot do the program. She would be devastated. 

Anyway, for Christmas, we had a simple meal - ham, baked potatoes, cornbread, Brussel sprouts, dressing, and fresh fruit. The tablecloth belonged to my parents, and the Advent wreath reminds of the one that they used to light each year (except the candles were purple and pink).

My mom always made a nice dinner for Christmas. However, she didn't make so much that we had a ton leftover (like I do for Thanksgiving). I put cloves in the ham like she did and also wrapped the baked potatoes in foil like she did.

After dinner, we went on a drive to Minneapolis (the Kenwood area) and wound our way to Edina. There were so many decorated and lit-up buildings and homes. This church - across from the Walker Art Center - was lit up. It reminded me of going to church when I was growing up - either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. 

Makes you feel safe

Fencing around our backyard makes me feel safe. On December 26th, two coyotes came through the west pasture, walked towards the barn, and stopped a couple of feet from the backyard by both cattle gates. The fence, though it may not seem strong, was enough to keep the coyotes out of the backyard. 

They both heard Cooper and Aspen (our two largest dogs) barking, which made them turn around and head back into the pasture. So, my dogs - all four of them - make me feel safe too. 

Sounds beautiful - On December 4th, we went to hear the Festival of Christmas at Bethel University. Sophia is in the handbell choir and it sounded so beautiful.

They played quite a few songs for about 30 minutes before the performance. 

The 90-minute Festival of Christmas was spectacular! There were three choirs, the handbell ensemble, the wind symphony, and the chamber orchestra. In total, there were over 220 student performers and musicians. 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

3-2-1 November 2021

I've been enjoying the 3-2-1 swap on Swap-Bot that I started participating in earlier this year. It's always good to take some time to reflect on what makes me happy, what I'm looking forward to, and things that I'd rather forget. Below are my answers for the swap.

3 things that made me happy in November

Seeing how happy Olivia was for her senior photos. She had her make up done first.

Then she had her curled and styled. This took the longest time since her hair is almost to her waist.

She wore a dress that we purchased in China when we adopted her. The Chinese headdress is one that she chose specifically for her senior photos.

Another set of photos was taken in her Tang Soo Do outfit. 

Gathering as a family for Thanksgiving. We had 14 people at our home for the holiday. It was nice to gather again in person after spending it with just our immediate family (of 4) in 2020.

Seeing the planets and moon so clearly on many nights throughout the month. During November, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and the moon are all were visible in the southern sky. I've never seen that many planets and the moon so close to one another. 

This is Venus to the left and the moon nestled in the tree branches.

This is Jupiter (upper left), the moon (middle), and Venus (lower right above the barn). It's not a clear photo because I didn't have my tripod. 

2 things that I'm looking forward to in December

Seeing Sophia perform in the Festival of Christmas. We saw Sophia perform in the Festival of Christmas earlier today. She's in the handbell choir this year as she was last year. During her first year - freshman year - she played the harp. 

These are photos from her first year when she played the harp: 

These are some photos from this year's Festival of Christmas. The first three are from the pre-concert handbell choir in the lobby. 


This is Benson Hall before the performance. I used a wide-angle lens so I could get the entire stage and the front section of the hall.

The chamber orchestra is in front, then the wind symphony, and then handbells. The choirs went on stage after doing a processional.

The conclusion of the Festival of Christmas with all the student musicians/performers on the stage and the conductors in the front. 

Finishing the quilts that my mom started, but never had a chance to finish before she died. This is one of the quilts that I was working on during December. All the quilt tops are now sewn. It's a matter of assembling the tops, battings, and backings; sewing them together; and then tying them so that the batting stays in place.

1 thing from November that I'd rather forget

Having problems with allergies. I'm not going to share a picture of what severe allergies look like. Suffice it to say, my eyes get really red, and my eyelids and under my eyes get super puffy. I have to do eye drops multiple times per day and then coat the skin around my eyes with Vaseline. 

I'm hoping that the colder weather stops whatever allergens are causing this reaction. It's not only me...many other people in our area - including pets - are experiencing the same thing.

Friday, December 3, 2021

My Favorite Photos - November 2021

 November was a good month that went by way too quickly. It started out with Olivia's senior photos. For some of the photos, she wore a purple dress that we purchased in China when we adopted her. We were thrilled that it fit her on this special occasion. These are all photos that I took. We haven't received the professional photos yet.

The Chinese headdress is one she picked out.

For other photos, she wore her Tang Soo Do outfit. She takes lessons twice a week and really enjoys them. 

In between the studio and outdoor photoshoots, we went to a sunny room by the studio and took a few photos.

We went to a regional park since she loves nature. 

There were areas in a forested area and along the river where we took photos.

The sun was setting as the photoshoot was wrapping up.

During November, we've been seeing some interesting line-ups of planets and the moon. On this night, Venus and the moon seemed close to one another in the sky. 

On another night, Jupiter, the moon, and Venus were almost in a diagonal line.

Olivia and I went to Stillwater one day since she needed to take some photos of architecture for her PSEO Digital Imaging class.

The St. Croix River was so peaceful and still.

I enjoyed seeing the reflections in the water.

We walked around and saw these positive messages on the steps near the south end of town.

There were a lot of positive thoughts.

This is a mural that has been on the side of one of the buildings in Stillwater for decades. 

In the middle of the month, Sophia and I tried a new restaurant - Namaste. It had excellent, flavorful Indian food.

The next day, Olivia and I volunteered to help with a 4-H sewing workshop. The project was a bag that had 18 squares on the outside and one color of fabric on the inside. 

We celebrated the 18th anniversary of Olivia's adoption day. It's hard to believe it has been that long. 

On the 21st, we went to the photographer to look at the proofs of Olivia's senior photos. We narrowed down 75 photos that the photographer chose down to about a dozen.

Afterwards, we went to the sunny room down the hall from the studio and I took some photos of Sophia. 

The sunsets have been gorgeous this month.

For Thanksgiving break, Sophia came home with one of her roommates (Nessa) who is from out of town. It was her 21st birthday. Sophia found out Nessa's favorite dinner so I made that. 

I also got an ice cream cake since Nessa likes them. I let Sophia bring the cake to Nessa. She was so surprised and happy.

On Thanksgiving, Sophia peeled the potatoes while Danny looked on.

We had 14 people at Thanksgiving this year. What a change from last year - 2020 - when it was just Paige, Sophia, Olivia, and me.

After everyone left, the girls played Skip-Bo.

On the day after Thanksgiving, we - along with my sister and members from the Lions Club - went to Feed My Starving Children to pack food for children in Haiti. Mary, Sophia, and Nessa are at one of the bag-filling and box-packing stations.

Paige and Olivia worked behind the scenes with putting rice into the bins. Each of the scoops of rice was between 5-6 pounds.

Collectively, the volunteers packed 74 boxes (Mary, Sophia, Nessa, and I packed 6 of those 74 boxes). 

Afterwards, we went to Momo Sushi in Northeast Minneapolis for a late lunch to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sophia's adoption. This is Olivia with a plate of wontons.

Sophia had a bento box lunch. Olivia, Nessa, and I did too. They were really good!

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we went to Marine on St. Croix to see the Enchanted Forest. The Lions purchased lots of Christmas trees that the residents, businesses, and organizations could decorate. They will be up and lit during December.

Santa was at the Enchanted Forest.

There were grilled brats and hotdogs. Sophia and I each had a brat. 

We went to Taylors Falls for the annual Lighting Festival. One of the things we did was go to the Lutheran Church that has an Advent wreath-making activity. 

Later, we went to get a Christmas tree.

It was so tall that we had to drive home with the back door open and Olivia sitting in the back. Luckily, it was only a two-block drive home.

As in past years, we picked a tree that was too tall. Some of the top had to come off.

One of the things that Sophia asked I make was turkey pot pie. She likes pot pies and Nessa had never had one. So, that our meal on Saturday night before we watched a holiday movie together as a family.

On Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, the girls decorated the Christmas tree. Olivia untangled the lights. 

Sophia put the lights and some of the ornaments on the tree.

On the Sunday evening of Thanksgiving weekend, we went to Vinterlights in our town. There were cookies in the shape of Dala horses that were at the lighting ceremony.

There were a couple fires to stand by to stay warm.

After seeing the community center lit up, we drove home. We stopped at Gammelgarden Museum on the way home to see it lit with white lights and candles.

The church was lit with candles.

Our Christmas tree is blue and green this year.

I set up the Christmas village in the dining room. Some of the pieces belonged to my mom and some I added this year. 

It is looking more like a village this year which makes me happy.