Archive for the ‘legacy gifts’ Category

For almost a year now, I have been trying new recipes as part of 52 Weeks of Baking. Originally, I started because there was a swap on Swap-Bot.  For about a few months, the swap hostess held the weekly swaps in which we showed other partners what we baked.  It was a great way to get new recipes as well as try ones that we had on hand.

Eventually, the swap hostess stopped doing the swaps.  Rather than stop baking, I wanted to challenge myself to continue for 52 weeks and to eventually create a cookbook for my daughters that would include all the good recipes I tried as well as pictures of the items; the girls’ reactions to the recipes; and a lesson or two that I learned that week as it related to the recipe(s). 

I’m now on Week 52 of this project; and finishing up with a two recipes:

Easy Praline Biscuits

Easy Praline Biscuits


1/2 cup butter (I used dairy-free rice milk)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
36 pegcan or walnut halves (I used walnut pieces)
Ground cinnamon
2 cups Bisquick baking mix (I used the reduced-fat version)
1/3 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened applesauce)
1/3 cup milk (I used dairy-free rice milk)


Place 2 teaspoons of butter, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and 3 pecan halves in each of 12 muffin cups.  (I sprayed the tray before using it.)  Sprinkle cinnamon in each cup; heat in oven until melted.

Mix baking mix, applesauce, and milk until dough forms; beat 20 strokes.  Spoon onto mixture in cups. 

Bake 10 minutes.  Invert on heatproof serving plate.  Makes 12 biscuits.

Whoops…forgot to melt that butter/brown sugar/nut/cinnamon mixture before putting the dough on top.  Wondered why the biscuit dough was sitting so high in each muffin cup.  If I had followed the recipe and read it a bit more carefully the caramel would have melted a bit more.  However, the biscuits were very good and everyone wants them again.  Olivia wants her without the walnuts, though.

Cheese-Onion Bread (dairy version on top; dairy-free version on bottom)

Onion-Cheese Supper Bread


1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter (I used dairy-free butter)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used dairy-free rice milk)
1 1/2 cups Bisquick mix (I used the reduced-fat version)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used half the amount in half the dough; for the other half of the dough which I separated and baked in its own pie pan, I used 1 square of dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)


Cook onion in butter until tender and light brown.  Combine egg and milk.  Add to Bisquick and stir until dry ingredients are moistened.  Add onion and half of cheese.  Spread dough in greased 8″ round baking dish. (I used two different pie pans since I was making a dairy and dairy-free version.)  Sprinkle the top wit hthe remaining cheese and poppy seed.  Drizzle melted butter over all.  (I didn’t do this.)  Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.


The next step:  editing and printing the cookbook.  I’ll be happy to see the final version completed and able to be passed along to each of the girls for them to use when they are on their own.


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About 14 years ago, in the middle of January, twin lambs were born here.  Having adopted the parents from a petting zoo (where they were neglected and maltreated), I was still working on developing trust with them.  They were reluctant to get too close to any human being.  Until Oreo was born…

Oreo – the first lamb born at Harvest Moon
It seemed like once Oreo was born, his ewe-mother (“Woolite”) allowed me to help her care for her newborn lamb.  It was critical that she accepted my help since the nights were well below zero. 
Keeping the sheep – “Dacron” (the ram) and Woolite – along with Oreo in the barn was the safest thing to do.  The trio learned very quickly that I was the food source (hay, water, and grain) and the one who made sure they were warm (with a heat lamp and lots of straw). 
Once the weather was warm enough again (above zero) and Oreo was a few days older, the sheep went outdoors again.  This trio – plus many who came after them – provided many hours of enjoyment not only to me but to family, friends, and others who visited the farm.
Woolite with another lamb, “Dali Lamba”
who was born in the spring one year
In looking at past pictures I had scanned and uploaded to my computer many years ago, I came across a few wonderful surprises:  pictures of my parents, niece, and nephew who participated in one of the Grandparent-Grandchild camps I coordinated here at the farm.
I forgot I had these pictures, and, in finding them, they brought back memories of some very happy times. I remember having up to about 50 chickens wandering around the yard and pasture – finding bugs and grass to eat; laying eggs; and taking dust baths in the dirt.
A mother hen watches and protects her chicks.

Some of my favorite memories are when a couple of the more “broody hens” would sit on some eggs for quite a long period of time.  Eventually, a bunch of little chicks would hatch, and then the mother hen would have a new job:  teaching the little ones where to find food and how to stay safe on the farm. 

A chicken coming to get a closer look at my parents, niece, and nephew
on one of the Grandparent-Grandchild Days at Harvest Moon.

As I looked at through some of the (many) pictures taken while I offered camp programs (some just for youth, others for grandparents with grandchildren), I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to work with motivated and positive teenage camp counselors who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. 

I am equally fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside talented artists who inspired children and teens to explore the arts – visual, dance, music, and theater.  The talent that was shared with youth – who would now be in high school or college, or be college graduates – was impressive.  I’m hoping that children and teens who were part of the camp program look back and have some good memories of their time at Harvest Moon.

Two generations working together to make a birdfeeder.

What was nice for me to see when I was looking at pictures from the Grandparent-Grandchild camp were of seniors working and learning with youth – both generations were having fun and learning together.  One of the activities that the grandparent-grandchild teams did was to learn about birds and how to feed them.

I found two pictures – one of my niece with my mom; and one of my nephew with my dad – working on a project together.  They were creating simple birdfeeders in which they spread peanut butter on a cardboard tube and then rolled it in birdseed.

Working together on a birdfeeder.

These feeders and other ones were sent home with the participants so they could put them in their trees and watch the birds eat.  A simple pleasure – feeding and watching the birds – but one that my dad instilled in me as a child.  It’s one that still lives on today.

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– To have some extra time to get caught up on projects I’ve wanted to do – personal and for my shop.

– A friend of the family who listed and offered support.

– Healthcare professionals who provide a meaningful and supportive place for my dad to attend twice a week.

– Hearing enthusiasm and happiness in my dad’s voice after attending the day care program (Tuesday was his first day).

– Spending time with my daughters learning about ocean life (part of homeschool science lessons) and some very interesting fish that live in the deep sea.

– Having enough food to make meals for the entire week.

– Enjoying a variety of books from the library.

– Spending time with my parents on my dad’s birthday.

– Being able to help my mom get errands done that she’s wanted to do.

– Finding a colorful and fragrant bouquet of flowers to give to my dad on his birthday; and seeing how excited they were to have fresh flowers on their table.

– Finding a picture of my grandma, my uncles, and mom from 1982.

– Seeing the snow sparkle.

– Seeing the variety of birds at the feeders – especially the flock of cardinals whose color is so vivid against the white snow.

– Watching a tiny vole peek out of the snow under the birdfeeder and collect seeds that had fallen.

– Seeing the squirrel navigate through snow tunnels in the front yard, and watching it pop up in different places.

– Having the skill to sew quilts and pillows.

– Warm, hand-crocheted blankets that I made from wool from my sheep or that my Grandma Olive made before I was born.

– Daughters who enjoy spending outdoors during the winter – exploring the pastures, sledding, making snow forts, and ice skating.

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The seventh day of the No Impact Week Experiment focuses on giving back.  According to Yes! magazine’s website, “By giving back, you slow down and appreciate what you have. The conversation and community that you will experience will give you that all-important, essential nutrient: happiness.”

The challenge today is to be charitable, act in good faith, and become one with others. As the website says, “Ultimately, you will not only be giving back — you’ll be getting back.”

Volunteering and Health

According to Yes! magazine’s website, “More than 30 peer-reviewed, longitudinal studies have found a strong connection between volunteering and a decreased risk of heart disease, lower rates of depression, and greater longevity.”

The No Impact Week Experiment suggests making a list of all the ways you contribute to your community now. Here are some ways that I contribute to the community:

– Volunteer at the homeschool co-op on Mondays throughout the school year.
– Hold doors open for people if they are near me when they are entering a building.
– Donate items on a regular basis to the second-hand shop so the proceeds from their sales can support programs that help individuals, families, and seniors in need.

Donation to Project Quin
Sophia and Olivia with clothes and diapers that we donated to
Project Quinn – a special project serving Native families in Alaska.
On an on-going basis, we also donate clothes to the local second-hand store.

– Help my dad with his medical and dental appointments; and work with his case manager at the senior day care program to ensure he’s receiving personalized and meaningful care as he deals with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Looking at the Sensory and Memory Quilt
Quilt I made for my dad that has photographs that he and I picked out out. 
Almost every time I see or talk with him, he mentions the quilt.

– Donate my hair to Locks of Love. I just donated a ponytail in Fall 2010 and am growing my hair out again. This was the third time I’ve grown and cut my hair, and donated it to Locks of Love.

Ponytail to Donate
The third ponytail I donated to Locks of Love in Fall 2010.

– Share my sewing skills with different non-profit organizations.

Pillowcase Dress for Little Dresses for Africa
A pillowcase dress that I sewed and then sent to a non-profit organization
that provides dresses to girls in Africa.

These are the things that come to mind immediately.  I use to be much more active in the community – especially when I ran a non-profit here at the farm.  However, once that ended in 2003, I became more focused on raising Sophia and Olivia (both of whom have special needs); homeschooling them; and working with different agencies that provide therapeutic care to address sensory issues as well as developmental and speech delays.

Handmade Pillowcase
A set of pillowcases that I made for a hospital
that has a section that serves children who have cancer.

Even from 2003-2009, I had many more ways I was giving back to the community through a variety of organizations and interests of mine.  This is making me very aware that I have definitely pulled back considerably during 2010 – particularly the latter half of the year. 

Operation Christmas Child
Several years ago, Sophia and Olivia filled shoeboxes with gifts
as part of Operation Christmas Child.

Increasing One’s Impact on the Community

Many years ago, my doctor observed, “You’re burning the candle at both ends and in the middle.”  More recently, I completed a six-week caregiving program through Family Means.  The main focus of the program was learning how to take care of oneself when you’re a caregiver.  Often times, caregivers give too much of themselves, leaving behind the things they once enjoyed and people with whom they enjoyed spending time. 

One of the activities that we did during the caregiving program was set one goal each week that we wanted to do that would bring enjoyment to our lives.  In doing this, people become stronger and healthier so that they can have the energy and enthusiasm to continue to make a difference in the community. 

The No Impact Week Experiment asks, “How can you step up what you’re already doing and do more?” At this point in my life, I think the following actions would be achievable (spread throughout the year)

Continue to look for little ways each day to make at least one person’s life a bit easier.

Send letters or postcards to people.  One thing that my dad use to do was clip articles from the paper if he knew the person mentioned in the article.  He would send it along with a little note to the person.  I like that idea. 

  I also read somewhere that rather than sending a Christmas/holiday newsletter, to send personalized letters to people you’ve received them from.  Each week pick one or two people, and share with them how they’ve brought joy to your life.

Incorporate volunteering into the homeschool curriculum. Find organizations that would welcome young volunteers.  The Doing Good Together website has some wonderful ideas for ways that families can volunteer without leaving their home as well as ways families can volunteer in the community.

Setting Up Pumpkins in Memory Care Area
I drove the girls to a local nursing home where they
helped put out pumpkins that their 4-H club carved. 
This was taken outside the Memory Care Unit.

Participate in the fall fundraising event sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association. This year’s event, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, is scheduled for September 24th.  More information is HERE.

Go on a mission trip to Tanzania! There’s an opportunity to do so in 2011…and I have wanted to go to Africa for many years now.  I’m hoping to raise enough money to be able to go.

 “For it is in giving that we receive.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi

Identify Your Level of Impact

The No Impact Week Experiment had the following pyramid on its website and asked participants to identify where they are on it.

At this stage in my life, I’m between the “Weekly” and “Monthly” levels.  From 1989-2003, I was at the top of the pyramid – working for various non-profit organizations and/or running a non-profit that I founded.  The important thing I need to remind myself is that I’m still on the pyramid. 

Crafting for Charity Class
“Crafting for Charity” class I taught in Spring 2010
to a group of homeschool students.

A Life of Service and Giving Back

Giving back and being of service was a value that was deeply instilled in me when I was growing up.  As an adult, I can’t imagine living a life any other way.  The amount that I give…and how I choose to give…varies with my interests and with factors I cannot control (e.g., my parents’ declining health). 

What I have realized in reflecting about today’s focus of giving back, is that I have shifted my focus of service from the community to family.  Recognizing that caregiving responsibilities will not cease in 2011, my goal is to determine how to gradually incorporate being of more service to the community – local, country, and world. 

Perhaps one way to do this is follow Tiffani Titus’ idea of doing 52 Weeks of Giving.  She was looking for ways that she and her children could do volunteering on a regular basis, and ended up doing small weekly projects.  She found a variety of opportunities, and she and her family made a commitment to do one good deed per week. 

In doing an internet search for “52 Weeks of Giving” I came across a church website that is doing a program with the same name.  At the bottom of this LINK there are numerous ideas for projects that can be done throughout the year.  It’s worth checking out.

If it’s easier to follow a plan that someone else has created, take a look at 52 Weeks of Impact.  Each week through 2011, the website will feature a different cause or theme; and offer ideas for action toward making the world a better place.   

“Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love.”
~ Lao Tzo

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Today’s focus of the No Impact Week Experiment is reducing one’s energy consumption.  One of the steps is to go from room to room and write down each item that uses energy (electricity, batteries, oil, gas). 

Put a star next to the items that you would normally use over the next few days.  Next to each starred item, figure out if you’re going to eliminate or mitigate the use of the item. 

This is an activity that I’d like to come back to at some point.  Right now, I have quite a few things that are needing more attention that I need to address first.  When things slow down a bit, this would be a great exercise to do.

Unplug, Power Down, Go off the Grid

Another idea that the Experiment suggested was to unplug, power down, or go off the grid.  For the truly adventurous, they suggested turning off the electricity and see what happens. 

I can tell you what happens here when the electricity goes off (most often during the summer when there are major storms going through the area).  If the electricity goes off during the day, we don’t open the freezer or refrigerator for fear that we’ll lose all our food.

After that – and if it is safe to stay in the home and not go the basement to wait out the storm (e.g., a tornado is headed towards the area), then we end up playing games, reading, or cleaning the home. 

We play with the dogs and cats; we play the piano; or we simply watch the storm (often times the clouds and lightening put on a rather impressive show).

Storm Clouds to the West - May 31st - Drop Down Cloud
An interesting cloud that dropped down out of the clouds above it.

What I always notice when the power goes off – whether it’s during the day or night – is how quiet it gets.  It’s amazing how there are little “hums” or sounds that the lights and other electrical appliance make when they are on.  When the power goes off, there is complete silence.  It’s quiet, peaceful, and refreshing. 

Some ideas for change include:

Cut Back on the Heating and Turn Your Themostat to as Low as it will Go

During the day, I turn the thermostat to 68 degrees and at night to 60 degrees.  This is a change from keeping it around 70-71 degrees during the day and 65 at night many years ago.  Last winter, at night I kept the home at 62 degrees.  Gradually decreasing the temperature over the years has helped everyone adjust to the change. 

As soon as the weather is warm enough in the spring (over 40 degrees), I turn off the heat for part of the day and often times at night.  Sometimes the nights do get a bit chilly, but I have many handmade quilts and blankets in the closet that can be used.  Several of the quilts are made with wool from sheep that I had here in the ’90s, and are incredibly warm.

A Closer View of Sophia's Adoption Quilt
Quilt I made for Sophia to celebrate her adoption. 
The fabric squares are from family and friends. 
Each square came with a wish/thought for her.

It’s important – at least in this house (which was built in 1890) – to not be overly eager and turn off the heat too soon.  If I do that and it gets well below freezing, the pipes in the basement can freeze (and could burst) resulting in a lot of water damage.

Wake up with the Sun, and Go to Bed When it Sets

In the summer time when the sun rises around 4 a.m. and sets around 9:30 or 10 p.m., this is a very easy schedule to follow.  In the winter, the sun rises between 7:30-8:00 a.m. and sets between 4:00-5:00 p.m. (depending on the day/month).  Around the winter solstice, there is about 8 hours of sunlight.

The point of doing this is that if you get up and go to bed when the sun rises/sets, you’ll use less electricity and artificial lighting/illumination.

Use Beeswax Candles If You Must Be Up in the Dark

The No Impact Week Experiment suggested using locally-made beeswax candles if you must be up when it is still dark.  I’m not sure how many one would need to sufficiently be able to see well, but I’d imagine it would be quite a few. 

The smell would be amazing and seeing all the flickering lights would be beautiful.  Honestly, I’m not sure how practical (or cost-effective) this would be.  Sounds nice for a change of pace or to celebrate a special holiday or birthday.

Nature Table Candles Lit
Candles on Candlemas
We ate dinner one night using only the light from the candles.

Dry Your Clothes on a Clothes Line or Rack

When the weather is above freezing, I do dry the clothes, towels, sheets, and rugs outdoors.  There is no comparison to the smell of clothes that have dried outside.  They smell fresh and clean.  My parents use to do this as well, stringing a clothesline between a tree and the posts that supported the deck.

Many years ago, I strung a clothesline from the apple tree near the home to the barn.  The line was too long, and it sagged when the clothes were put on it.  Some each touched the ground.  Put a piece of wood with two nails on top (the clothesline went between them), and propped it up.  Didn’t work.

Next option:  I put in a square clotheline in a sunny spot in the backyard.  It worked out great until I didn’t work around the line (in a square) and loaded one side first and then began work on the next adjacent side.  The one side became too heavy and the metal post snapped.  So much for that option.

Sashiko Fabric is Stitched
Sashiko fabric that I hand-embroidered
drying on the clothesline during the summer.

Third attempt at drying clothes outside (and the one I’ve used ever since):  drying them on the chainlink fence.  I lay the larger items over the fence (e.g., clothes, sheets, blankets, towels) and tuck the smaller items (e.g., socks, potholders, dishcloths) into the holes.  This has worked out very well for many years, and I look forward to being able to dry the clothes outside again.

I was curious one year to see if I could dry clothes outside in the winter (in Minnesota).  There was a neighbor who use to dry her clothes on a clothesline in the middle of winter.  I’m not sure if her clothes dried or not.  Mine ended up freezing into odd shapes – like this one:

Drying Clothes Outside in Freezing Weather
Sophia holding one of her frozen shirts after
I wanted to see if clothes could be dried in the winter.

Use Alternatives to Refrigeration

This is an interesting article about zeer pots that are used in Africa.  According to the article, “The zeer is a large pot inside which fits another smaller pot with a clay lid. The space between the two pots is filled with sand, creating an insulating layer around the inner pot. The sand is then kept damp by adding water at regular intervals — generally twice a day — reducing the temperature within the inner post decrease.

Each zeer can contain 12 kg of vegetables, and costs less than US$2 to produce.

Experiments assessing its ability to extend shelf life show that tomatoes and guavas can be kept for 20 days, compared to just two without.

Zeer pots in Africa
For One Day Use Your Computer Only for Work
With the exception of briefly checking my computer in the morning and late-afternoon today to check emails and do a bit of work for my shop (Harvest Moon by Hand), I didn’t use it all. 
I ended up finishing a batch of homemade mini-notecards, paying bills, balancing the checkbook, spending the day with my parents to celebrate my dad’s 79th birthday (I helped them with chores around their home, took them to various places where they needed to shop, we went out to lunch, and then to movie), went to the library and picked up books I ordered, and came home.  
It was a long, but nice day.  I enjoyed being able to spend the day with my parents…and helping them do things they no longer can do. 

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Sophia turned ten years old today.  It’s hard to believe that a child I once held is now almost as tall as me.

Sophia at the orphanage prior to being adopted.
She’s less than a year old in this picture.

Sophia has an outgoing, engaging personality. 

Nez Perce - Beaded Necklace
Sophia is full of laughter…
seeing her with a smile and laughing is typical.

She’s a fun child to be around…and has a generous, caring spirit.  She’s open to trying new things…and has a good attitude about it in the process. 

Sophia as a scarecrow. 
Yes, she’s tied to the wooden cross
in the middle of a cornfield.

We’ve enjoyed many trips together during the past ten years – Hawaii (twice), China, Japan, Pella (IA), Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida, California, Kansas, and many trips to Grand Marais. 

Testing the Cold Lake Superior Water
Sophia wanting to feel the cold water of Lake Superior
at our favorite beach in Grand Marais – Cutface Creek.
She’s tried many new activities through the year – including dancing, ice skating, swimming, and horseback riding. 
Sophia during the performance
Dancing during the recital at Cinderella dance camp with
the Minnesota Dance Theater.
She has a love for animals and her family.  This picture was taken on January 1, 2008.  Sophia and Olivia decided together that they wanted to wear their Chinese dresses when we went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant – a long-standing family tradition for New Year’s Day.
Casey, Sophia, and Olivia on 1-1
Casey, Sophia, and Olivia
As I look at pictures of Sophia through the years, I feel incredibly blessed to have her as my daughter.  She has brought so much joy to my life…and filled it with so many wonderful memories. 

To celebrate Sophia’s milestone birthday on December 30th, we had a special breakfast (waffles – her favorite breakfast),

Birthday Breakfast
Sophia at breakfast with a bouquet of flowers in her favorite colors
and a circle of pink carnations – one jar for each year of life.

we went to see “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (a movie she has wanted to see since the previews began in November), ate at her favorite Chinese restaurant, enjoyed a purchased birthday cake (versus a homemade one which I normally do),

Blowing Out the Candles
Sophia blowing out the candles on her birthday cake.

and opened presents (one for each year).  It was a nice birthday for us all…and one that I hope she remembers fondly when she’s older.

Red Eggs and 10 Jars of Carnations
10 jars of pink carnations surrounding a bowl of 10 eggs.

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Olivia woke up by 6:00 a.m., eager to open her Christmas stocking that was filled by Santa. Lucy, the cat, was interested as well in what Olivia received.

After stockings were opened, we had a simple breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls or cinnamon-raisin rolls that I made on Christmas Eve.

The cinnamon rolls are made from a recipe that was created my mom’s mother who was a baker. Thankfully, one day she agreed to measure the ingredients for her rolls. I wrote the recipe down as she made the rolls. It is a recipe that we’ve enjoyed many years now.

After breakfast, the girls checked out again the table where they left the letters to Santa.  This year was particularly interesting for them because Sophia had a tooth pulled this week, and she put her tooth out for the tooth fairy right next to the plate of cookies and water for Santa.  Clearly, the tooth fairy and Santa had fun seeing each other because the table was covered with confetti and fairy dust:

The aftermath of Santa’s and the Tooth Fairy’s party.

The girls each opened one present from Santa before heading to my mom and dad’s home where we celebrated with my family. This is my mom and dad at Christmas dinner:

We came back home in the afternoon, rested a bit, had a light dinner, and then opened presents under the Christmas tree.

Sophia taking a break from opening gifts.

There was lots of laughter and happiness today. Hearing “This has been the best Christmas ever!” made me very happy. I think doing daily activities leading up to Christmas helped make this year extra special, and create lasting memories for us all.

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