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In my life this week…

I’m continuing to work on goals I set earlier in the week for getting my filing done so I can begin working on taxes; and for my shop on Etsy, Harvest Moon by Hand.  Received an order for three hand-embroidered donuts made from wool felt which I made on Tuesday.

I completed a quilt square for a swap on Swap-Bot which was nice to have done.  It was a combination of applique and embroidery.

Appliqued and embroidered quilt square.
The hand-written words are required elements for the swap.

Enjoyed trying some new vegetarian recipes in preparation for the 30 Day Vegan Workshop which officially begins on Monday, March 7th. 

Made a broccoli salad with sunflower seeds and a raspberry vinaigrette one day; and a whole-wheat mini-rigatoni pasta salad with fresh tomatoes, red onions, basil, garlic, and parsley.

A glimpse into the cupboard…ready for the 30 Day Vegan Workshop.

In our homeschool this week…

The girls focused this week on math (Sophia is learning about fractions, long division, and measurements; and Olivia is learning about 2-digit borrowing and addition; telling time at quarter hours; and geometric shapes). 

Sophia’s math book.

They did another lesson using the Atelier program which they are enjoying.  This lesson focused on drawing frogs in various positions (e.g., sitting, jumping). 

They continued doing activities related to Ukraine (this is the ABC Journey Around the World that I’ve been doing with the girls for a couple years now). They made “Kovbasa and Kapusta” (Ukrainian Sausage and Sauerkraut). 

The girls eating the Ukrainian lunch they prepared.

We spent time learning about Wales on March 1st when St. David’s Day was celebrated there (St. David is the Patron Saint of Wales).  They enjoyed seeing pictures of the castles, animals, and landscape of Wales as well as learning more about Princess Diana. 

Olivia’s paper quilts.  Under each heart is something
she wrote using the prompt:
I know my mom loves me because _______. 
She loves me more than a _____ loves its _______.

The girls both finished their paper quilt squares that tied into the book Mama Do You Love Me?  We all liked this book.  It reminded me of traveling to Alaska many years ago and seeing some of the animals featured in the book as well as the colorful dresses worn by some of the girls there.

Olivia - The Young Photographer
Olivia wearing a handmade kuspuk from Alaska.
She’s at Cutface Creek in Grand Marais (MN) about 5 years ago.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Today, Olivia has her weekly speech therapy appointment.  She also will have an evaluation done by one of the special education teachers at the local elementary school. 

Next week Olivia has her quarterly appointment with her opthamologist on Wednesday; and Sophia and I have appointments with an optometrist on Thursday.  It will be interesting to see who needs changes in their prescriptions, and if Sophia needs glasses (I’ve been noticing she’s been squinting a lot).

The homeschool co-op, which normally meets on Monday, is on spring break.  They are going swimming on Tuesday and choir on Wednesday.

I’d like to contact the Courage Center and book an appointment for both of the girls for this week to have an aquatic assessment as well as look at the sensory gym.  The Couage Center has some excellent programs for children who have sensory integration dysfunction, and I think it would be good to get them enrolled in a program(s) that would help address their sensory needs.

My favorite thing this week was…

Hearing Sophia play the piano and listening to how far she’s come along in less than six months.  Also watching the bean seeds that Olivia planted sprout.

Olivia’s bean seeds starting to emerge from the dirt. 
This is for one of her science experiments.

What’s working/not working for us…

I wish there was more time in each day to do all the hands-on activities that I’d like to do with the girls.  Even though I’m able to do things each week that are more hands-on and engaging for them, the reality is that these things take a lot more time than simply doing a page in a workbook.  Yet, the impact on their learning is far greater because they will remember these activities more than simply filling in the answer in a workbook or doing a worksheet. 

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have…

As the annual homeschool conference nears, I’m starting to explore curricula that is geared towards more visual-spatial learners – like Olivia.  I was looking for a way to determine the learning style(s) of each daughter before investing in curricula and learning materials for the next school year. 

There was an assessment tool that I found online that was for both the teacher/parent as well as the student to complete.  I need to find that again and have both girls do that  (as well as do that myself for both of the girls).
A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

The Christmas Cactus that my Dad gave me many years ago
is in full bloom. It blooms only twice a year.

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Over at Show Tell Share, there’s a challenge for February:  STASH!  The challenge is to “…use materials from your overflowing stash of stuff. …. So go ‘shop the house!’ Create something beautiful out of what you have laying around!

“You may have to go buy just a little something, button, zipper, etc. to complete a project, but extra points it you can pull it of without buying anything.

“And you don’t have to stop with one, see how much of your stash you can put to good use! You can make something completely from start to finish, or see how many of those half finished projects you can complete and show off! Then at the end of the month, you’ll have so much extra room in your craft room/closet/bins.”

This sounded like a great challenge to participate in – not only am I saving money by not buying new craft supplies, but I’m using what is on hand and creating space.  Below are some things I have made so far this month.

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I had a couple of maps that I didn’t need – one from Brazil and another from Spain.  The one from Brazil is written in Portuguese and was purchased there about a decade ago.  The other map is from a National Geographic magazine. What I like about the latter map is that there are short explanations about the significance of some of the cities or towns on the map. 

With the Brazilian map, I made folded flowers that I glued onto 5 inch by 7 inch greeting cards. 

Flower made from a Brazilian map and green copy paper

Open flower where a message can be written

The matching envelopes have a floral image from the map to tie the greeting card and evelope together.

Greeting cards and envelopes made from the Brazilian map

With the map of Spain, I made two type of miniature cards (they are 3 inches x 3 inches).  The cards themselves are made from sheets of 12 inch x 12 inch scrapbooking paper.  For some of the cards that had an interesting fact, I left the cards plain. 

Miniature greeting and thank you cards

With the cards that didn’t have a fact, I placed a hand-stamped “thank you” flower in the center.  It is affixed to the card with a 3D double-sided foam piece.

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I had quite a few vintage children’s books on hands that the girls were done reading.  They had cleaned their bookshelves about a month ago and removed all the books they no longer wanted.  Before donating them to the local thrift shop, I pulled any vintage books that could be used in crafting. 

After removing the pages that had pictures, I traced an envelope template onto each page.  I cut each one out by hand; and then folded and glued it.  I pressed the envelopes under a couple of heavy books to flatten them.

Variety of handmade envelopes from vintage children’s books

With some of the books, the pages are a bit small for standard-size envelopes, so I made gift bags with the pages.  Again, I use pages with pictures for the bags.  After removing the pages from the books, I pair pages together and then trim them so the edges match.  The edges are cut with pinking shears.  The edges are sewn on the sewing machine.

Handmade Bags with Vintage Children's Books
Gift bags made from vintage children’s books

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I have a lot of scrapbooking paper and notebooks that are taking up shelf space.  An idea to use both of these were to make letterettes.  I received a set of letterettes from someone on Swap-Bot awhile back.  I thought it was such a clever idea.  She used a heavier decorative paper (almost like a cardstock) for the exterior.  Since I didn’t have patterned cardstock on hand, I used a lighter-weight decorative paper.

Letterettes

The patterned paper is 12 inches by 12 inches.  I cut the paper into two pieces – one that was 5 inches wide and the other was 7 inches wide.  The length is 12 inches.

The inside of each letterette has 5 sheets of notebook paper that were cut into smaller sizes:
– Smaller letterette:  4 7/10″ x 7 3/4″
– Larger letterette: 6 7/10″ x 5 7/10″

Letterettes – with one open to show where it is sewed

Once cut, they pages were folded in half and placed in the folded patterned paper.  I sewed on the sewing machine along the folded line in the notebook paper, making sure to reverse sew along each of the edges so the stitching wouldn’t come out.  After trimming the thread, the letterettes are ready to use.

After writing a letter on the notebook pages, simply seal the letterette with a glue stick or decorative tape, put two labels on the outside – for the return and sending addresses – and it’s ready to be mailed.   

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I had a gift box that had a nice pattern on it, but I am now using fabric bags to wrap gifts.  So, instead of recycling it I used my tag punch and paper punch with a tiny hole to create tags.  Using a thicker embroidery floss, I cut and attached hangers so they can be used for gifts or for price tags for products. 

Tags made from a decorative box

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I had a few pages from the vintage children’s books leftover as well as some notebook paper.  So, I made some made stationery gluing a sheet of notebook paper on top of a page from the children’s book.  I had debated about painting over the image that’s under the notebook paper, but I thought that it was nice to be able to see the design of that page of the children’s book as well as the image on the backside of the stationery.
Stationery with notebook paper and a page from a children’s book

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My next focus:  using the fabric and felt that I have on hand.  I have quite a few patterns that I’ve wanted to try that use these materials. So, during the next couple of weeks I’ll start using sewing or embroidering using felt and fabric.  I’ll do another post at the end of the month with what I’ve made.

  

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Six days have passed since my last posting about Art Every Day Month which runs from November 1-30th.  My goal is to do something creative every day this month – just as the challenge recommends.  For me, when I think of doing something creative, it is related to the visual arts – it’s almost as if I need to see a final product to feel like I did something creative.

In reality, creativity is much more than that.  I think of different ways that I’ve been creative during the past six days:

– Wrote a three-page short story for a swap on Swap-Bot.  The directions were that you picked one of ten fortunes from fortune cookies and incorporated it into the story you wrote. One of the characters in the story had to say the fortune in her/his conversation.  The fortune I picked was: “You should buy something because you need it, not because it is on sale.” 

The story was based on an experience when I was in college when I purchased an incredibly expensive and very fancy dress (which was on sale) for a night at the ballet.  To make a short story even shorter, my father – when he saw the dress – made me return it because it was, essentially, a waste of money. The story concludes:

However disappointed she was, he was right. It was a frivolous expense. “Okay…I’ll return it,” she said half-dejectedly and half-relieved. “Well, at least I won’t have to pay for it,” she thought to herself.

“Dad, will you at least take a couple of pictures of me in the dress so I can remember it?” she asked.

“Of course. I’ll get my camera. Why don’t you go into the living room and I’ll take some pictures of you in there. You do look pretty in the dress.”

“Thanks,” she said as she smiled. And, maybe that’s all that was important…just hearing her father say words she wanted to hear and to provide that gentle guidance he had done all through her childhood.

She knew that he was proud when she listened to him and followed his advice….and she was happy to have a father who helped her make good decisions. In the end, that was what truly mattered.

– Cooked dinners using what I had on hand rather than following any recipes.  I’m trying to clean out my cupboards and freezer by using ingredients that are available, rather than going out and purchasing more food.  Trying to pick 1-2 items from the freezer, an item or two from the refrigerator, and the balance from canned or boxes good in the cupboard was generally what I started with when I made the dinners.  Ended up with well-balanced meals that everyone enjoyed which was good. 

– Began work on another little cross-stitch piece.  This one has a couple of lambs and flowers.  Nothing complicated.  Am about half done, and should finish on Sunday.

– Made three more window stars for customers.  Got a customer order/request from another customer who wants me to make two 16-point window stars in 6-inch or smaller sizes.  Will work on those stars on Sunday.

This is one of the three window stars I made today.

– Organized the mudroom after it had been gutted and repaired.  Only put back the items that were needed.  The rest were either donated or thrown away.

– Worked with Sophia to repair the fence that a neighbor who lives about a quarter mile away ran into today during the major snow storm. It’s a temporary repair that will hopefully stay in place until a fencing company fixes it.

The posts were pushed out of the ground when the car hit the fence.  Hopefully the fencing company will be able to permanently fix the fence this week.

Half of the double-grated apple tree fell under the weight of the wet-heavy snow today.  This was the side that was full of white blossoms in the spring. The other side had pink blossoms.

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This is the seventh day of the “Art Every Day Month” challenge. I made four greeting cards with various Sunbonnet Sue patterns.

Sunbonnet Sue is an old applique pattern used in quilting. After doing the much simpler paper-collage version of this pattern, I have a great appreciation for the level of work that went into the handmade quilts using this pattern.

This pattern has 8 pieces using 4 different colors/patterns of paper. The lines on the apron and the bluebird’s features are hand-drawn with a black pen.

The paper for the apron and bow came from the front of a greeting card that I received that I thought was pretty. I like when I can reuse items and incorporate them into crafting.

I made some more greeting cards – another one with the same pattern as the pink Sunbonnet Sue; and then two others cards with different patterns.

The pattern with the bluebird is my favorite one. Two of the cards I sent to someone on Swap-Bot, and two of the cards I kept. 

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Banana Bread
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann

This is banana bread that is from my grandma’s recipe. It is very moist. It is a recipe that I’m including in the recipe book I’m making for my daughters called “52 Weeks of Baking.”

Originally a weekly swap was happening on Swap-Bot with the same name. The swap hostess stopped hosting them, but I’ve continued baking so I can complete the cookbook.

This is the recipe for Grandma Olive’s Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened (I used dairy-free butter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
3 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional…I didn’t use them)

Cream butter and sugar in bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs; mix well. Sift in flour and soda. Stir in bananas and pecans. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Note: I doubled this recipe and used 7 bananas instead of 6. I also added 2 teaspoons of Watkins Vanilla. I normally don’t use vanilla, but wanted to see what it would taste like. I thought it added a nice flavor to the bread.

When making a double batch, you can put it into a 9″x13″ pan rather than two loaf pans. Make sure the middle of the bread is done…it could take longer than the 45-50 minutes noted.

****If you haven’t tried Watkins products, I would highly recommend them. My parents used Watkins products when I was growing up – mostly the vanilla, cinnamon, spices, spice blends, and some household items.

The vanilla is far superior to what is available in grocery stores. It’s made with Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans, and brewed using a process that Watkins has used for over 140 years. The flavor is bake-proof and freeze-proof as well as double-strength.

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For many years I’ve been interested in the life of St. Francis.  His relationship with nature and animals as well as his views on simplicity and frugality are of particular interest.  During the past couple of years, I’ve participated in different swaps on Swap-Bot, and have been introduced to mail art. 

So, I started another website dedicated to The St. Francis Mail Art Project which is a on-going internet gallery of mail art that is received that positively depicts St. Francis, his life, his writing, and how individuals are living a life that is inspired by St. Francis.

The project is open to any type of print media of any size (no video or audio, please), and each artist’s interpretation. Postcards, photographs, textiles, sculpture, mail art, artistamps, calligraphy…so many options.  For more information and/or to send an item in to be included in the gallery, please visit HERE.

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Since March 2008, I’ve been a member of Swap-Bot.  It’s been a wonderful way to connect with people from all over the world. 

What is Swap-Bot?
Swap-bot is a service and a community. Swap-bot facilitates group snail mail and internet swaps. It removes the hassle of collecting swap participants and assigning swap partners. Swap-bot is also a community where swappers can connect, share, and have fun.
Swap-bot was originally created to be a tool used by blog owners to facilitate mail swaps with their readers. The site has grown from a simple utility to a meeting place where at any given time there are over 500 public swaps being hosted. Swap-bot is completely free to use.
How have I used Swap-Bot?

I have several reasons for joining swaps.  The main ones are to:
– Challenge myself to try a new skill or art form; and have a deadline to complete the project.
– Develop my writing skills and begin creating a collection of short stories for my daughters.
– Learn from and be inspired from artists around the world.
– Provide an interesting way for my daughters to learn about world and U.S. geography.
– Receive items that can be used for homeschooling.
– Share my skills and time with others.

There are both short-term (one-time) and on-going swaps I’ve participated in on Swap-Bot.  One of my favorite ones this year has been the Journal Quilt Swap in which participants create a small journal quilt each month.  Each person sends a photograph or color copy of their quilt along with a description of it (e.g., how it was made, what it represents).  This is a year-long project which has been a wonderful way to increase my quilting skills while documenting the happenings of the year. 
There are pictures of some of the journal quilts I’ve made on this blog as well as other items I’ve made or done through Swap-Bot.

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