Saturday, April 22, 2017

Titantic, Tornados, and Trees - Blogging from A to Z Challenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I'm focusing on going through my homeschooling files that I've created from the time that Sophia and Olivia were in preschool.

Some of the files are still relevant while others I will be decluttering and recycling in the process. Each day during April, I will pick one of the files to focus on - either doing a hands-on activity or sharing some information from one of the files.

For the 20th day, I am focusing on the Titanic, Tornados, and Trees.



Found an article in the file about Minnesotans who had connections to the Titanic. There was some general information about the Titanic as well.

- Titanic was, by definition, an emigrant ship; the Board of Trade, the British department responsible for merchant shipping, assigned that classification to any vessel with more than 50 steerage passengers sailing to a non-European port.

- Many immigrants bound for Minnesota were going there to work mines, fell timber, manufacture goods, farm lands, or mind others' residences. Some immigrants were wooed by settler-recruiters, persons working on behalf of businesses or municipalities.

- Walter and Mahala Douglas were on the Titanic and saw a peculiar event. One of the crew dropped a tethered bucket over the ship's side. The couple stopped to observe him. Her curiosity piqued, Mahala peered through an open window, roughly six stories down to the waterline, and saw that the bucket did not reach its mark. The crewman heaved the empty bucket back up, walked it to a water pipe, filled it up, and proceeded to take the water's temperature. Miffed by the crewman's apparent duplicity, she asked Walter, "oughtn't we to tell?" "No," he replied, "it does not matter."
    This was, to some, an important test. In theory, the water's temperature may suggest the nearness of ice.

Ice and sky.
(Taken on January 18, 2013.)

-  More than 1,5000 lives were lost. The third class alone lost more than 500 people.

- They had fewer than three hours to accept or amend their fate.



- Regardless of their individual look and style, most tornadoes pass through five stages in their life cycles: dust whirl, organizing, mature, shrinking, and decaying.

Tornado in a bottle.
(Taken on August 27, 2010.)

- The infamous Great Tri-state Tornado of March 18, 1925, which raged through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, has the dubious distinction of having the longest continuous track ever recorded for a single tornado: 219 miles.

- There is visual evidence of cars being hurled high enough to go over a ten-story building. Cars have been carried as far as half a mile from their original place.

- Typical speed: 30-35 miles per hour. Some, though, move at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.

Sophia, Olivia, and I plus the dogs and cats were
in the basement for an hour on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend 2008
while a hail and wind storm passed through.
A major tornado touched down less than 10 minutes from here
destroying over 50 homes and damaging hundreds more.
Our home had minor damage - just needed a new roof and siding.
We felt very fortunate.



- A tree or shrub that grows cones is called a Conifer. All coniferous trees except Eastern Larch (or Tamarack) are evergreen, meaning they maintain their leaves throughout the year.

Pine cones on tree.
(Taken on February 4, 2012.)

- Deciduous trees do not bear their seeds in cones. They have broad leaves that drop in autumn.

Colorful leaves in Autumn.
(Taken on October 18, 2007.)

- Because of all the things we use trees for, American have already eliminated 95% of all the forests that once covered the United States. We can help eliminate the need to cut down more trees by recycling the products made from trees.

- Leaf edges are either smooth, toothed, or lobed. Smooth leaves have smooth edges. Toothed leaves have jagged edges. Lobed leaves have rounded sections.

- Some things to do with children that teach them about trees:
    => Choose a favorite tree. Observe it throughout the year. Draw or take pictures of it each season, nothing the changes that take place.
    => Measure around a tree and compare it to yourself.

Sophia and Olivia measured some trees around our farm.
This tree in our front yard was more than
66 inches (167.64 cm) around its trunk.
(Taken on March 29, 2013.)

    => Make bark rubbings of all the different trees at your home or farm.
    => On a hot day, put a small pebble in a plastic sandwich bag. Put the plastic bag over a branch with leaves that get a lot of sunshine. Tie the bag tightly to the stem with a twist tie. Come back in a few hours. Find out why you see beads of moisture inside the plastic bag.


In the process of going through the files that began with "T," I recycled 1 more bag of papers. The total amount of papers recycled: 17 1/2 bags!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Saving Money and Being Frugal - Week in Review - April 15-21, 2017

Here's what the week from April 15th-21st looked like:

Progress on Financial Goals I Set for this Week

Last week, I set three main goals and two sub-goals to work on. This is how I did:

Meet with a financial advisor on Monday; and set up Sophia's and Oliva's first mutual funds/Roth IRAs.

Had a 45-minute meeting with the financial advisor and received the paperwork for the Roth IRAs. He did a chart showing what investing even a minimal amount - $50 per quarter over the past 40 years would have resulted in today. The investment amount would have been $8,200 and the cash value today: just over $121,000!

Imagine if someone had invested 10 times that amount - $500 per quarter or $2,000 per year. What a completely different life they would be living!

When the girls saw how their money could work for them, they were VERY excited! I'm so hopeful that this will pave a much better life for them if they start investing early; and understand money and how it can benefit them and their families. Their lives, hopefully, will be easier than mine and my parents.

- Check to see if the beneficiary information on all insurance contracts; and investment and retirement accounts are updated.

I took a look at a couple of investment accounts and they are set up properly. However, I didn't get everything done. The week went by too quickly and I didn't have a chance to do this completely before I left for the homeschool conference.

- Pay cash for all expenses at homeschool conference. Carefully consider new curriculum purchases.

The hotel was pre-paid to get a cheaper rate which was a pleasant surprise. So, the cash I brought for the hotel could be both used for curriculum as well as the surplus brought back home.

I went to the used curriculum/book sale first. Didn't see anything I needed. Went to the vendor hall and looked at the curriculum available. There were a few books I needed to complete this year's courses; and a couple I bought for next year.

Also invested in a CLEP book (a guide book as well as prep-test book) since we plan to use CLEP testing as a way to (hopefully) earn college credits. This can save a teen and her/his family thousands of dollars.

There were two curriculum purchases I wanted to make, but no vendors had them in stock. I could prepay for them, but decided to wait until closer to the start of next year.

So, all of the purchases I made at the homeschool conference were paid by cash. It was a good feeling walking out of there without adding to our debt level and having money leftover!

Progress on Blog Goals I Set for this Week

Since the majority of the week I'll be at a homeschool conference, the only realistic goal was to:

- Continue to do the Blogging from A to Z Challenge (letters O-S) and decluttering homeschool files.

I wrote the following posts this past week:

An additional blog post that was not part of my goals, but that I did:

- Wrote a book review about Homeschooling on a Shoe String on April 19, 2017.

Smart and Not-so-Smart Purchases

Smart: Purchasing items at the grocery store to bring to the homeschool conference to save money on breakfasts, lunches, beverages, and snacks. Rather than paying $12 for lunch, I spent $2.63.

Pre-purchasing the hotel  room online to get the least expensive rate.

Not-so-Smart: Having to eat out for dinners.

Frugal Meals

Didn't do so well this week. Had food we made at home for most of the week. However, three meals were easy, processed food - things that were frozen and all we had to do was heat them up (e.g., chicken patties, pizza, gyros).

Things should be better next week when I'm back from the homeschool conference.

What was on the table for dinner last week:

Saturday - Ham slice and corn.

Sunday  - Easter dinner at my brother's home.

Monday - Chicken patties on buns with peas.

Tuesday - Pizza.

Wednesday - Gyros for the family while I was at a homeschool conference. Out to eat for me.

Thursday - Out to eat for everyone.
Friday - Leftovers

My financial goals for this week:

This week I would like to:

- Check to see if the beneficiary information on all insurance contracts; and investment and retirement accounts are updated.

- Work on paying remaining debt so the only thing left is the mortgage (this is, of course, dependent on these funds being received):
    - Pay $1,000 towards consolidation debt (approximately $13,900 left...which is an embarrassingly high amount).
    - Pay half of extra line debt (approximately $2,000 left...same thing here...I don't like seeing this amount).

- Contribute $500 towards one of the retirement accounts.

- Contribute $500 towards emergency fund (goal: $30,000/have: $9,500).

Blog as it relates to saving money and home organization:

- Continue to do the Blogging from A to Z Challenge (letters T-X) and decluttering homeschool files.

- Do some of the actions in Letting Go of Debt- Growing Richer One Day at a Time:
     - Reevaluate your environment. Donate at least as many items as equals your age. Strive to have less rather than more.
     - Determine which day of the week is for grocery shopping and determine where to keep your ongoing grocery list.
     - Be creative - not wasteful - with the perishable foods in your home.
     - Make conscious, healthy, cost-cutting choices when planning lunches.
     - Make conscious choices about your immediate environment and about the environment at large (e.g., cut back on consumption and simplify cleaning products - like using vinegar instead of chemically-based products); choose not to buy a material good or prepackaged food.
      - Spend some time alone in nature to feel the abundance.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

Shakespeare, Self-Care, and Summer - Blogging from A to Z Challenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I'm focusing on going through my homeschooling files that I've created from the time that Sophia and Olivia were in preschool.

Some of the files are still relevant while others I will be decluttering and recycling in the process. Each day during April, I will pick one of the files to focus on - either doing a hands-on activity or sharing some information from one of the files.

For the 19th day - Letter S - I am focusing on Shakespeare, Self-Care, and Summer.



People who care about others often forget to care for themselves. These are some tips for self-care:

- Be realistic about your time. Choose for your service time a time that is well-planned.
- Know yourself and your own energy level. Never compare your service to another.
- Before your visit, center yourself, breathe slowly, and relax.
- After your visit, take time to "process" the visit.

Lunch with my parents and daughters.
This was about six months after my Dad was diagnosed with
mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease.
I was trying to visit my parents each week to
help with household tasks and/or
take my parents to medical appointments.
(Taken on November 4, 2009.)

- Maintain spiritual health. Become aware of a greater plan and your part in it.
- Don't be hard on yourself. You won't always say the right thing at the right time.
- Get support. Make good use of your support system.
- Ask for help if you need it.
- Take time to play and enjoy your life.

Went to the public park where the book "Make Way for Ducklings" was set.
The girls fed ducks and swans, and
then went on a swan boat ride around the little pond/lake.
(Taken on September 10, 2011.)

- Be realistic about your expectations of yourself. You don't have to be of service to everyone and meet everyone's demands.
- Learn how to accept appreciation when it comes. Receive it graciously.


There are four kinds of rest that can be used to replenish and refresh oneself:

- Physical rest may be obtained by discontinuing physical activity - sitting or lying down and relaxing.

Sophia resting in a tractor tire.
(Taken on July 28, 2013.)

- Sensory rest is secured by quiet and by refraining from using the eyes, which curtails a great drain of energy.
- Emotional rest is achieved by withdrawing from involvement in the ups and downs caused by personal interaction.
- Mental rest is obtained by detaching the mind from any and all intellectual demands or activity.



- Shakespeare is given credit for introducing nearly 2,000 words into the English language either by bringing into usage foreign words, making conjunctions of two or three other words, using nouns as verbs, or by inventing new ones.
   Some words that we still use today that are attributed to Shakespeare include:
      =>  alligator

An alligator hiding in the grass and reeds.
(Taken on April 30, 2010.)

      => dauntless
      => eyeball


      => frugal
      => hoodwinked
      => leapfrog
      => lonely
      => mimic
      => reinforcement
      => zany

- These Shakespearean lines are still well-known today:
      => "What's in a name? that which we call rose by any other name would smell as sweet..." (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2)
      =>" Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble..." (Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1)
      => "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep..." (The Tempest, Act IV, Scene 1)



10 ideas to keep your kids entertained this summer:

- Catch tadpoles and watch them develop. Keep them in a bucket or jar and add fresh water.

Olivia collecting tadpole to observe.
(Taken on May 31, 2013.)

- Picnic at a different park each week.

Picnic near the Mississippi River.
We were heading back from a trip to Itasca State Park.
(Taken on September 6, 2012.)

- Start a recipe file with a teenage daughter or son.

- Set up a bicycle obstacle course and see who can ride through it the fastest.

- Buy small used appliances at a secondhand store. Take the apart and put them back together again.

- Learn to juggle using rubber balls or homemade beanbags.

We went to a Chinese acrobatic performance.
Afterwards, the international students at this high school had
tables where there were snacks and activities for the kids.
(Taken on May 2, 2012.)

- Record interesting sounds in the neighborhood on a tape recorder. Play it back and have others guess the noises.

- Finger paint with shaving cream on colored construction paper.

- Go to county fairs throughout your state.

Sophia and Olivia on a ride at a county fair.
(Taken on July 15, 2012.)

- Invent a new flavor of ice cream. Begin with vanilla and add nuts, chocolate chips, crumbled candy bars...your imagination is the limit! Then brainstorm a name for the new flavor.

Making homemade vanilla ice cream.
(Taken on May 22, 2012.)


In the process of going through the files that began with "S," I recycled 1 more bag of photocopies and clippings. This makes it 16 1/2 bags of recycling!

Friday Foto Friends - April 21, 2017

Today I'm joining Deb for Friday Foto Friends. Come join us and share your photos!


This week I don't have a theme, it's just a look back on the past week. Some of the highlights were photographed and are shown below.

Last Friday, Sophia played the harp while Olivia and I pet the dogs. We started out with Chinook who is an Alaskan Malamute. He's super friendly and gentle. He's also very big. One of the largest dogs, in fact, that we've had in the room.

Afterwards, we spent time with another senior dog, Anne, who enjoyed listening to the music. After exploring the room a bit, she laid down next to me and fell asleep. She needed a quiet place to rest.

Then Sophia moved onto the cat room. We've learned that the cats do better if they stay in their kennels rather than going into the room where we take the dogs. They seem to feel safer and more relaxed in their kennels.

The last stop of the session was with the dogs. There were quite a few in the kennels and they either watch Sophia play or they rested on their beds (like Anne did). If they are quiet, we give them some treats which they enjoy.

On Saturday, we began making sugar panoramic eggs. The counter had a variety of egg halves on it by the afternoon.

After the forms were hollowed out, it was time to decorate them with frosting and create little scenes in them.

Olivia wanted to do this part. Her scene has some mythical creatures in it.

On Sunday, the focus was on making desserts for dinner at my brother's home. Sophia learned how to color and shape fondant.

She spent a lot of time making a cake that looked like a geode.

The geode part of the cake was hollowed out a bit and then filled with rock candy. She used piping gel to put on the cake and then would place each piece of rock candy on the gel where it would harden in place.

I made a batch of sugar cookies and decorated them to look like rabbits.

Easter dinner was spent at my brother's home. We had a nice meal together, talked a lot, and saw photos from my sister's trip to Cuba with her sons and one of the son's girlfriend.

On Monday, we spent part of our afternoon at the nursing home where we worked with six seniors to create welcome baskets.

The baskets are given to new residents when they move to the nursing home.

There were 14 items in them including personal care supplies (e.g., brush, toothbrush, lip balm, socks, Kleenex), entertainment or enrichment items (e.g., book, adult coloring book or puzzle book, colored pencils), some flowers to decorate the basket, and a welcome card signed by the six seniors who helped create the baskets.

We were all pleased with how they turned out; and felt like whoever would receive them would feel happier and welcomed on their first day at the nursing home.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Homeschooling on a Shoe String (Book Review/Notes)

One of the books I ordered earlier this month when I went through my file of books I wanted to read is Homeschooling on a Shoe String by Melissa L. Morgan and Judith Waite Allee.

There were a lot of great ideas - especially for families who are just starting out with homeschooling and/or who have younger children. There were some chapters about teens and homeschooling through high school which was good since that's the stage of homeschooling I'm in now.

There were quite a few things I want to remember:

- Set limits on volunteer jobs. Don't allow leadership activities for your church, your homeschool support group, or other organizations to have a detrimental effect on your family.

- Expect diminishing returns when you have too many activities. Too much is as bad as (probably worse than) not enough.

- Look at opportunities to volunteer at the library (e.g., shelving books, assisting with story hour).

- Create a unit study incorporating 4-H curriculum.

- Learning a language (Sophia is learning French - so I've used that language as an example):
     - Locate native speakers of French by asking ministers, priests, and nuns for referrals.
     - Suggest that our homeschool group sponsors a French heritage night, and publicize the event.
     - Attend a church service in French.
     - See if there's a radio station that broadcasts in French.
     - Look for music events in French.
     - See if there are French festivals or events.

- An artist-mentor, such as a potter, painter, or photographer, may be willing to allow a responsible and eager young person to be his or her "shadow" for a day or for a few hours.

- College art departments sponsor events that are open to the public.

- Hobby groups can be a free, or nearly free, source of expertise. Some groups could be:
     - explore an interest in astronomy or chess.
     - share a love of books (e.g., mysteries, historical fiction).
     - learn about archeology or hunt for rocks and fossils.
     - celebrate a heritage (e.g., Chinese).

- Look into programs such as Friendship Force, Inc. which is designed to help people from different countries (including teens) form friendships through short home visits, exchange visits, and volunteer work.

- Create volunteer opportunities based on the teen's interest and the non-profit's needs.

- Have the teen ask for one-day apprenticeship. This could lead to a part-time job. At the minimum, it will give the teen a chance to see what different jobs are like and ask what preparation she needs for a career that interests her.

- Do internships - investigate careers in much more depth.

- A teen doesn't have to find a job - she can invent one.
     - Tutoring younger children.
     - Growing and selling potted herbs or other specialty plants.

- Money Magazine publishes an annual guide to colleges including cost comparisons (usually in their September issue). The list may include free, or almost free, colleges.

- Buy an inexpensive blank book and begin a journal. Write your hopes, dreams, and thoughts for your child. When your child is old enough, give her the journal as a gift of caring and time, a little piece of her parents to keep forever. You can also keep a blessings book for each child to record events over the years for which she is grateful.

- A Jewish proverb says that when you teach your son, you teach your son's son. Homeschooling is one way for your children to learn to think independently, creatively, and with your values as their foundation. What you teach your children today can make a real difference in the world for generations to come.

Some books to order:

- How to Make Money Performing in Schools: Definitive Guide to Developing, Marketing, and Presenting School Assembly Programs by David Helflick. Some presenters recreate history by performing a character as someone fro ma different time period.

- How to Write Your Own Low-Cost/No Cost Curriculum by Borg Hendrickson.

- All the Best Contests for Kids by James Bergstrom.

- The Internet University: College Courses by Computer by Cape Software.

- Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax.

- The Complete Scholarship Book: More than 5,000 Scholarship and Grant Resources by Student Services.

Reusing, Reindeer, and Roadrunners - Blogging from A to Z Challenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I'm focusing on going through my homeschooling files that I've created from the time that Sophia and Olivia were in preschool.

Some of the files are still relevant while others I will be decluttering and recycling in the process. Each day during April, I will pick one of the files to focus on - either doing a hands-on activity or sharing some information from one of the files.

For the 18th day - Letter R - I am focusing on Reusing, Reindeer, and Roadrunners.



- Reuse birthday and Christmas cards by making bookmarks that can be given away at a local school library. Cut the images out with pinking shears. Punch a hole at the top and then put ribbon or embroidery floss through the hole. You can also glue the card onto deckle-edge paper. Students can pick a bookmark each time they check out a book.

- Greeting cards also can be used to make postcards.

Postcards that I made from old Christmas cards and scrapbook paper.
The back of the postcard (the side you write on)
is from a cereal box.

- Wool sweaters that have shrunk can be made into little toys. When the girls were younger, I made these wool bears with fabric patches that were hand-embroidered onto the wool.

Tiny bears I made from felted wool sweaters and fabric.
The bears fit in the palm of your hand.



One of the files I had was about reindeer herders in northern Russia. The herders are called Nenets (Nen-ETZ); and they depend on their reindeer for almost everything - including clothing, transportation (they travel on sleds pulled by reindeer teams), and food.

The Nenets are nomadic and live in easy-to-move tents. When they move from summer to winter grazing grounds, the journey can take several weeks.



- They are only nine inches tall and less than two feet long.
- They can run as fast as 20 miles per hour. They are able to glide, but prefer running.

Roadrunner that I saw in Texas.
(Taken on May 1, 2010.)

- They have about 16 different sounds.
- Their diet consists of insects, snails, mice, bats, other birds, scorpions, tarantulas, and black widow spiders.
- The bird's temperature can drop as much as seven degrees at night when temperatures can drop 50 degrees or more.
- During the early morning hours, the bird spends long periods sunning itself. It will lift up its feathers to expose a dark patch of skin on its back that acts as a solar panel.


In the process of going through the files that began with "R," I recycled a half of a bag of papers. Throughout the challenge, I've recycled 15 1/2 bags of papers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Quiet Books, Quilling, Quilting - Blogging from A to Z Challenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I'm focusing on going through my homeschooling files that I've created from the time that Sophia and Olivia were in preschool.

Some of the files are still relevant while others I will be decluttering and recycling in the process. Each day during April, I will pick one of the files to focus on - either doing a hands-on activity or sharing some information from one of the files.

For the 17th day - Letter Q - I am focusing on Quiet Books, Quilling, Quilting.


Quiet Books

I had two files that started with "Q" in my file cabinets: quilling and quilting. Since I've been featuring a trio of topics each day for this challenge, I wanted to add a third one, so I thought about the quiet book that I made for the girls when they were younger.

There are 19 activity pages in the book and each has a different theme and type of activity. Some match colors - like the flower page in which the buttons match the flowers (that can be removed).

Others have little shapes that a child can play with and then return their spot (like the insects and birds sitting on various flowers).

There is a page to practice skills - like braiding ribbons; and another shape and color matching activity page.

About the same time I made this activity book for my daughters, my Dad was diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease.

He was brilliant and compassionate...a social worker by profession and a Deacon later in life during retirement. He had a Masters in Social Work and only had his thesis to have completed and he would have received his Doctorate in Social Work. He chose not to do the thesis so he could focus on his career.

At any rate, I showed my Dad the activity book I made. Sadly, I watched him struggle with even the most basic of the activities in this book.

It made me realize that this activity book was good for two ends of the spectrum - children just starting to learn and master skills; and seniors who had lived a full and meaningful life, and needed something to keep their minds active and hands busy.



Back in 2008 around Valentine's Day, we did some quilling. First, I photocopied each of the girls' hands. Sophia was 7 years old and Olivia was 5 years old.

We made some simple shapes - hearts and swirls and arranged them on the photocopies.

Each one is slightly different based on what they quilled shapes they wanted.

We've put these pictures up on our refrigerator for many years now in February. It was an easy way to capture a moment in time when the girls were younger and enjoy that memory each Valentine's Day.



As I looked through the clippings in this file, a lot of the ideas are ones that are inspiring to look at, but I know that I don't have the skill or supplies to make art quilts (or even practical quilts) like the them.

So, rather than keeping images I know I won't use or refer to, I let them go.

One thing that's available now that wasn't when I began my homeschooling files is Pinterest. There are so many great quilting ideas on Pinterest that I would like to do. Many of them are ones that are more practical and fit my skill set.

I'm looking for ideas for finishing some quilts that my Mom had and never completed before she died. My goal is to finish them this year and give them to my sister, brother, and daughters.

Idea for modifying a traditional 9-block quilt square.

One of the ideas I saw that I liked was a quote quilt. For Sophia's and Olivia's graduation from high school (in 2 and 4 years), I want to give each one a quilt that has different quotes on it. Each will be a way to take with them advice from others that I think is a good guide in living one's life.

An example of a quote or poetry quilt.

If I start now on it, I should have both finished by then.


In the process of going through the files that began with "Q," I recycled a half a bag of photocopies and magazine clippings. I'm now at 15 bags of recycling since the start of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.