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Autumn in Minnesota

It’s November in Minnesota and autumn is just about over.  But we had a pretty one this year ~

Autumn in Minnesota

The leaf colors are really pretty this year.

Maple Leaf

Ahhh ~ the beauty of autumn.

Autumn in Minnesota

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Grain Free Paleo Puffs

Grain Free Paleo Puffs

I’ve been searching for snack-y foods for a friend to munch on that was paleo friendly and came across the Grain Free Paleo Puffs at Whole Foods. Why not try it? I said to myself.

Although they don’t look very appetizing (beige food never does), they actually tasted quite good to me. There’s a small hint of cheese although there is no cheese in them.

Reviews varied though ~ out of four people who tried them at our house, 1 said “quite good,” another “alright,” the third said they weren’t good and the fourth said “okay.”

Grain Free Paleo Puffs

So ~ it will be up to your taste buds as to whether  you like them or not.

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A Barn Quilt Tour

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

As I was reading the Sunday paper awhile ago, I saw an article about a barn quilt trail. Hmmm …. I said to myself.  What is a barn quilt trail?

As I continued reading the article I learned that it’s like a “tour” of barn quilt, and I was inspired to head on out to see it.  Turning to my husband  I said: “Let’s go for a drive today.” Poor thing.  He didn’t know what he agreed to ~ at least not initially.

My expectation of what a barn quilt trail was is quite different from what it actually is.  First, not all of the barn quilts are on barns.  Actually, none of the ones I saw were on barns.  Second, although I expected to see real fabric hanging from a “barn” (why would I think that?), the quilts are mainly painted on the side of buildings.

Off we went to the Chisago, Minnesota area.

Below are some of the ones I took pictures of ~

See the first one in the top right corner?

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

The colors are so vibrant on this one, eh?

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

Some of the barn quilts were smaller than I expected.

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

This next one seems kind’ve bland to me ~

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

I really like the pattern on this one. I wonder what the story behind it is …

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

This next barn quilt pattern reminds me of many I see on “regular” quilts.  This one was located at the Chisago Lakes Area Library.

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

Do you like this blue and yellow pattern?

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

The simple pattern and vibrant colors on this barn quilt make it stand out against the beige building.

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

The one below is one of my absolute favorites.

Barn Quilt, Minnesota

It was a pretty unique way to spend part of an afternoon.

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A Walk in Afton State Park

Afton State Park, Minnesota

Sabbath – a day of rest and gladness.

As the end of summer nears, the air has gotten crisp with deep blue skies overhead.  A walk today at Afton State Park is the perfect way to enjoy one of Minnesota’s “top ten days.”   The label is given to days that are almost perfect.

The sound of small waves crashing onto the small beach is quite refreshing to the mind ~ a stark comparison to the “noise” in the world that leaves one with a feeling of unrest.

Afton State Park, Minnesota

It’s good to hear the laughter of people on their boats in the water.

Afton State Park, Minnesota

People walking dogs, animated talks among friends as they stroll down the trail, a couple looking out at the water and enjoying a gentle breeze ~

Quite a respite on the Sabbath.

Who could argue that God “got it right” when he said “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the Sabbath day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.  In it you shall do no work … ”

 

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Minnesota Acorns

This year we’ve had a bumper crop of acorns in Minnesota.

The last year I remember so many acorns falling was when my mother and aunts were visiting about 5 years ago.  We’d sit on the porch and it felt like it was raining acorns.

Minnesota Acorns

The walk to the mailbox down the long driveway is rather crunchy now.  I’ve spent many hours sweeping up these acorns and one thing I can tell you ~ in bulk, acorns are quite heavy!

Minnesota Acorns

At first, I thought that perhaps we were the only ones in the neighborhood having the oak babies falling but then I saw a news feature and it’s happening across Minnesota.

According to the article, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says this is quite normal. It’s called masting and means that oak trees are having a bumper crop this year.  One thought is that oak trees drop a bumper crop every now and again so that the squirrels (and any other critters who eat acorns) will not be able to eat them all so that baby oak trees can grow.

Perhaps this is God’s way of making sure trees continue to grow in spite of all the trees that are cut down.

About 3 years ago, I had quite a few saplings growing and had them all removed.  We already have so many trees that we didn’t more.

Are there other areas that are having bumper acorn crops this year?

 

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An Instant Pot Duo Recipe

Instant Pot Beef Stew

I was recently gifted the Instant Pot Duo ~ well, 3 months have past since I was gifted it but that’s another story.

The Instant Pot looks more complicated than my rice cooker but so far it appears to be easy to use.

I did have to deal with a psychological block: when we were at a friend’s for lunch a few years back, she had used a pressure cooker to make her lentil beans and while we were waiting for them to cook, the pressure cooker blew up in her kitchen and we spent lots of time cleaning lentils from the walls, cabinets, ceiling and floors.

So ~ with that small (uh, large) remembrance in mind, I stealthily tiptoed around the Instant Pot making sure I read all the directions.

There is one very small piece of instruction that I believe they left out ~ well, I can’t find it in my User Manual.  When you start the Instant Pot (once everything is in the pot and the lid is securely closed), it has to warm up before it actually starts.  The “Keep Warm” button was lit when I started my recipe and it didn’t turn off until the Instant Pot reached its desired temperature to begin.

Instant Pot Duo

That made me a little nervous because I assumed I had done something wrong but two recipes later and that seems to be a pattern ~ well, okay, two times is not much of a pattern but it’s what I’ve got right now.

The first recipe I made was one I found on the internet for a beef stew.  In our household the reviews were mixed “it was okay” to “it was very good.”  Of course, when I make a new recipe I usually introduce it to the family with “you will love this!”  I find the brain has a funny way of enveloping what it’s told although quite honestly, my husband’s brain is a little harder to deal with (laughing).

I have to say that I deviated a little from the original beef stew recipe by Damn Delicious. I didn’t add Worcestershire sauce, caraway seeds nor celery.  I tend to like my soups less complicated.  I also replaced the all purpose flour with tapioca flour (a habit from my paleo days). In spite of that it came out great!

Instant Pot Beef Stew

Looking scrumptious, eh?

Instant Pot Beef Stew

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A Visiting Racoon

A month or so ago, my son was on the back porch looking through binoculars to see what he could see on our acre of land.

Unbeknown to me, a raccoon had set up house in a hole of a large tree.

Well, raccoons aren’t normally friendly creatures (or so I’ve heard).  They also scavenge trash cans and find bird feeders that they can rummage through.  Fortunately for us, our trash cans are inside the garage and the bird feeders are quite high ~ even our most ambitious squirrel has not been able to get to our bird feeders.

Every day we watched the racoon as he would scamper down and head to a watering hole on the other side of our back fence.  He was quite consistent in his actions.

One day, we noticed that the racoon was not making as much movement as before. It seemed to have settled into the tree hole.  Hmmm … I told my son that I thought this was a female racoon and so I named it Germaine.

Raccoon in Tree

Germaine eventually came down to go back to the watering hole in the back.  A couple of times it lumbered towards our house and I yelled “Germaine ~ you can’t come this way” and she immediately scampered back to the tree.  Of course, I don’t know how often she tried but the two times I saw her she appeared scared enough to return to her place.

One afternoon, my son said “Mom, you have to see this.”

Germaine had had 3 babies.

As the babies grew, we watched as they tried to scamper down the tree only to be pulled back into the hole by mama Germaine.  She was quite adamant that these babies were not yet ready to head down the tree.  They were persistent but she overcame their persistence.

A couple weeks went by and there were no raccoon sightings.  Every morning, afternoon and evening we searched for the little raccoon family but they were not to be found.

A few weeks later, my son (who seems to be looking for wildlife all the time) called out again: Mom!

I hurried over and walking along the edge of our property was Germain with, not three, but five baby raccoons behind her.  She lumbered along and passed the tree that she at one time had made her home ~ onward to the back of our property.

Since then, we haven’t seen her although there have been sightings on some of our neighbors properties.

Raccoon in Tree

This was the first time we had raccoons on our property.  People I spoke with told me it was probably a female who would give birth then move on.  They were right.

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First Baby Quilt

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

I was looking for a quick and easy pattern so I could make a baby quilt for my niece who is expecting her first child the end of July.  So, I headed over to Craftsy.com and looked to see what kits they might have and found one called Like A Charm Bear Mountain Expand-A-Quilt Kit.

The quilt is made up of 5″ squares and then pieced together which means it was not very difficult and could be put together quickly since the material arrives in the correct size.

I mainly stitched in the ditch and decided to “tie” the quilt together but instead of the usual tying method which uses knitting thread, I used a stitch on my Janome sewing machine that made two hearts and sewed those randomly throughout the quilt.

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

With this baby quilt I also decided to use flame retardant batting called Quilters Dream Angel that I purchased through Fabric.com.

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

I really liked the ease of making this quilt and plan on making another baby quilt for a another niece who is having a baby in November.

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

I’m on the hunt for a different pattern.  This next baby is a girl.

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The Furthest I Have Traveled

Japan Temple

In March 2000, friends were kind enough to take a trip with us to Japan.

This memory recently crossed my mind so I went back and looked at some of the pictures I had taken.

Has your path every crossed with someone who became a permanent part of your life?  That’s what happened to me. She lived in Japan and had come to the U.S. as a student to study nursing. It just so happened that she came to our church one Sabbath and I met her and we’ve been friends since then.
I had always been interested in Asian art and, I know this sounds strange, to meet someone who was Asian in person made my curiosity of Asia even stronger. This was a way for me to really get to know more about the culture.
It’s not that I didn’t know Asian people but for the most part they were Americanized. This friendship would be special.
But I digress …
The airplane trip to Japan seemed long ~ a lot of sleeping and reading.
Once we arrived though everything went smoothly.  One thing I remember distinctly is that the food all seemed to taste the same.  My friend said that they add a seasoning to their food and a lot of times it’s the same seasoning.  I had to laugh when one day we saw a McDonald’s and I was happy that we were able to taste something different.
While in Japan, one of my hopes was that we would see a geisha girl but Yoko (my friend) explained that they aren’t out often.  One day while we were walking through a plaza there was a lot of excitement as a car with an open top was coming through and inside was a geisha. I couldn’t believe all the excitement as people (who I thought were reporters) tried to snap pictures as the car whizzed by. Unfortunately, the excitement came to a quick stop as the car sped by too quickly.
Later I ran into what I thought was a geisha and took a picture with her.  Yoko explained that it wasn’t a “real” geisha as the woman I took a picture with smiled and trained geishas would never smile because it would mess up their make-up.  Interesting, no?
Visiting Hiroshima was a somber experience.  My mind could not grasp the thought of so many innocent people perishing for the government’s actions. Any killing to me seems senseless.

Hiroshima, 2000

The bullet trains were very fast and we took them from one city to another.  My husband was able to decipher the maps even though they were written in Japanese.  People were friendly when you stopped them to ask questions but most of them spoke only Japanese so most times they weren’t helpful.
There were lots and lots of bicycles ~ everywhere you looked there were bicycles.

Japan – Bicycles

One time Yoko took us up a really long hill to a grave site.  I had never seen anything like it before. The graves were so packed together.

Japan Grave Sites

I believe one of the reasons I am attracted to Asian art is the simplicity.  Clean lines ~ nothing overly bold.  The Japanese gardens I have been to create such a peace in my heart. It’s as if distractions float away.

Japan – Garden, circa 2000

And the same can be true of the architecture of their temples and prayer houses.

Japan – Temple or Prayer House

Japan – Temples or Prayer Houses

And now, the rest of the story (didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you?)

Yoko and I became pen pals. I introduced her to a friend of mine (also Japanese but born in Hawaii) and they got married and had a son who next year will graduate as a doctor.

It’s been many years since we traveled together to Japan and we are separated now by a couple of states, but our friendship remains.

Funny how people can come together from different parts of the world and have such an influence in your life.

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