Summer and watermelon go together like pumpkins and autumn. Watermelon is one of my favorite summer treats. The kids usually flock around me when I start to chop one up.
This year, I grew watermelon for the first time. We got a bunch of cute little watermelons that tasted amazing. There really is nothing better than food grown at home.
Watermelon is harder to photograph than I thought it would be. I’ve always struggled to photograph the color red. I’ve attempted to tackle it with roses but even then, they’re not exactly to my liking.
That’s the kind of challenge that I don’t give up on. I actually did this photoshoot 3 times. The first two were not to my liking. My last, I can finally say that I have an image I’m proud of.
Although spring has had a late start this year, these last few weeks have really warmed up! It’s almost hard to believe that a few weeks ago, we had a huge blizzard! If you are anything like us, you are probably itching to get outside and enjoy the warm, fresh air!
Last year we had so much fun doing a 5-week workout challenge! Every week we made it a goal to move our bodies. I don’t know about you, but I am not a big fan of a traditional work out session. I have a hard time getting motivated to stare at a TV and watch other people work out. Or worse, go somewhere public to work out with strangers.
Hiking is my favorite way to get exercise. Being outside, in nature, makes me happy. Getting a change of scenery, enjoying a new adventure, exploring a new location, what’s not to love?!
When doing research for local parks online, I found so many! I felt like the ones I had seen were just a drop in the bucket. I wanted to see them all! Is it crazy and over-ambitious that I’m not exaggerating?!
We had only scratched the surface last year. I knew, without a doubt, that our adventures would continue. Should I do another workout challenge?! I don’t know. It did motivate me last year. Honestly, many days I felt like sitting on the couch and being lazy in the air conditioning. Knowing I had made a commitment kept me going.
Maybe this year is time for a new challenge. There are so many options! I might have to try one or all of these.
7 Summer Challenge Ideas
Get Outside Every Day Challenge-For 3 months… for a year?!
How many parks can we hit in the summer? 30? 40? 60?!
Around Minnesota in 80 Days
Exercise Every Day for a Month
30/60/90 Day Planking Challenge
100 Days of Gardening
Get Outside Every Day Challenge/ 100 Days of Sun
People Are spending more time inside than ever before in history. With the air inside polluted and stale, getting outside is vitally important to our health. AT LEAST an hour outside every day is the recommended amount for every age.
Visiting Parks is one of the most fun things to do in the summer. Parks are full of activities for every age. The whole family can go for a hike. The kids can play at the playground while the adults relax and chat. Biking, swimming, sightseeing, bird watching, there are so many options!
Although the title is just an idea, you can set your goal for as many or as little parks as you think you will visit. Obviously, you will change Minnesota to your own local area.
Around Minnesota in 80 Days
This title leaves the window open for future fun expeditions. If you don’t have an exact plan of what you want to do, but you know you want to start a challenge, this might be a good starting point.
I might make a fun list soon about traveling ideas within a region. To get you started with a few ideas, you could visit local parks, check out small historic towns, visit a museum, check out a historic site, go to a zoo, smell the flowers at a conservatory, and so much more!
Exercise Every Day for a Month!
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting motivated to exercise. Making it a goal is a great way to keep on track and get your body moving. Last year we did a 5 Week Workout Challenge. It was a lot of fun!
Working out doesn’t have to be just exercise videos or hitting up the Y. Exercise can be so many different things! You could go hiking, ride a bike, go kayaking, go swimming or even try rock climbing!
There are so many options with this one! Art is near and dear to my heart. My Grandfather was an artist. He inspired me to be a creative person. I’m working hard to instill a love of being creative in my children. This would be the perfect project for us all to enjoy together.
If you didn’t have an artsy Grandpa, here are a couple of ideas to get you going! I’ll make a more extensive list in the future too. Paint on canvas, visit an art museum, draw with chalk, paint rocks, make a birdhouse, do a photography project, color with crayons and so much more!
30/60/90 Day Planking Challenge
Last year, during our 5 Week Workout Challenge, we tried planking for two of the days. Planking is HARD! It was so much harder than I thought it would be. It’s such a great way to build muscle FAST though! I’d love to try a 30-day plank challenge to see how long I would last at the end of the 30 days.
I think it would be fun to plank in different places every day for different visual content. The kids would probably love that too!
100 Days of Gardening
I started my first vegetable garden last year. This year we have been expanding, growing new things and learning more and more about gardening. Doing a 100 days of gardening challenge would be a perfect way to learn about gardening faster and get a lot of fresh food!
I would love to know how you are going to challenge yourself this summer! Let me know in the comments!
This list contains the books I’ve read and listened to. I love holding real books in my hands, but sometimes, I don’t have time to sit and read. I enjoy listening to audiobooks while I get work done. This list will be updated throughout the year. I have a short review of each book as well.
Many of these books I love to listen to with my children. I work hard to instill a love of books and for learning in them. Books are the key to untold worlds. They can bring you to different lands and adventures and teach you a wealth of knowledge. I want my children to develop the skills of educating themselves through the written word now in the hopes that they’ll always have the desire for learning within them.
Books I’ve Read
Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Our Edible World by Julia Rothman
The Big Book of Kombucha by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory
100% Real: 100 Insanely Good Recipes for Clean Food Made Fresh
The Big Awesome Book of Hand & Chalk Lettering by Dina Rodriguez
City Farmhouse Style: Designs for a Modern Country Life by Kim Leggett
1000 Tangles, Patterns Doodled Designs produced by Walter Foster Publishing with Various Artists
Pencil Art Workshop by Matt Rota
Jesus-The Way, The Truth, The Life
Once There Were Castles | Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities by Larry Millet
Castles | A History of Fortified Structures Ancient, Medieval & Modern by Charles Stephenson
Minnesota’s Own | Preserving Our Grand Homes by Larry Millett
Hearst Castle | The Biography of a Country House by Victoria Kastner
150 Best Cottage & Cabin Ideas by Francesc Zamora Mola
Compact Cabins | Simple Living in 1000 Square Feet or Less by Gerald Rowan
How to Build Your Dream Cabin in the Woods | The Ultimate Guide to Building and Maintaining a Backcountry Getaway by J. Wayne Fears
Audible Books I’ve Listened To
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Transfer by Veronica Roth
Four The Initiate by Veronica Roth
Four The Son by Veronica Roth
Four the Traitor by Veronica Roth
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Legend by Marie Lu
Champion by Marie Lu
Prodigy by Marie Lu
The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris
A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
Eat Dirt by Dr. Josh Axe
Master Herbalist published by Author’s Republic with Various Authors
The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Elite by Kiera Cass
The Guard by Kiera Cass
The One by Kiera Cass
The Queen: A Novella by Kiera Cass
The Heir by Kiera Cass
The Favorite by Kiera Cass
The Crown by Kiera Cass
The Siren by Kiera Cass
Servant of the Crown by Melissa McShane
The Cage by Megan Sheperd
The Hunt by Megan Sheperd
The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
The Faerie Path by Frewin Jones
A lot of the books on the list below, I’ve read or listened to before, but I’d like to listen to again. Several of these I’m going to be listening to with my children. A bunch of these I’ve already started reading, but I take breaks and come back to, depending on what I’m in the mood for.
Books I Want To Read/Listen To
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki
Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths by Bernard Evslin
Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality by Professor Robert Sapolsky
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Dr. Andrew Weil’s Guide to Optimum Health by Dr. Andrew Weil
Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Application by Professor David Sadava
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Caroline: Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery
Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery
Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery
Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery
Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery
Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery
Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery
Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
Classics of American Literature narrated by Professor Arnold Weinstein
The History of World Literature narrated by Professor Grant L. Voth
The Science of Natural Healing by Professor Mimi Guarneri
Medical School for Everyone: Pediatric Grand Rounds by Professor Roy Benaroch
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina
Beauty and the Beast narrated by Jenna Augen
Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Messenger by Lois Lowry
Son by Lois Lowry
Emma by Jane Austin
The Princess Diaries By Meg Cabot
The Lost Queen by Frewin Jones
Deep Nutrition by Luke Shanahan, Catherine Shanahan MD
Have you read any of these books? Please tell me what’s on your book list this year!
I’ve decided to include a short, and by short, I mean tiny, review of the books that I’ve read.
The Bible: Honestly, I haven’t read the entire thing yet, but I’ve listened to several entire books within it. Since there are 66 books in the bible, I thought it might be easier to add simply, “The Bible” rather than each specific book. I love the Bible, it’s my guide to life. I could read it every day and never get sick of it. It’s full of wisdom, poetry, history, adventure, romance, drama, and so much more.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This book changed the way I think of the objects within my home. I’ve been using her methods to minimize my personal belongings by keeping only what I love. If you’re a packrat, or a hoarder, then I really recommend this book.
Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Our Edible World by Julia Rothman: This book is kind of something you’d want to leave on a coffee table. Every page is full of fun illustrations and descriptions of food and it’s history.
100% Real: 100 Insanely Good Recipes for Clean Food Made Fresh: To be honest, I looked at every page and drooled over many of the recipes. Then I didn’t make a single one. I love cookbooks, but usually, I look online for recipes. I’ll probably continue to check out every inspiring cookbook that crosses my path though.
The Big Awesome Book of Hand & Chalk Lettering by Dina Rodriguez: This book was a lot of fun! Both Cupcake and I practiced a lot of the variations in lettering. I might check this one out again in the future if I want to work on another chalkboard.
City Farmhouse Style: Designs for a Modern Country Life by Kim Leggett: This book was full of beautiful, inspiring images of home decor. I love browsing these types of books for remodeling our humble abode.
1000 Tangles, Patterns Doodled Designs produced by Walter Foster Publishing with Various Artists: This book was pretty cool. It’s full of different ways to doodle. I would have loved this one when I was in high school. I really enjoyed looking through it, but I came to realize that I’m past doodling on paper. I don’t have hours of boredom stuck in classrooms anymore. My kids all enjoyed looking through the designs though, hopefully, it will inspire them for their future doodling.
Pencil Art Workshop by Matt Rota: I used to love sketching. This book was full of inspiring pencil art and directions. I didn’t attempt to sketch anything, but It brought me fondly back in time. Maybe I’ll get back to it one day when I have a little more time on my hands.
The Transfer by Veronica Roth: I had read the divergent series back when it first came out. I enjoyed the movies, even though they varied from the books in a few big ways. I happened to come across these companion books, from Four’s perspective. I love when a good book series relates the story from another side.
Four The Initiate by Veronica Roth: ” “
Four The Son by Veronica Roth: ” “
Four the Traitor by Veronica Roth: ” “
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman: I feel like this book should be a requirement for every high school student. Gary Chapman made a lot of puzzle pieces about love click into place. It helped me realize whats important to me to feel loved and also help me realize how I can better love others. This kind of information is useful for every type of relationship, not just the romantic kinds. I immediately took the love quiz and found out my love language and then talked to my family about what theirs were. I’ll definitely read this book again and again over the years to refresh my memory.
Legend by Marie Lu
Champion by Marie Lu
Prodigy by Marie Lu: This is the second time I’ve read this series. Actually, the first time I read it, this time I listened to it. If you like futuristic adventure stories, this is a great series to add to your list.
150 Best Cottage & Cabin Ideas by Francesc Zamora Mola: I loved all of the images in this book. I’ve been looking into small houses and although these are cabins, I think this is a good small home book too. Most of these had huge windows, tall ceilings, open floor plans, and beautiful views. Much of the interior styles were not to my taste, however. I would look into this book again if I were building a home.
Compact Cabins | Simple Living in 1000 Square Feet or Less by Gerald Rowan: This book is pretty awesome. It contains 62 floor plans, black/green & white images of the completed cabin, off the grid options, green design, and from start to finish plans that help lay out exactly how to build. It goes over everything you’ve thought about and everything you didn’t even think of. I’m thinking of purchasing this book to keep at home so I can plan my future home. One thing to keep in mind is that the title is accurate, these are tiny cabins. It mentions that you can add on in the future if need be.
How to Build Your Dream Cabin in the Woods | The Ultimate Guide to Building and Maintaining a Backcountry Getaway by J. Wayne Fears: I actually did not finish this book. It is quite detailed and my time at the library was out before I could finish. I’d like to check it out again or purchase because it contains A LOT of info about having and caring for a small home/cabin.
The spring trees challenge was a lot of fun to photograph. After choosing to photograph the same spot of trees for the winter, spring, summer and autumn challenge, I already knew where one of my locations was. As my main image for the challenge, I’m choosing some beautiful crab apple blossoms.
I’m always amazed at how fast the trees turn green. In what feels like a few days, the trees go from bare branches to tops full of leaves. Catching that moment when the trees are softly budding with baby leaves is a race against time. As soon as the surrounding hills took on a soft subtle green, I knew it was time to head out and start shooting.
All of the kids came with for this challenge. It was a lovely, warm Sunday, with a scattered sprinkling of rain showers throughout the day. After our meeting at the Kingdom Hall, we stopped by home to pick up our cameras. We took the scenic route to the park and enjoyed the lovely views of our changing world.
Mr. Awesome and Cupcake chose to wait in the car, but Princess hopped out with Cat and me. Princess is my little shadow, she follows me everywhere.
Cat’s Spring Trees
The following Sunday was a clear, warm, sunny day. We met some friends at the park for a walk. In just one week you could really see the difference in the trees. In the picture of the children below, the kids are walking toward the back of the trees from the previous week.
On our walk, we saw a kayaker in the river. We went down to our favorite spot where the children were able to wade and splash in the water. It was a beautiful, spring day.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the light photography project. I have seen beautiful images that others have taken of sparklers and I wanted to create an image of my own.
Ever since I was a little child, I have loved the glittery glow that sparklers give off. I can remember my parents giving me sparklers and the joy I had running around, waving them in trailing arcs, trying to make an M for Melissa or making stars or circles. I can remember being burned by the hot end and learning quickly to be careful, even after the light had gone out.
Cupcake, Mr. Awesome, and Princess joined me outside for this project. I lit sparklers for them as I snapped away at my own. After I was satisfied with my work, I continued to light them for the children and enjoyed watching them run happily around the yard. Even after being warned, poor Princess learned the hard way, just as I had, to be careful of the hot end after the light went out.
After all of the sparklers had been spent, we gathered up our mess and went in for bedtime. Hopefully, the children had smiles on their faces as they drifted off to sleep, imagining glowing sparkles and running through the warm summer air. I sat happily at my computer, editing my images and feeling content. I love that two dollars can easily buy a night of joy for our family.
I have always joked about having a brown thumb instead of a green one. I have good intentions with plants, but I usually kill most of them. My problem was that I watered them too much. For me, caring for a plant equaled watering it. I literally loved them to death.
I did manage to keep hardy plants alive, to my great joy. My brother got me a Philodendron as a gift when I was 13. It’s the only plant that has survived this long.
My parents were great gardeners. As a child, they had a huge garden in our yard. I can remember working with them to weed, pick off pests, gather ripe plants and care for my own little garden plot. And occasionally, they had me get to lawn care and landscaping near me to make the garden more aesthetic-appealing. My favorites were the raspberries bordering 2 sides of the garage and the strawberries.
When I was given my own little corner plot, I planted Shasta daisies, echinacea, and zinnia among a few other flowers. I loved flowers and the butterflies that they drew to our yard. My Mother had flower gardens in raised planters that my Father built all over our property.
After my own children were born, I gave plants a renewed interest. I tried a few easy house plants, a few palms, some morning glories outside during the warm months, hanging petunias or impatiens. I tried peppers many times but they rarely produced peppers and if they did, were never large enough to eat. I’ve overloved and killed many orchids over the years.
With the addition of extreme allergies to my life, I’ve had to learn to grow my own food. Organic food from health food stores is usually incredibly expensive and is not always guaranteed to be corn free. The safest option is home grown because I control all of the factors of what my food is exposed to.
When I first moved to this house, my Mom helped me plant a small outdoor garden. The weeds overtook it to my great frustration. Creeping Charlie choked out most of my plants. I did get some tomatoes and small ears of corn (ironic, right? This was pre-corn allergy.). After that, I gave up planting in the ground. Nate built me a planter around the mulberry tree in the backyard, which I grew flowers and hostas in, for an easy to maintain, decorative garden.
Inside, I grew potted plants. I tried basil by the sink but I ended up overwatering it. My next sink plant was rosemary, which, as it turns out, LOVES being overwatered. In fact, if I don’t water it often, it starts to die. I also grow potted plants on my porch and bring them inside over winter. My theory was, if they die, that’s ok because they would have died if I had left them outside to die by frost. If they live, I have another plant to enjoy.
This last year, my gardening skills have grown, as has the number of plants in and out. I have several plants that live inside year round, Outside, on my porch, my number of potted plants has grown. After installing a critter fence, it was clear that the plants where staying healthier and growing faster. Those pesky critters can really make a dent in most plants. Those interested in the specific fence used, I found it here. I renewed my attempt for ground grown plants. I planted several things around the porch outside and started a new side garden. I’ve also planted raspberries and blueberries along the fence.
I am not an expert gardener. I have, however, turned my brown thumb into a green one with persistence and determination. I’ve never given up. If my plants die, I try again. I do more research. The best way I’ve learned is by experience and trial and error.
I recommend everyone give gardening a try. It is so rewarding. When I eat food from my own garden, I have a great pride and satisfaction that I have never gotten from bought food.
If you are afraid of killing plants, don’t let that deter you! Keep trying! Start with potted plants. Try something easy to maintain, like impatiens, petunias, philodendrons, or palms like I did. Otherwise, try checking out the end of the year plant sales that most greenhouses have. You can usually get plants cheap or for free. Use the mindset that if it dies, at least you tried. Research what you can do differently next time.
Do you care for any plants? What do you grow? Have you also overcome a brown thumb or has gardening come naturally to you?
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 4, Day 1
I’ve been having an argument with myself over if I should post this workout video or not. I’ve been feeling a bit self-conscious. I’ve edited the video, put it on private on youtube, and there it has sat. Buuut, I can’t seem to post the next video until I post this one.
You see, I am not a body builder. I am not super fit. I don’t have an amazing body. I have a normal, soft, squishy, cuddly body. I am ok with that. In fact, I am more than ok, I love my body. I’m not obsessed with myself or anything, I’m just comfortable with who I am. I’m thankful for all of the things my body has done for me and all of the journey’s we’ve been on together.
I don’t need big muscles, rock hard abs, a butt you could bounce a quarter off of, thighs that could crack a nut. Instead, I have a lap that is soft and great for sitting on for stories. I have a tummy that makes an awesome pillow for snuggle time. My butt is comfortable to sit on, unlike my skinny days. My arms are big enough to hold all of those I love. I don’t need much more than that.
So why am I doing a 5 week workout challenge? My goal is not to have a super model body. My goal is to get a moderate level of exercise so that my body is healthy, regardless of its size or amount of squishyness. My goal is to inspire others to move their bodies and get healthy too. My goal is to show that you don’t have to be perfect or even strive for perfection to exercise.
Getting daily exercise doesn’t have to be boring or grueling. There are so many ways to exercise! Walking, hiking, jogging, running, dancing, rock climbing, pilates, trampoline, swimming, biking, I could go on and on. Find something that YOU love and do it!
Although I feel confident about how I feel about my body, for myself and for my family, it’s a different thing to expose oneself to the world. Seeing myself on video, and my not so perfect body, I worry not about what others might say as much as how my children would feel if they saw others saying bad things about me. I’ve seen some cruel things said online about a lot of different topics. My heart hurts for those that the comments are aimed at.
Ultimately, I’ve decided to be brave and post this video regardless of what anyone else might think. Should anyone say anything mean, I will let it roll off my back. The only opinions that matter to me are of those I love and of myself.
Do you ever feel self-conscious about your body? Do you worry about strangers making rude comments? How do you handle that kind of situation?
Attempting to Break My Plank Record
5 Week Workout Challenge: Week 2, Day 4
After my first plank yesterday, I wanted to try again, with my arms rested. Planking is a lot harder than it looks! Trying to hold it for long is incredibly difficult! I might try again throughout the summer to see how much I’ve built up my arm strength.
I was amazed at how long Mr. Awesome was able to hold his plank for! Princess had a hard time not slipping on the carpet. Maybe in the future, we’ll have to figure out a way to be less slippery.
Have you tried planking? How long did you make it your first time? What is your plank record?
Cupcake begged me for months to make slime. With busy school schedules, we barely had time to breathe, much less, attempt a new, potentially messy and time-consuming craft. I promised her that we would make slime once school was out.
As summer approached, Cupcake happily reminded me frequently of the approaching slime adventure. Once school was out, I went to the store and bought a giant jug of glue. We gathered the remaining supplies at home and all of the kids excitedly assembled around the table for the project.
We had a lot of fun playing with it plain, but we also added a bunch of fun things into it for sensory play. We added a couple different glitters, food dye, cut up straws, craft eyeballs, kinetic sand, and beads. The kids also used straws to blow bubbles. I also added some child-friendly essential oils to a couple batches. Really, you could add anything you want!
1/2 cup glue mixed into 1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp borax mixed into 1/2 cup warm water
Slowly add borax into glue, one spoonful at a time until mixture isn’t sticky.
Knead with Hands.
Add glitter, beads, dye, etc.
Store in zip lock baggies or another airtight container.
Check out our video for an example of how to make it!
Have you made slime? What did you add to it? Share in the comments!