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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween Costume and Party Ideas - Mad Scientist Lab

Due to a shortened amount of time to plan this year, we opted for a simpler costume for the hosts and simpler menu and focus more on the activities for the kiddos.   They are mostly between 7 and 12 years old, with a handful that are younger.   We tossed around some ideas and decided to go with a Mad Scientist theme because I had been waiting patiently to do a sensory activity.   One of my favorite Halloween memories is when we were blindfolded and were asked to feel of things.  It is quite interesting how you perceive something when one sense is removed.
So, for our party, the idea was that our guests had arrived at Turner Up Labs, where the theory of big bangs are tested every day!   As you can see, the last lab experiment didn’t work out so great for Dr. Kay Boom and her hair.

We told them that we were in need of assistants, and the activities of the night would test their skills to see if they qualified as potential employees.   We divided the kiddos into three groups, mostly by age, and rotated them through each station.   We even created forms for everyone to fill out, but it ended up being easier to just use them when we tested their inventory skills.
We have one room that has two doors and no windows, and it happened to have a dimmer switch for one set of lights in the room.   It was perfect for the sensory activity.   The kiddos were told that they would be tested on their inventory skills, but instead of using their eyes, they would use their hands.   There were six items for them to feel and tell us how many were in each one.  As they would start to put their hand into the hole, I would ask, “How many [insert item] do you feel?”  There was quite the mixture of reactions, regardless of age.

Construction involved six shoe boxes.  I used a saucer to trace a circle on one the end of the lid and cut it out with an Exact-o knife.  Inside the box I placed a styrofoam bowl with the item to be “inventoried”.   There are many choices on the internet, but we opted for these six:
Overcooked spaghetti  as WORMS
Peeled grapes as EYEBALLS (google the how to)
Dried apricots as EARS
Cooked orzo as MAGGOTS
Bacon bits as SCABS
Popcorn kernels as TEETH
The boxes were lined up side by side on the table, and a black tablecloth from the party section of Walmart (about a dollar) was draped over the table and boxes.   Holes were cut into the tablecloth right above the holes in the boxes.  This helped with deterring anyone from peeking.   

After all of the kiddos came through, there were some mommies that were nominated to try it also, which was quite funny.   We did a big reveal to let the kids see what they had really been touching.  

 The best comment was “I will never look at bacon bits the same again.”

In the garage we set up two card tables side by side with a purple tablecloth, also from the party section of Walmart.  One end of the table was prepared for making slime and the other was for making pumpkin playdough.   I had researched and tried a few different slime recipes online, and my favorite was the following:
4 oz glue
½ T baking soda
food coloring or paint
1 T contact solution
Before everyone arrived, we put the glue in styrofoam bowls to keep things moving quickly.  

 Then we added the baking soda and coloring and mixed well before adding the contact solution.  Then it was STIR FAST!  It cleaned up completely in the bowl and they saw results immediately when the contact solution was added.   We purchased these 5 oz cups from Amazon to contain the slime and playdough, which were delivered while we were eating!  When the doorbell rang, we assumed it was another guest.   He did have a most convincing costume as a UPS driver.
The pumpkin playdough was truly an experiment.  It worked okay for some of the kiddos and not so great for the others.   We made the executive decision that the very youngest guests would not make it because it did end up being very messy.   

 We needed larger bowls and probably a bit more cornstarch.
The recipe I used was the following:
½ c.  canned pumpkin
½ c. cornstarch
½ t. pumpkin pie spice (I recommend using more, but we were limited with our supply)
It was funny to hear some of the girls talk about how bad the pumpkin smelled out of the can, but they really liked the pumpkin pie spice.

The third station was located outside because it was the messiest activities.  There were three things for which they were to write a hypothesis:
1.  How long would it take for the burp bag to burst?
2.  How high will the soda shoot out of the bottle when the mentos were dropped in?   Which goes higher, the dark cola or the colored cola?
3. Which size tablet causes the most bubbles in the lava lamp?

Burp Bag
They were to add 1/3 c. white vinegar and ¼ c. warm water , and a drop of food coloring to a ziploc bag.   Then drop in a prepared baking soda pouch with 2 T. of baking soda, zip the bag quickly, and put it on the ground.  
I performed this experiment earlier in the day, and my bag burst in about 10 seconds.  Unfortunately, my helpers missed the memo about putting the ENTIRE pouch in the liquid mixture, so the first two groups’ mixtures reacted too quickly.   The third group’s bags expanded well, but none burst.  We believe it was because the water had cooled off while sitting outside.

To make the baking soda pouches, we used ¼ of a square napkin.  We folded it into a paper cup (remember those?) by folding in half across the diagonal and then bring the two long corners in to the middle and finish by folding back the other corner on both sides.  We added 2 T. baking soda carefully, and then put it in a 2 oz plastic cup to prevent spilling.   

We kept these inside to avoid unnecessary moisture absorption until right before.

Shooting Soda
I assumed that many had watched or heard of the Diet Coke with Mentos experiment, so I opted to use generic sodas instead of brand name to see if there was a difference.  I also purchased a variety- three colas, one red, one orange, and one yellow soda, and they were all diet. 

  Each group had a cola and a color drink to drop mentos into and watch.   The first group managed to get Big T and one of the kids soaked pretty good because they didn’t get away quick enough.   But we learned that generics don’t shoot as high as brand name, and we learned that the colored sodas don’t shoot as high as the cola.  And we also learned that it is tough to take pictures in a dark backyard.

Lava Lamp
This one surprised all of us on just how cool it was to watch.  Before everyone arrived, I filled several water bottles 2/3 full with oil and then added water up to about 2” from the top.  Each group chose two bottles and picked a color of food coloring to drop in.   They were asked how long it would take for the water to color, and their reactions when it finally happened was quite entertaining.   Then, they were to choose whether dropping a ½ tablet, a ¼ tablet, or several tiny pieces of a generic Alka-Seltzer would generate the most bubbles and test their theory.    

It was our determination that dropping several tiny pieces created the most bubbles.

Although some of our experiments didn’t work out as planned, we realized that is just part of working in a lab, right?  The real success was everyone spending some time together and just hanging out.  And we may have found a few new recruits for Turner Up Labs.  

Happy Halloween! 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Looking for Josiah

As I was driving to work a few mornings ago, I was listening to a morning talk show ramble on about the Presidential candidates.  Mentioned were pros and cons of the various hopefuls, what they had accomplished in their pasts, and speculations on what each one would do if elected to lead our country.  My mind began to wander back to the Old Testament, as it often does when I think about politics and the leadership of our country.  

 For the past ten years, I have taught the same lessons to the second graders at our church, so I feel pretty familiar with the history of Israel.  We start with Israel wanting and getting their first king, Saul, and we go all of the way through the history of the nation of Israel, including the eventual fall of both Israel and Judah to other nations and then the return of the Jews to Jerusalem.  We talk a lot about the fact that God had one simple rule – obey my commandments.   If they just did that, then they would be blessed.  And they did, for a while.  Then they turned away from God, and even each other.    The northern kingdom of Israel had ZERO good kings after the division occurred.   Several years passed before the Assyrians took their land over, and they were known as the lost tribes of Israel after that.  The southern kingdom of Judah fared a little better, as that their kings continued in the lineage of David, but there would be years of good kings and years of bad kings.  In my mind wandering, the good king that I began thinking about was Josiah.

Josiah became king when his father died, and he was only eight years old.  When he was 16 years old, he began seeking after God.  When he was 20 years old, he began removing objects of idol worship from the country.   He even destroyed places in Israel as well as Judah.   When he was 26 years old, he ordered that the temple be cleaned up and repaired.   During this repair effort, the book of the Law was found and brought to King Josiah.  When it was read to him, he realized the sin that the country was, and had been, living in.   He was visibly upset – he even tore his clothes!   He sent to the prophetess Huldah, to inquire of God just how bad things were.   God said that evil would come to that place (Judah) because the people had forsaken Him, but that Josiah would be spared from seeing it happen.  Josiah then stood before the people and committed to follow God completely, and asked the people to do the same.  He simply “cleaned house”, in the entire land.  He also re-instituted the Passover.    The details of his reign can be found in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35. In verse 25 of 2 Kings 23, the Bible says “And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.”   In 2 Chronicles 34: 33, the Bible says “All his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.”  

And even though Josiah did all of these good things, in 2Kings 23: 26 we are told that the anger of the Lord was not diminished because of all of the evil that former king Manasseh had done.  And several years later, Judah was captured by the Babylonians.

The United States of America is on the same path as ancient Israel.  The leadership in our country has forsaken God.  They act as though they are above the rules, the real rules – the Bible.  

I feel that we need a President who will direct the country back toward God, but in the right way, like Josiah did.  He showed the Israelites what they were doing wrong against God’s law, and what it said would happen.  They realized their sin and repented and continued to follow God, just like their leader.  

I have yet to hear “getting back to God” on anyone’s political agenda.  Considering how far the country is down the road to Hades, it would take some pretty creative and persuasive ideas to get the people to at least consider looking at God, much less actually turning to Him.  Our country needs a lot of things that are being discussed these days, like a great plan to get out of debt, but what it really needs is godly leadership.   
So, I’m looking for a Josiah on the ballot.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's a Cat's Life

So, as I was sitting here pondering ideas for a post, I looked down at the big, gray, snoring, twitching fuzzball to my immediate right.   And I mean - IMMEDIATE.  He has to be touching my leg, even though he is curled in a ball for one of his many daily naps.   Yep, Bandit.   So, why not a post about the world's most spoiled cat?

Bandit is the third feline to grace our household.  Harley was the first- a big ol' Maine Coon that was the smartest animal I have ever been around.  I had him for about 8 years before Big T and Shadow came into the family.   Shadow was just a happy coincidence about six weeks before we got married.  She was found under the porch of our first house, and I couldn't get rid of her.   Thankfully Harley was the best big bro cat and tolerated her kitten ways.

Bandit was  a pseudo-stray.  We were actually at a nursing home to pick up an adult stray when a car pulled up.   We assumed that the driver was putting this gray kitten out, and of course, Big T went to investigate.  Some conversation later and we were heading to my parents' house with two cats.  The older one was left in the barn, and the younger one was deemed our niece's cat that would live with us.   She named him Bandit to go along with our "motorcycle" themed feline trend.

 He was a tiny three pounds when we took him to the vet but otherwise healthy. 

I firmly believe that Shadow never really forgave us for bringing this pest into her otherwise peaceful life. He explored everything. Even where he didn't belong.   Or fit.
Lots of jumping involved to make it on top of the kitchen cabinets!

I know I filed that catnip in here somewhere.

I fit in here, I know I do.

Yep, I think this is a great location for the linen cupboard. Blanket please.

Now that he is an only kitty, he spends most of his day watching the wildlife in the backyard.
This is his squirrel watching pose.

Or napping.  Or getting ready to nap.  Or just waking up from a nap.

He still has a lot of kitty in him, and he likes to chase and fetch a ball, much like Harley did.  Not sure how he survived this awfully mean trick.

He is good to keep you company when you are working on the computer.

Mouse?  What mouse?

Oh, did you want to use this desk space?

Like most felines, he is territorial.  It is ALL his territory. 

My bench looking out my window
My rocking chair

My couch
Unlike most felines, he gets dressed up.
My first Halloween.  I hate you people for this. Aloha.
My first Christmas.  Ho. Ho. Ho.

He is not picky; he is willing to be spoiled by either of us. But Big T spoils him more than I do.

It's a thousand wonders that he knows how to walk as much as he is carried.

Kitty selfie!

 And we have times that are just weird funny strange, like this time that the weather was getting pretty nasty and he was watching the radar go around and around.  Scary.

James Spann is my hero.

And sometimes he is just......solemnly feline.


 And, well, he can be more entertaining than an Avengers or Harry Potter movie marathon.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Right Royal Night at LRG

For our date night, Big T and I signed up for a Primitive Archery class at Last Resort Guns, a local range right down the road.  Big T goes there to practice sometimes, and he also teaches the NRA Beginner’s Handgun class there occasionally.  Russ Durling, the CEO, was our instructor.  Russ is retired RAF and has a wonderful sense of humor.  He is also quite knowledgeable about bows (and weapons in general).  Plus, I must note that he has a lovely British accent.

The goal of the class was to make a longbow and three arrows and then learn to use them.  For information regarding the English longbow from Wikipedia, click here.

Our class was comprised of six students.  Besides the two of us, there was a mum and her two daughters and another lady.   We began by choosing the colors of our bow string, fletches, and nocks.  Fletches are the feathers for the arrows, and nocks are the pieces on the end of the arrow that notch into the bow string.  My fletches were blue-white-blue, my nocks were yellow, and the bowstring was black.

 Our first task was to make our arrows.  We were given dowels that had been “sharpened” sort of, on each end, but not to a point.   Using an ancient secret adhesive, Super Glue, we first attached the nocks to each arrow on the more pointy end.   

Then using the same ancient adhesive, we attached the pointers on the other end and gently tapped them with a hammer.
My most challenging part was next – attaching the fletches.  Using two popsicle sticks to hold the fletch, we added three small dots of the glue on the rib of the fletch and then placed it on the arrow, lining up with the little bump on the nock.   

 After we had one fletch on each arrow, then a guide was used to mark two more spots 120 degrees apart so that the fletches were equally spaced on the arrow.  After all of the fletches were glued on, then we ran a bead of glue down each one to make them stay put.  Then we set the arrows aside to dry completely while we worked on the bows.
We were all issued two pieces of bamboo, for the bow and the backer.  First we sanded them so that they had smooth edges on the side so that we didn’t get any splinters and so that our bowstrings wouldn’t be cut by a jagged edge in the notches.   

 Next we found the center of both pieces and lined up the centers and tied the two pieces together with leather string on each end with a flat knot.  
Now we had to choose a piece of leather about 5”x8” to wrap around the middle for our grip.  This was also secured with a longer piece of leather lace.    

And to make it very secure, two more leather laces were added between the grip and the other tie points.   Then we added a highly technical piece, a coffee stirrer,(see above) as an arrow rest. 
Lastly, we added the bowstrings.  First we made a loop and attached one end, then Russ showed us how to determine the length by placing the bow between his feet and behind his left knee. He then bent it to an arch to where the bow string would be approx. 13” from the arch.  

 Then the string was looped for the other end.   And tada – our bows were finished!
We are now ready to go to the range and put them to use. 
Big T had a huge advantage over me, as that he has used a bow before when bow-hunting. You can see here that he has a good stance.
  I had never even picked a bow up that I could remember, but with some good instruction,  I was able to hit the target after a few tries at the 5 yard mark.   I didn’t realize that you are supposed to hold the bow at a 10 degree angle; I always thought that it was held straight up and down.  I also learned that the more I thought about the shot, the worse it was.   I did have to keep reminding myself:  “Elbow down”, “thumb on cheek”, and “breathe”.   At one point, I was running through scenes from “Princess Diaries 2”, “Hunger Games”,  and “Lord of the Rings” in my mind, trying to figure out what to do to correct my shots.  I was glad that my shooting wasn't determining my fate or my dinner.

 Russ decided that he would challenge us a little and moved my target and Big T’s target to a distance of 15-20 yards.  I personally believe he over-estimated my skills, but after a few shots at that distance, he put up new targets.  My first shot was a bullseye!  

I freaked out!   Of course, I couldn’t repeat that.  But it was still cool. 

For our last couple of rounds, he let us choose zombie or alien targets.  I got an alien target.   On the very last round, I was able to get three arrows to stay in the target instead of go through it for a very funny picture.   Yay!!