Friday, May 29, 2009

Lego Pays Off

Wow! Mxyl can now build anything from Ikea by himself!! I think that this is the day I was dreaming of when I had 4 kids 4 and under...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Choclo!

Guess who got a family membership to the B & O Railroad Museum for his birthday?

His favorite part may have been the Thomas the Tank Engine built out of Legos.

Or the wooden train he got to play on.

Or the exquisite model train set up in an antique passenger car.

Or it could have been the ride on the actual train. That one is hard to tell since he actually hollered through almost all of it that he wanted to get off (5 out of 6 Zoomlians enjoyed the train ride very much).

Naturally, that night, he proclaimed it his very favorite part and he wanted to do it again.

But I think his very favorite was playing in the real locomotive with a great (loud) soundtrack of the train starting, then picking up speed, whistles sounding.

And he liked the cake back home!

Happy, happy birthday, Choclo!

And why did this picture come out sideways, anyway?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Galaxy Zoo

How cool is this?

You, yes you, can identify galaxies better than computers. The tutorial alone is fascinating! Sign up to help classify galaxies for the digital sky survey!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rosing to the Occasion

I've always thought I'd like to make rose petal jelly. I certainly have enough roses (this being one of the 4 climbing roses on the front of the house and those are only the pink roses)!

In past years, I've collected the petals for pot pourri and dried the roses for arrangements, but pulling out the canning equipment has always seemed to big a a hassle.

I figured out why: the roses bloom during the height of the last of the extracurricular activities (CCD, co-op, scouts) and during the final push of "serious" school which is already competing (and losing) against the nice weather.

Bottom line: if I don't try it this year because I'm busy, it'll never happen. I'll always be busy!

So the girls picked rose petals - how is that for a charming occupation?

The recipe was simple:
3 c. (pressed down) rose petals (rinsed off)
3c. boiling water
3 c. sugar
1 pkg powdered pectin

Steep the petals in the boiling water for 30 to 60 minutes (mine went 2 hours).
Strain, bring to a boil.
Add sugar, boil.
Add pectin, bring to a rolling boil for 60 seconds.
Ladle into hot jars, seal (I use rings and lids) , process in boiling water 5-10 minutes.

Very interesting! When you steep the (bright pink) petals, the petals turn white and the water turns brown. That seems explainable by the color compounds not being heat stable. BUT, wonder of wonders, after 10 - 15 minutes, the water slowly turns pink. In fact, after the sugar and pectin are added, the jelly is an even darker pink than the fresh petals - more the color of the dried petals. What is happening???

I have no idea! If you do, leave it in the comments. If I can find out, I will post again about it.

The science in the rose jelly that I do know about is the pectin/sugar magic. Pectin is a a very large but compactly folded molecule. When you heat it, like most large molecules, it begins to unfold and all those neatly packed angles stick out and get caught on other things (this is why eggs turn from liquid to solid in the frying pan). In the presence of the right proportion of sugar, pectin forms a fine network with the sugar (which is also unfolding) and this network is strong enough to hold the water as a gel. Gel- jell-jelly! Yum!

The jelly is setting up. While we wait, we are drinking rose petal tea. Again, you have to wait for it to turn pink again. The kids thought to float fresh petals in the fancy tea cups. Now that is fancy tea! And yes, I should have taken a picture of it for you.

We still have more petals, so we are thinking of making beads out of them, although I don't think we'll get enough to make the traditional rose rosary.

PS: Do I need to mention that you should never use roses that have been sprayed with chemicals? Didn't think so, but just in case...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's Our Golden Anniversary!

Kind of.

We were married on the 19th and it's our 19th anniversary!

Best Beloved:

there's no one I'd rather clean up eggs with than you,

there's no one I'd rather stay up way too late talking with,

there's no one I'd rather retile the bathroom with,

there's no one I'd rather work with, play with, write with, laugh with, peggle with, raise kids with, pray with, or live with.

It had to be you!

Here's to another 19 crazy years!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Big Tank

Each of the four older kids has had their own fish tank for almost 2 years and we were starting to look to expand. Zorg particularly was interested in a big tank (although that's Mxyl in the picture).

We have been reading up on fish tanks and window shopping at pet stores for nearly 3 months, but never had the cash for a big tank.

Surprise! It turns out that Zorg's godfather is really into aquariums! And he just happened to have a 29 gallon tank lying around...

We've been having a great time! Talk about educational! We are cycling the tank- adding fish and plants carefully to get the bacteria to grow to take care of the ammonia the fish will generate. And the other bacteria to take care of the nitrites the first bacteria generate and instead make nitrates which make the plants grow.

It's really setting up an ecosystem. We needed to choose a substrate (sand or gravel) that would support and nourish the plants, and lighting that would grow plants instead of algae. We need to choose the right plants for the lighting and water conditions... the right snails to eat dead leaves and algae but not live plants...oh, yes, and FISH!

Zorhg is picking most of the fish (with his godfather's guidance, believe me, I did not figure any of this stuff out on my own!). So far we have transferred some of our old cory catfish and bought a flock of fancy (male) guppies. Yeah, it should be a school, but their colors and patterns are more like tropical birds.

Embarrassingly, one of my favorite things about the big tank is the water tests - chemical assays for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH! This has dovetailed beautifully with our earlier chemistry unit!

May Day!

How's this for a late post?

May 1st is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker as well as the first day of the month dedicated to Mary.

I hunted around in the basement and found an old piece of molding (maybe 8 feet long), a hacksaw and a miter box.

I taught the kids to cut angles using the miter box. We cut the molding in half, then cut a 1 foot section from each piece. I think each cut used a 45 degree angle and I had to keep checking the pieces to make sure we were cutting the angle in the right direction since the molding was not the same on both sides. I still messed it up, but you can't see it!

I intended to nail it together, but opted for hot glue at the last minute. We sprayed it with gold spray paint and then went shopping for flowers.

Our local craft store had garlands on sale and the kids picked out two (of the most colorful variety). We twisted it around our wood and fastened the looped ends of the garland to a nail on the wall (for stability). We then brought up our Mary statue from the chapel (Did we sing "Immaculate Mary? I had intended too, but can't remember!) and installed her in her new shrine in the living room!

The irises are from the plants i had given up on when they didn't bloom at all last year. I am happy to say they bloomed profusely this year, even though they still badly need dividing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Guest blog by Klenda: Horse Sense and Monticello

Klenda: I just came back from a trip with my grand-mother! I saw a whole lot of horses!

By the way, that horse is named Afton. He is, as you may know from history books, named after a mountain which is named after a river! Phew!

He is used as a jumping horse and he is very good at it! He is lovely!

This is Monticello, which we also got to see.
Tomas Jefferson himself designed it, lived in it,and, I think, raised a family in it!

We got to go
inside, but they would not let me take pictures.
Anyway, I had a great time there.

Hope to post again soon!

Needing to Lighten Up a Little

I think I just don't blog much when I'm stressed. My parents are having health problems and some other members of my extended family are having very serious problems. My friend and religious superior died very suddenly this week. We are trying to refinance now that the rates are so low. We've had trouble with both cars... We are having house guests... And, well, you saw the last post!

It all adds up to not a lot of blogging. When I have a spare moment I want to sit quietly in the chapel or read an encouraging blog from some one else.

We are actually doing pretty well, all things considered, but saying a prayer for us wouldn't hurt!

I hope to restart again this week with notes from the rocket science lessons and the big tank set up.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Lock the Refrigerator?

Because your Garbage Truck with a Robot Arm might shift gears and decide to be a Street Sweeper Cleaning Up the Floor instead.

And what could possibly need to be cleaned up more than half a dozen smashed eggs?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guest Blog by Leena and Zorg

Leena: At the zoo we saw an elephant shrew!
Ha! Ha! Ha! Get it? Get it?! Get it?

Zorg: We wobbled in the rain; we liked it!

It was Oob's birthday! Hooray!

OOB IS 2!!!

He's old enough to blow out candles!

He had carrot cake with cream cheese frosting because the Emperor said it would look nice in his hair!