Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lots O Stuff

 Catching up from a crazy week!

Did I mention that the Emperor, Klenda, Zorg, Leena, and Choclo got tp see the Holy Father?  They did!  And it was wonderful!

But there were "only" 5 tickets, so I stayed home with Mxyl (who was mostly doing college stuff) and Oob, who had a great time having me all to himself!

 The Emperor got to see the pope on the eve of his (the Emperor's) birthday, which was great, and we watched (on TV) as the Holy Father addressed Congress, which was kind of like a birthday present, too.

The Emperor was a bit shocked by how many candles ended up on his cake!  I wanted to put four candles on one side and six on the other, but Oob insisted he should have 46.  Well, it took care of my stash of non matching birthday candles, anyway!

 Then we rounded off the week with me taking a trip up to visit my folks.

My dad cleaned my car. I have never in my life vacuumed a car as thoroughly as my dad manages to do nearly every time I come up.

It gleams.  It glows.  It smells nice.

My dad has always specialized in doing the impossible. 

And speaking of impossible, you are looking at the Forbidden Carpet.

We were wandering through the flooring section, and Mumpy announced that she never wanted any wall to wall carpet in her house ever again.

Area rugs would be fine.  She wouldn't mind any kind of area rug.
I, of course, looked for the most outlandish area rug I could find, and this was it!  It is beyond shag and well into furry.  The only place it would really work is in the palace of a barbarian king.

Mumpy: That is... FORBIDDEN!

This is why I'm in such demand as an decorating consultant. I have a talent for finding the perfect thing you would never put in your house.  It's a gift.

And here is Mumpy's pumpkin.

OK, it's not actually a pumpkin, but I thought it was one of those white pumpkins.

It's a actually a giant puffshroom

In other news, Pa may have cleaned my car, but Mumpy cleaned my clock at pigs knuckles (our own weird version of pinochle).

I had bid her up (and dropped her like a rock), but, alas, I had hardly begun to laugh maniacly when I realized I had been skunked.

And she looks so sweet!

And we all had a wonderful time!!!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Awesome History: Assyria, India, China

 We started out with Assyria and the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The kids acted out the story as I read it from the book: Oob was Gilgamesh, the cruel king who learns of love and mortality; Choclo was Enkidu, the wild half-monster who becomes his friend.

I think here Zorg is the Bull of Heaven.

 Then we did sand painting (an Indian art) on the driveway.

We just mixed sand with powdered paint ad let the kids draw whatever they wanted with it.
As it happened, the sand was damp, so the effect was a little different from the last time we did this, but it came out well.

 For China, I really wanted to see if we could get silk from silkworm cocoons.  In the story, the Empress unwinds a cocoon that had fallen into her tea, and, as it turns out, soaking the cocoons in hot water is exactly how you get the silk to unspool!

I should probably note, if you follow the link, that she is growing her own cocoons, mine came from China and already had the pupa removed.
For our snack, we went Indian (Surprise!) with pappadam and chai.

We buy the pappadam at an Indian grocery and fry it in a little oil.  Mmmmm.  Crispy and ethereal deliciousness.

For chai, I simmered some whole spices for half an hour, then took steeped some tea bags in the pot (heat off).  Then I strained it and added milk and sugar (and maybe a touch of vanilla).

The house smelled terrific!  I like to use cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise (or fennel seeds), peppercorns (or sliced fresh ginger) and green cardamom pods.  I happened to have fenugreek and whole mace (nutmeg arils), so I used them this time.

Story of the World chapters 8-10.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Passing of a Generation

 Our dear grandmother and long time reader of this blog, Ann McKnight, passed away yesterday
morning in Arkansas.

She was our last surviving grandparent, a master weaver, and a keen observer of the world.

We will miss her, but I'm so grateful we got to see her one last time this summer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In Other News

The Emperor and I went out to visit Mom's grave and see her new headstone.  We had a very nice time- I suppose we were gone for an hour, and when we got home the house smelled...good.

Choclo and Oob had decided they were hungry and had fixed themselves a snack.  Mmmmmmmm.  What could be better than buttered roasted garlic

Between the two of them, they ate 28 cloves (according to them, but my bag of garlic is nearly empty).

So, yes, the house did smell like an Italian restaurant. Choclo and Oob, on the other hand, smell like small kids who have each eaten over a dozen cloves of garlic. 

On the bright side, this really knocked out the cold.  On the dimmer side, it also knocks out anyone within 10 feet.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Blood Donor

For a lot of my life, I haven't been able to donate blood (pregnancy, nursing, already donating at the lab, etc.), but now I'm a fairly regular blood donor.  It's something that has always seemed important to do, if I could.

I've donated about 20 times (which sounds like a lot, until you spread it over 46 years), and they always ask you a battery of questions about your health and life style, but just this once, I was asked a new question: why do you want to give blood?

 I had never thought it through before:
I give blood because some one once gave blood for me, and it saved my life. 

I can give a pint fairly painlessly, but when he gave blood it hurt. 

A lot.

And it was all 8 pints. 

But he did it gladly for me, and for my brothers and sisters.  In the face of that example, how can I not give a little of my blood to help those brothers and sisters?

Not everyone can give blood, some for medical reasons, some because it gives them the heebie jeebies and they pass out.  Please don't give blood if that's you!  But for me, I have no reason not to, and one very good reason to be a blood donor.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Poem of the Week: The Invisible Company

The Invisible Company

I didn't know.
Blissful ignorance,
Untouched by real loss.

Now, my heart's eye is opened:
How many of  us walk
With this insistent absence!

You smile, but I know:
You too are a member
Of the Company Unaccompanied.

This Tuesday will be 6 months since my dear MIL's passing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Awesome History: Sumer, Abraham, and Hammurabi

This week covered Sargon the Sumerian (which would make a great pro wrestling name, now that I think of it), the early Israelites (Abraham through Joseph), and Hammurabi.

Hammurabi is known for making laws (the Code of Hammurabi) and posting them around his empire.  This was earliest written legal code we have found, and, in what must have been shocking at the time, Hammurabi declared everyone, even himself, bound by these laws.

Our activity was Hammurabi Says (like Simon Says, but with Hammurabi).

Our art project was writing on clay tablets.  This was just clay slabs with popsicle sticks.  I did use pruners to cut the stick on a slant on one end.

Our snack was making Joseph's coat of many colors out of sugar cookies (cut to look like coats) and multi colored frosting.

It was almost a second art project, really.

Efforts ranged from making it as artistic as possible, to heaping on as much frosting as possible.

I think everyone was pleased with the results!

We also talked about laws at dinner.

When the Zoomlians were all little we read this chapter and set up steles (overturned laundry hampers) around the house with our family's rules (as the kids came up with them).  I called it the Code of ObeyMommy.

Here are some of the rules they came up with:

No breaking any windows.

No singing at the table.

No sleeping in the bath tub.

If you have little kids, I highly encourage you to ask them what they think the laws of your house are!

Story of the World chapters 5-7.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Biology: Classsifications

We looked at our eggs from last week.  The egg on the left was soaked in water, and the water molecules moved from the area of greater concentration (the pure water) through the membrane into the are of lesser concentration (the egg). That egg was swollen.

The egg on the right was soaked in corn syrup.  There was much more water in the egg than in the corn syrup, so the water moved in the opposite direction, leaving us with this weird shriveled egg.

You may recall that we also soaked an egg in brine, but that was identical to the water, probably because the salt was able to pass through the membrane as well.

Then it was on to classification.

We talked about how and why humans compulsively classify things, and the difference between Aristotle's sock drawer and the sock drawer of Linneaeus.

 Carolus Linneaus, OTH, must have had his socks organized by the colors in the spectrum and then alphabetized by country of manufacture!  He was the father of our modern classification system.  If you can't read the headings in the picture, they are (down) Kingdom, Phylum, Class Order, Family Genus, species, and (across) cat, lion, dog, octopus.

We only had one Biology class this week because the other family was sick. I love it when people get sick and don't come.  That's not sarcasm, that's microbiology.  Or virology, in this case, because we got hit by a cold anyway a few days later.

I don't love it that they're sick, of course,  I just appreciate it when someone lets me know that their kids are sick and gives me the chance to opt out.  Most of the time it doesn't matter much, but when I'm planning to visit my folks, it matters a lot!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

More Air and Space

 I love Adventurers! There's nothing like having a dozen free world class museums on your doorstep to spark a sense of wonder about the world!

Yesterday's pictures were from last week, but Air and Space takes about 3 weeks (6 hours) to go through thoroughly, and even then, we never see everything. 

Alas, this year, we can only spend two weeks, but since we have younger kids along, that's about right.
Zoomlians on the bridge!

 Last week we did the "space" side, and this week we did the "air" side.

This included climbing through some planes, examining propeller and jet engines, and visiting my favorite exhibit: the aircraft carrier mock up!

You can climb up into a navigation bridge on one side and "watch" fighter jets taking off, and then cross back to the control tower and watch them land on the other side of the ship.

The design is just brilliant! You really feel you are on the ship (or, in Leena's case, that you are in the Shatterdome of Pacific Rim)!

My other favorite, and conveniently near the carrier,  is the WWII exhibit.

The mural is gorgeous, the layout is fantastic, and they have all sorts of smaller exhibits tucked into odd corners.

Also, you can get very close to the planes on both levels, which makes for a compellingly immersive experience.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Biology: Cells Part 2

 We also talked about one of my favorite scientific concepts: diffusion.  It's amazing how many biological (and physical) processes rely on diffusion.

We started by dropping dye into hot and cold water.  The dye diffused slowly in dream like clouds in the cold water, but rapidly in the hot.

One kid observed that the hot water stirred itself, which is very apt:  the molecules are moving quickly, so they are mixing themselves around.

I also tried the trick of spraying perfume in one corner of the room and having the kids (who were sitting in a line) raise their hands when they smelled it.    

Last time I did this, it worked perfectly, with each kid smelling it as the diffusion progressed.   
This time I had kids with allergies who couldn't smell much, and the air conditioning was on which changed the air flow. A partial success.

We also talked about osmosis: diffusion of water across a membrane.  This is one of my favorite experiments!

In my first class of the week, we put eggs in vinegar.

By the second class, their shells were dissolved, leaving only the membrane.

We were ready to observe osmosis!

We put two in water, two in brine, and two in corn syrup, and we will see what they look like on Tuesday.

Lastly, we took a look at some beans which we had wrapped in damp paper towels during the first class.

One group was moistened with water, another with salt water, and a third with vinegar.

The idea was to design an experiment with a hypothesis and controls.

The water sprouted the beans, no big  surprise there.

The salt and vinegar both prevented sprouting and caused the color of the beans to bleed on the paper towels, with the added bonus that the acid in the vinegar shifted the bean color redder!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Poem of the Week: The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Awesome History: Egypt

 At last!  I We got to mummify a chicken!  Another thing checked off the bucket list!  It's for the children's education!

Actually, we decided to do a Cornish Game Hen on the theory that it was smaller and would dry more quickly and completely.

Have I ever mentioned how disappointed I was when I discovered that a Cornish Game Hen is really just a small chicken? Scarring.

We rinsed off the hen with water, then alcohol (rubbing, instead of the more authentic wine).

Then we packed it with our salt mixture.  We used roughly equal parts baking soda, baking powder, and table salt.   Surprisingly, these are all the salts present in natron (the salt the Egyptians were using) except for sodium sulfide (and really, do we want to add stinky sulfur compounds?).

We threw some old spices into the salt mixture for scent, and we also soaked some in oil so we would have scented oil later in the process.

And that's it! Except for changing the salt every few days as it gets wet...

So it was on to the art project.  I had gotten some papyrus, hieroglyph stamps, and stencils off of Amazon.  I usually am more of a "crafts with things you find around the house" type, but between Choclo's enduring interest in all things Egyptian, and our large rubber stamp collection, I thought this was totally worth it.

And, honestly, it came out really well!

It's the sort of project where younger kids do it quickly and it looks good, and older kids get creative, and it looks fantastic!

Generally they were using the hieroglyphs to spell their names, although we had some secret message stuff going on, too.

And we did toilet paper mummies, because, you know.

Who can resist a toilet paper mummy?

Oh, yes, snacks!  I whipped up some mummy cookies.  Yum!

If you're keeping track, this was Story of the World chapters 2-4: Early Egyptians and first writing.