Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Science behind our Christmas

Science has definitely ruled this year’s Christmas. Since I’ve recently gained a few Scientifically nutty friends, I thought I would make a blog about some of this year’s gifts. This is going to take a few posts.

For Brother: A Heat Swirl Stick

This idea came from Mr. Wizard. (Thank you Steve Spangler for mentioning this great TV scientist of yesteryear.) Hold this near any heat source and the rising warm air will twirl it.

First I duct taped three pencils together.

Then I put a needle in the eraser and secured it with glue.

I cut a paper plate into a swirl, and had my son decorate it with markers.

Then I glued a thimble to the center.

To play: Place the thimble on top of the needle. Hold the stick near a heat source, like a space heater (but not too near). The swirl will begin to turn.

Recap: You need duct tape, three unsharpened pencils, a needle, glue, a paper plate, crayons or markers, a thimble, and a heat source (a space heater or a vent works well).

For Sister: Packing Peanuts Sculpture



I saw this at Big!Lots. I’d saved “ghost poop” from a shipped box.

When I found out you could wet dampen them and stick them together, I knew I had a great gift idea.

First we colored our white peanuts with permanent marker.

Then we planned out our sculpture.

Finally with a small bowl of water, we stuck our creation together.

Recap: You need packing peanuts (ghost poop kind), permanent marker (or get colored ones), and water.

For Mom: Photo Flowers

The photo flowers use a tie dye concept. That’s pretty much where the science ends, but not the math.

First I printed up this pattern (made from an outline of a picture tube on my Corel photo shop program). I sized the pattern to fit on a half-sheet.

I cut two fun foam flowers. (I asked my kids, "How many flowers can you fit on one piece of fun foam?")
With a permanent marker, I drew a dot.

Now the Science: I used rubbing alcohol from an empty food coloring dropper to spread the marker. Don’t worry about going too far on the petals. I went about a fourth of the way up. This tie dye effect makes the flower look tropical.

Then I glued the fun foam flowers together in the center.
Next, I cut a small photo of my child into a circle. The circle is about the size of a soda bottle cap. I glued the photo to the center. You may decide it doesn’t need a photo, and skip this all together.

The flower was looking pretty good already, but I wasn’t done. It needed a stem.



The stem is made of wire covered in floral tape, and glued to the flower.

To finish it off, I glued a small piece of green construction paper on the center.
Recap: You need fun foam, glue, floral tape, green construction paper, wire, rubbing alcohol, a dropper, permanent marker, scissors, pencil and card stock (for the pattern).
Note: I used hot glue for these crafts, but you may find that another type of glue works better.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Decorating for Christmas using STEM: Snowflakes

Your youngster is making paper snowflakes. You can just fold, cut and unfold the paper. It's kind of fun. 

You can count the number of times you fold your paper.
If you fold it in half and then in half and then in half, you are actually folding 8 pieces of paper on the next fold.
When you make your cuts, how many pieces of paper are you cutting through? Check your answer with the pieces cut out.
Don't forget to count folded pieces as two!

When you're done cutting, open the snowflake. What shapes did you make? How did folding and cutting create those shapes? How many folds and cuts went into each shape to create it?

There are two basic folds that make really good snowflakes.
The square fold
how to fold a sheet of paper for snowflake
from: toddler-net.com
and the traditional "snowflake" fold

from: www.bayshore.k12.ny.us

Can your youngster figure out why these two work so well?

THEN you can connect this to Social Studies. Did you know that China has an art form almost as intricate as Japan's origami?

It's called Jianzhi (剪纸). And some of them are pretty impressive:
From: www.absolutechinatours.com
Chinese paper cut - gold fishes 
                                                                                                      from: carreycookies.wordpress.com

So, are you "just making paper snowflakes" or are you decorating with STEM?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Parable of the Science Toy

from MS Clipart

Brian got a new toy from SteveSpanglerScience.com. It was a stick. Not just any stick. This stick flashed colors and made noise every time Brian touched both ends of it. It was a cool toy.

From SteveSpanglerScience.com
Brian held his stick and made it blink. And again. And again. And then he set his stick down and played with other toys. Soon he forgot all about his really cool stick.

One day, Brian was watching The Spangler Effect, and learned about the science behind that blinking stick. Electrons were actually jumping across his body to complete the circuit and make the stick work. Cool!
From SteveSpanglerScience.com

Brian looked at the stick with new understanding. It wasn't just a cool toy anymore. It was a the makings of a scientific experiment. Or maybe a hundred experiments.

Faith is like that stick. It makes us happy when come in contact with it. It can comfort us when we sorrow. But in the end it's not enough to blindly believe or even blindly behave. We may be faithful for a time, even performing a multitude of good works. Eventually, we will ask, "What's the point?" If we don't know the answer, then our faith will seem unnecessary. Until we have quit believing altogether.

So what's missing?

Most people believe that God is a God of Love, a God of Mercy. We have faith in Him when we believe and do His works. I believe that, too.

But He is also a God of Intelligence.

My faith is not meant to be just a thing I do, anymore than Brian's stick was meant to be just a toy.

God wants us to figure out WHY having faith in Him is so important. He wants us to ask questions, experiment with our faith, and essentially understand the "science" behind it.

God doesn't answer all my questions right away. That's okay. I'm on His timetable, after all. But I'm not going to stop asking. If I did, I would get bored really fast. Instead, I try to learn not only What is God's will, but also Why He wants it.

And when I know the Why, it makes the What that much easier to follow.

Click Here to see all of Steve Spangler Science Toys.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Parable of Santa Claus

If you haven't seen Sana Claus 2, you might want to see it before reading this parable. It will make more sense if you do. Go ahead, watch it. I'll wait.
 (pic from Yahoo Movies)
Did you see it? And now you're back? I'm flattered.
The Santa Clause 2 - After mysteriously "de-Santafying," Scott Calvin (Tim Allen)falls for Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell), the principal at his son's high school, during a magical sleigh ride.
pic from artistdirect.com
So, remember the scene where Pamela comes up to "Scott" and recognizes him as Santa Claus? Scott didn't have a big belly, or white beard or anything that would peg him as Santa, yet Pamela knew him, because she believed in him.

        Christ Fishermen
Pic from Mormon.org

Well, that's how it's going to be when we meet Jesus. Christ may not look anything like artists' portrayals of him. In fact, there's a very good chance he won't.

But if you and I truly believe in him. If we truly follow him, it won't matter what he looks like. We'll know it's him. 
We'll just know.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fairies Love to Read

If you happen to be near the El Dorado County Public Library in Placerville, CA, stop by the Children’s department. Tucked into the nonfiction section an enchanting neighborhood of fairy houses is on display.

Glimpse of the fairy world through these charming houses, and learn what the author of Sherlock Holmes, the editor of the New York sun, and others say about fairies. Each house is highlighted with some fantastic facts and Fairy-approved recommendations available at this library.

Whether you believe in Tinker Bell and the many friends of Artemis Fowl, or you just have an appreciation for recycled art, be sure to check out the display…
And then check out a few fairy books.

For the library’s location and hours, click here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I just watched Sound of Music Live, Click here for the website. This is my review of it.
In a Nutshell: if you forget that the story takes place in 1938 Austria, and ignore all the political and social issues surrounding that time period, it’s a pretty good production.

That’s not a hater comment or sarcasm either. In fact, I think the acting is sound, the pacing impeccable, and the arrangement of musical numbers a very wise choice.

If you are looking to watch a period piece, however, look elsewhere. In order to fully enjoy Sound of Music Live, I had to completely take it out of context in my mind. Instead, I had to think of it as a retelling of a fairytale. This play worked well as complete fiction.

For example, I had to forget that the color of Mother Abbess’s skin would never have been so dark. Again, I’m not being racist or sarcastic. I think Audra McDonald was an excellent choice based on her acting and singing. As long as I pretended that this story was never true, I could truly appreciate her talents. If ever I remembered that this was supposed to be 1938 Austria, the story was unbelievable.
For another example, I point to Frau Shrader. As a fairytale, I could believe her to be the president of her own corporation. I could picture her owning a plane. As a possible fiancé of Captain Von Trap, she was a gross anachronism.   

On the other hand, I did like how all the sets could have easily come from Beauty and the Beast. I’m guessing that the Von Trap Mansion was the Beast’s Ballroom with a couch and his Balcony with an added fountain. The Beast’s Library and that “scary” Hallway seem to have been transformed into an Abby and the mountainous woods could have been those same woods through which wolves chased Beauty. Perhaps the sets were borrowed? If so, that would be awesome.
The costumes and hair were subtly stylized from the late 1940’s, perfect for this fairytale version of Sound of Music. It reminds me of the way King Arthur’s time is so often portrayed, grossly out of whack from the Medieval period. To me, this was another indication of how this play should be viewed and enjoyed.   

Ironically, this freshly-labeled “Live” production actually used some classic filming techniques. One very classic technique was the placement of furniture and blocking of actors to mimic the stage. Also, extra stagy dialogue and set transitions reminded the viewer that this was a “stage production,” though the camera always had a wider viewing angle than your average theatre audience. These stage-on-film techniques have been used since the black and white days, when film was expensive and when scenes taken in a single shot were desirable.
Would I recommend watching this production? Well, I would NOT recommend it to my hubby, or any of my wonderfully anal historian friends. Too many elements would bug them to death. I MIGHT recommend it to my friends who are too young to know the story, as long they promised to read the book and not judge it by the movie. I WOULD recommend it to my quirky theatrical and drama buff friends, because they would enjoy it for what it is.






Tuesday, December 3, 2013



Why did thousands of people set a crazy goal of 50K words in a month?

Why did writers all over the country start, fall behind, panic, and race to catch up the last week of November? 

Why did they sneak in a few words, a few chapters, between courses of Thanksgiving dinner?

Because they are writers!

We crazy, lonely sect who have a passion for the written word have spent the entire month of November trying to crank out 50 thousand words of a novel. Some made it, others failed. (I’m one of the failures.) Yet even those who didn’t reach that insanely high goal don’t feel like failures. I know I don’t.

Here's How My Month Went:
Week 1 - The hardest part was finding time to write. I cut out my usual online game breaks, ignored Facebook (and the laundry) and just wrote. The story was fresh and begging to be written. From the moment Honey disintegrated the corner of her blanket to her first bus ride to Hidden Hill High, I was off and writing.

The best day was that first Saturday when I caught up to the goal!
I was stoked. But I knew it wouldn’t last long. Tomorrow was Sunday.

Week 2 - I’d made a personal decision not to work on my novel on Sundays. I like to commit my writings to God’s worship on these days. Sticking to my conviction was hard, because it meant cutting four whole days out of November. But I didn’t regret it.

The second week, I was still struggling to find time to write, but the story was still on fire. Honey was making enemies and friends at her new school, and usually only disintegrating things when she wanted to. In the middle of the week, I found a solution to my time problem. I carried my smartphone everywhere I went and emailed chunks of the writings to myself.

Week 3 - Now, I was starting to get in trouble. The main plotline was complete. Honey had saved the day, and I hadn’t broken 20K yet. I began the online games and Facebook again. I was looking for something to add in those pinholes of my novel.


Have you ever had a cavity that the dentist thought was little until she started drilling? I was missing a whole chunk of Honey's character: her life before Hidden Hill. Didn’t she have any friends? Connections to her old school? Those things don’t just go away when you transfer. My story was reignited!

Week 4 - During Thanksgiving break, a friend gave me something you just can’t wrap: TIME. She watched my kids the whole day so I could write. How awesome is that?

I sat down at my computer to began filling plotholes. But first I grabbed that chunk I’d emailed from my smartphone. That’s when I saw an email from a fellow writer. She’s working on a narrative non-fiction about the damaging affects of addiction on enablers. I’d edited her book and had some suggestions for back matter. My friend needed me to send the back matter again. ASAP.

So my novel was postponed while I dug up the documents in question and sent them off. I wanted to get right back to it, but there was something else I needed more: SLEEP. I’d been up with the baby every night the week before. I decided my novel could wait, and sleep was more important.

So how many words did I write on my novel that glorious day with no kids? About 3000. By this point, I was pretty sure I would not make 50K.

Final Count - On November 30th, my goal was just to reach 25K. I knew I wouldn’t get all those promised goodies (I was really looking forward to the publishing opportunities), but I wasn’t near as disappointed as you would expect.

The final count was 26,214. Over my final goal, under my initial one. But I’m proud of every written word. I have a decent first draft of DetnoGirl, a YA novel about a high school sophomore who has a villain's superpower.

NANOWRIMO was so fun. So crazy. So awesome. And I hope to see all you writers there next year.

And Now? - Now, I’m putting DetnoGirl aside for two weeks. Maybe Honey’s too old for the story level. Maybe she’s not modern enough. Maybe she has the wrong classes. I don’t know. But I’m not touching it until I have fresher eyes to read with.

But you don’t have to wait. You can read my first draft here: