Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hot Stuff

SUN IN OUR EYES: We've known for weeks/months now that a partial solar eclipse - with the moon blocking part of the sun - would potentially be visible to us this afternoon! 

Imagine how thrilled we were when we woke to torrential rains. ...
However ... we live in Seattle, where you can get 9 months of weather in a half hour. Hope springs eternal and around 11 a.m. we had blue skies! (Surrounded by ominous gray clouds.) But hey, it was a fighting chance to see the event that was set to start around 1:30.

By early afternoon, clouds were moving in big time, but there were still breaks. And that's all we needed. Hooray!! We got to see the eclipse!

But honestly, the best part of it wasn't just we here at MPA getting to see it. The best part was getting to share it with neighbors and strangers on the street!

Instead of just standing on our porch or deck or looking out the window, each time we noticed the sun getting especially bright, we took our viewers up to the street and engaged passersby with the filters' magical powers. :)

The first time we went up, a neighbor was walking her dog. She saw Annabelle and me holding the visors up and, thankfully, she didn't think we were freaks. She asked about the eclipse and we handed a screen off to her and loved hearing her exhalations at what she could see. I asked her if her young daughter was at home, and she said that she was heading to school to pick her up. At that, I gave her one of our viewers and told her to share it with the kids if the clouds held at bay.  

During another sun break soon after, we went back up to our sidewalk. There, we found a mother, her back to the sun, explaining to her two young sons, about ages 4 and 3.  She was telling them that if they had a pinhole viewer, they could see a shadow of the eclipse. Imagine her surprise when we approached her, direct solar viewers in hand, offering a way to stare at the sun straight on!  

To say she was ELATED would be an understatement. "I've never seen this in my life!" she exclaimed excitedly, passing a viewer to one of her sons. They were rapt. She handed the viewer back to us, but I insisted they use it again and keep it ... explaining we had multiples and that she'd want it for the TOTAL eclipse coming up in 2015.

Somehow, blindly sticking my camera up to a filter and randomly aiming, I managed to get a photo of the partial eclipse shortly after 2 p.m. our time.  
All in all, a WONDERFUL experience! 

BURNING LOVE:  I'm not gonna lie, We haven't exactly been dawdling in the garden the last week or so, what with the wedding, birthdays, torrential rains and such.

However, on Sunday, as we were seeing a wedding guest off, we did wander over to the garden and we were shocked by what we found.
See that little wrinkly green thing, not even the size of a quarter? Beware!!!! It's a Trinidad moruga scorpion - for a long time crowned 'hottest pepper in the world' (with 1.2 million Scoville heat units, as compared to, say, a green 'bell' pepper, with a zero ranking).

CJ had a phase where he was HEAVILY into researching the Scoville scale, used for measuring a pepper's heat, and we ordered him a hot pepper growing kit for Christmas. We planted the seeds in late spring. They produced three small plants, which we kept indoors until about June. 

We've watched them ALL summer for signs of peppers, but all we ever saw was a couple of tiny blossoms. Until this weekend!

So now that we've got these peppers, what to do with them? I was afraid to even pick them without some kind of protective gear, to tell you the truth!

In case you're wondering, in December of 2013, The Trinidad moruga scorpion lost its title of 'world's hottest pepper' to the 'Carolina Reaper' per Guinness World Records. 

FYI: There are lots of spots with more info about the Scoville scale, including this site, which has an interactive table:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wet Wednesday

IT MUST BE WEDNESDAY: When my inbox has selfies from the kids in a library, that means it's our day in Shoreline, at the kids' up north classes (science and detectives for the two of them, and art for Annabelle). 

NUTTY:  A few walks ago, we gleaned some "horse" chestnuts. Since they're not edible, we thought we'd make some art with them.

The kids dug around in our art/junque drawer to get the items they'd need to give the chestnuts some personality. And the glue gun was put to good use.
CJ came up with a squatty creation, which he named George. Annabelle's two chestnut friends were a tad taller, thanks to their cork torsos. 

OUT AND ABOUT:  Yesterday, we went walking along Viewmont, a street in the Magnolia neighborhood famous as a Halloween night destination. Unfortunately, we didn't see any decorations to write home about (maybe they're putting them up this weekend?) but we did see lots of autumal colored leaves, and a pretty grape vine. 
We also found a new-to-us Little Free Library.  We took a book and will have to bring another one  back soon.

ZOMBIES!:  Finally getting around to sharing that on Monday we played the seasonally-appropriate Zombie Fluxx game. Such frustration! And fun! 

At one point, I had zombies in front of me (not a good thing). The game went on, and on, and on. As in nearly 90 minutes long. We've played other Fluxx versions, and none had been as complicated and long as this one.

Miraculously, there was a significant reversal of fortunate not too much after my zombie invasion, I won the game.  At that point, I think we were all just happy it was finally over!

OLDIES:  Around 4 p.m. I flipped on the TV for some pre-World Series coverage. As I flipped through the channel listings, CJ spied a title called "Merrily We Live."   "It's from 1938!" CJ excitedly proclaimed, asking to watch it. Sigh. I suppose a breakdown of the Royals v. Giants could wait. 

And so, we began watching the black and white movie. Loosely, its plot is about a society matron (Emily Kilbourne) who has a knack for hiring ex-cons and vagrants as her house help.  Without even looking at the screen, I recognized the voice of the woman playing the matron. I told the kids not to look, either, and said, "Who is that? You know that voice!"

Without hesitation, Annabelle replied, "Glinda!"

Sure 'nough, Billie Burke was in the role (for which she earned a best actress in a supporting role Oscar nomination, by the way). That same year, she was selected to play Glinda.

The movie wasn't engrossing. In fact, the kids found it mildly entertaining, at best. But it was probably more interesting than the World Series pre game show, at least from a cultural standpoint.

Reading up online, we learned that Burke was born into a showbiz family. Her father, Billy Burke, was a singer and clown with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Billie toured with her dad as a child. Here's a shot of her as a young woman, from the Library of Congress' collection
Burke's husband was Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., of the famous Ziegfeld Follies family.

WILD WEATHER: I'll bet it has rained more in the last two days than it did in the two months previous. So. Darn. Wet. And gray. Welcome to the next 7 months, I suppose ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Great Pumpkins

PATCHY: Since moving up here several years ago, we've made it a point to visit a different pumpkin patch in the greater Seattle area each October. This year's destination was Bailey Vegetables, a bit south and east of Everett.

The farm (also known as Bailand Farms) has been in operation a hundred years, per their Web site. That's a long darn time!
Monday's skies were a patchwork of gray, white and blue ... but mostly gray, so we were taking our chances, but we didn't know when we'd fit the visit in if we didn't do it yesterday, so out we went!

We decided to tackle their corn maze first. Here's an aerial shot ... you can see it's in the shape of the U.S. of A.
We started in the Pacific Northwest, and you know what that means ...
That's right, some Seahawks' football!

There was a mini football field carved into the corn. CJ did his best "Beast Mode" impression ...
Annabelle attempted a Steven Hauschka-like field goal. 
We headed south from Seattle, down a bucolic Interstate 5. If only it were really this peaceful.
Before long, we were in California, where the kids panned for 'gold.'
They each found (and left) a nugget!
Heading further southbound, we ran into Mexico. Apparently they grow corn there, too.
CJ and Annabelle headed north and east, and eventually, we arrived in St. Louis, Missouri. They stood under the famous arch, of course.
And since St. Louis is home to last year's World Series winners, the St. Louis Cardinals, there was a baseball field carved into the cornfield. Sweet!

Watching the kids play baseball next to a cornfield reminded me of one of my favorite movies, "Field of Dreams."

Here, CJ delivers a hanging breaking ball. ...
And Annabelle served up a few curve balls in the cornfield!
Good thing neither one of them hit a home run ... we'd never find the ball!
We wandered around some more, and ended up at Native Americans' encampment in the Great Plains.
And after awhile, we found ourselves at the Alamo!
We were all disappointed there was no basement at the Alamo, so we couldn't find Pee Wee Herman's bike. 

Heading eastward, the kids had to climb the Appalachian Mountains at one point.
We finally made our way down to Florida, and out of the maze, having crossed all of America. :)
While at the farm, we admired a few critters, including weeks-old piglets Pumpkin and Midnight. 
A friendly farmhand told us they'd weigh 500 pounds or so within 9 months!

We also saw a large flock of snow geese. The farm lady said they had taken up residence a couple of weeks ago, and were eating in the winter wheat field.
Maze complete, it was time to turn our attention to finding the Perfect Pumpkins.
We urged the kids not to choose the first orange orb they spotted. Rather, they should explore and find the one that spoke to them (so to speak, ha ha).

Annabelle found her match in the Aladdin pumpkin patch.
CJ's gourd was across the way ...
in the Captain Jack patch.
Whilst among the pumpkins, CJ wondered aloud what the top pumpkin producing state was. We didn't have an on-the-spot answer for him, but I was happy today to see that one of the short articles the "Time for Kids" issue (Oct. 10) they read listed the top 5. 

Care to take a guess before I tell you the answer?  I'll post the answer (per Time for Kids) at the bottom of the blog. ...

Pumpkins picked, it was time to give them a bath before putting them in the car.
The pumpkins seemed to enjoy it. ;)
In addition to pumpkins, the farm sells vegetables and flowers.
It's picturesque from the moment you enter ...

And as we exited, I couldn't help but smile at the lone pumpkin - a sentinel gourd, guarding the road. Who dare defy the mighty orange orb?!

CODING: The kids got some current events and language arts work in this afternoon thanks to a couple of issues of Time for Kids. The Oct. 10 issue had a cover story called "Learn to Code," which was primarily about teaching elementary aged students to write computer code. 

From the article we learned about, a nonprofit with a lofty goal of every student in every school having the opportunity to learn computer programming. 

The story also mentioned coding programs for kids, including Tynker, Hopscotch, Codeacademy and Scratch (the latter of which CJ and Annabelle have both dabbled in). 

After reading the article, we viewed a related video

JUST LIKE JACQUES:  The kids read another Time for Kids issue (Sept. 26), which introduced them to Aquarius, an underwater science lab. One of the scientists on board is Fabien Cousteau, grandson of world famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

This summer, Fabien completed 31 days of dwelling on the ocean floor in the Atlantic, off of Florida. 

We viewed a short video about the mission on

TOP FIVE: The United States' top 5 pumpkin producing states are, in order,  Illinois (547 million pounds per year), with California a distant second (195 million pounds a year). The remainder of the top 3 are Ohio (100 million), Michigan (98 million) and New York (96 million).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wedding Weekend

CERMONIAL: Last week and this weekend were busy BUSY with wedding-related to dos.  

Starting Thursday, our house became Operation Cupcake Buffet. The goal was to make around 250 cupcakes (some standard sized, some minis, four to five different flavors).
Namely the flavors were strawberry lemonade, pumpkin ale hi hats, 'Elvis' (banana peanut butter cakes with malted milk icing) and vegan/gluten free chocolate coconut cupcakes. 

Cupcakes certainly aren't hard to make, but they take time and are messy! I was fortunate to have many helpful hands in the kitchen (thanks Nonnie and Bops!) to help make it go faster.

The wedding was held in a movie theater in Seattle's Central District.
It shows primarily second-run and wonderfully awful "B movies." Before the ceremony, a few B-movie snippets played. CJ and Annabelle were mesmerized by how terrible they were.
The ceremony wedding Kennedy and Abby was funny, pretty, personal and touching ...

And the after party included a game room! 
 There were classic video games ... 
 As well as some of the bride's and groom's favorite tabletop games.
There was a cake to be cut (and Annabelle, the birthday girl, got to blow out candles!) ...
And, of course, there was dancing ... including the "Time Warp!"
Big Fun!