Friday, April 29, 2016

Artsy Friday

HELLO, YELLOW FRIEND:  We spend a fun Friday participating in an artists conference at a local elementary school.
We spent the first 45 minutes of our day being the audience. We enjoyed a concert by one of our favorite Favorite FAVORITE musicians, Morgan Taylor of Gustafer Yellowgold fame!
Taylor had spent the week working with students at the school to produce original songs and stories, much like the workshop CJ and Annabelle were so fortunate to have participated in with him last summer. 

We loved his performance as always, and he closed the show with a rocking rendition of Cakenstein!

For the balance of the conference, we went from being the audience to being the attraction. Specifically, we offered an 'edible arts' workshop.

It helped our cause that when the students came in, they saw our own homemade version of Cakenstein projected on the white board. Instant street cred, lol.
Meanwhile, we had the tables ready to go for them. After an introductory PowerPoint presenation about the joys of playing with one's food (including having your cookies eaten on the flight deck of a space shuttle!)it was time to get to work.

Here's how we had the tables staged for the caprese ladybug projects. Wish I had an after shot, ha ha. 
We had an ambitious schedule, making caprese ladybug bites and sunflower cupcakes. but managed to pull it off during both sections, thankfully.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Someone's in the Kitchen

TEST KITCHEN: Tomorrow, MPA is hitting the road and introducing some of our kitchen fun to area students.

We'll be teaching a couple dozen local kiddos how to make some fun sunflower cupcakes, topped with yummy M&Ms ladybugs.
We'll also be showing the students how to make a savory taste treat - ladybug caprese appetizers!
We made these step-by-step tutorials in hopes that the kids will be able to take the instructions home and share the fun with their families.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


                            PHOTO: NASA/Jeff Williams

OVERHEAD:  A post on social media today let us know that "Monday night's break in the weather proved beneficial for photography from the International Space Station." The pic above is of the Seattle area. I can see our neighborhood, for sure.

My question is why I didn't get the typical "Hey, the ISS is flying over your house tonight" email from NASA that I usually do? It makes me wonder how often it flies over that I don't know about. I guess we need to be more proactive and check maps and paths for ourselves instead of waiting for the auto notice.

PREPPERS:  Today we went to nine different stores. Nine. NINE. Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe shopping? Of course I have. So you can imagine how joyous it was to visit NINE stores. We did pretty well, though, efficiently knocking items off the 'to procure' list. We're trying to get ready for a class we're teaching on Friday (edible art), and a luncheon we're helping with next week. 

And because that wasn't enough, right now, I'm staring at the clock thinking that Amazon "same day" delivery has failed me yet again. My deliver was supposed to be here before 8 p.m. and it's quarter after. I'm giving it another half hour before I hop online to chat with a stranger somewhere about how they've done me wrong and they'll tell me they're very sorry and offer to extend my Prime membership for a month for free. I've been to this rodeo before. I sure hope I'm wrong. It would be great to be wrong. I've been reading comments on social media from others about how Amazon's promised shipping times and reality have diverged more and more in recent months. Not encouraging ...

UPDATE: A delivery car rolled into our alley at 8:30 or so. Hooray! I will sleep better tonight knowing the cupcake boxes and liners are waiting for me in the kitchen tomorrow. Because one cannot live without cupcake boxes and liners, you know.

TO MARKET, TO MARKET: We've been studying the "Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market 2016" trying to decide where to send the picture book manuscripts we've finished. We've decided to shop them to an agent first (instead of straight to a publisher). We think we've identified our number one target. Hopefully, we won't be on target number 387 a few months from now. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN:  Last night, we made our second trip to Safeco Field this season to take in a Mariners game. 

As usual, we caught a bus down and got there early enough to see batting practice.

Neither team was hitting many baseballs beyond the outfield fences, but a kindly King County Sheriff's Deputy Annabelle was handed one that made it into the bullpen. Sweet!

EARLY BLOOMS:  Whilst taking an afternoon stroll with the pups, we couldn't help but notice everything in bloom. Tulips, irises, wisteria, lavender, lilacs and even roses - early for the latter. 
I captured the beauty above using my cruddy cell phone camera. That's how pretty it was! 

Speaking of plants and gardens, yesterday Christian and the kids transplanted some of our tomato starts that were outgrowing their tiny pots.
 They have a lot more room to grow now.

GRAMMAR GAME:  This weekend, we scored a new (but old), still-in-the-shrink-wrap board game at Goodwill, Oxford, subtitled "The Great Oxford Game of the English Language." It was just $5.99!
Players have to answer questions that have to do with the spelling or meaning of words. There are varying levels of difficulty in the questions. The further you progress around the board, the tougher the questions get. It's a SUPER great game for language arts-related studies, and another example of how learning can be fun!

We took a little over an hour to play it from start to finish. Christian was the winner this go round. The rest of us look forward to a rematch.

I think the game is pretty rare these days. It's hard to find any mention of it online. Happy we have one in our board game collection!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Campus Visit

ENGINEERING EXPERIENCE:  Saturday morning we pointed our car in the direction of the University of Washington campus for a special event, Engineering Discovery Days.

We parked in the northeast part of the campus and made our way to the information booth. There, we picked up a map showing us which building on campus were involved in the event. There were so many things to see and do, it would have been impossible to fit it all into the four-hour time frame. However, we covered a lot of ground, as the photos will show and the kids will tell you. 

We started out by visiting some tents outside of the mechanical engineering building. There, we learned about carbon fiber and composite cars ...
 and concrete canoes!

The kids tested their engineering chops by building a small structure which was then tested on an earthquake simulator.

Their structure swayed, but it didn't collapse!
Next, we went into the mechanical engineering building. 
In one lab, we learned how sound waves produce specific patterns.
In the same building, we had a tour of WOOF3D, a 3D printing lab that is an interdisciplinary effort. 
They had a number of items on display which had been printed on-site. They included everything from art objects to prehistoric bones to prosthetics. 

The young man hosting the tour of the printing lab told us a lot about the different types of materials they use in the printers, and the pros and cons of each.
From there, we found our way to an off-the-beaten-path lab all about marine renewable energy. 
 We had the place to ourselves, and a number of enthusiastic engineering students taught CJ and Annabelle about harnessing (water) wave energy.
Associate Professor Brian Polagye showed us some neat videos of the Azura Wave Energy Converter that's operating off Hawaii right now. How fortunate we were to have such knowledgeable people introducing us to such an interesting, important topic. 
Our next stop was the Paul G. Allen Center. It was our very first visit there.
 It has a lovely, sky-high atrium in the center. 
 Annabelle's hair was standing on end at this display. 
The kids were happy to be handed some UW M&Ms.
And they were also happy to get a chance to check out some science-based games thanks to the Center For Game Science.
We visited with some engineering students who were working on a system that incorporates atmospheric sensors (humidity and air pollutants, for instance) into a cell-phone sized unit.
 I asked about the cost of producing such a unit, and it sounded like it could be done for under $100.
The kids each even got to play a banana piano. Yes, really!
When we got out of the Allen Center, we found that the skies were turning blue. Hooray!
We headed toward some tents in the grassy space at Rainier Vista, just south of Drumheller Fountain. 

There, the kids made some silly putty (a combination of glue, Borax and water).
We also talked with a club that is competing in a build a better Mars rover competition. 

And CJ and Annabelle worked together to build a liquid (water) fueled rocket. They named it Rocket McRocketface.
It flew about 200 feet, I'd estimate. 

In the Electrical Engineering Building, I couldn't help but notice a posting about a glowing pickle. Intrigued, we had to track it down.
Turns out a pickle can rather dramatically have electricity flowing through it which does, in fact, cause it to glow. And smoke. Have you ever smelled a smoking pickle? I didn't think so.


Here's what CJ had to say about his experience there. ...

The University of Washington recently held an event called the Engineering Discovery Days. According to UW's website, "At Engineering Discovery Days, students and faculty from all UW engineering departments share their work with students, teachers, families and the community." This means that they share their ideas and inventions with visitors looking to learn more about engineering at the University of Washington. There were several different booths and inventions that we saw at the Engineering Discovery Days, and I would like to share some of them with you. 
One of the first inventions we saw upon entry was a unique mix of concrete and styrofoam. That might sound odd to many people, but it turned out to have certain uses, on of which was making concrete boats. As we noticed at the stand, the solidified mixture could actually float, making for stronger boats. At a nearby stand, there was a station where we could hear different aquatic noises, and try to match them up with environmental sounds or animals. As it turns out, seals can actually be very loud and annoying, while whales make countless different cries and calls.
There was another station where we could build small structures, and see how well it would hold up against a shaking machine, simulating the effects of an earthquake. There were multiple different construction pieces, and we could see which setups were more effective than others (for example: with two supporting rods work better poking diagonally into the roof than poking straight up into the roof.) In the end, our building almost fell, but it manages to stick together. I think it would be interesting to see other people's buildings and how well they did against the machine?
One of my favorite parts of the event was a station where we could actually build miniature soda-bottle rockets, fill them with fuel, put them in a launcher, and see how far they would launch. Annabelle and I built our rocket with three relatively small fins on it, and we labeled the rocket the "Rocket McRocketface," named after the notorious Boaty McBoatface. Rocket McRocketFace managed to fly pretty far into the field, and we got to see other people's rocket designs, which had varying degrees of success.
Lastly, my favorite part of the event was probably the "Glowing Pickles" event, where they would actually show us how to make parts of pickles glow (no, seriously.) The showcase started out with our instructors telling us why lightning shoots to the ground, due to the electrons moving from a place with high potential to a place with low potential. They told us that something similar would happen with how they make pickles glow. They took different pickles, which included zesty, sweet, and regular dill pickles. When they hooked the pickles up to a machine, one end of the pickle would glow. Apparently, the reason this happens is because again, the electrons are moving from a place with high potential from a place with low potential, with the amount of juice in the pickle allowing them to travel better. In order from least glow to most glow, the pickles were sweet, dill, and zesty.
And here are Annabelle's observations ...

Engineering Weekend was an event at the University of Washington. They have exhibits about different kinds of engineering all across campus! That means there’s a lot to look at. I’ll tell you about what I saw.
The first place we went was to a station about concrete that can float. Crazy, right? Well, this concrete had little pieces of Styrofoam as opposed to rocks. They’re working on making a canoe out of the concrete!
Another tent we went to had us make “silly polymers”, homemade Silly Putty! All you need to do is get some Elmer’s white glue in a disposable cup. Then you add food coloring to your choice. Then, take some borax in a cup. Then add just enough water do dissolve it and pour it into your glue. Then stir it with a Popsicle stick and watch it turn into putty! Right next to that tent was one where you could build a rocket! CJ and I chose a slim bottle and put a nosecone and three fins on it. We named it Rocket McRocketFace. Rocket McRocketFace was one of the most stable rockets I saw! It was really fun at Engineering weekend, and that’s not even the whole campus!
As many times as I've been to the UW campus, I feel like I've only seen a fraction of it. Each trip is like a new adventure.
For instance, I'd never seen the columns pictures above before. We found them by accident, traveling a path with a 'what's down here?' mentality.
 What a great day!

Friday, April 22, 2016


REACHING OUT:  When we're out and about, we try to pack along an art supplies bag with us at all times, because Annabelle just churns it out nonstop. If we were to keep every drawing of hers, we'd need to live in the far, far, far, rural hinterlands, just to be able to afford the warehouse space for all the papers. 

So one thing I've been encouraging her to do is share her art with others. As in, give it to someone who would *love* it. This afternoon presented one such opportunity. We were at a local restaurant and there was a family with a young (about 11 month old, I'd estimate) child at a table near us. The child was very precocious and was actively making eye contact and trying to communicate with us (in his case, given his age, it was shrill squeals). At one point, I suggested Annabelle send a drawing over to their table. She did, and the child was absolutely entranced. 
In fact, even though the child couldn't yet speak, he immediately started using the American Sign Language motions for the word "more." (A number of parents teach their infants ASL as a way to communicate.)

Seeing the wee one passionately gesturing "more, more, more" was a rather ringing endorsement that Annabelle's drawings were pleasing to the eye. 

The parents acknowledged the young one's "more" symbol and thankfully Annabelle had another drawing to hand him. And another. The last one she passed the family was the photo up top, the panda with the star. The parents were so appreciative, and the mom shared they sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to him every night at bed time. It was funny, the parents were so protective of the drawings, making sure their not-quite-yet toddler didn't mar them in any way. Bet they're going in the baby book. :)

FEELING BLUE:  Today, our calendar included a full day workshop at the University of Washington for Engineering Day.

Alas, those plans were scuttled when CJ woke up with a cold. He just wasn't up to traipsing around the acres of awesomeness the event would entail. 

So, we kept our activities lowkey. We delivered a plant stand to Mukilteo and played a vintage MAD Magazine board game (which CJ won).

That made him feel better. :)

EARTH DAY: And then there's this, an appropriate parting thought for Earth Day ...