Friday, November 27, 2015

Gobble, Gobble

TURKEY TIME:  Another Thanksgiving is in the books. 

Our kitchen was busy, churning out a roast turkey, baked ham, too many pounds of mashed potatoes, cheesecake and more. 

We made two batches of gravy - one turkey, one vegetarian. The kids chopped onions toward that effort.
Though they look super dorky, we're here to tell you that onion goggles really do work to help protect your eyes!  We bought our pair for 99 cents at Goodwill months ago, and they've paid massive dividends ever since. 
We made cranberries two ways - cooking whole berries and adding citrus and spices. 
 We also 'jazzed' up the gelatinous blob. Annabelle added some eyes and I carved some hair for it. ;)
FOUR GONE:  Thanksgiving of 2011 was one to remember. Christian and the kids were with family, and I was in Florida, watching the launch of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, destination Red Planet.

Here's a photo that was published by of the launch. I'm standing watching, dressed all in black (I put a red arrow over my head). What a sight that was to see!
Here's a NASA video of the launch.

How thrilling it was to track MSL's flight to Mars, its amazing landing and for four years now, we've been astounded by the science returned by the rover!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Truly Scrumptious

FINE FOUR-FENDERED FRIEND:  This morning, we were fortunate to be able to attend a wonderful performance of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." 

We know and love the movie, and were wondering how it would play off as a theatrical production. Happily, the play was 'fantasmagorical,' to borrow a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang adjective.

Here is what CJ has to say about the play ... 
The Seattle Children's Theatre is, according to their website, "one of the most prominent theaters for young audiences in the United States and the world." We went to Seattle Center, where SCT was, to see their performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, based off the movie of the same name. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a story about an eccentric inventor named Caractus Potts in England in the early 20th century, and a broken-down car he buys to renovate. In the story, set in 1910, Caractus' children are playing in an old, broken-down car that won a grand prix three times, but is now in a junkyard. Two men wish to buy the car, but the children convince their father to spend 30 shillings on the car. Caractus has to invent a new device, one that will give you an instant haircut (read: give you a bald spot). Caractus plans to use this machine at the fun fair and buy the car using the profits he gets from it. One special thing about the Seattle Children's Theatre's version of the play is that Callan, one of my friends at school, was performing in the Youth Ensemble.
And here is Annabelle's review ...

The Seattle Children’s Theatre is presenting a play called “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” The play was inspired by the movie of the same name, which was, in turn, inspired by a book. The movie follows the story of the Potts family, where the two children, Jemima and Jeremy, are playing in their favorite car, a broken down one from the local mechanic shop. But someone from town offers to buy the car for scrap. The children beg their dad to buy it and fix it. After buying it, their dad decided to fix it up. After the car is fixed, it turns out that it has the ability to float and fly. The Vulgarians see the magical car and they begin to try and steal it for the Baron’s birthday. They end up kidnapping who they think is the inventor, to build the Baron a car. But they kidnap the wrong person, Mr. Potts' father, and so then the Potts family has to save him. The play was very fun, and the choreography was spectacular. The sets also looked very expensive and well made. The play was very good overall, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they’ve seen the movie or not.

BEFORE THE BIRDS: For whatever reason, Christian and I were both wide awake at 4 a.m. today. Instead of fighting it, we both set our days in motion, up long before the sun.
I got right to making a cranberry sauce.
I love the sound of the berries popping as they simmer.
I read an article a couple of days ago that contended that the majority of Americans actually prefer their Thanksgiving cranberries from a can. You know, the ones that look like a gelatinous column or log, depending on how they're presented. ...
I found this shocking to the point of me not believing what I read. I took to Facebook and asked friends which they preferred, canned or fresh berry sauce. I was surprised by the number of people who posted that they did, indeed, prefer the cylindrical version. 

Different strokes! 

Other kitchen projects today included whipping up a raspberry topped cheesecake with a gingersnap crust, and making some "Texas roadhouse" style yeast rolls. The Chex was mixed last night, and tomorrow it's turkey time (along with some potatoes and gravy, of course).

Gobble, gobble!

EINSTEIN CENTENNIAL:  On this day in 1915, Albert Einstein submitted his final paper on general relativity. Today, we celebrated that iconic scientific achievement by watching a video narrated by Brian Greene, an American theoretical physicist, about the anniversary.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ups and Downs

ROLLER GIRL: Watch out, world, Annabelle has a new pair of roller skates. We were gifted them by a lovely woman on the "Buy Nothing" Facebook group we belong to. Awfully generous, wouldn't you say?

Annabelle is taking her first, tentative steps (or stomps) on them, just trying to semi-gracefully make her way from one side of our porch to the other - a perilous 5.5-foot journey, I'd estimate. She'd been outside about four minutes when the dogs and I heard a rather thunderous, house-shaking THUD!  The pups started barking and I ran for the front door. Annabelle had already picked herself up and was back to her stomping. Way to keep on trucking, Annabelle!

STUCK THE LANDING: Big news from Team Bezos today. Blue Origin, with headquarters just down I-5 in Kent, Washington, successfully launched and re-landed a capsule-carrying rocket. That's a big feather in the cap of Blue Origin founder and financier Jeff Bezos (of fame).

Check out this video of the flight that happened on Nov. 23, at the Blue Origin spaceport in West Texas.

Poking around the Blue Origin Web site today, I saw that they're taking reservations (well sort of). One headline read" INTERESTED IN RESERVING A WINDOW SEAT?"

Why yes, please.   The text continued, "You can start your journey now by filling in the following information. ... " It just asked for my name, email address and the number of seats I was interested in. No deposit required. :) The page went on to say, "By providing your information here, you’ll receive early access to pricing information and tickets when we open reservations. Our New Shepard space vehicle will carry a new generation of explorers and adventurers – we’re looking forward to flying with you!"

And so, I filled out the form. Why not?!

TOMB TIME:  This afternoon, the kids and I spent two hours building a tomb. Well, kind of ...

A few days ago, I posted a painting Annabelle was working on of a life-sized Egyptian woman. As part of an art class she's taking, multiple students' Egyptian-influenced paintings will be installed in a tomb - a space formerly known as a janitorial closet off a women's restroom. Yes. Really. It's all about imagination!

Today, the task the kids and I took on was covering the closet's walls with blue butcher paper. Lots and lots of blue butcher paper. It sounds simple enough. And I suppose it is. I guess perhaps it's just that none of us are particularly gifted at hanging wide swaths of butcher paper on walls. 
We finally found our groove and even had a bit of fun with the process, coming up with and singing as many songs as we could think of with "blue" in the title. The acoustics were pretty good in that little tomb! :)

Here's a (super blurry) picture with happy kids after we had finished.

TWINKLE TIME: Holiday lights are starting to go up all over town, making this pretty city sparkle even brighter.

Monday, November 23, 2015

D-I-Y Weekend

GAME TIME:  Saturday morning we all drove down to Des Moines, WA, and the campus of Highline Community College. Our reason for the journey: Attending a "Super Smash" tournament.

I'll let CJ tell you a bit more about it.
On November 21st, 2015, I went with my older brother Ken to "Northwest Majors: Drop Zone 2015", a(n) (presumably) annual Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament at Highline Community College in Des Moines. In the tournament, Ken and I decided upon the team name "Top Gun," named me "Iceman," and Ken was "Maverick." The team's name and our names in the tournament are references to "Top Gun," an iconic 1986 action film.
In the tournament, Top Gun did not perform very well. At the start of the tournament, Top Gun lost to Gucci Flip Flops, and in the Losers' Bracket, Team Three Star launched Top Gun straight out of the tournament. At home, I was able to watch the finals on, an online streaming service.
I feel like Ken and I need more training to work more as a team and practice on our own. It seemed like the game was the life of many of the people there, whereas we'd only practiced together for 45 minutes.
Even though we lost, I am interested in being in a tournament again some day. 
I'm not going to lie, I didn't find competitive video gaming a very interesting spectator sport. However, it was something CJ was really enthused about doing, so we were happy to take him so he could have the experience.

BOXING DAY: We worked around the house a lot this weekend. We raked and gathered leaves, cleaned out the garden for one last time, and nearly finished a new roof over our entryway/front porch. 

We also spent a few hours working on some sets and props for the drama production CJ's a part of.

One of the things we constructed is something called an acting box. We'd never heard of one before CJ's drama teacher mentioned the need for a couple. Turns out it's an 18-by-18 inch cube that is used for everything from a seat to a mini stage on the stage. It needs to be sturdy, lightweight, and constructed in a way that a person could sit or stand on any of its sides.

Naturally, we turned to the magic of the Internet to find specs about how to construct one. The plans we found that we liked best were from the Instructables site. They suggested using dense foam insulation board, cutting it into square of the desired size, stacking and gluing them together to make your cube, and then covering the foam with thin paneling.

So that's what we did.
And we're happy to report that it worked!
Now, we just need to cover the whole thing in muslin and paint it black. Neat-o!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Almost Tourney Time

BIRTHDAY BOYS: Today is Christian's bday, and Annabelle, bless her heart, wasn't satisfied with settling for a normal wrap job on her dad's new coffee maker. Amazing how much more fun three balloons, a little glue and some pipe cleaners makes the present look!
Annabelle also had a cone shaped birthday hat from a stuffed animal she wanted to try to get Kirby to wear. This blurry shot shows it was a no-go.
Nov. 20 is also the birthday of Joe Biden, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edwin Hubble (now of space telescope fame).

POSTERIZED: I made yesterday's wrong right by snapping a quick pic of the hunger awareness poster CJ made yesterday. 
 And here's part of Bee's project.  Under her drawings, readers can lift up the flaps and read about what their options might mean in the real world. 

And here's a pic of the poster CJ made about the kids' Empire Writes Back participation.

TOURNAMENT TIME: Tomorrow, we're heading down south a bit so that CJ and brother Kennedy can compete in a video game tournament, hosted at Highline Community College.

They'll be playing the (now) retro game Super Smash Brothers Melee for the Gamecube. If one can believe the schedule posted to the event Web site, you might even be  able to watch online.

The event Website is this: The schedule is here: and if you look at it, there's apparently going to be live action online.

It should be fun no matter what. You know there will be a report come Monday. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Poster Children

LARGE SCALE: It seems like this week has been one poster project after another. This morning, CJ and I worked on a poster about the kids' "Empire Writes Back" winning projects for an upcoming academic showcase, and CJ and Annabelle both worked on posters related to raising awareness about hunger. Earlier this week, we spent hours working on a poster for an upcoming fundraising event to benefit hungry and homeless. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of any of that!

This afternoon, Annabelle worked on a large painting for an Egyptian-themed project for one of her art classes. 
IT'S A WINNER: This afternoon, we took a few minutes to watch a great video explaining some of Einstein's postulates. It was made by 18-year-old Ryan Chester, who won a quarter million dollar scholarship for his efforts!

He entered it in the inaugural Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an international competition that aims to inspire the next generation of scientists and science communicators.

MUST SEE: We need to get ourselves back down to The Museum of Flight, ASAP!
Today, the museum unveiled some new artifacts in their collection thanks to the efforts of Jeff Bezos. A spaceflight fan, the founder funded the Bezos Expeditions voyage that recovered hundreds of Apollo era artifacts from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean (some 14,000 feet down!)

Bezos was even on the ship when the mangled 40-year-old parts were brought up from the deep in 2013.

Here's a video Bezos Expeditions made about their recovery efforts
The shrink-wrapped pieces that were brought out for today’s media event included an injector plate, oxidizer dome and thrust chamber from one of the F-1 engines on Apollo 12’s Saturn V. Museum workers also opened the lid on a crate containing a heat exchanger from an F-1 used for Apollo 16.

The parts were unveiled on the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 12 moon landing. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's All Greek

GOING SLIGHTLY MAD:  This afternoon we played a vintage board game scored from Goodwill. Made in 1979, it seemed to have been unplayed since then (if ever!). It was kind of a riff on Monopoly, but the idea was to lose all of your money. Math + logic + merriment = much fun!

TEST KITCHEN: We spent three hours this afternoon at the home of another (awesome!) family, test driving incarnations of spanakopita to go along with a play CJ and many other kids have a role in. For concessions, Greek food will be offered. I've been making spanakopita for years, and offered up the super delicious Moosewood recipe as a possibility, However, that recipe is served lasagna style. Today, we experimented with 'to go' versions of it, putting the filling in everything from triangles to mini muffin pops.

The bottom line was that in any way shape or form, butter, feta, spinach, basil, garlic, and oregano are delicious!