Wednesday, June 29, 2011


By Dad

I always wonder what American signs, with obscure pictures, would mean to someone who knows no English.  I mean if they were that self evident they wouldn't need log written explanations.

If you were from Uzbekistan and spoke not a lick of English, what would this mean?

"Please to touch stick on ground while smacking sheep?"

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day Camp

The first 4-H day camp was today.  Spark went as a camper and Dancer as a camp counselor.  Last year Spark chose the last day camp and had to watch Dancer go all summer until his came up in August.  This year he chose the first one. 

This is the school playground that it was held at.  The playground is huge wooden castle.

At the end of the day they both reported having a good time!

We took Dad to work tonight and on the way home traffic was stopped for this family to cross the road.

They made it.  Hopped the curb to get to the other side and waddled down to the pond.  Makes me miss our ducks but then I think of how fast they could eat everything in the garden and I got over it pretty quickly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Disaster Sunday

We were gone almost all of Saturday and I was so looking forward to a Sunday of being home most of the day and not doing much because we also have a busy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week. 

Dad had other plans.  His parents have a pop up camper that has been parked at my parents house for the last nine years.  We wanted to use it this year for the fair because we have to be there a lot and want to have a place to sit and relax.  We also want a place where we can bring food so we don't have to eat fair food.  He decided that Sunday afternoon would be the perfect time to go and get it.  Ugh. 

Dancer had a 4-H Jr. Leader meeting at 2:00 p.m. so I brought her to that and Dad and Spark headed off with the truck to pick up the camper.  I had hoped that they would call and say that they were on their way back by the time Dancer and I were heading back home and then we wouldn't head down to my parents.

Of course it didn't work that way.  The camper was in my parents barn and by the time they moved all the boats out and he pulled the camper out, which had sat in the same spot for nine years and had now sunk about 18 inches into the dirt, he managed to ruin the transmission in the truck.  We now hope it is something less expensive but are still waiting to hear. 

Since we were all leaving, and my parents have a big, crazy, jumping, Airedale Terrier, Nikki had to stay home and go in the kennel.   All we have to do is say the word "kennel" and she shrinks to the floor like she is in trouble.

Next, we have to catch her and get her in the kennel.  The whole time we are trying to get her in there she has her "brakes" on. See her back legs straight out front so it is hard to get her in, reminds me of a cat getting a bath.  She wasn't much happier with our Sunday plans than I was.

Dancer had a 4-H Jr. Leader meeting at 2:00 p.m. so I brought her to that and Dad and Spark headed off with the truck to pick up the camper. I had hoped that they would call and say that they were on their way back by the time Dancer and I were heading back home and then we wouldn't head down to my parents.
Of course it didn't work that way. The camper was in my parents barn and by the time they moved all the boats out and he pulled the camper out, which had sat in the same spot for nine years and had sunk about 18 inches into the dirt, he managed to ruin the transmission in the truck. We now hope it is something less expensive but are still waiting to hear.

Dancer and I started to head to my parents after her meeting because Dad and Spark were still there and having trouble.  We took a less direct route so we could find a few geocaches in a sort of on the way there town.  If I was going to have to use the rest of my day fooling with this camper/truck thing I was at least going to do a little caching. 

The town we went through had this humongous crow statue.  Why would any town pick a crow statue, I always think of them as bad luck, plus they are a mean bird.

It truly is as big as it looks, those are regular sized flag poles.

Dancer and I got to my parents and picked up Spark and Dad.  While we were there we decided to "pop up" the camper to see how bad it was inside after all these year.  Bad, pretty much sums it up.  There was a frantic momma mouse with little pink babies she was trying to haul to safety.  We threw her nest out so hopefully she followed it and isn't in there any more.  She had done a lot of chewing to make her abode as comfy as possible for her little family.  It also smelled like the damp, damp spring we have had.  Don't think it is salvageable but maybe.  We will see when we get it to our house and can look at it better. 

Since were all in the same car going home we looked for a few more geocaches on the way home.   We stopped at a park where it was so wet there was water standing everywhere and a sign of the steps said they were slippery from being wet for so long.  The mosquitoes are also out in full force, they love shallow wet areas.

I was walking in front of everyone and turned to take their picture.  As soon as I turned Dancer and Spark ran to get out of the way.  What did they think I wanted a picture of if it wasn't them?

They came back to front and center and I got a picture, not an action/walking shot, but at least a picture.

At a wayside rest the kids found this pile of bread behind a tree.  There is white, swirled rye, whole grain, cinnamon rolls, danishes, and even a frosted something or another.  Why would anyone have all this bread and why would they dump it behind a tree?

On our way home, in our now "good" car, the oil light kept flashing and dinging.  Thankfully we were on a busy road where a gas station was open until 10:00 p.m.  Most stations close at 9:00 during the week and even earlier on Sundays.  Also thankful that Dad was in the same car as me because I would have had no idea what kind of oil to buy.  I do now but hope to never have opportunity to use that information in the future.

At least the end of the day brought a beautiful "Red sky at night, sailors delight" sky.  The colors were much more intense than this picture shows.

To take the picture Dad had to turn the headlights off, we call this "Anne of Green Gabling" as we assume that is what it would be like to travel along at night in a horse and buggy.   Here though he turned them back on because I am always sure that we are going to meet some sort of disaster when he does that.   Another beautiful sight was lightening bugs, unfortunately I didn't get a picture of them because it would look like nothing with the flash.  The field and road ditches were full of them and they look like twinkling magic when there are so many.

We left home at 1:30 and got back at 10:30 so no relaxing Sunday, we did have fun, as we always do, but no relaxing.  Plus, now we are a one car family with a two car schedule.  Not convenient but we hope to only do it for three or four days.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Tubby, that's what they said Nikki was this morning at the vet.  She had gained 1.7 pounds since the last time she was in.  1.7 pounds is a lot on her, she is a Toy Fox Terrier.  The vet asked if she got a lot of treats or didn't get enough exercise.  The answer here was treats.  She said those treat calories add up quick on little dogs.  When Spark told her we just leave her food bowl down all the time with food in it she said to only feed her half of what we normaly do per day and break the amount into two feedings.  Little does she know that Nikki only eats about a cup of food every three days and the rest of her diet is treats.  Guess she is going on a diet.  We haven't told her about this yet but I don't think she is going to take too kindly to it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Full Week of 4-H

My hope for this summer was that we would have nothing to do everyday.  We would sleep in and then spend our days biking, swimming or whatever caught our fancy.  Ha, it has been anything but that. 
This week Monday we spent  most of the morning getting ready for the Favorite Food Show.  I helped Spark bake his bread sticks and make his candle holder for his place setting. 

We discovered, when we started melting the wax down the sides of the bottle, that the candles we got were only colored on the outside and the inside was white.  Why is everything so cheaply made now days?  Makes me crazy.

A good chunk of the afternoon we were at friends house working on the 4-H banner.  Yes, it has pom pom caterpillars on it.

Right after the banner meeting we headed into town to run errands and meet up with Grandma and Grandpa to pick up some things we needed from them. 

Tuesday was spent getting ready for the Food Show and the evening was spent at the judging.

Wednesday morning, bright and early, Dancer needed to be in at the 4-H office for day camp counselor training for the day.  While that didn't involve the rest of us, it did mean two trips into town because it was too long to stay there all day.  There was suppose to be a club trip to a water park on Wednesday night but it was canceled because the temperatures haven't been over 70 for over a week and we have had lots of rain.  Inside I was happy it was cancelled because it made our week less hectic.  Instead Dancer and I worked on her quilt she is making for the fair.  I help her with the lay out and some of the pinning and unpinning.  Neither of us have really quilted before so I hope this turns out decent.

Today was another full day at friends working on the 4-H banner, which is almost done.

Not that we don't love doing all these things, it just isn't the summer I had planned.  The July calendar isn't too full, it actually has 22 free days on it, I doubt it will stay that way though!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

4-H Favorite Food Show

The favorite food show, also one of our favorite 4-H projects was last night.  The kids both did well with a blue ribbon.  There was about 16 kids that came and each one had a fabulous meal and place setting, glad I wasn't the judge. 
Spark had an Italian theme.

He chose spaghetti and meatballs with a bread stick and garden salad.  His beverage was milk and his desert was brownies with ice cream.  We made the bread sticks because they were part of his table setting.  The other part of his setting was the candle in the wine bottle.  To get the bottle with the basket on the bottom we had to buy a bottle of $14.00 Italian wine.  We found out we don't like Italian wine and ended up dumping the wine down the drain.  That turned into an expensive candle holder.

Spark's Meatball Recipe

2 lb. ground beef                                   1/3 c. bread crumbs
1 lb. ground Italian sausage                 ¼ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt                                             3 eggs
¾ tsp. cayenne pepper                         ½ c. Parmesan cheese
Mix together well.  Divide mixture into 1/4 c. portions and form into balls.  The meatballs may be fried or baked.  Bake at  350° for about 35 minutes for 2” meatballs.  Keep warm in oven or heat meat balls in marinara sauce.
Dancer's theme was "The Lunch Pail"

She made an Anvil Sandwich - recipe here.  The rest of her menu was potato chips, an apple, milk and peanut butter cookies.   For her table setting we found an old black lunch box, not an easy feat, a hard hat, blue checkered tablecloth, rough, brown napkins, a thermos, various tools and a rolled up newspaper to read during lunch break.
This one of our favorite projects in 4-H and are already looking forward to doing it again next year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do Something Constructive

Spark has been spending a lot of time playing video and computer games.  He doesn't watch much t.v. so that isn't an issue but the games, while he is learning to be stratigic and figure things out,  is still just sitting in from of a screen.  So today I told him to find something constructive to do and not anything that involves the t.v. or computer.  Later I walked in to the kitchen and saw that what he found to do was to make a log cabin out of the sausages left over from breakfast.

Father's Day

Dad worked on Father's Day, we gave him a lilac before he went to bed to sleep for the day. 

Since he was sleeping the kids and I took homemade peanut butter cookies that Dancer had made to my parents.  They live only about an hour away so it is easy to go for a couple of hours in the afternoon. 

Me and my dad

Grandma Shirley, Grandpa Bob, Dancer and Spark

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Salt Crystals Experiment

This was to learn how crystals will grow out of salt.  Fill a glass about 3/4 full of water and add salt stirring until no more salt can be dissolved in the water.  Tie a metal paper clip to a cotton string and suspend it in the middle of the glass by tying the string to a pencil and setting it cross ways over the glass.  Let it sit in a warm spot, that won't be disturbed for about a week. 

Here is what is suppose to happen.  As the salt dissolves in the water, the salt molecules should separate into sodium and chloride ions.  As the water evaporates over the seven days,  these two components should recombine in a cubical pattern and crystals should grow on the paper clip which can be ooh and awed over.

Here is what did happen.  Our paper clip hung there and the finish got eaten off by the salt like a car in a Minnesota winter.  I think that we didn't put enough salt into the water for this to work correctly.  We did have it in a sunny window and the water was evaporating.  After about 10 days we grew weary of waiting anymore and dumped the experiment to get our glass back.  We did, however, get salt crystals on the cotton string and pencil.  The water that was wicked up the string evaporated and formed this large salt chunk.

Although this didn't work well as a chemistry experiment we did see a correlation between what did happen and what can happen to us as Christians.  The glass of water represented the church.  If we just hang around the church there is no guarantee that we will retain our saltiness, or that we will ever become salty in the first place.  I think of that saying, "Standing a garage doesn't make you car anymore than going to church makes you a Christian."  When we start acting like the string and sucking up God's goodness by reading the bible, praying, fasting, loving our neighbors,  showing mercy, being humble, being peacemakers, living the fruits of the spirit, etc. we start building up our salt into a stronger and stronger chunk that becomes harder and harder to break.  With our "salt chunk" we will be able to fulfill the Great Commission and withstand persecution if we are ever called to do so.   When we poured the now less salty water down the drain, we thought of Matthew 5:13 where Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."  Maybe our experiment didn't really fail.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Amaryllas Blooms

Last year some time, probably after Christmas, I took the Amaryllis bulb out of our front window and set it by the back slider door.  There it sat in it's sad container, ignored this last Christmas, and not watered for over a year.  This spring when I put the Hibiscus plants out on the deck for the summer the threw the container with the Amaryllis out there too.  I assumed it was dead because it has sat for so long with no care but I was busy and thought I would just set it out there to get it out of the way and would deal with it later.  We had a cold and rainy spring, and now summer as well, and this Amaryllis turned in the "The Little Amaryllis That Could."  First it's top turned green, then it sent up a tall shoot and put out two flowers.  It didn't get any leaves but it it did flower!

Homemade Glue

We made glue from milk, vinegar and baking soda.  This is a fun little experiment that doesn't take a lot of supplies and it is quick.  It took us about 20 minutes but there is a lot of wait time so Spark would do a step, watch a few minutes of his movie, do the next step, watch movie, etc.

Add 2 T. vinegar to 1/2 cup of skim milk - it has to be skim milk for this to work right.  Stir it and let it sit for 5-7 minutes.  The vinegar makes the curd of the milk separate from the whey.  Think Little Miss Muffet here.

Put a paper towel over a cup to make a strainer.  Pour the curds and whey into the paper towel to drain the whey from the curds.  This reminded me of making cheese.

Scoop the curds out of the strainer and lay them on a couple of layers of paper towels.  Press the curds until it forms

a dry lump like this.  Put this lump in a cup and add 2 tsp. of water and 1 tsp. baking soda.  Stir it around to mix well.

The mixture starts, very quietly, popping when the baking soda combines with the vinegar in the curds.  Spark held it up to his ear to hear the snap, crackle, and pop.

Keep stirring until it resembles a thin paste/thick glue mixture.  Add few extra drops of water may need to be added to make it the right consistency.

It worked!  We made this crude Tom Sawyer raft and it is firmly stuck together.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So Tired

Camp is catching up with Spark.  Yesterday when he got home he seemed tired but was so whipped up with excitement and telling us all about his last couple of days that it was late when he got to bed.  This morning we were up early to go into town for an appointment and to check some errands off our to-do list.  By the time we got to the last stop, a green house, he said he would just sit on the bench and wait for us.  I came back up to the front of the green house and said there was a play set in the back if he wanted to go play on it.  He went back there to check it out.  After we picked out all the plants we were going to get, everything was buy one get one, I went back to the play set to tell Spark we were ready to check out. I found him laying in the play house part looking like he was just about to fall asleep.  On the way home in the car he did fall asleep.

When we got home he went right in his room and lay down.  A little bit later he came out and put on a movie he got from the Red Box.  Red Box is a vending machine with movies in it that you can rent for $1.00 a night.  It is the closest thing to a video store that we have near us and it's ten miles away.  He watched the first few minutes of the movie and was fast asleep in the chair.  He woke up after the movie was over.  Then he went in his room again and lay down.  I went out to mow some lawn about 6:30 p.m. thinking that he just had a nap and so he wouldn't fall asleep.  When I came in at 9:00 p.m. he was asleep again.  I wanted him to get up, one so he could eat some dinner and two so that he would be able to sleep tonight.  I don't think I will have to worry about him sleeping tonight as he is wrapped up in his comforter on the living room floor again and I hear deep breathing. 

Three days at camp - three days to catch up on all the sleep you didn't get at camp.  Glad camp is only once a year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Camp Switch

Dancer headed off to 4-H camp this morning.  We got to the bus three minutes late, one person was later than us, and everyone was already loaded on the bus.  4-H events are always late so we never thought we would be cutting it so close.  Spark's bus left half an hour late on Monday.  It was raining quite hard this morning so I suppose there was no parents wanting to stand around so the kids all just got right on the bus.

This afternoon the same bus brought Spark back - late.  We even showed up 20 minutes early in case they were early like in the morning. 

I was so happy to have him back home, it was a long three days without him.  He was full of fun stories of all that happened and he had a great time.  He brought home a duffle bag full of wet clothes and sand.  Even the clothes he didn't wear were wet and sandy.  The white socks he brought with came home black.  It rained half the time he was at camp so I was happy to see him in his flipflops even though they frown on that because I wouldn't have wanted to see his feet after spending two days in wet shoes.   Wet or not, he is all excited to go back next year already!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spark's At Camp

We dropped Spark off this morning to get on the bus to go to 4-H camp.  It is so quiet here without him.  I am glad he is off having a good time but I sure do miss him.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Homemade Tortilla Recipe

Homemade Tortillas

3 C. flour
1/3 C. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C. warm water

Mix dry ingredients well.  Add oil and stir until the mix resembles corn meal.  Add water slowly to form a non sticky dough.  Knead for 4 minutes.

 Cut the dough into 12 pieces and roll out into thin circles.  I have a new respect for women who can roll these out perfectly.  We had a tough time getting them thin enough much less round.

 Heat on a ungreased skillet at medium-high heat.  Cook each side for 1 - 3 minutes, look for bubbles to form and when you see them flip the tortilla.

We put peanut butter on these that turned into a melty goodness when they were warm.  Oh, they were so good and put the store bought ones to shame.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Post Office Field Trip

On Friday morning we went on a tour of a post office.  It was very hard to find one that would do a tour because of security reasons.  Homeschoolers are a scary bunch.  We went to a small town office that only had one employee and she eve closed the post office on her lunch hour.  She told us all about how mail goes in and out, distribution centers, and the bar codes on that now come the bottom of letters and how that code sorts the mail down into who the carrier is.  We learned that to be on a stamp you have to be dead for ten years and all the stamp series they produce every year.  We were only able to look in the back of the post office, again because of security.  The kids brought letters with and they bought stamps and got to hand cancel them themselves.  I don't know what Dancer was thinking here, but Spark looks like he is having a good time.  And true to the post office workers word, this morning the letter that Spark sent was in our mailbox.  Yes, he sent a letter to himself.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Frustrated Bookworm

Dancer has books that she has ordered from the library.  They are "In Transit" but not at the nearest library branch yet even though she ordered them a couple of days ago and she was sure they would be there today.  To make it worse, I told her we would run in and pick them up if they were there today.  She keeps checking the email for a notification and it isn't showing up.  In frustration she says "Don't they know they are interfering with my education?!"  Then she put her head down on the table and said wearily "My head is going to explode."  I guess she is practicing that virtue patience today.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crocheted Teddy Bear

Dancer got another 4-H fair project done tonight.  She started this way back in December and had it all done except for one of the legs.  At that point she put in a bag and there it sat until now.  It took her all of about half an hour to finish it so I am not sure why she didnt' do it in December but whatever.  Here it is the finished bear! 

She couldn't find the stuffing to stuff the legs, this dinosaur/monster thing sacrificed it's life and donated it's stuffing.  Now it will be a toy for Nikki until she rips it apart the rest of the way. 

The Bear Pattern is on the Lion Brand web site.  Dancer found this to be an easy pattern that went together nicely.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Growing Sun Crystals

Grow crystals in the sun with Epson salt.  In aluminum cake or pie pan cut a piece of black paper the size of the bottom.  In a bowl pour 1/4 cup of warm water and add one tablespoon Epson salt.  Stir until the salt dissolves.

Pour the salt mixture on the black paper and let it sit in the sun until the water evaporates.

The crystals we grew.  We have some of those jewelers loops that we look at everything with.  I put the loop over the lens of the camera to get these pictures the crystals are really quite small.

The salt dissolves in the water and when the water evaporates the salt forms crystals.  Using table salt does not give the same results because table salt and Epsom salt have a different chemical make up.

You're Under Arrest

We usually order our books at the library instead of browsing the racks.  I guess we do browse it is just on the on-line card catalog.  There were a couple of books at the library ready for us to pick up and today, when we were in town,  Dancer and I ran in and grabbed them quick while Dad and Spark waited in the car.  As we were coming out we could hear a siren of some emergency vehicle going off in the distance.  Dancer says right away, "Geez, we leave Dad and Spark alone for three minutes and they already got in trouble!"

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Beavers Do That?

Spark and I were going into some woods tonight to look for a geocache.  Right by the woods was an ATV trail and then a row of fir trees.  We had just gotten into the fir trees when an ATV came zipping by startling us both. 

"Do you think he saw us?" I asked Spark. 

He didn't know, he said that he wanted to drop to the ground and play dead so that the driver didn't see us but he didn't have time to so he just stood still and didn't move like the beaver. 

"Beavers stand stand still when they are scared?" I asked him.

"They do if someone has shot them."

Well, not the answer I was expecting but I couldn't argue with him on that one.

Hot Magma, Loose Lava

In this experiment about volcanic eruptions we were seeing how the viscosity and temperature of the molten rock effect the type of eruption we see on the earth's surface.  What is viscosity?  It is how thick or thin a fluid is.  Viscous means thick and sticky.  We are using corn syrup to represent thick magma (or molten rock) and water represents the thinner magma.  Since purple lava is so much cooler than regular lava we added blue and red food coloring to the corn syrup. 

 Some thought this mixing was the coolest part of the experiment.

Air, blown through a straw, models the force of gasses that push through the magma in a volcanic eruption.  You have to blow much harder to make bubbles come up through the corn syrup.

In the thick magma, the bubbles slowly expand and when they break, plumes of hot, purple lava are flung against the side of the glass.  Since volcanoes don't usually have glasses around them it might actually be flung against your village.

The bubbles can get pretty big as they leave the thicker magma.

This glass of water, the thinner magma, take much less air pressure to make bubbles.  The bubbles are small and break gently on the surface.

So what makes magma thick or thin?  First, hot magma and lava is thin and runny while the cooler (but still really hot--about 1000 degrees C) stuff is thick and sticky.  Secondly, even really hot magma can be thick and sticky depending on what minerals are in the mix.   Silica, a very common mineral, makes the magma really thick. 

Hot, thick magma with a high silica content means explosive eruptions with gas and rocks blasting from the volcano.  Thin, runny magma with low silica content gives us quiet eruptions with slow lava flows.