School Projects

Fun Projects

Monday, December 15, 2014

Busy Making

Since I am only about halfway through each of the projects I have in the works for Christmas, I thought I'd just do a quick photo dump to show what the kids have been making lately.

Christmas Decorations on Project Day:
Special notebooks for some of the special people in their lives:
But mostly lots and lots of presents:
Happy making everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Carols Are Good For More Then Singing

A few years ago I signed up for an account on Pinterest.  One of my very first pins (which I have tried in vain to find) was a link on how to make a super-humongous but cheap black and white photo print at the office supply store Staples.  It seemed like a good idea, but considering the number of "pin-sasters" the come via Pinterest pins, I was a bit too skeptical - and cheap - to try.  Then, earlier this year, I encountered the idea again (sorry, don't remember which website), only this time it was how to make a really large faux-chalkboard print.  I was intrigued.  I have long been considering how to make a display of Christmas carols to hang above my piano and I thought "What if I had a really big sheet of music printed?"  So I tried it, and I am pleased to say it really worked! 
 I searched Google images for "free printable Christmas sheet music" and found a carol I liked,  Then I went to the Staples website (Office Max does it too, but their website wasn't working for me that day) and searched for "Engineering Prints".  I selected their largest size, 36"x48" ($7.79 plus shipping), uploaded my image, followed the very simple instructions, and ordered it.  It really was that easy!  

Now, you might be asking "what kind of quality is the print?" - which is a good question.  The website clearly says "not intended for reproducing photos" and looking at my print I can see why.  The blacks are black, but the edges are a bit blurry and there are some grayish patches in the white areas.  You can't really see them from a few feet away on my print, but on a photo they might be more noticeable.  I'd say stick with line drawings (like engineering prints!), bold lettering or sheet music.

After the print arrived, I decided I needed to dress it up just a bit, so I used a kitchen knife and cutting board to make slits in the paper (I'd recommend using a utility or craft knife, but I didn't have one handy, and the smell of garlic on the knife was just too wonderful to waste) and wove a Christmasy ribbon up the sides.  It had the added benefit of stiffening up the paper a bit for hanging.

And that is it - the easiest homemade Christmas decoration I ever made!  Thank you Pinterest.
Happy printing, everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

One Last Autumn Post

There is nothing like a family Thanksgiving celebration taking place at your house to remind you of all the little projects that need finishing (or starting and finishing) around the place.  I managed to sort through a lot of closets and dust a lot of high shelves thanks to this motivation.  I was also able to get a decorating project that I have been slowly working on for the past YEAR completed, thanks to the pressure of pending house tours.

The south wall in our bedroom is the one that our headboard rests against, and it has been bare since we moved back into the room after the remodel.  I just couldn't decide what I wanted to hang there.  Then, about a year ago Aaron and I discussed an idea involving topographic maps.  I don't remember who had the initial thought, but it got my mind turning.  Eventually I moved away from the idea of topographic maps to tourist maps of major cities that we want to visit together someday.  I started searching online for vintage maps in a variety of sizes and styles, and as I gathered them I mounted them onto blank art canvases.  

I finished the last map on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but I had a little problem.  The man who provides the muscle necessary for completing my various brilliant ideas was away on a hunting weekend.  How could I get all my maps hung in time?  I started by using brown wrapping paper to make "map shapes" to help me make my gallery arrangement.  It's a good think I didn't just starting putting in screws or nails, because first it looked like this:
and then I changed it to this:
 and eventually it ended up like this:
 When my he-man arrived home after his hunting trip, he was forced to feel my intense need of completing projects and finished the installation of "our" maps with very good grace and speed.

Oh, and before I wish everyone a "happy last day of November", I need to fulfill another promise and show some of the Thanksgiving decorations the kids made for their rooms.  I think the blue painter's tape is a very special touch.
Happy Last Day of November everyone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Planning

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday for a whole list of reasons: the colors, the food, the fact that it is only one day long, and most of all the food.  Usually we pack up the kids and head to one side of the family or another to celebrate, but this year is different.  This year WE are hosting.  Generally speaking, I LOVE hosting gatherings (my husband claims it is because it is a chance for my "Field Marshal" personality to rise to the fore), but I will admit that putting on my first holiday dinner has me a bit nervous.

My son has apparently caught the fever as well, because he announced that his bedroom needs decorating - it just isn't Thanksgiving-y enough for guests to see.  First, he decided to make a leaf banner.
 He hung it above his closet.  I thought it looked nice.
 Then he decided one garland wasn't enough, and he drew up a plan (yes, a plan) of each wall in his room and added all the decor items he wanted to add.
 He also recruited labor.  
If the construction paper and tape and glue hold out, I think they will still be working as our guests arrive.  Stay tuned - I'll try and get a picture when they do the official unveiling.  Until then I am forced to pretend that I can't see anything every time I go in their rooms.

What am I doing to get ready for Thanksgiving?  I prettied up this clipboard with washi tape to hold the lists of tasks I made for each day until THE day.  If I can stay on track, maybe I can just pull this off!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  You probably won't hear from me again until it is over.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to Make a Mummy

Imagine you live in Egypt several thousand years ago (For those of you who live in parts of the Midwest this will be a special struggle - just pretend the 18 inches of snow you just got is sand and you'll feel right at home).  Your pharaoh just died and the priests are preparing his body for the journey to the afterlife (at least that's what they THINK - we know they are preparing the body for public display in a museum far away in the future).  It was kind of a big deal, this mummifying, and you can't really escape it if you do any reading about Ancient Egypt, and it is the reading about Ancient Egypt that brings me to today's post.

Way back in Ancient October, Ian was reading about the Old Kingdom of Egypt in his history curriculum (The Story of the World, Vol. 1) and one of the possible enrichment activities was "Mummify a Chicken."  While it seemed lacking in actual educational value, it did seem likely to be fun and memorable, so we decided to give it a try.  

A word on supplies: Buy the smallest chicken you can find!  Smaller chickens mean using less of the other ingredients and less time to completion.  Also, don't worry about any of those things that people worry about when buying a chicken for eating, like free-range, or non-soy fed, or non-antibiotic-ed.  Mummies don't care about these things.  Go for cheap.  However, you might want to buy disposable gloves, if you are squeamish about touching things that have been dead for a while.  I didn't, and we didn't get salmonella or Ebola or anything, but I suppose the possibility is there.  We did wash our hands frequently!
 Okay, on to the show!
 It turns out my boy hasn't spent enough time hunting or farming, and he was less then thrilled about reaching into the body cavity of the chicken.  We'll be working on that.....
Eventually we got the chicken all washed (first with lots and lots of water and then with rubbing alcohol) and dried.
 When the chicken was prepared, we made the salt mixture.  Modern mummies are made from table salt (one box), baking soda (half a box) and baking powder (half a box).  Ground cinnamon and ground cloves are added to mask any potential unpleasant odors.
 Next, the inside of the chicken is packed with the salt before the whole body is covered in it.  A double layer of freezer bag is a good idea!  Then the chicken is set in some discreet place to begin the drying process.  If you were an ancient pharaoh, I suppose you rested in state in some temple, but if you are a chicken, the top of the refrigerator is a good place.  For the first week, the salt mixture has to be changed every 2-3 days, as the moisture is drawn out of the carcass, but the more dry the chicken gets, the longer the time between changes.  Our chicken took about 5 weeks to fully dry out.
 Last week, our chicken was ready to move on to the next step in the process.  We took it out of the bag and washed and dried it again.  (Note: the chicken did not smell, except of cloves.  The chicken was not slimy - it felt like jerky).  Then we rubbed it with olive oil.
 Finally we got to the step made famous in all the many mummy movies: the bandages.  The Egyptians used strips of linen.  I used old, cut up cloth diapers.  Same difference, right?  We dipped the strips in a paste made up of two parts white glue to one part water (you can eye-ball this one, it's not super precise), and began to wrap the chicken.  First the wings and drumsticks, then the entire body.
 Once the chicken was fully wrapped, it went back to the top of the refrigerator to dry again.  After three days it was dry (still no smell!) and ready to finish.  At first Ian was prepared to build a coffin AND sarcophagus for our mummy, but in the end he settled on some decorative painting. 
 We admired our mummy for a few minutes and then there was nothing left to do but to entomb it.
Good-bye, Chicken Mummy.

Happy school projects, everyone!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Caramel Apples or Why I Am Not a Purist

Well, it seems that the beautiful portion of Autumn is drawing to a close.  You have to search pretty hard to find a yellow or a red leaf left among the brown and crinkly debris - but since you can still find one or two I shall carry on in my "Celebration of Fall" series of posts.  Today's installment brings you instructions on how to make the perfect caramel apple. 

Step 1: Go to Walmart and buy the kit.  

Seriously.  Buy the kit.  I have no delusions of a grandeur (I heard whoever just whispered "No, she's just delusional....").  I have no confidence in my ability to corral 4 kids whilst unwrapping a bag of caramel candy, melting uneaten portion of said caramel candies, keeping aforementioned children from falling headfirst into the now molten caramel, fishing apples out of the caramel after they fall off the stick during the dipping process or refraining from throwing the pot containing the cooled and now permanently attached caramel out through the front window.  No confidence at all.  That is why I bought the kit.

The kit worked beautifully.  The top sheet of waxed paper was peeled off, revealing a thin circle of caramel just waiting for an apple to be set in the middle of it.
 The edges of the caramel circle were lifted up and with just a little bit of stretching and folding they covered the apple.
 Then a popsicle stick handle was inserted and the apple was placed on another square of waxed paper on a cookie tray.  After five minutes in the oven they were soft and gooey and perfect for eating.
And here is the other reason why I am not a purist when it comes to caramel apples: the kids who begged and pleaded and harassed and cajoled for more then a week to make those caramel apples used their front teeth to scrape off a little bit of the caramel from the finished apples, turned up their little noses and said "can we have a different snack?"

Happy kit buying, everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Produce

I love fall, in case you didn't know.  It is when my Yellow-and-Orange Fever (or Y1-O1 as my husband calls it) flairs up the worst, due to all the stimulants floating in the air.  One particular reason that I like it so much is that all kinds of tasty fruits and veggies - namely apples and pumpkins - ripen and we can go collect them and make yummy things from them.  Some years we go to an apple orchard, but this year the kids and I drove to my sister's house instead, and picked a box full of apples from her trees.
 Pumpkins usually come from a little front-yard place in our town where we have lots of fun running around and picking different sized pumpkins from the different piles, but this year Great-grandpa Red grew lots of pumpkins in his garden, so we chose ours from his pile instead.
There is one type of produce, however, that I don't enjoy collecting quite as much as pumpkins and apples:
Have you guessed yet?
 Yeah - all the leaves that I love so much ON the trees eventually come down and pile themselves inches deep in the yard.  Even at that point I still love the red and orange and yellow leaves - until it is time to collect and remove them.  Then my love begins to wane a little bit.
Even so, having these cute little helpers makes the job a little more enjoyable!
Happy fall, everyone!