School Projects

Fun Projects

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!