Monday, December 20, 2010

what can you build with marshmallows and toothpicks?

We had some marshmallows. We had some toothpicks. The kid brother was napping. So, we made "a marshmallow palace."
The "Sloth King" (a plastic sloth) lived there, and Nora made him a throne of marshmallows. She also added on a jail and asked me to make a sign for it: "Prisoners in here!"

When Soren woke up, he even added on a few sticks and mallows.
Finally, Nora asked to paint it with watercolors. O House of Mallows, home of the Sloth King...after all this, we will be sad to see you go.
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salt and ice

The other morning, Nora saw her dad salting our icy driveway, and asked why.

I asked her, "Why do YOU think we spread salt on an icy sidewalk? Can you guess?"

She guessed, "The salt melts the ice?"

We decided to see if this were true. I said, "We'll see if ice added to water makes it harder for the water to freeze."

-- We filled two small glass bowls each with 1/2 cup water. To one of these, we added 1 Tbsp salt, and stirred it in. The other, we left plain. We put them both in the freezer for an hour.
-- An hour later, the bowl of plain water (on the right) was frozen about halfway through. The bowl with salt water (on the left) was still mostly liquid, with just a small coating of ice on top. (When I tilted the bowl, the water sloshed all around.)

I explained (after quickly Googling this to make sure I didn't spread misinformation) that salt speeds up the melting of the ice because it can make ice melt at a lower temperature.  Salt also helps keep the ice from re-freezing.....which we saw when we put the salt water in the freezer!

I later came across an experiment where kids can use salt to "glue" an ice cube to a string, and then lift it up. This is exactly the sort of thing that sets my geek heart aflutter.

(I may be a geek, but I'm not a science whiz, so preschool science experiments may be as good as it gets for me. I plan to enjoy this while it lasts, and before I become unable to comprehend any of it.)
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Rock Menagerie

This is "a yellow dog," specifically designed as a Christmas gift for a dog-loving member of the family.
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rockin' out!

Funny-Face Pet Rocks(invented by Nora)....she even drew her own plans:
They just make me smile. (This is a pair of whales.)
We just painted rocks with acrylic paint; varnished them; and hot-glued the rocks together the way Nora instructed. We did not have nice, smooth river rocks in our vicinity, so I confess that I bought a bag at Michael's for $2.49. But if you have beautiful rocks near you, by all means, just use them instead! (The paints, we already had on hand in our giant paints box.)
Don't worry....he's friendly.
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Magic Crystal Ornaments

These ornaments grow as if by magic!!
(as seen on Ordinary Life Magic)

You will need:

Pipe Cleaners
Glass Jars

(Borax is a natural can find it at most grocery stores, Wal-Mart, etc.)

To start, bend your pipe cleaners into shapes that will fit into the mouths of your glass jars (with a tiny bit of room to spare, as the crystals will slightly increase the size of the ornaments.) Bend a loop of pipe cleaner at the top, to hang from the tree.

Use a small piece of pipe cleaner as a "hook" for dangling the ornament over the size of the jar. (This can be removed later.)

On the stovetop, heat some water....for each glass jar you have, you will need 1 cup water and 3 Tbsp. Borax.

Just heat the water until it is pleasantly warm. Stir in your Borax til dissolved.
Place your jar somewhere nice, where you can watch the "magic" happen. Then hang your pipe cleaner shape -- whatever shape you have made --
(which may be a little crazy if you are 5 years old).....hang that inside the jar.

Nothing will happen for the first hour or so. Distract your concerned little crystal artists. A couple of hours later, when you peek in at your ornaments...magic crystals will have begun to grow! Over the course of 24 hours, your ornaments will be nicely covered with beautiful "snow" crystals. Remove the ornaments after about 24 hours -- they will feel dry to the touch almost immediately. Hang them on the tree, in a window, or somewhere they can sparkle!
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Nora went on a binge....the good kind. She couldn't stop painting cinnamon ornaments! Here she is, proud of her finished product. (And while it may look like I kept her up until midnight painting, rest assured it was only around 5 p.m. Winter darkness!)
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Cinnamon Dough for Ornaments

Cinnamon dough smells heavenly! It makes a great, air-or-oven-drying dough for ornaments, figurines, whatever you like.

You'll need:

1 cup cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp. white school glue

(Since this requires about 3 containers of cinnamon, get the cheapest you can find.)

Start by mixing your ingredients in a bowl:
This makes a nice dough, just a bit wetter than Play-Doh. Roll it out and cut shapes from cookie cutters. Thicker is better; we found just under half-inch to make for great, substantial ornaments that won't snap too easily. (If they are too thin, they will become brittle when fully dry.)

Use a straw to make a hole in the top of each shape, if you plan to use them as ornaments.

Let air dry for a couple of days, or bake in your oven at 250 degrees for about an hour (keep an eye on them; pointy edges, on such shapes as stars, will cook quickly). Bake just until dry to touch.
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When your ornaments are dry, paint them with any acrylic paints.
If you finish a few and get distracted, you can always just paint your own hand, grinning at how proud you are of yourself.
Aren't you clever. ;)

Let them dry for a couple of hours. You can varnish them with any craft varnish. I had some gold glitter glue on hand, so I thinned that out and we just gave them a top coat with that; it acts like a sealant and added SPARKLE!

When they're fully dry, thread some pretty ribbon or embroidery thread through the hole, and you have nice little, delicious-smelling ornaments to give anyone who comes your way.
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Papier Mache Christmas Forest

We found these papier mache cones at Michael's for $1.29 - $1.49 each; painted them with acrylics we had lying around; and affixed some decorations. They flank our wooden Advent calendar. You can find so many papier mache shapes at Michael's, you could probably build your own North Pole! But don't get too crazy, now. It's cookie-eatin' time.
Hope everyone is enjoying the season!
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