Thursday, April 9, 2015

Needle Felting

I've heard of needle felting, but really had no idea what it entailed. Turns out it's just wool and a needle. You bind the wool fibers together by stabbing - yes, stabbing! - a needle through the wool repeatedly. I drew blood when I tried it.

I had picked up little needle felting kits for the kids, thinking that it would be a nice quiet craft whenever we needed some relaxing down-time at the condo during Spring Break. Little did I know that it would be such a hit. We had to go out mid-week and track down some wool roving. That's not very easy to do when you're in the middle of a desert. Thankfully, there were some local alpaca ranches and their wool works just like sheeps'.

Here they are, needles poised and stabbing...

And here are two of the finished needle felted critters...

I'm inspired. I've ordered some supplies to try a slighly less violent felting craft. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stanford Splash! Fall 2014

This past weekend, we went to Palo Alto so that R and his friend and classmate D could participate in the Stanford Splash! program. Our little D is too young to participate this year, so we planned some other activities to keep him occupied. It was nice to borrow a daughter for the weekend!

The program is open to 7th through 12th graders, offering 14 class slots for kiddos to select a wide range of classes. R took everything from An Introduction to Neuroprosthetics to An Introduction to the Elvish Language. D was scheduled for a class about justice and one about religion. They both took a class about geology and one about earthquake engineering.

On the parent side of things, the registration process was arduous. Completely frustrating and ridiculously time-consuming due to crashing servers. But with a little bit of perseverance (read 'sheer stubbornness to triumph over the system') it  can be done.

The kids were understandably nervous. So we did several tech checks, making sure that all of our numbers were entered in all of the phones.

We practiced map reading and had them find their classrooms and come back to us. It's a good thing we arrived so early! They were still nervous and asked us to come find them at lunchtime. But when we showed up, they were happily munching on their pizza and burritos. They barely looked up from their plates and we definitely weren't needed.

At the end of the day, I picked up R and we still had an hour before D was done, so we hit the Stanford bookstore. He selected a Stanford hat. And though I wanted to shout 'Go, Bears!' at every corner of the campus, I happily paid for his 'Nerd Nation' Stanford hat. So proud of these kids and grateful for the opportunity to have them stretch their academic wings a bit.

I'll have another post about Day 2. There were a few more of their classmates in attendance. And I'll recap some of the things that D and R reported about the experience.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Halloween Pets of the Girl in the Bat-Hat

Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 4th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest. As I rarely write anything whimsical, I decided it was a good challenge. It may not be brilliant, but it's done and I feel good about stretching out of my comfort zone a little bit.

The rules: "Write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak."

Mine is 88 words.

The Halloween Pets of the Girl in the Bat-Hat
by Camilla M. Mann

Pumpkin, Broomstick, and Creak
Were the pets of one Halloween freak.
 “I love Halloween!” screeched the girl in a hat.
She always wore a witch’s hat emblazoned with a single bat.
Pumpkin, her bearded dragon, liked to hiss
Unless you stroked his head and gave him a kiss.
Brookstick is an insect – a walking stick
Who stood still long enough to get a lick
From Creak the dog
Who seemed to think he was a frog.
“Ribbit,” Creak said
As the girl in the bat-hat patted his head.

Monday, October 27, 2014

PiBoIdMo 2014 - I'm in!

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that though I love writing - and get paid to write! - and I am a parent, I don't often write for kids. Ever. Really.

I write notes to my kids, but I don't think of kids as a target audience for things that interest me: food sustainability, environmental issues, beer and coffee. Yes...believe it or not I just spent a month researching and writing an article about coffee. My kids listen to me ramble on about why we need to eat one way and not another, why I choose to buy chickens from one farm and not another. And I cart them along with me on research trips to visit beekeepers and learn how to roast coffee. But I don't usually think that other people's kids would enjoy these topics.

However, inspired by a good friend and her pledge to join the PiBoIdMo: Picture Book Idea Month - November 2014, hosted by Tara Lazar, I decided to take the plunge and see if I can complete the 30-day writing challenge and come up with daily ideas about how to write books for kids about important things such as eating fruits and vegetables. We'll see...stay tuned.

Thanks for the nudge I need anything else on my plate this month!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mayan Creation Play

Mayan Creation Play
by D.

Today we drove to San Juan Bautista with our friends and we watched a play, the Mayan version of creation. They had instruments that were from Mexico - a maraca, a box filled with beans, and a drum - and they had traditional clothing from the Mayan culture. They spoke the languages that Mayan people spoke.

What happened in the play: the people did a dance with all different colored people. (I'm not sure what it meant.)

Then the Mother and the Father wanted a world with people who worshipped them, so they created the animals. But the animals didn't talk, so the God of the Sky brought over a plumed serpent who talked.

They talked about what to do. Then the God of the Sky created the mud people. They didn't have a brain and they didn't have a heart. The mud people kept bumping into each other and dying. They couldn't survive, so she cast them away. During the part with the mud people, they played really neat Mayan music.

Then the Mayan people made a planet with mountains, trees, rivers, and plants. They called out the Grandmother and Grandfather.Together made the Wood People witch were violent - they weren't nice to the animals. A great flood was created to kill all the Wood People. One macaw survived. He branched off and made all of the other animals.

The animals told the Gods that the White Corn and the Yellow Corn were their food supplies. The gods brought over the corn and told them that they will watch over the animals.

The first humans had big golden masks on and they learned to worship the gods and created a good habitat for all the animals.

In the background of the stage they had some pretty cool Mayan paintings. In the play they spoke Spanish and English. I really enjoyed the play.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

D's Spice Box, Part I

We are working on a project in my class that explains 'our culture.'

What I have done so far: I've researched what my parents' cultures are. Then me and my mom brainstormed a couple of ideas and I decided that I wanted to make a box with spices from all of the countries that my ancestors came from. I searched all of the main spices of each country's cuisine.

  • The Philippines has tamarind, ginger, sili.
  • People in Spain use coriander, bay leaves, saffron, and paprika.
  • Portugal has cinnamon, celery salt, paprika, and bay leaves.
  • In Germany, they use caraway, bay leaves, juniper berries, and white pepper.
  • Ireland they cook with thyme, rosemary, and sage.
  • In Sweden, they use cardamom, saffron, all spice, ginger, and dill.

After we made our list, we shopped for all of the spices at Whole Foods. When we got home, I made the box for all of the spices out of a recycled shoe box.

Next: I need to fill the box with all of the spices and write my essay about my culture. I have to go to bed now.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wood Gasifier Stove for #makercamp2014

I made a wood gas stove this summer for Maker Camp, #makercamp2014. 
Wood Gasifier Stove
by R, Grade 7
Story of Inspiration
I have seen the name wood gas stove or wood gasifier stove around a few times but I didn’t know what it was. Then I read about it in Makezine number 27 on page 136.

How it Works
This stove is basically an efficient wood chip burner. The smoke and gas that comes out of the wood chips when they are burned is still flammable. In a regular fire some of that gas is not burned. 

Wood chips are put in the middle can with the grate and are lit on fire. The holes at the bottom of the whole stove and the grate allow the fire to be fed with plenty of oxygen. The wood chips start to put out their smoky gas. This gas rises up through the wood and lights on fire. Gas also escapes through the holes at the bottom of the middle can and rises. This gas goes through the holes at the top of the middle can and it also lights on fire. Those are the secondary burners. The wood chips will burn and you will have to keep adding wood chips. Then just use it as a stove.

What We Did With It
My brother and I used the wood gasifier stove a lot during our family's 10-day camping trip. I used it to heat water and we made tea and hot chocolate. One night we even cooked dinner - sausages! - on it so my mom didn't have to cook over the fire. And, after dinner one evening, my brother and I roasted marshmallows in the stove.

It's neat to make something that isn't just a creation, but it's a useful creation. I'm pretty sure that my mom would agree with that.