Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rube Goldberg Competition

We spent all Saturday morning with Brian's 5th grade class at a Rube Goldberg competition. If you aren't familiar with the concept of a Rube Goldberg machine, it is a complex device with numerous steps which performs a simple task. If you played the Mousetrap board game, you've assembled a Rube Goldberg-type machine.

My son's class has been working on this machine for over a month and all the hard work of designing, testing, re-designing, re-testing, writing a technical report, designing brochures, T-shirts, and posters culminated in the local competition where they competed against 5 other machines.

The purpose - create a machine to open the cover and the first page of a book. The machine must also be designed around a theme, complete with a backstory.

Our class decided on a Medieval theme and built it as a large Castle, complete with moat, dragon, princess and brave prince. The machine itself used ramps, dominos, levers, a pendulum and a mouse trap to open the book and turn the page.

Steps 3, 4, 5, 6

Setting Up the Machine

The competition included a Junk Wars theme:
Junk Yard Competition

And Alice in Wonderland:
Alice In Wonderland Theme
The remaining competitors: the Illini team, The Beach Team and The Jungle Team.

Here the kids are setting up right before their performance and judging:
Set up for Judging

The coolest part of the project - everyone in the class participated in the presentation. That's 24 kids to manage and herd!

Here's a quick clip of the machine in action - it goes fast, so pay attention.

The best part? The machine worked during the competition and our team won first place! Now they advance to the Regional competition in two weeks.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow Again

After a bit of spring-like weather, a blast of winter re-emerged last night, giving us several fresh inches of snow.

Fresh Snow

I pulled out the fisheye adapter for these shots - trying to distort the snow as much as I can!

Patio Pattern

Even Sammy wasn't happy with the snow:
Sniff the Air

The good thing - it's wet and the temperatures aren't too low. I'm hoping this will be the last Blast of Winter.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

5th Grade Choral Concert

The first of several "lasts" as we enter the second half of the school year and Brian's final months in elementary school. Tonight - the last choral concert - a look at the history of black inspired music, from spiritual, to jazz, Motown and Hip Hop.

See - they are moving their hands around (singing It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got that Swing).
Ain't Mean a Thing If You Ain't Got that Swing
Except for Brian. That boy - he didn't even try to perform.

Friends George, Drew and Matthew are all smiles. Yes, they all sang and moved their arms:

Oh well, I'll always remember this concert as the one where Brian just stood there...


Monday, February 21, 2011

Into the Great Unknown

The question, "Oh, My, what have we gotten ourselves INTO?" crosses my mind quite frequently today. That, and "Are we really going to DO THIS?".

Is Caesar In Our Future?

It looks like we are going to become horse owners. Yikes. Writing that out scares me to death. But look how happy she is:
With Caesar

The lesson barn Erica has been with for the last 5 years is closing and as a result, they are selling all the lesson horses and slowly ceasing operations. We learned of the news two Fridays ago, and since then, Erica has been researching what it would take to buy one of the horses. Her first choice, Casey, was sold in one day. Then she started looking for horses on the internet (something I wasn't comfortable with at all). Finally, she said she wanted Caesar, a gentle Appaloosa from the lesson barn. Better yet, a boarding stall became open at the boarding farm one mile from the lesson barn, where her friend will be boarding another one of the lesson horses. We checked it out yesterday and put a deposit down on the spot.

So I guess it is inevitable. We don't know what we've gotten ourselves into, but I'm sure it will be a great adventure.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Making Crepes

I have been delinquent in several of my "cooking" themed posts - I took the pictures, but never created the actual posts.

So today, a little bit of catch up - our favorite "pancake" - crepes.

The recipe - (I have it memorized now)

3 Eggs
1 1/4 C Milk
1/4 C Melted Butter
Pinch of salt
1 C flour

Beat eggs together, add milk and melted butter. Mix in salt. Whisk in the flour. The batter will be thin.

The Batter

Heat up a skillet pan and when it is hot, add a thin layer of oil.

Pour about 1/4C of the batter on to the skillet, picking up the skillet and rotating it to spread the batter around the bottom of the pan in a thin layer.

Cook until the top of batter looks dry. Then flip the crepe over:
Poured Out

Yes, nice and golden on top. Wait until the steam stops coming out of the crepe, and it should be done.
The Edge

Serve with jelly, jam or even ricotta cheese mixed with the jam.
Crepe Condiment

Or plain, with confectioner's sugar sprinkled on top. This is the way my daughter likes it.

Yummy! And easier to make than you think!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Piano - Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The family piano is leaving our home and going south to my sister's house. We don't play it enough and my sister's boys are planning to take piano lessons.

I sat down and played it Tuesday afternoon. If only I had more time to practice.

The Piano

My sister will be receiving this classic book (it will be in the piano bench).
Book Collection

On Wednesday afternoon, the piano movers came, wrapped it up and took it away.
All Wrapped Up

Leaving a big hole in the former piano room.
Where The Piano Used to Be
I admit I miss the piano, but it will be used more at my sister's house.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saturday Morning

This is how we spent last Saturday morning, before Auntie Teresa arrived:

I woke up early to pick up Brian from the all-night lock in at church. The sunrise coincided with my drive out to church:

A lock in means minimal sleep for all involved and a morning nap:

I worked out at a Cage Fitness class and then hit the road for a nice run in the glistening snow. I tried out another portion of the trail in the neighborhood:
Mile 3
The local neighborhood association must take care of this trail because most of the sidewalks in town are still covered in snow and ice. I greatly appreciate it!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Special Visitor and Dinner

[A bit of a cross-post between this and my photography blog - sorry if you've read both posts]

I learned a week ago that my sister, Teresa, would be traveling to Chicago for work and planned to drive down to visit us! She arrived Saturday afternoon.

The photo taking started almost immediately.
Smile for the Camera

Brian took this picture, using my big camera.
Hanging Out
[Hand held at 1/40second exposure time! That's a steady hand!]

I planned to make pasta, but the kids suggested we try out the local sushi/fusion place.

We walked into the restaurant and were transported out of the midwest. We faced an industrial scene with waves of neon and pulsating music. Oh, and the obligatory fish tank in every Asian restaurant, but without the koi:
Neon Fish Tank

The wasabi is so pretty, piped into flowers:
What's For Dinner

We ordered three sushi rolls as an appetizer. I had to fend off the hungry masses for an additional 10 seconds to get this shot. They only gave me one try.
Three Out of Six
The carnivores also known as my family inhaled the three dishes in less than 2 minutes. Seriously. Poof! All gone.

So we did what any normal sushi loving group does - order more! We ended up consuming 6 sushi rolls between the 5 of us. Again, just as appetizers!

Because after the sushi came the main courses. Since it is a "fusion" type of restaurant, I ordered a very non-Asian duck dish.
The Main Course

Needless to say, we had lots of leftovers to enjoy for Sunday lunch.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Making Stuff - Bookmarks

Each year, the fifth graders hold an event called the Trader's Faire, where they barter and exchange hand made goods. Since this is my second go-around with a fifth grade child, I had a game plan already formulated - making bookmarks.

Brian and I worked on these two nights last week - he picked out the paper, the stamps and made up a design. Then we assembly-line produced 25 stamped, heat embossed book marks:

Trader's Faire Goods

And truthfully, Brian did a lot of the work himself (like all the embossing - give the boy any kind of gun and he'll use it). I was really proud of him.


Dumpling Time

Yes, I know - a week has passed since my last post.
We are super busy here - making things, running around, the usual stuff of life.

Last Sunday I spent most of the day making and cooking Chinese Dumplings:

Making Dumplings

This includes making and rolling out the wrapper / dough by hand.
Rolled Out the Dough

The finished product (shot with my iPhone):
First batch of fried dumplings

I even had left over dough for green onion pies.
Bonus Green Onion Pancakes

Added yumminess!

This sort of thing only happens once a year, so we enjoyed the dumplings while they lasted.....


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Friday Night a Cappella

I've posted about the local a cappella concert before - it's an annual event at one of the local high schools. I didn't go last year because the tickets sold out before I could reserve mine. Then a big storm hit the night of the concert and I was happy I didn't have to drive through the rural country roads to attend.

But I did miss seeing the performances, so this year, I made sure I had tickets.

Sorry about the grainy picture - taken with my iPhone

The groups:
The Other Guys, from the U of I:
The Other Guys

No Comment, from the U of I:
Opening Number
The only mixed group of the night, so they hold a special place in my heart. I also bought their freshly pressed CD.

Two groups from the Unity High school - U9 and and Surreal Sound - performed after No Comment. It's great that a cappella is making inroads in the High Schools.

Secondary Dominance, from Illinois State:
Secondary Dominance

The Rip Chords, from the U of I:
The Rip Chords

The Xtension Chords, from the U of I:
The Xtension Chords

The performances were great and, as usual, made me long for those past days of performing - voices only. I only get to sing in church and in the car now (only if I'm alone because the kids complain).


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Snow Day Two - Wednesday, Feb 2, 2011

Wednesday morning we woke to several inches of snow on top of granular snow on top of ice. And wind.

[Truthfully, we didn't receive as much snow as we expected - North of us, the snow fell heavily and South of us, freezing ice covered everything]

We started to shovel the driveway, down to the ice layer.
Ready for Work
Yeah, I really don't mind shoveling snow as long as it's not too cold.

Later on, our neighbor, Bob plowed the cul-de-sac and all the driveways. What a great neighbor. Even better, he mounds all the snow by our driveway so the kids can use it for snow forts, sledding, snowball fights, etc.

The kids also like to slide off Buck and Jill's backyard deck, after covering it with snow.
Steer with Your Hand

Initial Decline


Around the Bend

They enjoyed the fun while they could because it was back to school on Thursday.


Friday, February 04, 2011

Running on Ice

The news of the week - the weather. Things started Monday afternoon with freezing rain and sleet. The fun continued Tuesday with more ice, changing over to snow.

School was canceled Tuesday, so Erica invited some friends over and they tried sledding / surfing on the ice. I had fun playing with the video recorder on Brian's iTouch and captured this:

They worked hard building a ramp out of cardboard.
Working On the Ramp

But in the end, they just had fun.
Run Up The Hill


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All images on this blog (unless stated) are the intellectual property and copyright of SLPhotography and shirley319 (© 2009, 2010). Do not steal, borrow or pirate the images here.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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