Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Marshmallow Shooters and the Making Thereof :)

I was lying in bed...deeply submerged in the land of dreams. Guess what I was dreaming? I was dreaming about making the marshmallow shooters. Yes. I. Was. (Read here: for the parts purchase adventure at Lowes)
First of all, the shooter I was making in my dream was turning out all wrong. Instead of being a straight shooter with two elbows, it looked more like a rainbow....and I was stressing. And THEN, I dreamed that I had forgotten to buy marshmallows. Can you imagine? Marshmallow shooters with no mini marshmallows.
And then I woke up. And realized that I had forgotten to buy marshmallows. Seriously. Which was so cool. Not that I forgot the marshmallows, but that my dream was telling me I forgot the marshmallows.  Kind of like having a little friend in my head. Other than the one I talk to sometimes. So, I clean house (I actually vacuum and mop when company's coming) and do my farm chores and do some "research" on facebook and I finally get around to going and picking up the marshmallows. At 1:00. Everyone was supposed to be at my house at 1:30. Why do I do that? Why do I always think that I have more time than I actually have? So, after a non-profitable trip to store number one, a call to a 4-H mom on her way to plead with her to try a different store, a pick up of someone who didn't know the way,  and twenty minutes later, I'm back at home and the joint starts hopping. All the supplies are lying on the table outside and we proceed to open up the pvc pipe cutters. And no one knows how to make them work. I tried to squeeze the handles together thinking it would release some kind of spring and make them open. I tried connecting one little gear looking piece to something else between the handles. Guess what I finally resorted to doing?? I had to freakin Google "how to open pvc pipe cutters". And then I felt like a blonde...because the way to open pvc pipe cutters, IS.TO.PULL.THE.HANDLES.APART. It's inexcusable to make things that complicated. Sheesh.

Materials needed to create a marshmallow gun are as follows:
38 inches of half inch pvc pipe cut into:
    - One 8-inch piece
    - Six 5-inch pieces
Two half inch T-Joints
Two half inch Elbow Joints
Two half inch End Caps
AND a handy dandy pvc pipe cutter  (that you open by pulling apart the handles)

Mark the pieces with a ruler and marker and then cut them out with the pipe cutter. Oh, and the pipe cutter does this cool little ratcheting thing...and slices through the pipe like hot butter. I got a little excited using it.

After you cut the pieces out, lay them out like so:

And then put all the pieces together, like so:

Very cool, no?
Don't use glue to make the pieces fit more tightly....IF you do this, the marshmallows that *may* get sticky and wet when you inhale instead of exhale, will get stuck in the pipe. Or when you put ten marshmallows in at one time JUST to see if you can do a gatling gun effect, and they get'll have to take it apart. And clean it out. And put it back together. So, no glue.

measuring and cutting:

yes.. they work!  a word of caution...I thought I might wipe the pipe dust off of the blade and sliced my thumb. so, that might not be a good idea.

4-H'ers working together:

and the marshmallow war is ON!

Painting the shooters...boys did camo...girls did a pink camo....

Isaac decided he didn't need a gun...he used big marshmallows and threw them at everyone...

And yes...I have my own's now painted pink camo, of course....  :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Trip to Lowes for Plumbing Supplies...aka I'm Also A Contractor

This month was my month to plan our 4-H activity.  I always kind of break out in hives when my turn rolls around.  You know how any other time, you could think up a million things that kids would like to do, and then when it's your turn and the big finger is pointing at you, you get the "deer in the headlights" look.
So, I decided to make Marshmallow Shooters.  OMGah.  Color me ecstatic.
I look up the ingredients, er, supplies....make my list...and head to Lowes.  I ask where the pvc pipe is and am directed to plumbing.  Yay...finally... a place where my pants will feel at home.  Why is it SOOO hard to find cute pants that don't make you look like a plumber when you're putting your child's shoes on?  (You know....the exposure when you're bending over...I HATE that), at the moment, my pants are right where they belong...Plumber Blvd.  woo!  A handy assistant show up (is Lowes' slogan "let's build something together"? or is that Home Depot??...idk)  and he's helping me find my parts.  pvc parts.  you know.  anyway, he says, "So, what are you making exactly?"  and I say, "Marshmallow Shooters" and I think that's the end of the conversation regarding that.  We continue on....we now have (5) 10 foot 1/2" pvc pipes in our buggy.  Excuse me, not IN the buggy.  Rather, falling off the buggy.... nailing me in the rear because Sarah is pushing the buggy... and haphazardly swinging around looking for the life of me like they are going to take out every freakin plumbing item on the shelves of Plumbing Blvd.  Then I tell my handy dandy assistant that I need (30) T-joints, (30) End Caps, and (30) Elbow Joints...and I say this with confidence because I totally know what a T, Elbow, and End look like.  And guess what he hands me?  Contractor bags.  Yeah, baby.  I'm like a freakin contractor plumber girl.  I felt kinda awesome.  He asks if that's all I need, and I say, no...I need pvc pipe cutters.  And I get pvc piper cutters.  (that was kind of a let down, wasn't it?  there was no story to the cutters)  Okay..moving along... I say, "Okay, I just have to go get camo paint and I'm finished."  And he says, "Oh!  I have camo paint... let me show you."  and I obediently follow.  While we're looking at camo paint, he says, "What kind of Marshmallow Shooters are these?  Not the adult kind, right?"  And I have a moment of confusion and I try to cover it quickly so I don't look like the dork I am, and I say all knowingly...."Hahahaha..ummm, no...these are for kids."...And after a slight pause, I add, " took me a moment...I spend A LOT of time with kids."   And he laughs and buys my excuse and says, "Yeah, for a moment that was like, (and does the that just flew over your head gesture) and I smiled and laughed like I totally got it.  And guess what?  I still am not fully sure what an adult marshmallow shooter is....I assume it has something to do with alcohol?  Idk.  But, how would you shoot a marshmallow?  Idk.  I'm confused.  Okay, having just googled "adult marshmallow shooter" I'm even more confused.  Do what??  Am I missing something?  There's no such thing?
Moving along...  I get to the front, and of course, there is maybe one register open, but OH LOOK!! the self check-out is open!  I love self-check out... you get to be the cashier, the bagger, and the customer...all at once.  It's an ooooohhh, shiny person's dream.  The kids are clamoring for some chips and because I'm a good mom....and also because I was thinking if they are eating in the car, I can listen to an entire song on the radio maybe without having to turn it down during the part I REALLY wanna sing.
So, I begin trying to scan the pvc pipe...and it's ten feet long, okay?  And I am hemmed in between the register and some barrels of something or another.  As I am trying to maneuver (as an aside, the ONLY way I can remember how to spell "maneuver" is to say out loud, "man-e-uver"...)  anyway, as I am trying to man-e-uver the pipe between the scanner and the barrels...wait, they were buckets... and the only way to fit the pipe up to the scanner was to slide the pipe into the crack between the bottom of the buckets.  (five gallon buckets....just for your mental picture.)  I get two scanned and I'm totally feeling it.... I'm even snapping my gum like I work there.  And, the kids start handing me stuff...  and it's messing up my system....they are handing me my contractor bags...cause I'm like, a cool contractor... and I'm trying to scan those...and their chips...and paint....and you KNOW I didn't finish scanning the pipes yet...and I say, "wait!!  dang....y'all...."...  And so, then they start getting their things out of the bags.  Seriously.  You know when you use the self-check out, it has some kind of star wars force that knows when you put the item in the bag and it ALSO knows when you remove something from said bag ....and to the self check out demon inside the computer, taking a scanned item that has been bagged OUT of the bag, is akin to going to the dark side.  So, it's flashing me warning signs on the screen, "Did you remove an item from the bag?"  And suddenly, it's like I'm in an interrogation room and the light is in my eyes, and I can smell the cigarette but I can't see the inquisitor.  And I'm starting to sweat.  And as I begin to say to child one, "STOP!  for the love of heaven, don't remove the chips from the bag!!"...child two is removing his bag....and child one is putting his back in the bag...and I'm thinking, Oh dear Lord..this is it... we're going to self check out hades because we're messing with the demon in the computer.  And it won't scan anymore items....and I look at the guy running the register close to me...and realize he's already looking at me....and not because he thinks I'm cute...  but, because he is a minion to the computer demon and he must heed it's command. He comes over, enters his secret password... (I tried really hard to act like I wasn't watching his fingers move across the numbers, but I'm pretty sure 666 was part of them)  He fixes our mistakes and I exhale and wrangle a few more pipes between the scanner and the buckets and notice there is now someone waiting behind me in line.  Nice.  I love it when I'm sweating and flushing and there's a spectator.  Makes it all life and death and cage fighting like.   So, I finish everything EXCEPT...there was no contractor bag for the thirty 1/2" end caps.  But, heck, I've got this now...I KNOW what I'm doing.  So, I pick up the first end cap and think I'll breeze my way through this and the lady behind me will be mesmerized by my efficiency and probably even ask me if I work there.  I run the first end cap across the scanner and ......nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  The demon's red laser light doesn't even flicker.  NICE.  So, I roll it on the scanner.  I rub it on the scanner.  I grind it on the scanner.  Heck, I think I even licked it....just to get the dirt off.  Cause plumbers can get away with crap like that.  Nothing.  Danged end cap.  Must be a dud.  So, I pick up another end cap...I continue in this manner until I have about twenty end caps sitting in front of the demon....and only ONE scanned. By this time, I'm sweating like a mad dog...... my face is eyes are dilated...  my hair is flying wildly about my head...  I'm looking around frantically thinking where in the freakin hades are the people who actually work here and why don't they notice my cry for help.  Also, several people who walked by, snickered.  One man did for sure...and tried to cover it up like a cough...PUNK!!  I know you snickered.  Anyway... finally one very exasperated looking employee comes over and tries to scan an end cap.  Yeah, seriously...I tried that, lady.  Anyway, she inserts her employee number...I didn't even hide the fact that I knew what she punched in.  *for future reference when I buy end caps...I WILL redeem myself, dang it...I have a demon pin number*  ok...I really don't.  So, she puts in the quantity and fixes it all up and we're finished.  And I roll my buggy out the door, cool, calm, and collected ...and pretend none of that really happened.  As far as you know, staring suckas, I scanned all those end caps myself.  Who's your momma?

Could I Google Search End Results, Please?

there's nothing like sitting on the back porch, in the dark, listening to the rain make its way slowly down from heaven to earth.  nothing like hearing the ping as it bounces off of roofs, the gentle splash when it hits little puddles made up of previous drops, or the comforting surround sound of millions of tiny drops simultaneously kissing the leaves of a forest of trees.  it stills you, steadies you, and sometimes inexplicably saddens you.  maybe it just depends on what you're pondering.  do you ever feel as though it's a "danged if you do, danged if you don't" kind of scenario?  i mean, you get right down to the line and you just can't figure whether it would hurt more to be still or to move...  either way it's going to smart....and either way you're going to wonder if you made the right choice.  sometimes i wish you could plug both scenarios into google and search the end results....just to see if everything will, in fact, turn out all right.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Mystery

While gone to Miami, one of my goats died.  Shivers.  You know...the one I helped birth (ok, *I* wasn't necessary, but I like to think I was indispensable)  He is also the one who made my eyes nearly swell shut because I was snuggling him... and who initially began all of my trips to the Allergy Clinic. 
I'm not sure what happened to him.  Well, because I wasn't here.  But, also because it wasn't obvious why he died.  We had wethered him and had him in with the buck.  The buck had been slightly aggressive because we put the doe in for awhile and then took her out before leaving for Miami.  Anyway, my dad buried him out in the woods... put two logs on it to mark the spot...and Malachi made a little RIP sign.  The sign was so said, "RIP Shivers    A Most Noble Goat"
Anyway, I walked to the grave upon returning just to see where my little Shivers lay.
A couple of days later, the kids and I walk outside to do the chores, and I was assaulted by the most offensive odor.  It was the odor most easily identified.  It was the smell of decaying flesh.
Immediately, I thought, maybe something has dug up Shivers.

So, we run up in the woods to check and sure enough...the grave was absolutely torn apart and Shivers was lying maybe eight feet away..missing a few pieces.
Malachi and I are instantly in CSI mode.  We want to know exactly what dug him up.  So, we start looking for tracks..anything that would point to the culprit.  There was nothing... we were frustrated...and then... well, then we found the scat.  And I took a picture...and I'm going to share it.  Like, right now. You really don't have to do this, you know.  You can choose to just begin reading a different post... go get some lunch....  brush your hair... floss your teeth.... it's up to you.
But, if you're interested, here's some massive scat.  LOL.

It was big.  And it didn't really look like dog or whatever.  So, I imagined it was a bear.  Because it probably was, right??  I mean, it moved the two logs out of the pulled the goat out of the ground, removed it from the trash bag my dad had encased it in, and dragged it eight feet away.  Bear, right?  Right.

So, the next day, Malachi and I get up and can't wait to go check the status of the grave and goat. We arrive at the scene and the goat was probably (omgah...I really HATE estimating distances...I have to try to mentally imagine people lying on the ground, end to end, so I can figure out about how far it was...)  So, based on those calculations, I'm going to say it was about four people (short people) or twenty feet away from the spot it occupied the previous day.  We were ecstatic.  SURELY, it was something BIG...and scary.  We again looked for tracks...but due to the pine needle covered forest floor, there was no evidence.  No more scat either.  So, we sighed and looked up scat on the internet..and felt pretty sure it was bear scat.  Because dogs or whatever don't do big piles...and it had...nevermind... I'm not sure I can describe what I saw in the scat without feeling like I've totally given up my dignity.  :)

Anyway, we go outside the next day and to our surprise, couldn't find him anywhere!  We searched and searched until I noticed a drag trail that led even further into the woods.  We walked up to him and by this time the smell was so intense, it made our eyes water and brought breakfast close to the point of erupting.  Course, if you find the perfect place where you're upwind, you can check out the scene with less olfactory torture.  Finding that, we proceeded to look for clues.  Nothing, dang it.  No scat, no footprints, nothing.  The only thing we observed was that every day of finding him proved that another large hunk had been taken from him.  (I know it sounds heartless to talk of my goat this way...the mystery captured me)  So, we were thinking that had it been a pack of dogs...or several whatevers, more of him would have been taken.  Whatever was getting him was taking pieces akin to going to the butcher and asking for a cut.  We never did figure it out.  The last time we checked, the only thing lying there was his skull.  Sad....and a dang mystery.  I REALLY want to know what it was, dang it.

Target ....and Sons

I was in Miami and saw this building and immediately thought, "Ohhh!  Target ...and Sons"

Cause you know, it's the red circle like Target has...followed by two smaller circles.  Okay, am I the only one who finds that funny?  :)
This is actually Jason's Famous Deli.  I passed this restaurant several times without realizing what treasures were inside.  We were in Miami for four days, and I was determined before I left to have some hideously unhealthy, yet irresistibly delectable dessert.  A dessert I didn't have to make myself.  Finally, on the last night, we went inside.  I felt like a pregnant craver.  (I'm not pregnant)  I walk to the counter and say to the smiling man behind the counter...."I would LOVE some chocolate"... and I made a friend.  :)  He gave me some kind of little thing that was pastry on the bottom, filled with chocolate chip dough, and topped off with the absolute most delicious chocolate filling EVER.  He was pleased that I was pleased.  I told you we were instant friends.  So, then he shows me all of the cakes.  And there was a white chocolate mousse one ... and it looked so yummy...  and then I remembered that I had wanted a real cannoli.  (Thank you, Cake Boss, for making me crave a REAL one...not a frozen one from WalMart)  I ended up with cannolis, those little chocolate demons he first offered me, and a huge piece of cake.  I felt SO pregnant.  (I am NOT pregnant)  After he put them all in a box for me, and we paid, I gave him a hug and professed my undying love.  Okay, I didn't profess my love, but I should have.  When I opened my box, I noticed he had slipped me an extra chocolate demon...I looked at him in appreciation and he held his finger up to his mouth in a "shhhhh"... due to the fact that his not so pleasant manager was standing nearby.  After she walked off, he walked over to our table (decided to eat there) and asked me if I like pecans.  (which, truly, I really am not overly fond of them) and slips me a turtle...  asks me to take a bite and see what I think.  Again, I should have professed my undying love.  He stood there for a few more moments ...made fun of the fact that I said "I'm going to save some for "Laater" in my southern accent..and we had a nice conversation.  It absolutely made my day.  Heck, it still makes my day when I look back on it.  He was older, very smiley, and just seemed so good natured.  It was a pleasure doing business with him.  I should have professed my undying love.  :)

Civil War Study and DIY Aluminum Can Lanterns

We began studying the civil war several weeks ago.  The curriculum I am using doesn't really cover slavery as adequately as I wanted it to, so I found a few things to add to it.  I don't think they can really get an understanding of the war itself if they really don't have a concept of the emotions and fears surrounding the issue.
We read the greatest book...the name of it was "Moses" written by Carole Boston Weatherford.  It told the story of Harriet Tubman and her life devoted to freeing slaves.  It portrays her fears and the subsequent reminding through her faith that God will take care of and provide for her.  One of my favorite quotes is:  "She grips the ax to chop wood, breathes deeply and murmurs, Lord, I'm going to hold steady on to You.  And God whispers back in the breeze, I'm going to see you through, child."  How beautiful is that?
We also read a book entitled, "The Last Safe House" by Barbara Greenwood.  It told the story of a little girl's escape to freedom...along with her brother and mother.  The book included a lot of additional information about various things pertaining to the atmosphere of the time.
We made several lapbook activities pertaining to some of the most outspoken leaders in the abolition of slavery...these included:  Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Beecher Stow.
Following these activities, I let them make their own "safe house" lanterns.  I filled aluminum cans with water and put them in the freezer overnight, so they would be easier to punch holes in the following day.  I printed off pictures of the big dipper and north star, and taped them to cans as a template.  They then laid the cans on a towel to keep them from slipping, and punched holes into the can using nails and hammers.  We punched two holes in the top of the can for a wire handle.  They turned out so cute.

Malachi had the tallest can and was having trouble lighting the candle sitting in the bottom of his can, so he rigged up a way to extend the match to the candle.  :)

After lighting the candles, they took them to the darkest room in the house...the bathroom, of course, LOL... and were fascinated by their lanterns that they had made themselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An Ocean/Sea Creature Birthday Cake future Gordon Ramsey chef (minus the head bobbing and near heart attack spasms), loves seafood.  He makes a spicy broiled shrimp, rice, and vegetable dinner for us nearly every week.  It is sooo nice getting a night off.
He couldn't decide what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, so I offered to make him an Ocean theme one. I did that for two reasons...  the obvious being that he loves seafood.  The second is because I love a challenge. :)   I wanted to see if I could form sea creatures from fondant.
Jacob gave me a list of the creatures he wanted included on his cake.  They ranged from an octopus to a shark to an angler fish.  I was so excited to get started.  I looked them up in an Ocean book the kids have and pulled them up on the internet, as well, to get a better look.  I didn't make everything on his list, but I added a few of my own.
Included here are:  a sting ray, shark, deep sea gulper eel, clown fish, starfish, jellyfish (can't remember its specific name), sea anemones, a spotted crab, and some scallops.  Sarah actually made the scallops by pressing them into a play-doh mold.  She did a great job.
Included on this plate are:  an octopus, jellyfish, and several tube worms.  Sarah helped me make the tube worms by wrapping pink fondant around clean pencils.  We left it to harden slightly and then slid the fondant off of the pencil and cut it into pieces.
The last few things we made were:  banded eels (those were fun to make, fun to look at, and easy to shape), some sea grass (Sarah made this by rolling a serrated fondant cutter across the fondant), and a black devil fish...I was loving those teeth.  :)

The day of the party, I made a cake and used Wilton's Whipped Icing.  It's the kind that comes in a mix the powder with ice water and it is absolutely delicious.  This cake was my first experience using it and I was definitely happy with the results.  It is so light and fluffy...perfect for the ocean waves I wanted to create on the cake.  I iced the cake and then sprayed it with blue icing spray.  I left some parts white for the crests of the waves.  Then I got to add the sea creatures.. I love that part.

The gulper eel started to slide before the party started... ugh!  I was out of toothpicks, so I broke a prong off a plastic fork and stuck it in the cake to make him stay put.  Unfortunately, I forgot to mention this to the guests and my sister-in-law ended up nearly eating it.  She took it well  :)  She thought the fondant was especially crunchy all of the sudden. 

Agent P Birthday Cake

Isaac decided that for his fourth birthday, he wanted a Phineas and Ferb birthday party.  The cake requested was Agent P.  You know...Perry the Platypus.....seemingly mindless platypus pet, who turns into a fedora-sporting secret agent and singlehandedly defeats Doofenshmirtz's every scheme.  The cartoon is actually pretty cool. Phineas and Ferb come up with some great ideas for things to build in the backyard...everything from roller coasters to a beach.
To get back to the cake, originally I wanted to make one in the shape of Agent P and cover it with fondant.  As the day wore on, I decided to just make two nine by thirteen inch cakes, put them together, ice them, and then cut an Agent P out of fondant.  I drew him on a piece of paper first, cut out the pieces and used them as templates for the fondant. It turned out pretty sweet.

However, the birthday boy completely stole the show with his angel face... 

Kitchen Pantry Chalkboard

The chalkboard I started creating on the kitchen closet door is completed.  I painted it on the inside so that if it didn't look right, it wouldn't be glaringly obvious to everyone that walked through my kitchen that I made a mess on the door.  After completing the board, I thought it looked pretty cool.  And I started to do the outside of the door....and lost interest.  Well, *technically* I didn't lose interest...  it's just that I had a plethora of birthdays coming up that needed my attention.  So, I laid my foam brush down and moved on to fondant.  But, seriously...I love that you can turn a door into a chalkboard.  And maybe no one else can see it, but I can.  And that's okay. :)

A Child's Imagination

We went to our family get together on Labor Day.  While there, the kids cut some bamboo sticks and brought them home....because, face it, bamboo sticks are the coolest.  They sound exotic and *pandas* eat them.
For days, the kids were knights with swords, samurai with swords, and just warriors in general.  Jacob hit his bamboo on the side of a tree and splintered the end. What followed was a progression of thought that led from bamboo stick to torch.
Jacob's first thought was to stick a pine cone into the splintered in because "it looked cool, Mom."
Then Malachi says, "Oh, Jacob...remember in Lord of the Rings when the Orcs had those torches?  We should make a torch."
This led to the adding of pine needles into the splintered end on top of the pine cone.  Pretty good plan....

Of course, the next course of action would be to light it up....

Malachi grabs the matches and off we go to a non-wooded area to give our torch a test run....

It's harder to light a torch than it looks...when there's a breeze blowing.  But, the warriors are persistent...and their perseverance pays off....

We have fire!

...and a lot of smoke...  smoke signal, anyone?

The boys got the torch going really well...  I had been telling them the entire time not to hold the torch straight up or the lit pine needles might fall down on their hands and burn them.  Once they got the fire going great, I said, "Oh!  I'll take a picture!  You guys stand together and hold the torch up."  Yeah, I said that.  And my child listened, and he held it up.  And of course, the pine needles fell down...and he threw the torch down.  And the fire went out...and they couldn't get it lit again.  And of course it was Mom's fault.  "Why did you tell me to hold it up, MOM???"
It was really cool while it lasted though.  I loved watching the imagination and thought that went into the making of the torch...and their excitement when the torch was on fire and smoking.  That was awesome. 

Perfect Fall Snack - Acorns!

I found the recipe for these little cuties online... 
You simply put peanut butter on a mini-nilla wafer (I used a sandwich baggie with the tip snipped and piped it on) and stick the kiss on the wafer.  You then pipe one more circle of peanut butter on the other side of the wafer and add a Reese's peanut butter chip.  They are just as tasty as they are adorable.  :)