Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dupage Children's Museum

The girls and I have long since loved the Dupage Children's Museum in Naperville. We have been to more than a dozen such museums and DCM is the Cadillac of them all, in my opinion. I could play there all day~without the kids. The first floor is divided into section relating to Light, Sound, Construction, Air and Water.
In the Light area, you can play with shadows, light pens, color, mirrors, and hmmm...what shall I call it? An enormous Light Brite under blacklight. It is the coolest thing ever, if really difficult to photograph. I'm hoping that when my brother downloads his camera (which can do everything except play hopscotch), he'll have some good pix I can share.
The rest of the photos should be rather self-explanatory. Building with real tools, giant bubbles, vacuum tubes, wind tunnel, the best water table we've seen, and a marble machine that would do Rube Goldberg proud. We love it all. Plus, there are section set aside for the wee ones to play (and not get trampled) and lots of cozy nooks filled with relevant books to read.
If you have children 10ish and under, and you find yourself in the SW suburbs of Chicago, you really should visit DCM.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bounce Town

Well, the relatives have all deserted us and we are catching up on sleep and housework. Things aren't quite back to normal, but we're getting there. Thanks for being patient. Here are some of the photos from our trip to Bounce Town.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Relatives Came

Both of my brothers and their families are here from out of state, so we are all hanging out at our parents' this week. It is so fun having everyone together and watching all of the kids play. For the two of you who read the post on my other blog about Heaven on Earth, this partially answers my question. Heaven on Earth for me is having all of my family around me.
The following pictures don't represent everyone, but it's a start!
My 4yo niece, S

Aunt Stacy and niece P, S and R's baby sister

My Grandma Mary reading to L and R

DH with nephew G, L's baby brother

Today we're taking all of the littles to the children's museum. Guess what you're going to get to see tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Polar Fleece

Over the weekend we had several days of fog which resulted in a thick blanket of frost covering everything. The drive to church on Sunday was breathtaking in its beauty. These images can't begin to do it justice.

M and I wandered around the yard Sunday afternoon and admired the intricate detail of the icy spikes standing on all of the branches. It has crossed my mind more than once that perhaps the reason for God resting on the seventh day wasn't because he was tired from the work of the six days of creation (which we know isn't so anyway), but because he was preparing for all of the miraculous acts of creation to come. Each sunset, snowflake and baby smile is a reminder that God is still at work in this world.

We are still puzzling about this last photo. We found a tiny spider on the snow! It was alive, but too small to identify easily. It was no bigger than a grain of wheat. My guess would be that it is one of the species of wolf spider that we have in the yard. They create funnel shaped webs in the thick grass and flower beds. Amazing!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Snow Boxing

Shorty is participating in the Box of the Month swap this year and since he lives less than an hour away, we are privileged to be within striking distance of most anything he plants. So after piano lessons today, I bribed the girls into going down to Princeton for "just one box" which turned into "four easy boxes" and lunch with Questar. I'm not going to push my luck and actually ask them, but I think they even had fun.
The January box was Doggone Fun by SN Bone. Very nice! We are going to try to get all of the BOMs, and M thought it would be fun to take a picture in the same spot each time.

DoodlePaws and FlowerWind found deer, raccoon and bird tracks in the snow, as well as what might be the world's tiniest pine cones.

This is one of several covered bridges in Princeton. The sign above says "Five dollars fine for driving more than twelve horses mules or cattle at one time or for leading any beast faster than a walk on or across this bridge".

Monday, January 18, 2010


...back in my element. This carving was a good reminder that your stamp will only be as good as your image transfer. The image I started with wasn't very clear and so carving it took twice as much work. However, I really loved that it had both candles and pinecones in it.

On the mundane side (for posting purposes, at least), we are all still struggling with whatever bug this is that has taken hold. And both of my brothers are visiting from out of state, along with a whole passel of nephews and nieces. So unless I can dig up some more retro postals, this blog will be a little on the dry side this week. But I will be back sooner or later!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Digging Out

The snow that was so beautiful while it was falling over the last two days is now blowing across the fields at 30+ miles an hour and creating mountainous drifts across the roads and driveway. Inside our house we are dealing with equally mountainous drifts of kleenex, dirty laundry and dishes after the storm of illnesses. Since we have already completed at least four of our weekly projects (not counting the ones we didn't post), we're going to take a few days off to finish recuperating and catching up on schoolwork, bills and other essentials.
We'll be back when I stop doing dumb things like putting my ice cubes in the microwave and feeding the dog bell peppers.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Of Wax and Wicks

*warning: mild educational science content ahead

M and I have finished our adventures in candle making. Well, at least I'm done. Combining our experience with some of the knowledge that I gained from a previous job, I'd like to share some tips with you.
Before DH and I were married, I worked as a dental assistant by day and as a candle consultant for an MLM company nights and weekends. My only advice to anyone considering direct marketing is this: Run Away.
Still, physics applies whether it's a pyramid scheme or not. I learned a few things (and stopped biting my nails), so something good came out of it.

Here is our wax mess setup--electric skillet for melting wax inside tin (with pour spout crimped this time), candle molds, wick centering tool (which doesn't make it as fool proof as you might think), and foil for easier cleanup

When candles are well made, the size and type of wick is in proportion to the amount of wax as well as its melting speed and rate of consumption. That means that a good candle will burn without running because the wick absorbs and burns off the wax appropriately. If the wick is too large or burns too hot, then the wax will melt faster than it can be absorbed and dissipated, causing excess liquid wax, puddles and a big mess (like our lovely star and heart candles below). Air currents can also effect how a candle burns, which is why you should try to keep them out of a draft and also place them in a candle holder that can contain any run off.
If a wick is too small or weak, it will either drown itself out or not be able to melt the wax all the way to the rim of the candle. This will create a well in the center and waste a perfectly good candle.
If the wick to wax ratio is correct, then candle burning becomes predictable and controllable--with only a little work and planning. (Hang in there. The boring science stuff is almost done and you'll be glad you stuck it out.) From here on out, we're going to assume you have candles with wicks that are proportionally correct.

The heart candle couldn't decide what color it wanted to be. The blue mold looking stuff on the round pillar is probably from improper heating or cooling, but I'm just guessing.

Most people just light a candle and never consider how it works. A candle consumes wax out from the center first and then down the height of the pillar. Even tapers work this way. But it takes time to melt the wax out to the edge; usually at a rate of one inch per hour. That means that a three inch pillar needs to burn a minimum of three hours every time it is lit in order to be consumed the way it was intended. The same goes for those expensive Yankee jars. You can't light them just for dinner and then get upset when 2/3 of the wax is left over and the wick is gone. You have to burn a candle until the pool of wax reaches the outer edge. Then, if the candle was properly made, something magic happens. Just when you think it is going to well up and run everywhere, enough of the wax is burned off to maintain the balance. Provided there are no drafts...then all bets are off.
It should be obvious that a six inch three wick is a commitment in time then. You have to plan on being home at least six hours in order to burn it properly.
Pillars that have a dome on top need a little extra attention to get them going right. The first time you burn it, only do so for one hour. Let the wax re harden and then light it again; this time for two hours. Increase the burning time at each lighting until the dome on top is gone.

Now you're probably wondering if you can rescue all of those pillars with the hole in the middle. The answer is Yes, but it will be ugly at first. Use a knife to cut the candle level with the current wick. It was only designed to burn the right amount of wax and not all of the extra you have now. From this point on, burn the candles a minimum of one hour for every inch of width. For the jars, burn them until the wick is nearly drowning and pour off the excess wax. Repeat this until your candle is level again.
Some odd ball candle tips:
  • Store your tapers in the fridge (not freezer) to help them burn longer.
  • Buff smudges and small scratches from your candles with an old pair of nylons.
  • Trim wicks on tapers and small pillars to 1/4" before burning to prevent smoking.
  • Don't trim three wick candle wicks. After extinguishing, point them gently toward the center of the candle.
  • Hug your candles. If a slight rim forms, gently hug the soft wax in toward the middle after extinguishing the flames.
  • Use a snuffer. Especially on pillars.
  • Candles burned inside decorative chimneys will burn faster and run more than those in open air.
Our own candle making efforts were marginally successful--after the learning curve. They'll burn at least. The wick materials available at the craft store were not the best quality. The zinc core wicking is overkill for even large pillars. It would probably be perfect for dynamite fuses though. The fragrance and color additives weren't the best either. Wax can only absorb a small amount of additives--too much and it will seep out when the wax hardens. So, any additives need to be super concentrated. Ours weren't. If we were to do this again, I would probably purchase supplies from a candle making specialty store-online or otherwise.
The star and heart molds were fun, but tricky, especially for first timers. They are open at both ends, which takes some extra prep to keep them from leaking. Also, the odd shapes made the wick centering tool harder to use. If you are going to try this on your own, I would recommend staying with simple shapes like round or square until you get the hang of pouring. I would also recommend molds that are only open at one end (except for the wick hole). Finding some good tutorials online is a good idea too.

Have fun! I'm going back to my comfort zone now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


**Disclaimer--The author assumes no resposibility whatsoever for any adverse affects suffered by the reader, either direct or indirect, as a result of this post. The following substance is inherently dangerous and should only be experienced under the most strictly controlled conditions.

Norwegian Krumkake (pronounced kroom kah keh) is a thin, waffle-like, crisp cookie rolled into a cone shape. They are worse than potato chips in that once you eat one, before you realize it you've eaten nine of them. I am thoroughly convinced that the reason Ole and Lena are shaped the way they are can be entirely blamed on the consumption of Krumkake. There is no such thing as willpower when there is Krumkake in the house. Resistance is futile.

For Christmas, I received a Krumkake iron. This is probably not a good thing, but I have wanted one for several years. Of course we had to try it out right away, but the first batch got inhaled before I could even take pictures.


3 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. melted butter
3/4 c flour
1/2 t. vanilla

Mix all ingredients well. Drop by spoonfuls onto hot iron and close lid. Heat 30-40 second until light brown. Roll on cone while hot and place on wire racks to cool. You can leave one on the iron so it stays soft, but you must work quickly. Store in a large airtight container or tin.
This really is an easy recipe to make (and therein lies the danger). The trick is getting them to look pretty. Just the right amount of batter placed slightly off center, so they end up round when you close the lid, is something that only comes with practice.
Oddly enough, the recipe we like best comes from the back of one of my Hardanger books.

Krumkake is very fragile. They can be allowed to cool and harden flat, but they store better and break less as cones. I should probably mention that the cones can be filled with sweetened whipped cream, but to be honest, they have never lasted long enough around here for us to even try it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Swedish Shortcut

Leave it up to the Slacker Extraordinaire to figure out how to make Swedish meatballs without actually making meatballs. With an enormous amount of left over mashed potatoes to use up and no desire whatsoever to cook, this is what we made for supper the other night. It was so good that I may never make real meatballs again.

Swedish Shortcut

1# ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
12 oz can evaporated milk
1/4 c dry bread crumbs*
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 t. beef bouillon (or 2 cubes)
1 1/2 c. water
2 T. flour
Cooked mashed potatoes, rice or noodles

Brown meat and onion in a large skillet. While meat is cooking, mix together remaining ingredients in a bowl. When meat is thoroughly cooked, pour milk mixture into skillet and continue simmering over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until gravy thickens. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.
*I used Shake n Bake instead~an ingredient that I do not usually keep on hand. Several packages were given to me and it worked well for this.

**Posts may be a bit sketchy over the next few days as winter colds are rampaging through my household.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ugly Fire Starters

Our very first Project of the Week* is the much anticipated (on our part if not yours) Ugly Fire Starters. When I was relating the not so successful attempt with the pine cones to my brother, he gave me this idea. Since they aren't supposed to be pretty, I figured we could handle it.
1. Fill the holes of a cardboard egg carton with dryer lint. DH works at an industrial lumber supply company, so our dryer lint is usually full of saw dust; which I figure makes it superior quality for fire starters. Aren't you jealous of my dryer lint now? Notice the foil covered counter top this time. Now when the wax dribbles all over the place I can just peel it off and put it back in the melting pot. (Thanks for the tip, Brother!)
2. Fill the holes with melted paraffin wax.
3. When it hardens, cut the egg carton apart.
4. To use the fire starter, light the cardboard edge and place under kindling.

These would be great for camping, cookouts, etc. Supposedly they are waterproof, but we haven't tested that aspect yet. I imagine that even if the cardboard were to get wet, you could still light them by melting off some of the wax and exposing the dryer lint to use as your wick.

The best part about this project? We have actually found a practical use for all of that cat hair. The irony though, is that I have spent the last week sorting, organizing and throwing away stuff we don't need and now I'm saving lint.

*I have tried my very best to come up with a clever acronym by which to identify our Project of the Week in the post titles. POW seems offensive. Got any suggestions?