Branching Out…

Things are really turning around over here!

Inspired by Olive’s pot-making,  I decided to try a little something new, the lathe! Some of my first projects included: pens and small japanese-like kokeshi dolls… But my new favorite are these mini vases, all of which are less than 4 inches tall! So far I’ve turned many different woods like: cherry, pine, teak, black walnut, redwood and my personal favorite which is made of many types of wood glued together. I’m trying new kinds of wood, both hard and soft, to get an understanding of how each turns and finishes differently. So far, I loved the teak and pine – they cut easily and finish cleanly.  Black walnut has had an unexpected ‘flicker’ in the wood once it is polished. That is COOL! I have been using beeswax as my final coat which makes them smooth and incredible to the touch. Wood has never felt so GOOD!

They are tiny enough to put small bunches of dried flowers, twigs or other natural bits of joy in them. I’m thinking a bowl might be my next project – stay tuned!!

As an aside, for one of my assignments, I researched soft and hard wood. I’ve included the overview of the soft woods on this post. I’ll never look at trees the same again!




Saving Marine Mammals

Over Thanksgiving, we journeyed out to the San Fransico area to visit some friends and get out into the field to learn more about marine life at the ocean. We are so close to Lake Michigan that it was fun to see the differences between salt and fresh water and of course the size difference of 2 bodies of water.

Introducing: The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. A place where they rescue, rehabilitate and have a positive affect on conservation of oceans and marine life through research and education.

When we first came through the doors we saw a fun little exhibit full of skins, little skeletons and… garbage. Not because the people that come in are messy, but because that’s what they’ve collected from the animals that they save. We were surprised at how large a full sized elephant seal sculpture was. I hadn’t considered how terrifying it would be to see a live group of these tremendous mammals. They are HUGE!

We quietly walked up some stairs to see the rehabilitation center. There were only about 12 seals there then, but we could only see 2 from the observation platform. April is their (sadly) busy season and they have had up to 300+ seals and other marine animals in their care at one time! It takes a TON of work and loads of fish to feed and rehabilitate these little friends.  We saw the kitchen where they prepare all the food, a research lab, and my Mom went to check out the autopsy area, where they research animals after they have died. Thankfully, there was nothing there to see at that time!! WHEW!

After leaving the center, we walked down to Rodeo Beach and spent time looking at the most INCREDIBLE pebble beach and hoards of surfers. We spent much of our time looking for small, red, translucent stones that Native American folklore says if buried along with a wish it will bring you good luck! We did find a few and they are very special. They are HARD to find, but we think we are pretty lucky anyway.



The Water Street Prosthetic Lab!

Sadly, in the last of couple years, the dolls of Water Street have been losing limbs like hands or even heads due to casualties of fun or an attempted playdate with our dog, which has resulted in a bigger than desired group of dolls without arms, feet, legs and hands. It is time for them to regain their full ability as role playing friends. It’s time to turn their disabilities into SUPER abilities!

The dolls of choice were Batgirl, whose arm popped off moments after she emerged from her packaging. The tricky part was attaching it because it broke at the elbow joint and there was still a plastic piece left inside. More on that in a minute. The second doll was an already repainted/modified Bratz doll, named Kimberly, who lost 2 fingers in a dog attack (though it looked like more…).

We used a program called Sketchup! on the computer to create the designs and interfaces we would then print on the Maker Bot. Before we made anything we needed to access the tools we could use. (most of them are listed below) Then we began measuring and writing… we used calipers to measure the teeny stuff so we were sure it would fit correctly. Then we chose an appendage to make: Olive chose a Bob’s Pizzeria box and a hand saw and I chose a large hook and a over-size sword to make…

TO THE COMPUTER!!! after a lot of extruding, re-learning how to measure on that program and getting some critical intellect, we were ready to send it off to the Maker-bot! After a suspenseful night sleep, we went out to the lab to find some printer and part errors: Olive’s pizza box was too thin at the bottom so it looked like a bunch of string and my sword’s cuff was too chunky and short. So we went back to the computer to make modifications on the designs, hit print, and after about 7 hours of waiting – it worked!! The new prosthetics fit tightly  and now Batgirl can cut vegetables with more grace and ease, deliver Bob’s Pizza at a moment’s notice and Kimberly is now continuing her career as a pirate! Arrgh!



Bitter Sweet, Honey…

A trip out to our hive in late October to feed our bees resulted in an unexpected surprise… Stillness.  The bees were gone.

Unfortunately, we don’t exactly know what happened or why they absconded so late in the season. No sign of mold, or mites. Healthy duroung our last check 3 weeks before with our bee mentor, Sam, but sappily (sad+happy) they left us a yummy treat for the first time since beekeeping… honey! On the far side of the hive there were a few frames of perfectly capped honey. LET PRODUCTION BEGIN!!!

We began our low level harvest by sourcing lots of towels, trays, clips, cheese cloth and bowls from the kitchen of wonder. Before we began extracting the honey, mum thought it was a grand idea to weigh the frames before and after the honey was harvested and most of them were a whopping 7+ pounds each! Now the tricky part – By balancing the frame in a bowl and using a sharp knife to take off the caps on the honey ( which took 4 people and a dog to do) we managed to get clear the frames of both honey and comb. Had we had a full super of honey, we have a centrifuge that would have extracted only the honey and left the comb for the next year, but because we had only a small amount to get, this was the next best way. After separating the wax from the honey using a overnight process called patience and a cheescloth lined bowl, we weighed only the honey and found we had about 17 lbs! Sounds like a lot, but we use our neighor’s land for the hives in exchange for honey that we have never gotten so far with all the hive issues we have encountered over the past 2 seasons. After sharing some with them and a few friends and family, we have a small stash to enjoy through the winter.

We let the honey sit for a few days for the bubbles to setttle out and in that time, Mom made a label for the jars we soon filled. So much fun and hard to ‘bee’lieve all the work that the bees put into making that sweet and sticky substance we love so much!


In this frame you can see uncapped honey that we did NOT harvest with 2 worker bees frozen in time.
This was another frame. You can see baby brood (bees) have partially chewed their way out. This is the stillness we mentioned. Everything looks fine, but all the bees are dead.
This is one of the frames we harvested the honey from. No brood and freshly capped honey.


Perfectly wax-capped honey.
Wax comb and honey taken from the frame. This is what we filtered through the cheesecloth.


Freshly bottled honey. A bitter sweet harvest for sure!


Wigglin’ Gummy Bears!

What do you know about GELATIN!? Most people know about it because of Jello but it is used in all kinds of product besides that, including some manufacturing processes. As we  learned about the properties of gelatin, to our surprise, it is made of collagen, the stuff in bones, ligaments, skin and connective tissue! (Oh dear!!)! It is the most abundant protein in mammals. It is generally collected from cows & pigs for creating gelatin. It’s colorless, odorless and tasteless (well, we think it has a little taste, but we are sensitive to flavor). Wonder where the famous wiggle comes from? It originates in the structure in the protein strands which tangles and traps the water inside it. Structure + water = jiggle!

To get hands on experience with this, we moved into the kitchen to make tiny gummy bears. They are SO CUTE! For this cooking adventure we used: vegan gelatin, two flavors – grapefruit and apple, little gummy molds, a pipette to be extra exact when filling, and a pot and boiling water. Let’s get COOKING!!

We made 2 flavors. Apple lemon and grapefruit honey. We made the recipe, piped them into the molds and whacked them in the fridge for about an hour of so. The grapefruit one didn’t set, and they didn’t taste so great… The apple gummies set up great, but again, not such terrific flavor.  It was cool to know that inside those jiggly little bears were tiny microscopic mesh holding pockets of flavored liquid! Now that’s BEARY cool!!!


The Effect of Color…

We’ve been learning about color and our awesome friend Annie sent us a tutorial showing her making marbled paper with acrylics and water. So in addition to the pour painting project we had planned, we added this one into the morning.

Here’s how it works: Start with warm water in a bowl, dip your brush into acrylic paint of your choice and let it move onto the water surface. The water tension will hold it in place so it will just float until you add the next color. Once you have what you want, give it a little swirl and the gently place your paper on top of your design. Wait a moment and pick it up – Voila! You have marbled paper! Super fun and easy to do. Thanks Annie! :0)

The next project was trying our Acrylic Pour Painting. We learned about artist Holton Rower, a famous sculptor. Wow is it COOL! Check out the images below, super simple, easy and fun. We’ve also included a link to one of Holton’s time lapse pour projects. Check it out and see what you think!

That’s all ‘pour’ now.


IMG_6101full marble

What? I Can’t Ear You!

So! We’ve been learning about ears, sound and how they work.

To start, we learned about the parts of the ear: the pinna (the outside of your ear), the ear canal, the ear drum (a thin membrane that vibrates the occicles), the ossicles which are three tiny bones called the hammer, stirrup and anvil. And the cochlea which is a small tube filled with fluid and tiny hairs that detect vibrations from the ossicles and the ear drum, which is then sent messages to the brain and translated into sound! AWESOME!! To make it more 3D we made a model to show where things are placed.

As a little follow-up to that project, yesterday we tried to make big animal ears out of paper! First, we chose an ear shape to mimic and cut it out of colored craft paper, then we taped them into cones to amplify the sound and finally we cut ear holes, turned on some rad tunes and put them on our actual ears. We found that we looked very silly in bigger ears – it’s much more noticeable when you wiggle your ears in gigantic paper ones rather than your own and that the blue mouse ears and the red fox ears worked best. But they didn’t work how we expected them to, it made the sound more hollow rather than louder. But even so it was a really fun experiment!

the dark blue coil is the cochlea, the deep yellow is the stirrup, anvil and hammer, the light blue circle is the ear drum and its obvious what color the ear is!