Thursday, February 12, 2015

Make Bite Sized Valentines

This is the bite-sized Valentine Maria is sharing with her classmates this year. It's a teeny brownie with a festive flag pick. Festive and sweet~

Here's how they were made...

Mini condiment cups
Washi tape (also called paper tape)
Cake or brownie batter

When Maria decided to make mini cupcakes for her class party, I suggested we could decorate them with little flags. Working together we made at least forty of them... fun, easy, and cute! We happened to have this washi tape in our craft stash, and toothpicks in our baking drawer. {I suggest using the toothpicks with a decorative finish on the top, so there's only one sharp end. We found ours at Mitsuwa... a terrific quantity, very reasonably priced.}

At first, aligning the tape took a few tries. The paper tape is very forgiving, and even though it holds well, it also can be pulled apart to adjust. Maria liked working with the polka dotted tapes, because they were easier to center by placing the toothpick between rows of dots.

After folding the tape over the toothpick, we trimmed the end. A pennant cut looks pretty, too. Just snip out a triangle shape from the end.


We found the condiment cups at Smart & Final. And the brownie mix is Trader Joe's Truffle Brownie mix. {Have you tried TJ's Truffle Brownies? These bite sized treats are scrumptious!} Each cup held about three teaspoons of batter... and the ones with more tended to overflow... a tasty mess!

Maria is very excited to be giving each school friend a small token of her esteem, and one for teacher, too.

{And yes, we did do a test run with cake batter. Obviously they bake quicker than a full size cake, so don't step away from the oven for too long. We love the mini-many decorating options for these wee treats.}

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Make a Genuine Inauthentic Viking Tent

In my research for this {most anticipated post} I discovered an early account of Viking history, told here at Chickenblog, in 2007. Apparently our affinity for Viking culture goes back a bit further than our visit to the Viking Festival, last September. Anyway, today I am going to share the full scoop on our very own, still in development, genuine and inauthentic Van Viking tent. We fell in love with the small village of tents, crafts and trades that we discovered at a local Viking Festival, and by the time we were planning our Solstice party, and thinking about Christmas gifts, and activities, we became even more enamored of the idea of making a tent of our own, and enjoying some of the more festive, and loosely related cultural interests of ancient peoples who explored, built, crafted, ate, slept, and hung out, in and around Viking lands, which as it turns out is a very broad geographic and aesthetic swath of the planet. {Whoa, that was a long sentence. Almost lost my way, there.} So, yeah. We totally got stoked to design, build, and party in our own Viking Van Viking tent!

Our tent is inspired by Alex's extensive research into Viking tents and lodges, and by what we saw at the Festival. Then, Alex and I looked into available resources at the local hardware store, and ran our initial ideas by Geoff. Geoff loves aluminum... he can weld it, and it's strong, and since we were leaning toward something big. Big. We figured that a fifteen foot wood ridge beam would be very, very heavy, and possibly flex too much, so Geoff proposed an aluminum ridge.


Canvas: Two 12' x 15' canvas pieces from the paint department. {These are actually smaller than said "12 x 15", which is something we are trying to trouble shoot, now. Though smaller than advertised, they are still massively heavy and were quite a handful to sew together.} I sewed canvas strips to make ties, and hand sewed those around the tent canvas.

Wood: We employed four 2" x 8" pieces, 14' long, for the A-frame. Geoff and Alex designed dragon wings at the peaks, which will later be carved for detail. At the base sides of the tent floor there are two pieces of 2" x 4".

The pole is 1/8" wall, 6061 aluminum, and 15' long. Geoff made end caps, and added 6" x 1/2" galvanized steel bolts threaded into the caps. These are to attach the wood A-frame pieces.

Rope: 3/4" natural fiber. It's there to maintain tension in the frame to keep it from flexing.

We still need to make and add canvas doors, and this will include extending the length of the canvas, since it's at least six inches shorter than we anticipated. Also, to go with the dragon wings, Alex is carving dragon heads that will fit over the bolts at the peak of the tent... like a figurehead on a ship. And we are also developing a forge, making more wooden swords, and shields, we want to make those sturdy Viking chairs, and a long boat, maybe get some sheep and start spinning wool. Basic stuff like that.

When things didn't go as we had hoped for Solistice, we were disappointed, but not defeated. More slowly, with less pressure to meet a deadline, we rallied to get the tent standing in time for our Christmas celebration. And after exchanging gifts, and enjoying a happy morning around the Christmas tree, we shifted our activities outside... we made waffles outdoors, played games, and raised the Van Viking tent for more holiday fun!

The first night it was up, we had a Swedish-Viking-ish dinner... with meatballs, and veggie-not-meatballs, Irish soda bread, roasted cabbage, salad, steamed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce. Then we hunkered together in the dark, and watched The Hobbit. Outside is such a marvelous place to watch a Tolkien adventure unfold. It was so flippin' awesome, and cold, and dark, and cozy, and awesome. For my birthday, Alex, Max and Maria presented me with my very own shield/serving tray... Alex took Maria's chicken sketch, and used it for inspiration for this gorgeous fat hen. Max helped with chiseling, and Alex finished the dear with paint! We've had naps, games, breakfast, lunches, talks, visits, all in the Van Viking tent, and more ideas and plans keep popping into our heads. I love how one make can inspire so much more make!

The best thing about a tent, or a fort, a tree house, sandcastle, or an idea... ? Sharing it with friends. I would like to thank Sweet Life Farm, and My Home Among the Hills, and Come Away With Me, blogging friends, all, for kindly taking my hints, and nudging me to share.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Think :: Tinker :: Play :: Make :: Program!

Rather spontaneously, a get together happened... an Arduino tinkering gathering at the kitchen table. Lucas was the first to arrive, and he and Maria went straight to playing with the Circuit Scribe. Do you know Circuit Scribe? Please, visit Electroninks and discover a whole new world of circuitry play and making. This Circuit Scribe belongs to James, and he and Alex R arrived in time to help us test out our A-frame tent... but that's for another post!

Alex R happened to come into possession of a second-third-fourth-hand Quadicopter, in need of an overhaul. After it was determined that the little drone needed a lot of TLC, best for another day, they got ready to break into the Arduinos: {"Arduino is a family of single-board micro controllers, intended to make it easier to build interactive objects or environments." Thank you, Wikipedia.} Basically they are tiny, yet open-source mighty computers, ready to interface with devices using sensors and actuators. They're a hobbyist's building block for fun and creative, programmable projects. Alex used Arduino to make his infinity mirror-light mask.

Geoff and Alex have tinkered with the Arduino, making various light projects and effects. Now, we were finally getting the chance to get the Young Makers Club involved. There wasn't a specific goal for this first Arduino Gathering... the initial accomplishment was getting everyone set-up, and in synch. Not too glamorous, but finding the correct cables, enough outlets, and sorting all the bits and parts took some time and effort. Everyone came with varying levels of supplies and resources, and gaps were filled so everyone could be more or less equally equipped.

And of course, no two computers ever behaves the same way, but they were able to successfully get all those issues squared away, too. Soon there was actual programming happening, and soldering.

Maria has become hooked on Scratch: Imagine, Program, Share. She has been doing just that for about a month now, and she is just as eager to take on C and C++!

I am concerned that in some schools having computers, and students using apps and computer programs constitutes their idea of 'computer education,' of being 'computer savvy.' But that's like implying that knowing how to turn on a television is an education in electrical engineering, or movie production. Using software is a handy, necessary skill, but it has little to do with comprehending how software is written, with understanding the origins of making things happen. We need makers, not just users. Writing software is a powerful skill and an essential foundation of our economic independence, and intellectual security. Knowing how to buy a laptop is a helpful ability, but on top of that... knowing how your computer works, understanding the connections between hardware and software is a critical skill for keeping up with the new pace of the working world. I hope that more schools, more clubs, more educators will embrace the teaching of the manual skills, the practical arts, and the fine arts, that enable these empowering proficiencies. Soldering, wiring, circuitry, programming, welding, art, music, math, dance, science... we cannot absorb these through apps on a pad! We need to tinker and make them our own!

Arduino, using open source hardware, is made to give the user the control, the creative access to making, and building.

Lucas, Maria, James, Alex R, Alex, and Geoff.

Lucas programmed his Arduino to play music!

Light! A big accomplishment... no kidding. These first steps, the troubleshooting, and figuring-out is where the learning happens, and from there the improbable becomes possible. I love the process, seeing the effort, the mess, the frustrations, too... because in this comes comprehension, appreciation. It's not in an illustrated manual, no one is doing it for you, then handing you the switch. So when you tinker, and think, then work at it some more, and the light finally works, it's brilliant!

Maria switched from Scratch to making her earrings. I think the good tools, and creative vibe inspired her.

Young Makers are great makers.