Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Fat Pantry Mouse

A “Fat Pantry Mouse” is simply a reminder of the blessing of a full pantry. If you have enough food to share with a mouse, and if that mouse is, indeed, fat,  then your household isn’t going hungry. I love this idea. I first made a fat pantry mouse with the ladies in the Stanley Homemaker’s Club and I’ve kept one in my cupboard ever since. Every time I open the cupboard and see it peeking at me, or, if I have to move it from can to can, I recognize the blessing of a full cupboard. Because I can remember the times in our marriage when we didn’t have much food, I feel very grateful. I certainly want Miss Abigail to have a fat pantry mouse in her hope chest.

Gratitude reminders are important, I think, as it seems so easy to forget where your blessings come from. You may want to make a fat mouse for your pantry. If so, each time you see it, take a moment to offer a quick prayer for the blessing of having enough food to eat.

You’ll need half a package of Sculpey clay, a short (about 3-inch) length of shoelace leather, and three small, black glass beads. (These were size 6/0 seed beads) A toothpick will also come in handy. Other materials could be used; fabric, felt or even a different kind of clay.

 Soften the clay and pinch off two small pieces for the ears. Roll everything into a ball.

 Roll one side of the body ball until is forms a fat cone shape.

Pinch and form a nice “nose” at the end of the cone.

Place the rounded end of the body on the table with the nose up. You can decide how much tilt you want for the nose of your mouse, but you don’t want the nose too far in the air.

Push down slightly on the body to make a flat bottom. This flat part makes the mouse stable in your cupboard, so make a nice wide bottom.

Push a bead into the end of the nose. You may have to adjust and form the clay around it a bit. Place the eyes just above the nose and push them into the clay also.

Flatten the small balls to make two ears, form them and attach them to the head, behind the eyes. This is the hardest part. Smooth down the clay as well as you can. If your little mouse falls off a can, you don’t want the ears to break right off, so attach them well.


 Abigail wanted eyelashes on this mouse, because she is a girl mouse. You could add these, carefully, with a toothpick. Just an impression will work best.

Finally, use the toothpick to start a hole for the tail at the base of the body. Then, push the leather into the hole and smooth the clay around it.

There, she’s finished and ready to be baked. Isn’t she cute?

Place the mouse on a metal pie pan or a piece of foil and bake in a slow oven. I baked this one at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, for 30 minutes.

Finally, put the mouse in your pantry and allow it to help you cultivate a grateful heart.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Robotics Tournament

Well! Here are some pictures from Miss Abigail's robotics tournament. In the end, 26 teams participated and it was really noisy and chaotic and stressful. It was a loooooong day, but still a great experience. And...Abigail's team won one of the awards! This was a big surprise and the kids were VERY excited about it. The award was for robot design and strategy. I think the judges particularly liked the fact that each member of the team programmed one of the robot missions and that they could all describe and answer questions about what they had done for the mission. As they interacted with the judges, it was really apparent that the kids were used to working together. Since the competition stressed teamwork as a core value and a fundamental part of the experience, Abigail's team certainly met this expectation.

What a fun adventure! I think we'll do it again next year. (Am I nuts?)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Home Ec- Menu Planning

Throughout January, in our home ec lessons, I have been teaching Miss Abigail about making menus. I think menus are an important part of cooking and I'm pleased that Abigail now has a pretty good understanding of this process. My mother is a faithful menu-maker and I learned from her. It isn't hard, but it does take some thought and then a commitment to carry through with the actual cooking. Making menus and cooking from them can save much time, much stress and even more money.

As I worked with Abigail, I created a menu planner that has a box with letters representing daily servings that she could cross off. In this way, Abigail can see if she's covered the nutrition she needs to provide during the day. This just seemed to make the nutrition aspect of healthy eating more obvious, and there is room to write ingredients in a grocery list at the side. Each letter in the box represents a serving in the basic groups on the FDA food pyramid. Beside the basic principles of nutrition and daily servings, we covered what makes a good menu and an attractive meal, using the pantry, using the food ads, creativity and variety, how to create a shopping list, and marketing strategies. Now that we've done the brain work, I have planned a couple of related pantry projects like crocheted jar ribbons, a fat pantry mouse, and ruffled jar covers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Abigail's Ornament

Before I leave Christmas behind completely, I wanted to show the ornament Abigail finished for her hope chest. It was tedious work for her, with all those little beads and sequins, but she is pleased with the result and I think it is lovely! She did all the sequin work and I added the bow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Robotics Scrimmage

I've mentioned that Miss Abigail is programming robots these days. She is participating in a robotic tournament sponsored by the First Lego League. The challenge for this year involved growing and safely transporting food to the marketplace. Surprisingly, this activity has dominated our extra time and almost overtaken our creativity for a couple of months now. The tournament is coming up on Saturday and then I really feel like I will be a free woman again. This always happens with "extracurricular" homeschool activities. They seem to take over even the corners of my creative brain and I can't get back to anything else until the project is complete.

The picture shows Abigail's team participating in a practice scrimmage with her team. Four other teams (out of many, many more coming on Saturday) were part of this activity. Abigail's assignment has been to program the robot to come up to that dispenser by the blue ball, trip the arm, collect the little Lego "bacteria" in the dispenser and bring them back to the base. You may be able to see that there are fish in the way. It was not strategic to make the robot go around the fish, so she relies on another team member to get them out of the way in a mission that precedes hers. I think the kids are all having fun and I know Abigail has learned a lot by this whole experience.

Most importantly, robots and computer programming are so different from anything Abigail usually does. This is really why I wanted Abigail to participate. Abigail's imagination means the world to her. She absolutely loves to read, to write and create places and situations in her mind. She recreates these either in her writing, drawings or with props. Although Abigail could easily imagine how the robot could complete the missions, and could immediately think of lovely possibilities for creating and staging stories about the robot, the logical, methodical, reasoning process of learning to program the robot has been more difficult.  And she did learn how to program the robot! Amazing to me.  Her two fabulous coaches have done wonders, I think. Another valuable aspect of this experience has been for Abigail to confront logical problems that she didn't know how to solve. Robots don't always do what you think you told them to do. Even now, after many successful mission runs, the robot is veering slightly off course and who knows why this is happening. I certainly can't help her and the whole experience has been kind of hard for me, as well.

There has also been the "team" aspect of the experience. There are six other kids on her team and everything has been decided and assigned largely by voting. This is a new experience for a lonely only child, who is very capable and accomplished and used to doing things on her own --albeit guided by a strong, tiger-ish mother ;o}. Having to seriously rely on and sometimes wait on others has also been a new and interesting experience.

So, on to the tournament. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Knitted "Plarn" Dish Scrubbies - A Link

Miss Abigail and I bumped over the muddy ruts today for an important practice competition in anticipation of her robotic tournament at the end of the month. She has been on a team associated with First Lego League. Building and programming robots is sooooooo different from what she usually is involved in. The experience has been really good for her in a number of ways, but I digress. Robots are a long way from hope chests.

Although I didn't intend to post today, we did stop at the library to check on things. I follow the blog of a lovely young woman who is working on her hope chest. Hannah (These Little Hands) has a very interesting post describing how to knit dish scrubbies with "plarn." I didn't know there was a name for yarn made from the plastic grocery bags! Hannah's post was so interesting and her project is so practical. I know some of you will be interested to check it out. So here is the link. Say hello from me.

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