Monday, July 29, 2013

What's On Your Summer Bucket List---Except Sand?

A Bucket List is a list of goals someone wants to achieve before he/she 'Kicks the bucket.' Do you have one?

What about one just for this summer? There's still some summer left---Here are some ideas:

-Learn to juggle
-Learn to write with your non-dominant hand         

-Ride a unicycle (not a Unicorn. They are in short supply).
-Ride a horse

-Take a train somewhere

-Make a firefly lantern

-No matter what people ask you, say "Yes" to everything for one day
-Play paintball

-Put a message in an empty bottle, put the cap on, and toss it in a lake, river, or the ocean; add a non-identifying email if you want the person to get in touch with you.

-Find five unusual names in your family history
-Fly a kite
-Try to catch a fish using only your hands
-Play charades
-Learn to play one song on an instrument: piano, ukulele, guitar, flute...? Ask a friend to teach you.
-Do a perfect cartwheel
-Go technology-free for 24 hours: no phone, computer, TV, video games, or DVD player
-Listen to music that was popular when your parents were teens
-See if a parent or grandparent will teach you a dance that was popular when he/she was young
-Learn something about the town you live in that you did not know before
-Volunteer to help at your old elementary school
-Stay awake for 24 hours straight

-Write a TV commercial--because the ones we see are so lame
-Make a collage with nothing but discarded items or things you already have
-Go to the dollar store and find the three 'best' things. Buy them for your friends or yourself. Budget: $3
-If you have an old and/or broken electronic item, like a phone, computer, camera, calculator: take it apart and see how it work(ed). Find out where to recycle it when you're done.
-Donate blood to the Red Cross
-Find out what district you live in for voting purposes. Who are your representatives? If you are old enough, register to vote.
-Follow the Food Pyramid for one week:

This is what we 'should' be eating each day....

-Challenge yourself to walk one mile every day. Make note of it--How long can you keep it going?
-Do something you're afraid of:  rappelling, holding a spider, diving, speaking in public, or eating sushi.
-Walk into a department store and speak a gibberish language.
-Learn a sentence in the language your ancestors spoke before they came to America.
-Try not talking for a long time: How long can you make it? An hour? A day?

I'm sure you can think of things you'd like to do, and summer's the perfect time. Have fun!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fun Summer Activities 1.2

Here are some more ideas for things to do this summer..........

Younger Kids:

  • Draw on the sidewalk with chalk. No chalk? You can 'write' with a paintbrush and water.

  • Or if you're up for a messy project, make some Ice Chalk: A day before your activity, mix equal parts cornstarch and water, plus food coloring. Freeze in ice cube trays, then take it outside to create masterpiece art.... Definitely a time for clothing that's washable-- or swimsuits-- but easy to spray off when you're done:
  •  Have a picnic, whether in a park or your own back yard. Let the little ones help pick the menu, get everything ready, and clean up afterward.

  • For any age: write letters to friends and mail them. Yes, letters: write something on paper, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it. We've forgotten how fun it is to get something personal in the mail.
  • So what if you're not vacationing somewhere exotic? Send a postcard from your hometown to someone who lives far away, or even someone who doesn't. Postcards are usually sold close to greeting cards and can often be found in drugstores---and they cost a little less postage, too-regular mail is 46c for a stamp, postcards cost 33c for a stamp. That stamp will get your mail anywhere in the continental U.S.: from Minnesota to California, Maine, Texas, New York, and anywhere in between.

  • Hide some treasures in the yard and see if the younger ones can find them.

  • Free bowling is available at these bowling centers:

The Landscape Arboretum is free each 3rd Thursday of the month after 4:30
The Walker Art Center is free the first Saturday of each month and all Thursday evenings
The Minnesota History Center is free Tuesday nights from 5:00-8:00 p.m.
The Minnesota Children's Museum is free the third Sunday of every month
The Minnesota Institute of Arts is free all the time
Theatres at Mall of America offers free movies on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.
Muller Family Theaters offer free movies Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

Teens and Up:

  • Try building something. If you like, build some kind of a machine that does something. Otherwise, try a birdhouse or a storage box. Perhaps the world's largest something out of Legos.
  • Take an idea from elementary schools and make a Flat Stanley. Mail him somewhere and ask the person to take a picture with Flat Stanley, send you the picture, and then send Stanley on to someone else who will then take a picture with him. Ask that they send the pictures to your phone or post them on Facebook. See how far he travels!

Cut out a person something like this, about the size of  whole sheet of paper. Fold him so he fits in your envelope and send him on his way to adventure......

  • Learn something new, or get better at something: What about photography? Do you know all the features of your camera? Can you take pictures in the dark? Can you make videos? Maybe you could post something on YouTube and become famous.
  • Collect pop tabs from cans, bag them up, and drop them off at McDonald's--they take the money from recycling them and give it to the Ronald McDonald House in your area.
  • Do you know how to use PowerPoint? Teach yourself, have a friend teach you, or get a book about it from the library. Make a slide show---your life? A song you like? A made-up story?

  • If not CPR, a First Aid course is also valuable--would you know what to do if someone got burned, had a seizure, broke a bone, had a bad cut or was stung by a wasp? How do you treat for shock?  First Aid class(es) will teach you the answers.

Volunteer---and when you volunteer with a friend, it's more fun...Here are some ideas....
  • Ask at a local senior center if they would like someone to teach basic computer skills, as well as how to use Facebook to connect with people who live far away. *Note--a Senior Center is a place for people to drop in for activities and socializing. It's different than a nursing home. Many communities have senior centers-check with your city offices if you aren't sure where the closest one is.
  • Check out a park close to you: is it in need of cleaning up? Grab some garbage bags and get it done!
  • Do you have a band? See if someone would like to have you play at their party for free---it may lead to paying gigs. Have someone take pictures or a video of it.

  • Start a donation drive----new or like-new books for kids (they must have no notes or damage in them), as an example. Post your plan at Facebook so all your friends can help. Tell them what you're collecting and how to get the items to you. Donate the books to Head Start, Ronald McDonald House, a shelter, or somewhere else that can use them. This can be for a limited time or an ongoing project: every time you have 50 b0oks, let's say, you deliver them somewhere.

    an archway of books

  • Or how about a penny drive? See how many you can collect, take them to a bank to exchange for paper, donate the money to a cause you are interested in.

  • Another idea is to collect new makeup and hair products for women and donate them to a womens' shelter; often they have left their homes with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. *remember to keep cosmetic items in a cool place in the summer months to avoid them melting.
Once you have gotten your volunteer project going, write an article about it for your local paper telling what you did, how you did it, and how it has affected you, and call to ask how you can submit it for publication. This can be great on a college application, as well.

  • Start a blog. It can be about anything, including your experiences, your observations, a hobby, or a volunteer effort in which you have become interested. Be sure to write in it on a regular basis. If you aren't sure of your writing skills, have someone who is a good writer check it over before you publish. A blog can also be valuable to refer to on a college application, when appropriate.

  • Make up your own Summer Olympics, picking the competitions and the 'medals.' You can medal in Hopscotch or Weirdest Hair Color.

Have Fun, and Be Safe!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Science of Fireworks

What makes fireworks work?

Anybody know what the following is?
2KNO3 (potassium nitrate) + S (sulfur) + 3C (carbon in charcoal form) → K2S (potassium sulfide) + N2 (nitrogen gas)

*it's a chemical reaction typical when gunpowder burns, specifically in fireworks.
The following chemicals are needed to produce the various colors we see when they are used in fireworks:

Copper Salts                                Blue
Aluminum and Magnesium        Gold
Barium Salts                                Green
Strontium Salts                             Red
Aluminum and Magnesium         White
Sodium                                          Yellow

More in-depth info on the way fireworks work can be found at:


Learn about the history of fireworks at: (Did you know they started in China about the year 960?)

And check this out:
Did you ever think about fireworks in terms of math?? People who put on fireworks shows have to figure how high, how far, and the duration of a shell to be launched. The fireworks at the end of a show may be timed to music--this takes a lot of planning, it doesn't just 'happen.'

***We interrupt this blog for the following question:
How many years ago was the first Independence Day?***

You know we wouldn't be talking about fireworks without a nod to safety, right?

  • Don't ever try to make your own fireworks.
  • READ THE DIRECTIONS that came with them.
  • Don't buy fireworks that come in unlabeled brown paper wrappers.
  • When you light a firework piece, do not put any part of your body over it--don't hunch over it, have your head over it, etc. Hold it away from your body, or stand it on something that won't catch fire such as a cement block, light it, toss it if that's how it works, and quickly step out of the way.
  • If you have fireproof gloves, wear them when lighting fireworks.
  • Sparklers can get super-hot: 1200 degrees or hotter. This is why small children should never handle them.
  • Be mindful of how dry the grass might be in the area.
  • Eye injuries are common when using fireworks: Wear goggles to protect your vision.
  • If you have a firework that appears to be a 'dud', douse it with water. Don't try to ignite it again; it may be smoldering and ready to explode when you're not expecting it.
  • Keep a hose and/or bucket of water close at hand so you can put out fireworks. When they are 'spent,' throw them in the bucket of water and soak them before you throw them in the trash.
  • Do not throw a sparkler into a lake when you're done with it. You or someone else will likely step on it when you go swimming.
  • Injuries to the hands, face, and eyes are the most common injuries from fireworks.
  • Like everything else, drinking alcohol and fireworks is a bad combination.
  • Have some compassion for your pets: many are frightened by the noise and flashing lights of fireworks.
  • Your neighbors don't appreciate a sudden firework blast in the middle of the night, either.
  • The best way to enjoy fireworks is at a public display.

  • Check out all these places where you can enjoy them, and check with your own community for fireworks that may not be listed here: down for individual suburbs' celebrations.

For more facts about fireworks and some sobering statistics, check out this PBS website:

And play "Name That Shell" after watching a video of the various types of fireworks...

Here's a video of the spectacular fireworks in Washington, D.C. ---with music:

--Catch them this year at for 'A Capitol 4th.'
Have Fun and Be Safe this 4th!

**237 years ago in 1776**