Friday, 31 January 2014

Ice sculptures

 I saw a notice in the newspaper that there would be an ice festival not to far away from us.  This was something I or the children had never seen before so I thought we should go and have a look.  It was fascinating to see how the artist create these fantastic ice sculptures!  I took tons of pictures as we watched every step of the building of these sculptures.  This was a competition and each team had 3 hours to complete their sculpture.  It was a race against time and the weather:)

We arrived at 10 am and it began to sleet, snow and rain so it was very cold which was great weather for the ice sculptures but that soon changed for them once the sun came out and then each artist struggled to keep their sculptures from melting.

Each artist had a unique way of storing their tools which was fun to see.

We got to see up close the kinds of power tools that the artist used.  Some were pretty scary looking

there were also plenty of hand tools to examined as well.

Strange looking contraption for a chain saw
Many of the artist had chains on their boots to help not to slip and slide with all the ice surrounding them
IN order to get the ice to come out very clear at the end of the competition the artist used blow torches to clean up the ice and make it less cloudy 

These metal plates are used to melt ice into a smooth surface to add new pieces and we saw how this was used several times.
Some of the artist had pictures up to show what they were building

Watching them make the round ball in the drawing

seeing the gymnast come to life from a block of ice

Carving in the title of the piece

Adding the gymnast to the ball using dry ice, water and  blanket

It was heart breaking to see the gymnast legs fall off with about 30 minutes to go into the competition.   The kids and I watched the men quickly create new legs and then try to reassemble them before time ran out.  Other artists had the same problem with pieces melting and falling off during the last hour of the competition as the sun was coming out.  While some were able to complete their project there were others that had to leave their art uncompleted:(

The finish piece with just a few minutes to spare before the horn blew.  This piece won first place in the competition.
Some of the other pieces that we saw being built

This piece won second place
Firedrake of course loved the dragon one and was disappointed to see it only won third place

Mermaid who unfortunately lost her tail and the second one just wasn't as grand of the first one:)

Lion fish which wasn't completed before the whistle blew 

MarioFan loved the snowboarding sculpture with the olympic theme

These poor chaps had so many problems with their sculpture breaking that they were able to finish in time.  But they were great with the crowd and answered the kids questions about their tools and the process that I was really cheering them on:)

We had a beautiful day out and we kept walking up and down the street watching each sculpture progress from simple blocks of ice to wonderful works of art.  After this competition there was another group for the afternoon but we didn't stick around for that one as we needed to warm up from the 3 hours of the morning competition.  We will definitely be going back to see this again next year!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Eagle Days

A couple of weeks ago we went to an Eagles days event at the Chain of Rocks bridge.  Since we live near the Missouri and Mississippi river there are a large number of Eagles in our area and they are a sight to see!

When we arrived we sat in on a quick getting to know the eagle session.  Learned about their nesting, eating and other habits. 

We got to meet a beautiful eagle who is now at a local rescue center due to a bad wing.  We were told she arrive from Florida and isn't too happy with the cold weather of Missouri:).  I can relate:)!!!

We saw an example of an eagle's nest and learned that eagles will return to the same nesting site every year and keep building on it...the largest eagles nest on record was 9 feet across and 6 feet deep.  It was also interesting that smaller bird will build their nests inside the eagles nest if it is big enough.

finding out the wing span of an adult eagle

MarioFan has a ways to go

Next we took a walk across the Chain of Rocks bridge to view the Eagle area

We had to leave Daddy behind cause he hates heights and bridges

We saw several of these in the river not exactly sure what they are, maybe light houses of some sort ?

About 2/3 across the bridge we came to a heated tent (it was a cold blustery day) and the St Louis Audubon society had set up an exhibit

Kids got to see stuffed birds from our area

they could hold the birds and see up close their beaks and claws.  No eagles were on display.  I didn't think to ask if the birds had died naturally or not.  I would assume so.

Kids had lots of questions and the people were so kind to answer them

Next we went outside to see the Eagles who were fishing and resting in the trees of the Mississippi River

We got to see 2 Eagles in a tree.  There were some flying in the air but they were really too high for me to get a picture 
We had a really lovely day out and we are told the Eagles are in abundance from February until April when they start to nest.  There are several other events being taken place throughout this time and we just might go out again to see more eagles.

Monday, 27 January 2014

In hiding at the ice rick

I belong to a local homeschool group that is dedicated mostly to field trips.  I have found it to be really hit or miss on the attendance of some of the field trips and we haven't made many connections although I am starting to recognize a face or two.  This group did require a signed statement of faith, but I felt is was the least imposing of the ones in my area, so I gave in and signed up.   I have found most of the members are extremely conservative in their beliefs.  Trying to fit in has proven to be a bit of a challenge for all of us.  I wish to be respectful to the group while at the same time not hide who I am.  While at the ice rink, I met a lady new to homeschooling and we began to talk and my conservation was rather surprising.  I decided to be honest and upfront  when asked about science curriculum and I mentioned I teach evolution in my science.  The women looked shocked said "you really said that."  I answered hesitantly "yes."  I fully expected for the women to turn away from me, as it has happened before...but instead she leaned in and whispered "I do too, but I am in hiding, cause I want my kids to have friends."  We exchanged emails and plan to get together next week for tea.

I am telling this story for several reasons, one I have never openly said that I teach evolution to my children on my blog and it is time that I did.  Two, I found it incredibly sad that in this day and age people are so afraid to speak up and be honest.  Why can't people agree to disagree and move on?  Is it really so threatening to surround yourself with people who think differently from yourself?   Why does the young earth crowd feel threatened by the old earth crowd and vice versa?   Three, it emphasizes to me that their may be others out there like me, but they are in hiding and I have to search harder to find them.

Let me be clear I really don't care what beliefs people hold so long as they are not rude about it.  One of my friends in England was a wife of a Baptist preacher and fundamentally we are on opposite sides with many points but we were honest and respectful of each others beliefs and it never got in the way of our friendship.   I teach my children that there are many beliefs, and that they are smart and need to make their own decisions about their beliefs but they must at all times be respectful to others and it is okay to respectfully disagree and move onto other areas that are more compatible.  I wish more adults were able to do that as it appears to be a skill that many lack particularly in the homeschooling community where we live:(

It is funny I feel the need to mention our family's religious affiliations as if to prove I am still fit to belong, we are Lutheran and yes, I can rectify my religious beliefs with the teaching of evolution in my science lessons.  I have actually been asked this by a homeschooler who than rudely informed me that my views were not in line with Christianity and that I am really not a Christian.

Now on to our field trip excursion:  Ice skating
Little Man trying out the skates, he really didn't like the ice skates as they hurt his feet so we switched him to hockey skates which he felt more comfortable in.  I think we tried on at least a dozen skates before he found one he felt comfortable in.  
Here an older boy is giving my son some pointers on how to use hockey skates

This young man was so helpful he helped my son attempt to skate 

Meanwhile Firedrake who has skated before was looking to met new people and too my surprise found a group of teenagers that she like.  The kids seemed very nice

Firedrake skated for nearly 2 hours before coming off the ice in pain.

Mario fan lasted about an hour before declaring he was finished and went to play on some of the video games
All in all a fairly good day, while my daughter did exchange emails with the group of kids she met I am very curious to see if they keep in contact as there were obivious difference in beliefs and while Firedrake was not aware of them, I was.   For example the 16 year old hadn't read Harry Potter series because they contain witchcraft and that is one of Firedrakes favorite books.  While I hope the kids can overcome this obstacle, from past experience I have found these things can be deal breakers once the other children's parents find out:(.  Hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Trip to a chocolate factory

Recently we went to a local Chocolate company in the city and got to explore how candy was made.

This company is a family run business and has been operating since 1981

My son pointed out this sign and read how chocolate is made.  

Checking out the candy store prior to the tour...and can I just say going on a chocolate tour when you are on a diet is not my most brilliant idea but I got out of there with only buying a single piece for each of us...much to my children's disappointment :)

Inside the factory were lots of signs for the Oompa Loompas of the famed Willy Wonka which my children thought was great

This is one of the cooling tables that is used to cool down caramel.  The blue hoses are running cold water beneath the tables surface.  While there we saw them making caramel 

We watched as they wheeled a large copper pan over to the table...we were told these pots are very heavy

Next they spread the caramel to get out all the bubbles 

and then it cools and it smells so good!!!

kids getting to try a sample:)

Next we watched the factory assembly line 

chocolate being poured aver the candies

and hand decorated

seeing the big mixer of chocolate

Next we went out to the store and did our best to choose only one chocolate sample to take home.  I just had to try the dark chocolate caramel...and it was so good:) and worth the points to eat:)