HALLOWEEN!

Happy (somewhat belated) Halloween! I hope everyone had a safe but spooky Halloween. There are a lot of good things that come with Halloween. There are the ghost stories, the movies, the costumes, the pumpkins, and the cats, all of which I love.

First, did you know that part of the reason black cats are considered unlucky dates back to the Middle Ages–specifically back to the Black Plague? People don’t quite understand why the cats were first associated with the Devil, but people killed many black cats during the plague. That actually made it worse since the cats had been keeping down the rodent population that spread the plague. Another part of the reason came from the hysteria outbreak about witchcraft. People assumed that “witches” took in (typically black) alley cats to be their companions. People spread rumors and wouldn’t let go of historical beliefs, thus strengthening the idea that black cats were unlucky. I don’t think these felines are unlucky. I have a lot of black cats friends at the animal shelter I volunteer at. I hope to befriend all of the black cats at some point since they’re all really sweet.

Did you also know that the original jack-o-lanterns were carved from potatoes, turnips, and beets? The Irish legend of the jack-o-lantern can be read at the above link, but basically a man named Jack tricked the Devil into not taking his soul and then died. God wouldn’t take Jack and the Devil couldn’t take him, so Jack’s soul wanders the earth with a burning coal in a carved-out turnip. Many people began to carve scary faces into other gourds and root vegetables to scare away this wanderer.

There are too many movies, stories, and costumes to list here, so which ones are your favorites?

OCTOBER IS HERE!!!

Hello! It’s October, one of the best times of the year! It’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing, AND Halloween is this month! I’m soooooooooooooooooooooo excited!

Since it is October, I dedicated a math project on conditional statements to the month. It goes as follows:

If it is October, then you buy a pumpkin. If you buy a pumpkin, then you make a jack-o-lantern. If you make a jack-o-lantern, then it is close to Halloween. If it is close to Halloween, then you buy lots and lots of candy and chocolate. If you buy lots and lots of candy and chocolate, then you will want to eat it. If you want to eat all of the candy and chocolate, then you will eat all of it. If you eat all of the candy and chocolate, then you will have nothing to give the trick-or-treaters (besides the fact you would more than likely go into a diabetic coma). If you have nothing to give the trick-or-treaters, then your house will get TP’ed. if your house gets TP’ed, then you will become the laughing stock of the whole neighborhood. If you are the laughing stock of the whole neighborhood, then you will never leave your house. If you never leave your house, then you will become very lonely. If you become very lonely, then you will buy lots of cats. if you buy lots of cats, many of them will be black cats. If you have a lot of black cats, then you will be reminded of superstitions. If you’re reminded of superstitions, then you might see some superstitious figures. If you see superstitious figures, then it is October.

The whole reason we wrote these projects was to practice conditional statements, but it was also inspired by the whole If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series by Laura Numeroff. I thought it was a lot of fun to do since it could be based on anything.

Besides the If-then story, we went to go get pumpkins this past weekend! Instead of the classic orange pumpkins, we got a white pumpkin and a green-silver pumpkin. They’re really cool, and I love them even though they are just pumpkins. I don’t know if we’re going to carve them or not, since we could just draw spooky faces on to the pumpkins. I can’t wait to do even more decorating for Halloween! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

A Muddle Of Things

Happy Labor Day everyone! I hope you all stayed safe on this unofficial end to summer. By this point, a lot of kids are back at school. I started high school just over a week ago. It’s awesome, although all my friends would beg to differ. I really like my physics teacher. He’s a lot like my middle school science teacher: wacky, nerdy, and fun–all good things. Some of my classes have content that will work together, so I think my grades will benefit from alternate explanations of things I don’t understand. I’m really looking forward to engineering. We’re going to get to design stuff and possibly even build things. Most of my teachers have explained things fairly well when they are teaching, so I’m thinking this is going to be a good year.

Not only does Labor Day mark the start of school, it also marks the start of Halloween decorating in my household! Halloween is my all-time favorite holiday. The colors, the atmosphere, the overall history; it’s all really cool. My favorite part is getting to go to Halloween stores and gawk at all the stuff, then get inspired for a bazillion different costumes I could make. I don’t even want to do the costumes for trick-or-treating anymore; the costume making and wearing is fun enough. I get really giddy around this time of year because it’s time to get spooky!

Reasons to Like Geometry

This sounds like an out-of place post, but I’ve been taking a summer course for geometry to help prepare for high school. There are actually a lot of reasons I like it:

  • So many great puns and jokes come out of geometry, such as “if you’re cold, go stand in the corner, it’s 90 degrees,” and “parallel lines have so much in common, it’s a shame they’ll never meet.”
  • Squares fit into about six different categories in the shape world. They also have the easiest perimeter and area to find.
  • I didn’t realize this before, but angles can be over 360 degrees. Drawing them can be a bit difficult, though.
  • There are a lot of simple references to geometry in real life. Any time I see a triangle, I think of how one side can’t be longer or equal to the sum of the other two sides, or shorter than the difference of the other two sides.

Now, there are downsides–one I am quite vociferous about:

  • CIRCLES ARE SO WEIRD. They have so many different parts, such as circumference (there are a lot of puns about this, too), area, diameter, and radius. There are also arcs, radii, and many nonsensical things.
  • Circles are the only downside I can think of.

Besides the circle aspect, I really enjoy geometry. I’m hoping that in the actual class we will get more into proofs and such because those are very helpful. I’m really looking forward to it.

“Tomato”

Since we missed all of the tomato holidays for a while, we decided to have our own Tomato Weekend. There was a lot of food involved, of course. We decided to make stuffed bell peppers that had a very tomato-y rice creation inside. While I didn’t help too much with that, I gladly helped devour some chili that was made the next day. I’m not a very big tomato fan to begin with, so when we attempted fried red tomatoes I was beyond concerned. I don’t think I have ever made a face about food like what I did when I tried one. To make up for the bizarre tomatoes, we made tomato soup cake. It’s more of a spice cake than anything else and the tomato soup is basically to serve as the cake’s liquid. It was very good and made me a little bit less reluctant to try other tomatoes.

We had to get our tomatoes somehow, so we went up to Kenosha to a farmer’s market. There was a lot of stuff there. Besides getting our tomatoes, I talked my parents into getting me lemonade and they got breakfast egg rolls (which I didn’t know there was such a thing). AND because it was our tomato weekend, we had to watch Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It’s definitely… weird. It’s better that I watched it now instead of when I was little so I understood more of the pop culture stuff. My favorite part was in the library and the guy just says “Tomato.” It never fails to make me laugh.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

This summer, I’ve taken to reading a lot of slightly older, darker books. I finished reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (by Robert Louis Stevenson) a couple of weeks ago. It was wonderful, but had a really sad ending. The premise is that if a person could separate their personality into two separate identities, the world could be better. Dr. Jekyll tries this, and his world breaks down into chaos. I won’t tell the ending for people who hate spoilers.

A local college was doing a production of the musical Jekyll and Hyde. It was a perfect opportunity to have read the book before seeing other versions. The day before we saw the musical, though, we decided to watch the 1920 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie. It’s a silent film with John Barrymore, and it is really good in the special effects area, considering the time it was made it. I was overjoyed when I found out that Mr. Hyde was short in the movie like he was in the book. The movie followed the book pretty well, with very small deviations. One of the deviations was in the ending, so I won’t tell that one (you’ll have to read and watch them for yourself). The movie did a nice job of wrapping up where the book leaves you on a cliffhanger. Both endings are wonderful, though. There was also a comedic version of the movie, a silent 20-minute short film called Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde with Stan Laurel from Laurel & Hardy, a comedy duo. It’s one of those things that one can’t explain well enough to get the humor across, but they did a good job of making a serious movie into a comedic summary.

Finally, the musical. Music sure does lengthen the time it takes to tell a story, but it was great music. I normally couldn’t stand musicals, but this year that has been changing a bit. My favorite song was “Alive,” mainly because of the range of notes (which I wouldn’t in a million years be able to reach, but they were beautifully done). The music in general was amazing, and the you could see the conductor and band backstage were having a lot of fun. The actors were amazing, too. The play was closer to the movie with more deviations from the book. It gave a little bit more backstory than the book did. The biggest difference from the book in my opinion was that a different person was killed. More people, actually, were killed in the musical than in the book or the movie (eight people people total in the musical). The musical used the almost the tallest person for Dr. Jekyll, meaning they could make him hunch over to be Mr. Hyde so he could still be short. I don’t know why that’s so important to me, but a lot of monster characters are often displayed as fairly tall beings, and to have a shorter monster character seemed to be something that needed to be kept.

I really would love to be in a version of Jekyll and Hyde when I get older. I kind of hope the college does it again when I can actually audition.

Chocolate and Video Games

July 7th was Chocolate Day, so we decided to have a chocolate-themed weekend to extend the chocolate fun. We decided to be daring by trying some savory chocolate foods.

On Friday, we made chocolate cornbread and chili with a bit of cocoa powder. The chili was good, but there is a reason chocolate corn doesn’t exist. We saved the cornbread on Saturday by turning it into chocolate cornbread bread pudding, which was really good with ice cream. In addition to this, we went to the Chocolate Sanctuary and had very chocolaty food. I found out that I evidently like cocoa barbecue sauce when I had it on chicken wings for the first time. I have also never had Chicken Mascarpone and Savory Cocoa Fettuccine until Saturday–it was interesting, but I don’t think I would do it again. We also had salad with a chocolate vinaigrette, pork sliders with more chocolate barbecue sauce, cocoa-spiced butternut squash soup, a turkey flatbread sandwich with cocoa-candied bacon, and then truffles for dessert! Overall, most of the savory stuff was okay. The barbecue sauce was really good. The truffles were great!

On Sunday, we made chocolate pancakes for dinner. I kind of put in a bit too much vinegar, but we fixed it with some baking soda. Saturday was also Video Games Day, but we thought it was Sunday so we celebrated a day later. Time to get past a couple of dungeons!

Upper Mississippi Vacation (Part Two)

Brain Surge ride at Mall of AmericaYou can’t do an Upper Mississippi trip without stopping in the Twin Cities (well, you could, it just wouldn’t be right). We got to Minneapolis and had a few hours to do the rides in Mall of America. It wasn’t very crowded, surprisingly, so we had time to ride about 10 rides. My favorite one was Brain Surge (pictured), where you use a joystick to spin yourself forward and backward. I wouldn’t recommend it to people with motion sickness or who get queasy.

20170613_093050The Mill Museum was our next destination. We walked around the Mill Ruins Park, a beautiful little area by a dam that was next to the Mississippi. There was a large stone bridge that we also walked across before we went into the museum since we had time to kill before it opened. I think I’m starting to appreciate architecture and rustic things more now because I found everything in the area beautiful. Once we were inside the museum, we walked around and explored the old mill’s purpose. I had fun before our tour with the interactive water example. It showed how the mills would use the water from the 20170613_110641Mississippi to power water wheels and other items. Our tour, once it started, consisted of getting on a big elevator and listening/watching a documentary of sorts. I don’t quite know how to put it, because we heard people recount their experiences working in the mill before it exploded and burned, but we watched examples of the stories as we went up and down eight various floors. We got to see old “vacuums” that took the flour dust out of the air and pumped it into the Mississippi, before the rules about disposal of stuff. We got to look out over the ruins of part of the mill once we reached the ninth floor, as well as learn about why the side walk was made out of wood. There was a canal below the road and sidewalk that all the mills in the area drew their water from.

2017-06-13 12.14.48As we continued, my mom had her heart set on finding a Minnesota classic for food: a Juicy Lucy. She found a restaurant that served them. It turned out to be a place that claimed to be the home of the cheese-filled hamburger, 5-8 Tavern and Grill. They were fairly big hamburgers and very hot, but they were delicious. From here on out, it was just a ride back home. On this ride, I found a true monster truck.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a “reboot” in the next year and see the stuff we didn’t on this trip.

Upper Mississippi Vacation (Part One)

We planned to do an Upper Mississippi River vacation since we had already seen the lower part, and my mom really wanted to walk across the headwaters. We didn’t have as much driving as previous vacations, so that was a plus. It was also only a four-day  trip.

First stop was the Wisconsin Deer Park. Wisconsin Deer ParkWe bought deer food when we arrived and got to pet and feed the deer that were out and about. I never realized how cute deer were until then. They were really affectionate when it came to the food, and they even ate out of our hands. The antlers on some of the deer were very soft and fuzzy. After we finished feeding them, we walked around and looked at the other animals for a bit. There were rheas, peacocks, goats, bison, and a lot of types of deer.

20170610_130255Next stop was Villa Louis. Villa Louis is an old Victorian house with mostly original everything inside, which is pretty rare in old homes. It was a pretty neat place. We got to see the old office building on the property along with the adjoined billiards room. During the tour of the inside of the house, we saw the bedrooms and even some of the clothing people wore. There was a display of Victorian wedding dresses going on, so we saw all the old types of dresses as well. The original owners of Villa Louis raised racing horses. 20170610_131036They believed that if the horses drank mineral-filled water, they would run faster. They drilled artesian wells that put out the water that had a lot of iron, which also makes things around it red. Whether or not it helped the horses at all, I don’t know. But we did get to try the water from one of the wells, it was pretty good. As cool as the place was, we had to chug along to continue with our vacation on schedule.

20170610_165133Our next destination was to the American Pickers‘ place in Iowa. My dad really wanted to come here since he likes the American Pickers show. It took us a bit to find it, but we did. And when we did, we were kind of…surprised. My dad compared his reaction to when Ralphie decodes the Ovaltine message in A Christmas Story. It’s a somewhat interesting place, but they don’t have many antiques for sale there–mostly a lot of American Pickers t-shirts, coffee mugs and magnets. It was funny though to see my dad’s reaction.

Next was the upper Mississippi. We drove around in the Lake Itasca park and did some walking on steep nature trails. It was beautiful, although there were a lot of bugs. After getting a little turned around, we headed up to the headwaters. Well, we walked across the “mighty” Mississippi where it was about 18-feet wide and 2-feet deep.Wading across Mississippi River We walked down the stairs to get to the river. It was cold and sort of slimy in the water, but we did it. We hit the road again and then realized after looking at a postcard…we didn’t actually reach the headwaters (disclaimer: there were no signs where we were to point us in the right direction). Mom guesses that she was just so excited to have walked across the Mississippi that she didn’t even think about it not being the actual headwaters. So, now we’ll have to do a reboot of this vacation to go up to the actual headwaters of the Mississippi.

Watch for “Part Two” of our mini-vacation next week.

 

End of 8th Grade!

It’s been a busy couple of months (which is why there have been fewer posts). For one, I’m finally out of 8th grade! There was way too much practicing that went into the ceremony (which really didn’t need to happen, but the teachers are perfectionists). There were a lot of us graduating (about 250), too, so it took a while to get through all of the names. At the actual ceremony, in a theatre (wow), we were given empty envelopes when we walked across the stage. When we got on the buses to head back to our school, we received the actual proof of our graduation–a nicely typed, half-page certificate. It was basically an over-complicated and elaborate event to make an 8th grade graduation look good and/or cool. I have to admit though, it was still pretty nice to go through it.

The best thing to come out of this is, of course, summer break! I’m hoping to have a lot of fun this summer, even though I’m going to summer school to get some credit for high school. I should be able to do more regular posts soon, so look out for those.

I hope everyone else has had a wonderful start to their summertime!