Thursday, May 31, 2012


     I think most everyone has played with oobleck at some point. That strange cornstarch mixture that oozes through your fingers until you apply pressure to it.  The girls have played with it before, but it has been so long that I thought it would be a good time to make some!  The recipe we used is 1 C cornstarch and 1/2 C water, but that can be adjusted to make however much you want as long as it is 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part water.  It seems to work best when mixed with your hands.

     Bria saw me mixing it and automatically declared that it was gross, but once Nadia started playing with it she changed her mind. Of course Eli wanted in on the action, and since it is safe to eat, he got to play too! He played with it for a bit, but quickly decided it was best to eat. Eventually he got stuck in his booster seat where the amount he could eat was more controlled.

     The girls had so much fun with it; they didn't even want to stop for lunch! They would round it all up in one place and pat it flat or pick it up and roll a ball only to have it ooze away.

      How does it work though? The cornstarch is simply suspended in the water (rather then being dissolved). The mixture is a non-Newtonian fluid which means its state is not determined by temperature but by force. When allowed to move freely or sit still the cornstarch particles can move making it appear liquid, but when squeezed or pressed the cornstarch has no where to go making it appear solid. release the pressure and it appears liquid again.

      Now for clean-up, throw as much as the oobleck as possible in the trash rather then down the drain. Too much can clog the drain.  Of course all of the oobleck stuck to your kids will have to be washed down the drain, but it does rinse off nicely!

Conservationist vs. Environmentalist: Real or Imagined?

I wrote this article for the Summer 2012 International Wolf magazineAfter a couple of conversations this week, I thought it might be of interest.  It is a bit longer than most of our posts, but hopefully you find it worth the read.  Please respond with your thoughts or ideas on the topic.

Are you an environmentalist? Are you a conservationist? Is there a difference? If there is, what does it matter for the long-term survival of wolves?

First, why is this topic important for wolves? As wolves enter a new stage in their history in the United States, the work of ensuring their long-term survival might look different from the work of the last three decades. Fighting for protection of the animals, their reintroduction and social acceptance as they spread throughout some of their historical range might require a very different approach than stabilizing habitat or ensuring sufficient prey. Understanding what conservation and environmentalism mean in our social contexts and possibly working to change common perceptions of these terms are important for sustaining viable wolf populations.

Conservation and environmentalism have very similar definitions in the dictionary. Both promote an ethic of stewardship of the natural world, and without the connotations many of us have come to understand, the terms might be considered synonymous.

But to most people who fall into one category or the other, they seem not to be. Upon being asked, most people who consider themselves conservationists or environmentalists see a clear distinction between the two labels, though the distinctions people draw are often different. Interestingly, among the people I spoke with for this article, the label environmentalist often has an edge of negative connotation—sometimes even among people who label themselves as one.

According to my very informal gathering of opinions, a general consensus develops regarding the characteristics of conservationists: People agree that conservationists are much more interested in preserving and managing a resource for future use, with “use” being the operative word. There is some sense among the people I spoke with that conservationists are much more willing to accept human impact on a resource as long as it will be there for future generations. There also seems to be agreement that
conservationists are willing to fund and participate in direct service to preserve and manage the particular resource in which they are interested.

People also gather around general characteristics of an environmentalist. Most people I spoke with believe that environmentalists want to minimize or reverse the impact humans have on the natural world, and they take a holistic approach to environmental issues. People I spoke with also believe that environmentalists are often more comfortable advocating for public policy changes and using the legal system to achieve their goals.

Amy Ellwein, geologist and science education researcher at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, described a key tenet of environmentalism this way: “What people decide to do about known problems is tied up in our values. I don’t think it is easy to deny that most environmental problems are caused by human consumption patterns and by human overpopulation.”

In nearly every discussion I had on the topic, there was a moment that became charged, loaded with importance on the true weight of the topic. The “real” differences were divulged:

“Conservationists are more rural, and environmentalists almost all live in the city.”

“Environmentalists are more pessimistic, and conservationists are more optimistic.”

“Conservationists just want to preserve animals, so that they’ll have something to shoot in the future.”

“An environmentalist, from what I can see, is afraid to enjoy anything, because every human action destroys the Earth in some way.”

“I think of conservation as what happened during an earlier time, like Roosevelt setting aside national parks.”

That last comment sparks an alternative view of conservation. Jason Booth, vice president of development and communications at the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, draws attention to the fact that what many people see as one of the most important
conservation acts of the 20th century, benefitted directly from displacement of native people from their homelands.

“It’s important that people understand the history of the conservation movement in America, in its full context,” said Booth.

So, why is all of this important? Scott Yaich, Ph.D., director of conservation operations at Ducks Unlimited, answered the question this way: All of the people who truly care about the environment combined are a small segment of the overall population, and the artificial distinction between conservationists and environmentalists negatively impacts important work.

“This division has long bothered me, and it terribly weakens our ability to achieve goals that we share more closely and passionately with each other than we do with other segments of society,” said Yaich. “Yes, there are some things that we are going to
have to agree to disagree about along the way, but there is so much more in which we share a common interest.”

So how would you label yourself? Is it necessary to label at all? Moving forward, can those of us who care deeply about wolves specifically and the environment as a whole find common ground with those who share a love of the natural world but enjoy
it differently?

Monday, May 28, 2012


     I saw a picture of these the other day on pinterest, but it didn't actually take me to a link for the recipe. I decided to make them on my own without a grill (I refuse to learn to operate a grill).  As I suspected they are really easy and really yummy!

     You need oreos (Like always I got double stuffed), marshmallows (we found flat ones), and chocolate bars.  I started by turning my oven to broil and lining a cookie sheet with foil to catch any mess. Then I un-twisted my oreos and placed the side without cream filling on the cookie sheet.

     Then add a marshmallow on top of each cookie.  The flat ones worked well even though I really wanted round ones since oreos are round.  I think if you took a big round one and cut it in half to make shorter round ones they would be perfect.

      Place these on the top rack of your oven for just a little bit. Seriously don't leave the kitchen unless you want burnt marshmallows.  We started placing the chocolate on the other side of the cookie while the marshmallows got toasty.

     Watch the marshmallows closely, so you get the perfect degree of toastiness for you; then pull them out.

     Immediately top with chocolate and cream side of cookie.  Allow to set a few moments for it all to melt together and cool just a bit. Then enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lava Lamps

     Of all the activities we have done this has been one of the girls favorites!  We ended up playing with them for over 2 weeks!  Here is the link we used:

    All you need is plastic bottles, water, oil, food coloring, and alka seltzer (we ended up going through a few boxes).  Start by filling the bottle over half full with oil. Then add water leaving a little room at the top.

     Add 10 drops of food coloring.

    Break one alka seltzer tab into 4 pieces.  And add 1 of those pieces (too much will make the bottle cloudy). Instant lava lamp (without the light)!

      Once the bubbles die down a bit you can safely add another piece of alka seltzer.

     The science part: alka seltzer releases carbon dioxide (CO2) when mixed with water (which makes the bubbles).  The bubbles carry the water drop to the top of the oil where they burst releasing the CO2 into the air and allowing the water to fall back through the oil (since we know water and oil won't mix as water has a higher density)..

      Like I said earlier the girls loved these and played with them over and over for two weeks!  We just capped them between uses to keep them from spilling.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Another Use for Shaving Cream

    I try to do so sort of project each week the girls, and this week I chose shaving cream painting.  This past summer the girls were introduced to shaving cream when I attempted to get them to write in it. That ended with both girls and my kitchen covered in shaving cream. After that we only used it in the bathtub where they would mistakenly chant "sour cream, sour cream," when they wanted some.  They always get excited to do something with shaving cream!

     So we started with cheap shaving cream, a shallow pan (or whatever shallow dish you have around), acrylic paint, and thick paper (we used watercolor paper and construction paper).  You will also need a spoon, toothpicks, and a squeegee.Squirt shaving cream all over your dish an smooth a little (we used a spoon for that). The squirt whatever colors of acrylic paint you want on it. The girls chose several colors most of which we metallic or sparkly.

     We then used toothpicks to swirl it around a bit.

     Once you are happy with the swirling just place a piece of paper on top for a few seconds and lift straight up.  It will have to sit a couple more minutes for the paint to adhere to the paper now.

    During all this painting I kept Eli busy with a little sensory bin of big uncooked noodles and bright colored plastic animals. He mainly liked dropping them all over the floor.

     After the painting has sat a few minutes just take a squeegee and squeegee all the shaving cream off. The paint stays behind, and you have your picture!  First we tried the watercolor paper. Then we repeated with several colors of construction paper, and it worked too.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Texas A&M Press Remembers University's First Full-Time Female Professor, Author

Texas A&M University Press mourns the passing of Betty Unterberger, the first woman to join Texas A&M at the rank of full professor with tenure. Unterberger taught history for 36 years until her retirement in 2004.

She passed away May 15 in her College Station home, at the age of 89.

Unterberger, hired by the late General James Earl Rudder in 1968, was also the author of The United States, Revolutionary Russia, and the Rise of Czechoslovakia, published by Texas A&M University Press in 2000. Her classic study of the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russiaexamines Woodrow Wilson’s direction of U.S.policy toward Czechoslovakia, as it sought liberation in the early 20th Century.
Rudder asked Unterberger to help internationalize the history department and to build a graduate program. She became the first female in a full professorship at a formerly all-male college.

Unterberger taught Russian foreign policy and Communist China during the Cold War. In 1991, the Collegeof Liberal Arts appointed her to the Patricia and Bookman Peters Professorship in History, which allowed her to accept an exchange professorship at CharlesUniversity in Prague in 1992. While there, she became one of the first Western scholars after the breakup of the Soviet Union to gain access to important historical documents.

Her trip there gave her the idea for her book The United States and the Russian Civil War: The Betty Miller Unterberger Collection of Documents which she felt was her “capstone research contribution to the field of American foreign affairs.”

Following her retirement from Texas A&M, she received a personal letter of appreciation for her service from Leon Panetta, the former director of the CIA.

Underberger received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse Universityin 1943, a Master of Arts degree from HarvardUniversity in 1946 and a doctorate degree from Duke University in 1950. She began college on a forensics scholarship, but a citizenship course with Syracuse’s only female professor at the time incited her true passion.

A memorial service in her honor was held Sunday, May 20 at 2:00 in the All Faiths Chapel on campus.

Memorial donations may be made to the Texas A&M Foundation for the Betty Miller Unterberger Memorial Account, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840. A Facebook page has also been set up for those who knew Unterberger to share their memories and photos.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Celebrations, a Convention, and some Colored Toast

   Wow. I must be a bit sleep deprived as I can't remember much of what I did the past 2 weeks.   As always we have kept ourselves quit busy though! Last weekend was full of excitement as we attended a wedding, celebrated Mother's Day,  and attended a graduation.  The girls loved the wedding!  They really enjoyed the reception though. At first they were content to run around the dance floor with some of the other kids there, but after watched the bride and groom dance they thought they should do that too.  I feel sorry for the little boy they kept trying to teach to dance with them. His older brother sat down (and did not get up again after dancing started), but this little guy kept trying to play.  (For some reason blogger isn't letting me upload videos, so I added the youtube links instead.)

Video: Girls chasing little boys

     On Sunday we went to lunch with Nathan's parents to celebrate Mother's Day. This was probably the most frustrating lunch I have ever had! We sat outside since there was no room inside; which was fine since it was nice out. Except when we had to wait for probably an hour or so to order and get our food. I don't know how long it really was, but it was long enough that my arms and nose were sun burned and we barely made it to graduation.  Graduation was uneventful. Nathan and I stayed in the lobby area where we could still see, but let Eli play a bit. The girls went and sat with Grandma.  I don't really know what they thought of it all, but Eli especially liked finding anything he thought he could destroy. He wanted to knock over an easel, tear down some paper hats, and empty a program basket.  Keeping him out of trouble made the ceremony seem like an eternity.

     This week we have done all our usual stuff as well as having a BBQ with some of Nathan's co-workers.  We were surprised to learn that some of the kids we see at story time belong to someone Nathan works with! Not only that, but they don't live far from us. Of course then when we went to story time this week they weren't there, but maybe next week.  Nathan left for St. Louis Wednesday evening. He was going to work during the day and attend the Gaming Convention in the evenings, so he could promote the board game he helped produce.  If he hasn't told you about it, it is called Biomechanic Dino Battles (BDB). If you want more info I would look it up on facebook or boardgamegeek or just ask Nathan, he is happy to talk about it.  We had been pretty busy earlier this week, and I wanted to make sure we did something fun, so Thursday morning I let the girls paint their toast. Not with real paint, but with colored milk and new paintbrushes.

I think he is trying to drink the cat water; kept him busy until he spilt it.

     We also rode bikes and made it to the park!

I couldn't get them all to look at the same time!