Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to Play the Party Game "Mennonite Manners"

This crazy game is fun for all ages and is sure to be a hit at your next party.

Like many folk games passed from friend to friend, Mennonite Manners goes by different names. Some call it “Mennonite Madness,” or even “Midnight Madness” (probably because of confusion about the original name). Whatever you call it, this party game will keep you laughing, moving and shouting. Be careful that you don’t disturb the neighbors when you play this game!

Any number can play, but the game works best for 4-12 players. It’s really quite simple. All you need is an 8 ½ by 11-inch sheet of paper for each player, one pencil and one die (that’s singular for dice). Sit or stand around a table and place the pencil in the middle of the table. Clear the space, because it’s going to get crazy.

Everyone takes turns rolling the die. When someone rolls a 6—let’s say it’s John—he grabs the pencil and begins writing numbers from 1 to 100 on his sheet of paper. At the same time, everyone else continues to roll the die as fast as they can, because now the pressure is on.

If Sarah rolls a 6 next, she grabs the pencil from John and begins writing numbers from 1 to 100 on her sheet of paper. But watch out! She may only write one or two numbers before someone else rolls a 6 and grabs the pencil from her. Everyone (except the person with the pencil) keeps trying to roll a 6 and grab the pencil. When John finally gets the pencil back, he picks up writing numbers where he left off, trying desperately to be the first one to get to 100.

By now it’s turning into a frenzy, as fingers are flying and stress builds. John is tempted to just scrawl his letters, but that won’t work. Numbers must be legible for a winner to be declared.

One wonders why this game is called “Mennonite Manners,” since there is nothing mannerly about it, and many Mennonites don’t play games with dice. Perhaps “Midnight Madness” is a better name, because it’s a great game to play late at night, and it often resembles madness, especially when the shouting begins.

But the competition is all in good fun, and though you may feel like enemies while playing, evenings around a game table are the stuff of lifetime memories.

Four Easy and Delicious Ways to Cook Vegetables

Enjoy a variety of vegetables every day with these simple tips.

Everyone knows vegetables are packed with vitamins and fiber. Nutritionists tell us we should eat a variety of different colors and types of veggies to make sure we get appropriate nutrients and disease-fighting benefits, but it can be a challenge to find easy and yet tasty ways to fix them. Here are some simple ways to include veggies in your meal.

Vegetable Stir Fry
Choose fresh, raw veggies such as onions (green, white or yellow), peppers, celery, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, and eggplant. Wash and chop finely. Heat three or four tablespoons of canola oil in wok or large frying pan on high. Test the temperature by dropping a small piece of onion into the oil. When it sizzles, the oil is ready. Drop the vegetables into the oil all at once and stir constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon until tender crisp, about five minutes. Add a few shakes of stir fry sauce. A variety of sauces are available in the Asian food section of the grocery store or in an Asian food store. Stir fry makes a great side dish, or you can combine it with meat and serve with rice for a complete meal.

Oven Roasted Vegetables
Root vegetables, such as turnips, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, are commonly used for this delicious dish, but you can also use other veggies you commonly keep on hand, such as onions, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Cut veggies into fairly large pieces and place into a large bowl with a lid. In a separate bowl, mix about a half a cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of mixed seasonings. Several spice mixes are available, and you may wish you keep several jars on hand for variety. Drizzle the oil and seasonings over the vegetables, cover bowl, and shake well. Spread the vegetables on a large jelly roll pan or cake pan and bake at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

Vegetable Soup
This is a great way to use up all kinds of vegetables in your fridge. Start this in the morning and let it cook all day, or fix it on the stove in about an hour. Empty one 46-ounce can of tomato or vegetable juice into large cooking pot or crock pot. Fill the can with water and add to the juice. Add a variety of chopped raw veggies, such as potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, peas, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, or green beans. If you wish, add one-half cup raw barley. If using a stove, bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for an hour. If using a crock pot, simmer on low for eight hours or high for four hours. NOTE: If frozen vegetables are used, cut cooking time in half and use quick-cooking barley.

Say the word salad, and most people think of iceberg lettuce, grated carrots and chopped tomatoes drenched in dressing. For a healthier alternative, start with Romaine or green leaf lettuce and add a variety of chopped raw vegetables, such as carrots, green onions, celery, green pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, and peas. To further increase your nutritional variety and enhance the taste, add fruit such as apples, raisins, berries, or mandarin oranges, and garnish with nuts or cheese. For a healthy dressing high in Omega-3’s, mix together two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice.

What Do Squirrels Eat? A fun experiment that teaches kids observation and the scientific method

Observing what squirrels eat is a fun way to teach even the youngest kids principles of scientific observation; plus, the experiment is perfect for homeschoolers or a school science fair project.

If you’re like many people, you consider squirrels pests and would rather they not take up residence in your yard. Why not take advantage of these backyard residents by creating a fun science experiment for your kids?

For this experiment, kids will answer the question: What kind of food do the squirrels in my yard like the best? Kids learn the basic principles of observing and recording data, and you may discover the best way to keep these furry creatures out of your birdfeeder.

Step One: Research Squirrels’ Eating Habits
Check out books from the library about squirrels and use the internet to research what squirrels like to eat. Make notes from your research in a notebook. List several foods you want to test. Some foods to choose from include peanuts, corn, apples, bread, sunflower seeds, millet, or other grains or fruit. (Note: do not use nuts in the shell, because squirrels will steal these for their cache; use shelled nuts only.) What do squirrels NOT like to eat? Brainstorm some foods that squirrels typically do not eat, such as safflower seed or pure suet.

Step Two: Construct a Hypothesis about Squirrels’ Eating Habits
What do you think the squirrels will like to eat the best? Choose five that you would like to test, and have your child list the foods in order of preference. Then choose one food that squirrels do not like to eat, as a control for your experiment. In your notebook, make a list of the foods in order of what you think the squirrels will prefer, starting with the one you think the squirrels like best and ending with the control.

Step Three: Set up your Squirrel Food Experiment
Fill six identical containers with the foods you want to test and place them outside where squirrels can easily get to them and you can observe clearly from a window. In your notebook, make a chart listing the foods you are testing and leave plenty of space for tally marks.

Step Four: Observe and Record Your Data
For several days, spend about an hour each day by the window. Watch at different times of the day. Whenever you see squirrel, watch to see what it eats and mark a tally mark on your chart. If it eats corn first, then sunflower seeds, and then corn again, you would put two marks by corn and one mark by sunflower seeds.

Step Five: Compile Your Data and Make Conclusions
List the totals in your notebook. You might want to make a bar chart showing your results. Did the results match your hypothesis? Why or why not? Write your conclusions in your notebook. Write down any questions in your notebook. If you repeated the experiment, what would you do differently? What are some other foods you can test? What else would you like to learn about squirrels? Can you think of more experiments about squirrels?

Now that you’ve learned about the scientific method, you can use these principles to create other experiments and discover exciting things about the world around you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now That's Singing: Our Local Homeschool Choir

These videos will amaze you. Our local homeschool choir sounds more like a college choir. The music they perform is complex and challenging. No pop songs here. My daughter is in the high school choir and performed three awesome songs at a recent concert. Take a few minutes to enjoy good music.

Be Thou My Vision, my favorite hymn (really my favorite song), an old Irish folk melody with meaningful words, arranged by John Ritter:

Gloria Patri, a reverent Renaissance piece, sung in Latin:

Holy Ghost With Light Divine, a beautiful modern classical piece:

To see the entire playlist, including all three choirs, click here.

Our Family Thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving at my sister's house. I love the way our family all gets together. In addition to her family and our mother, we had my mother-in-law, my sister's parents-in-law and brother-in-law. The afternoon included traditional Thanksgiving food, a walk through a surprisingly "wild" area in the middle of the city, a rousing game of Taboo, and viewing the space station and shuttle passing overhead.

For pictures, click here.

From Kooser to Buser: Famous People I've Met

Throughout the past year, I've met several famous people - famous to me, at least. It occurred to me that the first person I met was named Kooser and the last one I met was named Buser. Hopefully the fact that the two names rhyme is NOT a sign that my "streak" is over.

Click here to see the photos.