Monthly Archives: January 2016

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Young Cultivators Merit Badge: Trash Talk, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,825 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,626 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

Earning our Beginning Level Merit Badge for recycling and proper garbage disposal fired up my nephew, Andrew, so much that he was determined to earn his Cleaning Up/Trash Talk Intermediate Level Merit Badge posthaste.

He was garbage obsessed.

A stinkage fanatic. A debris addict. A litter king. A rubbish extremist. A trash junkie.

Ha! Get it? Trash junkie? Ah, I slay myself.

Anyway, after our newfound knowledge gathered from the local recycling center, the dump, and reading his handy-dandy pamphlet cover to cover, Andy was the man for the job. He recruited me as his Super-secret Garbage Spy Left-hand Sidekick Girl (his title), and we got to work infiltrating the family.

First off, he brought in his shiny, new recycling container that the friendly folks at the recycling center gave us, and plopped it dead center in the middle of the living room.

photo by epSos .de via Wikimedia Commons

(Mom quickly nixed that idea, so it moved to the kitchen.)

Andy was not satisfied though; he thought we could do better. So, using a small laundry hamper and an oversized Easter basket …

photo of The Longaberger Basket Factory by Barry Haynes via Wikimedia Commons

(not quite this big)

… he painstakingly made DIY labels for his Super-smart Recycling Center (his title), and soon enough, he had three stations:

  • Paper
  • Plastics
  • Glass

We were going to make one for cans, but the family had recently give up their soda habit, so we decided against it. Yay, family! I shall reward them with some fresh-squeezed kale juice soon. Or maybe we won’t push them that far quite yet …

I did remind Andy we could make a compost container too, so once again we were off on an upcycling quest. We took an aluminum coffee can with a lid and decorated it with scraps of paper and magazine cutouts, collage style.

photo by BrandEvangelist via Wikimedia Commons

Note to self: giving small boys access to glue is an adventure in babysitting.

Andy labeled it Compost for Auntie Jane’s Eggs Chickens.

At least, I think that’s what he labeled it.

Is there a badge for legible handwriting he can work on soon? No? Phooey.

As for me, being his Super-secret Garbage Spy Left-hand Sidekick Girl, I was put to work spying and reporting back to him, the Super-secret Top Boss Recycling Hero Man (his title). We spent a whole afternoon hiding behind furniture, sneaking in the laundry room, and trying to fit in the kitchen cupboards.

Note to self: You aren’t as young (or flexible) as you used to be, Janey, my girl.

If we saw a family member nonchalantly toss a recyclable into the regular old trash, we were to report to one another immediately.

Then we were to tickle them until they begged for mercy and charge them a quarter (his plan).

OR:

We were to lovingly and calmly instruct and remind them of the new household rules (my plan).

We compromised and went with lovingly and calmly instructing and reminding them of our household rules and then charging them a quarter.

Or was it lovingly and calmly tickling them? Well, no matter. Let’s just say, the family got on board asap. And in no time at all, Andy had earned his badge and the family was upgraded to Super-hero Recycling Experts (my title).

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Handwriting

Well, darn—I missed it!

Who knew?

Now I do, and you will too …

National Handwriting Day is celebrated (by silly, old-fashioned letter-writers like me) on January 23, the birthday of the American Revolutionary leader and first signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, John Hancock.

Here he is, looking ever so dapper with his white wig and feather pen:

Portrait of John Hancock (1737-1793) by John Singleton Copley, 1765, via Wikipedia

This unlikely holiday was declared by the charismatic Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in 1977 “to acknowledge the history and influence of penmanship.”

A mission dear to my heart.

Admittedly, my main motivation for writing by hand is nostalgia, a deep desire to preserve the tangibility of pen and paper in an increasingly digital era. But, it turns out, handwriting is worth much more than its weight in historical charm. Rock-solid research indicates that the trend toward phasing out penmanship in favor of touch-screen and keyboard proficiency should be carefully reconsidered.

Just the facts, ma’am:

  • According to the information aficionados at Hanover Research, teaching handwriting skills boosts cognitive development and motor skills in school children and can also help improve writing skills and reading comprehension.
  • Another study, led by University of Washington Professor Virginia Berninger, proved that printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard involve different brain patterns and lead to different results. When kids in the study wrote by hand, they actually produced more words faster than they did on a keyboard, and they also expressed more ideas, suggesting that handwriting is associated with heightened creativity.
  • The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard, a study published last year by researchers from Princeton and UCLA, showed that adults also benefit from handwriting when it comes to taking notes. “When laptops are used solely to take notes, they may be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing,” say the authors. “In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.”

I may not be a linguistic expert, but I interpret those findings to also imply that handwriting letters trumps typing every time. Anecdotally, at least, I’ve found that penning engages the heart more profoundly than poking at keys, and recipients relish the results.

Engraving of “The Love Letter,” painted by Edward Henry Corbould via Wikimedia Commons

Haven’t handwritten in a while? Give it a go in honor of the recent holiday, and try a touch of whimsical lettering for an extra dose of fun.

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Today’s Recipe: Roasted Radishes & Parsnips w/Lemon Butter

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Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Amy Cloud Chambers!!!

Amy Cloud Chambers (Song sparrow, #6098) has received a certificate of achievement in Stitching & Crafting for earning a Beginner & Intermediate Level Knitting Merit Badge!

“My mother taught me to knit many years ago, but I never really tried to finish anything (music took first place in my interests). But now I have grown very interested and wish I had paid more attention. I started with a simple garter-stitch scarf in stripes, using up yarn from Mom’s stash. I had in mind a dear lady from the nursing home, which would also help motivate me to working on another badge. It took hours to complete (way beyond the three-hour requirement). But in actuality, this project propelled me into a love of handiwork long forgotten since my childhood. And although I finished it after some more advanced projects that I tackled for Christmas presents, it was a project of the heart for two reasons. 1) Because of the person for whom it was made, who I will tell more about in another badge application; and 2) Because it brought handiwork back into my life after years of being busy with other things. This simple project became a source of great joy!

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I think it turned out very well, and certainly, I have received very kind compliments from my Henhouse and Farmgirl Connection forum sisters. They seem to really like the colors, and I like the long fringe. It’s kind of glamorous for my dear friend, who will receive it as part of a Valentine’s package of goodies.

After I tackled the project for my Beginner badge, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to knit Christmas gifts for family and friends. I chose more advanced projects that would allow me to experiment with new stitch techniques and fibers. The results were mostly very lovely and I learned so very much about about the art and craft of knitting. I knitted two sets of scarves and arm warmers for my very cosmopolitan brother and sister-in-law, who are always on their iPhones. For these projects, I learned to use a circular needle, knit cables, and work with mohair- and alpaca-blend yarns. For my mother, I made a lap afghan, which introduced me to so many new stitches and techniques that I started and ripped it out eight times before I got the hang of it! Pictures of these projects are included. I also made my poor daughter what may be the ugliest sweater vest ever created, which taught me a valuable lesson about making yarn substitutes. The cats received knitted catnip fish, which taught me to knit with double-pointed needles. I even knitted a basket out of jute twine to hold the various food jars for my granddaughter’s hermit crabs, a most unusual project.

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All of the gifts were well received, even my dear daughter’s ugly sweater, which gave us all a laugh. The cats have torn their gifts to shreds, but I can’t really tell if the hermit crabs like their basket.”

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Star Sand

Just when you thought you knew about the world …

Photo by Geomr via Wikimedia Commons

Look closely.

That’s star-shaped sand, my friend.

Look a little closer, and you can see its splendid starry points:

Photo by Okinawa Soba (Rob) via Flickr

Okay, scientifically speaking, these little lovelies aren’t actually sand. They are the tiny, empty shells of ocean protozoa called Baclogypsina sphaerulata.

Say that three times (or even once).

When the micro-creatures die, their exoskeletons are washed ashore amid grains of actual sand on only a handful of beaches on earth, and they’re all in the vicinity of Okinawa, Japan.

According to legend from Okinawa’s Iriomote Island, the “sand” stars are Hoshizuna, the fallen sky children of the North Star and the Southern Cross. Long ago, the tiny stars sprinkled into the sea of Okinawa, where they were killed by a sea serpent and continue to wash ashore as miraculous star-shaped particles of “sand.”

 

 

 

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