Sunday, June 21, 2009

Never Underestimate the Mind of a Child

On Friday night we were at the Temecula Children's Museum for a special Friday night event in the Inventor's Series called The Great Build. The objective was to link up different shaped PVC pipes together and shoot miniature marshmallows through them. Adults and children were in the dining room creating wild-looking contraptions and ended up competing against one another shooting for distance.

There was one group of families that decided to take it to another level. The contraptions they made were amazing and they could shoot the marshmallows so far that we decided to take the inventions outside to shoot the marshmallows across the ravine.

The kids and parents were super excited and their competitveness grew once we got to the fence that bordered the ravine. Suddenly, the wind kicked up and gusts blew right in our faces. So, everyone thought that it would be a good idea to use the wind in our favor to shoot for the ultimate distance. The marshmallows went flying! Then, people started taking their contraptions apart to redesign them to make them work even better. What fun! After awhile, though, the marshmallows were getting too wet to shoot because they landed too many times on the wet grass.

At this point, I asked the kids what we could do to solve the problem without getting new marshmallows. Everyone looked at me with priceless, blank expressions on their faces. So, I said, "What if we go inside and put one of the marshmallows in the microwave for 30 seconds? What would happen to the marshmallow? Also, would it then shoot farther than before or not at all? Then this adorable six-year-old, named Kirra, immediately came up with an answer. She explained that the marshmallow would expand in the microwave and it would not shoot as far because it would become a different shape in the microwave. Then, a father of another child said, "Well, what happens to sugar when it's heated? and his son said, "It melts!". So I said, "It looks like we have another competition. Let's go inside and test our theories." So, we all walked back inside the museum (there must have been about 15 of us), and gathered around the microwave. I put one of the wet marshmallows on a paper towel
and set the timer for 30 seconds. Everyone was watching closely and shouting, "It's going to melt!, No! It's going to expand! Watch!" Then suddenly, it grew. Everyone's eyes grew, too. "The little girl is right!" they said. We all counted down the last 10 seconds out loud together and when I took it out, it was obvious that Kirra was right. The father who thought it would melt was actually humbled by this brilliant six-year-old and admitted that he thought for sure he was right and that he believed, at the time, Kirra couldn't have possibly understood her theory before we tested it. He learned something from this little girl: never underestimate the mind of a child. I think that, now, he looks at his son a little differently, too, because he then started asking him how to design a better marshmallow shooting contraption to make the next marshmallow shoot even farther than the last.

Congratulations, Kirra. Not only was your theory proven to be correct, but you humbled at least one adult who confidently thought he knew the answer. Good job using your creative reasoning abilities and being confident even in the face of an over-confident (and wrong) adult!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 Annual Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival

On June 6, we went to the Temecula Valley Balloon Festival. We heard about it last July, just after we moved there, and it sounded so exciting that it became the one annual event that we've anticipated all year. It became one of those things that we've looked forward to so much that, if we only got to see it one time in our lives, we would be happy. As it turned out, it was worth every moment of the anticipation and more.

As I've said in my previous posts, Temecula is an amazing city. There is a wonderful sense of feeling connected and being involved with the community is so fulfilling, personally, that we feel like, not only are we a part of it, but it has become a part of us. To someone who hasn't experienced Temecula, I would suggest that they go to the Balloon Festival because it exemplifies, in a nutshell, exactly what Temecula is all about.

The Balloon Festival was located off Hwy 79, in the heart of Wine Country and overlooking the rolling hills, at Lake Skinner. It's a very large area away from the city and set in the hills away from it all. We've never traveled up there before, so it was nice to see the old wagon trails, an abandoned one-room schoolhouse, and other remnants of history that were left behind during the pioneer days. The road is peaceful and winds through time as it travels through the city, Wine Country, then into the quiet, beautiful hills. As we got closer, we ran into some traffic, so it took us about an hour to get to where we could park the car at about 6:00.

Let me say, before I go on, that before we started our drive up Hwy 79, we stopped off at our favorite place, Old Town Temecula, for a few hours. They were having a Japanese Children's Matsuri event on Main St., right behind the place that is dear to our hearts, the Temecula Children's Museum. It was a wonderful experience and, of course, we spent time with our friends there and enjoyed some Japanese culture with food, children's activities, and photo opportunities.

So, back to the Balloon and Wine Festival. When we got there, the weather was in the low 60's, so we were grateful that we brought jackets and blankets to sit on. We were all set up to enjoy the concerts, the sights, and the flavors of the event that we've planned on for so long.

Combining wine tasting and wonderful food with music, Saturday's music featured Sugar Ray, Caitlin Crosby, Patty Smyth and Scandal, and Starship. Pechanga Indian Casino was one of the major sponsors and they set up one of the two stages for the concerts. The festival also offered wine and food pairing as a gourmet dining option with four courses prepared by local executive chefs and paired with Temecula's award winning wines.

The kids had a special fair set up near the wine stage and the balloon launch area. There, they had face painting, a petting zoo, pony rides, exotic animals, air slides, games, and lots of activities that the kids could spend the entire day and night doing if they wanted to.

Above are some pictures of the exotic animal exhibit. Along with a these beautiful birds, they also had a baby alligator, a monkey, a 55 lb. snake, a kangaroo, a huge iguana, and other wild-looking animals.

After we spent some time in the kids area, we walked over to the vendor area, which was huge. There were hundreds of vendors set up in white tents that were selling everything from art, bath and beauty products, body art, clothing, collectibles, children's stuff, fashion accessories, health care, home decoration, home improvement, insurance and realtors, jewelry, non-profits, outdoor stuff, prepackaged food, sunglasses, wine related items, and other miscellaneous stuff. This area was like a big outdoor swap meet!

As it got later, we decided it would be a good idea to head back over to our blanket and wait for the balloon glow. We were on the grass right in front of one of the concert stages, so we got a good spot. The night sky looked wild as the balloonists unloaded the baskets and balloons from their vans. The corporate balloonists that were setting up were: Cayman Islands, Embassy Suites Temecula, Farmers Insurance, Lake Havasu City, Pechanga, Smokey Bear, The Grape Escape Balloon Adventure, and Wilson Creek (who had a champagne bottle-shaped balloon).

Quick, move the blanket! The balloons are going up! What we didn't realize was that one of the balloons was going up on top of our blanket, so we had to back everything up about 20 feet. We had no idea how good our spot was until this started happening!

Because of our good positioning, though, I was able to get a couple of pictures of the balloonists firing up the ballons - from the inside! As you can imagine, it was freakin' hot in there! Then, the magic started happening:

Within a few minutes all the balloons were up and being fired along with the beat of the music from the concert on stage. This was amazing!! It's difficult to explain the magnitude of the excitement here. Unfortunately, the pictures don't show how excited the crowd was, the sound of the music, the energy of the balloons, and the build up to this. This is just one of those experiences that you really need to be there for to fully understand how magnificent this experience was.

It all ended so quickly, too. When we walked back to the van, we noticed a sea of cars, all trying to get out at the same time. There must have been several thousand of them. Instead of trying to move the van into a line, we decided to put the seats down and relax - for a couple of hours - until the traffic started to move. In the meantime, I got couple of pictures. The first one was taken from the roof of the van with my camera set at 3200 ISO with no flash. It is the champagne bottle balloon; the last balloon standing. The next picture is a small portion of the sea of cars all waiting to make their way back through the hills toward the city on the two-lane highway.

This was a truly unbelievable and unforgettable experience. As long as we live, we will look back at this with a smile and be so grateful that we had the opportunity to experience this together as a family. Maybe next year, we'll be able to go again. If not, then we hope that all of our friends and family will be able to go because, like I said, it was an amazingly unforgettable experience that we will smile about remembering for as long as we live and we know that others will feel the same. Not bad for only $20 per person, no matter what room you might have in your budget, especially in this rough economy; the bills can wait.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ashley's Promotion to Brownies

Last night, Ashley and some of her Daisy troop sisters were promoted to Brownies. They also had an award ceremony for cookie and fall product sales. To our surprise, three girls in our troop took first, second, and third places for most cookies sold in our council area! The first and second place winners were only separated by one box! Congratulations, Troop 547!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Goodbye, GM Michael Moore

Goodbye, GM
by Michael Moore

June 1, 2009

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company's body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with -- dare I say it -- joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know -- who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let's be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we've allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we're going to have automobiles, let's have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories -- that simply isn't true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that's a start. Please, please, please don't save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don't throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front -- and the back -- seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it's over. It's a new day and a new century. The President -- and the UAW -- must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Michael Moore

Good Stuff to Know!!

This is pretty cool. Good stuff to know!!!



                DID YOU KNOW? 
[]Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to pick the little 'stringy things' off of it. That's how the primates do it. 

[]Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.     

Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. 
It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!     

[]Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.  Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.  Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. 
It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.     

[]To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of  spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.     

[]For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.     

[]Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste  of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.     

[]Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them  in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 
for 15 minutes!!!  Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. Yummm!     

 []Reheat Pizza 
Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on  the cooking channel and it really works.     

 Easy Deviled Eggs []
Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.     

[] Expanding Frosting 
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving. 

 Reheating refrigerated bread []
To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.     

[] Newspaper weeds away 
Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and for-get about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.     

Broken Glass 
Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.     

[]No More Mosquitoes 
Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.     

Squirrel Away! 
To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.     

[]Flexible vacuum 
To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.     

Reducing Static Cling 

Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and .... ta da! ... static is gone.     

[]Measuring Cups 
Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.     

Foggy Windshield? 
Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car When the window s fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!     

[] Reopening envelope 
If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals    easily.     

  Conditioner []
Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.     

[]Goodbye Fruit Flies 
To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!     

 Get Rid of Ants []
Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works  and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!     

The heating unit went out on my dryer! The gentleman that fixes things around the house for us told us that he wanted to show us something and he went over to the dryer and pulled out the lint filter. It was clean. (I always clean the lint from the filter after every load clothes.) He told us that he wanted to show us something; he took the filter over to the sink and ran hot water over it. The lint filter is made of a 
   mesh material . I'm sure you know what your dryer's lint filter looks like. Well . the hot water just sat on top of the mesh! It didn't go through it at all! He told us that dryer sheets cause a film over that mesh that's what burns out the heating unit. You can't SEE the film, but it's there. It's what is in the dryer sheets to make your clothes soft and static free ... that nice fragrance too. You know how they can feel  waxy when you take them out of the box ... well this stuff builds up on your clothes and on your lint screen. This is also what causes dryer units to potentially burn your  house down with it! He said the best way to keep your dryer working for a very long    time (and to keep your electric bill lower) is to take that filter out and wash it with  hot soapy water and an old toothbrush (or other brush) at least every six months. He said that makes the life of the dryer at least twice as long! How about that!?!  Learn something new everyday! I certainly didn't know dryer sheets would do that.       So, I thought I'd share!