Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rainy Days, Ant Farms & Homemade Play Dough

Today we planned on heading outdoors to do something fun, but when the rain started to fall, our plans quickly evolved.
First things first. Everyone needs to see a smiling face first thing in the morning, don't you think?
Even if it is on your applesauce.
Really. It makes it so much easier to get started on the right foot, even when you're not getting to go to the zoo as planned.Well, if you can't get to the zoo, why not bring the animals to you? So that's what we did. We made an ant farm. I just noticed the other day at the edge of our driveway at the spot that used to be our pumpkin patch were now mountainous mounds of ants. A bit scary actually!
So, today, having the ants in mind, and not wanting to head to a store in the rain, we looked around for what we could concoct a homemade ant farm from that we already had in house.
We came up with this:
Yes, it is our former wormery (I only let the children keep the worms for a short while to observe and then we put them back in the earth so that we can insure we don't cause their early demise just for our benefit). The tall beaker shaped glass vase is approximately 1 foot high and 5 inches wide. Inside of it I inserted a tall 16 oz. glass tumbler which filled the space within the vase leaving only about 1/2" of depth between the two glasses. I turned the glass with the open drinking side down. That created a wall like area that the ants could live in and form their tunnels. We then carefully scooped several cups of ants including their soil from their monstrosity of an anthill in our yard. The ants and soil were poured so that they would fall down between the two glasses and form an instant ant farm. We then added a nice sized piece of ice cream cone shaped marshmallow candy and placed it just atop the center glass where the ants are forming a mound from the excavated tunnel dirt they are busily removing. We will add some sort of sweet treat every couple of days for food. Candy, or dollops of jellies or jam work well. Last, we covered the top with very very fine netting, that allows ants to breath, but doesn't allow ants to escape. I actually lined our netting with some blue saran wrap with lots of fork tine holes punched in it, to give us an extra barrier of protection. We then secured it all to the outer glass with a rubber band.
The ants began tunneling instantly. It was amazing and mesmerizing. More amazing was that it enraptured a one and three year olds' attention so dramatically. They watched and watched and watched for what seemed like an eternity and then kept coming back to check on their farm. It's a gift that keeps on giving!

Once we did tire slightly of our ants as they became old news, we turned our attention to making home made play-dough. We decided we needed some nice, cheery spring colors. We used the super easy no cook recipe of:
2.5 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water and 1 tsp vegetable oil--
Each color required about 12 total drops of liquid food coloring. Food coloring paste works soooo much better, but I didn't have any on hand. I don't recall the exact formulas to create the saturations/colors we achieved. I just played mixologist and had fun experimenting until we liked what we saw. That's why my hands now look like this.
And yes, I do know about gloves, but I kind of like the odd bruised palms look. It gets me lots of raised eyebrows. Actually, I do like the process of kneading directly with my hands. I find that I can work the color in better that way. Plus it's therapeutic for my deeply bruised ring finger in a "hurts so good" way. Now my hand looks like it feels!
P.S. I love how I managed to take a picture of my hand that makes it look bigger than a five person pizza (see post below). In case you are wondering, no I am not a giant. In fact, I don't even think I have man hands, but to look at this picture, you'd never know that.

Now it's nap time. So we're off to read and then to la-la-land while I catch up on work, get our chicken curry going for dinner & think about how cute Daniel Day-Lewis looked at the Oscars.-

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