Test Your House for GERMS

This idea comes from parents.com and it is crazy awesome. I am somewhat of a “germ aware” person and find myself often wondering what kinds of gross things are living on the surfaces of things like play places, sinks, shopping cart handles, etc. This post has a way to make your own gels to grow bacterial cultures. Nerdy? You bet. And super cool.

Make Your Own Bacterial Plates

Supplies Needed:

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 packet of unflavored gelatin (1 oz.)
  • several plastic or paper cups
  • plastic wrap
  • cotton swabs

How to:

Step 1: Prepare your cups. I used 6 cups. You really could do more, though. I cut my cups down so they were shorter – maybe 2″ tall. You could even go shorter than that if you would like – my cups were plastic and tended to rip more easily when they were cut down shorter than that.

Step 2: Boil your water. I microwaved the cup in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup. It took about a minute – you can literally watch the water start to boil in about that time.

Step 3: Mix in your sugar and gelatin and pour into your prepared cups.

Step 4: Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate your cups for 24 hours to allow your “gels” to firm up. And they will really, truly be firm. If they are squishy at all, give them some more time.

Step 5: Go around your house and find “questionable” things to swab. The original poster had found that her houseplant was actually the grossest place in her house, while the toilet and the inside of her daughter’s mouth were not very gross. Be creative! Here is what I tried:

The smudged one was a second swab I took of the sink – I took one “before” cleaning it with Scrubbing Bubbles, and one after. I’m always curious if the cleaners that say they kill 99% of everything actually work. We also have kids over here often to play, and they almost always gravitate to the piano, so I thought that would be interesting too. I wanted to test our plant for myself too. I also wanted to try the doorknob to our pantry since that is one that gets high usage. And, of course, I left one as a control. “Control” just basically means you leave it alone to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with the gel that you made. I actually cheated a little bit and swabbed that one with a “clean” cotton swab, just because I wanted to make sure the cotton swab itself wasn’t a carrier.

Step 6: Recover with plastic wrap and leave in a dark, warm spot for 4-5 days.The first day there will be very little to nothing that happens. Don’t despair! Once the colonies get growing, they will grow quickly.

Our Results (in grossest to least gross order):

1. The Houseplant (gross!)

2. The Piano Keys

3. The Uncleaned Sink

4. (And this is a VERY distant fourth – there was practically nothing) The Cleaned Sink

5. The Doorknob

6. The Control

Wow! I will definitely wipe off our piano keys. Sick. And I will NOT eat food off of my houseplant if it falls on it. *Shudder*

That was a LOT of fun, and will definitely be something we try again. What would you swab?

tree pic

Easy Paint Chip Art

A several months ago, I found a picture on Pinterest where someone had taken paint sample chips and cut them in circles, painted some straight reed-looking lines on a canvas, put the circles over the top of the “reeds” and – VOILA! – art.

We had decided to paint our living room and kitchen and I had acquired a TON of paint samples in the process. Some people are “color choosing” gifted – I am not one of them. I also had a fairly large canvas that I had found at goodwill several years ago that needed some love. I called my friend Becky, who is a VERY talented scrapper, to see if she had some circle-shaped punches I could borrow. She sent a few over and it all began.

I painted the background of the canvas a light color, and decided that instead of several straight “reeds” I wanted to have more of a curved branch look and painted that on as well.

Then I took some time to organize my colors and arrange them onto the canvas before gluing any of them on. In order to keep it from feeling like too much of a color explosion, I decided that I wanted the top & left to be concentrated with lighter colors, and have the bottom and right be concentrated with darker colors, but still to have some colors (pops of pink, etc.) scattered throughout.

Once I had the colors where I wanted them, my mom (who was in town and helping me with a bunch of projects) and I used glue stick to glue them all down. Then Mom painted on several layers of Mod Podge to keep it all sealed together.

There you have it! An easy, personalized art piece.

Enjoy! :)

GV 9

Glowing Volcano!

This is a twist on the classic “vinegar and baking soda” volcano – it GLOWS. Super cool.

Here is what you need:

  • Highlighter (yellow is best)
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Black Light
  • Glass Containers

That is IT. I found this idea from Play at Home Mom and thought the kiddos would love it. And me too. :)

Step 1: Clip the back off of the highlighter. Supposedly you can put pressure with scissors to get it to “pop” off, but I ended up finally using an exacto knife after I almost broke my scissors.

Step 2: Get the color out of the highlighter. Just take the “ink” part of the highlighter and put it into water. If you had a hard time opening the highlighter and didn’t want to cut into it, you can just hang the highlighter so the tip is facing downward into the water.

I actually squeezed some of the highlighter ink out when the tube was soaked in water, and then let the rest of the color get out into the water by letting it soak. I was a little excited to hurry it along…..

Step 3: After the tube is basically white from the ink coming out, find a dark room and hook up your black light.

Cool!

Step 4: Make your “volcano” liquid by pouring some of your highlighter water into a container with some vinegar. Stick your volcano liquid container into another container to catch the “lava” as it flows out. You don’t want messes!

As you can see, the color diluted down quite a bit when I added the vinegar. Keep watching though – it turned out just fine.

Step 5: Dump some baking soda into your “volcano liquid” and enjoy the show!

We had some more vinegar and baking soda on hand to alternate so we could keep the fun going.

There you go! Super easy cleanup and a very fun experiment.

I saved the rest of the highlighter water that we didn’t use in another container so we could try it again another time.

Enjoy! :)

RG 16

Make Your Own Rain Gauge

We had a couple of really good storms here last week – the kind that dump down rain for quite a while. Since we’ve been in a drought for a year and a half now, rain is a big deal. Both times I checked the official rainfall expecting to see at least an inch of rain, give or take, and I was shocked to see the “official” amount was listed as 0.25″ and 0.08″ of rain. The official gauge is across town, and apparently the storms missed that area. I did find one website that has people self-report rainfall, and the estimates in my area were more in the 1″ range. But it made me think – I need a rain gauge. I had griped about the rainfall measurements on facebook too and one of my cousins mentioned that I should just make one as a project with the kids – that was enough for me! Great minds think alike. :)

I started scouring the internet for how to make your own rain gauge, and some fairly complicated (or, at least, multi-step) plans came up, and even though some of them had sand in the bottom of the gauge to keep it from falling over, we get some crazy winds here and I was pretty sure that it would just fall over in the first storm and we’d have a mess.

Then I found this idea from the Franklin Institute website. Any place that is dedicated to and promotes Benjamin Franklin has to have good ideas, right? I modified it just slightly to make it work a little better.

Here is what you need:

  • A wire coat hanger
  • A wide-mouthed glass jar (I used a queso jar)
  • A sharpie
  • A ruler
  • Packing Tape
  • Pliers, or similar, to help you unbend the coat hanger

That’s it! The gauge itself is simple. Take your glass jar and your ruler. Line the “0” of your ruler up with the bottom of the glass jar and mark with the sharpie every so often (I did every 1/4″). Then write in some numbers so you can easily see some of your major measurements (1/2″, 1″, etc.).

I wanted my “measuring” to be visible on the back side so I wrote my numbers backwards so that when you are looking “through” the glass, you can see the numbers the right way. If you are happy with the numbers on the front of the jar, you can just write them the normal way.

Take a strip of packing tape that is as long as your jar is tall and put it over your numbers. This will help to keep your numbers from rubbing off as you take it in and out of your rain gauge holder, and will also keep them from rubbing off.

Congratulations! You now have a rain gauge! But where to put it?

That is where the coat hanger comes in. This part is going to sound a little more complicated in writing than it is in real life, so just take a good look at the pictures as you are going along and you will be able to figure it out easily. You are just basically going to use the coat hanger to make a sort of cup holder for the rain gauge. You need support on the bottom and around the sides, and you need a way to hang it up. You will are just bending a wire to do that. It really is not too tough.

Take your handy pliers (if needed) and twist apart the wire on the top to open your hanger up. Mine was a thicker hanger and the pliers definitely helped to get it started. Now you can start to make the “cradle” for the gauge.

After you have untwisted it, start from the hook side and go down to the first major bend. Open it up so the long part of your hanger makes an “L” shape (or 90 degree angle) from the hook part of the hanger. With the hook end up, place your gauge onto the long part of the hanger so it is touching the hook end of the hanger. The part underneath your gauge is what will be the bottom part of your gauge cradle. Bend the long side up so it runs parallel to the hook part. If you took your gauge off of the hanger it should look like three sides of a rectangle – two long and one shorter. The shorter one, again, is the bottom of the cradle.

From this point on you will be working with the long portion you just bent up. Keeping that part running parallel to the hook part, measure up a couple of inches and bend your wire sideways. If you had your hook piece on a wall, the other end should face either directly to the right or directly to the left. Take this part and start bending it into as much of a spiral as you can around the rain gauge. Mine ended up going around about 1-3/4 times. I had to keep sliding the gauge in and out to make sure that it fit snugly in the wire, but not so tight that I couldn’t get it out again. The idea is to make a safe place for the gauge to hang up so it isn’t blown over, but you have to be able to take it out to dump your rain water out after a storm.

Your gauge holder is now done! Wahoo! I took mine to my back fence and hammered some nails on either side of it to support it along one of my fence boards. As you can tell, my fence has seen better days so I didn’t feel too bad about hammering it into the board directly. You could also find more creative ways to fasten it if you’re worried about your fence, or if you think you may want to move it to another spot someday.

When you are looking for a location to put the rain gauge, make sure it isn’t directly under something like a tree or a roofline that would cause it to give an inaccurate reading. It’s good for it to be in the open. That being said, we’ll probably need to move ours up so the gauge itself is near the top or over the fence so the fence board itself isn’t blocking rain.

I’m planning on printing out a sheet, or having a notebook where we can record the daily rainfall and have our own household annual rainfall recording. Go us! :)

There you go! Super simple rain gauge. Fairly easy (and cool-looking) gauge holder. Now we just need to add some rain and we’re in business.

Enjoy! :)

DSC_0004

Oh, the Places You’ll Go – Future Graduation Gift Idea

Since the end of the school year is FAST approaching (hooray!), I wanted to implement and pass this awesome idea along. This one comes from Denise @ A Sprinkle of This. I LOVE it. Seriously, this ranks high up in fun gift ideas in my book.

For a baby shower gift, she gave the Mom-to-be a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” for the Mom to give to the future baby as a graduation gift. Her idea was to have the Mom sneak the copy of the book to all of the child’s teachers from Pre-K through high school and have them sign a quick note, and then the parents then give this almost as a “teacher yearbook” to the child. That is so cool.

Also, if your kids (or grandkids) are already later in their school years, you could get some of their favorite teachers and some of their friends to sign it. I think that would be an awesome idea too.

I’m taking this idea to use for MY kids right now, but I may use this as a baby gift in the future as well (think nieces/nephews/friends/grandkids/etc.). My oldest is in 2nd grade and we have lived in the same place since he was in pre-K (miraculously enough), so I think I can still backtrack for his teachers. My middle one is in pre-K, so it will be easy to start this with him. And my youngest still hasn’t started school yet, so we should be good to go for her.

I just ordered three hardcover copies of the book (one for each child) from Amazon for $10.79 each (no, I don’t get anything if you buy from the link – I just wanted to make it easy for you to find). This qualified me for the free shipping, which saved me over $26 over buying it at the normal price with tax at the store. Good deal!

Thank you, Denise, for making a graduation gift that much easier for me to figure out. As long as I don’t lose the books along the way…… :)

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