Friday, February 28, 2014

Mold-A-Ramas In Tampa

We are nearing the end of this journey, I swear!  But not quite yet.

Next on our Mold-A-Rama Road Trip (after Knoxville, Orlando, and Miami) we hit Sarasota and Tampa.  We were lucky enough to stay with friends in Sarasota for three nights and commute to the places we wanted to visit.

The first place we tried to go was the Mote Aquarium, which was only a few miles from where we were staying, but I got mixed up about the times and we were there an hour early.  We asked the kids if they wanted to wait, or wanted to head somewhere else.  They surprised me by asking if they could get back in the car and watch a movie.  I was sure they'd want to be anywhere but the car at that point, but I didn't mind the idea of taking a walk and then reading for a bit if the kids wanted to curl up together and watch Spirited Away again.  However, the DVD player had other ideas and started spewing smoke (?!) so Ian and I declared it was time to roll.

We headed for the Lowry Park Zoo. (I think it was half off with our reciprocal zoo membership if I'm remembering right.)

It's a pleasant zoo.  It was one of our "zip through" locations so we didn't spend a huge amount of time there, but we did see a good raptor show that included trained chickens and an owl that flew over our heads.  We learned that whenever you hear a bald eagle on TV or in the movies doing a big cawing-screech sound it's really a red-tailed hawk call dubbed in.  Bald eagles make a cute little chirpy noise, but that's not as impressive in a big patriotic moment.  Another thing we learned was that great horned owls have no sense of smell so they eat skunks.

We also saw a clouded leopard, and we bought some overpriced popcorn that came in a bucket that has turned out to be incredibly handy for carrying snacks.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mold-A-Ramas in the Miami Area (the Museum of Discovery and Science, Zoo Miami, Monkey Jungle, and Seaquarium)

In the continuing (and are you thinking endless?) saga of our Mold-A-Rama Road Trip, we went from Orlando down to Delray Beach to visit my aunt and uncle, and on our way south stopped in Ft Lauderdale for a quick trip to the Museum of Discovery and Science.  It was free with our reciprocal membership to Discovery World here in Milwaukee, and we spent a couple of hours there.

It's a small science museum, but what they had they did well.  We saw our first spiny lobster, and they also had fish and turtles.  The giant shark sculpture was kind of cool.  The second floor had a lot of puzzles to solve, which kept us busy, and they also had an exhibit on "fear" which was interesting.  They had a great screen where you had to use your shadow to catch fruit falling from a tree without being attacked by a shadow lion.  Quinn was amused to pieces antagonizing that virtual cat and happily did that until closing time.

There was one Mold-A-Rama machine at the Museum of Discovery and Science, and that's where we got our second fighter jet.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mold-A-Ramas at Central Florida Zoo, Wonderworks, and Gatorland

After Knoxville, and a night in the southern end of Georgia, we headed on to the Orlando area part of our Mold-A-Rama Road Trip where we had three stops to make.

Our first stop in Florida (after the Visitor Center and its free orange juice) was the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford.  It's got to be hard to be any kind of small attraction near Orlando, and it's a very small zoo, but we liked it.  It will always hold a special place in our hearts for being the first place where we touched a palm tree, and for giving us our first moments of real warmth during a truly miserable winter.

The zoo was small enough that nearly every animal in it was pictured on the map, and the only large animal they had was a rhino.  They were getting ready to open a giraffe exhibit, and we actually saw the trailer pulling up with the giraffe delivery as we were leaving!  They had the smallest amphibian display we've ever seen.  There was a tiny building with a door, and when we opened it we realized that little space with a wall with four or five tiny windows in it was the whole thing.  It was like a mini-zoo, but everything was nicely displayed and well-maintained.  All of it was built on boardwalks, and there were covered areas strewn about to hide from the sporadic rainstorms.

We also saw this on our way into the park which we found interesting:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mold-A-Ramas at the Knoxville Zoo

Our first stop on our big Mold-A-Rama Road Trip was the Knoxville Zoo in Knoxville Tennessee.  It was about 40 degrees and rainy there, but such a huge improvement over the below zero temperatures we'd been enduring in Milwaukee that it felt wonderful.  We liked Knoxville.

And we liked the Knoxville Zoo.  It's a small zoo for a small city, but it was nicely laid out with a decent number of animals including a few our zoo doesn't have, such as red pandas which were beyond adorable.  Instead of feeding the goats there you can brush them, which was sort of odd and hilarious.  Far and away the thing my kids loved best was the large netted habitat for budgies where you could go in and feed them seeds glued to sticks as the birds landed on you and flew all around.  That made my kids fans of that zoo forever.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mold-A-Rama Road Trip!

I come from a family of collectors.  I have most certainly passed that gene along to my children.  (My husband, poor man, is surrounded by other people's "precious" things, but at least we are unlikely to move again anytime in the foreseeable future, so he won't have to suffer lifting endless boxes of books and rocks.  Every time we've moved books he's paused to show me how light his library card is.)  There is something satisfying about filling in gaps in a collection, and something oddly comforting about seeing evidence of experiences you've had all lined up on a shelf.
Mold-A-Ramas across the mantle
Our Mold-A-Rama collection is the first one we've tried to do as a family and it's been incredibly fun.  Mold-A-Rama figures are not expensive, they're silly, they are just rare enough to be exciting, and best of all the pursuit of them has taken us to interesting places we otherwise would have never gone.

Which brings us to our trip to Florida.

When we first looked at the map of places one can find Mold-A-Ramas we essentially wrote off most of them as impossible.  We would collect what we could in the Midwest, and maybe eventually hit the one location out on the West Coast on a visit to relatives that direction, but anywhere in the South?  Why would we go there?

But then we began to think, why not go there? 

It sparked an idea.  An idea that led us to escape the brutal Wisconsin winter for a couple of weeks and enjoy some wonderful time together.  We weren't sure we could hit everything on our list, but we aimed to try, and we succeeded!  Two places were closed this time of year (Adventure Island in Tampa supposedly has one Mold-A-Rama machine, and some kind of Microcar Museum in Georgia we think has four), but everything else we knew of that was open we got to.  Our list included:

Monday, February 17, 2014


We just got back from a trip to Florida!  
Sunset in Ft Lauderdale
Kids on Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota
I really needed it, and I'm so glad we went.  Normally I'm fine with winter, but this one has been so oppressively cold and miserable that it kind of broke me.  It was lovely to shed our coats and boots and walk barefoot in the sand even for just a little while.

We've never taken a family vacation that wasn't specifically about seeing relatives before.  This was a purely decadent family fun adventure.  The first two weeks of February aren't an unusually busy time for our store, I didn't have any big rehearsals, the kids weren't doing anything pressing, so Ian and I found people to sub for us in our jobs, we put the dog in a kennel, pulled the kids out of school, and headed south!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Art and Science of Making Hats

My kids are big fans of visiting museums and science centers and cultural exhibits.  They love to learn and explore and it makes me proud to be their mom.  But far and away their favorite things are always hands-on experiences.  They will be polite about looking at art or historic displays, but after a while they want to actively create something.  Our favorite places give them a chance to do that.

Our local science center here in Milwaukee is called Discovery World.  It's a wonderful building right on the lake with an aquarium and a schooner and an area on the second floor where you can make things.  The last time we visited you could sign up to make hats.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ring in the New Year

My wedding ring broke again.

Turns out swimming a mile a day is good for me, but bad for my jewelry.  It is perfectly logical that chlorine should eat away at silver and weaken it over time, it just never occurred to me until a goldsmith said it.  So no more wearing my ring into the pool.

In the meantime, my little $6 wedding band that I've had for so long is repaired but vulnerable to breaking again, so I've decided to maybe add it to my necklace of silver fingerprints and get a new one.

I got a more substantial wedding band the last time my ring broke.  Ian had just returned from Iraq and we had some extra money, and I decided I wanted a ring that represented my current life with birthstones to represent all five of us in our family.  It was a nice idea, but the jeweler I worked with really didn't get what I wanted and it didn't come out the way I imagined.  It was okay, and I wore it for years, but I never liked it as much as my original ring.

Then Ian lost his wedding ring at the Y a while back and I passed the new band on to him, and I went back to wearing my silver band.  Until it snapped again.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gotta Love A Happy Ending!

Amazing.  And wonderful.  I am so impressed and pleased the Lipinski Strad has been found!  (Apparently only blocks from my home, which is mind-boggling.)

It's a good day for everyone.  Well, probably not for the three suspects arrested in the case, but hey, that's entirely their own doing.

There's an enjoyable book called Stradivari's Genius by Toby Faber that I recommend to people when they come into my store and say they want to learn more about great instruments.  The Lipinski Strad is one of the violins featured in the book, and I remember Frank Almond telling me a few years ago that he found the history about it presented there to be lacking.  He did his own research to enhance our knowledge of the instrument and add interest to its story.  Little could he have know that his own chapter in the violin's life would turn out to have so much intrigue! 

Here's hoping that's enough interesting material for any revisions to books about the Lipinski Strad to last a while.

(Don't you just want to keep smiling?)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Box of Memories

The Christmas holiday was incredibly busy around here.  We had lots of guests over a couple of weeks, all on the heels of birthday season and card making craziness.  I didn't really get much of a chance to write anything about it beyond the hunt for The Riddler and concert reviews, but there was sledding and three kinds of lasagna and homemade Indian food and lights that spelled out the word "Mold" everywhere (my brother was in charge of lights so don't ask me about it--I suggested we add more that spelled out "Mildew" and "Radon" just to make it even more festive but what do I know?) and a gigantic grey squash that turned into tiny muffins and campaign posters and telephone-pictionary and Scrabble.

Something I'd planned to post about and never got around to was my favorite gift this past year.  I finally buckled down and made a gift for Aden that I've had in mind for a while.

I make my kids' Halloween costumes every year.  My original thought, long ago, was to use the scraps from the costumes to make little toy versions of them each time and give them to the kids for their birthdays or Christmas.  That happened exactly once, when Aden was one year old, and I made her a stuffed bunny to match her bunny costume.  Then more kids, more costumes, more everything, but less free time.  So much for that idea.

But I liked that idea!  I never quite let it go.  And the thing is, Aden in particular is deeply sentimental.  She still has all of her old Halloween costumes in the closet.  I figured at this point having mini versions would give her something to hang onto that takes up less room, and maybe we can start discussing the possibility of passing those costumes along to other kids one day without it seeming as painful to her.

I dug through the sewing box and found fabric from all her past costumes, and hand stitched little versions of each stuffed with cotton balls.  I kept them kind of crude on purpose because they looked cuter.  I found blue beads to use for her eyes.  Then I got a simple box from a craft store and stained it and stuck all the little figures inside.
Aden loved it.  Actually, Aden cried when she opened it.  I joked that next time I would give her a present that made her happy, and she hugged me very hard and insisted it did.

Now, luckily for me, in eleven years Aden has been a kangaroo four times and a bat twice, so this wasn't quite as much work as it will be if I make Mona or Quinn such a box in a few years.  But it's still a good collection of little figures and I'm glad to have finally put it together.

I'm particularly pleased with the dragon: