Archive for February, 2010

Swan in a Swamp

When I think of swans, I think of them in posh ponds surrounded by manicured lawns, ornate fountains and brightly colored perennials.

Last Saturday, Ryan, the dogs and I were hiking on the White Oak Trail in Newport News Park and I discovered swans are not the snobby waterfowl I thought they were. At “Swamp View Point”, we saw this:

Newport News Park - Swan in a Swamp
Behold… a swan in a swamp

Newport News Park - Swan in a Swamp (Cropped)
Cropped, closer view

The best part about this sighting is I get to indulge my love for alliteration. Swamp Swans Swim in Swamps!

I need to try to work “Swamp Swan” in next time I play Scattergories. : )

February 23, 2010 at 11:58 am 2 comments

Wedding Behind the Scenes – Centerpieces

Ryan and I now have 30 days until our wedding on March 20th. Going into this, I heard account after account of girls trying on a wedding gown and instantly knowing that was it– that was their dress. Although I feel like a pretty, pretty, ecstatically happy, princess in the dress I selected, I didn’t quite have that instant click the other brides described. (My clicking moment may have been dampened by me knowing exactly how many Computer Literacy laptops the dress was equivalent to).

I did, however, have such a moment with our centerpieces! Over the course of the last six months, we pursued many projects. We still have a box full of origami flowers sitting in the living room. We did architect some super cool floating origami lotuses that were lit by DIY LED lights (I’ll make a blog post with instructions on that), but when a serendipitous 75% off sale at Lowe’s presented itself, Ryan and I secured a whole army of succulents. Succulents teach about green roofs, leaf propagation, patterns in nature and survival techniques in drought conditions. But most importantly in our household, succulents are hard to kill! 🙂 Now we just needed something to plant them in!

We found instructions on DIY Bonsai Pots. I wasn’t particularly wowed by the project, but decided to try it out anyway. So three months ago, two of the teenage girls and I extracted a couple of containers from the formidable recycling pile. We used sand paper to rough up the surface. We painted the outside with craft glue and then rolled it in sand. When the glue dried, the container had a nice stony texture. The concept is very similar to the rustification technique George Washington used to make Mount Vernon appear to be made of stone. At this point, I was still pretty indifferent. Painting the pots is when the tide turned.

I watched my teenage companions paint, laugh and smack talk each other’s designs. Meanwhile the kids that weren’t painting voted on which design was best (mine didn’t win). It was right about then I knew we had it. It wasn’t the end products that convinced me, it was all the smiles.

DIY Pots - Vick Pleased with Results
Smiles Sold Vicky

Another serendipitous sale hooked us up with super cheap Christmas tins and the past few weeks, we have been pulling together the centerpieces. It’s truly been a group effort– so far we have had nine different painters ranging in age from 7 to 18. The centerpieces are still a work in progress, but here are some shots of the process so far:

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Sanding Tins
Vicky Sanding Christmas Tins (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Sanded Tins
Sanded Tins, Ready to Be Covered in Glue

Wedding Behind the Scene - Vicky Applying Sand
Vicky Rolling Glued Up Tin in Sand (Photo by Ryan Somma)


Wedding Behind the Scenes - Risha, Vick and Tyrek Paint
Risha, Vick, Tyrek

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Khalif Paints Pot

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Dada Paints

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Terrance Paints

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Jacal Paints

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Malena Paints


Wedding Behind the Scenes - Planting Supplies
Some of the Planting Supplies

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Ryan Plants Succulents
Ryan Planting

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Malena Plants
Malena Plants

We still have a few pots to finish up. Once all the succulents have been assigned to a pot, we’re covering the soil with white rocks. Each pot will be placed on a 12″ circular mirror and each pot will also be accompanied by a little sign acknowledging who designed it. With that in mind, I put a sticker on the bottom of each pot so I wouldn’t “get them confused”.

Yeah… those stickers turned out to be completely unnecessary.

Each pot is a reminder of the community I call home. Each pot is sentimental. Each pot makes me smile. I know exactly who did which one…and I suspect I’ll never forget.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Vick, Tyrek, Khalif, Risha, Jacal, Terrance, Dada Pots
Vick’s Pot, Tyrek’s Pot, Khalif’s Pot, Risha’s Pot, Jacal’s Pot, Terrance’s Pot, Dada’s Pot

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Khalif, Risha and Jacal's Pots (Close)
Khalif’s Pot, Risha’s Pot, Jacal’s Pot

What couple could ask for more meaningful centerpieces?

February 18, 2010 at 1:46 am 5 comments

Computer Literacy Program – Holiday Thank You #2

Over the holidays, a number of our friends and families gave us items for the neighborhood kids. I’m going to try my absolute best to snag shots as they are distributed.

Thank You to Brandon and Becky G!
One of the most impressive shipments of items for the neighborhood kids came from our friends Becky and Brandon. They shipped us a *giant* box full of goodies:

Computer Literacy Program - Vic with Parts
The Arrival of Goodies

Computer Literacy Program - Giveaways
Unpacked Goodies

As if this first shipment wasn’t enough, Ryan and I received a second package with headsets and gum.

Computer Literacy Program - Headphones

If I was accurate in my note taking, then Brandon and Becky sent along 4 keyboards, 2 monitor/TV adapters, 5 ethernet cables, 4 mice, 3 sets of speakers and 3 headsets.

Generosity above and beyond.  Thank you!

February 17, 2010 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

One Million Giraffes

At Science Online 2010, Blogger Mama Joules told me about Inspired by wager between friends, the website is trying to collect one million pictures of giraffes in one year. At the time of this writing, they were up to 580,143 giraffes.

It took me a while, but I finally recruited a young artist from Elizabeth City to help! Ryan and I were babysitting a friend’s seven year old this past weekend. She arrived with a fondness for drawing dinosaurs. That enthusiasm translated well to giraffes. She used markers I got in college (~16 years old!) to make this giraffe:

Malena’s Giraffe

I was able to snag a shot of it on before it was circulated off the front page:

Malena’s Giraffe on!

It wasn’t as tasty as making Pi and Space Invader Chocolates, but it significantly less messy and just as much fun. 🙂

P.S. If you happen to submit a giraffe, let me know– I’d love to see it!

February 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm 1 comment

Computer Literacy Program – Ryan’s Post is Up!

Ryan’s post on the Computer Literacy Program is up over at ideonexus. It includes the slides for all the classes, observations and lessons we learned along the way. I love how Ryan explains the lesson we learned about headphones:

Headphones are important in off-class hours. Children view the laptops as their own personal entertainment centers, and will get into an arms race of elevating volumes when two are listening to music or movies on separate laptops in a room together.

There is a best practice I uncovered that I don’t see included in Ryan’s write-up. When you are assisting the kids, you do a lot of bending over as well as a lot of managing of plugs on the floor. I learned this best practice the hard way:


Other than that, Ryan’s account is quite complete! Read the full post here.

February 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm 2 comments

Fun with ThinkGeek Ice Cube Trays

The last six months, our little household on Hunter Street has been conducting a lot of proofs of concept. It’s part of our wedding brainstorming process. Although most of the projects won’t make an appearance at the wedding, it’s been incredibly fun trying them all out.

This past weekend, we ran an experiment aimed towards “geeky wedding favors”. Chocolate is a safe favor bet, right? Well, we tried out using two Ice Cube Trays from ThinkGeek as chocolate molds– Pi and Space Invaders:

Pi Space Invaders

As with most of our trials, we had a helper! Thirteen year old Risha showed up just in time to do the dirty, but delicious, work.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Risha Making Pi Chocolates
Risha Filling Pi Mold with Melted Chocolate

We’re going to need more practice with the Pis, which I’m sure no one is heart broken about (more end products to ingest). Those little Space Invaders, on the other hand, are ADORABLE!!!! I love the determination on their faces. They look like they want to be so mean… but they are so dang cute.

Pi Chocolates
Pi Chocolates – We need to fine tune are technique

Space Invaders Chocolates
Space Invaders– They are CUTE!

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Mean Space Invader
He’s SO determined!

Regardless of whether or not these little guys show up at the wedding, it was definitely a fun project for a rainy afternoon. The ice cube trays have already paid off! 🙂

February 8, 2010 at 11:23 am 9 comments

January Diversity in Science Carnival is Up

I’m a little late, but the January edition of the Diversity in Science Carnival is up at Urban Science Adventures. This month the focus was on the Science Online 2010 Conference.

The science blogger community is PROLIFIC when it comes to Science Online posts (Bora Zivkovic keeps a running list of Blog/Media Coverage of ScienceOnline2010 if you need to see for yourself). Bringing all those voices and perspectives together was most certainly challenging, but this month’s editor, DNLee, does an outstanding job!

And if that doesn’t sell you, you should still click over to the Carnival to read the kind words about Ryan and I. : )

The February Edition of the Diversity in Science Carnival is going to highlight Black History Month! Submit any related posts here

February 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

*More* Groundhogs in Trees

Last February, I did a post sharing photos of groundhogs….in trees.  At the time, the concept was very surprising to me.  However, scattered across Flickr are numerous shots capturing similar pairings.  Apparently, it is not as odd as it would first seem.  In celebration of Groundhog Day, here are even more groundhogs enjoying the high life!

Groundhog up a tree
(Photo Courtesy of weavermg)

Pa. groundhog
(Photo Courtesy of danedude)

(Photo by HyperialGuard)

(Photo by hopefoote)

(Photo by hyperbolation)

If you would like to see more examples of these critters who refuse to be labeled by their common name, check out the Groundhogs in Trees Flickr Group.

Have a Happy Groundhog Day!

February 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm 5 comments

Vicky in American Forests Magazine

352 of Ryan Somma‘s Creative Commons Science and Nature Images appear in Wikipedia articles. (228 credited as Ryan Somma, 124 as ideonexus). One could argue by sharing his photos, Ryan is helping to educate and inspire.

Well, *I*, Vicky Sawyer, now have a claim in the realm of education and knowledge as well! I have zero pictures in Wikipedia… but I *do* have a photo in the Winter 2010 Issue of American Forests magazine! My photo appears in an article on the “Continuing Saga of the American Chestnut”:

Picture in American Forests Magazine
Vicky’s Picture in American Forests!!!

It’s a wonderful and informative article that definitely does not need my picture to be interesting. Be sure to check out the full version online!

February 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm 5 comments

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