Sunday, May 19, 2013

Magnetic Words For Your Magnetic Personality

Original Magnetic Poetry Kit
Image via Magnetic Poetry

I'm sure you've seen these great little Magnetic Poetry kits. Click here for their website- they have so many fun looking kits. Magnetic Poetry for every mood or interest and it is a fun, low stress way to express ourselves and share our thoughts. Maybe you also noticed that with the exception of the Really Big Words kit for kids, the magnetic word strips in the kits are incredibly small, as in .375" high. What, how much is that? More than a quarter, less than half an inch. That's the magnet, not the type print. The strips are hard to read and could be hard to handle for some folks (I'm talking to you, Arthur Itis).  The magnetic strips in the Really Big Words kit are 1.5" high and that's a more do-able size. Most kits have at least 200 words, the Really Big Words kit has 100.

Well, we're a clever bunch of folks, so let's make magnetic poetry kits specially designed for youngsters, oldsters, and anyone else totally frustrated by the teensy-weensy things of life. These are not necessarily cheaper- most of the Official Magnetic Poetry kits run $11 to $20 plus shipping and handling if you have to order. I bought the Magnet Sheets at Office Depot for $5.97 per package. There are three sheets in each package. So you might break even by making your own, depending on how many sheets you print. However-- I have included a blank template so that you can make sheets personalized to your own needs.

You will need:

As mentioned, I got the Magnetic Sheets at Office Depot and my local Wal-Mart has them as well. If, for some crazy reason, you cannot find them, here are some online resources to try. I have not done business with any of these places and will not vouch for them- just sending you to some sites where you can purchase magnetic sheets if needed.

Custom Magnets

The Magnet Source

All Magnets Inc.

A note- Scissors are lovely to use to cut the words apart but a paper cutter or metal ruler and Exacto knife work well also.

Download the word templates for this project and save them to your computer.

Blank Template- Use this template to print customized word lists: business name, town/state, family and friend's names, local landmarks, favorite activities, leisure and hobbies, whatever you can think of or need.

I have also developed six word sheet templates that you can download for free (!) I developed these templates based upon three things:

  • A word list for the Magnetic Poetry that I found on Amazon.
  • A list of the most commonly used words in the English language that I found here.
  • Life and interests in a long-term care setting, because that is the audience for whom I originally developed this project.

It's kind of hard to see in this photo but the sheet on the far right is the blank template.
It has light gray lines as a guide when you open it in Word and these lines
also serve, on all the templates, as cutting lines.

Click on each template title below to go to the download. I hope to get these all together in one file so that you won't have to click each individual one but I'm still figuring out the publisher (or the publisher is still figuring me out, whichever). Please let me know right away if you can't get the links to open and I'll email them to you.

Magnetic Poetry- Sheet One
Magnetic Poetry- Sheet Two
Magnetic Poetry- Sheet Three
Magnetic Poetry- Sheet Four
Magnetic Poetry- Sheet Five
Magnetic Poetry- Sheet Six

I have an HP printer and set my Printing Properties to "Automatic" for paper type and "Fast Normal" for print quality. No need to use any of the "fancy" paper types- I did a few test runs and there's not much difference from one paper type to the next. However, my printer has Fast Draft, Fast Normal, Normal, and Best quality settings. Because ink is so expensive I usually print in the lowest quality setting that I can get away with. Sometimes, however, it's better to go up a level and this is one of those times. If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see that the page on the far right is not as dark as the others. That one was printed with Fast Draft, the other two with Fast Normal and Normal. So go with Fast Normal or a comparable setting on your printer. We want these to be dark enough to be easily seen and to last through being handled.

Also- these sheets are for Inkjet printers only. Avery has a printing tips for their magnetic sheets- click here.

So now that you have your sheets cut out, start by cutting along the gray horizontal cutting lines.

Then cut out each word. This takes a bit of time, but isn't that why we have teenage kids or commercial breaks during Doctor Who? (And just what is up with that Series 7 Season Finale anyway! Oh, we have theories.....)

I like to just slap these words up and let folks go at it on their own. You can use one of those white dry-erase boards on an easel but you definitely want to check it before you start printing and cutting because not all of them will hold a magnet. And folks can write in words that you might not have on a dry-erase board, though that sort of ruins the challenge of it. Metal fire doors that stay shut (without alot of traffic) are a good place to put these or paint a wall or large piece of luan board with magnetic paint. Of course there's always a refrigerator.

I bought this pencil box at Wal-Mart today for 57 cents to keep the words in when not in use.

I originally developed this project to use in long-term care settings a couple of  a years ago and part of the idea was that it is a portable activity. In the past two years, however, there has been an explosion of online possibilities and iPads are so much more prevelant, so here are some links to online "magnetic" poetry sites.

Magnetic Poetry Online
Shocked Poetry
World Village

I noticed as I previewed this post that it is almost exclusively black, white, and gray. Not very exciting and definitely not my style so how about a beautiful picture to liven things up, just for fun?

Photo by Allen Hsu via Flickr

And for today's butterfly picture, how about this lovely that my sister crossed-stitched for me years ago---

When I say that she made this for me "years ago" mean 1978. Maybe I've shared this here before but it had to be stored in my parents' garage for a while and suffered some water stains but I don't want to take it out of the frame because of the lovely note in her handwriting on the back. I do think I've shared that before but this is one of my favorite butterflies in the world.

OK- thanks for flittering by today. I know my posting has been sporatic, to put it mildly, but life has gotten busy so I'll post when I can and ask you to keep visiting. Thanks so much.

Have a great day!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Impatiently Waiting For Spring


Hallelujah, tiny signs of spring! We've had a couple of false starts this month but the past week has been snowy again. We, however, were in Tennessee for spring break and missed the refreshing of our piles of snow. We have gone to the Washington DC area for the past few spring breaks and it's usually cool-ish. So this year we thought we would go south, so off to Chattanooga we went. And yes, big cold snap with snow flurries for Chattanooga. That's our luck, though. One July we headed to Niagara Falls as we figured it would be a bit cooler "up north". But, as our luck would have it there was a record heat wave that year for Niagara Falls. Anyway, we knuckled down and ignored the cold in Chattanooga and had a good time. I just want to mention that my Zippy is a natural at climbing and the zip line adventure at ZipStream Aerial Adventures was no problem for her. Turns out the actual zip line was the easiest part of the course and I like to think that the whole going down the zip line backwards thing was just an example of my Amazing Skills. Anyway...

Now I'm really anxious for spring, partly because, you know, I'm not a winter person. When I first moved north from Texas I thought that if I took up winter sports I would like winter much more. Then it occurred to me that if I took up winter sports I would be outside and I would, you know ..........  get cold. Even though I enjoy a good hike anytime and cross country skiing is actually pretty nice, I'm mostly done with winter by, oh, mid-January.

We also have some landscaping plans for this summer and I'm anxious to get going. We have lived in our house for 17 years and a great deal of the landscaping was done within those first few years. It used to be quite pretty.

But now things are getting to be a bit overgrown and out of control. That means our landscaping plans mostly consist of beating the yard back into submission, to something more manageable. It's a time issue- other priorities have laid claim to our time and so we need to bring the yard into compliance with our schedule. I daydream of retirement, when I can build all sorts of garden follies and trails and pretty flowers beds. But for now.....

....not so pretty. And if anyone knows how to keep paint on asbestos cement board siding, please let me know. We have tried everything. The cement board is actually the third layer of siding on our old farmhouse and this side is the weather side, so it looks extra bad. But paying for asbestos abatement is not part of the plan right now and since it's OK to leave it, there it is.
ANYWAY (again)....


We had some extraordinarily nice weather a couple of weekend ago so Big 'Un and I spent the day ripping out shrubbery. Even though we kept the bulbs and peonies, the shrubs don't figure in my new "vision" for the back of the house and I wanted to get them out before the birds started building nests in them again. I didn't get them out in time last year and ended up with several shrubs that I had to abandon half chopped back as I found that the wrens and sparrows had already set up housekeeping in them.

And now we're all cleaned up and ready to go. I'm hoping to get on this project soon in order to scratch it off the list and will share the "After" with you when it's done.

So this is what I wanted to show you today before I go. This crispy, fluffy little blob of dried protein is a praying mantis egg case, called an ootheca. The female mantis will lay her eggs in mid-autumn, right before she dies, and the case will winter over until spring. The eggs, all 100 - 200 of them, will hatch after a few days of warmth. We have watched and watched egg cases over the years but never managed to catch the young in the act of hatching. They emerge from the layers of the case, which you can see here .....

... though the appearance of the case does not really change much after the young have emerged. The babies crawl out and will hang by a thread of about 2 inches until they dry and will then scamper off into your garden. The entire process takes about an hour. Of the original 200 or so that hatch out, perhaps 5 of the mantis will live to adulthood. It's kind of like with butterflies: tons of eggs, tons of new caterpillars, tons of pillaging and eating, even cannibalism, so that in the end only a few survive.


These tiny little cuties, which begin life chasing down aphids, can grow to be quite large and while generally beneficial in the garden, they do have a dark side. I mean, when they get to be several inches long, they require something more substantial for a meal than aphids and so anything that they can catch and handle is fair game.

How embarrassing for the gecko.





And my favorite praying mantis photo .....

Hallelujah, right?

I'm sorry of some of those photos were a bit much. I tend not to be too squeamish about that sort of thing, though a praying mantis is kind of a freaky thing.


OK, that's it for today, except for a pic from The Butterfly Garden at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

Have a great day and I hope you'll stop by to visit again soon.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A New Butterfly Friend- Rice Paper Butterfly

File:20070414 idea leuconoe strandberg crop.jpg
Image by Per Erik Standberg via WikiMedia

Well, it's been some time since I've posted and even longer since we've met a new butterfly. I alluded to the butterfly at the end of my last post so here it is. Today, meet the Rice Paper Butterfly, also known as the Paper Kite, the Wood Nymph, or the Large Tree Nymph butterfly. This one is a simple and elegant butterfly, marked by it's slow, gracefully floppy flight. It's size and slow flight make it a popular attraction at butterfly conservatories the world over, though the Paper Kite originates in Southeast Asia. A member of the subfamily Danainae, Paper Kites are considered to be distasteful to prey because of the host plants it feeds on, just like it's subfamily cousin the Monarchs which feed on milkweed. I've always heard that the yucky tasting butterflies can get away with a slow flight and the yummy ones have to flitter and dart about to avoid being captured.

I found this video on YouTube that gives us a look at the lovely movements of the Rice Paper butterfly. The video was posted by Wei├če Baumnymphen.

Because of the Paper Kite's distinctive wing pattern, she is popular not just an a striking addition to butterfly conservatories but also to artists. OK, I use the term "artist" loosely when applied to myself- I'm more of a "goofing-around" type. At any rate, here's my latest paper cutting adventure:

I cut the butterfly first, from a heavy black paper, and then sprayed it with a light coat of black laquer to strengthen and stabilize it.

The I cut a piece of white glitter paper to fit exactly under the wings and used a light stain of watercolor to give the wings their yellow color at the junction with the body. I framed our gal by layering first a white background, then the glitter paper, than a layer of clear acrylic. I put the cut out wings on top of the acrylic then covered with glass and it all went into a simple frame.

I have decided that I need to make another one, sort of a positive-negative thing, after I saw how the wings looked before cutting them away from the black paper.

But that's a project for another day.

Hey thanks for visiting the jungle today. I'm looking forward to spring and healing things but right now I'm off to shovel snow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Will They Think Of Next?

I've been pretty scarce lately as life has taken on new twists and turns. Hoping to have more time and concentration for The Butterfly Jungle soon, but I simply HAD to share this video with you. Check out this incredible new product that will completely blow every other bit of similar technology off the map. I'm not kidding.

I originally came across this video on Paper Online, where it was posted from Of course I plan to get as many of these as I can afford. I bet these new devices even smell good.

In keeping with today's theme of incredible paper technology, I would like to share this lovely gal with you.


This is the Rice Paper butterfly, also known as the Paper Kite or Large Tree Nymph butterfly (Idea leuconoe) and is of Southeast Asian origin. If you visit a greenhouse or butterfly conservatory, chances are pretty good that you will meet this delicate gal. My sharing this photo with you today also serves as a foreshadowing of a future post. Won't you check back in?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This Post Is For The Birds.... And They Will Love You For It

Come and get it gals!

When we first moved into our big ol' farmhouse, we started feeding the birds. Mostly we put out a buffet for the Goldfinches, which are just so darn pretty. However, we soon learned that feeding the birds at our house meant, essentially, that it enabled our cat to hunt over bait. So we pulled down the feeders in an effort to save the Goldfinch population from decimation and let go of the idea of sitting on the patio with binoculators watching the birds.

However, Smudgie, the sexy psycho serial killer cat, is "maturing" and enjoys a nice long nap in the summer kitchen or has learned to appreciate the beauty of our feathered friends and loves to watch them play, like an elder stateswoman who has come to terms with .....naaahh. She's just getting old and she hates the newest dog, whom she swore to me with a glaring look that first day Gracie came home, that she was not going to cut this mutt any slack, so she stays out of the way. Gracie, much to her folly, is the only one around here not respectful of the cat. Smudgie is the only thing she's NOT afraid of and she really should be.

Anyway, now that the cat no longer treats our feeders like bait, we have begun to hang them again the past couple of winters. We only feed in winter, mainly January through March. Birds actually don't need for us to feed them at all. But they are pretty and fun to watch so we offer a little extra boost during the hard months just to help them through. Nothing fancy or elaborate, mind you, but I do make an effort to make suet.  I have totally abandoned ever buying suet. The birds never ate it. Seriously, it just hung there like a lost toy, swinging around in it's little cage on a far branch.

I had planned a suet-making activity for my patients a few years ago as a mid-winter event and the activity group itself was great fun but lo and behold, when I put the homemade suet out, the birds went nuts. That poor pathetic store-bought suet cake just hung there- uneaten. The raccoons didn't even try to steal it.

It has "Original" written on it so that I didn't accidentally
give out  the last copy after the group activity.
We wouldn't want history to repeat itself.

So I played around with a few batches and today I would like to share my suet recipe with you for your birds. I'm going to give you the recipe first and then we'll talk.

Mammie Butterfly's Basic Suet Cake

1 lb of Crisco, beef suet, lard or any combination thereof
1 cup of peanut butter
1 cup ground cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 to 1 cup of whole wheat flour
About 1/2 a loaf of bread- whole wheat
2 cups of birdseed, nuts, raisins

Rip the bread into little cubes- nothing fancy, just little chunks a birdie could carry if a piece ripped away from the suet cake. Set these aside.

I'm sorry this photo looks kind of disgusting.

Melt the Crisco/lard/suet and peanut butter over low heat. I start the peanut butter first and when it's almost melted I add the fat, which melts much quicker than the peanut butter. Seriously, keep the heat medium to low. Next, slowly add in the flour, cornmeal, and sugar. Mix well but keep an eye on it as I've had it bubble up rapidly during this stage- don't know why. Next comes the bread crumbs- just throw them in there and mix it up so that the liquid is all absorbed. Finally, the birdseed mix of your choice and any nuts or raisins or other yummies for the birds. I thought about adding those mealworms you see at Lowes or other places but they look like empty, hollow worm shells to me so I'm not sure if the birds would be actually getting any worm protein. I've also read that they are only as healthy as the diet they eat, which can include things like newspapers and therefore the inks on the paper. At any rate, you want your mixture to have a slushie-slurry sort of consistency, kind of like wet cement, if you've ever mixed cement.

Line a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and spread the suet out evenly. You'll have to measure your suet cage, if that's what you're using, to make sure that you don't have your layer too thick.

Anyway... once it's nice and firm, turn it out on a board and peel off the foil. Use your feeder cage as a guide to cut it to size. I put a couple of squares each in a baggie and stash them in the freezer until chow time. We've been making about 4 batches to feed January, February, and March and have to refill the little cages about every other day. Last year we had a problem with the raccoons coming up at night and stealing the suet, cage and all.

Well, someone was stealing suet.....

                                                   ... guess I shouldn't be so quick to judge.

This year I bought some of those inexpensive little luggage locks to lock the feeders to the tree. We also found some larger suet feeder cages, which means we might not need to slosh out there through the muck every day.

Now, let's talk about the ingredients a bit. I realize that some of you are vegetarians and some of you are concerned about eating healthy, whether you're a human or a bird. Let's address the fats in the recipe.

Crisco is hydrogenated vegetable oil and contains no animal products. Score for vegetarians. However, hydrogenation, as most of us know, is when hydrogen is force under high temperature and pressure into liquid oils for all sorts of reasons that have mostly to do with cost benefits to food producers and nothing in the way of health. The result is a completely unnatural fat. Just as this is not good for humans, it is most likely less than ideal for our birdies. It is the most budget friendly option for suet though maybe not the best for their little avian arteries. I suppose the argument could be made that the birds are flying and exercising so they work off the fat. I don't know. Just an aside, peanut butter can have loads of hydrogenated fats as well, so if it's important, look for natural peanut butter, certainly for yourself if not the birds.

Suet is raw beef or mutton fat found around the loins and kidneys and is packed with nutritious yummies for the birds. It is a high-energy, pure fat food for your birds that is easily digested and metabolized. You can buy it at the grocery or butcher though in some places you may need to ask the butcher to save it for you. If you have a father-in-law who butchers, even better!!! In researching for my suet recipe, some sources say to render your suet before using it for your birds to remove impurities and help it to keep longer. I don't do that, mainly because I only feed in the winter and as for the impurities- please, have you seen where some of these sweet little birds hang out? The Baltimore Bird Club has a nice informational page about suet.

Even though I personally avoid eating red meat, I prefer to use suet for bird feeding because of the nutrients. Birds eat worms and bugs and need that fat, especially in the winter. I suggest cutting it up into pieces, and melting it slowly. If you can melt it outside on the grill, even better because it really does hang in the air. And like I say, I don't render it, which involves straining and remelting. Once it gets mostly melted, I'm good with that, chunky bits and all.

The last option is lard, which is pig fat. Same general considerations as with beef suet but it is interesting to note that lard is actually a good source of Vitamin D. Huh, who knew? But so are eggs, oily fish, liver, cheese, and 20 minutes a day of unfiltered sunlight (no sunscreen- oh the scandal).

Bacon? Well, I'm sorry but bacon drippings really are not a good choice, even though birds do seem to love it. Love it like a McDonald's fry. Bacon has all sorts of bad ju-ju in it; detectable amounts of carcinogenic compounds formed from some of the preservatives used in bacon. Even we humans should not eat it. I know, that makes me a real buzz-kill.

Bluebird Nut has a nice page that discusses all of the issues with the various fat options in more detail.

My take on this is to use the least expensive ingredients that you can find. Use whatever your budget, common sense, and convictions tell you to use. Then sit back with your binoculators and watch the feeding party.

Thanks for visiting-- I'll see ya next time.