Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Essay Winner!

Mac and the mayor of Bloomington, Mark Kruzan

Mac recently won 1st place in the City of Bloomington's Human Rights Commission essay contest. The topic was: Why I Care About Diversity.  Mac won first place in the upper level which was open to 5th - 8th graders.   He was honored at an award ceremony hosted by our mayor who read an excerpt from his essay. In addition to receiving a certificate and recognition, he also received a $150 visa gift card. Below is his essay.

Diversity is Music to My Ears

                One of my favorite activities is to play music, especially on the violin and the piano. I don’t just play solo music though; I play in the Tri-North Orchestra and the Musical Arts Youth Orchestra, as well as a piano trio with my friends, Roger and Gabe.  In an orchestra, there are a variety of instruments such as woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion.  Each of these instruments come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes, and when played alone they emit their own unique sound. When played together, however, like in an ensemble or orchestra, all their various sounds combine into one beautiful and dynamic harmony. How is it that these various instruments, all of which create different sounds, can work together to make something so pleasing to our ears?
                Good orchestral music isn’t just created by having a diverse mix of instruments. The notes also have to be timed correctly, played correctly, and they have to have good tone. Sure the instruments can be dynamic and diverse, but what makes them sound good is how they work together. If the musicians don’t play their notes precisely, the orchestra won’t sound good. Pleasing music also depends on how the piece is played and the quality of the sound. If the musicians don’t work together to accomplish a shared goal, it doesn’t matter how good they are as individuals.  Human societies work in a similar way. Each and every one of us is different; we each have our own personalities, looks, and thoughts. We are each equally important and while we can accomplish many things by ourselves, it is when we bring our different talents and perspectives together that we can achieve much more.
The human race is made up of people with various skin colors, hair colors, eye colors, body shapes and more. Not only do we all look different, like a diverse collection of musical instruments, we “play” differently, just like each instrument has its own unique sound and quality.  However, when we work together and accept our differences, we can make a totally different sound. Together we have built great structures, invented amazing machines, created successful societies, and have shaped a better world for ourselves.
 Diversity in the human race enriches our communities and our world because each person has different ways of thinking. By considering each person’s beliefs, opinions, and ideas, we can achieve our goals much faster. However, diversity isn’t the only thing that matters; how people work together plays a big role too. Without cooperation or the sharing of ideas, very little would be accomplished. It’s just like playing instruments, as not only does the diversity of the instruments make a great sound but the quality of that sound matters too. In both human society and the musical world, a mix of people and instruments work together and blend together towards a common goal. When this happens, that goal is achieved faster and better than before, and a new step is taken towards a better world.  Diversity can become music to our ears if we understand and recognize the potential to build a better world.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Came the Shoes, Then Came the Dress

I recently took Ethan shoe shopping for new tennis shoes and while we were at the store we found a cute pair of shoes for Madelyn too. They were discounted quite a bit, so we couldn't resist buying them for her birthday. I took a guess on her shoe size and luckily it turned out to be right.

After getting the shoes home, I decided that I really needed to make a dress to go with the shoes. After all what would she wear them with?

I found a cute dress pattern from Butterick, #4434, and decided that I wanted the fabric to be eyelet, and that I would tie in the silver from the shoes with a silver satin bow around the waist. I was really excited when I found a white eyelet fabric that had silver sequins. I love it when I have something pictured in mind and it comes together so easily.

Here's the finished dress. The dress pattern didn't have a lining but I decided that I needed to make one because the eyelet was so sheer. The pattern was okay to work with but I've had easier instructions, especially regarding the zipper.

Thankfully the dress fit perfectly, and Madelyn seemed to like the shoes and the dress as much as my sister did.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cupcakes in a Jar

I promised a friend I'd make her some cupcakes for her birthday. The only problem is that she lives in another state so I wasn't sure how I was going to get them to her. After some research on the web, and some inspiration from Beantown Baker, I decided to try and ship them inside of a pint-size jar.

Baking the cupcake inside the jar makes it stationary and more likely to arrive intact. I put the batter into the jar without any wrappers, and baked them like I normally would if they were in a muffin pan. When they cooled, I filled them with homemade caramel and topped them with chocolate ganache.
I put them in the freezer overnight and then tied a ribbon and fork around the lid.

To keep the jars from breaking, I used a cupcake bakery box with dividers and slipped the jars into the holes. I filled the bottom of the bakery box with popcorn to provide a little extra cushion, and then taped up the box and placed it into my shipping box.

The bakery box fit snugly in the shipping box and I used extra cardboard on the top and bottom. FedEx did a great job getting them to my friend safely. They looked almost perfect when they arrived except for a few of the ribbons and forks had slipped off the lids. But most importantly the ganache and chocolate curls were still swirled on top.