Letterboxing

We recently discovered a very interesting activity called letterboxing. Letterboxing involves searching for hidden boxes using clues provided by the individuals who created and hid the boxes. Inside each letterbox you will find a rubber stamp, an ink pad, and a small journal or pad of paper. Usually the rubber stamps are hand carved and represent a theme, or a personal symbol unique to the carver.

When you find a letterbox, you use the rubber stamp in your own scrapbook, journal or piece of paper. Then, using your own stamp, leave an image on a page in the letterbox’s journal! You can also sign your name or leave a personal message for the letterbox creator. There are several websites that serve as databases for letterbox locations and clues all over North America, just type in your location and choose from the list provided.

Today, we were visiting Edgefield Lodge in Troutdale, Oregon. After lunch, we searched the atlasquest website and discovered a letterbox had been placed right at the lodge grounds!  The letterbox was titled “Kelly and Steve’s Wedding”.  We quickly gathered our materials and read the clue:

Clue: To find the loving tribute to their marriage look for Blackberry Meadow where they were married. Stand in the middle of the meadow and look for the water tower. Walk towards it and you will see an old white barn. Find the path on the right side of the barn. There should be birdhouses in the trees on the right side of that path.
On the left side of the path you will see a huge rusted boiler with plants growing out of it. Look under it for the lock’ n’ lock box!

     Since we had been walking the grounds before lunch, it wasn’t long before we found the blackberry meadow and white barn. The kids very quickly found the location and M got down on all fours and pushed aside the plants to find the letterbox. From under the boiler he pulled a very tiny plastic container that held a picture of the bride and groom, and a hand carved stamp with their initials, and the date of their wedding. We were so excited to stamp our book, and to leave a stamp in theirs! We will have to get a special book just for our letterbox adventures, but until then the kids are using their journals.

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B and I spent some time designing and carving our own stamps a couple of weeks ago, and I designed a new one tonight that has our travel blog information. Speedball makes a very user friendly carving medium that I highly recommend. It is soft, easy to carve, and can be trimmed with a scissors. We purchased all of our materials at Michael’s craft store. Many people use rubber erasers for carving as well! Here is our collection of hand carved stamps so far:

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LittleBits and Big Fun!

     We’ve been using a wonderful new educational material that introduces electronics in a fun and easy to use way.  The idea behind these tiny, colorful electronic pieces is to get kids (and adults!) excited about creating circuits to build anything imaginable.  Each piece (or bit) is color coded based on its function.  The colors are bright, but not obnoxious, and make organizing simple.  Because the littleBits are magnetic and will only attach in their proper direction, even small children can begin creating circuits.  The fact that children can experiment and manipulate the bits before knowing complex vocabulary or concepts makes this an amazing introduction to electronics. 

     B received her first littleBits kit (the extended kit) as a birthday gift from Bubbe and Zayde.  She immediately fell in love with them and started experimenting.  The littleBits website features hundreds of projects created by their in-house design team as well as from littleBits users all over the world.  In fact, they encourage everyone (teachers, kids, artists, etc) to build and post their projects on the company website.  Looking at other projects and videos gave B lots of ideas and provided some early projects to try on her own.  Her first project was a simple blender, followed a couple of days later by a flashlight!  Soon after that, she began experimenting on her own and came up with her now famous sock game, featured on the littleBits website.

     Now that we are on the road, working with littleBits has become part of our homeschool curriculum, especially since they take up very little storage space.  B’s first invention on the road was to make a doorbell for her RV bunk. You can see our previous post here.

     A few weeks and several states later, we designed a magnifier that used lights to illuminate the insects and plants we found in Yosemite National Park!

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     Our latest project, was inspired by the amazing youtube video, Caine’s Arcade.  For anyone who hasn’t seen this wonderful story, it is about a little boy named Caine, who created an entire storefront arcade out of cardboard boxes.  His creativity is astounding!  My kids thought it was really cool and were excited to try designing something themselves.  We couldn’t create something as magnificent as Caine’s Arcade in our tiny RV, so they kids each designed one game.  They both chose to make a skill game with balls and holes.  We talked about what she wanted her game to do, and she decided that the long LED’s should light when the ball dropped through the hole.  She grabbed her motion sensors and LED’s and laid them out.  When I asked her show she would connect them, she started to put them together and realized she needed something more.  She said, “Oh, I’m gonna need a branch!”  We had a little bit of a challenge getting the motion sensor to be a little less sensitive, but some tape around the edges helped!  Even though we are in a tight space, the kids decided to make it more like a real arcade and dimmed the lights, made badges for the “staff” and they even made a money changer.

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     I am looking forward to building more complex projects with the kids as the year goes on! 

First littleBits RV Project

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B decided she needed a doorbell outside her bunk, so today she got out her littleBits kit and got to work. She built a pretty cool circuit that allows a visitor (like a brother) to ring the doorbell if her privacy curtain is down. If she is available, she pushes a switch inside that causes the “come in” sign to light up. I was really impressed with her design because she used the “and” bit, and she also made a cover for the button to make it look more like a real doorbell!

Mommy Art

When the kids go to sleep, I have a chance to work on my own art projects!  I have always struggled to capture realistic facial features in any medium, so I decided I would tackle eyes first.  I am so impressed with the amount and quality of art tutorials available on the internet today.  I simply searched for “oil pastel eyes” and found several pages of links and information.  I was especially impressed with one particular video that I watched several times and was eventually able to copy. 

Eye Study #1, in progress:

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Eye Study #1, oil pastels, complete:

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Tonight, I decided to try another approach which used pencil and watercolor.  The video I watched was a time-lapsed video of artist Mark Crilley drawing and painting an eye.  I was able to pause the video every few seconds and add to my drawing. 

Here, the artist is showing his chalk pastels that will be needed for the next step.  Sadly, I do not own chalk pastels.  Oh, well.

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Eye Study #2, pencil, watercolor, charcoal:

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This study needs more work.  The addition of chalk pastels would soften all the edges and lines for sure.  I am happy with the general shape of the eye, but I am still working on those pesky eye lashes. 

Showcasing Our Artwork

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We purchased two picture frames that will display our artwork over the year. One frame opens on a hinge and can store many pieces at a time. We can easily rotate the current or favorite piece. The second frame is a shadow box, which is meant for displaying things that are not flat. In our case, we reversed the position of the mat and will use the extra space behind it to store more artwork. We can rotate work in this frame as well, just not as easily. I like displaying the family’s work in frames because it adds importance to the process. It also makes our little RV feel more like home!