Jun 08

Cupcake Trains (and Atom Packing)

by Hannah Holt »


***First off, I have two giveaways on my Facebook Page this week. I’ll be doing the drawings later today, so be sure to enter soon.***

Now, here’s how to make a train out of cupcakes:

Train cupcakes

I mixed a little extra powdered sugar into my butter cream frosting to stiffen it up. But even so, some of the frosting dripped between the cupcakes. I could have packed the cupcakes more tightly, but then I wouldn’t have had the train shape I wanted, which got me thinking…

What can cupcakes teach us about organic chemistry?

Well, quite a lot, but I was thinking about atom packing. In the above, I packed my cakes together more or less like this:

loose packing

You can see the gaps between the cupcakes are fairly large, but I get nice straight lines and a rectangular shape. I could have packed them much closer together like this:

tight packing

Here you see the gaps are smaller. I probably wouldn’t get any frosting drips between these cakes, but it has the wrong shape. This might be perfect for something like a flower or clown face.

So what does this have to do with chemistry? Well, let’s consider two items with the same chemical make up: diamond and graphite.

diamond and graphite

How can two items, both made completely of carbon, have such different properties? The secret is in the packing.

Graphite has a lot more gaps (or frosting drips) in it’s structure. Its layers are bonded together loosely, so it will flake and rub off.

Diamond, on the other hand, is made entirely of strong bonds. So while graphite is good for sketching, diamond would be better suited for etching. Different “packings” will result in materials with different uses, just like my cupcake arrangements.

This isn’t a perfect analogy because I’m comparing a two-dimensional model (cupcake packing) to a three-dimensional one (crystalline structure). But the principle is the same, and I thought this might be a fun example for young children. Older kids could do something cooler, like hot-gluing ping-pong balls together:

{Image from the Purdue University Chemistry department website.}

Science is everywhere. :)



Jun 03

Father’s Day Fingerprint Art

by Hannah Holt »


Dad’s big day is coming up. Here are a few simple cards that little fingers can put together.

For the scientific dad, use paint and fingertips to create an atom:

science dad

For the gaming dad:

controller dad

For the musical dad:

Dad Day music card2

For the sporty dad:



Note: To set up these cards I printed the text from a Word Doc. Then I sketched out the fill areas with a ball point pen. Finally, I used finger paint to add color to the cards.

Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there making a positive difference in the life of children!

A powerful man

May 27

Army Man Snack

by Hannah Holt »


I was grocery shopping the other day…

grocery shopping

…and it dawned on me, Do you know what Colby-Jack cheese looks like? It looks like army fatigues.

I don’t normally buy sliced cheese (because how hard is it to slice cheese, really?), but I was in a lazy mood. So I bought a package of pre-sliced Cobly-Jack cheese.

And then I was feeling so rested from not slicing all that cheese that I cut it up into an army dude (just add grapes).

Army Man snack

Perhaps, I should have been working on a freelance project, or vacuuming, or making dinner. But sometimes it’s just more fun to cut cheese into people.

For those of you in the States, Happy Memorial Day!


May 24

Pinecone Pets

by Hannah Holt »


The trees in our backyard are dropping pinecones at a dangerous rate. Little pinecone missiles have been falling almost constantly for the past two weeks. Between the pinecone land mines and all the tree sap on our deck, one of these days my toddlers will learn to appreciate shoes.

However, in the meantime, I’ll keep scrubbing their feet each night, and we’ll do pinecone crafts during the day.

We’ve found that you can stack the big female cones almost like LEGOs. You can also add construction paper and turn the cones into silly animals:

bear pinecone

But we probably had the most fun just painting them and adding wiggly eyes.

paintint pinecones

In the end they kind of reminded me of the Yip Martians from Sesame Street:

pine cone pets painted

We put them out in the garden. I wish I could say they were defending us from slugs and snails (they aren’t!). But they are sort of cute.

pine cone pets in garden

I’d better watch myself or I’ll start collecting lawn gnomes and plastic flamingos next. :)

May 17

Cowboy Coloring Page

by Hannah Holt »


It’s been a busy week, and tonight I’m headed to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Oregon Conference.

Writing conferences rock. I love chatting with people who feel passionately about oxford commas and third-person-single-reference narration. Plus, SCBWI always brings in fabulous keynote speakers.

The theme for this weekend is Wagons Ho! On the Publishing Trail, so I’ll leave you today with a cowboy coloring page and poem:

Cowboy trail clean

Happy trails, buckaroos!