Nov 07

Layers of the Earth

by Hannah Holt »


The other day my five-year-old asked me, “What’s a continent?”

Me, “It’s a large land area on a tectonic plate.” (My husband likes to tease me for being incapable of simple explanations. I thought I was keeping it pretty simple, until…)

Him, “What’s a tectonic plate?”

Suddenly, I knew this explanation needed play-doh:

Layers of the earth playdoh1

Question: What is a tectonic plate?

Answer: Tectonic plates are pieces of the earth’s crust. The earth’s crust is one of three main layers of the earth, including the core, mantle, and crust.

The core is the center of the earth. It is made mostly of metal and is surrounded by a liquid-ish mantle:

core and mantle

The earth’s crust rests on the mantle:


The crust is where you find people, and continents, and, oceans and….


I tried keeping it simple. How I’d do?

Oct 29

Ginger-Spooks & Pumpkin Puppets

by Hannah Holt »


This week I had a hankering for gingerbread. It might be too early for Christmas music and gingerbread men, but it’s the perfect time for ginger-spooks!

ginger skeletons

Boo! I followed this recipe for ginger cookies, and frosted them monster-style with a simple glaze.

{Note: to pipe designs on the cookies, I filled a sandwich bag with frosting and snipped off one of the corners with scissors. No fancy cake decorating supplies needed!)

ginger skeletons2

They were frightfully good!

We also made paper bag pumpkin puppets. I always keep lunch bags around the house. They are cheap and have so many uses. I cut pumpkin faces and features from construction paper and showed the kids how to glue them to the bags.


pumpkin puppetpumpkin puppet1

Happy Halloween!

pumpkin puppet2


Oct 16

Field Trip’n with Flowers

by Hannah Holt »


I know most of my readers aren’t local to Portland, but it’s a gorgeous place to visit (and live). If you ever find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, here are a few of our favorite family-friendly floral destinations.

1. The Portland Rose Garden

Rose Garden2

  • Best time to visit: June-September
  • Cost: Free
  • Why we like it: rows and rows of roses for your noses
  • Location:400 SW Kingston Ave  Portland, OR 97205

2. Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

tulip festival

  • Best time to visit: late March-early May
  • Cost: $10/car
  • Why we like it: It’s like a trip to Holland without the jet lag
  • Location: 33814 S Meridian Rd  Woodburn, OR 97071

3. Swan Island Dahlias

Dahlia Festival Field

  • Best time to visit: August-September
  • Cost: Free
  • Why we like it: Dahlias are my favorite flower. They are a hardy kind of cheerful.
  • Location: 995 NW 22nd Ave  Canby, OR 97013

4. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden



{Photo courtesy of the lovely Marcie Colleen}

  • Best time to visit: Spring
  • Cost: Free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Why we like it: Rhododendrons are not the state flower of Oregon, but I feel like they should be. They are plentiful, gorgeous, and peak in spring. (Always a welcome sight after a long gray Oregon winter!)
  • Location: 6015 SE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97202

Because I couldn’t choose between Marcie’s photos, here are a few more pictures from Crystal Springs:


Oct 09

Egg Carton Leis

by Hannah Holt »


We’ve been working too hard this past week. Sometimes it’s time to PARTY!

Here’s a craft that’s a party all by itself.

egg carton leis craft

We cut up a few empty egg cartons. I used a skewer to punch a hole in the middle of each “egg cup.” I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.


We painted the cups and let them dry. (You might need to re-hole some of the cups after painting.) Then we strung them on a shoestring.

painting egg cartonspaintingpainted egg cartonsstringing the egg carton necklace


If you wanted to make this a Halloween craft, you could paint the cartons orange and black:

egg carton leis craft2




Oct 02

The Average Bears: Mr. Mean, Mr. Median & Mr. Mode

by Hannah Holt »


Last week, my son asked me, “What does average mean?” I thought it was an interesting question, socially and mathematically.

Averages look at groups of things (or individuals) and point out what’s common, normal, or ordinary.

As you can probably tell from this loosey-goosey definition there is more than one way to find an average. So how do you find an average? To help us out, I want to introduce you to a few bears. First there is Yogi. He is…

smarter than

{Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Bear, text added}

Then there are Mr. Mean, Mr. Median, and Mr. Mode. They are your average bears:

Mean Median Mode

One day, Yogi Bear wanted to know how the squirrels in Jellystone Park were doing. He called for Mr. Mean, Mr. Median, and Mr. Mode and said:

Yogi: Go find out how the average squirrel is doing.

Mr. Mean went to Squirrel Tree first. The squirrels had differing amounts of acorns.

squirrels and acorns

Mr. Mean is mean. He took all their acorns and counted them. There were seventy acorns and seven squirrels. He divided all the acorns into seven piles. Each squirrel got 10 acorns:

squirrels and acorns mean

This made some of the squirrels happy and some mad! Mr. Mean went back to Yogi and said:

Mr. Mean: The squirrels are great. The average squirrel has 10 acorns.

But after Mr. Mean left, the squirrels who lost acorns took them back. So all the squirrels had the same number of acorns as before.

Mr. Median went to Squirrel Tree second. Mr. Median loves the middle. He found the squirrel with the middle amount of acorns and reported this number to Yogi.

squirrels and acorns median

Mr. Median: The squirrels are okay. The average squirrel has 7 acorns.

Finally Mr. Mode went to see the squirrels. Mr. Mode loves whatever happens most often.

squirrels and acorns mode

He came back and said…

Mr. Mode: The squirrels are terrible!!! The average squirrel only has one acorn.

Whom should Yogi Bear believe? He sent the Three Average Bears to Squirrel Tree and they all came back with different answers. What do you think is the best average?

Three Ways to Find an Average:

1. Mean: Add up all the parts and divide by the number of pieces. (40+12+8+7+1+1+1)/7 This is the most commonly used average.

2. Median: Arrange all the numbers from most to least. Pick the middle number. If you have an even number of data, take the mean of the two middle numbers.

3. Mode: Look through all the numbers and count how often each number happens. Pick the number that happens most often.

Note: As an engineer, I often faced situations with more than one “right” answer. A good engineer can usually make the numbers say almost anything. However, a great engineer uses her judgement to find the best and most accurate way to present the data. Some clients pressure you to give them the answers they want. However, this never pays off in the long run. Someone could get hurt. And even if no one gets hurt, someone else is bound to look at the data later. If they find data splicing, your client could get sued and lose more money than if you had told them the truth. Also, you could lose your licence for bad engineering practice. Engineering is more than number crunching; it’s about being honest and using good judgement.