The Puzzler

Are you a puzzler? Sounds like a villain from some ancient comic book series, doesn’t it? I’m not sure what they are called, but I am referring to “one who does jigsaw puzzles.” (Check out my social media if you want the answers to what they are really called…) At the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, we, like all the other families we know, got out the puzzles. Gonna be stuck for couple of weeks, might as well tackle that 1000 piece object of frustration, right? Or maybe you are the 1500 or 2000 piece master. Hats off to you. Ours started out well. The youngest was determined to finish… even time-lapsing the evidence to show the progress (see below). Alas, our kitchen table was no match for the unfinished work of art. Pieces began to slide and fall off, lost to the abyss of the living room floor. The table was taken up with other projects, and the purple flowers of the Thomas Kinkade painting eventually all blended in with the blue-green grass. We were “done” — the puzzle soon became too time consuming for our small attention spanned minds. The box got put back in the cupboard again. Maybe if we had a dedicated workspace. (I say this for about half the projects I start). I have a friend who refinished a table just for puzzles. I recall basements of older relatives set up with folding card and T.V. tables with jigsaws on them. I honour ya’ll with thought and admiration for your dedication. Sorry, not our cup of tea.

our attempts at jigsaw puzzling…and sharing videos on the blog…

Which is probably detrimental to our mental health. They tell me puzzle building is good for your brain. It makes all kinds of connections between your left and right brain hemispheres and releases “good” brain chemicals leading to calmer emotions, better memory, creativity, and eventually can raise your IQ levels by up to 4 points. Does it have to be the kind of puzzle that takes up my dining room table, though? Perhaps my denim quilt will achieve the same results… or matching tupperware lids. Or dividing brownies into enough pieces to last longer than two days in a house full of teens. Those are puzzles, right?! But, I digress…

The idea of “the puzzler” and cutting out almost 500 squares of denim for above said quilt project, had me thinking about the idea of piece work. Many of you are familiar with the Bible’s description of the church as different parts of one body. 1 Corinthians 12 goes on to explain in details how all the parts fit to make a complete whole — much like the pieces of the puzzle are designed to complete the picture (eventually — if you have the patience!).

photo credit: mcc.org

As a beginner quilter, I have new appreciation for the work that goes into a huge quilt… so many tiny stitches and pieces of fabric tediously folded and tucked — often by multiple hands to complete a masterpiece! I can’t help but think God has a folding card table set up somewhere in Heaven for His puzzle of “the Church”. Or a great sewing room somewhere with giant quilts of age-old stories weaved together with tiny, perfect stitching.

We’ve been blessed in the last couple of weeks to “fish around” a bit for a variety of online church services and worship videos. Not because we don’t love our own church body, but because isolation has given us the opportunity to see what the world is doing! His church is alive and reaching out in new and wonderful ways. We’ve had to be creative and be challenged to work together to get things done. We may be physically distant, but we are certainly not isolated! Much like the quilters of old — each working on our part of the puzzle to create a masterpiece. Younger and able bodied groups are reaching out to seniors. Gifted musicians are joining together to make concerts on balconies. Bakers and baristas are serving frontline workers. The internet has exploded with “church online”… with traditional and non-traditional services being broadcasted world wide. We need to put aside our differences and look beyond our tiny warped piece and see how our bumps and grooves align with dips and waves of others. Do we fit? Can we flip to fit even better? Does our straight edge align with the straight edge of others to frame the puzzle? Does our flash of colour blend with other, similar flashes to blend into a beautiful tapestry? Who are we to think that we have all the answers? Perhaps the Master Puzzler has given us this world wide pandemic because He wanted to pull out the old Heavenly folding card table for awhile and mix up some puzzle pieces and make something beautiful out of us. And He’s got a whole lot more patience then we do! What will you do with your piece of the puzzle?

What will you do with your piece of the puzzle???

Road Trip!

We went on a long drive this weekend. Maybe we were not supposed to. Perhaps we should have stayed home. But we stayed safe — and realistically there is nothing else to do, am I right? Better than being exposed to viruses in the grocery store, right? So, we went. I had some goals and things to see along the way, so I planned the route the day before. Google mapped my meandering “scenic” journey through countryside and small towns. Not that anything was open. It was about the journey. What about you? Do you love a good road trip? With four kids plus the two of us, budget often dictates we drive instead of fly. We have done our fair share of road trips. Our kids have travelled via minivan from day one. They are good travellers and we have all survived. Technology helps… but planning is better. I remember travelling to Disney and creating “car kits” for the kids with games and snacks. Now they are older, so technology it is… unless you are picking up the oldest who has been slightly isolated and needs to share. Or the youngest who never gets enough one on one attention and will talk your ear off if given the correct topic.

The hubby and I used to talk a lot on road trips — how we would never do what so-and-so does with their kids, as our future children will be angels. (*cough* wheeze …choking on our own words). Or, what our perfect house would look like if we had money to burn. We don’t chat much now on car rides… unless it’s me telling him to slow down, or to get gas before it is too late. Or making that sucking-in-air noise as you brace the sides of the door handle as he changes lanes. Like your feeble human arm will protect you from that 18 wheel semi truck who happens to be too close. Come on, I know I am not the only one who does this, am I right? Aged nerves are not as steely as they used to be. Maturity has a way of doing that to you.

Nonetheless, we road tripped a little this weekend. The sun shone, the van was gassed up, and time was on our side. We plugged in our phone and punched in the first “stop”. Anyone remember those fold out maps (à la paper) with highlighted routes and sharpie x’s here and there? Doesn’t happen anymore, does it? Phone apps and google maps rule now. Which had me musing… oh, how we trust in that little piece of technology. We believe it will get us there. On more than one occasion, I have told myself just to trust the GPS… it knows. Truthfully, it usually does.

As we travelled along this time, we, again, trusted in our app and turned down a somewhat questionable sideroad. It was paved, but narrow, and a little too country for my liking… and not where I had planned. I asked the hubby, and he assured me that the maps were giving us “the fastest” way. There was very little signage on the this backroad… but it eventually came back out to a main street and we continued along without incident. This little blind side trip had me thinking again… How many times do we want clear and visible signs?

We often want clear signs! (photo credit: Ryan McGuire)

If you are anything like me, you want signs to point you in the right direction. Some concrete indication that yes, this is it. This is God’s plan. This is what I should be doing — or that big sign that says “TURN HERE” you are going the wrong way! The map has the big sharpie X plainly highlighted with all the stops. I looked up “signs” in my Bible app… and “signs and wonders” often accompanied each other in the listed verses. Seems like humanity has always been looking for “signs”. The big miracles. Clear indications of supernatural influences. Many of the early Jesus followers were seeking just these magic shows, however, and not really interested in Jesus himself or His teachings. Still others were unconvinced… hardened hearted Pharaoh mocked Moses’ “signs”. His own magicians could conjure up snakes and smoke just as impressively.

Perhaps as you’ve been home, contemplating life with the rest of us, you are looking for signs too… should you go back to the same job? When is it “safe” to go out? Who should make the decision to reopen businesses? And when? I’m with ya. I want life all mapped out, too. Yet, our online Sunday service this week reminded us that sometimes we need to reassess, and perhaps a pave a new path on our spiritual journey. God sometimes asks us to go where the road is not clearly marked. Where the road is narrow and a little too “country backroad” for our liking. And for a brief moment we are scared that it is not the way.

Still, Who is in your driver’s seat? Who controls the GPS and the steering wheel of your life? Do we give up full control and say, yup, Jesus, go ahead and take the wheel? I’m just along for the ride. It’s hard. It’s scary. It may even be a little dangerous. It’ll take some faith and a whole lotta trust. But — it may just be worth your drive. Happy road-tripping, my friend, happy road-tripping.

Investigate Chromatography

Well… day whatever of self isolation. I’m missing routine. I’m unmotivated and finding it difficult to find things to blog about. They’ve just announced that school won’t be back in session until at least May 31st. Pray for us mommas. In light of all this, I thought I would repost this article I wrote for a fellow blogger looking for some science ideas. It’s not been posted on my site, so – perhaps it would be a fun project you could do during isolation? God’s creation is vast and colourful, and hopefully spring will bring me some new ideas to muse about, but until then, enjoy this one! Stay safe, friends.


Greetings!  I am so pleased to share some thoughts with RedHeaded Patti as a guest blogger!  As a scientist and mom of four (plus the extra odd neighbourhood kids and students that sometimes visit) it was a no brainer for me to answer her call for a SUMMER OF STEM ideas!  We are always learning and love to share with others! So let’s get right down to it:  Let’s investigate Chromatography!  We originally tackled this project for this year’s science fair and it is a perfect investigation for all sorts of children or students… you can tailor it to any age by investigating just a bit deeper or a little less.  We wanted something easy, fun and colourful to learn about!  To read about our finished project, check out the link here.  We post every Tuesday and would love to have you join our adventure over at mittonmusings.com!

ChromatographyChromatography, in its simplest terms, means “separating parts of a mixture”.  Scientists do this for all kinds of mixtures:  gases, liquids and solids can all be separated into their various parts.  For example, blood can be separated out to search for specific diseases.  Oil companies often use chromatography to weed out impurities in their products. Gases can be diffused and distilled to investigate all about bombs and warfare.  Distillation is closely related to chromatography and is another method for separating mixtures.  Perhaps you can investigate the differences!  For our example, we are going to be using paper chromatography to separate liquid pigments (in markers) into their various colours.  Pigments are also found in other everyday objects like leaves and candy… even more to investigate!

So… let’s gather our materials:

paper cups

coffee filters

markers (various colours and types)

rubbing alcohol

elastic bands

a dropper

a coin

water

Once you have all your materials now is when the fun starts!!  Here’s the basic method and what our results were.  Feel free to try all sorts of markers and colours and see what results you get!

We took 6 cups and wrapped one coffee filter on the top of each cup and secured it with an elastic band

We picked 5 sharpie colours and traced the coin to make a circle on the filter

We dropped a few drops of alcohol inside the ink circles and watched the circle as it “grew” and separated by moving along the filter paper

We did the same with the Crayola marker, except we used water instead of alcohol (you’ll see why later)

Our Results:

colours

The ink separated (spread) and some turned into different colours along the coffee filter.

Green…. showed yellow

Dark Blue…. showed a light then darker blue

Purple…. showed pink and violet

Teal…. showed yellow and blue-green

Black (Sharpie)…. showed purple

Black (Crayola)…. showed blue and pink

Our favourites were teal and purple!!

Wasn’t that fun?!  Now, as good scientists, we have to ask the question: WHY?  Markers have ink — that’s what makes the colours.  Ink is a mixture of a fast-drying liquid and pigments (the substances that give something colour).  Sharpie markers have alcohol-based ink (permanent), and Crayola markers have water-based ink (not permanent).  So, when we added more liquid (alcohol or water), the ink spread out and separated into other colours.  Did you notice that black is really a mixture of a whole bunch of colours?!

We also observed that some colours spread out further than others.  The water based marker spread the most. This is because “solutes” (the things that make up a mixture) will move along depending on how much of the solute there is in the mixture.   Water based inks have a lot of “solvent”(the stuff that solutes are mixed into)…which is why they are not permanent and are easily washable. Some inks showed more than one colour even though they started out looking like only one!  This shows us that inks (or pigments) are really made up of a mixture (or solution) of different colours that produce the various shades of “single” marker colours.  Isn’t science great?!

We hope you enjoyed this fun and easy science experiment.  Remember it next time you are enjoying some colouring this summer with your markers — and don’t ever stop learning!leaves