Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hosting A Glow Party

Recently, we hosted a Glow Party for our friends at our annual family camp-out. We had over 50 people attend ranging in age from a year old to 65 years old.  I am not kidding for one second, it was a blast! Somewhere between black lights, glow sticks, and killer play list every guest let go, relaxed, and had a great time.

Creating a Glow Party is actually pretty easy. Here are my 6 simple steps to follow to help you create a Successful Glow Party! 

1. Venue

We had our glow party outside at a local state park. You may have your party in a house, or basement or even a party room.  The size of your venue will determine the type of size of your black lights.  

2. Black Lights

Black Lights are almost a necessity for a successful Glow Party. Small venue's need small lights but if you have a larger space, you will need larger lights. Imagine the disappointment if you are trying to use black light-bulbs in a large area. They will be too small to have an impact.  If you do have a small space, try using these Clip Lights. We layered lights using both big and small.                      HDX 75-Watt Incandescent Clamp Light

I found a few large black-lights at the Halloween Store. They ranged in price from $20-$30. Maybe that does not sound expensive to you, I found a cheaper solution that worked for me. We had two old florescent light fixtures laying around from a recent update to our rental house. We painted them black and added light bulbs.  We attached them to our camper awning and they provided great coverage that ran the length of our 35 foot camper. 

If you do not have old light fixtures laying around, you can purchase florescent light fixtures from the home improvement store for less than the Halloween Store sells them. 

                                        Lithonia Lighting 2-Light White T12 Fluorescent Shop Light

After securing fixtures, you will need light bulbs for those fixtures. The Home Improvement Store sold black lights but the packaging said Aqua Lights (for fish tanks).  The florescent light fixtures we used held two Black Lights per fixture.  We also used smaller light bulbs and you can find those at many stores or easily on Amazon. 

                                         Philips 18 in. T8 15-Watt Linear Fluorescent Light Bulb - Black
3. Accessories

Accessories are what bring this Glow Party alive. I would look for anything that said Glow-in-the-Dark or even Neon worked well.  Hands down the favorite accessory at our Glow Party was the Neon Glow-in-the-Dark body paint purchased from Amazon.  A few hours before the party started one of our guest started painting designs on other guest faces.

Other cool accessories included: Glow-in-the-Dark fingernail polish, lipstick, crayons, Glow sticks, glow rings, glow teeth, bouncy balls, hair clips, drinking cupsballoons, and even paper products.

You know those plastic shapes you stick on a child's ceiling? Those would make amazing decorations at a Glow Party. If your party is indoor or if you have a way of hanging them, You can most often find them at the dollar store.

4. Clothing

When planning a Glow Party it is important to not forget to plan your own outfit for the night. Glow-in-the-dark tutu's are fun and easy to make. I found neon tulle at a fabric store and for under $20 purchased enough tulle to make two tutu's.

Not a tutu kind of person? That is okay too. I also found Glow-in-the-Dark fabric paint and created my own Glow T-shirt.  Adding fabric paint to any old item of clothing will bring it new life under a black light.  Remember, even a simple white t-shirt glows well under a black light.

5. Food

Every party needs refreshments. Did you know that Tonic Water is made with a fluorescent molecule called quinine? This makes it a perfect to use in food preparation to help get your food glowing. Mountain Dew, Energy Drinks, Milk, and Club Soda also have ingredients that make them glow. Add Tonic Water to a punch recipe (adult beverage or not) or whip up some Glow-in-the-Dark frosting for cupcakes. You can even make Jell-O parfaits that will glow all night long.  Let your food have just as much fun at the Glow-in-the-Dark party as your guest.

6. Music

The final touch to a Glow Party is music. A good dance play list will turn this party into a rave in an instant! Find out what the teens in your life are listening to and compile a play list to keep your party going all night long!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Exotics -R-Us

I have known Jenn K for a while now but I recently discovered a passion of hers. She loves educating people about animals and loves to share her passion for animals with others. Jenn K is a Wildlife Education Exhibitor and owns and operates Exotics-R-Us. She has a crew existing of  human helpers as well as phenomenal animals that make up Exotics-R-Us.

Exotics-R-Us has been showing animals for a decade. You might have seen them at many local schools, hospitals, 4-H camps, local businesses, training's, retirement facilities, Boy Scout events, Girls Scout events, as well as fairs and festivals. They are even regulars at Mid-Continent Public Library educating young crowds about these animals and their care.

I recently caught up with Jenn and her Exotics-R-Us crew at a private birthday party. At this party Exotics-R-Us brought nine different species of animals and ten total animals to the party.

The animals are just as involved as the staff at Exotics-R-Us when deciding who will or won't go to an event. Jenn reports that some of her animals are natural "hams" and love to show off. Others are not. On the day of the event, if one of the animals does not want to "crate-up" she respects their need for an off day.

The crowd at the party I was at was made up of a group of young children. They loved the next animal as much as the last. Everyone got to run their hands down the back of a the Three Banded Brazillian Armadillo (photo above) as well as down the tail of the Ringtail Cat.  I enjoyed petting the Chinchilla, I don't think I have ever felt anything as soft as his fur. 

At this point you might be looking past the cute factor and wondering some very real questions. So, in case you are were wondering, yes, Exotics-R-Us is fully licensed and insured. The staff were extremely cautious in controlling the animals during the entire show and allowed the guest to interact when it was safe for the animals as well as the staff. You can find specific guidelines on their website to help create the best environment for human/animal interaction. 

This Vervet Monkey was one of the funniest creatures to watch. He absolutely reminded me of Marcel (any other Friend's fans out there?). Yes, I do realize he is not the same species Marcel but it was enough of a similarity. This little guy was as curious about the audience as much as they were about him. It was feeding time for several of the animals and we were able to watch them drink bottles, eat carrots, or sweet potatoes. 

Every animal has their own story. Some of the animals are born on site at the Exotics-R-Us facility, while others come as a re-home. Some have been donated to help support Exotics-R-Us role in education.  Jenn also works with other licensed zoo's and exhibitors and they often share animals amongst each other.

Exotics-R-Us is currently caring for a baby Wallaby. This is one of the animals that will only stay with Jenn and her crew a short time. As he grows, his need for larger space will dictate that he move on to live at one of the other places that Exotics-R-Us have arrangements with.

Several of the animals at Exotics-R-Us are special needs animals. Currently, they are caring for a three-footed fox, a blind prairie dog, a one eyed dog and a three legged, two hoofed Myotonic goat (photo later in this post).  These special needs animals have a story to tell as well. Children with special needs can especially relate to animals special needs. 


Some of the parties that Exotics-R-Us work at are designed for educational purposes. Scouts, both boy and girl, may need to learn about a specific animal to earn a merit badge. Others are just for fun. Recently, Exotics-R-Us were the main attraction at a baby shower. The organizers had made a special request to have only baby animals to match the theme of their shower. Pending arrival of a baby mixed with the super cuteness of baby animals. I can't hardly stand it!

Hopefully you are now considering a party with these cute animals as the star of the show. Jenn does have some suggestions for making the party go smoothly. She does ask that all food and drinks be withheld until the animals have made their appearance.  She also says a respectful audience is one of the most important elements to a successful party involving animals. 

Loud noises, sudden movements, and even eager guest rushing an animal can send an otherwise scare a timid animal. She also ask that if you plan to have side activities or conversations that you have enough space to separate out the animals from the other activities. Exotics-R-Us wants everyone to have a fun learning experience that develops into positive attitudes toward animals and nature.

As far as size of the group, Jenn leaves that to the party planner. Of course the smaller the group, the more intimate the setting. A group of 15 guest will have more time for interaction than say a larger group of 50. Exotics-R-Us does parties for all ages...even adults. 

At this birthday party, I would say the animals that stole the show were new born Serval kittens. Serval's are a species of wild cats native to Africa. They are cousins to the African Golden Cat and look very similar.  They have very long legs and large ears, both which help them hunt. They also have white markings on the back of their ears giving the appearance they have eyes in the back of their heads. 

Are you wondering if this type of party is within your budget? Jenn assured me that it is. A one hour party with 6-9 different species typically cost less than $300.00.  As an added bonus, Exotics-R-Us has decided to give a 10% discount to readers of this blog.  So if you are looking for something a little different and totally adorable then please consider hiring Exotics-R-Us for your next party. 

As far as this specific party, I think the birthday girl had a great time.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Victory Parade for the Champions

The Kansas City Royals won The World Series this past weekend.

The Kansas City Royals celebrate after defeating the New York Mets 7-2 to win the World Series in New York on Monday, November 2.

Yes. They. Did.

We were proud last year when our last place Royals came back and clinched a wild card ticket. They were the Cinderella story of baseball last year and fought their way to the World Series only to lose out in Game 7 to the San Francisco Giants.  We did not get discouraged. If you would have asked any Royals fan in Kansas City, we would have told you on Opening Day this past Spring that this was going to be our year. We had unfinished business.

We took care of that business last weekend by finishing The World Series in five games and defeating The New York Mets. On Tuesday of this week, our city threw an amazing victory parade that an estimated 800,000 people attended. Schools closed for the day, employers allowed long lunches, college students missed classes, and even government offices closed.

This championship has given something more than a giant trophy and bragging rights to our city. It has given us memories that will last a lifetime. It has given us shared experiences to talk about. We have united in ways past winners may not understand. For these things, I am thankful to the Kansas City Royals. As you glance through my Victory Parade photos, I will give you some of my favorite moments from this years road to reclaiming the crown.

If you are a sci-fi fan, this was the year the Chicago Cubs were suppose to win the World Series. Royal's fan just quietly smiled at all of the Back to the Future hype because we knew the screenwriters got it wrong. This was our year.

In terms of highly memorable moments: Game 4 of the American League Division Series ranks up there! Eighth inning and the Royals are down 6 to 2 Houston Astro fans (and a few KC Royals fan according to my Facebook news-feed) prematurely gave The Astro's the win. Even the Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted his congratulations to the Houston Astro's for advancing to the American League Champion Series.  However, Royal's fans have learned that our team takes advantage of every single inning in baseball and sometimes just sometimes our best baseball is played in the 8th or even 9th innings. We came back and won that game 9-6 and tied the series up. Two days later we were moving on to the American League Championship Series.

 Blue Jay's Outfielder, Jose Bautista (former Royal by the way) became the second most disliked person to Royals fan's when he fake threw a ball at Kauffman Stadium to Royal's fans. We will all remember how good it felt to head into Toronto Canada leading the series with the Blue Jays 2-0? We hardly blinked an eye when The Royal's lost game three of that series. We ended that series 4 wins to 2 after six games.

Wondering who the most disliked person is to Royal's fans? Joe Buck. Need I say anymore. Two seasons of listening to Joe Buck's inability to say a single positive thing about The Royal's and then he goes on the MLB Network on the morning of Game 5 of the World Series and says we might be the best team he has covered in 18 years. Anyone else confused? Do I dare ask, too little too late?

I am blessed to have watched so many games with friends during this post season play. Game One of the World Series Championship I watched with three co-workers in a hotel lobby during a business trip. We took a lot of razzing from locals. We were in the middle of St. Louis Cardinal's Country. (MO is a very decisively split state and red fans have no use for blue.) Despite the razzing, we held strong in our faith and wore our blue proudly. We also showed up to work the next day super tired, with red eyes, and big smiles after staying up for all 14 innings. Our heads were high because we had been victorious!

Game 4 of the World Series was held on Halloween Night. Trick-or-Treating started early in my neighborhood, everyone wanted to be home before first pitch. We watched the game on a big screen in our driveway with our neighborhood friends and our camping buddies. Another 8th inning rally occurred and we walked away with a win and leading the series 3 to 1.

Game 5 of the World Series, the Royals are trailing The New York Mets. I never once got worried. As I have stated before, we come alive in the 8th and sure enough, the team did not disappoint. We tied that game up in the 9th and sent The Mets into extra innings.  Christian Colon got the hit that drove Dyson home giving us the lead. We went on to put up a few extra "insurance" runs that we ended up not needing. The Royals shut the Mets down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 12th.

From the comfort of my own bed, weary eyes, The Husband and I heard the fireworks go off in our neighborhood as strike three was called. We woke The Short Chic up. We did not want her to miss the excitement. We called The Boy in college.  We went to bed with smiles on our faces knowing we had just won our second World Series Championship.

We knew a lot of people would attend the Victory Parade. In 1985 there was an estimated 350,000 in attendance. My work was two blocks off the parade route and since I have secured parking I knew I would have very little difficulty getting to the parade. I invited my Momma to come up and watch it with me. Then The Short Chic's school cancelled and she came along as well.

The camaraderie in the city has been unbelievable throughout the playoff season. Everyone is so nice to each other. So patient. That is what I saw at the parade. I watched a Kansas City Police Officer deliver cotton candy to a group of people because they were on the opposite side of the street.

Elected Kansas City officials started the parade off. I was happy to see Mayor Sly James. I followed many of his tweets during the playoffs with great amusement. Some might have felt we needed a little less public officials but I know how much work public officials put into making these things happen. This is there city too. We can wait another minute or two to see the Champions.

George Brett and Frank White have been baseball royalty in this town for more than three decades. It was very nice to have them at the parade to hand that torch over to new baseball royalty.  Team mascot, Sluggeerr, and Mr. W himself were a part of the parade.  Two people I felt should have been there that were not, TechNine and The Marlin's Man. They have become such a staple of the crowd behind home-plate, it would have been natural to have included them.

The Royal's players rode in the back of Chevy Silverado's. Lo Cain was the first player.  Alex Rios followed behind him and then Alex Gordon completely surrounded by his family. Of course, Christian Colon received a loud crowd welcome. So did Eric Hosmer. I am still not sure if the young ladies that were standing near me have recovered from the near Hosmer experience.

Some players rode alone, others with their families, some with their parents, and even Moose rode with his dog. They all had banners and shirts that said "Thanks Kansas City".

Pitchers, catchers, infielders or outfielders. Everyone has their favorite Royal and I think they were each given a Royal greeting in the Victory Parade. I think they were saying thank to us but we were also saying "Thank You"  to them. They brought this excitement here. To our city. To Kansas City.

The little part of the parade we were in was crowded. But we were not uncomfortable. Not at all. In fact, my cousin arrived from out of town and he was able to find us using a drop pin. The Husband attempted to go to the Rally. He said it was so crowded he left shortly after he arrived.  The total route was 2.5 miles long. In the end 800,000 people jammed that route. There were only 3 arrest that day. There was no looting. No destruction. It was in fact a day as perfect as a day involving nearly a million people could be.

I don't say it was perfect to ignore that we had some hiccups. From my work window I could see the interstates back up as soon as they shut down the downtown streets. There was not enough parking.  On my way home, I joked because it looked like the Zombie Apocalypse had occurred. Vehicles were left anywhere people could find a spot to park. That meant the shoulders of interstates or even the grassy areas between highways. People were encouraged to take mass transportation but there was not enough buses to meet the demand.

Cell service could not keep up with the amount of people in one location. I saw one photo on my news feed that a fan held a sign that said, "Cell Service like it's 1985. It might have been edited after the fact, but the sentiment was true. No one was accessing cellular data while at the parade!

There was not any food.  Parade attenders had been encouraged to not bring anything to the parade; backpacks, coolers, or even chairs. People stood in line for up to three/four hours before the parade started and the parade was scheduled right over the lunch hour. I really wish Kansas City would have reached out to the multitude of food trucks in this area and had them park on the shut down streets to serve the crowd. I know The Short Chic would have done about anything for a hot dog vendor! The Sprint Center finally sent out a cotton candy vendor, so you can imagine how happy the fans were to see bags of sugar hitting the streets.

The parade ended with the last two big stars. Salvador Perez was the series MVP. The crowd chanted SALVY, SALVY as he drove past.

Ned Yost effectively ended the parade. He held onto the World Series Championship trophy. Not the replica the parade started off with but the actual trophy.

I went back to work after the parade past me. I was not going to fight the crowds to the rally site. I watched highlights on the news that night. I will watch the entire rally in re-air this weekend. Some have criticized but Jonny Gomez but he made me smile as he commanded the stage. Jeremy Guthrie showed us first hand one of the ways this team went from last place to Champions by focusing on positive moments.

 Thank you, Kansas City Royals.  Thank you,  Kansas City, Thank you fans. Now, if you are like me you will use this off season time to catch up on the sleep we missed during this post season play!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mad Science Lab

We attended the Second Annual Camp-or-Treat event at Watkins Mill State Park this past weekend. 

The Camp-or-Treat is a weekend of Halloween fun at a local state park in our area. Festivities include a Costume Contest for many divisions: canine, children and adults. There is also a Spookiest Campsite Contest.  Last year we used costumes we had made for our trip to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party where we were crayons. We attempted to add a bit of scare to those costumes and made an Evil Crayon Factory. We were not scary, but we were creative. This year we had to find a way to bring some scare but not too much scare because this is a family event and there were lots of little kids. 

I have wanted to create a Mad Scientist Lab for a while now and this event provided us with the perfect opportunity to do so. The frame of our science lab came from two easy up tents. We used shower curtain liners purchased at a local dollar store as the walls. We found that if you taped them they held together better than any other method. So we used packing tape to tape the walls together.  

Photos we found on Google Images were printed on aged looking paper were hung up as well as a replica of the Elements Chart. We added spider webs here and there as well as some black creepy fabric. We also had access to a few black lights left over from our Glow Party. They really helped add a creepy feel to everything. 

A lot of the work for this science lab started weeks before the Camp-Or-Treat. We started saving glass and plastic jars to re-purpose.  Each jar held some creepy prop for the lab.You will see many of these things in our photos if you look hard enough! Here are five ideas for props: 

1. We purchased a bunch of animals that grow in water. We grew out critters in various jars. 

2. We also soaked raw eggs in vinegar for a few days. The vinegar dissolved the calcium shell leaving a rubberized membrane sack that held the raw egg. It was creepy to look at but even creepier to hold. Word of warning: the membrane can still break so be careful or you could end up with egg all over you! 

3.  Highlighters can be broken open and you can remove the foam saturated with highlight ink and place it in a jar of water. The water will turn neon from the highlighter ink.

4. Fake blood can be made by simply mixing water, powdered sugar, red food coloring, and a little bit of cocoa. Not only does it look like real blood, but it sure freaks people out when you take a swig of it!

5. Unicorn horn dust can be made by mixing glitter with sanding sugar.

I used every vintage looking box I could find just as props. My Momma had long ago provided me with old cheese molds. My friend Angie gave me a divided box she rescued from her uncles barn. We even used a devise from the turkey fryer because it looked evil. I would suggest if you are going to make a mad science lab, start by looking around your home for things you own that might look differently if used in a different way.

As guest visited our lab they were greeted by our skeleton, Bob, and his dog, Bones. We has four tables set up and each table has something creepy going on. At the first table we had the shell-less eggs along with a pan of baking soda. Guest could add a drop of a strange liquid (white vinegar) to the baking soda for a fizzling effect!

At the second table we held science experiments. We made "lava lamps" we added dish soap to a pan of milk and food coloring, and finally we made expanding elephant toothpaste by adding a yeast mixture to peroxide and dish soap.

The third table held our sensory boxes.  Guest were given the opportunity to stick their hands into a sensory box to experience a creepy touch. Some ideas we came up with:

1. Spider Eggs - We used Foam Modeling Beads. These were a big hit!
2. Maggots - Cooked Rice mixed with Olive Oil
3. Witches Skin - A simple tortilla
4. Ears - Apple Slices
5. Worms - Cooked Spaghetti
6. Ogre Snot - Green Slime
7. Witches Teeth - dried corn
8. Princess Heart - blanches and skinned tomato
9. Spider Legs - pipe cleaners

If I were to do anything differently, it would be the sensory boxes. The kids were able to see too easily into them. Seeing a box of dried corn interfered with the visual that they were teeth. 

Our fourth and final table was set up an an operating table. We had a skeleton hooked up to a machine we built out of cardboard boxes and various items we re-purposed from The Husband's tool bench. Sadly, this operation was not successful and our skeleton looks limp and life like. 

It was a fun night. Adults walked through, kids came back multiple times. Many people asked if we were science teachers! The Judges loved us. They awarded us FIRST PLACE in the campsite contest. Unfortunately, we miss read the agenda so we missed the awards ceremony.  We were very thankful that the judges brought us the award and PRIZE (three free nights of camping) they were sure to tell us we won by a landslide and they had high hopes for us next year!

I hope you enjoyed this post about our Mad Science Lab. We certainty enjoyed making it and hanging out in it for the night.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Future Arrived

Yesterday was Back To The Future Day.  Remember the movie trilogy from my teen years that had  Marty McFly take a DeLorean time machine to the future? To October 21, 2015 to be exact. 

I do not want to spend any time analyzing the predictions screen writers or movie makers made when they were making Back To The Future. I spent Back To The Future day just contemplating  the passing of time and thinking about my life thirty years ago and my life now. 

When the movies came out my my future was so unclear. Of course I was only a sophomore in high school. But still, I had no career aspirations, no plans to attend college. Little did I know then a few short years later as I put myself through college I would find a passion to help others and spend the next twenty-five years doing just that. 

I never saw myself as being married. Or having children. I never saw myself old enough to have a son in college, but here I am. In reflection,  my life is good. It is not without challenges; the occasional riff with the spouse, the difficult parenting moment, the tightening of the belt every now and then. But overall I have very little to complain about.                


There is a place in my life where time has nearly halted.  My great aunt owns the house and property that she was raised in with her parents (my great grandparents) and her siblings (one of whom was my maternal grandfather). Each year she host a fall gathering at the place we refer to as The Farm. 
Sure time has touched The Farm. None of us are immune to the effects of time, but so many things at The Farm have not changed. Every visit to The Farm causes us to slow down and remember a past that we desire to remain connected to.  

The gateway sign has been repainted but it has been welcoming us to The Farm for years. So has the wooden gate. The house itself has been standing for decades. My Great Aunt tells us how the kitchen area is "new". Her parents had it delivered on a flat bed trailer and added it to the house.

My Great Aunt has left the home very much as it was the day her mother passed in the early 1980's. The home has electricity but no running water.  There is no television. There is a radio. There is no indoor bathroom. There is an outhouse a few feet out the back door. There are a lot of  animals at The Farm. Many of them are plastic. But you never know when you will be visited by the real ones during your visit. 

My Great Aunt still drives out to The Farm and spends time there. When she is there she cooks on this antique stove. It does not run on gas or electric. It is an old wood burning stove. Can you image how difficult it is to regulate your oven when it runs off fire? Besides a little dust, it is in great shape.  The kitchen is in the "new" part of the house.

As much as I think The Farm is just as it was, I realize that is not true. During my last visit, I noticed small things; cobwebs where there use to be none, or dust collecting in the corner, or a ceiling sagging in need of repair. The comparison to my own life does not escape me. I too sag in places I never sagged. I have cobwebs in my memories.  There is dust collecting in parts of my life that I have put on hold for other things.

Every direction you turn at The Farm you notice a simpler life. Not necessarily an easier life but maybe a quieter one. I already mentioned there was never a TV in this home but there was certainly never a telephone and cell service remains hit or miss. After a visit here, I always think I need to slow my own life down. It never happens but the reminder remains. 

If you do sit quietly, pondering the last thirty years of your life, you might find one of those real wild animals sharing the same space as you. The Short Chic and I found this frog. We were quiet and respectful of his space so he allowed us to join him. He surely wasn't around when Marty McFly jumped into that DeLorean.  But who knows, maybe his ancestors have lived in my Great Grandparents pond for generations.

I thought I would go the entire post not analyzing the predictions for the future that were made in the film but I have to comment on just one. The film predicted the Cubs would beat a team from Miami (when there was no baseball team in Miami when Back To The Future was filmed) to win The World Series. Baseball fans and science fiction fans have both found it thrilling that the Chicago Cubs were in post season play just as the film predicted. Sadly, on Back To The Future Day the Chicago Cubs lost four games straight to the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.

If all you broken hearted Cubs fan need a team to cheer next, might I suggest our Kansas City Royals. I know the movie makers did not predict they would win The World Series but ironically, the last time the Royals won a World Series was in 1985. The same year Marty McFly went to the future.