Monday, August 06, 2012

Mars Monday!

It was a pretty spectacular start to the week to see/hear/experience the Mars Rover landing this morning at 1:32AM-EST streaming live on NASA-TV.  Starting an hour and a half early as I worked on my novel in the wee hours of the morning, NASA-TV covered acutely-rendered images and video of simulations of what the entire landing process would entail: and this was a landing feat that I truly didn't believe would happen.

Firstly the successful landing required a multitude of first-ever technology attempts including a supersonic parachute, a rocket powered descent into a "sky crane" and hanging cable rover separation.
(To watch the NASA video "7 Minutes of Terror" click here...) It also required the communication satellite Odyssey (over Mars) to reposition itself to report back on the landing data, which had never been done before, which was also done successfully.

Screen Shot of NASA-TV 8/6/12
It was truly spectacular to receive the successful landing data in real time LIVE on the NASA-TV stream, and to see the pictures come in from the Odyssey link as the scientists and engineers did live as well. You can see their reactions here from my screen shots (at right).

The first two photos which came in (the image on the left of the two boxes in photo right) were horizon images and wheel images only. It was the third shot (below) where you could see the outline of the rover on the surface of Mars clearly, with the dust from the protective lens cover that will come off later.

Photo courtesy of NASA Mars Rover Curiosity 8/6/12.
Considering the fact that the rover had landed only moments before the images came through, mankind has truly made history this morning. GO USA! Check it out before you head out to work today! A great moment for our country!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Upcycling is the new Recycling, Part 2!

1. OLD FILE CABINETS: Before I left the school for Summer Vacation someone suggested to me that I should get rid of my old dodgy grey stained and chipped file cabinet. I considered it for a bit, but then realized that 1) it's huge and heavy, and 2) it's still useable, just ugly. So my focus narrowed to solution based path. How can I make this old ugly thing pretty enough to be displayed in my middle school classroom? And then I turned to Pinterest- because if someone's done it before, it will be on there. Quickly, I found the solution and the ugly "problem" became a creative project! View how-to steps here. 

(Then, while at home in Boston for the Komen 60-mile walk, my uncle showed me his newly "upcycled" file cabinet and walked me through the revamp-process. He had used a citrus-based paint stripper and taken the paint off of his file cabinet first, and then sprayed it with a metal-specific spray paint.)

2. TANK TOPS: These can really pile up over the years! What better than to create a few more "totes" out of the material of things we might have donated anyway? There's a whole tutorial on how to do this, with step-by-step directions here.

3. CREATING ORGANIZED SPACES: I feel like every time I pin these awesome projects to my pinboard on Pinterest, I'm committing some future Saturday off to junk hunting or yard sale scoping, a trip to Home Depot to buy paint and sandpaper and often wonder if I'll ever get any of these projects done successfully. However, with this project in particular, I feel like these "rails" are everywhere to be found! Baby cribs, ladders, rungs from bannisters, this is my next project. I can use one for my things, and Tom could probably use one of these for his garage gear and tools! The tutorial to turn any "railing" into an overhead storage unit can be found here. 

4. MAKE YOUR OWN CRAYONS! I have a couple of readers who have kids and probably have tons of broken crayons at home. Here's a solution! Using greased muffin tins (oven) or paper cups (outside in sun for a few hours) you can make new crayons out of the old broken crayons by remelting them! Directions here! 

5. PET TOYS: Every time I go to the Pet Store to buy Science Diet cat food (because I'm a sucker for those cats) I also usually pick up the ten-count tailed fake mice. Lord knows where they all end up because a month later I can't find any of them, and I buy ten more. So this could be a whole project for a day for me, creating "cat nip" filled cloth balls. This project is pretty self-explanatory, using recycled "extra" materials from old clothes filling them with a squeaky toy or shaker, or cat nip, but if you need directions, head over here...

So there are a few of my favorite projects, but there are 100's of other ideas online if you google: upcycle project, or upcycle ideas. I just found this link today: 100 Amazing Upcycling Ideas Anyone Can Do, which has some more ideas.

If you missed my first "Upcycling" bog post check it out: Upcycling is the new Recycling! 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

RECAP: Boston 2012 Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure!

Aimee & Liz on Day 2!
Throughout my entire life, my mom and I have been on some pretty crazy adventures. From the 13k hike with river crossings in a thunderstorm in Canada when I was a kid, to the unforgettable nightmare hike in hail for twelve grueling miles on the Fourth of July (2009), to many beautiful hikes across Joshua Tree National Park desert in CA, the Blue Ridge, the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, Eastern Canada, and around my home state Massachusetts. We were dubbed by our family members as the "Walkie Talkies" and even had matching hats and shirts for our adventures! That team spirit followed us on our latest challenge in our 3-Day Team Name: The Walkie Talkies!

Now we can add another milestone: the grueling 4-6 month training and successful completion of the 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure event! We trained in separate states, across the country from one another, but were able to have many walks together in Florida in March, in California in April, and during two wedding trips up in New England this past spring. I was so proud that my hesitant mother, who loves walking, trusted me enough to sign up, and then see how many people were willing to support her along the way to raising the $2,300.00 needed to walk (which she did with months to spare.) My mother's energy and enthusiasm was relentless (until about 8:30pm each night of the 3-Day) and I enjoyed watching her delight and emotions all along the 60-mile trail. 
Completing an event like the 3-Day requires intense amounts of support. Waking up at 5am on both days of a weekend for months (while working full time) can be draining and I could not have done this without my best friend, and fellow walker teammate, Rachel. Thank you Rachel! As Co-Captains, Rachel and I had talked in the fall about expanding our team. I coerced convinced my high school life-long friends Jenna and Randi to join us. I was nervous about the fundraising, because $2,300 is daunting, but I knew how inspiring our first 3-Day experience in Tampa Bay in 2010 was, and I knew that if we could do this together, we would make a difference. So the challenge began!

Training for and the 3-Day event was not achieved without obstacles. The grueling physical demands of endurance walking has its own set of problems: blisters, blisters on top of blisters (yes, this exists), shin splints, road rash, hyponatremia, chafing, heat stroke, muscle sprains-pulls-pain, dehydration, hypokalemia, and more. Maintaining energy, strength and happiness is very challenging during the event especially when it rained on the camp for hours after we got in after Day 2. Again, I could not have done this without Rachel for the toughest miles on Day 2, the day I spent four months dreading...

But no 3-Day is without its own personal experiences, (like the 3am sprinklers going off on Day 2 into Day 3 on the '10 walk) and the 2012 was no exception. Rachel and I were pulled off the course at 5pm after ten hours of walking, just shy of Camp, on Day 2 for a ferocious thunder and lightning storm and relocated to the school gym of the complex we were staying at. (I was very excited to earn a "2012: I survived a Relo" button for my lanyard. I LOVE flair!) 

One of the best parts of the 3-Day is meeting new people and hearing their stories. The heartbreak, inspiring strength and resilience of these repeat-walkers always moves me to tears. One man, George, had raised his entire amount in eight days for his 9th WALK on the Komen boards because he was so well liked and remembered as "Honey, I'm hoooo-me!"and a "Man with Heart" (a group of men who carry heavy backpacks filled with anything women walkers might need) shared his heartbreaking story for an hour with me and Rachel while we were waiting for my cell to charge on night 1. After sharing some tears and his nail polish, he solidified himself in my mind as the role model for overcoming any and all adversity and loss. To another mother and her daughters walking for a cure,  my mom's "favorite" Walker-Stalker, to the people we all met individually along the trail or at night in camp, the stories create a bond of  strength and connection to these complete strangers, who have come together from all parts of the country to walk for a cause greater than any one of us. Our team, the Walkie Talkies, successfully raised just under $12,000.00 for breast cancer research and community support. The 2012 Boston Komen walk raised over $3M. It was incredible to be a part of that success. 

Even more incredible than the fundraising success, was the personal success of the journey. Seeing my mom cry as she realized the "Victory Tunnel" was a tunnel of thousands of cheering people and not a plastic football tunnel, as complete strangers saluted her efforts and sacrifices for the cure, was a highlight of my life. I am so proud to call these women, Mom, Rachel, Jenna and Randi my teammates and friends. 

If it's time to do something "bigger than yourself", or to spring board into a feasible and achievable fitness regimen, please contact me, and I'd be happy to tell you more about the 3-Day Walk. (Or any other hikes around the USA!) 

A BIG Thank You to our Sponsors, without whom we would not have been able to achieve this amazing achievement!

And finally: a special shout out to our Walker Fans who showed up along the trail to cheer our team on!
Aunt Beth!
Aunt Sue & Uncle Jim!

Aunt Cheryl & Donna!

Sean and Louise!