White Squirrel!

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My family was driving around town enjoying one of the northeast’s few remaining yard sale weekends, when my daughter spotted a white squirrel.
We ditched our yard sale plans and followed it down the street instead. Because, SQUIRREL!!!
This little guy was quick, and we couldn’t get close enough to take a really good picture. We tried.  We decided that he was on the hunt for any white chocolate that trick-or-treaters tossed from their bags to make room for the good stuff.

We later found a great resource from white squirrel expert Rob Nelson, and learned a whole lot about these cool critters. Rob is compiling research and a map of white squirrel sightings at Untamed Science, where we logged our own account to contribute to the research.

Doritos Legion of Bold

From 2006 until 2016, Doritos ran a Superbowl commercial contest featuring a million dollar prize! Doritos has decided to change things up with an initiative called Legion of the Bold. It features smaller, continuously rolling contest assignments utilizing various types of media.
My family decided to check it out, and we entered a stop motion contest promoting Doritos Mix-ups. The hardest part wasn’t setting up the all of the the tedious frame-by-frame shots, but figuring out how to build a wire armature pony without breaking the chips! Our plan was to animate it running across the screen and leaping into a bag. You can see how it turned out below. We didn’t win any prizes, but we all had a blast, got real greasy, and ate way too many Doritos. In my book that’s winning!

Unicorn Taxidermy

Unicorn TaxidermyMy family practices catch and release when hunting for mythical animals, but we were still super excited when we discovered Unicorn Taxidermy. We were on our way to the Utz potato chip factory tour in Hanover, PA, and had to pull over for a quick photo.
I later found an article and video highlighting this legitimate and delightful business. The owner does some pretty far out stuff–check it out!

Tot Finder or Darth Vader?

Old Tot Finder StickerWhen I was a child, I had a sticker on my window that was extremely dirty and faded. I often gazed at it from inside my room, trying to make out the pale image. It wasn’t until many years later that I’d learn it was a Tot Finder sticker, featuring a fireman rescuing a child.
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I’d spot them in second story windows from the back seat of our green Plymouth Fury, too far away to see in any real detail.
Eventually, and with the aid of George Lucas, my imagination eventually filled in the gaps and I falsely identified the fireman as Darth Vader. It seemed he was holding someone small. A child? Little baby Luke? While I still had some questions, the mystery was mostly solved.
I’m not sure why I didn’t just ask my parents about it sooner,  but many years later I learned the unfortunate truth: Parents everywhere weren’t spamming their child’s windows with “dark side” propaganda.
Although Tot Finder stickers are no longer recommended, I’ll still occasionally spot one in an old window, smile, and shout, “LOOK KIDS! DARTH VADER!”

DIY Kite Messenger Parachute Drop

A kite messenger is a clever little device that slides up a kite string, releases a light payload, then slides back down to the bottom of the string for more fun. I made one with some cheap materials and finally found some windy days to test it out. Some kite messenger designs use sails to pull up the kite, but I’m starting out with a simpler design that uses toy parachutes to catch the wind. It can be made in just a few minutes using drinking straws, wire, tape, and a toy parachute.

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Here’s how it works: The front loop of the wire hits a simple cardboard bumper attached high up on the line. As the wire stops, the rest of the unit continues forward, opening the middle section where the parachute is held. Once the parachute releases, the messenger slides right back down towards the spool of string, ready to be reloaded for more fun.IMG_1338
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IMG_9652It’s fun to see the kid’s excitement build as they watch the messenger climb up the string, eagerly awaiting the parachute’s release so they can chase it down.

Here is a tutorial on how to build your own kite messenger. I used replacement Tervis straws that I purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, because they’re much sturdier than your average soda straw. To hold it all together I used packing tape as well as a bit of super glue for good measure. The climb to the top of the kite line seemed to take a little long, so my next modification will be to use a much lighter gauge wire to reduce the overall weight.