Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to Paint a Folk Art Coca-Cola Bottle

I've been spray painting some of my vintage Coca-Cola bottles because they look awesome that way, even though I don't know what to do with them afterwards other than put them back on the same shelf where they lived before, but now looking awesome.

I'm thinking candle holders. Stay tuned.

Anyway, every now and then I mess up the spray paint job and end up with bubbles or drips, so I was also trying to think of a way to rescue the messed-up bottles, when I remembered how even more awesome the folk art Coca-Cola bottles that we saw at World of Coca-Cola were.

The folk art bottles were embellished in all kinds of ways, from decoupage to beading to even more extreme transformations, but the most accessible method that still had beautiful results was simply to paint on them.

To make the most authentic folk art, you should have no expectations built from previous experiences of what the artwork should be, so instead of trying something myself, I first gave a red spray-painted Coca-Cola bottle to the youngest of us. I provided her with my new favorite art supply, paint pens, and asked her if she would like to paint on this bottle for me.

Reader, she would!

And you're not going to believe what she came up with. The specific decorations are very much her own, but I think that the overall look reminds me VERY much of other folk art Coca-Cola bottles that I've seen:

I love that she went over the embossing in white, so that it stands out, and there's also a cat and a ballerina, representing her favorite things, and a mug of hot coffee, which she says represents my favorite thing.

I've already tried to get Will to paint a bottle, too, and she refused because she didn't like the feel of painting over the bumps, but I'm hoping that if I can catch her in the right mood she'll agree another time, and then I'll corner Matt, and then I'll make one, myself, and then we'll have a whole family of painted folk art bottles.

Just don't ask me what I'm going to do with them...

P.S. Here are some other things you could do with a stash of clear vintage bottles on your hands:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Homeschool Botany: Let's Dissect a Seed!

Schooling just with Syd is keeping me hopping this week! Syd is thriving on the one-on-one attention, but I am struggling to get any of my own work done--I forgot to eat lunch until 4 pm yesterday, because I spent Syd's lunchtime working on my own stuff, and I totally did the thing where I bolted awake in the middle of the night fretting about emails that I didn't send.

Today, I MUST put our troop's extra concert ticket for sale on our local Girl Scout Facebook group, and fill out my kids' field trip forms and send them in, and set up a schedule for meetings to prepare for the workshop we're hosting next month, AND respond to the people who've registered for that workshop to tell them I've got them signed up!!!

Deep breath. More coffee...

ANYWAY, instead of doing any of that yesterday morning, much less any of the real stuff on my to-do list, Syd and I spent the entire morning studying seeds. This was a kid-instigated, parent-mentored study that stemmed from Syd's interest in "growing bean sprouts and doing experiments on them." We bought beans last week, planted them, and they did sprout, but when I asked Syd, "What next?" it turns out that she doesn't really want to do any experiments, so instead I devised this morning study that nevertheless let her add to her knowledge and get more hands-on experience.

On Sunday, we took a family trip to our local co-op and Syd selected a few types of beans from their bulk bins--I'm hoping that since they're organic, they'll sprout. That method worked well for our DIY rice paddy in a bucket, at least!

When we got home, I put six of each type of bean into a Mason jar to soak, and by the next morning, they were ready for science!

To begin the activity, we read A Seed is a Promise together. It's a little baby-ish, but it gives most of the relevant information, and it's a lovely, well-written book that's a pleasure to read. Next, we went over this Diagram of a Seed together--mental note that next time, I need to research how to pronounce scientific terms before I use them with the kids, because I mispronounced "cotyledon." also has a quiz version of this diagram, which I don't think we'll be using.

And now, on to the dissection! We used an x-acto knife and a metal probe, paper towels to pad the work area, the diagram for reference, and our USB-attached microscope to get a closer look. I really like the USB microscope, because you can use it to take photographs of what you're looking at. Here, then, is the cotyledon of a pinto bean:

Here is its hilum:

And here is the inside, where you can see the endosperm and the entire embryo, consisting of the radicle, hypocotyl, and epicotyl:

In this dissection video that we later watched, the teacher put a drop of iodine on the dissected bean to make its parts stand out, but I didn't think it increased visibility at all. Our dissection worked fine without iodine.

A couple of years ago, I wanted the kids to learn how to create infographics, so I regularly assigned them. The kids got quite handy at them, and then last year we moved on to other ways to represent information and I'm afraid that I forgot all about asking them for infographics. That shows, because I gave Syd a few options for reporting on her work, and the infographic that she chose to create (rather than a blog post or a poster or an essay or a diagram of her own) shows that while she remembers how to physically build an infographic, she does not remember our discussions of what makes a GOOD infographic:

She didn't use any of the photographs that she took herself, even though she knew how to upload them, and... um, there are an awful lot of cat images for an infographic about seed dissection, sigh.

Since we didn't review the qualities of a good infographic before she started (and that's on me, alas), I only remarked on a few grammar and punctuation errors in her text, and didn't make her remove any cat pics, but rest assured that we WILL be spending more time reviewing the qualities of a good infographic and practicing that skill much more next semester!

So if you happen to read Syd's infographic and then for the rest of your life you wonder why you always start thinking of cats when you're trying to think about seeds... my apologies.

Want to do even more with seeds and plants? Here are some ideas:

Monday, July 24, 2017

How to Make a Beeswax Candle in an Upcycled Container

You know that I've been obsessed with my found vintage Coca-Cola bottles, right? I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to be happy until I've figured out a hundred ways to upcycle them.

Here's my latest creation, and the project that I'm currently the most excited about:

Why, yes, I DID turn a vintage Coca-Cola bottle into a candle!

Here's the best way to clean your old glass bottles. Cutting, grinding, and polishing the bottle is a whole other skill set that I've been learning, and I'll tell you all about that another time--although I HAVE found the perfect technique for it all, rest assured!--but for now, let's just talk about how to pour a beeswax candle into an upcycled glass or metal container, as that on its own is an awesome skill set to have and it makes an awesome candle.

Here's what you'll need:

  • beeswax and a way to heat it (I prefer a crock pot, which is dead simple to find dirt cheap at any thrift store)
  • upcycled glass or metal container, such as a Mason or jam jar (I am not responsible for making sure that your container can handle heat--use common sense, Friends!)
  • candle wicks. If your candle sucks, it's pretty much always because you used the wrong diameter of candle wick. Wicks have specific diameters for specific diameters of candles, so do your research.
  • hot glue gun, hot glue sticks, tape, and a pencil with an eraser.
  • heat gun or hair dryer
1. Set up the candle wick in the container. Put a generous amount of hot glue near the end of the wick, then use the eraser end of the pencil to help you push it into the middle of the container and center it at the bottom:

Don't do this immediately before you pour the hot beeswax; the hot glue needs a little time to cure, or it will melt and set your wick free when the melted beeswax hits it. If that happens, put an oven mitt on your hand and just pour the melted beeswax back into the crock pot, ready to start again.

Wrap the wick a few times around the middle of the pencil, which you're going to set on top of the container. Get the wick nice and centered, then tape the free end to the side of the bottle:

Your wick will stay stable and centered, and you won't have to cut it at this step and waste it.

2. Melt the beeswax. If you melt beeswax at too high of a temperature for too long, it will darken, so keep your crock pot on low and turn it off when you no longer need the beeswax.

3. Pour the wax into the candle. I spilled a lot of beeswax before I decided to stop trying to pour around the pencil and just pour into the middle of the container, right over the pencil. You can clean the wax off of the pencil later, or it can just be the pencil that you always use in candlemaking.

I poured a little too much wax into this candle--

--but I did a better job with this bottle after I realized that I should mark a line on the bottle to pour to rather than eyeballing it:

4. Fix your mistakes. Let the beeswax harden, then cut off the wick and check out all the places on your candle that suck. I had a lot of dribbles and spills, and with that Coca-Cola bottle, especially, I had a LOT of air bubbles, especially against the sides of the bottle, messing up the whole look. And I had those marks on the amber bottle candle where my excess wicking was touching the top of the wax.

To fix all of your mistakes, what you do is get out your heat gun or a hairdryer, and remelt the beeswax. Don't point it at just one spot so that you don't crack the container, but melt all around the bottle and at the top so that air trapped against the sides of the bottle can get out, and new wax can flow in from the top. You can even melt more beeswax in the crock pot and pour it over the top, although you'll have to do the heat gun step again after that wax cures, too, probably:

After you've evened out the wax and gotten all the air bubbles out, your candle should look pretty dang awesome! Light it, love it, and don't leave it alone.

P.S. Now that I no longer have Crafting a Green World's Facebook page to handle, I miss the interaction that social media brings. Please come hang out with me at my Craft Knife Facebook page instead! It's fun!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We Made Beeswax Lip Balm for the Girl Scout Cadette Breathe Journey

I have never met any Girl Scout leader, parent, or girl who has admitted to enjoying a Girl Scout Journey. They're cheezy, oddly baby-ish in the way they speak to the girls and yet at the same time over-involved and over-complicated in what they expect from the girls, over-engineered with a LOT of filler, and really unclear on the requirements to complete them. Must a girl only do the specific steps listed for her award in the back of the Girl Book, or must they do most or all of the several more activities set out in the Leader Guide?

The only positive thing that I will say about them is that completing the Agent of Change Journey did give Syd the skills and experience that she absolutely needed to be able to plan and carry out a successful Bronze Award project. But even that Journey was an utter slog to complete, during which I had to lead a variety of pointless activities that didn't inspire me, much less the girls, AND it was at least a Journey focused on its Take Action Project. This Cadette Journey, Breathe, has bizarrely juxtaposed a theme of air with a theme of... like, personal care, kind of?.. and the TAP is both less of a focus and much more of a pain in the butt that will at some point require each girl to ask adults who the Journey hopes will be total strangers and experts in some field to join her "Air Care Team."

Stop right now and imagine a tween or young teen asking a total stranger to join her Air Care Team, while literally saying the words "Air Care Team." I really think that if a tween or young teen did that, an actual hole would open in the Earth and swallow her to save her from her embarrassment.

So, no, the girls don't love it, and neither do I, but we're doing it anyway, because they need a Cadette Journey under their belts before they can start their Silver Award projects, something that Will has about 14 months to complete. She'll need as many of those months as I can give her, so we are finishing this dang Journey this summer!

That being said, as with everything Girl Scouts, you can modify the Cadette Breathe Journey somewhat in order to fit with your own girls' interests. We'll be exchanging more sophisticated experiments for the simplistic ones detailed in the Journey (although, again, it's debatable if the science component is even required, so make your own judgment there), and our meteorology unit study intersects with it nicely, so we'll be completing that study as part of this Journey.

This particular project is a modification of the bath and beauty section of the Journey (which I am, again, not completely certain is required, but if you're going to jump through hoops, might as well jump through all of them, sigh...). The Cadette Breathe Journey as-written in the Leader Guide includes instructions for the girls to create aromatic bath bags, using dried lavender, and lotion, using rosewater and lime juice. My two girls aren't into baths and lotion, so instead we're going to create scented air and drawer fresheners (using my wool felt and essential oil air freshener tutorial here), and over the weekend we made the beeswax lip balm recipe from Beekeeper's Lab:

Will and Luna also really like the Honey Dog Treats from this book, by the way.

I made a few modifications to the beeswax lip balm recipe, some of which worked and some of which didn't, lol. Instead of using lip balm tubes, I used a stash of little containers, very similar to these containers, that I already had on hand--yay for stash-busting!

I also already had the beeswax, lanolin, and sweet almond oil on hand from other projects, so I only needed to buy the Vitamin E oil--if you know of any other recipes that use Vitamin E oil, PLEASE tell me all about them!

The recipe calls for the use of a double boiler, but I already had my crafts-only crockpot out and filled with beeswax for an upcycled beer bottle candle project that I'm working on, so my Great Idea was to have the kids measure out all the cold ingredients first--

The recipe doesn't call for essential oils, but since we were using this as a recipe for the Breathe Journey, it needed some aromatherapy components. Part of this activity, then, included discussing which essential oils were safe for the skin and how you could conduct the research to make sure. We discussed essential oils in general and some of their specific properties in an earlier session, which I'll tell you about another time.
--and then add the hot beeswax and stir them together. I'd assumed that the beeswax would melt the cold ingredients, but the cold ingredients instead chilled the beeswax, so instead of saving time, I instead spent 40 minutes with these Mason jars of lip balm mix in the oven at 170 degrees, checking on them every five minutes to see if they'd melted. I couldn't just blast them or I'd ruin the qualities of the Vitamin E and essential oils already added, GRRRRRR!!!

Finally, though, they were melted and ready to be re-stirred and poured.

Before I tell you the next story, I have to preface it with the fact that I make the children do five sit-ups or five push-ups as discipline sometimes. I do it primarily for negative self-statements--think "I can't" or "I'm not good at," etc. It's just something super quick to break the cycle of negative thinking.

Now, the story: Will, our newly-minted teenager, was being just impossible at pouring. She didn't want to wear oven mitts, but the Mason jar was too hot to hold--duh! Nor was she able to successfully just pull her T-shirt over her hand, sigh. So she consented to put on one mitt, but only on her non-dominant hand, and also the oven mitts make one's hands unwieldy, also duh, and so she really needed two.

She would almost pour, then the Mason jar would slip and she'd almost drop it on the floor, so she'd put it down and fuss and decide to try again, doing the EXACT SAME THING, almost drop it, and set it down to think again as her mixture grew in danger of starting to solidify. The little hamster was running on the little wheel inside her brain, though, just not quickly, and not pointed in quite the right direction yet, but it was persevering and so was she.

Matt, however, was losing his ever-loving mind watching this skin-crawlingly painful struggle with the seemingly obvious--seriously, I could see him going crazier by the second, witnessing this crazy overload--and all of a sudden he was all, "Here, let me do it!" and took the oven mitt off Will's hand. He had put both oven mitts on his own hands and was even holding the Mason jar over the lip balm containers before the loud gasps of both me and Syd registered with him. My girls, they KNOW what's going to piss me off.

Thanks to that gasp, I had plenty of lung power to shout across the table at Matt, "YOU ARE DISEMPOWERING YOUR DAUGHTER!!!!!" The look on his face as he came out of his "OMG get it done!" fugue and realized what he was doing--without a word, he put everything down on the table, dropped to the floor, and did five push-ups. Will barely noticed, as she went back to her labors. Syd asked if she could sit on his back while he did them.

And believe it or not, both kids successfully poured their lip balm into the tiny containers:

Each recipe filled three containers, which is perfect as it makes one to keep and two to give away. If you're doing this activity as a whole troop, I think it would be nice to keep one, set one aside for a future gift, and trade one to another Girl Scout. You could also make custom labels either with stickers or a 1" round punch and a glue stick, but since the tops of these containers are clear, the kids didn't want to cover them, and they didn't want to put the labels on the bottom, either.

My kids tend to like to have only one activity at a time, but again, if you were leading a larger troop, you could combine this project with making the air fresheners, since you'll have the essential oils out out anyway. Or maybe you don't have to do any of it, because maybe it's not even actually required by the Journey? Feel free to let me know your opinion!

P.S. Did you know I have a Craft Knife Facebook page? I post links and pics related to homeschooling, crafting, and Girl Scouts there every day, so feel free to join me!

Monday, July 17, 2017

I Figured Out the BEST Way to Clean Glass Bottles, and Surprise, It Requires Power Tools!

First, some news:

News Update #1: Crafting a Green World has been sold, and so I am no longer its editor. I might write a post a week or so for the new iteration of Crafting a Green World, or I might not--in other news, negotiating sucks and I hate it. I do love being paid, though, which is now not happening, so this is as good a time as any to remind you about my Pumpkin+Bear etsy shop and that if you shop on Amazon using my Amazon Affiliate links--why, look! Here's one now!

--I get paid a miniscule percentage of that sale, but hey, every nickel shifted my way from Amazon is one more nickel towards my kids' ballet classes and horseback riding lessons.

The upside is that I've finally discovered that what I actually needed in order to consistently work on my novel-in-progress was actual dedicated writing time, and so using my formerly CAGW writing time as novel writing time has been excellent.

Which leads me inevitably to...

News Update #2: I'm on a roll with working on my novel, so of COURSE my laptop died. The computer repair shop says the motherboard stopped working, and the laptop is under warranty so Dell says they'll fix it... in 10-12 business days, not counting transit time. Many men have mansplained for me not to worry, Little Lady, your computer's memory is fine and so you'll still have your novel and all of your photos when it comes back, but in my 40 years on this planet I have learned some distrust, let's say, for the patriarchy, so all I'm gonna reply is a disenfranchised sort of "we'll see."

And that's why today's post is 1) not a continuation of my Greece vacation, on account of all of my Greece photos are on my laptop with a dead motherboard, and 2) concerning a subject that normally I'd be writing about on Crafting a Green World, because I'm not writing for Crafting a Green World right now, and although I'm negotiating (shudder), I'm not holding my breath that I'll be writing for Crafting a Green World again, so why sit on a post that I've researched and am ready to write?

If I do write for them again I'll probably wish I'd sat on some posts and had them researched and ready to write, but whatever. Live in the moment, Y'all!

Anyway, y'all know that I have been trying to find meaningful uses for a neverending supply of vintage glass bottles pretty much since we moved into this house. It was about a week afterwards that the kids and I discovered that the drive-in next door apparently spent the 1960s and 70s dumping its trash into the back of the woods, and man, if you went to the drive-in in the 1960s and 70s, you sure as hell drank a lot of beer and soda!

None of them, not even the perfect Coca-Cola bottles, are worth more than a couple of bucks, and the vast majority of them are worth absolutely nothing, but still... I can't put them in the recycling, because if they're not soda-lime glass, they won't go through the equipment correctly. And I CANNOT toss them in the trash, because then they'll just live forever in someone else's dump instead of my own.

So yeah, I hoard them. One day I'm going to get over my fear of being axe-murdered and put them on Freecycle, but today is not that day.

To make the thing a little more annoying, even if I do want to clean up some of the nicer bottles to display or maybe even sell, it's ridiculous, because they've spent 40-50 years outside in the woods, and so they're dirty and gross and need a good scrubbing inside and out. I broke my heart trying different methods to get them clean, always coming back to the need to scrub each one by hand for a million years...

Until Matt thought of the solution. It looks like this:

This is a cordless drill with a paddle bit attached, and to that paddle bit Matt has duct taped a bottle brush. Here's a closer look at the sophisticated join:

Yes, I love it, but I do want you to notice that he used not the regular duct tape, but the more expensive gold duct tape that I bought for making Spartan armor.
That, my Friends, is all you need to do this:

Thanks to Syd for the excellent photography. No thanks to anyone in the family for not helping enough with the dishes.
You put a squirt of dishwashing soap into the bottle, then some water. Then you insert the bottle brush and use the drill to scrub that baby OUT!

Soap will fly everywhere if you do, but you can also scrub the outside with the same set-up:
See the soap flying everywhere? Worth it!
It used to take FOREVER--seriously, I promise you it took forever--to scrub one bottle, but yesterday I did seven of them, timing myself with the oven clock, and my average was five minutes per bottle for the whole process, including rinsing it out afterwards.

If you're dealing with vintage bottles that have been exposed to the elements, this will not make them perfect. Nothing will do that. They won't have degraded, because they'll never degrade (which is why you want to keep them out of the waste stream as much as possible), but the sun will have done weird things to them, as will the soil, as will the 40+ years of temperature fluctuations and freezes and thaws. If I want them to look as nice as possible I will then fill them with straight vinegar and put them in a bucket of straight vinegar and leave them to soak for at least a day.

I didn't do that for these bottles, though, because I'm probably just going to paint them. Still, don't they look very nice?

Some will be cut and turned into candles, because I've also taught myself how to cut glass bottles in my CAGW-free time, but for most, I have this weird idea for painted bottle candle holders that I'm playing with... stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Greece with Kids: Ancient Olympia, Little House on the Prairie Dubbed into Greek, and All the Feral Cats and Dogs

Day 01 of our trip to Greece is here and here.
Day 02 is here.

Welcome to Day 03!

Did I mention that we slept next to an olive grove?

We slept next to an olive grove!

Also check out the oleander in the foreground, blooming in all that heat!
I might have mentioned before that I LOVE watching local TV when we travel. The kids and I still look up the coral reef music video that played obsessively between TV shows in Hawaii, and I was just as obsessed with watching the Greek music channel, MAD TV, while we were in Athens--unlike our American MTV, this channel actually played actual music videos! You should search YouTube for Greek music videos, because they're pretty great.

Also pretty great?

It's Little House on the Prairie, dubbed into Greek! If you want to hear an excerpt that I filmed, click over to my Craft Knife Facebook page, because for some reason YouTube doesn't want me to film the TV.

Here's one of the many reasons why it's great to have a tour guide:

These little shrines are all over all the roads in Greece, and I had no idea what they were for until we stopped at one so our tour guide could show us. In Greece, if you have a minor accident, you're thankful that it wasn't worse and so you put up a little shrine out of thanks. If you have a big accident, you put up a shrine out of thanks that it wasn't even worse, and if someone was killed in your accident, you still put up a shrine, but you put a picture inside it of the person killed, so people know who to pray for.

Also in the shrine are images of your favorite saints (the kids were pretty stoked that this one had St. Nicholas, who we studied particularly in our Story of the World text), tokens and other offerings, an olive oil lamp, and the supplies to replenish the lamp. Our tour guide also showed us how grandparents use the warm oil from olive oil lamps to bless their children, so learning how to make an olive oil lamp and blessing my someday grandchildren is on my to-do list now.

Our first of many stops this day was the site of Ancient Olympia:
If you're paying attention to your Greek phonics, you can read Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο and Ολυμπίας, all of which are cognates and easily recognized in English.

In related news, here's a picture of Will wearing her cap smack on the top of her head, something that drives both Matt and I absolutely nuts:

If you don't want to look like a tourist overseas, don't wear a ballcap, because it's not a thing anywhere else. I don't care, though, because it's not as if people aren't going to take one look at us and not be able to otherwise tell that we're tourists.
One of the cool things about Ancient Olympia is the proliferation of oak trees, the sacred tree of Zeus, doncha know?

I didn't photograph every single oak tree, just almost every single oak tree.
Here are the remains of the gymnasium and palaestra, the training area for the Olympic athletes:

Here's a lizard:

And here's where the stoa stood. It's a kind of covered porch:

Remember that column reconstructions show you the height and location of the ceiling. Here's a kid for perspective.

Here's a bath house attached to the gymnasium:

Sure, you can just see the foundations now, but this place once had running hot water! The US barely had that in the late 1700s!
And here's what I was super excited to see: our very first Wonder of the Ancient World!

Well, not exactly--this is the site and partial reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus, which is where the statue of Zeus that was a Wonder of the Ancient World lived. It's long gone, now, as is most of the temple; when the temple was no longer supported by the city-state, it became impossible for the people who lived there to keep it in repair. I mean honestly, what random neighbor do YOU know with a crane big enough to maintain a Greek temple?

The site alone is impressive enough, however, even with just the few reconstructed columns that evidence its scale--it's almost more impressive to see the fallen columns all around you, because that makes it easier to visualize how BIG everything must have been! You'll also see in a minute that many of its sculptures and metopes survived and are in the nearby museum.

Imagine all of these massive columns actually in place. There's a lot of scope for the imagination in Greece.

Look! I'm here, too!

And here's an oak tree, fittingly right next to the Temple of Zeus.
Near the Temple of Zeus is a place equally awesome, the Temple of Hera:

Here's one view.
And then again with a kid for scale.
The altar in front of this temple is where the Olympic flame is lit:

Here's a recreation of that event:

Here's a YouTube video of the complete ceremony; the kids and I watched this after our vacation, coloring and chatting and playing games but taking it all in and looking up for the cool bits.

Next to it is the Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus, because you gotta respect your nymphs:

Remember Herodes Atticus from the Acropolis? We're also going to see him the next day at Delphi!
There are the remains of another stoa on the way to the stadium--

--and some remains of the Treasuries, where offerings were given by other city-states--

--and then we come to this, the formerly underground entrance to the Olympic stadium:

And so finally here we are, at the site of the Ancient Olympic games!

Okay, it's not much to look at, but when you're at the place where the Ancient Olympic games were actually really held, you KNOW there's only one thing that you really want to do:

Because we'd all run so well, our tour guide handed around the laurel wreath that she'd made during our walk. Usually laurel wreaths were just that, made from the bay laurel tree, but at Olympia they were made from the wild olive trees that grew on the site--just like this one!

Oh, just hanging out at Olympia, having won her race and wearing her laurel wreath.

Wild olives have much smaller leaves than the cultivated olives that we saw throughout our trip.
Something else you should know is that while we'd been touring this site, gaping at the architecture and marveling over the structures, Syd had been doing some particular sightseeing of her own, and was quickly developing her own obsessions:

Yes, those animals are ALL at Olympia! After seeing several friendly, collared but seemingly owner-less dogs at the Presidential Palace, I went back to our hotel and Googled it--I mean of course! It turns out that Greece has a massive number of stray and/or feral animals. In Athens, at least, there's an organized program to vaccinate, sterilize, and tag them, which is why all of the dogs we saw had bright yellow collars.

Outside of Athens, however, there don't seem to be any such programs. To be fair, though, the dogs and cats that we saw everywhere other than Ancient Delphi all seemed happy, friendly, and well-fed--in fact, on the last night of our trip, Matt and I happened to be walking again through the Plaka in the evening, when all the stray cats of the city seemingly came out of nowhere, from every rooftop (literally!) and alley, and all began to chow down on dishes of cat food that had magically appeared on the sidewalks for them. Do the shopkeepers feed them, or the city? I don't know, but they were being fed, at least.

For now, though, here at Ancient Olympia, Syd had mostly been sightseeing the animals, and as we left the stadium--

--to go wander some more, she declared that she just wanted to go find the animals, and so we let her run off alone. Sure, the archaeological sites are big, and she doesn't speak Greek, but our tour guide had given us all business cards that had her cell # on them, and I made the kids both put the card into their lanyards, and their instructions were, if they got lost, to go up to another tour guide (trust me--they were everywhere) and ask them to call Militsa. As you will see, Syd repeatedly wandered off to find animals wherever she went, and she'd also disappear and then meet us at the front entrance of a site, or even once at the bus--it was hot, the bus was air-conditioned, and the kid is no fool.

So that's why Syd isn't in any of these next pictures--she's off having her own adventure and making her own memories while the rest of us saw more ruins:

Here's a different side of the Temple of Zeus.

This is the front door, but you can see the huge column that we saw earlier in the background.

Here's the location of the Nike of Paeonius, which we're going to see in the museum later:

Back to the Temple of Hera to walk around it for a closer look.
And look who we bumped into in front of the Philippeion!

After seeing all of the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia, we went to the museum to see all of the treasures that were found at the site:

These lion-head gargoyles are from the Temple of Zeus.
We ran into an interesting rule here, that would be the case for all the rest of the museums that we visited on this trip: inside the museum, you could take photographs OF the exhibits, but you could not take photographs WITH the exhibits.

A bit of a bummer, because all I really want of life is a photo of myself with a real Spartan helmet, but at least I got to see all the Spartan helmets. Maybe Matt can photoshop me into them later.

The metopes from the Temple of Zeus depict the best thing EVER: the twelve labors of Heracles! We studied him, remember, so we were always on the lookout for his depictions:

Here he is holding up the sky while Atlas fetches him an apple.

Here he is killing Cerberus.
And the sculptures in the Temple depict, of COURSE, the battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs at the wedding feast of Pirithous. The Greeks loooooved the imagery of this myth, and we saw it an awful lot. In the myth. the Centaurs are invited to a wedding, although why on earth you would invite Centaurs to your wedding I do not know, because the first thing they did was get drunk, and the second thing they did was try to rape all the women and children.

I told you about Centaurs.

This Centaur is just fighting, at least. The one to his right is fighting and being rapey at the same time.
Now turn your eyes away from the Centaurs, children, and look at these nice sculptures instead. They're going to have a lovely chariot race!

We saw the stand for the Nike of Paeonius outside at Olympia, but here's beautiful Nike, herself!

There's another whole room just for Hermes and the Infant Dionysus, which used to reside in the Temple of Hera:

But this, I think, was my favorite artifact in the museum:

It's a votive offering by Miltiades after his victory at the Battle of Marathon.
And other helmets!

Do they look familiar?

And finally back outside, where you CAN take your picture with the sculptures!

I know you also want to hear about the olive oil and wine tasting that we went to after this, and then the lunch hosted by a family in a small mountain village that we went to after that, and then the seaside town where we stopped to taste mastika and hit the beach after that, and you obviously want to see how beautiful it was when we swam in our hotel pool that night with the Delphi mountains behind us, but I'll tell you that another time.


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