Monday, February 16, 2015

Anime Club: Japanese Food Tasting

My anime club teens had specifically requested that I host a Japanese food tasting at one of our meetings, so I was happy to oblige! The first thing I did was figure out what dishes are popular in Japan. I went here and here to get ideas.

Next I made a list of possible dishes and then visited my local Asian market to see what they had available.

Here are the dishes I ended up making:

1. Soba Noodles

Soba is a very popular noodle dish in Japan that can be served in a variety of ways. I decided to serve the mori/zaru version, which means they are served cold with a chilled dipping sauce. I purchased a package of soba noodles and the ingredients for the tsuyu sauce from the Asian market. I found a good recipe for tsuyu from Alton Brown.

Soba noodles

Note: Mirin, which is one of the ingredients in tsuyu, is a sweet cooking rice wine. I didn't feel completely comfortable serving something with wine (as little as there may be) to my teens so I went searching for an alternative. If you Google "mirin substitutions" you'll find some out there. I went with an alcohol-free mirin called Honteri, which I purchased from this website.

Tsuyu sauce w/ soy sauce alternative for the less-adventurous

This was the most popular dish! The teens loved the noodles and the sauce. I had 16 teens attend and 1 1/2 packages of soba noodles was plenty for the teens to come up and get seconds.

Also Note: I wasn't sure if I could make the soba ahead of time. I cooked it at home about 2 hours before the club meeting and by the time I was ready to serve the noodles, they were already pretty gummy. So I just ran them under cold water again to loosen them up and that seemed to do the trick.

2. Gomaae with Spinach

This is another popular dish. Gomaae is a side dish that's basically a sesame dressing. One way to serve it is with spinach. I found a recipe for the dressing here.

Note: I substituted the sake and sugar for the Honteri. I added the equivalent of 3 TBSP Honteri instead of the 2 TBSP sake and 1 TBSP sugar and it tasted fine. 

Dressing and spinach

3. Umeboshi

Pickles are a large part of the Japanese diet and I wanted to challenge my teens' taste buds. So I found a jar of umeboshi at the market, or pickled plums. These did not go over as well as the soba or gomaae.

4. Mochi

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake. The market I visited had several kinds, but I chose the red bean paste mochi. I had mixed reviews on this treat.

Red bean paste mochi (left) and Umeboshi (right)
All in all, this was a fun experiment in Japanese cuisine!

Have you ever done a Japanese food tasting? What did you serve?

Also see my blog posts on sushi rolling and my Anime "Thanksgiving" for other food ideas.

Pizza and Pages: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Type of Book: Steampunk/Sci-Fi

Plot Summary: From GoodreadsFever Crumb is a girl who has been adopted and raised by Dr. Crumb, a member of the order of Engineers, where she serves as apprentice. In a time and place where women are not seen as reasonable creatures, Fever is an anomaly, the only female to serve in the order.

Soon though, she must say goodbye to Dr. Crumb - nearly the only person she's ever known - to assist archeologist Kit Solent on a top-secret project. As her work begins, Fever is plagued by memories that are not her own and Kit seems to have a particular interest in finding out what they are. Fever has also been singled out by city-dwellers who declare her part Scriven.

The Scriveners, not human, ruled the city some years ago but were hunted down and killed in a victorious uprising by the people. If there are any remaining Scriven, they are to be eliminated.

All Fever knows is what she's been told: that she is an orphan. Is Fever a Scriven? Whose memories does she hold? Is the mystery of Fever, adopted daughter of Dr. Crumb, the key to the secret that lies at the heart of London?

Average Teen Rating: 5.4
This was another book that I thought would be a sure-fire hit with my teens. They were pretty divided! I did have a smaller group than usual on Saturday due to a snowstorm, so I might have had other teens that loved it that didn't come to the meeting. Their main complaints were than the author didn't describe things well enough and that it was confusing at times. I think this might be a book with more limited appeal than others.

Discussion Questions:

1. Fever is adopted into the Order of Engineers, who have a very logical, no-nonsense way of life. They look down upon frivolous things like falling in love. Do you agree? If you lived in Fever's world would you be an Engineer?

2. When do you think the story takes place (near future, far future, etc...)? How can you tell? If you have to assign a year number to the story, what would you guess?

3. Do you think the "Downsizing" changed the world for the better or worse?

4. Did you guess what was inside Auric Godshawk's vault? What did you think it was? What did you think when you found out it was an engine to move London?

5. What do you think about Wavey Godshawk? Is/was she a good mother? A good person?

6. The Scriven called themselves "homo superior". Are they? If so, what made them better than humans? Why do you think the humans wanted to eliminate them?

7. What are Stalkers? Human? Cyborg? Zombie? Are they still human? Why do you think Grike is special?

8. What do you think happens in the sequel(s)? Will you read them?

9. Why do you think the book ends with the sentence: "My name is Fever Crumb."?

10. Did Fever Crumb remind you of any other books that you've read? Is it better? Worse?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

3D Printing for Teens

With Teen Tech Week quickly approaching, I thought I would share a tech program I did a few months ago with my teens. Our library purchased a Makerbot 3D Printer, so I thought hosting a program might be a fun way to introduce the teens to 3D design.

Knowing how complicated 3D design can be, I was a little lost on how to create a beginners program for teens. However, one of the IT staff and I discovered a free program online called Tinkercad. The nice thing about Tinkercad is that the interface is pretty easy to learn/use. Instead of having to start from scratch, users can choose from a plethora of pre-existing shapes to create a design. There's also a gallery similar to Thingiverse where you can download someone else's shared design and tweak it.


I should mention that I had no prior experience with 3D printing/design and found it pretty easy to pick up by watching the various tutorial videos on the Tinkercad website.

I opened the program up to grades 6 to 12 and allotted an hour and a half for instruction/design time. This seemed to be enough time for most of the teens, though some could have used more.

One issue I ran into is that each teen will need a valid email address to create a Tinkercad account. If they are under 13, they'll need a parent email. To save time, you might want to have the teens create an account at home before the program. (If they are under 13, the parent will need to confirm the account via email and complete a couple of other steps as well.)

As the teens arrived the day of the program, I asked them to log into their accounts. I briefly went over the program outline: we would watch and complete some short tutorials, then they would have the rest of the time to create a 3D design or two. Then I would "collect" their designs on a flash drive and print them out at a later date.

First we watched the introductory tour video on the home page. Then we clicked "Learn" at the top of the page and went through some tutorials together. These are the ones I found to be the most helpful:
  • Learning the Moves
  • Camera Controls
  • Creating Holes
  • Scale, Copy, Paste
  • Die on the Workplane
When I found that some worked more quickly than others, I allowed those teens to jump ahead and finish some of the other lessons while they waited.

Then I mentioned some other features tips:
  • How to get back to your dashboard/view other lessons = click on the Tinkercad logo on the top left side of the screen
  • How to copy/tinker with someone else's design = click "Gallery" at the top of the screen
  • How to save, name, and download a design
  • What "Snap Grid" means = This is just a number that allows you to either be more or less precise with moving your design on the work plane. 0.1 is more precise than 1.0. This is handy if you are designing something that needs very specific measurements/sizing such as a machine part.
  • I explained what makes a successful design
    • It should have a relatively flat surface on at least one side. This is so the 3D printer has a good base to start adding the filament on the printer plate.
    • If you have any "overhangs" on your design greater than a 45 degree angle, you'll need to add in a support straight down to the bottom to help the 3D printer print it. You can always cut it off later.
    • No suggestive/inappropriate designs like guns or swear words.
Then I let them get to work. I periodically walked around to help as needed and to check on their progress. Some picked it up right away, while others seemed to struggle a bit. Depending on the number of teens participating, it might be good to have an assistant to help answer questions. I also guided them in saving their designs correctly (as an .stl file with their first/last name in the file name) before they left.

When the program was over, I walked around to each computer station and saved the designs on a flash drive. Then I copied them to the laptop that is connected to the printer itself so that I would have a back-up copy of everything. With the help of the IT staff over the next couple of weeks, we were able to print out everyone's design with glow-in-the-dark filament. As the designs finished printing, I notified the teens and they came back to pick them up. 

Another thing I ran into is that some of the teens' creations wouldn't print due to design issues. I called these teens to let them know what needed to be changed/tweaked in order to print successfully. I gave them the option of making the edits at home and emailing them to me, or they could come in to the library and I would walk them through it. 

Here are some of the finished designs:

All in all, this was a very successful program. We we at capacity with registration, so I'm trying it again for Teen Tech Week and we are rapidly filling up again. Depending on how the program goes next month, I might try an intermediate class using a program called Sketchup.

I also might combine the success of my Minecraft Club with 3D printing and try out a program called Mineways where you can create something in Minecraft and print it out on a 3D printer. So cool!

Have you ever done a 3D printing program? Any other tips/tricks I missed?

Storytime - Art


I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry - This very short book follows an octopus as he creates several works of art in the ocean. But not everyone appreciates it!

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont - I pass out large paint brushes and have the kids "paint" the various body parts mentioned in the book.


Rainbow Kittens (w/ flannel)

Six little kittens found a box of paint.
They jumped right in...
Their mother will faint!
The first little kitten came out red.
"I'll be orange!" the second one said.
The third little kitten turned bright yellow.
"I'll be green," said the next little fellow.
The fifth kitten said, "My favorite is blue."
"Purple for me," said the sixth with a mew.
Dancing home the little kittens go,
To show their mother a kitten rainbow!

Mama cat said, "You're the most colorful kittens that I've ever seen!"
Then one...
She licked them all clean!

This Is the Way

(Do motions to match song)

This is the way we stir the paint, stir the paint, stir the paint
This is the way we stir the paint, so early in the morning!

(Continue with dip our brush, paint the paper, blow it dry, frame the picture)

Storytime - Birds


Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard - This is a cute, short story about a bird who wakes up grumpy. When his other animal friends ask him what he's doing, he always replies (with more and more agitation), "I'm walking!". But soon, with his friends behind him, he finds that he's not quite so grumpy anymore! This was short enough for toddlers and you can make the story interactive by having the kids say, "I'm walking!" with you.

Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker - Based on the classic rhyme "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe", this brightly illustrated (and big in size!) book is great for babies and toddlers.


Two Little Blackbirds

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill (hide hands behind back)
One named Jack and one named Jill (bring out one pointer finger then the other)
Fly away Jack, fly away Jill (hide one pointer finger, then the other)
Come back Jack, come back Jill (bring out one pointer finger, then the other)

Continue with:

...Two little blackbirds sitting in the named fast (bring out fingers quickly), one named slow (bring out fingers slowly)
...Two little blackbirds sitting very named quiet (say quietly), one named loud (say loudly)

The Birds Everywhere
(Tune: The Wheels on the bus)

*I do this with different bird puppets, but you could use a flannel as well*

The (insert bird name) everywhere go (insert bird noise)
(insert bird noise) (insert bird noise)
The (insert bird name) everywhere go (insert bird noise)
All day long!
Adapted from this source

Can You Shake Your Egg With Me?
(Tune: London Bridges)

Can you shake your egg with me?
Shake your egg along with me
It's as easy as can be
Now put it on your knee!

(Repeat with head, tummy, etc.)