Sunday, November 18, 2012

As Close To Mexico As Possible: Rio Grande Valley Texas

If you start at our house and drive south-south-east for about 4.5 hours you will reach the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.   Once there you will find over 20 cities and many more small towns that really come across as one huge metropolitan area with over 1 million people!  Check out the map!  (Hint: The tan part is Mexico.)


I am sure at one time the towns actually had space between them, but now you can't tell when you have left one town and gone into another except for a sign.   I think some people who grew up down there don't realize how much it has truly grown.  We were in one library getting a cup of coffee, because that is what you can do down there, and I asked if there were any Starbucks in town.  The guy answered with a no.  We later got in the car and literally drove down the road and saw one, but he technically didn't lie since we WERE in a different town when we saw it.  But really?

Frankie and I went down there to look for books and to just go since we had never been before.  I really liked it down there is completely different from what I expected.  (Not that I really knew what to expect!) There were some parts that we could tell had been recently upgraded. The roads were nice and wide. The main parts of towns were clean and easy to navigate.

We went mainly to libraries to do our book looking and let me tell you what, I LOVE the libraries in the Valley!  Almost every single one of those towns in the map above had a library that sold books.  Not only that but almost every single one of them had a little cafe in them with nicely priced coffees and pastries.  It was like a dream world!  Check out the money and pride that is put into just the outside of the McAllen Public Library!

McAllen Public Library

There is a waterfall for crying out loud!  The building use to be a Wal-Mart that they converted into an award winning library.  You can read all about it here.

Another town we visited was Hidalgo.  I am sure there are many great things in Hidalgo, but we were looking for libraries.  Near the library was one of the coolest things I have seen! The World's Largest Killer Bee!  In 1990 a colony of killer bees flew over from Mexico and invaded the town.  The town's mayor decided to use the opportunity to promote the town and a statue was made!

worlds largest killer bee sign-Hildago

side worlds largest killer bee Hildago

wing in sun worlds largest killer bee Hildago

McAllen, wasn't the only library worth talking about.  Another amazing library was in Harlingen.  They had the loveliest outdoor space with statues, trees, and even Mark Twain!

Mark Twain at Library Harlingen

book arch library Harlingen

Did you know that Baldemar Garza Huerta better know as Freddy Fender (and I can see why he changed his name) was from the Valley (more specifically San Benito)?  Me neither.

Hometown of Freddy Fender San Benito

Since we were in the "area" we decided to go to South Padre Island.  Way back in 2000, this is where we went for our honeymoon.  It was fairly exotic for a couple of people from west Texas who had rarely been to the beach!  It was nice to be there and to reminisce. 

South Padre Island Sign

Frankies footprints South Padre Island

DPizza Joint South Padre Island

There is a story that goes along with D'Pizza Joint.  While on our honeymoon, Frankie decided to be very sweet and went to get us food.  He chose to go to the D'Pizza Joint.  We ate and as far as I can remember, 12 years down the line, it was okay.  Not too long after eating I began to feel sick, Frankie was fine.  So I sucked it up and went with him on a jet ski in the bay.  

I wanted to die.  I wanted to just fall off the jet ski and die.  I didn't care.  I was miserable.  We paid for half an hour and I stuck it out the full half hour.  Then Frankie started feeling bad.  We believe that we ate something bad at the D'Pizza Joint.  Now, I just think it was one of those things and don't blame D'Pizza Joint.  Although, looking at the reviews that I linked above on Urbanspoon....

There is a two mile long bridge connect South Padre Island to the rest of Texas called Queen Isabella Causeway.  Traveling back to the mainland we saw this sign on the bridge.

watch for pelicans sign South Padre Island

You just don't see that sign everywhere!  

I really like the town of Port Isabel. At one point Frankie and I thought about getting teaching jobs down there, but it is so far from the rest of our world that we decided against it.  The draw I have to it has to be the lighthouse.  It is just such a lovely icon to see in Texas!

Port Isabel

lighthouse moon Port Isabel

Driving back to the hotel after visiting South Padre Island and Port Isabel we stumbled across life size dinosaurs and larger than life (larger than me!) tropical fish.

dinosaur Bobz World Los Fresnos

coral reef4 Bobz World Los Fresnos

We had no idea what it was.  As it turned out it was a place called Bobz World.  We were going to go in but it was about to close so we just drove around the parking lot, which was just a fascinating!

After all our adventures it was time to go home.  Once you are out of the Valley, you are out, there is not much outside of it.  So I don't have much to report about the trip home.  I did find it cool that we were in the part of Texas that is called the Tropical Trail

Texas Tropical Trail

The state of Texas was split into ten different heritage scenic driving trails in 1968 as a marketing tool.  As you drive along the highways, if you are paying attention, you will see these blue signs telling you what trail you are on.  The Valley is known for their citrus fruits since they have the climate to grow such wonderfulness!  We are far enough south that I could grow citrus fruit (it never really freezes here), but I don't have much luck with plants, which makes me sad.  Maybe one day it will not be drought conditions in the summer and I will have better luck!

Before completely leaving the Valley there were two more towns that I want to mention.  The first one is Roma.

Roma Texas

I want to mention it, simply because of its name.  I have now been to Florence, Italy, and Roma, Texas!

The second town is Zapata.

Zapata Texas

The reason I want to mention this one is also because of its name.  I love the word zapata.  It means shoe in Spanish, but it just a fun word to say!  Try it: zapata.  See!

As we were driving from Zapata to Laredo, I was trying to use my phone when all of the sudden, instead of saying AT&T it changed to some company from Mexico.  I promised we never crossed the border, but looking at the map (Mexico is the gray area) we were so close I could have thrown something into Mexico and that says a lot because I throw like a girl!


I am really glad we went.  It was nice to see a new part of Texas and we made a killing on books!  It might be a new annual summer trip for us!  I hope you enjoyed our trip as well and stay tuned because we have our big Christmas trip coming up to Paris!  I am soo excited!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Built A Queen Sized Platform Bed Frame

We have had a queen sized mattress sitting in our house for years now.  There was no boxsprings and the only way we could use it was if it was on the floor.  Since it was in the guest room, and let's face it, we don't get many overnight guess, we didn't do much about it.  But then my mom was coming to spend the night and I couldn't let my precious mother sleep on a mattress just thrown on the floor!!  I just couldn't!  So I did something about it!

One Saturday, I amazed myself by following the directions found here on Instructables and having the end result of an actual, usable platform bed frame!  I have never built anything that didn't come from a box with instructions and even then it is questionable about the end results.  Frankie told me this was my baby and that he would help if I absolute needed it but he didn't want to have any part of it.  

Gee, thanks!

He did help me get the supplies home from the hardware store, which including the the speed square, cost around $50.  I couldn't buy a bed frame for anywhere near that low of a price so I was really hoping this was going to work. Getting the boards home was a slight nightmare since they were so light I was scared they would fly out of the back of the truck.  But we made it home and I began.


Smiling at beginning
It is always smiles in the beginning!

The wood supplies
Seven pieces of wood somehow were going to become a bed frame.  I had my doubts.

The tools
My tools.  First time to use a speed square.  My math mind liked it greatly!
The scraps
After all the cutting, this was all the waste that was produced.
 Pretty awesome!  Not even enough to build a birdhouse!


Back in the house, I took a break before starting to put this all together.  I was a little tired.  That circular saw is not made for hands the size of a 10 year old's!  I was still able to smile though.

Still smiling before putting together inside

I really wanted to get this done in one day, so my break was short lived and I got to building the frame.


Beginning to build


Got the slats
After the frame the slat were attached.  It is looking promising!

Got the legs

The most difficult of the entire thing was getting those stinking legs attached.  It is two pieces screwed together and then that is suppose to be screwed to the frame.  I am not sure how in the world that was really suppose to be done and I tried to do it alone, but in the end I had to get Frankie's help.  Between the two of us we got it, but not without a lot of sweat (Frankie's) and trouble!

These instructions created a bed that is VERY high off the ground.  Granted there is plenty of space underneath for storage, but I almost have to get a running start to get up on it!  Here is it completely done and the bed mostly made.

I built a bed frame!

It is so high off the ground that our freakishly tall cat can walk under it with no problems.  I think I am able to crawl under it with no problems.  If I were to make another one (don't see that happening anytime soon!), I would cut the legs a little shorter.  But I was very happy with the end results and my mom was happy to not have to sleep on the floor!

Here is a parting shot of just how draining this all was for someone who is NOT a carpenter!  But let me tell you what, if the instructions had not been so fantastically written there wouldn't have even been this post, this parting shot, and my mom would have just slept on the floor!  So all in all, it was good, very good, despite the face below!

All I can say is, "Done!"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thanksgiving Math Projects For The Secondary Classroom


Most of my unit test are on Thursday and then there are only three days until Thanksgiving break.  This is not the time to start something new!  I searched online for some short projects and had some luck.

 I teach 7th grade math, 8th grade math, Geometry, Math Models and Calculus (Welcome to a tiny school district with 2 teachers for 7-12 grade math!).  I managed to scrounge up something different for all of them! I developed them to fit more of what we were working on in each class and would like to share them.  (I steal borrow enough from other teachers that I felt it was time to give back.)

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3 Day Thanksgiving Project -7th/8th Grade  - I am hoping this will last for three 90 minute class periods

(This isn't something I would hand out to them.  I would use these to help me keep track of what I wanted them to do.)

(Below is actually the 8th Grade but 7th Grade was basically the same, except that I left out the dilations  They don't get those until 8th grade in Texas. In place of dilations, I had them draw an extra original, translation, and reflection from the coordinates of another student.)

Original 
  1. Create a Thanksgiving theme picture on the coordinate grid.  It must contain at least 15 ordered pairs but no more than 25. Put a title of Original. 
  2. Write the coordinates down on a separate piece of paper by listing the coordinate in one column.  Put a title of Original and turn in both pages and be sure to put your name on both. 
Original recreated 
  1. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the picture using the coordinates you were given.  Do the best you can with what you were given.  Put a title of Original followed by the name of the person whose coordinates you had and turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 
  2. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the picture using the second set of coordinates you were given.  Do the best you can with what you were given. Put a title of Original followed by the name of the person whose coordinates you had and turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 
Translation 
  1. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Using the third set of coordinates you were given create a new set of coordinates that would create a translation. Do this beside the original coordinates   Turn page in and be sure to put your name above the coordinates you wrote. 
Translation recreated 
  1. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the pictures (original and translation) using the fourth set of coordinates.  Put a title of Translation followed by the name of the person's coordinates you had. Turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 
  2. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the pictures (original and translation) using the fifth set of coordinates.  Put a title of Translation followed by the name of the person's coordinates you had. Turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 
Reflection 
  1. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Using the sixth set of coordinates you were given create a new set of coordinates that would create a reflection. Do this beside the Translation coordinates.  Turn page in and be sure to put your name above the coordinates you wrote. 
Reflection recreated 
  1. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the pictures (original and reflection) using the seventh set of coordinates.  Put a title of Reflection followed by the name of the person's coordinates you had. Turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 
  2.  Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the pictures (original and reflectionusing the eight set of coordinates.  Put a title of Reflection followed by the name of the person's coordinates you had. Turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 
Dilation 
  1. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Using the ninth set of coordinates you were given create a new set of coordinates that would create a dilation. Do this beside the Reflection coordinates  Turn page in and be sure to put your name above the coordinates you wrote. 
Dilation recreated 
  1. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the pictures (original and dilationusing the tenth set of coordinates.  Put a title of Dilation followed by the name of the person's coordinates you had. Turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 
  2. Redistribute a coordinate done by peers. Draw the pictures (original and dilation) using the eleventh set of coordinates.  Put a title of Dilation followed by the name of the person's coordinates you had. Turn in both pages and be sure to put your name. 

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2 Day Thanksgiving Project - Geometry - I am hoping this will last two 45 minute periods.

With a partner, if you so choose, design a Thanksgiving Day turkey made entirely of geometric shapes. It must actually look like a turkey! You must include at least one of each of the following shapes: a circle, a triangle, a rectangle, and a trapezoid.

Once designed you will then cut out the shapes from color paper and put your turkey together. Tape your turkey to a clean white paper.

You will then find the area of your turkey and the perimeter by measuring and using the needed formulas. Remember to take into consideration the overlapping shapes and not count those parts twice.
All the measurements you used need to be marked on the turkey and each section needs to have the area and perimeter marked. Your final area and perimeter need to be written on the white paper along with your name and the name of your turkey.

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3 Day Thanksgiving Project - Math Models - I am hoping this will last three 45 minute periods.

Part I

You and your team have exactly $100 to spend on a fabulous Thanksgiving meal.

Collect data on the cost of a typical Thanksgiving meal. Your resources are the Internet, fliers from newspapers, recipes etc.. You will need to take into account the number of people served, the price of not just the turkey but also the ingredients that make up at least 2 side dishes, a bread, drinks (non-alcoholic, of course), and desserts.

Decide how much of each item you will need. You can decide to buy food that is prepared already or you can make things from scratch. Keep in mind if you buy a 5 lb. bag of sugar, you will not use it all and will have to figure out the cost of what you used. We are only counting food and drink. It is assumed you have all the plates, utensils, napkins, and so on.

Create a digital display showing how many people and what food you needed, including the cost of what was used. Also, determine the average cost per person. You cannot go over the $100 budget!

Part II: Chose one of the following options.

Option 1: You have been informed that most of your guest are on a diet and must watch their calorie intake. At most they can eat 700 calories for this one meal and are expecting to leave the table with bellies full of good food. They want turkey, 2 sides, a roll, a drink, AND a decent sized dessert (in other words, not a piece of fruit, one cookie, or a tiny piece of pie) all for 700 calories or less. You are going to have revise your menu from above in order to make everyone happy. You still have the same amount of people and you still have the same amount of money.

Create a digital display showing what food you needed, including the cost of what was used. Also, show the calorie count of one meal that includes at least 4 oz. of turkey, 1/2 cup of 2 different side dishes, 1 dinner roll, 1 serving of dessert, and a drink. You cannot go over the calorie limit nor the budget limit!

Option 2: You have fallen on hard times, but are determine to still have a decent meal. You still have the same amount of people coming over and they still expect to have turkey, 2 side dishes, bread, a drink, and dessert but now your budget has been reduced to $50.

Create a digital display showing what food you needed, including the cost of what was used. Also, determine the average cost per person. You cannot go over the $50 budget!

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3 Day Thanksgiving Project - Calculus - I am hoping this will last three 45 minute class periods.

  1. Create 5 related rates and/or optimization problems that involve a Thanksgiving theme. You may look in your book for inspiration but please use your own ideas and be creative. 

  1. Solve them on a separate sheet of paper.

  1. Exchange papers with another student and solve their related rates and/or optimization problems on a clean sheet of paper.

  1. Discuss answers to check for correctness.


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I hope this is something that you can use in your classroom.  If so, please let me know in the comments!