Witchy Kitchy

witchy kitchy

From the well-stocked shelves, to the bubbling cauldron, to the secret storage space…this kitchen is ready to concoct some scintillating brews. It also folds down into a snappy little travel case, complete with your shopping list clipped to the outside!

witchy kitchy travel modeWe read One Witch, written by Laura Leuck, and illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Walker & Company, 2003). A witch visits her ten sets of (unusual) friends to gather ingredients for the ultimate brew. She cooks it up, sends out invitations via bat, and a massive party ensues – including a special bowl for you! This is a fantastic counting book, plus a real family favorite. My kids asked me to read this book to them year round!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 small tissue box
  • Poster board
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 wooden coffee stirrer
  • 1 mini cauldron (or paper cup)
  • 1 ingredient bottles template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 2 plastic sample cups
  • 2 snippets of drinking straw
  • 2 buttons
  • 1 small rubber band
  • 1 spooky shopping list template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We used our standard craft boxes for this project, but I’m also going to show you how to build it with large and small tissue boxes. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the project:

witchy kitchy birds eye viewAs you can see, it’s a box within a box. The left side of the kitchen is the unfolding countertop/secret storage area, the the right side is the fireplace for the cauldron (which we stoked with brown poster board logs and red paper crinkle, but construction paper works too). The front of the fireplace is a V-shaped door that folds down. Use markers to create the stones for your hearth.

If you want to make the project with tissue boxes, the key is to flip the tissue boxes upside down and cut the bottoms into lids. Here’s the large box:

witch kitchy tissue box alt step 1The issue, of course, is you have a big hole in the floor of your kitchen. No problem! Just glue or tape a piece of poster board over the hole (shown here in yellow):

witch kitchy tissue box alt step 2To make the unfolding countertop/secret storage space, flip a small tissue box, cut the bottom to make a hinged lid, cut the box down to the proper height, then attach it inside the large box. Cut the V-shaped hearth door and you’re set!

witch kitchy tissue box alt step 3The shelves along the back of the kitchen are basic poster board pockets. Cut and color the various bottles in your template to stock your kitchen:

witchy kitchy shelvesIn the secret storage are little plastic sample cups for mixing, snippets of drinking straws, plus (optional) ingredient bottles repurposed from old-school film canisters. We filled ours with fabric flowers, foam beads, and green paper crinkle. I also added little cleavers I cut from silver mirror board.

witchy kitchyBut my FAVORITE item in the kitchen is the cauldron. We used plastic mini cauldrons, but you can also fashion a cauldron from a paper cup. To hang the cauldron, cut little notches in the sides of the boxes, then slide a wooden coffee stirrer into the notches.

The outside of the box gets a poster board carrying handle, as well as a shopping list you can either tape or clip to the front:

witchy kitchy travel modeThe box does get a little heavy. In fact, our lid kept popping open. So we added extra support in the form of two buttons, which we hot glued to the lid and body of the large box. Wrap a rubber band around the buttons, and you’re set!

A week after this project, we ran into one of our story time kids. She wants you to know that “THIS IS MY FAVORITE TOY AND I PLAY WITH IT ALL THE TIME I MAKE SOUPS THAT I FEED MY BROTHER!”

Tea is for T. Rex

tea is for t rexThe cookies are served, the tea is steeping, and now it’s time to greet your guest…a very civilized T. Rex puppet that sips tea and nibbles delectables!

We read Tea Rex by Molly Idle (Viking, 2013). When Cordelia invites Mr. Rex to tea, she follows all the proper rules of etiquette. Of course, it quickly gets derailed by T. Rex’s size, loudness, and clear preference for snacking on her little brother’s teddy bear. Nevertheless, she persists, and later earns an reciprocal invitation to a dino-mite tea!

You’ll need:

dino tea table

First, set your tea table! We used a 2″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box, but you can also cut down a small tissue box. Add a crepe paper streamer skirt to make it extra fancy. The teapot template is from this Delicious Dim Sum post. Use the leftover paper from the template to create teacups, a serving tray, and cookies. Once the table is ready, it’s time for your guest to arrive…

t rex puppetOur T. Rex puppet is a 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” craft box, but a large tissue box wrapped with construction paper works too! The head, legs, arms, and tail are made from brown poster board, and his collar and necktie are extra teapot template paper.

The puppet’s arms swivel on brass fasteners. Simply tape wooden coffee stirrers to the backs of the arms to get them to rotate. Tape a cookie and a cup to T. Rex’s hands, move the sticks up and down, and watch him enjoy his refreshments!

Fiery Verse

fiery verseWe always love explosions here at Pop Goes the Page, but today we are going to bring you something truly unique…today, we are going to show you words as fire. Yes, FIRE!

This remarkable demonstration would not be possible without two things: 1) A Ruben’s tube, and 2) Princeton University’s Manager of Undergraduate Labs and Demonstrations, Mr. Omelan Stryzak. There’s an interview with Omelan at the end of the post, but for now, let’s get to the FIRE!

A Ruben’s tube, which was invented by German physicist Heinrich Ruben’s in 1905, is a length of tube with perforations along the top. One end of the tube is attached to a flammable gas, and the other end to a small speaker or frequency generator. Send the gas flowing through the pipe, ignite where it escapes through the perforations, and then introduce sound through the speaker. The flames will oscillate higher and lower according to the pitch of the sound or song.

Here’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” played through the Ruben’s tube:


Of course, being the literary fans we are, we wanted to see what happens when we read into the Ruben’s tube. Wouldn’t it be cool to see words as FIRE? The short answer is yes. It is waaaaay cool to see words as fire. Here’s Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. Please note: I recited it all weird to get the pitch of my voice in different places.


This awesome demo was masterminded by Omelan Stryzak, Princeton University Department of Physics. Here he is, photographed in his office/magical science playground.

omelan stryzakAnd we do mean magical because look at this! An actual levitating object, just casually sitting on the edge of his desk!

Also! A secret moving wall…which technically allows equipment from Omelan’s office to be smoothly transported to the adjoining auditorium. But we couldn’t resist a turn on it.


There are a number of other way cool objects in Omelan’s realm, from plasma balls, to portraits of Archimedes, to machines that break wineglasses with excruciatingly high tones!

science lab imagesOmelan hails from Bridgewater, New Jersey, where, as a home schooled youth, he continually curb shopped for thrown out electronics (photocopiers, fax machines, etc.) to disassemble and learn from. Graduating college with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, he has worked for Disney, traveled the world, and adopted a stray kitten who he aptly named “Fizzix.” He’s also a father with a young son, and self-admits a newfound skill of telling “absolutely terrible Dad jokes.”

How did you land this incredibly cool job?

I had come back to NJ from an IT job in Miami and was teaching for the “Mad Science” franchise as a break and I received a call from Princeton…apparently the Physics Department picked out my resume because I had experience with small mechanical devices and electronics (I had learned early on – ALWAYS keep your resume in circulation… you never know who might reach out…). They wanted someone to build the sensor head to the ACT (Atacama Cosmology Telescope) and I could not pass up the opportunity to add the Princeton logo to my resume…

I spent time in the cleanroom assembling parts at the heart of the telescope that were only millimeters in size and making giant cables as wide as my wrist…I even spent a few months working at the telescope in Chile on the Atacama Plateau (at the time it was the highest continuously manned telescope in the world – and it was looking for/at the beginning of the Universe!). As this very cool project was winding down, two elderly gentlemen who were doing the job I have now were retiring – I was a pretty good fit and decided to take the job. Long story short, I kind of fell into this job.

What’s your philosophy on science education?

I wish everyone were gifted with at least a little interest in science and the opportunity to explore: Applied right, it is like having an additional sense or x-ray vision applicable to every-day life. With that said, science will become increasingly more important for future generations of children and their increasingly difficult problems to solve. It should also be more of a communal education/understanding for all – fewer revered specialists or individuals to blindly follow and rely on to make critical mistakes. My part in this? I’ve always described by job as “Bringing the boring science book to life – showing concepts in the real world to aid understanding and entertain at the same time.”

Describe a typical work day:

Its definitely changed a lot with a 13 month old… ^_^

  • Wife wakes me up just before 6am as she leaves to go teach high-school….. out the door by 7:30am at the latest.
  • My Wife’s brother takes care of our Son during the day. Never thought we’d have a “manny”. ^_^
  • If the weather is good, take the bike off the back of my car and bike from the parking lot to my office.
  • Prep any last minute demo requests – Professors love to have ideas around midnight/1am and send me an email.
  • Deliver any specially requested demos to the smaller classrooms for precepts (different sections of classes where class size is smaller and students get more one-on-one time with Professors and demos)
  • Make sure the demos pulled the previous day are ready for Professorial review (basically lecture rehearsal and getting the profs familiar with the equipment – Usually I have to remind/chase down a few Professors to remind them that they need to come down to look at their demos…. Or even remind them that we have demos to reinforce a particular topic that they are teaching)
  • Make any requested modifications/create new demos that are relevant to the upcoming classes. (I’ve got carte blanche and training on all the Department’s resources – all of the machine shops (including the machines that can kill you!), stock room, laser cutter, departmental credit card…. Ohh the possibilities)
  • Setup the demos on-stage the day’s lecture(s) while being careful of scheduling (the two large lecture halls are multi-purpose – Physics classes are not the only users)
  • Run the lecture with the Professor – depending on who is lecturing my interaction can change… sometimes I’m sitting on the sidelines just in case something goes wrong, other times I’m the one describing the science and running the apparatus while the Professor waits/watches.
  • Once the lecture is over, hang around the classroom if I can for curious students who want to learn more or have trouble understanding the demo(s). Very rewarding. ^_^
  • Break everything down and return it to backstage for cleanup/storage.
  • Pull relevant demos from inventory for the coming three days for cleaning/refurbishment/lecture prep.
  • If we recorded the lecture, either edit and upload the video myself or offload the workload to a coworker.
  • If I’m home first, cook dinner and snuggle with our Son.
  • Once baby bedtime is over, a good hour on the computer is spent on emails, making technical drawings, writing code or paying bills. Surprisingly, I don’t participate with any social networking (Facebook, etc..) saves a lot of time!
  • Then the typical chores/cleaning/home maintenance before bed.

What’s your favorite science toy in the workshop?

Always a tough question! But I really do like the reactions that I get from the singing Tesla coil exploding a balloon hydrogen filled balloon….. and EVERYONE hates it when I make it sing “Let it Go”. ^_^


Wasn’t sure if I was going to include this in the post, but since Omelan DID mention singing…here’s Katie with her rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” courtesy of sulfur hexafluoride:


SF6 is an inert, nontoxic and incombustible gas, but…DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME KIDS!