Saturday, February 28, 2009

How to make a pinata with kids

Someone posted a comment suggesting I explain a little more about how we did the pinata a few weeks ago. To begin with, I got the idea from a website. Pinata boy has tons of great detailed info and designs. I'll try to explain what we did and what I think works best when making a pinata with kids. The whole process would be a lot quicker and cleaner without children involved, but what fun is that! My kids loved doing this together with me and especially loved the finished product and the candy reward.

First you'll need to decide on a design. The easiest is to just paper mache around a balloon and let that be your shape. Then you can decorate it with anything. The first one we did (pictured above) we used striped crape paper then put the child's name and age over that to personalize it. (we gave this as a birthday present for a friend.) We've also used the balloon shape then created a hot air balloon design using a paper basket and strings hanging from the bottom of the balloon pinata. You can get creative with shapes or use any of the designs from the internet.

Here's a list of supplies:
1. Newspaper torn in strips. If you hold the newspaper sheets on their side with the short end of the rectangle at the top you should be able to tear pretty straight pieces. You'll need them to be about 1/2 to 1 inch wide. This does not have to be exact.
2. Plain white flour. Make sure to buy the cheapest white flour you can find. The last pinata I made out of organic flour because that's all I had. It didn't mess anything up but made the pinata more expensive to make.
3. Balloons.
4. Decorations for when the paper mache is dry and your basic design is complete. I like to use cut up crape paper. Rolls of crape paper are usually around a dollar depending on the length of the roll. I like to unroll it and fold it in long lengths so that I can make slits about 1/2-3/4 of the way through the paper to make it look authentic.
5. String, wire, or an old coat hanger for hanging the pinata.
6. A little duck tape and/or masking tape to attach pieces of cardboard and reinforce the hanger if needed.
7. Small pieces of cardboard or cups depending on your design.
8. White glue for attaching crape paper decorations.

Directions for paper mache :
In a large, wide bowl, use a whisk to mix a flour and water paste using a ratio of 1 to 1. You can start by using 2 cups water and flour since the mix will keep in fridge for a couple of days. It's better to make a little too much than have to mix more when you're messy with paste all over the place. The kids love to help with this step. Since the measurements aren't exact and you won't be ingesting the batter it doesn't really matter how much they play in the bowl while mixing. My kids know not to make a huge mess, so I usually give them a lot of freedom here. They get the measuring cups out, pour, and mix with little help from me. Of course they have flour and water on the counter and on their clothes but it is easy to clean. They know not to dump the bowl and paint the cabinets with the paste. Other kids may not know this, so obviously you would only want to give as much freedom here as the child can handle:) Keep in mind you'll probably all need to change clothes when you are done. We usually do.

Start putting newspaper around balloon. You can begin this part of the process two ways. This last pinata we made, we taped dry newspaper around the balloon first. The idea is that when you start putting wet paper mache strips on the balloon they will stick better to the newspaper than to a balloon. Or, you can skip this step and just start putting the pasted strips on the balloon. I tried it both ways and I do think it's easier to start with a layer of dry paper. You can apply paste to the newspaper strips 2 ways. One option is to dip the strips in the bowl of paste. Then dangle the paper over the bowl and use your fingers to scrape off excess paste. Another way is to use a paintbrush to apply the paste to each strip. I think the second way takes too long and adds another tool to have to clean.

The best way I have found to do this part with kids is to let them watch a few times first. I spread sheets of newspaper out on the kitchen floor to work over. The kids can access the bowl and balloon easiest this way. Then let them do the dipping and scraping over the bowl. The parent can help guide the pieces onto the balloon making sure to spread it as even as possible. I usually end up holding the pinata/balloon with one hand and pointing to where the next piece should go. Then I can turn the balloon and we can cover all sides.

Cover the balloon with one layer of paper mache then set it out on newspaper to dry. The time it takes to dry will depend on the weather and how much paste you used, but you can count on it taking about a day or more.

Once the first layer has dried, poke a whole in the top, pop the balloon, and remove it. Then make a small door on top of the pinata so you have room to put candy in.

Then do 1-3 more layers of paper mache using the same process as before. Let it dry between each layer.

Directions for decorating:
Starting at the bottom of the design, begin gluing the crape paper strips. I like to pour white glue into a bowl and let the kids use q-tips to dip and apply the glue directly on the paper mache. I've noticed that this step usually gets boring pretty fast. They usually help for the first few rows of crape paper then start doing something else. You may want to either stop and finish this step over a few days or, just finish it yourself. The kids don't mind watching me. They understand it has to be done and usually just play around me while I'm completing the design. They join in whenever they feel like it.

Then you'll need to attach a string or wire for hanging. I have done this several ways. The first is to use string and just glue or duck tape it to the inside or outside of the pinata. You could use hot glue on top or duck tape on the inside. Just make sure you attach it somewhere that can hold the weight of the pinata after it is filled with treats. It is pretty heavy when complete and so you need to take that into consideration. I used a wire coat hanger for the last pinata and it was easy and very stable. Just cut the wire right before it turns the corners so you have an upside down V with a hanger on top. The I just punched the ends into the finished pinata and stuck my hand inside (through the candy door) and turned the ends under so they would stay in place.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Teddy Bear

Added note: I've posted 2 entries in a row so be sure to check out the one below this about our winter garden.

I found this pattern for an adorable crochet teddy bear in a kids crochet book. (You can find the book here at Amazon.) I checked this book out from the library thinking maybe the girls would find something interesting to do. But, they are not into learning how to crochet. They think knitting is easier. So, as I was looking through the book I found this really cute little bear. The pattern is so easy to read since it is designed for children. I think I'll try to find some more of these kinds of patterns! I started it before everyone got sick and then finished the arms, legs, and face the other night. How cute?!

Back to life and working in the garden

We had a nasty fever virus run it's course through our family for the past 2 weeks. Daniel had it first, then Arianna. Ellen and I were only sick for about a day but the whole family has dealt with cough, congestion and fever at some point. YUCK! We are finally done and have had a wonderfully productive Saturday.

Daniel spent the day putting up a chicken wire fence around the entire garden bed. Our new dog Blue has had a hard time staying out of the area and has been caught digging in the onions and potatoes. With the fence around the garden and fruit trees we can leave Blue in the yard without a worry. Daniel also borrowed a tiller from our neighbor. He used it for several hours to mix and shred all the leaves and manure we've been adding all winter.

Daniel also transplanted some of our broccoli, spinach, and other greens that we started about a month ago. He is organizing the garden a little different this year. We will mostly have long rows to plant instead of rectangular beds. In this shadier part of the bed he planted the winter greens. It is so nice to see green growing in the garden again!

While he was out there, I planted lettuce seed in with the garlic and a few rows of spinach seed. I also started trays of summer veggies--16 plants each of eggplant, tomato, cucumber, yellow squash, zucchini squash, butternut squash, basil, sweet peppers, and southern cow peas. We will be keeping those indoors and bringing them out on sunny days and back in at night.

So if you are wanting to know what to plant in your area right now, check your local cooperative extension office. You can plant spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, onions, potatoes, and more now while it's cold or as soon as the soil is workable. You'll want to start summer veggies 4-8 weeks before your last frost date. You can find that date through the cooperative extension office as well.

You can see in this picture hills of potatoes that have not sprouted yet (Daniel planted those last weekend.) There is also a bed of onion sets not yet sprouted. There is also a bed of garlic sprouts. I planted the lettuce seeds in between the green shoots. A small bed of spinach is also pictured (not sprouted yet) next to the garlic. You can see the chicken wire fencing here too.

Here's a great picture of Blue waiting outside the fence. I don't think he understands why he can't walk around in there. It's interesting that our old dog Jay was never a problem.

Here are the trays of seeds we have started. Four were done today of the summer veggies. The green plants you see are the other winter veggies we started a few weeks back. We usually bring them out daily and leave them on the rail of the deck or in one of the closer vegetable beds in the yard.
The trays you see in the picture above were acquired over the years. We either bought plants in them or gathered them for free from local nurseries. There are 2 plant trays that you see with plants actually growing. Those are called winstrip trays and were given to us by Daniel's dad. They are very sturdy plastic and hold 72 plants each.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our baby turned 6

I can't believe my baby is 6. That's so old:) I know we always say this, but it really does just seem like yesterday when I was holding her as a baby and dreaming about what it would be like when the girls were 6 and 7. For some reason in my mind 6 is a turning point in their lives. They are able to do so much more for themselves at this age. It is great and awful at the same time. You want them to grow up when they are acting like babies and shouldn't be, but then you want them to stay young because they are just so darn cute and sweet! All I can do is try to cherish every moment because the time is flying by.

Here are the girls early on Arianna's birthday. She loved that huge stuffed horse she got grandmother Gail.

Arianna's birthday was on the 9th but we had the party on Valentine's Day. So we had 3 different birthday celebrations this year. First Mimi (my mom) came to town the week before the 9th. She spent a few nights and showered her with love and gifts and attention while she was here. Then we had the real birthday last Monday. She opened a few presents, had cake, and all her favorite meals (waffles, tofu dogs, and bean quesadillas). Here she is on her 6th birthday.

Her big party was on Saturday at our house. The party was great. There were 16 or so kids here and all the parents. The kids decorated valentine bags, decorated cupcakes, played dress up, then hit the pinata. Grandaddy William and Anna came from Charlotte and our friends from Chapel Hill came down too. It was so nice of everyone to make the trip to celebrate with the birthday girl.
Anna and William (aunt and grandaddy)
Here they are decorating cupcakes in their costumes.
Here they are waiting in line for a hit at the pinata

Making pinatas has become a tradition for Kruidenier parties. We started out buying them for the birthdays when they were young. As the girls got old enough to help we learned how to make them ourselves. The first few we made were just balloon shaped with crape paper decorations. This year Arianna really wanted a dolphin pinata. So I found a design online and we started working on it 3 weeks in advance. It's not a very difficult process but it is time consuming. You have to allow time for each layer of paper-mache to dry. So for this design we used 2 balloons for the body, a cup for the nose and cardboard for the fins and tail. This is another great project for the family. I loved being creative with the shape and design. The girls loved getting their hands dirty in the flour/water glue! We were all very proud of the finished product.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My first sweater

I started to knit a sweater a few weeks before Christmas. It was going to be Daniel's Christmas present although I knew it would not be ready in time. Knitting a sweater is something I have wanted to do for a long time and I'm proud to have completed it. It actually looks great and fits pretty nice. I made a lot of mistakes so about half the time I spent working on the sweater was spent figuring things out, ripping stitches out, or un-knitting (not sure if that's a word)! So I guess the next sweater I knit will only take me a few weeks, right? I had a lot of fun working on it in the evenings and I feel like I can knit anything now that my first sweater is complete. The pictures look very washed out because of the flash. The yarn is not that shiny and the sweater doesn't look that bright! But, you get the idea.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Getting ready for the GBBC and more

The Great Backyard Bird Count (project by Cornell lab of Ornithology and Audubon) will be February 13-16. You can go to the website to find out more information. Basically you just go somewhere, anywhere, and watch for birds for about 15 minutes. You keep track of what and how many birds you saw, and then you go to the website and send in your information. This is a great activity for kids, families, homeschoolers, etc. The results of the count are tracked online and are used by scientists.

Last weekend I noticed that Congaree National Park was doing a program about bird feeders and attracting birds to your yard. They are doing several programs for the next few weekends to spread the word about the Bird Count. I thought it would be fun for us to do while Daniel was working on Sunday, so the girls and I packed some snacks and headed out to the Park. We learned a few new names of birds to look for in our yard and about what kinds of foods certain birds like. They were giving away some great freebies so we came home with a bamboo bird feeder made by some of the Rangers. We also took home a cool Natl. Park Calendar and a huge pine cone to make another bird feeder out of.

After the Ranger talk, we took a nice walk through the swamp. We listened for birds but they were hard to spot and hear. We enjoyed walking leisurely down the bordwalk and remembering what we have learned about the trail. There are 21 wooden numbers along the path that go along with the self-guided tour pamphlet. We only went past the first 5 but since we have done the trail a few times we could remember what each number was referring to without looking at the guide. We walked down to the creek which we had never done before and it was beautiful. We stopped along the way to snack and take closer looks.

Through the switch cane.

The Great Cypress

Cedar Creek

Just being silly

Excited about the new feeder.

Daniel was happy to help us hang the new feeder right in front of our big playroom window.

I really had a good time. As a parent and homeschooling mom I spend a lot of time teaching, telling, watching, cooking, cleaning, correcting, driving, etc. Times like these when we are just hanging out are really sweet. It was also a great opportunity to take pictures since I'm still learning about my camera!