Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Kimono Costume from a Plastic Tablecloth


The teens had an Asian themed "How to Host a Murder Party" to go to for the last night of youth group.  Their leader encouraged them to come in costume, if at all possible.  T (age 17) found a cap at the party supply store, and was good to go...


...but the only other Asian themed items we could find in the store, besides paper fans, were napkins, and plastic tablecloths.


Since there was nothing else, we grabbed a couple of the fans, and two of the tablecloths, and headed home to see what we could do with them.  They were rectangular, and white in the middle, with red and gold strips running down each side.

We folded them in half, short sides together, as shown.


Then, we cut a round neck hold in the center of the folded part, so they could slip on over the girls' heads.


Starting at the short ends, we cut the strips away from the white center...


...stopping about four inches from the girls' arm pits.


If we'd had an extra tablecloth, we probably would have left the arm streamers really long, but we needed some of the red for belts, bows, and trim, so we shortened the arms by about half.


We stapled the bottom...


...and inside edges of the arm streamers closed.


G taped some of the red stripping onto the bottom edges of the white, for trim.  A left hers plain.


We taped together some of the pieces to make belts, folding in the raw edges...


...and stapling, rather than tying them, at the back (that made them a one time wear, but that was all we needed).


We added a little piece of tape to the front to hold the belt in place...


...and stapled bows (pieces pinched and stapled in the middle) to the back for a finishing touch to the robes.


They weren't authentic by any stretch of the imagination, but with fans in hand, and chopsticks in hair, they didn't look too bad...


...for a couple of plastic tablecloths.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Summer Reading - Books with Recipes at the Back.



The younger girls (ages 8 and 10) have been busy reading and crafting their way through Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series, heading into to summer reading.  There are enough books, and crafts, in the series to keep them busy for quite a while yet.  But, I also have a couple of other series (this time with recipes at the back) for them to flip back and forth from, and a similar (recipes at the back) manga series for their older sisters, as well.

Coincidentally, each of the book sets I have in mind also provide opportunities for foreign language study.

For instance, Giada De Laurentiis (from the Food Network) sprinkles the pages of her Recipe for Adventure books with Italian words and phrases. There are recipes at the back of each book, but no glossary, so the girls will be reading these out loud to me (probably only a chapter a day), so I can help them along the way.

I've also downloaded the Gus on the Go - Italian app to our Kindle...



...as well as the free version of Learn Italian (non-affiliate link), to help them with pronunciation and word recognition.


As to the stories, we're only a couple of chapters into the first book, but they remind me a little of the Magic Tree House.

Take a geography loving 11 year old boy, from an Italian-American family, and his 12 year old, history loving, sister, and combine them with a globe-trotting great-aunt, who has the power to transport them to the places she has visited, through her recipes - and you have a recipe for summer learning, as well as an adventure (at least that's my hope).

So far, there are six books in the series (the links will take you to recipe cards on the author's site).

Book 1: Naples! with recipes for Tomato-Basil Pizza and Zeppole
Book 2: Paris! with recipes for Hot Chocolate and Crepes
Book 3: Hong Kong! with recipes for Shrimp Dumplings and Scallion Pancakes
Book 4: New Orleans with recipes for Bananas Foster and Gumbo
Book 5: Rio! with recipes for Brigadeiros and Pão De Queijo
Book 6: Hawaii! with recipes for Macadamia Banana Bread and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake



If we make it through all of those, hopefully trying out more than a few of the recipes along the way, the next books I have standing by are part of the Anna Wang series by Andrea Cheng.  The stories revolve around a young, about-to-be middle schooler, from a Chinese-American home, and contain short Chinese-English dictionaries and pronunciation guides, as well as recipes or crafts.

So far, there are four books in the series.

The Year of the Book with instructions for making a draw-string lunch bag (not a recipe but still fun)
The Year of the Baby with a recipe Steamed Red Bean Bao Zi
The Year of the Fortune Cookie with a recipe for Fortune Cookies
The Year of the Three Sisters (no recipe or project that I can see - but a Chinese pronunciation guide).



Meanwhile, my teens (ages 14 and 16) are planning on baking their way through Natumi Ando's Kitchen Princess.  The comic book style manga tells the story of a young girl, the orphan child of two pastry chefs.  She was rescued from drowning as a small child by a boy, who shared his flan, and some encouragement with her, and then left in a hurry, leaving her with only a silver spoon to remember him by.  Years later she when she discovers the spoon carries the emblem of a prestigious school, she studies hard in order to get into the school, in hope of finding her "prince".

The school is filled with elite and gifted students, each with a special talent.  It does not take long for our heroine to realize her talent is baking - much like her parents.  Finding her prince might take a little longer.

It's not exactly Shakespeare, but the recipes look promising, and there's a good deal of Japanese to be learned along the way, as well (with guides thrown in for English readers).

Kitchen Princess 1 with recipes for Flan, Taramasalata, Rainbow Colored Jello, Christmas Cookies, and Onion Gratin Soup.
Kitchen Princess 2 with recipes for Chocolate Macaroons, Strawberry Shortcake, Rice Cake, Yogurt Mousse, Peach Pie.
Kitchen Princess 3 with recipes for Polka Dot Pancake, Rolled Sandwich, Banana Cream Puff, Carrot Cake, and Mont Blanc.
Kitchen Princess 4 with recipes for Omurice, Apple Cake, Cocoa Scone, and Fruit Agar.
Kitchen Princess 5 with recipes for Strawberry Tart, Castella, Crepes, and Souffle Ice Cream.
Kitchen Princess 6 with recipes for Bruschetta, Flan Cake, Curry Roll, Yogurt Bread, and Baked Sweet Potato Mash.
Kitchen Princess 7 with recipes for  Fruit Cocktail, Madeleines, Neapolitan Spaghetti, Mille-Feulle, and Cheesecake.
Kitchen Princess 8 with recipes for Fruit Jam, Tea Sandwiches, High Tea, and Baci.
Kitchen Princess 9 with recipes for Cinnamon Rolls, Banana Bread, Chicken Doria, and Vegetable Potage
Kitchen Princess 10 with recipes for Salt Caramel, Paella, Cocktail, and Creme Brulee.

The girls have been too busy with end of the year youth-group activities, this week, to try any of the recipes from the first book, but I'm looking forward to comparing the Kitchen Princess sugar cookie recipe to our own, and in the meantime, I picked up some store bought flan for the girls to try.


It received mix reviews, but the girls loved getting a little taste of the story, all the same, and we spent a very productive few minutes looking up and reading the history of flan.

Needless to say, with all these great tastes and recipes to be tried, we're going to be needing a good exercise program to go along with our summer reading.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Reading With Activities at the Back of the Book - Day 4: Pencil Eraser Ballet Slippers


I printed a ballerina finger puppet out of Google images for the girls to color...


...to go along with Carolyn Keene's fourth installment of the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series - "The Cinderella Ballet Mystery".


Each of the books in the series has instructions for a go-along craft at the back of the book.  In this case, it was for a make-your-own, card stock, ballerina finger puppet.  I liked the craft, and it looked very doable, just a little time consuming. 

With a house inspector to trail today, and a visit to the emergency room, yesterday, with the Man of the House, and his kidney stone, time consuming was not on my list of acceptable concepts.  So, as with the other crafts, and most of what I imagine we'll be doing this summer, we simplified.

Instead of having the girls craft original, card stock and fabric puppets, I had them color (both sides) of the pre-printed puppet I found in Google images.


The girls cut them out, and I helped them to encase them in clear contact paper (to make them sturdier)...


...before cutting out the finger/leg holes.  I couldn't find a razor blade, so I used a hole punch to make small holes, to slip scissors into...


...for cutting the holes to finger size.

Then, we added our own touch, by making quick slits in pencil erasers, so they could slip onto the girls fingers...
...as toe-shoes...
...for their little dancers.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Baby Killdeer and the Day We Learned Richard Feynman was Wrong.


You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.        — Richard Feynman

Except for the cookie spelling game yesterday, we pretty much dropped everything else, to spend the day watching...


...a family of Killdeer in the vacant lot behind our house.  The two adults are old friends of ours.  We've seen them often in the yard this spring, and figured they had a nest nearby - though we hadn't found it.


The four little fuzzballs trailing behind them though, were new to us.



We spent most of the day observing them through binoculars, from in the house, or across the yard.  They're so fuzzy!!!


Occasionally I'd sneak out across the lot, still muddy from last week's rain, trying to snap a close-up or two of the chicks.  It proved next to impossible.  They scatter quickly...


...and hide...


...while their parents put on quite a diversionary show, flopping around on the ground - showing off reddish back feathers, and making a ridiculously loud ruckus, all designed to lure predators away from the chicks, and give them time to hide, or be led to safety by the other parent (Mr. Wizard has a nice little video clip all about it).


If that doesn't work, they get louder (like the shrieking eels of Florin) and start swooping and darting through the air in an extremely menacing manner. I didn't get any pictures of that, but rest assured the children had quite a good show to watch out our window.

When I came in we looked up Killdeer facts from the BioKids, and All About Birds sites (two of our favorites).  They not only have nice, sharp, close-up pictures, but a wealth of fun facts about the birds.  And, as we read, it occurred to me that Dr. Feynman, a fine physicist I'm sure, must not have been a birder, or a linguist.

If he had been, he would have known you don't have to know "the name of a bird in all the languages of the world", because biologist have assigned each bird a Latin name - a name you can know a bird by no matter what country you are from.  And, when it comes to many birds, as with the Killdeer, or Charadrius vociferus, knowing the name - you'll know quite a bit about the bird.



I still love that quote, though.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cookie Spelling



I happened on bags of letter and number shaped animal-type crackers at the store...


...and decided if we (meaning me) are going to be stress eating this week anyway (we finally closed the sale on our old house, and have put in an offer on a new one - soooo much paperwork), we might as well get a spelling lesson out of it.

So, I sent the children to wash their hands, while I sorted the letter crackers (homemade sugar cookie letters would do just as well) out into a big bowl...


...ready for a Scrabble-style crossword game.  Our rules were pretty lax.

We each started with ten letters.


The first player spelled out a word, on which the other players played, moving around the table in turn...


...drawing new letters from the bowl to replace the ones played.


But, since we were playing with cookies, we added a rule.  If a player was not satisfied with the letters they drew, they had the option to eat one of their letters, and replace it with another from the bowl (only one per turn). 

And, since we were focusing more on spelling than actual game play, we allowed players to peek into the bowl, and choose whatever letters they wanted/needed as they drew them.  I was surprised how much the extra rules revved up the excitement of the game.

We had thought to play until we had used up all the cookies in the bowl, but there were a lot of cookies (maybe one bag would have been enough).

After about a half an hour, D (age 12) spelled "The End"...


 ....and it seemed like a good time to stop, at least until after dinner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Summer Reading with Activities at the Back of the Book - Day 3: Cardboard Tube Horses




In Carolyn Keene's Pony Problems - volume three of the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series, eight year old Nancy and friends set out to solve the mystery of a pony's nightly escape from a local petting zoo.

There are instructions at the back of the book for making a cork and toothpick pony.

As usual, we switched things around a little.  We have corks, but they're on the small side, and part of our science supplies, so we opted for cardboard tubes (which we always seem to have in abundance), and craft sticks.

For each of our horses, we gathered glue, scissors, and tape plus:

* Two empty cardboard tubes
* About a dozen, or so, 10'' pieces of yarn.
* 6 craft sticks
* 2 googly eyes
* and 2 small, brown paper arches (for ears)


We shortened one of the tubes, by cutting off about a quarter of the length.


Then, I sketched quick cutting lines for the girls, centered, on one end of both tubes (for neck slits), and punched a hole, on the opposite end, but the same side, of the longer tube (for the tail).


I also rolled the longer tube over, and sketched out two lines on both ends, for leg slits (keep paging down, and it should begin to make sense).


The girls cut the marked slits...


...and then slipped craft sticks into them (beginning with the legs)...


...taping the open end of the slit shut, to secure the sticks (a little, anyway).


Once they had the four legs in place, and adjusted, so the horses could stand...



...they slipped their last craft stick through the neck slit of the long tube (taping it the same as with the legs)...


...finally slipping the shorter tube onto the other end of the neck stick.


Then, all they had to do was glue on eyes (slightly to the sides on the head)...


...add a mane (by tying the pieces of yarn onto the neck stick, within and below the head area)...




...then, tie on a tail (through the hole in the back)...


...and glue on ears.


For a final touch, they trimmed the manes and tails to make them even, and pulled one piece of yarn forward, to fray out for "bangs".


C (age 8) chose a more whimsical color of yarn, and cut an extra slit at the top of the head, so the neck stick could slide all the way through, changing her horse into a unicorn...


...which didn't quite go along with Carolyn Keene's story line, but pleased C immensely, nonetheless.