Friday, September 23, 2016

Two-in-One: Cardboard Tube Bear or Dog

My latest cardboard tube project is a bear:

Or a dog. It's the same tube. I just changed out the ears.

Materials: cardboard tube, paint (dark brown, white), scissors, craft glue, googly eyes, black mini pom pom

Paint the cardboard tube dark brown. Add a drop of white paint to the brush and wipe it on the inside of the tube until no more comes off. This will be the muzzle and tummy. When the paint is dry, cut one of the halves open.

Use that open piece to cut the muzzle and tummy from the light brown interior. Use the dark brown part to make rounded ears for the bear, or pointy ears for the dog. Cut a slit halfway up the center of each ear. Slide the ears of choice onto the edge of the tube.

Glue the muzzle and tummy in place, securing them with a rubber band until the paint is dry. Add the googly eyes and pom pom nose. Done!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

40-4-Steve: Skating Lessons

Trevor has an ice skating recital every 10 weeks. For 30 minutes prior to the recital, friends and family can skate for free. The first time, Steve sat out. The next time, Trevor and I talked him into putting on skates and trying. Let's just say he's not a natural. Ten weeks later, he tried again. He made it around the rink once (almost) before the 30 minutes were up. When learning a new skill, it is not ideal to wait 10 weeks between attempts, especially when it takes you 26 minutes to feel comfortable enough just standing on skates to try actually moving.

Fast forward to March. Trevor had been taking lessons on Wednesdays for 13 months and had worked his way up through Pre-Alpha, Alpha, Beta and Gamma. The next level, Delta, isn't offered on Wednesdays, so we had to switch nights. Happily, we discovered that there was an adult class offered that partially overlapped with Delta! I signed us both up. Trevor would skate from 6:00 to 7:00. Steve and I would skate from 6:30 to 7:30.

I'm happy to report that Steve is now comfortable skating socially. Mission accomplished! Meanwhile, Trevor is working on beginning jumps. I can't wrap my head around that, even though I watch it each week. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hunger Action Month: Carrot Soup with a Swimming Bunny

Our family has gone orange during September for Hunger Action Month. As part of our celebration, we've come up with a creative and healthy orange meal each week. This time, it's carrot soup. With a swimming bunny crouton.

Carrot Soup

                                         2 T. butter                      2 lb. carrots
                                         1/2 onion                        2 c. broth
                                         2 cloves garlic                 4 c. water

Roughly chop the onions, garlic and carrots. Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are brown and soft. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the water and the broth. I used chicken broth because we had it on hand, but you can use vegetable broth if you want to keep this vegetarian. To keep it vegan, swap out the butter for oil. It's a flexible recipe. Turn the heat to high. When the liquids are boiling, add the carrots and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the carrots are soft, approximately 20-30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Season to taste. Garnish with grated cheese, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and/or pie crust bunnies.

Pie Crust Bunnies

                                          1 1/3 c. flour              1/2 c. shortening (chilled)
                                          1/2 tsp. salt                3-6 T. ice water
                                          black food marker

Mix the flour and salt. Use a fork to cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Using the fork, stir in just enough ice water for the dough to come together into a ball. Roll out the dough onto a mat and use a knife to cut out the shapes (see photo). Put them on a baking sheet and cook at 375° for approximately 8 minutes or until barely darkened. Remove from pan and let cool enough to touch. Use the food marker to add faces to the bunnies. Float the bunnies in the carrot soup, inserting each piece diagonally so that the face and feet are sticking up out of the soup.

Lest you think you can skip the pie crust and just use white bread for your bunnies... 

The bread started absorbing the soup the SECOND I put it in. I took this photo as fast as humanly possible. Within minutes, the bunny was completely orange and soggy and his face was just starting to run. Conversely, the pie crust bunny stayed crisp and looking just as good for 10 minutes. So definitely go with the pie crust. You can make the bunnies in advance and keep them in a ziplock bag or even freeze them. 

About the food writers: I have two different brands (listed below). They work well on some foods and not great on others. Neither worked especially well on pie crust or white bread, but they were good enough. They're meant for surfaces like fondant, royal icing, and marshmallows, but I use them for all kinds of other things. You keep them in the fridge. I've literally had mine for over a decade and they're still going strong.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kumihimo Yarn Bracelets

After completing our flag drawings, the next activity during our flag-themed Cub Scout den meeting was to make red, white and blue yarn bracelets. We used a simple version of kumihimo, a Japanese form of braiding. Here's the finished bracelet:

The finished braid could be used as a lanyard, zipper pull or keychain as well, but all the Scouts chose to make theirs into bracelets. 

To make this bracelet, you need:
  • a piece of chipboard
  • yarn (approx. 14 feet total)
  • scissors

Begin by cutting the chipboard into an octagon. It does not need to be perfect. Aim for the size of a CD so that it's comfortable in your hand. Poke a hole in the center of the octagon and cut a 1/4" slit into each side.

Next, cut seven pieces of yarn, each approximately 2 feet. They can be the same color or different colors. We used three blue strands, two red strands, and 2 white strands. Tie a knot on one end connecting all the pieces of yarn. Thread the strand through the center of the octagon. Holding the octagon with the knot on the bottom, take each of the yarn strands and put them into one of the eight slots. Note that there are 7 strands and 8 slots, so you will have an empty slot.

Rotate the octagon so that the empty slot is facing you. Moving counter-clockwise, count three slots and remove that piece of yarn.  

Put it into the empty slot. 

Rotate the octagon so that the empty slot is facing you again. Repeat the previous step, counting three slots counter-clockwise, then moving that piece of yarn to the empty slot. Repeat these steps over and over. It's that easy. Rotate, count, move the yarn. Rotate, count, move the yarn. 

As you work, the finished braid will start emerging from the bottom. 

When it is the length you want, simply remove each yarn piece from the slots, then pull the whole braid out from the bottom. The octagon is ready to be used again.

Tie a knot at the end of the braid. Leave a 1/2" gap, then tie a second knot. Trim the excess yarn off both ends.

To wear the bracelet, slip the knot through the gap between the two knots. 

This easy craft is great to pass the time during travel, waiting for appointments, in restaurants, or any time. Customize it with your favorite colors! Thanks to Premier Yarn for providing us with the materials for our project. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Draw the US Flag (A Communication Game)

I'm leading the Cub Scouts on their Building a Better World Adventure. We had a lot of information to cover about the US flag, so I decided to start off by making sure the boys knew what the flag looks like. I taped paper to the wall and set a chair in front of it, facing the audience. One by one, each boy sat in the chair and described to me how to draw the flag. 

Sounds easy enough, right? Nope. I did my best to follow the directions each boy gave EXACTLY. If they weren't specific about something like vertical vs. horizontal vs. diagonal, I intentionally chose to interpret their instructions incorrectly.


Trevor was the first volunteer. Here's his finished flag:

His instructions? "Using a blue pen, draw a box in the upper left corner. No, wait. Draw a medium-sized box. Put 50 white stars in the box. Now put 14 red lines to the right of the blue box with white space between them."  

Each boy was able to learn from the others' mistakes, but that didn't always help, as there were plenty of other mistakes to be made! Here, J has just realized from the rest of the group's hysterics that he didn't specify how long the red lines to the right of the blue square should be.

I should mention: I know these boys well and they know each other well. I knew that none of them would get their feelings hurt during this game, but I was also careful in who I selected to go first. That person is likely to do the worst and will be the first to experience the group laughing at something he couldn't see. I was relieved when Trevor volunteered to go first because I knew that he would find his mistakes just as funny as the audience did. All of the boys were great sports during their turn in the hot seat. We had a great time laughing together and everyone got the message - how important it is to be clear and specific when communicating directions. 

L was the last to go. He nailed the colors, the rectangle size and placement, and the number and direction of the stripes. The stars weren't right and he forgot to clarify the placement of the stripes.

Here are all 7 Scouts, proudly showing off their flags. They're standing in the order they went. You can see the improvement in communication as they learned from each other's mistakes. 

A closer look:

Tomorrow I'll show you the art project we did as part of the same meeting.