1/22/21

Chinese New Year Ribbon Dragon Craft

January is a busy month in the world of kids' crafts. In January, lots of people search for crafts about Arctic animals (as if penguins and polar bears somehow don't exist if it isn't winter in the US). They're also looking for MLK Day ideas, Groundhog Day puppets and treats, 100th day of school crafts, and everything having to do with Valentine's Day. Mardi Gras searches rise dramatically, as do projects featuring Presidents Washington and Lincoln. And then there's Chinese New Year. Technically, it's Lunar New Year, as many other Asian cultures celebrate it. 

Something unique to Chinese New Year is that the crafts people want follow a 12-year cycle. This year, people want Ox crafts. Last year's Rat crafts won't be popular again until 2032, an eternity (and literally a lifetime) for a child. This time next year, the Ox crafts will hold no appeal as everyone makes Tiger crafts. No other holiday is like that. Can you imagine if everyone decorated for Halloween with only witches one year, then threw them all out (or stored them for 12 years) and decorated only with mummies the following year?!

Fortunately, there are some perennial Chinese New Year decorations that make excellent crafts. Red lanterns, firecrackers, plum blossoms, and fish are great choices. And then there are dragons. Dragons are unique among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac in that they are the only mythical creature. As a symbol of power and luck, they are an important part of every New Year's celebration. I had so much fun designing this dragon, made with wired ribbon! Affiliate links below. 



Chinese New Year Ribbon Dragon Craft



Materials:


Steps:


Cut red cardstock to make the dragon's head, two horns, four feet, and a tongue. Cut gold cardstock to make the hair, eyebrows, nose, beard, and tail. Cut two lengths of Twisteezwire to make the mustache. (The photograph below shows most of the red and gold pieces, but is missing the tongue, eyebrows, and nose.) 


Cut eyes and teeth from white cardstock. Then cut pupils, nostrils, and a mouth from black cardstock. 


Glue all the face pieces together, then set it aside. 

Bend the wired ribbon into gentle waves to form the dragon's body. Glue the tail to one end and the feet to either side of the ribbon where it touches the table. 

Make a sharp fold to make the dragon's neck, then the glue the face to the folded portion. When the glue is dry, you can arrange your dragon however you'd like. 


Obviously, you can change out the colors, features, and proportions of the dragon to make it more or less traditional. 

1/21/21

Mystery Hike, in the Album

Remember the Mystery Hike I made up for Trevor's Scout troop? After it was featured on the Bryan on Scouting blog, I heard from dozens of Scout leaders across the country who used my hike as inspiration for a mystery hike in their own communities. It was awesome to know that I helped get hundreds of kids outdoors and exploring their communities safely with their families. 

Mystery Hike (affiliate link)

Scouting wasn't meant to be done from home on a computer screen, but I applaud the Scouts and leaders who are making the best of the situation. We all look forward to the return to in-person Scouting eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

1/20/21

"I Think You Are TREE-mendous!" Valentine

I'm not normally all that into puns, but there's something about Valentine's Day and puns that go hand-in-hand. This "tree-mendous" valentine is cute and easy to make, plus you can fit a lot of candy or other small gifts into the tree trunk. Affiliate links below. 




"I Think You Are TREE-Mendous!" Valentine


Materials:


Steps: 


Cut two slits in a piece of green cardstock that are the same distance apart as the diameter of the cardboard tube.   


Paint the cardboard tube brown and set it aside to dry. Meanwhile, cut the green cardstock to make the canopy of the tree. Punch hearts from red cardstock and glue them randomly on the canopy. 

When the paint is dry, use the Sharpie to draw vertical lines and knot holes onto the cardboard tube to simulate the look of bark. Then write "I think you are TREE-mendous" on a piece of white cardstock, mat it with red, and then glue it to the trunk. 


Fill the trunk with candy, then slide the canopy onto the trunk. Your valentine is ready to give to that "tree-mendous" person in your life! 

1/19/21

Winter Mint Warm Milk

Last week, it was cold here (Bay Area cold, not Place-With-Actual-Winter cold). Now we're in the 70's, so it feels a little weird posting this now. But most of my readers have Actual Winter, so this for you. 

It's a toss-up as to whether hot chocolate or spiced cider is my favorite warm-me-up beverage, but I was in the mood for something different. This warm, sweet minty milk hit the spot. Affiliate links below. 
 

Winter Mint Warm Milk



Materials:


Steps:


Pour an inch of water into a bowl and an inch of sugar into a second bowl. Dip the rim of each glass into the water and then into the sugar. Set the glasses aside. 

Follow the directions to prepare the Candy Melts. Add several drops of wintergreen flavor, then spoon the candy into the molds. Do not fill the molds completely - you want thin snowflakes that will melt easily in warm milk. Allow the candy to set, then remove it from the mold. Repeat until you have 3-4 snowflakes per person. 

Gently heat the milk (use medium power in the microwave or a double-boiler on the stove), stirring frequently, just until it starts to steam. Pour the milk into the prepared glasses and serve with 3-4 snowflakes and a spoon. Each person can drop in their own snowflakes and stir to add the desired amount of mint flavor to the milk. 

1/18/21

Paper Plate King Cake

I've never celebrated Mardi Gras. Growing up Lutheran, I knew that Lent followed the time after Epiphany and preceded Holy Week on the liturgical calendar, but Lent was just a season for us. My family didn't not abstain from sugar or soda or meat or TV or whatever like my Catholic friends did. Because we didn't abstain from anything, there wasn't a reason to have a big party and feast before the depravation began. Hence, I always thought of Mardi Gras as a Catholic party, one to which I might have been welcome but wasn't really invited. 

We spent Christmas 2019 in New Orleans and my perspective on Mardi Gras completely changed. Visiting Mardi Gras World in particular opened my eyes to the joy and spectacle of the holiday. We tried king cake for the first time and watched the massive floats being built and I began to understand Mardi Gras as a cultural celebration rather than (or in addition to) a religious one. I made a king cake necklace soon after we got home and I look forward to February 16 when I'll wear it again. At home, of course. 

Wisely, New Orleans will not be celebrating Mardi Gras 2021 with parades or gatherings, to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Instead, people are encouraged to celebrate at home. I'm going to be sharing a few ideas for a family-friendly Mardi Gras celebration at home. First, a paper plate king cake craft. Affiliate links below. 


Paper Plate King Cake



Materials:


Steps:

Paint the outside edge of the paper plate Camel. The paint should extend about an inch from the edge. 

Mix equal parts Titanium White, water, and flour in a small container. Stir until completely mixed and is the consistency of frosting. If it is too thick to spread, add a few drops of water at a time until it is spreadable. If it is too thin, add a spoon of flour at a time until it resembles frosting. Use the plastic knife to spread the mixture onto the plate, leaving the painted edge exposed.   


Sprinkle glitter onto the wet flour mixture, alternating between gold/yellow, green, and purple. Aim for nine sections (three of each color). 


Let the paint dry completely (overnight is best) then shake off an excess glitter. For extra fun, tape a plastic baby to the underside of your paper plate king cake. (If you find it later, you get to do an extra craft!)