Happy September (deemed “apple month” by my sister)! Many students and teachers are returning back to school after the Labor Day holiday if they haven’t already: bless ’em all. And though I didn’t make this folksy apple piñata for back-to-school, I like the idea of having something stress relieving to smash (that explodes with candy) after saying goodbye to summer vacation and hello to classroom assignments. Rather, a few special milestones in my family have passed: my parents both retired from public school teaching this summer, and they also celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last week. It called for a celebration (involving peaches and apples…), and we are looking forward to a festive cookout with our family this weekend! The piñata was made by covering a punching balloon using a basic papier-mâché method of dipping newspaper strips in a paste mix made of warm water, rice flour, and liquid glue. Once everything dried, the vessel was filled with little sweets, sealed up, and spray painted red.
I didn’t do any baking during the record-high temperatures this week. Instead, I took to making a small and wintery indoor craft. Inspired by Sweet Paul & Apartment Therapy, I made whimsical jar lids with plastic figurines, used jars, superglue, and craft paint.
Any empty jars you have will work: jam jars, cookie jars, baby food jars. You could also use spray paint if you have an extra can and proper ventilation. I used my Martha Stewart Pearl and Copper craft paint with a sponge brush. In order to cover everything, I daubbed the paint on in three coats (brushing on just didn’t stick). I imagine that first using a primer would make covering the lids and figurines much quicker, I just didn’t have any around.
Your jar collection can easily become an enchanted forest or a bustling color zoo; the possibilities are endless! Use the finished jars for containing craft supplies, toys, or sweet goodies. I especially like my new birthday candle jar.
My niece is visiting this week, and we are doing special things together like going to the movies with grandma, visiting great-grandma’s house, and taking fancy drinks to the park. I once saw mustache straws and thought it would be fun for us to make something like that to put in our fancy drinks. We made these simple summer lips straws using hot pink card stock and neon bendy straws (how handy that the diameter of my hole punch is exactly the diameter of the straws). The lips template is here in case you want to make some too – just click on the image, print, cut, punch, and slide on straw. You could even encrust them with glitter for extra shimmer. Tonight we are going to eat spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and watch Lady & the Tramp!
I have two awesome cousin trips coming up these next two weeks. Later this month I will travel to Kansas to see my youngest cousin on my mom’s side graduate high school (proud!), and later this week I will hop on a plane to visit my oldest cousin (it’s been too long!) on my dad’s side in Oregon. I can hardly sit still I am so excited, though refilling my coffee cup each time I fill up my laundry loads may also have something to do with the extra energy.
As I was packing I realized that I was strangely out of postage stamps. So yesterday I went to the Post Office and found the commemorative Indy 500 stamps and a few others for mailing. Once I got home I cropped some paper and old fruit boxes for postcards (still inspired by the one Katie sent me) to write while I am away. The colors of the nectarine boxes seemed like a great match for Portland. I saved a few back to send to people -YOU- who read this blog. I’ll write you a postcard from Oregon if you send your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Thanks to those of you that either commented on or talked with me about my last post. I appreciate those bloggers who wrote about specifically honest things in their entries. Like I mentioned, I am using this space to mainly dwell on cozy things. If it makes you feel better, it represents about 10% of my life. Now I will go make pancakes, and maybe I will take pictures of them too.
I opted out of the traditional coconut nests this year and modified the form of my simple popcorn ball recipe to make fluffier nests for my Peeps. Shredded wheat and coconut cannot be easy on those soft chickymallow bums. For the caramel-colored ones, I used the same recipe, except I scorched the butter till golden before melting in the mini-mallows: especially tasty with Whoppers and roasted peanuts. The decorated nests slide easily into cellophane bags filled with edible Easter grass and make for bright and sugary Spring-colored favors or small gifts for giving.
Assembly can also be an easy interactive treat-craft activity for all ages. Prepare the popcorn nests in advance and store them in an airtight container (or simply mold them into muffin tins and cover). When it’s time for the fun, set out supply bowls of jelly beans, nuts, sprinkles, chocolates, Peeps, or whatever works with your company’s aesthetic and dietary needs/desires. Each person begins with an empty nest and fills it up with whatever it takes to make a sweet, treat-filled home. It turns out that I like sour jellybeans in my popcorn nest!
I made some simple Easter eggs this year with pigment and glitter letter stickers. Growing up, we always “blew out” the contents of the eggs (so we could make egg sandwiches) before dyeing them. It was only a few years ago that I had even heard of people hard boiling their Easter eggs (is that what you do?). I do enjoy a good pickled egg. Anyhow, I like how delicate and weightless the egg shell is once it has been emptied. This year I made french toast with the empties!
The more I look at the words “rise” and “shine,” the more I like them. At once, they can be simple and profound. Such renewal in nature this time of year here; it is my same hope for all of the people waking up out there.
When I taught preschool art classes, I did a spin-off unit involving one of my favorite books: Harold and the Purple Crayon. Kids made “Harold-sized” crayons as thick as their grips and used them to create new worlds all over the stark white walls. By the day’s end, we were surrounded by colorful cities, jungles, rivers, stars, and abstract environments. It was wild and cozy.
Though I am not currently teaching any art classes, I still save paper tubes and broken crayons. Using those supplies, along with Mod Podge, tissue paper, and tape, I made hollow container versions of the big crayons for my niece and nephew in their favorite colors. Once everything dried, I filled them up with coordinating goodies and sent them in the mail for Valentine’s Day presents. Those two sweet rascals color up my life so much. I hope they always stay true to their colors while their hearts and imaginations continue to grow.
P.S. Yes, I am a child of the ’80s and have a Cyndi Lauper sing-along every now and then. Keep ’em shining through!
P.P.S. Melt down your own old crayons into exciting new shapes and colors: peel away the papers (great way to occupy little ones while encouraging sorting, recycling and fine motor skills) and put the colors in an oven-safe form. I have used muffin tins, cups, flowers pots, etc. Place in 275-degree oven for up to 30 minutes. Allow to harden, then pop out of form.