Cascarones – Not Just for Easter Anymore!

New Year’s Day brought a fun new activity this year – we decided to make and break some cascarones!

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Traditionally found in Mexico and parts of Central America, as well as some areas of the southwestern US, cascarones are confetti-filled eggshells, cracked over the heads of friends and family to bring luck.  Cascarones are most often made at Easter time… but we decided to break tradition!

GoGoGirl is working on an “egg badge” for our scouting program, and together with the group leaders, we have been coming up with several egg-related projects she would like to do.  I was already planning to have GoGoGirl make the scrambled eggs for breakfast when I thought it would be great fun to use the shells to make some good-luck cascarones for 2012.

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I helped GoGoGirl open her eggs by cracking a quarter-sized hole at the bottom, then she shook the egg white and yolk out into a bowl for scrambling. While we were eating our delicious breakfast, I boiled water and added vinegar and food coloring so we could dye the shells.

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The shells needed time to dry, so we got out a pile of scrap paper and all our fancy hole punches and scissors to make a bowl full of confetti. This was some serious fine-motor-muscle work, let me tell you! Even my hands were getting tired and sore of squeezing, squeezing, squeezing the hole punches, but no one gave up (not even me!) until we had an impressive pile of confetti.

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We decorated our egg shells with markers and glitter, filled each one about two-thirds full of confetti, and covered the hole on the bottom by gluing on a piece of tissue paper.

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The hardest part was waiting for the glue to dry!

Finally we took the eggs outside (there were only 11 – GoGoGirl squeezed when she should have been shaking, and broke just one into the bowl in the morning).

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Oh the joy!

There are few things as thrilling as being allowed to crack an egg on your dad’s head!

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Stomping, dancing, twirling in the confetti and the good luck swirling down over us!

I don’t know why we’ve never made cascarones except at Easter… it was a quick, easy, and exciting project for any holiday, big or small!

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Kakizome – First Writing of the New Year

I am always looking for something new to celebrate, because I believe our lives should be filled with celebrations!

This year we decided to adopt a bit of the Japanese practice of kakizome or first writing.  On January 2nd (or over the New Year holiday from school), people in Japan make a special banner with the first writing of the New Year.  There are more traditions that go along with kakizome, including using special well water drawn on New Year’s day to make the ink, writing while facing the most auspicious cardinal direction, etc.

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In our house, we used the iPad to look up kanji (Japanese characters) that we thought described a good year ahead.  Then we painted these kanji onto big sheets of paper using powdered tempera paint mixed with special tap water drawn from the kitchen sink!

I had to trace the kanji lightly in pencil for GoGoGirl to paint, while KarateKid was happy to copy the symbols himself.  GoGoGirl chose the kanji for “family” and “food” – no surprise there!

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KarateKid chose “learning” and “happiness” for his banner, and also made a separate page for the “karate” kanji.

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I wrote “health” and “cleanliness” (that was a hint to my family to wash the breakfast dishes on the counter behind them!).

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MechDaddy really enjoyed the activity – he misses out on so much having to go to work most days!  He would really prefer to stay home and play games and make projects with us.  He did a bunch of banners including one that had “serenity” and “balance,” one that was “prosperity” and “friends,” and at least one more that just said “love.”

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It was a really engaging activity that gave us a chance to discuss traditions in other cultures, paint-and-brush techniques, different forms of writing, and our wishes for the new year. Both KarateKid and MechDaddy said that learning traditional Japanese calligraphy is something they’d be interested in – do you know of any good resources for this?

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In the afternoon, we decided to pull out a couple drawing-related board games to play, choosing Scribblish and Doodle Dice.

Scribblish, by Cranium, is a little bit like playing the “telephone game” on paper.  Each person starts with a piece of paper and a caption, then draws what they think that caption represents (something like snowball fight or I slept on a cupcake last night!).  The papers roll up into special plastic scroll pieces, and the scrolls are then passed around the table (according to the roll of the die – left, right, or scrambled).  Looking at the scroll in your hands, you carefully pull the paper down to show just the picture – not the caption – and you write a caption that you think is fitting.  The next person has to draw a picture that goes with the caption you wrote, and so on, until there are four pictures and four captions on each piece of paper.

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Then each player has to vote on which scroll she had originally based only on the final picture.  It is laugh-out-loud fun, but doesn’t work as well in our family of unbalanced abilities (I have to read and write for GoGoGirl, and most of her pictures are hard to decipher).  We don’t pull it out often, but thought it was fitting today – and we had lots of laughs over it.

Doodle Dice is a better fit for us right now – you have to roll your six dice up to three times, Yahtzee-style, trying to match one of the pictures on the cards – if you can match the card, you keep it.  The first person to have one card of each color wins, though mostly we use this game as a filler between other activities and so we don’t often play it all the way to the end.

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The kids talked about how certain symbols on the blocks (the line, the angle, the curve) reminded them of certain strokes in their kanji – I love to watch them make connections like that.  Did you do anything different on this second day of the New Year?

Let’s Go Camping… Mini-Theme

Can you go camping… without actually camping?  We did…

One among many plans to be displaced around here in September was the long-awaited Navigators’ campout for the kids, which had been scheduled for the Friday after Labor Day.  The counties were still under a state of emergency then, and backyards were swamplands, so we couldn’t go.  But I had planned some camping activities for the week, to help my kids prepare for sleeping outside and cooking over a fire, and we had already started our camping theme before the storm hit.

Our book basket included Maisy Goes Camping, The Bear Scouts, Bears in the Night, Just Me and My Dad, Franklin in the Dark, What’s Under the Bed, Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping, The Chizzywink and the Alamagoozlum, and The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.  These picture books were great for GoGoGirl and helped give her a starting point for talking about being scared in the dark on a campout, especially Franklin and What’s Under the Bed.  KarateKid liked the humor in Bear Scouts and Me and My Dad.  We read and sang The Fox Went Out several times each morning and listened to different versions of the song.



For science that week, we studied nocturnal animals, read from several of our nature books about them, and sketched a bat from the specimen my sister carefully preserved for us.

Before reading our books on nocturnal animals, I asked the kids to tell me what they knew about nocturnal animals.  As I expected, KarateKid had a good grasp on the concept, and GoGoGirl really didn’t.  At one point in our discussion, I turned to her and asked, “Do you know any other nocturnal animals?”  She told me, “Dinosaurs!”  I paused.  After a moment to decide how to handle this response, I went with a gentle, “Honey, dinosaurs aren’t alive anymore.”

GoGoGirl, hands on hips: “You have GOT to be kidding me!”  There’s a pause, and the look of gears turning in her head.  Then, with indignation: “WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM?!” as if I’ve spoken some shocking revelation about cute and cuddly dinos who were alive just last week!  Moments like that are why I adore being home with them and being in on the nitty gritty of learning that dinosaurs aren’t alive anymore – split my sides laughing and loving her.

Other resources we used included a Camp Out! playlist I put together on Spotify, which included lots of fun camping songs and several versions of The Fox Went Out.  We also used several pieces of the Camping Preschool Pack from Homeschool Creations (especially the counting cards and 3-part cards) and some from 2 Teaching Mommies (they loved the roll-and-graph).

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The kids also spent a lot of time this week playing with their dollhouse tent and several dolls, and using the playsilks to make a camping scene.  I love the brown “woods” fabric we have – it is silky and lovely, and was 50 cents at a garage sale about two summers before I even had kids.

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The kids each made a construction paper and marker picture using collage and drawing techniques.  I cut several triangles and rectangles for GoGoGirl and helped showed her how they could be glued down to look like a tent – from there, I let their imaginations go!

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These pictures were mostly inspired by Maisy Goes Camping, as GoGoGirl tried to imagine how many of her friends or animals could fit in that tent. POP! Out came Maisy!

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We also made campfire handprint paintings – the kids loved this!  Start by painting the pinkie side of your hand brown, then stamp it on the paper twice, making an X shape to be the logs.  Next, paint the palm of your hand in reds, oranges, and yellows and stamp it down above the X to be the flames.

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Naturally, we had special camping food too. We ate marshmallows and mini s’mores, pork and beans, and one delightful camping-themed Muffin Tin Meal!

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I made roll-up sandwiches with whole wheat wraps, turkey, cheese, and carrots – when cut into sections, the kids think these make great logs! We also had little smokies on teeny weeny roasting forks, and goldfish crackers that we’d just caught in the stream. Washed it all down with bug juice, of course!

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So, the kids got a week full of camping experiences, even if we never made it into that tent.

I’ll be sharing this post with stART, Read.Explore.Learn, What My Child is Reading, and Muffin Tin Monday.  Check out the links to find more creative activities!

Shibley Smiles Muffin Tin Monday at Muffintinmom.com

Dye Job! {Scrap Games}

Jerry Garcia was born on August 1, 1942… and my sister is a long-time fan of his music.  So several years ago, as I was planning our activities for the month of August, I mentioned to her that I didn’t have anything planned for the first.  She told me I should listen to the Dead and tie-dye some t-shirts… and the holiday stuck!  August 1st is Tie-Dye Day in the Games House!

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If you’re after some deep cute… you should check out the 2008 After post with the shirts we made that year.  The shirt KarateKid has on in the first picture is the shirt he wore today… and here, because I’m too afraid you won’t click through, here is the adorably wee GoGoGirl, wearing today’s shirt three years ago:

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It was down to her knees!  And she didn’t have any hair!  Awwwww.

This year’s shirts are still setting and we’ll have an after picture in a couple of days.  The kids did 6 shirts, 2 pillowcases, and an assortment of hankies and washcloths with one squirt-bottle kit, so I’d call our afternoon a rousing success!  Happy Tie-Dye Day!

Snip Snap Stars

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We make lots of crafts and projects for the Fourth of July from red-and-blue fingerpaintings, to koosh ball tossed fireworks paintings, to hand-and-footprint flags.  This year, KarateKid’s favorite was Snip Snap Stars.

Start with a piece of 8.5 x 11 paper – or another paper of very similar dimensions – with the short side at the top. Fold it in half from top to bottom.

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Now fold this in half from top to bottom again, make a crease, and unfold, then fold in half from left to right, make a crease, and unfold.

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What you should have is an 8.5×5.5 inch piece with the fold at the top, and a pair of creases, X and Y.

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Next, take the top left corner A and fold it down and to the right to meet the horizontal X crease at an angle. Make sure the point at the top of the Y crease stays steady – you’re folding line AY. Point A will not come all the way to the edge of the paper – GoGoGirl had a hard time with that the first couple times.

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Take point A and fold it back and to the left to meet the crease that you created in the last step, forming a triangular flap on top.

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Now you need to take the top right corner B and fold it down and to the left so the fold you’re making now matches up with the crease you made in the last step.

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Then fold point B back and to the right so the line BY matches up to the crease you made in the last step, making a triangular flap on top. You have basically made a pile of triangles!

Now it’s time to cut, from point B up and to the left, aiming for a spot about an inch or so down from the top point. The closer you angle towards the top, the skinnier your star will be. Several of GoGoGirl’s stars are almost circular because she cut nearly straight across.

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This is the magic! Snip! Snap!

The piece you want is the tiny piece on top. The kids were puzzled by that too, since the other piece is much bigger! (If you have cut carefully and started slightly above point B on the paper when you cut, you will find that the “scrap” piece has a surprise for you too!) Unfold the tiny piece and…

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Ta-da! A five-pointed star!

The story is that Betsy Ross cut her stars with one snip too. The kids find this just as fascinating as making paper snowflakes in the winter, and my living room is covered with stars, large and small, fat and skinny. We cut stars from colored paper or paper that had been fingerpainted, we string them up to make garlands, we paste them onto paper to make collages, but the best part is that the Ooh! Aah! moment at unfolding is there every single time.

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Snap Fashion Jewelry Fun – and GIVEAWAY!

Do-it-yourself fabric covered buttons that can be used to make interchangeable necklaces, rings, and bracelets were the hit of the house this week as the kids and I reviewed the Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio from SmartLab Toys!

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The kids had the box open before I could grab my camera!  Inside, they found the snap maker, the button hardware, circles of fabric, ribbon for a bracelet, glue, gems, and a great 24-page book of instructions and inspiration.

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The basic idea behind this crafty kit is that you use the Snap Maker to add fabric to metal and plastic button parts which then snap together into a permanent button. After you’ve made several buttons, you can clip them on and off interchangeably to five bases good for stringing on bracelets, necklaces, keychains, and so on, or the two rings with built-in bases. My kids thought this looked like so much fun and were ready to get started!

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This is the Snap Maker in action. It’s very simple – you can use one of the 16 provided cloth circles or use the pink circle template (which stores on the base of the Snap Maker) to cut a circle from any fabric you might have around the house. Thinner fabrics like a basic cotton work best – something thick like felt wouldn’t work well at all. Once you have the fabric chosen, you put it in the Snap Maker, right side down, with the metal button top inside it. Press down once, and the fabric pulls taut over the button top.

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Pull the arm up again and add a plastic button bottom to the prong on the arm. Push down hard enough to hear and feel a big click, and your button is done! Just press the release button to pop it out of the Snap Maker. Ta-da!

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After you have a button put together with fabric, you can add all kinds of embellishments. The kit includes one set of birthstone “jewels” and a bottle of glue, but I grabbed a couple of our bits-and-bobs containers from our art room to give the kids lots more options. Be careful – the glue contained in the kit takes a while to set & isn’t the strongest. It’s best left for adding ribbons or extra fabric. If you want to add something like a bead or button to the top, you should use a regular craft glue or a glue gun with a very fine tip.

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GoGoGirl seemed very pleased with her first pink button, but we had a mini-meltdown when the kit glue wouldn’t hold a purple star sequin onto her creation!

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We looked in the book that came with the kit for more ideas for our buttons. It’s really a good set of ideas, presented in a very graphic style with lots of photos and little sidebars. The book talks about making jewelry that speaks about who you are and what you like. It talks about different colors, different fabrics. It suggests using monograms or the birthstone gems, both included, but also goes on to suggest photo transfers, using meaningful fabric (like one of Dad’s old ties or your baby onesie), using the bases and buttons to create lockets, weaving friendship bracelets (and it gives instructions) with bases and buttons on them, pounding leaves onto light fabric, gluing feathers down to fabric, stringing shells between your bases like beads, putting fake flower petals or tulle around the base, creating a belt, a kilt pin, a bobby pin, earrings, key chains, shoe fobs, and more.

After the kids had made several buttons each, they started clipping them onto the bases and making jewelry from them. KarateKid made a button with a neat, pre-embellished fabric from our bits box, and then he used regular craft buttons and pony beads to string with it on a piece of gold elastic to make this neat necklace:

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I helped GoGoGirl make a two-layer button with a piece of printed fabric included in the kit and a snippet of eyelet. Here’s where I realized that the thickness of the fabric makes a difference: there was a thick edging on the top of the eyelet that made it very hard for the button to snap together. When I try a two-layer button again, I’ll make sure that both pieces of fabric are quite thin.

GoGoGirl added some pony beads and red ribbon to make her necklace:

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Our biggest complaint about this kit? It only comes with enough materials to make 25 buttons! We have lots more ideas! According to the company, refill parts can be provided upon individual request and they hope to have a full refill kit available in stores and online by this fall.

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Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio is only one of many neat kits available from SmartLab Toys. The Snap Fashion set retails for $24.99 and is available through SmartLab, Amazon, or many other retailers.

If you shop through SmartLab Toys between now and 6/30/11, you can use the code BLOGBUZZ at checkout to save 25%!

I also get to give away… well, you get to choose your prize!  The winner, to be chosen next Tuesday, May 10, gets to choose ANY kit from SmartLab Toys! Here’s what you do…

  1. Visit SmartLab Toys and look over all the neat kits they offer.  Choose the one you would want to win, and come back here to leave me a comment.  (US/Canada only)
  2. Follow SmartLab Toys on Twitter, then leave a comment for an extra entry.
  3. Follow me, MamaGames, on Twitter, then leave a comment for an extra entry.
  4. Like SmartLab Toys on Facebook, then leave a comment for an extra entry.

Good luck!  ETA: I have also linked this giveaway up through Hip Homeschool Moms – you can head over there to find more great giveaways to enter!

This has been a MamaBuzz review.  The Snap Fashion kit was provided to me by SmartLab Toys for the purposes of this review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  The opinions & children above are my own!