Simple Projects

ornamentsA few of you have asked if I ever do simpler projects. Definitely! In fact, I’d like to introduce a new blog category, which I’ve aptly titled “Simple Projects.” Here, you will find projects that are just a few steps. Like the scented French pastry ornaments pictured above, this fantastic pom-pom cannon, these dashing foam swords, and these flying books.

A quick aside about these French pastry ornaments and our undying devotion to accuracy. Yes, we did the initial research using Google. But since the internet isn’t always the most reliable of sources, I took them to a local French pasty shop called The Little Chef for some fact-checking. Edwige Fils-Aime, the owner and chef, was kind enough to take a look and correct them for me.

the little chefWhile he was doing that, I got to take a look at things like this:

pastriesAnd this:

puffsAnd THIS!

cakeAll in the name of research and accuracy, of course. And if some of the pastries happened to come back to the office with me, what of it?

To create French pastry ornaments, you’ll need:

  • French pastry template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Hole punch
  • A selection of shimmer ribbon
  • 1 bottle of imitation vanilla extract
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors
  • Colored pencils

Print the template (which features the artwork of talented student artist, Aliisa Lee), and use the colored pencils to decorate the pastries. Punch a hole at the top of the ornament and run a piece of ribbon through it. Knot or tie in a bow.

Dip a Q-tip into the imitation vanilla extract (I found clear vanilla extract at the store, which worked great on the white paper). Gently rub the vanilla extract-infused Q-tip on the back of the ornament.

tarte au citronThe Little Chef was also a contender in our Hansel and Gretel Gingerbread Cottage Challenge. You can see his cottage (with a truly artisanal chocolate fence) here.

Fantasta-licious Factory

happy ownerMove over Charlie Bucket! How would YOU like to own your very own candy factory that produces amazing candies, sweets, and chocolates?

candy line upIn addition to its fanciful decor and delectable goodies, this candy factory has a working conveyor belt. Ingredients go in, delicious candy comes out!

conveyor belt candy

We read If I Owned a Candy Factory, written by James Walker Stevenson and illustrated by James Stevenson (Greenwillow, 1989). A little boy imagines what he would do if he had a candy factory. First, he would write a letter to all his friends and ask “What kind of candy do you like best?” and “What day is your birthday?” On their birthdays, kids are invited to the factory to get their favorite kind of candy…gumdrops, red lollipops, licorace, etc. Eventually, the candy factory would open its doors so all the kids around the world could come and enjoy a treat! It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • box cutter
  • 6 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 strip of tagboard (mine was 3.75″ x 14″)
  • 1 jumbo craft stick (mine was 1.75″)
  • factory template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • Cotton balls (I offered white, blue, yellow, and pink)
  • An assortment of pipe cleaners
  • A selection of embossed foil paper or plain foil paper
  • A selection of drinking straws
  • A selection of craft ties
  • A selection of metallic (and/or regular) ribbon
  • 1 medium square of brown stiffened felt
  • 2 small pieces of tin foil
  • wooden coffee stirrer
  • 3 small squares of self-adhesive foam - all the same color
  • 2 tiny squares of kitchen sponge
  • 1 mini pom-pom (mine was 0.5″)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by using a box cutter to create openings in the short sides of the box (my openings were approximately 3″ x 4″).

sides of factoryNow use colored masking tape to secure toilet paper tubes to the outside of each opening. Wrap the tape all the way around the bottom of the box to make the tubes extra secure.

belt 1Next, hot glue additional toilet paper tubes on the inside of the box. These are the “internal rollers” for the conveyor belt, and will help keep the belt steady and on track.

belt 2We will now pause this project to say a few words about the moveable conveyor belt. The belt is actually a strip of tagboard with a craft stick attached to it. The craft stick acts as the “lever” that moves the tagboard strip back and forth.

lever

Here’s what the conveyor belt looks like inside the factory (minus the candies of course – we’ll get to that step later).

belt in factoryThe size and length of your conveyor belt will vary according to the size of your box (my box was 9″ long and my conveyor belt was 14″). Your conveyor belt must be long enough to make the ingredients “disappear” into the factory and reappear as finished candies on the other side. It also needs to stay on the rollers and not fall into the box.

So we played around with a few conveyor belt prototypes and here’s what we finally came up with.

First, place the belt into the factory, letting it rest on top of the toilet paper tube rollers. Now slide the belt all the way to the left until the right side of the belt reaches the beginning of the right-hand “internal roller.” Make a mark on the left side of the belt.

It was hard to get a good shot of this step, so I marked the end of the belt with purple masking tape to give it more visibility. In the photo, it sort of looks like the end of the belt and the mark are inside the box. They’re not. They’re definitely outside the box.

belt position 1Repeat on the other side. The result will look like this. A belt with two marks on it.

belt position 2Now use the box cutter to make a slit right between the two marks. The slit needs to be wide enough for your jumbo craft stick to slide into snugly.

belt position 3Make 3 “x” marks on each end of the belt. This shows kids exactly where they need to place their candy in order to get the factory illusion to work.

belt position 4Insert the jumbo craft stick into the slit. You might want to add a little hot glue at the base to make it extra secure.

craft stick in beltPlace the belt back inside the factory. The craft stick should be poking out of the place where the box’s lid tucks into the box.

belt in factoryWe noticed that the belt was still in danger of coming off the rollers (especially if you get over-enthusiastic and whip it back and forth). So we added one more security measure.

Move the craft stick all the way to the left, until you see the last “x” on the belt. Put a piece of tape to the left of the craft stick to keep it from going any further.

x mark 1Repeat on the right side.

x mark 2The belt is secure, time to decorate the factory! Color the sign and windows on the template and tape or glue them to the factory. Wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with patterned paper and hot glue them to the roof of your factory as smoke stacks.

If you’d like smoke to come out of your stacks, pull a cotton ball apart, then push a pipe cleaner through it. Tape one end of the pipe cleaner inside the smoke stack.

smokeOne artistic mother and daughter team made delicious swirl smoke using two cotton balls twined together. Is this not completely awesome?

twirly smoke

Other decorative touches included foil paper “solar panels,” drinking straw pipes going in random directions, pipe cleaners for “icing” and/or candy cane flourishes, and some craft ties and ribbon. I also offered some glittery plastic cocktail stirrers (located in the paper goods section at Target).

factory

The factory is all set. It’s finally time to manufacture some candy! We prepped all the little bits needed for this part of the project in advance, then put them in plastic cups so each kid would have everything at his/her fingertips.

Here are the cups, sitting on my trusty story time project book cart (which you might remember seeing in an oh-so-unusual format in my very first post).

prepped cups

Remember, you’re making 6 candy items for your conveyor belt. The “raw ingredient” set (pictured below on the left) and the “finished product” set (pictured on the right).

candiesCHOCOLATE BAR: For the “raw ingredients,” hot glue three tiny squares of stiffened brown felt to a small piece of tin foil. For the “finished” chocolate bar, wrap a small rectangle of stiffened brown felt with tin foil (leave a little chocolate peeking out the top). Then use patterned paper to create a label for your chocolate bar.

chocolate barLOLLIPOP: The “raw ingredients” are a square of self-adhesive foam and a small piece of a coffee stirrer. For the “finished” lollipop, cut 2 matching circles from self-adhesive foam. Peel the back off 1 circle and stick a piece of a coffee stirrer to it. Peel and stick the other circle and press it on top of the first circle. Add lollipop swirls with a Sharpie marker.

lollipopCAKE: For the “raw ingredients,” use a small square of sponge and a bit of cotton ball. For the “finished” cake, hot glue a bit of cotton ball on top of a small square of sponge, then hot glue a mini pom-pom cherry on top.

cakeAll that remains is hot gluing the candy to the conveyor belt (even though some kids decided to leave their candy loose). Remember to put the ingredients and the finished candy on the belt in the right order. We had some chocolate squares emerge as lollipops at first, but after a little trial and error, the kids worked it out.

And there you have it. You are now the proud owner of a candy factory! Just don’t eat too many sweets, or this might have to be the subject of your next story time!

The Mystery & Intrigue Show

mystery and intrigue showDo you like mystery? Intrigue? Excitement? Solving dastardly crimes? Shocking turns of events? Penguins? If you answered “yes” to all these things, perhaps you should check out our three favorite episodes from The Mystery & Intrigue Show.

The Mystery & Intrigue Show was a radio program that my library hosted in collaboration with The All-Ages Show, a children’s show on WPRB 103.3 FM (Princeton University’s student-run, community-supported, independent radio). We aired six original mystery stories and kids called in with the solutions. The prize for the clever young detectives? A fabulous retro radio!

The sound files were a little too hefty for the blog platform, but you can click over to our website where they are happily streaming away. May we suggest popping some popcorn, gathering around the speakers, and settling in for some mystery-solving adventures? Parents, good news: these mysteries are completely appropriate for children of all ages.

Ready? Well, dust off your fedoras and click HERE to get cracking on crime!

You might also consider tuning in to the All-Ages Show. It airs Saturdays from 12:00pm – 1:30pm on WPRB 103.3 FM, and streams live from the station’s site as well. The show features cool music for kids and Paddytales, a truly fabulous radio story time.

We tune in to the show regularly, and I am especially appreciative of Paddy’s musical choices. Some children’s music can be a little tough for parents to listen to, but Paddy’s selections are always fantastic. Our family also enjoys the antics of Paddy’s co-host, Eddap (species unrevealed), who is perhaps the most contrary radio co-host on the planet. You gotta love a co-host who argues with the host, makes snarky remarks, and falls asleep on air!