Let it Shine

dream friendsTwinkle twinkle little light! Are your ready for your journey to dreamland? This beautiful lantern and dream friend will help guide you on your way!

little lantern

We read Dream Friends by You Byun (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013). Melody has a very special friend…a dream friend. They fly, play hide-and-seek, have marvelous adventures, and watch fireworks. But only in her dreams. In reality, Melody is a shy girl in a new neighborhood. Since her dream friend can’t leave her dreams, Melody decides to close her eyes and imagine her friend is with her. While dancing on the playground, Melody draws the attention of another little girl who asks to join her. Soon, the whole playground is dancing with Melody. Magical!

You’ll need:

  • A 5″ plastic bucket container (more on this below)
  • A 3.5″ x 5″ rectangle of mirror board
  • Foil star stickers (the kind you find at office supply stores)
  • Regular markers
  • Hole punch
  • 1 LED votive candle
  • A set of window markers
  • Lullaby CD
  • A selection of shimmer ribbon
  • Gold curling ribbon

A bucket container (also sometimes called a craft container) is constructed of plastic and metal. It’s meant to hold party favors, candy, etc. I purchased mine from Oriental Trading Company. You can purchase them individually at Michael’s Craft store.

bucket container

To begin this project, use regular markers to draw a “dream friend” on the back of the mirror board (i.e. the white, non-reflective side). You could use white card stock instead of mirror board, but the mirror board is fantastic at reflecting the light of the lantern in the dark.

When cutting out your dream friend, make sure to leave a little tab at the top. Punch a hole through this tab (and round the edges if you’d like). This is where your ribbon will go later.

dream friend steps

Open the bucket container and stick the foil stars on the “floor” of the container and the underside of lid. Some kids stuck stars on the plastic sides of the container. This is fine – just make sure they keep the stickers on the interior of the container so they won’t interfere with the markers later.

Now for the fun part. I dropped a twinkling LED votive in each container, darkened the room, put on a lullaby CD ( I highly recommend Sweet Dreams: Lullabies for Guitar by Nina Gerber), and the kids used window markers to decorate the exterior of their containers. The room was full of excited yet peaceful kids, decorating away amidst mellow, glowing lanterns.

dream workshop

A tip about window markers. I purchased this brand from Discount School Supply (alas, there is no purple marker in this set). I know from experience that this particular brand works on glass AND plastic.

window markers

You have to draw slowly with window markers and allow them a little time to dry (about 30-45 second). Once they completely dry, then you can go back over them with another color. Otherwise, they get smudgy. So if you want to draw little stars with smiley faces like mine, just wait 30-45 seconds before you use the blue marker to draw the face on the yellow star.

decorated container

To complete the project, thread some shimmer ribbon and gold curling ribbon through the punched hole in the dream friend, then tie to one side of the lantern. Sweet dreams!

lit up

Beware of Squirrel

beware of squirrelIt might look like an innocent tree…but beware! This leafy vision of loveliness has a feisty squirrel puppet hidden inside it. Get too close and you’ll receive a serious scolding!

squirrel in tree

We read ‘Ol Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013). ‘Ol Mama Squirrel is super-protective of her babies. Any cat, owl, or dog who even shows the slightest interest in her family gets a serious scolding (“Chook! Chook! Chook!”). This treatment also applies to kites, airplanes, and an innocent man who comes to prune the tree. But when a grizzly bear shows up, ‘Ol Mama Squirrel is outmatched. But not for long. She rallies mama squirrels from fire escapes, under the tracks, in the tree tops, and all over the park. Together, they scold the bear right out of the park!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • A box cutter
  • A 9.5″ x 17.5″ piece of brown construction paper
  • A sheet of green tissue paper (mine was 20″ x 29″)
  • A 1.75″ x 6″ rectangle of tagboard for tree branch
  • A square of green tissue paper (mine was 6″ x 6″)
  • Extra tagboard pieces for “wooden” hearts
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • A 3″ x 4.5″ rectangle of tagboard for the mouth
  • A pair of 2″ x 2.25″ rectangles of brown construction paper for ears
  • A 1.25″ x 1.75″ rectangle of red construction paper for the tongue
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • 1 small pom-pom for the nose (mine was 1″)
  • A 1.5″ x 2″ rectangle of white card stock for the teeth
  • A 3.5″ x 7.75″ rectangle of tagboard for the tail
  • Tape, stapler, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by taking the lid off the large oatmeal container. Then use the box cutter to remove the circular cardboard bottom from the container. You now have an oatmeal container tube.

tubeUse markers to draw lines of “bark” on the brown construction paper and then wrap it around the oatmeal container. The important thing to remember is that the plastic ring around the top of the oatmeal container is also the top of your tree. The cut end of the container is too ragged and will catch your squirrel puppet as it pops in and out of the tree.

wrapped treeGently bunch one end of the sheet of green tissue paper together, then securely tape it to the tree, just underneath the plastic ring. Wrap the tissue paper repeatedly around the top of the oatmeal container, stopping every once in a while to secure it to the tree with pieces of tape.

tape treeMake sure that the tissue paper doesn’t hang over the edge of your plastic ring and droop into the oatmeal container. Otherwise, your squirrel puppet will get caught in the foliage as it pops in and out of the tree. I found some butterfly stickers in the art cabinet and we added those to the foliage for a little extra color.

Next, cut the first rectangle of tagboard into a branch shape. Use markers to add some “bark” lines, and fold on one end. Staple a crumpled green tissue paper square to the other end. Then tape (or hot glue) the folded end of the branch to the tree trunk.

branchCut two “wooden” hearts out of tagboard and write names in them. I suggested “Mama” or “Mom” and then the child’s name or a simple “Me.” Tape (or hot glue) them to the front of the tree.

treeAll this tree needs is a fiercely protective squirrel inside it! Cut your second tagboard rectangle into this shape:

mouthThen fold it lengthwise to create your squirrel’s mouth.

folded mouthHot glue the mouth inside the paper lunch bag

mouth in bagYou could skip the tagboard mouth entirely, but I found that it made the puppet easier to operate. The rest of the squirrel’s face is very simple.

front of squirrel

Make two ears out of brown construction paper and tape (or hot glue) them to the back of the bag. Use red construction paper to create the tongue, and tape (or hot glue) it into the mouth. Hot glue wiggle eyes and a pom-pom nose to the bag. Use markers to add eyebrows and eyelashes. Last come the teeth – basically, a piece of white card stock folded and cut like so:

teeth

Attach the teeth to the mouth with tape (or hot glue). The face is done – all that remains is the tail! Cut the third tagboard rectangle like this, and scribble all over it with marker.

tail

Staple to the back of the squirrel.

back of squirrel

Ready to load your squirrel puppet in the tree? Put your hand into the puppet, then gently insert it into the bottom the the tree. Guide the squirrel up the tube and push it slowly and gently out the top (you might have to squish it’s head a little when you’re doing this).

To operate the puppet, use your free hand to grab the bottom of the tube. Then pop your squirrel puppet in and out of the tree. Don’t forget to scold!

puppet in action

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.