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Book Review: The Patch

My six year old daughter chose this book from her school library last week (probably because of the pink tutu, so I say, “well done illustrator Mitch Vane”).

The Patch, by Justina Chen Headley, is an adorable story about Becca, who has a lazy eye and needs a patch and glasses to correct her vision.  She is a balletrina who is mortified with the patch, until her brother lets her borrow his favorite pirate costume and she becomes Becca, the ballerina pirate.  

She and her school friends spend most of the story playing pretend so that the situation (differences in Elementary School) is diffused.  It is such an adorable look into the power of imagination.  The illustrations are vibrantly made water colors, giving tremendous appeal to the visual element of the book.

The Patch is an adorable read, full of opportunities for discussion for you and your children.

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Book Review: Christina Katerina and the Box

Here’s a blast from the past! Patricia Lee Gauch’s 1971 classic Christina Katerina and the Box. It is actually older than I (barely :)).  I enjoyed the story as a girl, it’s one that I have really clear memories about.  Now my daughters love the book.

It’s the story of a girl who gets her mother’s refrigerator box and creates a castle out of it.  It breaks, thanks to her friend Fats Watson and her mother drags the box to the corner for the garbage.  Christina drags it back and creates something new, Fats breaks it, Mom drags it, and Christina creates again.  This cycle continues to a delightful resolution.

It’s such a lovely book about imaginative play.  As a girl I dreamed of having a big box, and since reading it to my girl, she keeps begging me for one too.

So, what would you do with a big box?

 

The author, Patricia Lee Gauch has written and worked on over 40 children’s books.  From an article published by California Kids! in 2005,  I was impressed by the following;

[Gauch] strives to create books that have a sense of shape. According to Gauch, creating a book is a musical experience. “There’s a rhythm and a rightness of things.” For example, she says, “There’s a shape to a Bach prelude with its rise and fall and the feeling that now is the time for the rise and fall.” The same concept applies to good stories.

Gauch definitely wrote a classic, with a rhythm and shape that I find lacking in a lot of recent children’s books.

What books do you remember from childhood, and why?  Do they have that sort of  rhythm and shape to them?  Am I crazy to say that it is missing lately in some children’s books?  (Discuss…let me give you a topic… to quote SNL’s Coffee Talk.)

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No Budget Birthday Bash

My daughter’s 5th birthday loomed, and try as I might, I had absolutely no money.  Please don’t think that I’m being modest, I literally had nothing after our check went to bills and necessities.

I thought to myself – “Ok, I’m a creative woman, I can do this!”  So I went around the night before and put together a party.  I needed decorations, cake, party food, activities for the kids, and some sort of gift bag for the guests.  (I figured that was bare minimum for a party.)

I figured out what resources I had.  Do you remember the movie “Princess Bride”  when they are getting ready to storm the castle and Westly says, “why didn’t you list that among our assets?”

First, think about what you have.  Old Christmas wrapping/ribbon?  Kid’s art supplies? Paper and pencils? Use what you have, the stuff you were saving for a special project.  It’s special project day!

Decorations

I told you in an earlier post that I have LOTS of beautiful scrap booking paper on the shelf, that I am no longer using.  So I cut out the words -HAPPY BIRTHDAY and my daughter’s name.  I liked some of the patterns on the papers and so I cut them into squares and other shapes and hung them with tape on the walls (just random patterns and orders).

Birthday decorations

My daughter was at a sleep over at her cousin’s house, and so I worked on the party that night when everyone was asleep.  When she came in for her party – she was amazed!!!  So much so that after the party, she hung the decorations up in her room.

Other ideas for decorations –

  • Have your guests make artwork when they come and hang it up, say you’re having an “art show.”  Then they could take their masterpieces home, or you could “auction” their pieces.
  • Have the guests make the decorations from construction paper (or any other paper you may have.)
  • Go outside – what do you have?  Flowers? Pretty leaves? Rocks? (your guests could paint rocks – they’d love it!)  Dandelions?  Even those dandelions would look nice, tied up in some ribbon or in some small vases.
  • Toys – they can be great decorations.  You could have a “toy store” and have the guests take turns buying and selling the toys.

Cake

My mom always made the most amazing cakes for our birthdays.  One year she made a cake based on Eugene Field’s poem The Sugar Plum Tree, there was a giant tree branch on the cake and candies were tied to it everywhere.

But I didn’t have that.  I had a cake mix and some candy.  I decided to make a castle cake, and again didn’t have all of the ingredients for a typical cake (you know, ice cream cones for the towers, etc.)  So again, scrap book paper to the rescue!

My attempt at a Castle Cake

I just split a regular (9″x13″) chocolate cake in half.  Then I slathered (don’t you love that word)  basic butter cream frosting Frosting Recipes in-between the layers and frosted the outside.

For the turrets, I rolled up the card stock and glued it together.  Then cut up circles out of paper.

My niece loved it so much, she made paper princesses for the cake.

A few weeks later my two year old had her birthday.  I RUINED the train cake that I was making for her and so I made a regular (9″x13″) cake and we decorated it with polly pockets, different frosting colors and (wouldn’t you know it) leftover easter candy.  She loved it.  Mostly because I let the girls help me decorate.

An easy, inexpensive, tasty, and much-beloved cake.

You could do it with action figures or toy cars as well.  Homemade cakes and frosting almost always taste better anyway.

Party Food

What do you have?  Remember Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving special?  Peppermint Patty wanted a thanksgiving dinner and Charlie and Snoopy came up with – buttered toast, pretzels, ice cream sundaes, popcorn and jelly beans.

In my case,  I did a veggie tray and some fruit (to counteract the sweets).  Kids don’t typically care.  We did cheese sandwiches and apple juice one year at a “tea party.”  Any fruit and veggies look beautiful when freshly cut and arranged on a plate.  My favorite dip is Ranch dressing.

recipe image

Activities

I made a list of things that we could do.

Butcher paper on the tables and brown paper bags were set up for art fun when they arrived.  I had them decorate the table and the brown sack became their goody bag.

Art time!

It was Easter time and so we had left over candy and eggs – yay!  Easter egg hunt!

I had several other games –

  • Duck, duck goose
  • Hide and seek
  • Pass the present (wrap a present in lots of layers.  Each time the music stops, the child holding it will open a layer.  the winner is the one who opens the final layer).
  • Dance and freeze game (dance until the music stops, if you don’t freeze, you’re out).
  • Question game (I put the kids on teams and they answered questions for points.  I had differing ages so I had easy –what color is a firetruck?, and hard  – Who is the president of the US? questions.)

Use library books to find games that will fit your ages, needs and budget. With a little planning you can find a lot of entertaining games that will keep everyone laughing.

Gift Bag

I’m no “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences” able to give away swag bags.  Did I mention that I had NO budget ;)?  I looked through my closets and cupboards and decided that as well as the candy easter eggs, I could make chocolate chip cookies for their take home bags.

I made little packages by wrapping  three cookies in saran wrap and tying it with ribbon. Then I took my handy scrap booking paper and made home made “thank you” cards.

Again, look round.  What do you have?  Can the kids make a take home item?  Maybe they could make cookies.  We love to make snickerdoodles because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand and the kids can help me roll the dough in sugar.

Speaking of having things on hand, I have two “standby” Emergency Party Recipes that I make whenever we have a function to go to and I need to bring something but have no money to get anything special.  (Are you sensing that this is a theme with me?)

Now, it’s not going to win a Martha Stewart award or anything, but my daughter was SO happy because I had taken time and put effort into her day.  I also made a silly crown and my sister had curled her hair and pampered her at the sleep over.

Another thing that I did was made a card and wrote about all the special things that I loved about her.  She had me read it to her 10 times that day.

If I didn’t have a modest present, I would have made a coupon book for her.  You know, good for:

  • In home movie night
  • Home mannys and peddys (or mani/pedi)
  • Trip to the Library
  • 1/2 hour -your choice – fun time

It just needs to be full of activities that are HEAVY on your time.

It’s not a theme or expensive birthday, but it’s what we had.

So, please share some ideas of yours.  What party time ideas have you done “in a pinch” and “on the dime”?

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Moon Sand

My daughter just got Moonsand for her birthday.  It was fun to play with and molded well.  In doing some research before she played with it, I found a recipe for homemade moonsand which seems like it would be really easy to make.  The ingredients are sand, cornstarch, and water.  I’ve played with cornstarch and water before and it’s a blast! (With cornstarch and water, you have to constantly work the cornstarch in your hands, once you stop, it will blob down into a liquid again).  So I imagine that the three together, with a little food coloring would be great.

I also read about some Mom’s using moonsand to make sand castles or using hot-wheels cars to do a motorcross track.  Sounds like a great snow/rainy-day activity or something fun if you don’t have a beach around.  It would be fun to put into a kid’s plastic swimming pool for a new adventure. 

I also read that some parents were having problems getting it out of carpets – so be forewarned, do it in a non-carpeted area. 

Any other ideas about sculpting, art, and creative play?