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Monday, May 31, 2010

I want my baby back, baby back, baby back....The BEST rib recipe ever...

I know that everyone says this, but I promise you, once you try this recipe, you will never go back...
I just had this for our Memorial Day BBQ with black beans and macaroni and cheese... YUM-O!


2-6 lbs of BABY BACK ribs (you can use any cut, but I think the baby back are the only way to go)
salt and pepper

SAUCE (you can use your own recipe, or your favorite bottle, but I SWEAR once you try this tangy recipe, you will be hooked.  I have been told on many of occasion, these are the best ribs they ever had):

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup maple syrup (get the real stuff, not pancake syrup)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2-3 teaspoons of adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers (freeze what you don't use)...I use the can shown on left.


Season your ribs with salt and pepper.  Place seasoned ribs in a shallow baking dish.  Pour 1 - 2 inches of water in the bottom of the baking dish.  Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

While your ribs bake, prepared your BBQ sauce by combining all the ingredients, and stirring well.  I always double my sauce when I cook 4 or more pounds, but I like my ribs SAUCY!

Once your ribs are done baking, baste both sides with 1/3 of your sauce.  Now it's time to move to the grill.  Place the ribs on the grill, low heat, for 5 minutes (lid closed).  Open the lid, apply 1/3 more of your sauce, close lid and cook 5 more minutes.  Repeat once more, and now your ribs are done...

Savvy Tip:  Give everyone an extra bowl (salad size) for the bones.  This way the have plenty of room on their plates for side.  We call it a Bone Bowl!

Do you have a favorite rib (or other BBQ) recipe?  Share in the comments.  Did you try our ribs?  Let us know what you think!

Happy Memorial Day and remember: 
Freedom isn't free. Thank you to all the men and women of our armed forces. Because of you, my family and I are free. As everyone celebrates and BBQs today, please remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so you can be who you are! Happy Memorial to all and thank you to all of you whose family members fight for my freedom everyday!  A very special thank you to my DH who is an Air Force Veteran and to my BIL who continues to fight for our freedom everyday.  We love you and thank you!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lucky're having a pot luck BBQ!

Now what?  Just follow these savvy rules:
  1. First and seriously the most important...Plan your menu.   You can decide on what you will do and delegate what you feel is missing or ask for specific dishes.  I love, love, LOVE to cook, but am a seriously horrible baker (I know it's because of the need for precision).  I always ask my invited guests if they have a specific dish in mind or if they would like a suggestion. BUT in some cases, I ask (and beg if I have to) people to bring something specific.  I will always need deserts so, Maggie is asked to bring her "crack cookies" (seriously the BEST chocolate chip cookies you will ever taste...I might just call and see if I can post it here LOL) and Vanessa is asked to bring either the peanut butter brownies, or coconut cream pie.   This always is helpful to make sure you don't have all salads, and not enough desserts.   One way is to split the menu into sections so you can ensure you have enough (If a guest can't decide what they will bring, ask them to at least provide you with a category for planning purposes.):

    -main dishes (optional...for our BBQs, we provide the different meats for grilling)

  2. Give your guests who claim to be unable  to cook the opportunity to contribute drinks or equipment to the party so that they are still pitching in but don't feel that they have to cook. Tell them it's perfectly fine to bring store-bought food as well. While homemade is nice, it's better to make your guests feel welcomed despite their lack of culinary talent.

  3. Savvy Tip:  Make labels with your guests' names on them.  This way, as they place their dish on the table you can label the bottom of each dish (if not already done).  This way if a dish is left behind after the party, you know who to return it to.

  4. Ask guests to label food with allergenic ingredients in the case of dishes with nuts, dairy, eggs, gluten, etc. If you have any guests who are highly allergic to nuts or other food such as shellfish or eggs, ask all your guests to label their dish with the ingredients. We have kids with allergies, but my DH and I don't.  We want to be able to enjoy Jo's macaroni and cheese, even if the kids can't have it.  You can also use small place cards in front of each dish to identify the name of the dish and who made it so people can ask that person for a recipe or can pay their compliments.

  5. This may sound like common sense but worth stating; keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to minimize the risk of spoilage or food poisoning. Many potluck organizers will equip their party table with many large bowls of ice to place salads containing mayonnaise. A power outlet outdoors for the plugging in of buffet servers or crock pot slow cookers is a good idea as well to keep food safe and flavorful.

  6. Put different types of dishes on different tables (or on different sides of the table) with plenty of serving spoons.  If at all possible, make sure the drinks are on a different table (or at least at the end of the table).   This way if people want to merely top up their drink, they don't have to wait in line with those serving themselves.   Another Savvy Tip:  avoid the temptation to have the table up against a wall/side of the house.  Pull the table out enough to have people on both sides.  This limits the size of the line.  This is where plenty of serving spoons is essential.  If you only have one spoon per dish, it won't matter that you have a line on both sides of the table; people will still have to wait for the spoon.  Recap:  Have a line on each side of the table and make sure each dish has 2 serving spoons. 

    Another Allergy Tip:  If you do have dishes with allergens in them, you may want to keep these separate from the other dishes.  Nothing irks me more than the cross contamination of serving spoons.  My kids can't have the Macaroni and Cheese, and that's fine.  BUT if you use the Mac-n-Cheese spoon to then serve the potato salad, they now can't have the potato salad either.
  7. Clear clutter several times throughout the party to minimize the mess. Ask a friend or co-host to help you periodically with refilling needed items and clearing trash. Savvy Tip:  Place one or two (or more) garbage cans in the food area, many guests will help clean up during the party as well.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    The unofficial start to summer is upon us...

    With Memorial Day weekend just a few days away, I'm using this as a way to start a discussion regarding BBQing...I'm going to start out with some tips:

    Before you hold your next barbecue party, take a look at our savvy tips to make sure you're the perfect barbecue host:
    • Burning citronella candles is a great way to keep the bugs at bay and stop them biting your guests – especially if you’re serving any sweet food or drinks. You can buy garden torches which can be filled with citronella oil to repel insects - and these torches look great and give your garden a cosy glow.
              •  Make sure you know how many guests are coming to your barbecue and ensure there’s a comfortable seat for everyone.
              • When you plan your seating make sure you are seated near to the kitchen. This means you won’t be barging past your guests when going to and from the house.
              • If you’re having an afternoon barbecue, make sure there’s plenty of shade.
              • Keep jugs of iced water handy – particularly if you’re barbecuing on a hot day. If you stick with the beer or wine your guests will soon be dehydrated (and you may be too tipsy to tend the barbecue). So pour some water - it’s the healthy choice!
              • Many agree that there’s nothing worse than a warm beer. If you don’t want to keep trekking to the fridge you can fill a couple of buckets with iced water to put drinks in – great if the fridge is full and you don’t own a cool box!
              • Avoid an embarrassing barbecue faux pas by checking with your guests if they have any special dietary requirements. Imagine having nothing but lettuce for a vegetarian to munch on when there are so many delicious alternatives that everyone can enjoy. 

              A friend of mine just sent me the following email...ladies, just keep this in mind :):
              To refresh your memory on the BBQ etiquette of this sublime outdoor cooking activity. When a man volunteers to do the BBQ the following chain of events are put into motion:
              1. The woman buys the food.
              2. The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.
              3. The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill - beer in hand.
              4. The woman remains outside the compulsory three metre exclusion zone where the exuberance of testosterone and other manly bonding activities can take place without the interference of the woman.
              5. Here comes the important part:
              7. More routine...
              8. The woman goes inside to organise the plates and cutlery.
              9. The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is looking great. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he flips the meat.
              10. Important again:
              12. More routine...
              13. The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
              14. After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.
              15. And most important of all:
              16. Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts. The man asks the woman how she enjoyed ' her night off .'

                Thursday, May 20, 2010

                Food for your class party

                When planning snacks for a class party, the first thing I like to know is whether there are any allergies in the classroom.  Both Jo and I are families that have children ridden with severe allergies, so we do take this issue very seriously.  Plus, you would hate to have a parent send in peanut butter and celery if there's a child with a nut allergy!

                Here are the other things you'll want to think about as you plan the food:
                • It's always good to have some kind of healthy snack such as a tray of cut fruit. But don't go overboard on the healthy snacks unless that's the only thing you're serving. Given a choice between cookies and veggies, which do you think kids will pick?

                • Baby carrots, and sometimes sliced cucumbers are popular snacks for young kids, especially when served with ranch dip and/or hummus.  If you bring both dips, than the dairy allergy kids have a choice as well.

                • Try to plan snacks that carry out the theme (if you have a theme). For example, creepy spider cupcakes for Halloween; Valentine's cookies for Valentine's Day; marshmallow chicks and bunnies for a springtime party, etc.

                • Food is usually the easiest donation to get from parents. Every class seems to have one mom who enjoys making seasonal cupcakes or cookies.  Try the mortar board cupcake recipe below.
                • Salty snacks are also popular party food. Potato chips usually win out over pretzels in my children's parties.

                • Don't serve too many choices. Otherwise, children will load up their plates, and then you'll see a ton of food dumped into the trash can at the end of the party.

                  Monday, May 17, 2010

                  Class Room Party Ideas

                  Classroom Party Games for Children Ages 4 - 6:
                  • London Bridge – Pick two children to join hands at head-level, creating a “bridge” between them. Have the rest of the children walk in a circle that leads them under the “bridge” while everyone sings, “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady. Take a key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up, take a key and lock her up, my fair lady.” When they get to the “lock her up” part, the two children forming the “bridge” should bring their arms down and around whoever is passing under at that moment. Each person they capture sits out until there are just two people left; these last two people become the bridge for the next round.
                  • Favor Pass – Wrap an assortment of small school party favors (one for each child). Have the kids sit in a circle and pass the favors around while music plays. Every time the music is stopped and restarted, the rotation changes from clockwise to counterclockwise, or vice versa. After a few rounds, let each child open and keep the favor he or she is holding.
                  • Classroom Memory – Play a memory game where you put school-related items (e.g. pencil, calculator, ruler, eraser, chalk, etc.) on a desktop. Let the children look for 30 seconds, then take everything off the desk. See how many of the items they can remember, making a list on the blackboard as they call items out.
                  • Classroom Obstacle Course – Build an obstacle course using objects in the classroom as the obstacles. For instance, children can crawl under desks and chairs, step on a paper “stepping stone” path, jump over a tape-drawn line, crawl under a piece of string tied between two chairs or desks, or stop to draw a smiley face on the chalkboard. Use your imagination; the possibilities are endless!
                  • Musical Chairs – Play the traditional version where there’s one fewer chair than there are children during each round, or play the kiddy version. In this version, which works best for very young children, there is one chair for every child playing, but one of the chairs is decorated with colorful construction paper, streamers and/or balloons. Whichever child lands in this chair when the music stops will be the winner for that round. You can make sure that everyone wins a round by stopping the music when a child who hasn’t won yet is near the chair.
                  • Hot Potato – Just like musical chairs, this can be played competitively, where the last one in the game wins, or it can be played non-competitively, where the child holding the “potato” at the end of each round wins that round. You can play this game with music or with a blind-folded caller who yells “hold it!” randomly to end each round. And, of course, almost any object can be used as the “potato.”
                  • Teacher Says – Have your child’s teacher join in the fun for a few rounds of this “follow the leader” game. The children should do what their teacher says as long as she says the words, “Teacher says” first. If she gives a command like “Sit in your chairs” or “Clap your hands” without saying, “Teacher says” first, anyone who follows her orders is out of the game.
                  School Party Games for Children Ages 7 - 10:
                  • First to Laugh – Pick one child to tell jokes in front of the class. You can provide a list or let the child tell his or her own favorites. The first child to giggle is picked to be the next entertainer.
                  • School House Jeopardy – Come up with clues relating to school or subjects the kids have been studying, and write them on index cards. For instance, you could have a “School Supplies” category, a “Games You Play in Gym Class” category, and a “Vocabulary Words” category. Write values on the back of the index cards (i.e. $100, $200, and so on). Tape the index cards to the chalk board in columns with the values face up and the category names written above each column. Divide the kids into groups of 5 or 6, and assign team leaders. Let the birthday child’s group pick a category and value first. If they answer the clue correctly, they get a point and can pick a clue for the next group to try to answer. If they don’t know the answer, they can pass to the next group. You can either give a small prize to each of the members of the group with the most points at the end of the game or let the winning group select the next activity.
                  • Guess What – Write the names of objects from the classroom on blank labels or strips of white duct tape (1 for each child in the class). Stick one on each child’s back so no one can see the object they’ve been assigned. Have each child ask other students questions with yes or no answers to figure out the object written on his or her label. If desired, give the children small prizes when they guess their assigned objects.
                  • Telephone – Have the children sit in a circle on the floor. Whisper a silly phrase, like “You can bet that teacher’s pet must go to the vet,” into the ear of one of the children. That child then whispers the phrase into the ear of the child next to him or her, and so on. When the last person in the circle has heard the phrase, have him or her say it out loud, and then tell the children what the original phrase was. Everyone will get a laugh at how much the phrase changed from beginning to end. Play multiple rounds and let the children take turns making up their own silly phrases to pass around.
                  • Classroom Scavenger Hunt – Divide the class into two or three teams. Give each team a list of objects found around the classroom. Try to only assign objects that there are multiples of, like pencils, rulers, and certain books. The first team to gather all of the items on their list wins.
                  More Classroom Party Activities
                  • Look for silly jokes on the Internet, print them on strips of paper, and let the kids take turns drawing jokes and reading them in front of the class.
                  • Give the kids brainteasers & riddles to try on each other.
                  • Have a sing-along to some of the children’s favorite songs.
                  • Have the children make modern art out of odds and ends like buttons, scraps of cloth, chunks of Styrofoam, and cardboard boxes. Or, give every child a paper plate along with odds and ends, glue, and markers, and have them design their ultimate birthday cake.

                  Friday, May 14, 2010

                  Cupcakes for your end of the year party

                  Mortar board cupcakes...

                  • 1 box cake mix (Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box)
                  • 1 box Fruit by the Foot chewy fruit snack rolls (any flavor) or shoestring licorice 
                  • 1 container vanilla frosting
                  • Food coloring 
                  • 60 square shortbread cookies
                  • 60 candy-coated chocolate or fruit-flavored candies


                  1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place miniature paper baking cups in 24 mini muffin cups. Make cake batter as directed on box. Fill cups 2/3 full of batter. Refrigerate remaining batter.
                  2. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; cool. Repeat with remaining batter. (Leave paper baking cups on cupcakes so mortarboards are quicker and easier to make and more portable to serve.)
                  3. To make tassels: Cut sixty 2 1/2-inch lengths from fruit snack rolls. Cut each into several strips up to 1/2 inch from 1 end. Roll uncut end between fingertips to make tassels. Or cut several pieces of shoestring licorice into 2 1/2-inch lengths.
                  4. Tint frosting with food color to match paper baking cups. Frost bottoms of cookies. Place 1 candy on center of each. For each mortarboard, place small dollop of frosting on bottom of cupcake; top with cookie. Press uncut end of fruit snack or 3 or 4 pieces of licorice into frosted cookie next to candy. Store loosely covered.
                  Savvy Tip:  Buy paper baking cups in your school colors, and dye the frosting with food coloring to match!

                    Thursday, May 13, 2010

                    Backpack sacavenger game...

                    For some mischievous school themed fun, have the kids bring their backpacks to the party. Sit in a circle and have the kids dump out their backpacks in front of them.

                    Give fruit rollup prizes for the child who has:
                    • the oldest paper (don’t be surprised if there is at least one from September)
                    • the smallest pencil nub
                    • homework with the best grade on it
                    • homework that was not turned in forgotten about
                    • the most stuff
                    • the least stuff
                    • the heaviest backpack
                    • and other items...(Anybody have an old PB&J sandwich in there?)

                    Room moms out there...what are you planning?

                    Second in popularity only to Christmas Day, the last day of school is a highly anticipated day for children. Freedom from teachers, homework, and that annoying kid who sits next to them in class.  So, what are your plans?

                    There are many decisions to keep in mind.  Have you spoken with the other parents?  What are they willing to do, contribute, or help with?  With the advent of summer right on our heals, you can probably count on good weather for the day of your party (unless, of course you are living in Colorado, and you are still getting snow, right Maggie?).  Even where I live, it seems to always be raining, but I am crossing all my fingers and toes, hoping we can count on good weather for our end of the year party; but we still have 7 weeks left of school, where Jo's kids only have 3 weeks left.

                    If you want to celebrate outside, here are some ideas:
                    • Plan on having the kids do some outside games like egg toss or the egg and spoon race. 
                    • Relay races, such as a three-legged-race are easy to organize. 
                    • I'm not sure if this is "kosher" any more, but I remember as a kid, during our end of the year party, the school would turn on the sprinklers, and all the kids got to run around in their swimsuits...will the safety weenies (as our late father would say) say "no" to this?  It's always worth a question to the right person.
                    Hopefully all the kids will remember to wear sunscreen that day. Just in case they don't, have some extra on hand.  Also, don't forget a few blankets for the kids to sit on under the trees (I always keep our picnic blankets in the back of our car during this time of year).

                    What if it rains?  Make sure you have a back up plan.  Is the classroom sufficient space, or do you have to reserve the cafeteria?  If you are going to be stuck inside, have a stash of board games on hand.  Maybe you can plan a tournament.  Most families have the same selection of games (Monopoly, Connect Four, Sorry!, etc.)  Ask the other moms to bring their Sorry! game.  You can set up different tables and the winners move up, and the others (not loosers ;) ) move down.  Any Bunco players out there?  My son's class LOVES playing Bunco...try it, you'll see (just keep in mind the next time you host Bunco at your house, your child won't want to go to bed, he will want to stay up and play LOL).

                    THEMES:  Are you having a theme party?  Did you throw a Cinco de Mayo party (I know, you all thought we were done with this, right?)?  How about reusing all those great decorations and recipes and throw a fiesta themed class party (minus the margarita, of course...but you COULD throw "come-to-my-house-and-help-me-plan-the-class-party-margarita-drinking-planning-party...any excuse, right?)

                    Now, I have to go bake cookies for tomorrow's International Day at the boys' school....

                    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

                    Party lameness...what to do?

                    Party lameness...
                    It's something we all fear, whether we're hosting or attending. Sometimes it can't be helped. Someone leaves the cake out in the rain; dancing on the ceiling goes horribly awry. You just go with it as best you can. But when the party is tanking because some guests are being antisocial or rude, we find it especially annoying.
                    The good thing is, it's usually fixable. Here are our best tricks for navigating choppy party waters.

                    The situation: AWWWkward or dull conversation.
                    The solution: Get out of it with a short-and-sweet "Excuse me. Nice talking to you." Making up an excuse could get you caught in a lie, and it leaves you open to a repeat bore-formance by the same person later. If you see them again, just smile and keep moving.

                    The situation: Making introductions.
                    The solution: If you know you're going to be introducing people, some pre-party prepwork will keep you from watching conversations spiral downhill. Before the party, come up with a few interesting facts about each person, as well as some topics they have in common with other guests. And be sure to know the names of spouses or dates so you're not left with the "Mike aaaaaand [awkward silence]" moment.

                    The situation: Rude questions or comments.
                    The solution: Give a funny response or a quick "No comment" and let it slide. Rudey McCreep was either clueless or trying to provoke you, and either way, an argument just isn't worth your time. And it's really not worth wrecking the party for the people around you. This one goes out to you, lady at a party who said to me, "Wow, your sweater is so ... green."

                    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

                    Is it the end of the year already?

                    It is officially the end of the school year. I know this because my children have started to count down by days (not weeks) and they are TOTALLY slacking-off on their homework. “You haven’t crossed the finish line yet. I need you to hold it together for three more weeks—that is only 3 more spelling tests. I need to see your A-game. Can you do that for mommy?” I think that we all know the answer is a big fat NO, but I wouldn’t be giving it my A-game if I didn’t try. One of my lesser favorite end-of-the-year activities (second only to field day) is the end-of-the-year classroom party. I have a few years experience in this area—O.K. more than a few. I have learned some things along the way and I am sure that Shelley will have something to say, too.

                    A special thank you to the Room Mom:
                    Thank you so much for taking the time to help your child’s teacher in such a special way. You are filling a truly valuable position and there are 25 other parents who are grateful that you said yes before their name came up on the phone tree.

                    Class only party vs. class and parent party:
                    This is a delicate subject and unfortunately I am very biased for one side. I respect everyone’s right to choose for themselves (does that sound politically correct enough?), but I am afraid I have made up my mind and I'm sticking to it. I guess since this is my blog, I'm allowed to speak. Maybe Shelley will disagree with me and we can have a fight to up our ratings. Do blogs have ratings?

                    I do not like parties where the parents attend:
                    • There is always a small minority of children who’s parents don’t come and it breaks their hearts. The purpose of the party is to let the children celebrate. These children will not feel celebratory.
                    • There are a crazy amount of end-of-the-year events to attend—recitals, award ceremonies, field day, etc. Working parents are challenged to fit every event into their schedule. And let’s face it, this little party is not nearly as important as the other events.
                    • Parents just end up watching their child eat or stand at the back of the room socializing with the other parents. It is not a good interactive event.

                    The teacher, room mom, and 1-2 helpers is enough. In an average class there are really only 3 parents who want to be there anyway. This way they get to feel extra special because they also helped.

                    Paying for the party:
                    We all know that these things cost money. The teacher should NEVER pay for the party. I have never thrown a party that cost more than $50 and it’s just easier to pay for it myself. It’s O.K. to ask for help, especially if you’re planning something a little extra. Sending out an email or flyer to the parents asking for a small donation is fine. I would avoid determining a fixed per-person amount. Some families are on a limited budget. They may have trouble coming up with $5. It’s not polite to force parents to pay for the party. Besides, I find that I make more money by not suggesting a dollar amount. People send what they can afford. There is often a working mom with unlimited resources who will gladly cough-up $100. If I end up with nothing, we find a way to party for FREE.

                    It’s also O.K. to ask the community for donations. I have a great relationship with our local grocery store. Every day their bakery throws-out or donates day-old baked goods. I pre-arrange to receive those items on the day of our party. There is often a cake and cookies. Local business will also contribute items for goodie bags. Realtors, insurance companies, dentist, banks, etc. have promotional pencils, key chains, stickers, mints, etc. Find out what the parents in your class do. If one of them owns a restaurant or party supply store, you have just hit a home-run.


                    • Contact the teacher and decide on a time and date for the party.
                    • Take extra precautions to make sure the teacher does not get caught in the middle. Don’t ask them to relay messages for you or collect money.
                    • Contact all the parents (not just your favorite helpers) and let them know the date well in advance of the party.
                    • Ask for volunteers to help. Make sure to be specific. You will get a better response if you ask for 1 person to just show up and be an extra pair of hands, 1 person to stuff goodie bags, 1 person to bring a cake, etc. If people don’t know what you are asking them to do, they are afraid to volunteer.
                    • It’s O.K. to do it all yourself. This is just a classroom party, not the annual charity ball. I find it’s easier to just do everything than coordinate volunteers.
                    • Don’t be a martyr. Don’t tell everyone that you did all the work and no one helped. If they offer you "thanks" or say "it must have taken a lot of work to put everything together" respond with, “It did and I enjoyed every minute."—even if it’s not true.
                    • Send out a reminder the week of the party.
                    • Come up with a plan and keep it simple.
                    • Get everything together and prepared ahead of time.

                    The plan:

                    • Start with a theme. It is always fun to do a luau, fiesta, etc. You can decorate and plan a fun menu and music. I like Class of 2018 (or whatever your class is). They feel so grown up once they know what class they are.
                    • If you are having the party in the classroom, plan to keep the kids seated at their desks. This is a very small space and once they get up it is more difficult to manage.
                    • Play music to set the mood. Make sure to pre-screen it.
                    • Let them help prepare the food. I like cookie decorating, ice cream sundae making, etc. It takes up some of the time and they have fun.
                    • Have an activity. It can be a craft project or a game. I like to have a mystery game. Someone stole the hall pass and we have to use the clues to figure out who did it. They really like it when it turns out to be the teacher—they never expect that outcome. My favorite craft is a class photo. I come to class the week before and take a group shot. I have them printed. I get acrylic frames at the dollar store. They decorate the frames and all sign the back of each other’s photos.
                    • Make sure to schedule time for cleanup.

                    Good Luck!

                    Monday, May 3, 2010

                    Hit it, hit it, hit it. Don’t lose your aim.

                    Cinco de Mayo is coming soon...and you should be getting to the end of planning. We have one more craft idea.  Are you going to have a piñata? You can always go to your local party shop and pick one up, or you can put your children to some good use, and have them make one. Here's how:

                    Things You'll Need:
                    • balloons
                    • newspaper (lots of it)
                    • water & flour (to make the glue) or starch
                    • scissors
                    • paint
                    • crepe paper
                    • string (to hang the piñata)
                    • candy or small toys (for filling)
                    • bat or wooden stick (to hit with)


                    • Protect your work area.  Lay down newspapers.
                    • Make your paste:  In a cooking pot, mix 1 part flour (or starch) to 2 parts water. Whisk the ingredients together and heat on the stove at medium heat for approximately 3-6 minutes. The paste should just begin to thicken. If you cook it too long the paste will be too thick and may not work. Remove contents from the pot and store in a container.
                    • Decide on what you are going to make your piñata into.  Ideas include making an animal, a character, a shape etc.
                    • Inflate your balloon to your desired size.  This will form the body of your piñata, so inflate it to the size you would like your piñata to be. A round balloon is best. If you want to go beyond the basic “round shape” you can add additional shapes: legs, tails, snouts, hats, etc. made with cardboard, newspaper or construction paper.   Make sure to tape the shapes on with masking tape or clear tape before you papier-mâché.
                    • Time to papier-mâché your balloon:  Tear some newspaper into strips approximately 1 inch wide.  Coat your pieces well in the paste.   Savvy Tip:  As you pulled out the strip, squeegee the paper in between your index and middle finger, so the strip isn’t too wet.  Place the wet strips over the balloon until it is completely covered in a thick layer. Smooth your strips as much as possible.  You will want to place at least 3 layers of newspaper on your balloon base.  In between each layer, we recommend letting the previous layer dry for a few minutes.  This will reduce your ultimate drying time when you are finished.  Once you have at least 3 layers, let the piñata dry until it is stiff and no longer wet or sticky to the touch.
                    • Painting your piñata:  First, you will paint your piñata a base color.  This step helps smooth out the paper and to create an even surface.  It doesn't need to be especially well-painted, just enough to cover the paper. However, you might choose a color that matches the crepe paper you'll be adding on or to match the animal/character that you're turning your piñata into, as it may show through.
                    • Glue colorful crepe paper onto the outside of the piñata to decorate it.  If you want your piñata to look more traditional, cut out long, wide strips of crepe paper, glue them onto the piñata along one long edge, and cut fringe along the opposite edge.
                    • Filling the piñata:  Using a serrated knife, cut a rectangular flap in one side of the balloon (Notice we said flap and not hole).  Use the knife to carefully pop the balloon (if it hasn’t already popped cutting the flap LOL).  Fill the piñata with candy, confetti, and/or small toys, and then tape the flap shut.
                    • Secure your piñata:  For a long lasting piñata, punch two holes in the piñata and pass the string through the holes. For extra reinforcement, pass the string through a plastic lid from a coffee can or use a cardboard tube from an aluminum foil roll.
                    • Savvy Ideas:
                      Don't limit your decorations to crepe paper! Feathers, glitter, and fake flowers all make festive decorations for a piñata.
                    • You can also use wallpaper paste for a stronger piñata.

                      Do you know the piñata song?  You do now:

                      Dale, dale, dale.
                      No pierdas el tino.
                      Porque si lo pierdes. Pierdes el camino.
                      Ya le diste una. Ya le diste dos. Ya le diste tres. Y tu tiempo se acabó.

                      Hit it, hit it, hit it.
                      Don’t lose your aim.
                      Because if you lose it. You lose the way.
                      You hit it once. You hit it twice. You hit it three times. And your time is up.

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