Baby Blanket Time!

When you hit the your late twenties/early thirties, you may notice this phenomenon of all your friends having babies.  Sometimes, it really feels like all of them.  I’m a crocheter, and I like to make gifts for my friends, I feel like it’s more personal. I can’t commit to making a blanket for every baby, blankets take a long time (I have a friend who knits a blanket for each baby born in her group of friends – she cray cray).  Usually, I make a baby hat.  Hats are quick (especially baby hats!) and easy and super cute.  But for a few special friends and/or relatives, I do go all out and crochet a blanket.

This year, I took my first few steps into designing my own patterns. I created this graph for a Legend of Zelda baby blanket.  The graph shows one half of the design.  The other half is a mirror image of what is in the graph.  I did originally start out with a full-image graph, but found it too difficult to remember where I was, and which direction I was going!  Since both sides are the same, I found it much easier to repeat the graph backwards.

Triforce with Carter

I worked this blanket it single crochet, but half double crochet would also work!  When changing colors, I left both yarns attached, and ran the other yarn through the middle of the stitches.  The back side isn’t quite as nice as the front side, but I wanted to make sure there were no loose strings for baby’s fingers to catch on.

I also allowed for a border around the graph, but that’s up to you!

For just the graph: Start with a chain 71.

R1 – single crochet in second stitch from loop, 1 sc in each stitch across, changing colors where indicated in the graph.

R2-44, 1 sc in each stitch across, changing colors where indicated in the graph.

Triforce Graph

I also made some blankets using graphs I found of Ravelry!

Thanks to Ahooka Migurumi for sharing this Star Wars blanket pattern.

Star Wars blanket

 

Thanks also to kejsarinna Astrid for sharing this TARDIS blanket graph.  Note that this links to a website in Swedish, but the graphs are easily viewable and downloadable!

(pics to come)

Happy Birthday Harry, 2016

Another year, another party!  We repeated a couple of our crafts this year, since we had some leftover supplies, but we had some great new ones too!

We have a new addition (or maybe edition… since we’re a library… book jokes, I know, terrible) to our library family this year: Norbert the Norwegi-no! the Bearded Dragon. Norbert (named of course for the dragon that Hagrid hatches in Philosopher’s Stone) hadn’t been sorted yet, so we thought we’d let him try on some house colors and see where he felt most at home.

harry-norbert

He liked Slytherin.  He’s a reptile, I guess it was to be expected.

Moving Pictures

One of the most striking parts of the Harry Potter world is, no doubt, the moving pictures. This year, we created a “Have Seen This Wizard?” sign using a a big piece of thick bristol board, along with a variety of hand-held props.  We used the “boomerang” app to make quick little loops, and voilà!  Wanted posters.  (Note: in Instagram, we were able to trim the videos around the poster, so you couldn’t see our legs, but wordpress won’t embed Instagram videos – can’t win ’em all!!)

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Flying Key Chains

image1Think back to Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry, Ron and Hermione must find the right flying key to get through to the next challenge (this would be after the Devil’s Snare but before the Wizard’s Chess match).  I was able to find the cutest little key charms on Amazon, and bought a whole whack of empty key rings.  We used some needle-nose pliers to attach the charms to the rings.  Surprisingly, this was the hardest part of our prep. Once we had them attached, we provided a variety of things: pipe cleaners and craft wire, craft petals and feathers, to create the img_1782wings and let the kids get imaginative.  Some of the kids preferred to make a flying key necklace, which was great, since it removed the step of attaching the key ring!

 

 

Whomping Willows

Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that make just THE BEST crafts.  For these guys, all you need is a paper bag and a pair of scissors!  Well… and a few other bits to jazz them up – but that part is optional.

Paper bag Whomping Willow

Quidditch

Always fun.  This is a picture from my “Quidditch for Teens” program.  I always like to do separate programs for kids and teens, so that the teens can get a bit more aggressive.  This year we had a small group, and played four on four. I was never athletic. I hated team sports with such a passion. I was so afraid of being the worst person there that I refused to try anything.  There is no worst in Quidditch.  The added bonus of a broom between your legs means that no one will look coordinated, no one will not look silly. It’s amazing how quickly we can move from absolute anxiety over “sports” to absolute hilarity over running around with a broom between your legs trying to throw a half-deflated red ball.

 

Triwizard Maze

img_1343Handy, we are not.  This year, for added fun, we built a maze!  It was… not so successful.  We built the structure out of 1x2s and 2x2s – we tried to seat them right into the ground, but the ground was dry and parched and did not want to give at all.  We made the walls out of plastic table cloths from the dollar store – in house colors of course!  The bit we really, really didn’t anticipate: the wind.  It wasn’t particularly windy, but even a slight breeze img_1303threatened to pick the whole maze up and blow it away.  In any case, with a lot (and I mean a LOT) of duct tape, staples, sweat and tearsimg_1309 we made a small maze.  The kids loved it!  Even the older kids, who ran through it in 2 seconds, loved to run back through, and find all the monsters hidden within!  I guess it just goes to show: kids and adults have very different eyes.

  

DecorHarry Potter stuff

 

I have a lot of Harry Potter stuff… some might say a ridiculous amount.  But hey, I make good use of it!

Harry Potter stuffimg_1284

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Oh yeah!  What do you do with all the balloons left over after a wedding shower?  Make Hedwigs of course!!
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Harry Potter Day 2015!

Well July 31st has come and gone and once again we had a wonderful birthday party for our favorite wizard!

hp day 3

This year we had our craft activity and Quidditch going on at the same time: my plan was that people could take turns doing both activities and so neither would end up overwhelmingly busy – ha HA.

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We had four crafts this year:

Dragon Eggs

More than anything, I wanted to make these beautiful Dragon Eggs:


Gryffindor colors egg

I found the idea at this awesome blog, and started planning how I would make these on MUCH larger scale.  Last year, we had well over a hundred kids, which means I have to have enough craft supplies for that many participants.  These dragon eggs are made from Styrofoam eggs and painted thumb tacks.

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I’ve now made several: it’s super fun and I find it very relaxing; and for me, a few packs of thumb tacks and Styrofoam eggs are pretty cheap.

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Enough Styrofoam eggs and thumb tacks for over a hundred is NOT cheap.  Also not the safest.  Also each thumbtack is individually painted.  I considered buying and spray-painting some 10,000 thumbtacks, but ultimately came to my senses.

Ravenclaw colors dragon egg

So I abandoned that idea and am keeping it in my back pocket for a teen program one year, but we’ll see. The one thing I added from the tutorial was the ribbon: I used a plastic crochet needle to thread the ribbon through the middle of the egg, and then tacked over it.  Dragon Egg Christmas ornament!  I’ve tried two different egg sizes so far “hen sized” and “goose sized”.  Both are awesome, but if you’re going to make it an ornament, I’d stick to hen sized eggs, as the goose egg is bigger, heavier, and all-around too much for a Christmas tree.  I also have an Ostrich sized egg that is awaiting decoration, but I’m holding out to find something a little bit bigger than thumb tacks, as I think they will a) look too small on such a large egg, and b) take for frickin’ ever.

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IMG_0260Instead, I ordered an outrageous number of plastic Easter eggs, like you would use for your standard Easter egg hunt.  I spray painted them silver, gold, and cream, bought a TON of Sharpies and glitter stickers, and let the kids go nuts on decorating their eggs.

Paper Roll Owls

Easy Peasy Hedwigs!  It does not take long to gather up a BUNCH of toilet paper rolls, then cut some letter-sized paper in half, get some googly eyes and other decorations and owl it up!  PS – you can also make paper roll minions this way, suuuper easy!

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Golden Snitches

hp snitch

Every kid needs his own Golden Snitch!  Ours are made out of small styrofoam balls – we had 1 inch ones and 1.5 inch ones – gold tissue paper (because we know better than to trust kids with glitter EVER AGAIN), white paper for the wings (could also easily use white craft feathers!), dowels to hold the wings on and glitteries to decorate.

  1. Stick a piece of dowel right through your styrofoam ball.  You could also stick a very small piece of dowel in each side, but be careful to line them up nicely.  Toothpicks might also be a good option here, although considerably less sturdy, of course.snitch 1
  2. Attach your wings.  If you’re using feathers, you’ll probably need to add some glue.  I’m pretty sure we taped ours down and it worked great!snitch 3
  3. If you’re doing paper wings, like we did, jazz them up!  We used scissors to make the paper more flighty!snitch 2
  4. Now it’s time for the gold.  I saw a lot of similar tutorials online where they dyed the balls with glitter glue and food coloring, or painted them (don’t try to spray paint styrofoam, take it from me: it doesn’t work), but that was toooooo messy for our purposes.  We used gold tissue paper, wrapped it around the ball, secured with tape and twist off the ends. Beautiful. snitch 4 snitch 5
  5. Finally, decorate!snitch 6

Mini Marauders Maps

I think this was my favorite craft of the year.  HUGE thanks to Britta Peterson who created this little beauty AND provided it for free on her blog, Britta Blvd.

Last year, Harry Potter Day was awesome but very stressful, and very prep-heavy.  When I found this printable, foldable Marauders Map, I did a happy dance.  Ready made craft!  It is a tricky fold, so best for older kids and up (or younger kids with LOTS of help).  There’s a point in the tutorial where it actually says “this is the tricky part” – look closely at the pictures provided and you’ll be fine, it might just take a few tries.  If, like me, you’re using this for a program, make sure a few people have figured the fold out in advance, so they can help the program participants.

 Mini Marauders Map

Mini Marauders Map Mini Marauders Map

Treats

I only did one treat this year, cauldron cakes.  I used Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix, and made a ridonkulous number of cupcakes.  When the cupcakes were not quite done, I poked them with a toothpick to collapse each cupcake top, leaving a depression for the icing and making them more “cauldrony”.   I used vanilla icing with food coloring to make the “potions” for the cauldrons.  The cauldron handles are Twizzler pull-and-peels – not what I would suggest, they are not sturdy enough to push into the cupcakes or stand up nicely.  Use red vines or something similar.  Also black licorice looks better but is YUCKY!  I don’t even like the smell, so I used red.  I also made some butterbeer: it was clear cream soda (so happy I was able to find clear this year! last year I had to use pink), a dash of artificial rum flavoring, and caramel flavoring (normally I would use butter or butterscotch flavoring , but I couldn’t find any at my local grocery store – normally I would drive around looking for it, but this year I just didn’t have time – plus, the caramel ended up being delicious), and a little bit of orange food coloring.

hp day 5 hp day 4

Harry Potter Treats!

This summer at the library’s Harry Potter birthday party, we feasted on some Harry Potter themed snacks.  Offering food at a public program can be tricky.  There are a lot of allergies and other dietary requirements out there, so be very careful about what you’re putting in your goodies.  Obviously nuts are a big no-no, but some things you might not think of: gelatin for example. Gelatin is usually made from animal bi-products so vegetarians/vegans/kosher/halal/etc. cannot eat it.  (Be advised: Maynards candy (like Swedish Berries) does not use gelatin, so these are OK!).  It might seem obvious, but it wasn’t something I’d ever thought of until someone asked me “Is there gelatin in this?”  I try to be as careful as I can, and always keep a list of ingredients on-hand just in case.

I’m writing this up waaaaay late, so I don’t have any pictures.  I will add them later if I can 🙂

Anywho.  Thanks so much to this BuzzFeed list, for getting me started on my Harry Potter bake-a-thon.  I made:

Pumpkin Pasties

  • I had definitely never worked with pumpkin before.  NOT a fan of pumpkin pie.  Or pumpkin spice anything.  Booo-urns to all fall things that are pumpkin spice.  I used this recipe to make my pumpkin pasties.  I made the dough and filling by hand.  Pretty sure I ended up using a lid off of something to cut the dough, and a bottle of olive oil to roll it out.  My kitchen was under construction and some of my things were packed away – had to get a little bit creative.  MacGyver would be proud.  (Also, MacGyver is the name of my cat.)  Because I didn’t have a proper rolling pin or cutter, I did struggle to get the dough flat enough and the cut circles big enough – causing the filling to come bursting out a little bit, but what can you do.  I also had quite a bit of filling left over, which was great, because I used it for pumpkin juice!

Cauldron Cakes

  • Many of the recipes for Cauldron Cakes that I found out there are based on the cakes you can get at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (the happiest place on earth).  These are double chocolate, dipped in chocolate, coated in chocolate, with chocolate icing.  Sounds fabulous, but too much work for someone making 80 of them.  I made Duncan Hines chocolate cupcakes.  I can’t remember if I made two or three batches – but I made a lot.  Cupcakes are not my thing, I’ve never liked them, hence I can’t be bothered to make them from scratch.  Like I say, Duncan Hines chocolate cupcakes, and Duncan Hines vanilla icing.  I added green food colouring to the icing (or frosting, depending on where you live) and mixed it up real good.  I took a spoonful out of the top of each cupcake (after they were baked), to create a hole.  I filled the hole with green icing and used a small licorice strip to make a handle.  Alternatively, if you put a large marshmallow in the top of each cupcake before you bake them, the marshmallow will slowly melt, leaving a sugar-encrusted hole in the top of the cupcake.

Fever Fudge

  • I considered a few different Skiving Snackbox recipes, and decided this one looked the tastiest.   I’d say though, that this  was my least-successful treat.  The red side is supposed to give you a fever, so it’s flavored with cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  I didn’t make mine too spicy, since kids would be eating it, just enough to give it bite.  Then the blue side is meant to cool you down, so it’s flavoured with mint and vanilla.  This side was tooooo sweet!  Not surprising considering that otherwise this is made up of condensed milk and white chocolate.  Next time, I will make the red side spicier and the blue side mintier.

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Chocolate Frogs and Peppermint Toads

  • The best part about these (other than being candy), are the boxes.  Thanks a million to whoever put the printable templates online, they really made everyone’s day.  The first thing you need is a frog shaped chocolate mold.  I would have thought ot would be easy to find these, because of the popularity of Harry Potter, but not so much.  If I had been more organized, tehre are great ones to be found online, however, since I left it to the last minute, I found myself driving around cleaning out Bulk Barns all around town.
  • Peppermint Toads: I used this recipe (template for the box is also there!).  These were fun and easy.  I actually ended up making them in the little staff kitchen at work (much to my coworkers’ annoyance).  They are made of white chocolate and marshmallow fluff (and flavouring and food colouring).  Marshmallow fluff, before you spend hours wandering the aisles of the supermarket, is found with the ice cream sundae toppings.  Just a heads up.
  • Chocolate Frogs: after I’d made the Toads, I used the same chocolate molds to make my Chocolate frogs.  I just melted down some milk chocolate and poured it into the molds, then put them in the freezer to harden.  I printed the boxes for the Frogs from here.  We also started to print out Chocolate Frog Cards, but ran out of time and energy, so some of the boxes had Cards in them, some didn’t.  I’ll try to do better next time!
  • I kept both the Toads and the Frogs in the fridge up until party day, so that they wouldn’t melt – a big issue in July, not such a big issue if you’re having a HP party in, say, November.

Butterbeer

  • I have tried many Butterbeer recipes.  Alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  Super complicated and super easy.  For this event, I went with super easy and non-alcoholic (obviously).  I added butter extract flavouring, rum extract flavouring and yellow food colouring to cream soda!  Easy peasy.  I couldn’t find clear cream soda, so my Butterbeer was still pink, but super yummy!  I also printed new labels for my soda bottles.  If anyone knows where I can get clear cream soda (in Ontario), please let me know – I hit 4 different grocery stores before I gave up and just made it pink.

Pumpkin Juice

  • Soooo not something I thought I would like, but surprisingly delicious and refreshing!  Really easy too.  Take one cup pumpkin pie filling (I used the leftovers from my pumpkin pasties!), one cup apple juice and half a cup of pineapple juice.  Blend.  Done.  Mmmmm.  Might take a little bit taste testing to get the consistency you want – that pumpkin pie filling is thick.  Recipe from these smart people.  I meant to top off my pumpkin juice with whipped cream, but ran out of time.  Sigh, maybe next year.

Acid Pops

  • These are ones I didn’t actually finish.  My intention was to get sour flavoured lolly pops, wet them, roll them in PopRocks, and package them up individually.  Couldn’t find PopRocks, couldn’t find sour lolly pops.  Like I said, I was rushing around at the last minute, so next year I will try a little harder.  I ended up just giving out regular lolly pops.  They are simple, cheap, and individually wrapped.  Bam.

Every Flavor Beans

  •  Now you can buy these, Jelly Belly makes them.  They are awesome.  They are expensive.  I got some regular jelly beans and put them in little individual treat bags.  No one really wants a vomit flavored jelly bean anyway.

Black Bean Soup and Cornbread = Deliciousness On a COLD Day!

Yesterday I had the day off, and decided to make the most of it, spending about 5 hours in my pajamas doing nothing and playing on my computer, and then deciding at the last minute to make a nice warm hearty dinner of black bean soup and cornbread.  I looked up a recipe: I always use the same one for cornbread, it’s delicious; but I’d never tried to make black bean soup before, so this was a new experience.  If I’d put the cornbread in right away, it would have taken me about two hours to make, cook, and bake the whole meal.

I made the soup first.  The canned vegetables we get here are a little bit bigger than the ones called for in the recipe, so I just added a little bit extra of everything.  The recipe only calls for about 24 minutes of cooking time, but I just let it simmer after all the ingredients had been added (well, all the ingredients except the cilantro, I forgot the cilantro).  Everyone knows that black bean soup is better the longer it simmers.  While it was simmering, I mixed up the cornbread.  I added about half of a finely chopped up jalapeno pepper, just for a bit of kick.  Next time I will try it with more.  I also always drizzle some honey on the top of my cornbread when it’s just done baking – or sometimes just before it’s done.  Gives it a nice sweetness.

The result was a rich, warm, flavorful, very heavy soup and bread.  Perfect for a cold winter’s evening!

 

Harry Potter Wands!

This past summer, one of my most successful library program was Make Your Own Harry Potter Wand.  I ran it in the afternoon and had over a hundred people come to make wands out of paper and glue!  So fun and so easy, although it can take a fair amount of prep time.  I’m sure I got my ideas from Pinterest, and there are LOTS of great Harry Potter craft ideas out there, but to add to them, here is what I did!

 

Materials:

  • Paper (I just use scrap paper (old lists, old flyers, etc), it’s all going to get painted anyway!)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks (it takes a lot of glue)
  • Magical wand cores (phoenix feather, unicorn hair, or dragon heartstring)
  • Small marbles (optional, for decoration)
  • Paint (heavy on the browns, but I did see a lot of pink and purple and black wands too!)
  • Paint brushes

 wand materials

How to make them:

1.  Roll a sheet of paper up tightly, so that it tapers towards one end.  Depending on how your roll it, the wand can be longer/shorter/thinner/fatter.  I roll from one corner diagonally across.

Roll the paper

2.  Add a line of glue every so often, especially as you get to the end.

gluing

corner

3.  Fill the skinny end of the wand with a dab of hot glue.

glue end

4.  Pop your magical wand core inside.

wand core

5.  Depending on the fatness of your wand, it may need some stabilizing: I’ve used Popsicle sticks, chopsticks, tissue paper, or often a mixture of several.  Stuff the wand as best you can/want to keep it from being bendy or fragile.

 

stuff wand

6.  Top  it off by filling the wand with hot glue.  Hold it fat-side up and just let the glue pour – this is where it can take a lot of glue.

end

7.  Let the glue dry.  This does not take very long, trust me.

8.  Add detailing!  This is entirely up to you.  CAREFULLY use the hot glue to make swirly designs, lines, dots, sometimes I’ve made a handle.  Here also you can glue a marble on for decoration.  I usually glue the marble on the base of the wand (I like the way it looks), but many of my participants put marbles on the business end of the wand, to symbolize magic.

marble end details

9.  PAINT!

Need I explain?

painitng painting 2me with wand  wand

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Adventures in Crochet

Happy New Year!

I’m such a lazy blogger.  That should be my resolution – be less lazy.

So, last-last Christmas (as in, 2012), I decided to crochet a blanket for a Christmas present.  Early last December (2013), it was finally done!

TARDIS blanketTo be fair, it is very large.  And it just happens that I am just as lazy a crochet-er as I am a blogger.  Sorry you had to wait so long, Sarah, but you’re warm now!  The blanket took an incredible amount of black and blue yarn.  I made it from a graph that I bought off Ravelry, from here.  It is also available from Etsy.  Totally worth the $5.00 or whatever it costs – this thing is huge and unbelievably bad-ass.  In a nerdy kind of way of course.  That’s my couch in the background of the picture.  The blanket takes up my whole living room floor.  It became so big that instead of turning it, to crochet back along, I had to get up and move to the other side of the blanket.

In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of crocheting lately.  As happens when you’re in your late twenties, all of my friends have started doing the baby thing.  Babies, as it turns out, are super cute.  And baby clothes are really really super cute.  My crochet skills are still rudimentary – I can pretty much do single, double, treble, and half-double crochet stitches and that’s it.  I’m hoping to how to crochet in the round soon so I can make an outrageously colored hat (violent pink or purple, probably) for my friend Gavin, who swore he would wear it in public if he did; but currently have contented myself with making baby hats for all the numerous babies that have come into my life.  Also a pattern I got from Ravelry, these are super easy to make and super adorable! (I forgot to take pictures before I gave them away!  I will try to remember to add them once I make new ones for the new babies coming along.)

Toronto Maple Leafs scarfFinally, I’ve been working on a scarf just these past few days for a much-belated Christmas present for a friend.  We are going to a hockey game later this week, and I wanted him to be able to properly support his team.  It’s not done yet, but getting there!  If you want to make one, you can get the free pattern here!  Even if you’re not a Leafs supporter, you could make a red one to cheer on Canada in Sochi!!

By lizandsarahinthemorning Posted in crafts

Quidditch!

The greatest thing has happened!

quidditch stuffThis year, Harry Potter turned 33 on July 31, and to celebrate, we held a Quidditch tournement!  This was something I had planned to do for quite a while, but when it came down to it, ended up being rather more complicated than expected.  I mean, have you ever made Quidditch hoops??

Many thanks to these guys: http://issuu.com/kevineng/docs/theultimatequidditchhoops for posting how to make Quidditch hoops.  Note to anyone attempting it: make sure you buy piping, tubing, and joints that are the same size, as they don’t specify that in the instructions.  I used 3/4 inch everything.

<– This is all the stuff you need to make the Quidditch Hoops.  Altogether, it was about $100.00.  Also, those cement blocks are very heavy – watch out.quidditchhoops

Luckily, the nice people at Home Depot cut the pipes for me, so we only had to cut the tubing for the hoops ourselves.  I’ll be honest, I was a little worried I’d have a disaster trying to cut the pipes on my own!

Quidditch requires six hoops.  They all have to have the same diameter, and need to be three different heights.  That meant a good amount of cutting.

quidditch hoopThe tallest hoops are 5’7″ from the ground to the bottom of the hoop.  That’s taller than me!

At Hogwarts, the hoops are gold, so ours are too!

It took 3 cans of gold spray paint to get them to their current level of shininess!Hoops!hoops

hoop ball

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Briefing the Teams

Then it was TIME TO PLAY!

We had about 35 people come out, and we had a BLAST!

It was amazing.  People passing by on the street stopped to watch.  I’m surprised we didn’t cause car accidents, everyone was staring!

We started out with a  quick briefing, going over all the rules.

Seven players per team: 1 Keeper, 2 Beaters, and because we started the evening without a Snitch, 4 Chasers.

We would add a Snitch later.  We would also end up making our teams bigger and bigger, to let everyone play at once.

  Beat the Keeper!
Fly!

Battle for the Bludger!   Beat the Keeper!

Some people got VERY competitive!!

Quidditch Fall  Quaffle

Sometimes it can be a somewhat violent game.  Especially where best friends and/or siblings are involved.

A quick instruction.  Fly!

That’s me.  Not sure what we were talking about, but apparently it was very important!

The Golden Snitch

And, finally, Our Golden Snitch:

Yeah, the wings were her idea.

Trains!

At our library this summer, we are asking all the kids to color a train car, and we will see, Labour Day weekend, how far we get.  Of course, we had to add our own cars to the mix.

The train so far.  We need a ladder to put up the cars, so we only do it a couple of times per week.  This is week 3.

The train so far. We need a ladder to put up the cars, so we only do it a couple of times per week. This is week 3.

Sarah added some Whovian flare.

Sarah added some Whovian flare.

 

Anita gave us this royal crest of Hyrule car!

Anita gave us this royal crest of Hyrule car!

By lizandsarahinthemorning Posted in crafts

Happy Mardi Gras!

So this year, we made our first ever attempt at making a King Cake for Mardi Gras.  For those of you not from New Orleans, King Cake is a traditional dessert served during the Mardi Gras season (from the Feast of Epiphany, January 6,  to Mardi Gras Day – the day before the beginning of Lent).  Inside the King Cake is a small plastic baby – the origins of which are somewhat murky but it probably represents the Baby Jesus as King Cake is a Christmas tradition in some other coutries.  Point being: one person will find a plastic baby in his or her piece of cake, and the tradition is: that is the person who must throw the next party, or bring the next King Cake.  Yes, it’s weird.  Yes, it’s a little creepy.  But that’s New Orlean’s for you.

As it turns out, making King Cake is quite involved.  It involves lots of kneading, and then letting rise, and then kneading, and then letting rist, and then braiding, and then letting rise.  That sort of thing.

Recipe (Makes 2 King Cakes)

You will need:

CAKE

  • 1              stick plus 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2/3         cup 99% fat free skim evaporated milk
  • ½           cup sugar
  • 2              teasppons salt
  • 2              packages dry yeast
  • 1/3          cup warm water
  • 4              eggs
  • 1              tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 2              tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 6              cups flour

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar and salt.  Cool to lukewarm.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and water.  Let stand until foaming, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Beat eggs into yeast then milk mixture and rinds.
  4. Stir in flour, ½ a cup at a time, leaving 1 cup aside to flour kneading surface.  We did this part in an electric stand mixer, on low, using the bread hook to mix.
  5. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Place in a large mixing bowl greased with 1 tablespoon butter; turning dough over once to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

FILLING:

  • ½             cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ¾             cup granulated sugar
  • 1              tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1              stick butter, melted

Mix sugars and cinnamon, set aside.

Back to the cake!

  1. Once the dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half.
  2. On a floured surface, roll half into a rectangle 30 inches by 15 inches.  Ours never actually got that big. but we did our best.
  3. Brush with half the melted butter, then cut into 3 equal strips lengthways.
  4. Sprinkle half the sugar mixture (filling) on strips, leaving a 1 inch strip lengthwise bare for sealing.
  5. Fold each strip lengthwise towards the center, sealing the seam.  You now have 3 30 inch strips with sugar mixture enclosed in each.

IMG_2759   IMG_2763  IMG_2765

Now for the hard part.

  1. Braid the 3 strips and make a circle by joining the ends.
  2. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
  3. Place each cake on a 10×15 baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

IMG_2768   IMG_2767  

Topping

  • 1      egg, beaten
  • 1      cup sugar, colored (1/3 cup each of yellow, purple and green)
  • 2      plastic babies
  1. Brush each cake with egg.
  2. Sprinkle with sugars, alternating colors.

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Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bake 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from pan immediately so sugars do not harden.
  4. While still warm, place 1 plastic baby in each from underneath.

IMG_2779      IMG_2780

YUM!  Ours was a little over crispy, but still delicious.

Recipe from: “Jambalaya” published by the Junior League of New Orleans, copyright 1983. Page 206-207.