Saturday, March 10, 2018

Death Star Piñata ~ Handicraft Project

Homemade piñatas are not one of my better ideas. We made one for Elizabeth's birthday party way back when. It was a good experience, but I decided then that it was too much work and next time I'd just buy one.

Well, fast forward 10 years and I decide to try another one. This time with Harrison for a school handicraft project. I figured he and I could work on it together, and he wanted a Death Star from Star Wars, so it was going to be loads of fun. (See instructions below.)

This sphere took a good six weeks to look like this. 

We used this blogger's "How to Make a Death Star Piñata" as the basis of our plan. And Piñata Boy's description of how to make the hanging hook. 

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men, our problems were many. 

We hung the balloon in the garage to keep the paper mâché mess to a minimum. The neighbor kids got in on the action this way (which did not keep the mess to a minimum, but it was fun to watch them mess with goop). Harrison did not appreciate goop and did as little as possible with the paper mâché. 

But since it was out near the elements and we had warm days and cold nights, the balloon would expand and contract. This messed with the newspaper covering and broke it in several places and gave us an oblong shape instead of the nice round shape of a Death Star.

I decided to bring it in the house and keep it in a bucket like the blogger lady showed, and it ended up bending into the rim of the bucket on one side and so had a hard crater-like dent the next morning. 

After that I put in the nicely made (if I do say so myself) hanging hook before we decided that wasn't the best place to have it, so I took it back out and made a hole elsewhere for the hook. 

There were many repairs to be made with the flour/water/newspaper mixture throughout all this process, but we finally had a finished product. 

Then Harrison painted it. I let him do all of that himself over many days. He and I had also picked up from Walmart all the candy and toys to put inside.

And then big brother Jon took the lead on a sunny weekend (so that the majority of neighbor kids would be around to share in the spoils) to hang it up (with my exercise band, no less) and direct the kids in whacking it. It kind of happened so fast I didn't get many pictures or lay down rules or make sure the kids had a bandana tied around their eyes. 

But the kids got to have a little "just because" piñata fun.

Harrison's Death Star Piñata 

Strips of Newspaper (1/2 to 3/4 inch strips)
Basting Brush (optional)
Large Punch Balloon (preferably without the little knob at the bottom)
Cardboard, Duct Tape, Exacto Knife
Wire Hanger (and wire cutters or scissors)
Paint and/or Tissue Paper
Toys and Treats to go inside (not chocolate if you are doing the piñata outside on a warm day)
Bandana; Stick or PVC pipe or broom or whatever's handy for hitting with
String, Rope, Raffia or what-have-you to hang the piñata from a tree

1. Make a paste with the flour and water. I didn't do exact proportions for this; I just mixed in enough water till the consistency was like cake batter. Hang the balloon (put newspaper below to catch drips) and put one layer of pasty newspaper strips all over the balloon. Or you can put the balloon in a bucket or bowl and layer the top half. Once that dries, turn it over and layer the bottom half. Then the balloon won't turn into a tear-drop shape (the heaviness of the pasty strips will drag it down if it's hanging from a ceiling).

We sometimes used the pastry brush to brush on the gluey mix, but it was almost easier to dip the strips in the flour glue and then wipe off excess with fingers. 

2. Do several layers waiting for each layer to dry before adding a new one.  I believe we did at least three.

3. Make the Hanging Hook according to this guy. I did the heart-shaped one, only I curved it to follow the curve of the sphere.

4. Determine which part should be the top of the Death Star, make a hole and insert the Hook. Layer up the hole with pasty strips and let dry.

5. Determine where the  Death Star's concave dish will be (Northern Hemisphere), find or make a circle about the size you want, and trace around the circle with a pencil. Use an Exacto Knife to cut out the circle, and save it.

6. Through the dish hole, fill the piñata with goodies (glitter pens, mini figures, notepads, mini flashlights, punch balloons, non-melting pre-wrapped candies, beads, stickers....).

7. Place the saved circle upside down so that it is concave and tape it down (our tape did not stick well, you might want to try duct tape or glue). Then add several layers of pasty newspaper strips all around the Death Star dish to make sure it is good and glued in and is not a weak spot (remember to let it dry between layers ~ see why it takes so long?).

8. Once all the paper mâché-ing is done and dry, you can then decorate it. The blog I read used silver tissue paper to cover the whole thing, then made lines using masking tape, and painted the gaps with silver glitter paint. Harrison used silver spray paint to cover the whole thing. Then he painted lines on with a darker gray paint and paint brush. 

9. With all the hanging we did in the prepping of our piñata, we used a long strip of raffia that I found, the rubber band that came with the balloon, and our exercise band. All of it worked. 

10. Kids should wear a bandana to cover their eyes when swinging at the piñata. An adult could also use a rope to pull the piñata out of reach as the children try to swing at it; makes the fun last a little longer. Younger kids should go before older kids. We had a piece of PVC pipe that we used for swinging. Maybe a short broom handle could work? A stick from your yard? 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Plague of Grackles and Papa's Birthday

 We have so-o many grackles here in Texas. 
According to this Grackle Top Ten, a group of grackles is called a "plague" or "annoyance" of grackles. They do love to congregate in large groups, especially at twilight. I love the sound of them though. I don't find them annoying at all. They are often right around traffic and shopping areas, so you can roll your window down while driving and listen to them chirp and call and flock together. I took the below picture near a Starbucks. That tree is absolutely stuffed full of long-tailed grackles. 

Phillip and I had a little snack at Bird Bakery in Alamo Heights. It's a cute shop. 
I think Liz' cupcakes are better though. :-) 

We met up with Mimi and Papa in Alice, TX last Saturday. It's fun to be able to do that! Florida was so far from family ~ I'm grateful that we've gotten so much time with family living here in Texas. 

For Papa's birthday, we eat at a Mexican restaurant, take a walk around Walmart, go to a park and end at Whataburger for a cool drink or shake. 

We love you, Papa!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Elizabeth found a new park, so we spent our 80° Sunday afternoon at the new park.

And we were accosted by large, beautiful swans! 
I believe that's the first time we've seen live swans. Harrison kept calling them geese. He was trying to play with his tank at the edge of the pond and the swans kept coming right up in our face begging for food. They would definitely peck you if you acted like you had any food on you. 

Harrison is playing in the dirt with his tank. He was burying it and then having his Stikbot character dig it out. He had a whole story going on in his head. But these little kids kept coming up wanting to play with him, and they would help him dig out his tank. He finally gave up, took his tank and left for more remote areas. 

This was super fun! A big long swing-glider thingy. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Poem by John Donne

A Hymn to God the Father

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done;
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done;
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I've spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now and heretofore;
And having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cake and Lizards

The Beaumont crew came over and Elizabeth made a delectable cake for our dessert. 

A real paper picture that a lady at church handed to us. 
It was taken at the church Christmas party, and it's one of my favorite pictures of Phillip and I.

So the reason the Beaumont crew came to San Antonio was simply for the purpose of Emma going with Liz to the homeschool co-op Winter Formal. What great friends to drive all that way so these two crazies could do teen-girl/friendship stuff together. It was really a lot of fun to have them here.

 The family is finally about ready to get back into their home (the one that was flooded from Hurricane Harvey). Still have work to do, but they will finish it while living there. We were able to hear more of their story as we ate supper together. What I love is that they are praising God through it all: it's hard to go through, but they're thankful for it anyway. 

The weather's been colder, so I've been staying inside a lot. I don't get to see the neighbors as often when I do that. But Ms. Monica is in a nursing home now. She always made sure we saw each other, no matter how hot or cold it was! :-) 

Harrison has been watching Brave Wilderness YouTube videos ~ the guy talks about animals and likes to get himself stung by crazy insects to see if he can take it. Anyway, Harrison loves this guy, and he's been saying he can't wait till summer so he can catch a lizard. He's already been catching ants with his neighbor buddies. Well, wonder of wonders, a lizard showed up in our laundry room yesterday. The boys were contriving all kinds of traps to catch him. Finally, after several hours, they found him in their room on their window, basking in the sun. They were easily able to catch him there, and Harrison had his lizard to show off and play with. One of those amazing vignettes where a little thing that you wish so hard for actually happens. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Very Merry Christmas

This was a more relaxed Christmas season for us, I feel like. We took the week before Christmas off of school, as well as this week of Christmas. That really helped. There's always a lot going on leading up to Christmas; it's hard to do school and parties and activities and baking.... All the Christmas doings are more enjoyable with a little extra padding of time. 

Liz Photo Creds
Elizabeth got her driver's license!! 
The first place she drove to was an old abandoned house about 5 minutes away. She had to take someone with her if she was going to explore, so she took Jonathan. I've been there with her before ~ it's a neat looking little place. I'd love to know its history. There are two buildings on the property; the one pictured is made of stone.

Phoebe and Charlize on Christmas Day. They are growing up!
Elizabeth made the sweater for Phoebe.

Liz Photo Creds
Elizabeth also likes to wear the sweater she made for Phoebe.

Since we are off school and have some time on our hands, Phoebe got out all the cards she's been saving from over the years and read them. I do the same thing periodically. I had a big box of letters that I kept for a long time. I went through it finally and whittled it down to a small shoebox of letters. 

New pajamas!

Ah! This was a lot of fun. 
A homeschool friend put together a time of caroling at a nursing home. I've been wanting to do this, but I'm not usually one to lead the way on this type of venture. I also have memories of doing it as a kid, and I'd always thought it was kind of useless. "We aren't professionals. There's nothing special about how we're singing these songs that would be especially enjoyable. We're awkward when we try to talk to the folks listening. Why are we doing this?" Maybe our kids are thinking these same things. 

But I had a totally different perspective this time around. I saw the little, bright-eyed lady in her wheelchair singing along with us. She shook my hand and told me I sang beautifully and that she used to sing in her church choir. Each seemingly non-attentive person we went around to in the sitting area lit up when we hugged them or patted them on the shoulder and had a little something to say to them. 

We walked down the halls singing to those who were in their rooms. One lady called us in and we sang Silent Night. She cried. Who knows what thoughts were going through her head. 

One old timer, when I shook his hand, said, "Well, hell! *chuckle, chuckle* I mean, hello!" He was quite jolly and funny. All the folks wanted to give Harrison a pat or hold his hand. They love little kids.

Thank you, Cil, for putting this together! 
People just want a touch of humanity sometimes. It doesn't have to be professional.

My sister sent this picture of Jordan eating his new candy cane. Wow! This is just a classic Christmas picture, in my opinion. I love it!

Mimi and Papa were here for the weekend. We watched "A Christmas Carol" with George C Scott. Very classic and nostalgic. Harrison discovered that he loved that cozy spot between the couch and the Christmas trees. 

I wanted pie for Christmas dessert. But I couldn't decide what kind. We had seven mini pie plates and a new pie crust recipe in Cooks Illustrated......

Went to church at Cornerstone Sunday morning. It was their Christmas Eve service even though it was morning time. I really enjoyed their music ~ a choir and a brass section.

And the lighting of the candles! 
There were about 4,000 people there. It's really neat to see that many points of light in the auditorium. 

The preacher talked about something I had been thinking on this year: Lights on the tree came about to show that Jesus is the Light of the world. He said Martin Luther started the tradition. Now it has become a common cultural practice ~ to light your house and tree around Christmas time. Even if they don't know it, people the world over are testifying to that Light. We want light. It's delightful and beautiful. We drive around to catch the best displays of light. What a great parable that can point to Jesus.

And Mimi took Phoebe to get her ears pierced at Claire's just like Elizabeth a few years ago. Very exciting times in life. :-)

Christmas morning! 
Harrison was bucking around and dancing. He was so expressive about his excitement. You just can't beat a little kid at Christmas time.

Dinner is served.

Too much food, as always. But we will have leftovers, and that is a good thing.

Seven mini pies. 
The chocolate mint pie got the most votes. Phillip liked the pumpkin best. Mimi liked the cran-raspberry. I liked the tart lemon best. It was a fun endeavor. However, I told them to document this well, because I will probably not do it again. :-) I enjoyed it though.

Sharing Christmas memories around the table. 

Playing Clue which Mimi and Papa got for the kids. Nobody won. We all guessed wrong. We'll have to try it again today.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Snow in San Antonio after 30 Years

Cracks me up, because I just blogged that it's been pretty warm so far this winter. And the very same week we get snow. Unexpected. Exciting. Absolutely thrilled the children.

This was the next morning. 
The snow was gone by lunchtime, but the kids spent hours in it the night it snowed and the next morning.

All the neighbor kids came out to see it and spend hours in it 
~ trying to make snowmen and snow angels; throwing lots of snowballs, I'm sure.

Poor Harrison came in that night crying because of cold toes. We were woefully underprepared for snow. My mom had given us a whole bunch of one-size-fits-all gloves. Although they are cloth and get wet, the kids would periodically come in and get a new pair of warm gloves. But I didn't think to check Harrison's socks and shoes situation (after initially calling him back in to change from flip-flops to socks and closed-toed shoes). We had a big 'ole wet, muddy mess when it was all over. But we had fun! 

Elizabeth turned 16!!!! No way. Just.... no way. 
I remember that little Liz toddler who would throw a fit when we tried to leave the library (really, that's the only time I remember her throwing fits) and who was constantly on the move with her army crawl (didn't walk till she was about year and a half) and who loved getting into my art supplies, my bathroom cabinet, the baking supplies, the book shelf. She's still busy as ever. Very productive and independent......she made that gorgeous birthday cake.....we kind of like you, Liz. :-)

Phillip has this thing about NOT decorating for Christmas until it is December. And so we wait until December to decorate. A friend who moved away last year gave their tree to us. Since we also had our little one, we thought we'd put the two of them up with just lights and have a little cozy scene for our Christmas decor. 

And we put the Christmas decorations and some garland on our computer desks. Phillip's got quite the eye for these things. I like it. That book on my desk there is one that I won in a give-away, but I want to recommend it for anyone looking for an Advent reading for themselves or the kids. "All Creation Waits" by Gayle Boss. Each chapter tells of the hibernation or winter habits of a different animal; how they wait for spring. There are 25 chapters. The pictures are pencil drawings and beautiful. The whole book has a classic feel to it. The language is beautiful ~ lyrical. I'm not reading it every day. We got it late and I hadn't planned to do a daily advent reading. But I do pick it up to read it when everyone is hanging out, but not doing much. It takes about 5 minutes to read a chapter, so it's not a big time commitment. 

Phillip and I went to the New Braunfel's church Christmas Party with a "Down on the Farm" theme. Any excuse to wear your cowboy hat and boots!

So three days after snow, we're back in our shirt-sleeves. We tried this neat little Pinteresty project; made a bird seed "gingerbread" house. The birds won't eat it! I'm so disappointed. I thought it was real pretty. They do eat the bird seed we throw on the ground.