Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sugar Skulls for Dia de los Muertos

Last October, I did a pumpkin palooza program that was fun for the whole family. This year, my town was putting on a Halloween/pumpkin thing, so I decided to take my October in a different direction: I made Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls with my tweens. 

I took a lot of instructions and ideas from this website and I highly recommend you check them out. I didn't try another type of meringue powder - I just straight up ordered the one they recommended - but it worked like a charm so I'm willing to believe their expertise on pretty much everything here. 

Anyway, I bought myself one of these pans and the right meringue power and was ready to rumble. Oh, and sugar. LOTS of sugar. Like, a huge bag from Costco. 

I started prepping two days beforehand. I figured that would give me time to find alternate solutions just in case everything fell apart. The Mexican sugar skull ladies knew what they were talking about, though, and it all worked like a dream. 

So first, I made the skulls: 

I had 25 kids signed up for the program and I made 30 skulls just in case. 

Once they came out of the mold, I just let them air dry. 

The pan I bought would have allowed a front and back of the head, but I decided it was too much trouble to do all the scooping, etc., that the sugar skull ladies recommended for large skulls, so I stuck with just the fronts. 

On the day of the program, I made a bunch of frosting in bags and put out sprinkles and mini chocolate chips.

Rubber band the back of the bags! You would not believe how much frosting kids
can squeeze out the back of the bag if you don't! (Yes, this is bitter bitter experience talking, here)

Then I let them go at it. 

I wanted to give the kids a chance to make skulls themselves, so I bought one of these candy molds and had four kids come up at a time to make their own tiny skulls. We mixed the sugar, the meringue powder, and the water and pressed it into the molds. Then we popped them out and I put them out to dry by a fan. 

I was hoping the small size plus the fan would be enough to dry them in an hour, but results were varied. Some worked, some fell apart completely. I did feel it added to the program, though, so I would probably do this again despite the number of crushed skulls. 

This tiny decorated skull had "Princess Leia buns" according to its creator,
but I can't help but see Carmen Miranda. Just me?
All in all, it was a fun program that yielded pretty spectacular results. 

As far as consumability: I told the kids that everything was technically edible, but that it probably wasn't a good idea to eat it considering how long it had been out in the open air. They also learned first hand that the skulls were maybe not the cleanest things when they dug their hands into the sugar mixture to make the mini skulls. 

Feliz Dia de los Muertos! May your carpets remain frosting free!

Thursday, October 22, 2015


I was cleaning out the office closets at the end of the summer and came across two bags of stuffed animals that someone had donated. Which got me thinking. 

Then we had a town-wide garage sale event (I bought an enormous stuffed bear for the kids to read with for, like, $1) and I figured this was it: it was time to chop up those toys in to FRANKENTOYS!

The set-up for this program was quite simple: the toys, some good scissors, some needles and thread, whatever embellishments I had laying around, some extra stuffing just in case, and hot glue. The program was for 10 and ups, so I was comfortable that they could use the glue gun on their own. 

There was only one rule: if you cut something, you had to have a plan for it. No just ripping in to things willy-nilly. 

At first, it seemed like this rule wasn't going to be necessary. In fact, the entire program teetered on the brink of disaster when the girls started picking up stuffed animals, dubbing them CUTE!! and mourning any cutting that might have to be done. It didn't help that the newspaper reporter who had come (entirely of her own volition - I really am lucky! And that wasn't sarcastic - I consider myself very fortunate to have proactive photo takers!) kept saying "are you really going to cut that one?"

But then. Oh.... glorious then. 

Someone cut one. And then someone else cut another one. And then another one. And suddenly, the whole thing snowballed into one big cutting, gluing, un-stuffing frenzy. I found myself repeating the rule a few times to prevent mayhem.

Some of the results:

Headless by choice, thank you very much.
That tree? Is glued to his butt. Also, he's on wheels. 
That fish head is a measuring tape that comes out when you yank it.
Glorious does not begin to describe it. 
The head-swap twins. 
Cerberus. Three headed with yeti arms and a cape
Even I, the queen of anthropomorphising everything under the sun, got in on the action.

Especially when this yeti lost his arms to Cerberus.

Doesn't he look just completely bewildered and depressed about his missing arms? 
 I had to make it better.

So I did:

Less flummoxed, more "dear god, why!!"
Each participant ended up taking home 2-3 toys in the end.

And the thought of what might happen to their toys at home after this program... Yeah, it keeps me up nights.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Flannel Friday: Five Monkeys and the Crocodile

I was putting together a blog post of sure-fire-never-fail books that I use in Storytimes and beyond, and I ran across this flannelboard that I made nine years ago - my first flannel ever, in fact! And not only has it stood the test of time, but it's definitely a sure-fire-never-fail-will-get-everyone-involved-and-excited flannel.

And here it is.
The five little monkeys....

... and the crocodile. 

There are several versions out there (and when I originally did this one, I had the crocodile burp out the monkeys, but now I just go for it with the snapping and the chomping), but this is the one I use: 

Five little monkeys swinging in a tree
Teasing Mr. Crocodile "you can't catch me!"
Along comes Mr. Crocodile, quiet as can be
And he SNAPPED that monkey right out of that tree!

Keep going till you have no monkeys left. I always ask the kids how many monkeys we have after each verse and when we have no more (they either say zero or I supply the word when they say "none!" - yay vocabulary building), I say "well then I guess we'll have to do something else!" And we do.

I've occasionally used the monkeys without the crocodile to do the monkeys on the bed rhyme, but I find it far less fun. This is also a great transition rhyme between Caps for Sale (it has monkeys) and Snip Snap, What's That? (it has a crocodile).

Happy Friday!
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