Tuesday, July 12
If you haven’t noticed by now, this whole food day thing isn’t rocket science. It’s just a way of making the kids feel as if a few normal crafts, punctuating their regular independent play, and centered around a theme, have made the day into a kind of holiday! Today was Pomme Day, otherwise known as Apple and Potato Day (for pomme and pomme de terre).
Morning Potato Prints, or, Living out a Childhood Fantasy
At some point just before I was born, my parents had purchased a giant set of World Book Encyclopedias. These had never held much interest for me, except for the accompanying volumes of colourful reference books for kids that arrived toward the end of the subcription period. My favourites were a purple book about the human body and a yellow book full of arts and crafts ideas. I tried a few of the crafts in that book when I was little. I’m sure I made the “mobius” strip out of paper and glue, because I remember getting glue all over the carpet in my room and using a washcloth to “clean it up.” For the most part, though, the projects required strange supplies we did not have: where was I going to find “driftwood” for a “driftwood mobile,” I thought, near our suburban house in California?; and who did I know in the neighbourhood who had a jigsaw handy to cut out the “easy jigsaw puzzle” they recommended you make with oil paints and a piece of plywood? One of the projects in that book that I had always wanted to try and never did, was to make prints with potatoes. Sure, I probably could have attempted this one at home. I could have easily gotten a few potatoes out of the bin. Still, I was fairly cautious about taking knives from the kitchen cupboard. My paternal grandfather had lost two of his fingers in an accident in his workshop!
At some point, though, you just have to indulge yourself and try to play out at least one of your childhood fantasies by making your kids do it instead of you. Guilty as charged re potato prints!
This is not to say I wasn’t worried about my kids hurting themselves trying to carve images into a potato! Still, I’m trying to give them more responsibilities this year. And, I was ready to let them have at it with their kid-sized steak knives when inspiration struck! I was mentioning the craft to the kids the night before and they started proposing shapes: bears, trees, little people. Strange enough, or not strange at all, really, they were talking about shapes that we’d used hundreds of times when making sugar-cookie cutouts – and hence the easier, more finger friendly version of the potato print was born!
First, I sliced six golden potatoes in half. Then, the kids picked out small sized cookie cutters from our ever-growing bag of shapes. With the sharp side of the cutter down, I had the kids stand up and press the cutter down hard into the freshly cut, flat side of the potato. They found this difficult work, at first, but they got into the swing of things by making strange animal noises.
Next, with the cookie cutters resting deep in the potatoes, I took my parking knife and sliced around the circumference of the potato, a few centimeters below surface, so that my knife hit the bottom edge of the cookie cutter. The kids then helped me to remove the sliced part of the potato from around the cookie cutter. To finish off our stamps, we slid the cookie cutter off of the now “raised” image on the potato. This process was remarkably easy. I would say it took 10-15 minutes from start to finish!
The tables were turned, though, when the kids started to make their prints. They had started dipping their stamps inblack poster paint and pressing the stamps onto pieces of white watercolour paper when my daughter decided to change the look and feel of her project entirely! She had only printed her work on one side of her sheet of paper when she folded her paper neatly in half and made a blurry, mirror image of her prints on either side. So much for the obvious bears, trees, flowers, birds and feet!
We had gone from the plain potato prints that I had imagined to a family Rorschach test! In the blink of an eye, my kids had made my childhood fantasy into a fantasy of their own!
Making Apple Sun Tea
Speaking of childhood books and activities, I can clearly remember a big craze among the moms in the 1970’s – those years when everyone seemed to be buying identical glass vats from Lipton designed to make “sun tea.” These were the staple of every kid’s back porch, no matter where we were living in at the time (we moved around a lot)!
My own Bea has become more interested in tea making and tea drinking over the last little while. She’s tried a lot of our herbal teas at home, and she’s become a huge fan of the pink, pistachio-dotted Kashmiri tea we get down in Little India. Since seeing a giant glass pickle jar of sun tea (we’re doing it up in apothecary style these days, I guess!) in the window of my favourite coffee shop, both of the kids have been asking to make their own version at home. And, since we had some Mulled Apple tea bags on hand (my daughter’s absolute favourite), I figured that tea-making might be an easy and likewise “retro” summer-day project.
The whole activity took about five minutes- making a nice transition from our hour-long potato printing fun to their independent morning play. We simply dangled a few teabags (we used four, but I think 5 or 6 would make it even better) over the edge of our clear plastic pitcher (no retro style in our case!), filled it with water, and placed it in a sunny location.
The best part of this activity was when I sent the kids out into the back yard to try to figure out the sunniest location for our brew. They spent a while staring around at the yard and asking about how the “sun moved around the earth,” next, coping with my explanation. Finally, they decided on a location. Since Bea had recently burnt a finger on the outside handle of the grill (when it was turned off), and since the grill is right next to the tomato plants, the kids decided on the top of the grill as their location of choice.
A few hours later, we had a delicious brew of mulled apple tea that we served over ice. Thanks, Lipton ladies, for your example!
Sweet Afternoon Apple Robots
Maybe the summer should just be full of sugar, after all. And, maybe my kids have really begun to realize their limits when it comes to the stuff! I had wanted to maintain a nice balance between the sweet and savoury on our food days. With all of the sweets produced on last week’s Strawberry Day, I wanted to keep Pomme Day on the savoury side. But when it came down to it, my kids’ desire to make robots with apples, matched with the veritable cornucopia of toothpicks, licorice whips, and marshmallows we somehow had accumulated in the pantry (probably because I was trying to keep them AWAY from them for so long) meant that we were going to be using (and likely eating) candy on Pomme Day after all.
Robot making was easy! The kids simply attached various candies to toothpicks and jammed them into their red apples. I was impressed with Tobes’s desire to make feet for his robot out of apple slices. As well, he insisted that his robot required a “jet pack” and proceeded to make one out of marshmallows. They both did well attaching licorice whips on to the ends of a toothpick in order to make arms or tentacles or crazy hair plugs that wrapped around their robots’ heads!
The kids were surprisingly restrained re the candy I laid out for them to use to decorate their apples. I asked them to hold off on eating more than one small piece until we had finished our robot-making. And, for once, they actually followed through. They didn’t even rush to finish their projects. And, when I asked them to limit themselves, afterwards, to just a piece or two, I didn’t even hear that many moans! So, I consider the day a real coup!