We put a Popin Cookin Donut kit in my daughter’s stocking this Christmas and she was eager to try it out. The picture on the box looks adorable and exactly like miniature doughnuts, so I didn’t know what to expect. A baking step at some point I guess?
The ingredients were packets of powder labeled “chocolate” and “vanilla” for the doughnuts and “strawberry” for the frosting. When we added water, the doughnut powders gradually congealed into a spongy… substance. Like the box says, the results are technically edible, the question is if you really want to.
My daughter was braver than I was and gave it a taste–said it tasted like “gummies.” But gummies don’t have a weird, sticky sugar glaze on top. Fun to make, not so appealing to eat.
We’re back with another book by Theodore Clymer, the follow-up to Little Dog Laughed for Level 3. The third reader level is a thicker book, once again alternating photographs with illustrations. The location shots in this volume are credited to Ocean World, a private aquarium in Crescent City, California that was originally a Seattle barge (no, really). The aquarium and entertainment complex is still in operation and has just made my list of quirky road stops to visit.
There are a series of illustrators listed, but the featured story is a version of “The Hen and the Bread” by James Marshall. Marshall was the illustrator for one of my favorite books, Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, in case the style looks familiar. Marshall spent most of his childhood in my hometown, Beaumont, Texas, and once said,
“Beaumont is deep south and swampy and I hated it. I knew I would die if I stayed there so I diligently studied the viola, and eventually won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory in Boston.”
I also recall worrying I’d die there, so we’re basically twinsies.
Since this is a Clymer book, we’re also reintroduced to Ken, the boy who can’t do anything right. When first we see him, Ken can’t figure out if he should eat bait or not.
Here he is failing to feed a dolphin:
Twisting himself into a loom:
And picking up a bowl of flour and shoving it in his helpless face:
Fish and Not Fish picks up where the last book left off and adds punctuation, dialog tags and a few new vocabulary words. The baking story was especially helpful during the last half of my daughter’s Kindergarten year when we were learning the rule “E makes the vowel say it’s name.” Highly recommended for beginning readers.
One of the booths that really drew our attention at the Vancouver Christmas Market was run by the local 4Cats Arts Studio. With multiple locations in the Vancouver area, 4Cats offers painting, polymer sculpting and oven-baked clay workshops for adults, children and families. Their booth at the market offered a wide array of polymer characters you can sculpt yourself, with enough clay inside to make them and detailed instructions.
We bought our daughter a kit for Christmas so she could make her own unicorn. Her artistic inclinations come from her father and since we knew she’d want to preserve her sculpt forever, we also got her the glass dome sold separately. We paid $14.99 Canadian for the kit and the additional dome brought the price up to about $20.
As soon as she opened her Christmas present she wanted to make it, but I managed to put her off for a few days because I knew this build would be a bit of a time commitment. From start to finish, we were ready to bake our unicorn after two hours of work. While the instructions were as detailed as promised, our version didn’t quite look like the box:
This was mostly our fault, but the instructions on building the head didn’t quite match up with the picture, and the booklet encouraged us to blend in the legs when we might have been better off showing more separation.
The baking instructions were in Celsius but after converting that to Fahrenheit, we baked our figure at 250 degrees for 1.5 hours. To my relief, the horn didn’t fall off.
Unfortunately, we planned badly and the unicorn didn’t fit inside the display dome. The box came with plenty of extra clay, however, so my daughter got creative and made a cat.
My daughter didn’t end up with perfect creations her first time out, but she learned a lot about using and blending polymer clay. She’s already asking for more colors and can’t wait to try again.
4Cats no longer offers these kits on their website, but they are offering a long list of upcoming workshops where you can make a similar item in-person. Perhaps they’ll make another appearance at next year’s Christmas market so we can try a different animal.