Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flock Party: Final Fleecing

I will sheepishly admit there is just one more Shaun the Sheep item to write about.

Before the party, I spent some time with the kids. No cable TV. No Wii. Just the three of us and a big quiet lake. It was a wonderful long weekend. It was a great opportunity to show the kids some of the things I grew up with. One of the things I shared with them was my Mom's shape board. Mom made us felt boards and many shapes to move around and just be creative. We did have some Colorform kits but mom's was best. I gave each of the kids a full size sheet of felt. They both asked many questions to figure out what I was doing. Then I started to cut out shapes. Squares, triangles, circles, trapezoids, hexagons, and any others I could using my single quilting guide and things left in the kitchen cabinets. They thought it was great. They made all sorts of pictures from the shapes.

They were happy and entertained and I was getting bored. I did not want to just keep cutting shapes. I wanted to make something too. I pulled out a copy of Shaun the Sheep and started to cut free hand a sheep's head, then a set of ears and eyes out of a piece of glittery black felt. The scraps were trimmed up and added to the kids shapes. I arranged the sheep parts on a piece of white felt. By then I had the kids' attention again. After saying, I was thinking of making a pillow. I was told I needed to make two. I cut out a second set and they were packed up to be brought home with us. A month later after the party they were finally stitched together and stuffed.They are being loved to death. I might need to make another pair out of a more durable fabric.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Flock Party: Take Homes

Shaun the Sheep website has a lot of coloring pages and other activities. I took advantage of these wonderful items for the kids to take home and hopefully fall in love with Shaun and the flock as much as my kids have. Each birthday bag had print outs of the coloring pages and directions on how to make a bobble Shaun from recycled yogurt cups and a Shaun note holder. The goodie bags also had a small stuffed sheep for them to play with. The kids also had their flying disc creations to take home.

I had printed out mask from the site for the kids to make at the party but we didn’t use them this time. I’m holding onto the print outs for the next flock gathering.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flock Party: Carnival Toss

Shaun the Sheep has an episode where the flock goes to a carnival. In the episode Shaun is left behind to cover for the missing sheep while Blitzer tries to find and bring back the flock. While at the carnival the sheep play the bottle game – throw a ball to knock down the bottles. I decided we could have our own version of this game. If you want the show the field has the farmer’s junk pile which the sheep managed to salvage things to make whatever Shaun dreams up. So for our version of the game we saved some of our own junk. I saved several cat litter containers (14 pound size). I had purchased bean bag for a different game.

We stacked the containers in pyramids of three on top of picnic tables and gave each child several bean bags. They took turns trying to knock down the stacks. A brave parent volunteered to fetch bean bags and re stack one of the pyramids and we tried to keep up with the overly enthusiastic kids. They loved the game!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flock Party: Sleeping Bag Races

Shaun the Sheep has a camping episode. In the episode one of the sheep crawls into a sleeping bag to check it out and gets stuck. For awhile she jumps around before her back legs tear through so she can walk again. This was my inspiration for our Sheepish Sleeping Bag Races – sack races.

Sack races can be done with old feed bags or store bought bags made just for them. I found sacks for sack races at Oriental Trading Co. They had several kinds but I decided to get the 6 smaller kids sacks with handles and ‘racing’ numbers.

The day of the party had light rain right up to when the party started. I was concerned about doing sack races on the potentially slippery grass. Luckily the volley ball game ended well before we were ready to do sack races. The sand provided a fantastic surface for hopping kids. It dried more quickly then the grass and made for a softer landing as they scurried (or flopped) from one end to the other.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Flock Party: Frisbee

Shaun the Sheep can be seen playing catch with Blitzer (the dog). The two playing Frisbee is the opening scene for Blitzer’s love story.

I found design your own flying disc at Oriental Trading Co. When I was shopping for the party they were priced $13/24 but if you bought 3 or more the price went down to $8. At those prices I ordered 3 pack. That’s 6 dozen flying disc. I experimented with a poster paint marker which was suppose to work on plastic and Sharpie permanent markers. The markers worked better. They do smear a little and can rub off but it was far better then the paint option. If you scuff up the plastic it will adhere better, but who wants to scuff up 72 flying disc. I purchased 3 colorful packages of thick and thin tipped markers and tossed in the markers we used for the cup coloring. We handed out flying disc to all of the kids and encouraged the parents to do one for themselves too. The art work was amazing. All of the kids young and old seemed to really enjoy the activity. Some finished quickly and took their disc for test flights. Others used them to dig in the nearby volley ball court. They were having such a good time I didn’t interrupt .

The samples shown were done by my little ones and their big sister.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flock Party: Flocking The Hall

Shaun the Sheep has a full flock to watch over. The flock was going to be turned into decorations for the party. I made the mum, baby Timmy and an anonymous sheep.

The white corrugated plastic I salvaged was perfect for making sheep. I pealed off the film with the conference information to get a clean white surface. If I planned carefully I could get a one sheep out of each poster board. The head I cut free hand and colored with Sharpie permanent markers. I drew random lines, squiggles, and spirals in black and gray crayon and markers to add depth to their wool. The head is attached to the front body piece with sticky Velcro squares. I used a metal kabob skewer to punch small holes on either side of where their ‘necks’ are so I could loop twine through and tie them to the shelter’s post or a near by tree.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flock Party: Shirley Toss

If you have seen Shaun the Sheep you know you are not likely going to be tossing Shirley. She’s just too big. BUT you can toss things into her wool. In several episodes things get thrown or fall into Shirley’s wool and in the ‘goat’ episode the goat and Shaun go right trough her. These were the inspiration for the Shirley’s Toss.

I made a small model out of paper to and started to think about how I could make it work. I initially thought of using cardboard but beanbags would destroy cardboard. I decided pingpong balls would be an option.I was still trying to decide between recycling cardboard boxes or cut the shapes out of wood. I came across some white corrugated plastic and decided it would be more earth friendly and easier for me to manage.

I salvaged white corrugated plastic which was used for conference signs. I pealed off the film with the conference information to get a clean white surface. I used 3 sheet s: the head, front & back.I found that kitchen scissors worked fairly well. The head I cut free hand and colored with Sharpie permanent markers. I cut the front and back separately and free hand trying to get the fluffy curvy look of a sheep. I used a glass as a patter to cut circles in the front pieces. I used a small bowl to cut one in the center of the front and the back pieces (straight through). The head is attached to the front body piece with sticky Velcro squares. I used a metal kabob skewer to punch small holes to attached the front and back pieces. The top edge is attached with 1 inch ring binder rings which act as a hinge. On the sides there is a place for twine to keep it from opening up too wide. Shirley looked a little 'flat' so I used black and gray crayons and markers to draw random swirls and squiggles to look like curly wool. I found neon pingpong (table tennis) balls at Oriental Trading Co.

The game is adorable but the day of our party was too windy to actually play it. I’m tucking it away to bring out at the next party.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flock Party: Shirley’s Wool

In Shaun the Sheep’s flock there is one very large sheep called Shirley. She is so big she is often pushed from place to place. She has been used as a trampoline and the bottom of sheep pyrimids. Her wool is like a magnet for stuff. It is amazing the things they find when they go searching in her wool. Shirley’s Wool inspired several kids’ games for our Flock Party.

I purchased a bag of Poly-fill stuffing from the local craft store and a bag of 50 assorted small party favors from Oriental Trading Co. I used my Excess Baggage Tote by Baggallini to hold my “wool”. Any bucket or bag which won’t easily tear will do. I used about 1/3 of the Poly-fill stuffing. You could also use real wool or cotton, scraps of yarn, or even fabric in place of the stuffing. If you use wool you may want to make sure none of the participants have a wool allergy. I pulled small pieces of the stuffing apart and stretched it before putting it into the bag. Then I added the bag of party favors. Mixing the stuffing and toys together stretched the stuffing out more and tangled the toys so they all didn’t just sit on the bottom of the bag.

As the party wrapped down I pulled out the bag of Shirley's Wool and let the kids reach in to pull out a toy. They were told not to peek but there was definite peeking and even some toy trading, but that was okay. They had lots of fun trying to find what was hidden in the ‘wool’.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flock Party: It's in the Can

My family spent many summer vacations at the National Seashore. One of the signs we saw at many of the historical sites, parks and beaches said "Leave only footprints and take only pictures". As a kid I loved the idea of leaving no trace so no one could tell if you were there. The idea to tread light and to leave place as nice or nicer then the way you find it is just the right thing to do.

This idea was the reason for taking trash bags to the park for the party. It is so gross and inconsiderate to leave overflowing trash cans at a park. I knew out pizza boxes alone would overwhelm the one trash can in out reserved shelter. By having bags with us we were able to bag up all of the pizza boxes and leave the can for all of the messy little things.

The park didn't have containers for recycling so we brought our own. I picked up two Bungalow Trash Caches (collapsible trash bin). These are very sturdy containers which go "from flat to all that", really. It has snaps to hold the trash bag in place, washable and reuse able. At nearly $40 at the Container Store these are definitely an investment for this party and future gatherings. I had hoped to use one for recycling (paper, plastic, and glass) and one for compost. After some farther thinking I decided against collecting compost. The vegan chili is fully compostable as is the breads, but... I don't compost bread out of concerns of attracting rats, opossums, or other nasties. The neighbors have accepted the compost bin but I have been trying hard to keep it "neighborly" even in our hot muggy summers. I also had purchased regular paper plates and bowls. Both had a thin plastic coating. Not the best for compost. After this batch is used up I'll be looking for reasonably priced compostable bowls, plates, and cups. The bins worked very well for collecting our recyclables. They were sturdy enough to hold up to the windy damp day and to carry everything back home for our weekly pick up.

I like having things which are multi functional. I was able to re-purpose one of the trash caches. It is sturdy enough to hold our yoga mats and small rugs. The remaining one fits in the center and could be used as a divider if I find we need his and her sides.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flock Party: Drinks

During the planning of our Flock Party we had to decide if we wanted individual cans and bottles for drinks or large 2 liter bottles and cups. We decided there would be less waste if we went with cups. We chose caffeine free child and adult friendly drinks such as 7Up, Orange Crush, root beer, and lemon aid. We also had 2 gallon containers of water available too.

Then there were the cups. We have several friends who make sure there are markers next to the stack of cups so everyone can write their name on their cups. Since this was a kids party I wanted to make the same idea a bit more kid friendly. Many of our younger guest can't write their names, yet. I purchased paper cups and Sharpie markers. Then I did a bit of recycling. I get tons of mailing labels each year with beautiful pictures in the margins. I never use most of the labels I get. I have been neatly cutting off the beautiful designs and using them for kid reward stickers and for craft projects. I had a small stack nearly 2 inches high. The kids and some of the adults seemed to have a great time decorating their cups with their own artwork or/and the stickers.

By the time they were done decorating their cups pizza arrived. Those who had run off to the play ground were able to pick theirs out from the others for their lunch time drinks. We weren't able to reuse the cups for the latter cupcake break because the wind was blowing them around too much. We needed fresh cups. In spite of the craft project not reducing the number of cups we used I definitely would do it again. The guest had fun and if the wind had cooperated we would have saved a tree.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Flock Party: Cake

Since our Flock Party was also the celebration of 2 birthdays we needed to have cake. I decided that cupcakes might be a bit more work to bake but much easier to serve at the park. I let each of the kids pick a cake mix. They chose strawberry and white confetti mixes. I decided we needed to have chocolate too. Each mix made 24 cupcakes. My Sistema 5 litter Clip-it containers held 24 cupcakes with some room to spare.

I was contemplating how I was going to get 6 dozen frosted cupcakes to the park without making a mess. I had an inspiration from another party. The weekend before we were at a party where one of the crafts was decorating your own cake. This super mom baked a small cake for each of the kids to decorate. The boys had cars and the girls had cakes with doll bodies to decorate. She mixed different color frostings. She put out bowls and made bags of each color for the kids to frost their cakes. Then there were various bowls of cake decorating sprinkles and candies. Each of the kids got to take their creations home with them. Then she baked a birthday cake for the party.

I would let everyone decorate their own cupcakes. Everyone was able to choose the flavor cupcake they wanted and then was able to put as much or little frosting as they wanted. The kids cheered and some of the parents looked horrified and dove in to help supervise. I purchased several cans of cupcake frosting and used the tubes of cake decorating gel I already had. Add in a few large sprinkles and oh what edible messes did they make. KISS: To keep things simple we only put one tip on each can of frosting and passed out the cans. The kids never knew there were options of different tips and didn't miss them.


I did mention that I had a few guest who could not eat gluten. I made a batch of Gluten Free Pantry Spice Cake cupcakes. I ran the oven for 15 minutes at 500 degrees after baking all of the other cupcakes to burn off any stray gluten. Then I baked the cupcakes in new disposable aluminum cupcake trays. I'll reuse the trays. I washed them and wrapped them in a plastic bag to keep them separate from the others. I'm not this sensitive to wheat but some others are. These guest were given the opportunity to ice their cupcakes before the others so the tips of the can wouldn't be exposed to the wheat cupcakes before hand.

The gluten-free cupcakes were definately appreciated. None of them made it back to my home. It is a good thing I had stashed a few in the frig before heading to the park.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Flock Party: Lunch

Our Flock Party menu was determined by convince, allergies and... What do sheep like?

I chose the menu keeping in mind I was inviting young children, vegetarians, several people with food restrictions and others who might have religious food restrictions too. I wanted to avoid all nut products and wanted to have choices which did not contain gluten. I decided to stick with a vegetarian menu. Some of the items would include eggs or dairy but there would be alternatives in case any one had problems with those items.

According to Shaun the Sheep (, sheep love pizza and apples. In one episode of Shaun the Sheep the flock watch the farm get pizza delivered to the farm and decide to get their own. The episode is about how they get to town to bring pizza back to the farm for the flock. We decided that ordering cheese pizza would be a nice covenant food to feed our flock. We called ahead to make sure the local pizza shops would deliver to the park.

But for those who have wheat, gluten or dairy allergies or intolerances pizza just wouldn't do. So to supplement the cheese pizza I made a homemade vegan chili. (KISS Vegan Chili recipe below.) I had a chafing dish to keep the chili warm but the wind was blowing enough there was no chance to keep the Sterno can lit. I kept half of the chili warm in a recycled Styrofoam cooler in the van and one tucked in a bucket surrounded by party favors. Since lunch was one of the first things we did the chili was still plenty warm for the guest.

In another episode the flock take on the naughty pigs to have fresh crisp juicy apples. Another healthy simple food to serve. We purchased 3 varieties of apples to serve. Our guest didn't have to take on naughty pigs but were able to choose between gala, Macintosh, and red delicious apples.

KISS Vegan Chili
(Keep it simple :)

2 - 16oz cans of each (drained & rinsed)
Pink kidney beans
Dark kidney beans
Garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 -16oz black beans (drained & rinsed)
2- 28oz crushed tomatoes
1 tsp ground cunim seed
2 tbl ground red pepper (or/& crushed red pepper seeds or chopped jalapeƱo peppers to taste)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp black ground pepper
1 med sweet onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 tsp garlic
1 tbl sugar

Place all ingredients in a large pot or slow cooker. Choose a cooking time: 1) Low flame or setting for 12 hours. 2) Med for 6 hours. 3) Boil for 20 min then simmer for 30 min

She did WHAT? (Explanations):

I used canned corn to avoid wheat but frozen can be used. Some frozen foods spray the inside of the plastic bags with a plant based product which has traces of wheat/gluten. This stuff keeps the contents from sticking to the bag, but it can make some people very sick.

I used canned beans for convenience but an equal amount of soaked dry beans can be used.

Adjust spices according to how fresh or how "strong" they are. Herbs and spices dry out with age and can loose their potency. You may also adjust according to you taste. If I have guest I often make it on the milder side and serve hot pepper slices or hot sauce on the side. Guest can always add "heat". If it is too hot it may be a problem for some.

Cumin seed is often uses in bean recipes. It is added because it has natural anti-gas properties.

I add a little sugar to many of my recipes which use tomatoes. Tomatoes can be sweet or a bit on the acidic side. A little sugar can bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes and be a nice contrast to the hot spices. If your tomatoes are already sweet leave the sugar out. If they are very acidic add a little more sugar.

All of these ingredients can be eaten as is. Cooking is more for the blending of flavors. Like most stews they always seem to taste better when they cook longer.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flock Party

Life has been a bit crazy. It's time to get back to the keyboard. :)

I've been planning a Flock Party for the past few months. What is a Flock Party? Glad you asked. It is a party for friends and family. It is a play on a block party. Ours was to celebrate family, friends and 2 little ones making it to their next birthday. Luckily the birthday kids didn't mind sharing the day. They know and play with each other friends. It also made it a bit easier to invite the the whole family. So the party invites went to family, the kids friends and their immediate family.

Several of the guest were allergic our cats and our home is small so I needed an alternate party place. After a bit of research I chose a wonderful county park with restrooms (flush toilets), picnic shelter, and a nice location. Since small children were attending having flush toilets and places for hand washing were an essential. I hoped we wouldn't need the shelter but since it was rain or shine I wanted to be prepared. It rained over night and through setting up so it worked out for the best. We had dry tables. No I won't reveal the name of the park, but I will tell you a bit of research and planing can make a big difference.

Our Flock Party also had a bit of a sheepish theme. We love Shaun the Sheep ( Many of the things we did were inspired by episodes of the show. Over the next few days I'll share some of the recipes, crafts, and activities we did at our Flock Party.