Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thomas and Friends Inspired Cake for Kids by Kids

Have you seen my Cake Decorating for Kids post?  What started as a project for the American Heritage Girls Cake Decorating badge has turned into a family passion and hobby.  This week our oldest son celebrated his 4th birthday, so of course the girls just had to make him a cake.  He requested Diesel 10 and Harold the Helicopter, and that is what he got!  Do you have a child that loves Thomas the Train?  You'll love this fun, easy-to-make Thomas inspired cake!

You'll need:
*Cake mix or recipe (we used Pillsbury Gluten Free Cake Mix)
*9"x13" pan
*Can Chocolate Icing (We used Betty Crocker Thick & Creamy)
*Can White Icing (We used Betty Crocker Thick & Creamy)
*Dark Chocolate Curls
*Mini Chocolate Chips (we used Enjoy Life)
*Flower Sprinkles
*Black Food Gel
*Yellow Food Coloring
*Green Food Coloring
*Pastry or plastic bags
*Star Tip
*Optional: Medium or Large Circular Tip (we cut the corner of a plastic sandwich bag)
*Push Along Herold
*Push Along Diesel

Bake a cake of your choice in a 9" x 11" pan according to the directions on the box (or your recipe).  Allow to cool.

Prepare your icings.
*Scoop out approximately 1/4 of the chocolate icing and add black food gel until you reach your desired color for the train tracks.
*Scoop out an extra large spoonful of white icing and add yellow dye (will be used to outline the helipad).
*Add green food coloring to the remainder of the white icing until you reach the desired color for the green grass on the island of Sodor.

Cover the cake with a thin layer of chocolate icing.  Don't forget to do the sides!

Use the lid to the icing to press a circle into the corner of the cake to make a template for Harold's helipad. Trace the circle with yellow icing.  Fill in the circle with chocolate curls to make a dirt landing pad for Harold.

With a toothpick, gently mark two diagonal lines equal distance apart (slightly wider than Diesel) on the other end of the cake.  Fill in with mini chocolate chips (to be the rock bed of the railway line).  About 1/4 inch in from either side make your straight railway track with your black icing.  Add the cross ties.  Wet a finger and rub it along your railroad to smooth the track and make it shiny.

Use a star tip to add grass to the remainder of the top of the cake.

April showers bring May flowers, even on the island of Sodor!  Be sure to add your flower sprinkles.

Place Harold and Diesel in position.

Follow us on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures and tag us if you make a cake! We'd love to see your child's creations. Check out the Homeschool Tab and American Heritage Tab for more fun learning ideas.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Travel Thursday: Meandering Thru Jacksonport State Park

This past weekend we stumbled upon one of Arkansas State Parks lesser known treasures: Jacksonport State Park.  It's a bit off the beaten path, but rich in history, beauty, and tranquility.

Explore beneath a tall, majestic willow oak tree and dance under a Magnolia tree...

or frolic about the wildflowers.

Take a walk on the beach...

 or search for hidden treasures.

Look for one of the three geocaches hidden in the park...

Or make a nature hunt and map of your own.

Take a bike ride along the country roads...

or meander along Tunstall Trail.

Haven't had enough exercise yet?!?  Head to the playground!

And when you are all worn out, sit and enjoy the peace and quiet...

Along the White River you'll find remnants of the steam boat days.  The first steamboat arrived in Jacksonport 1833 and the town grew around the landing site.  In 1854, Jackson County moved it's seat of justice to Jacksonport.  The Civil War delayed the construction of a courthouse until 1869.  The two story brick and limestone courthouse was completed in 1872, but shortly thereafter the railway built its railroad over the White River a few miles downstream, which boosted Newport's economy and caused Jacksonport's economy to decline.  The county seat of justice was moved to Newport in 1892, and the old courthouse was converted to a public school.  It would be converted several more times to a cotton gin and then a poor house before being vacated and abandoned by the 1950s.  In 1961, the newly formed Jacksonport Historical Society purchased the old courthouse for renovation.  On June 5, 1965 the land was turned over to the Department of Parks and Tourism and became Jacksonport Courthouse State Park. 

Jacksonport State Park offers many programs and events to bring Arkansas' history to life and explore the natural world.  At Foods of our Fathers we munched on wild broadleaf plantain and dandelion while learning about what foods pioneers may have survived on, We strolled along Tunstall River Trail on a Bird Watch, sighting Orioles, Mourning Doves, and Red-Winged Blackbirds.  At Proper Care and Maintenance of the American Flag the children took turns folding the flag and learning the meaning of each fold.

And when each day was done we retired to our campsite for s'mores and smiles as we recounted the day's events.

The campsites are spacious, shaded, and level.  We highly recommend a stay here!  

While you are in Arkansas, be sure to check out Queen Wilhelmina State Park as well!

Canyon Chicken Chili

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Quick Look at Japan - World Heritage Badge

This lesson was designed for a one hour American Heritage Girls lesson on Japan as part of the World Heritage badge, but I have included some additional activities and recipes you can use to create a day or week long Unit Study on Japan.  We had several families that have lived in Japan that were able to share many some of the customs, language, and experiences with us!  One of our leaders was even able to dress up in the traditional Japanese garment, a kimono.

This lesson started at the door, with a quick instruction on Japanese etiquette.  The girls were told to remove their shoes and were taught basic informal and formal greetings.  In Japan greetings have great importance and should include a bow.  The degree of the bow represents respect.  A 15 degree bow is more of an informal bow, while a 45 degree bow signifies deep gratitude, respect, or a formal apology.  Men bow with their hands at their side and woman bow with their hands together on their thighs with their fingers touching.

Some common ways to greet each other:
Ohoy├│ guzaimasu: Good Morning
Konnichiwa: Hi, Good Afternoon
Konbanwa: Good Evening

Here is a video on Japanese greetings;

Japan is an island country off mainland Asia that is about the same size as the state of California and shaped like a seahorse.  The four main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu.

ACTIVITY: On a world map, mark and label the location of Japan. Can you see that it looks like a seahorse?

Japan has four distinct seasons, but does suffer from natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanoes.  Because the country stretches for 3,000 kilometers from north to south, in months like March you could be skiing in northern Japan and sunbathing in southern Japan!  

Spring is the time for new beginnings in Japan and they celebrate Sakura-Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival).  When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom many people like to make special trips to the parks to picnic and sing their favorite songs.  All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts, and More by Willamarie Moore was a favorite resource of mine while planning this heritage study.  In it there is the traditional Cherry Blossoms Song that you can sing as a group.  Make a Cherry Blossom painting using the base of a water bottle or your fingertips.

A haiku is a 17 syllable poem that references the season.  The first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third line has 5 syllables.  Somewhere in your poem you must include a seasonal word, or "kigo".  We wrote our Haiku about Cherry Blossoms and painting our picture below it!

June is considered Tsuyu, the Rainy Season.  Make teru-teru bozu dolls; a traditional doll tissue paper doll hung in the windows by farmers (and also children) to wish the sun to return.  They are quick and easy to make.  You need two pieces of tissue paper and a piece of string.  Simply crumple up one piece of tissue paper in a ball.  Place the ball of tissue paper in the center of your second piece of tissue paper.  Gather and pinch around the ball, tie off with a string or ribbon, and decorate the face if you desire.

Many of the arts we love today originated in Japan, including Origami and Calligraphy.  Shodo means "Way of the Brush" or calligraphy.  One may study shodo for years and years to master it.  Calligraphers need to know how to hold the brush, correctly release the ink, balance the strokes and arrange the character, and be very clear and precise.  Using a book, such as Calligraphy for Kids practice writing the alphabet and/or your Haiku in Calligraphy.  

The Japanese word for Origami is the compounding of two smaller Japanese words: "ori" meaning to fold, and "kami" meaning paper.  It began in the 6th century when Buddhist monks carried paper to Japan.  Because of the high price of paper, the first Japanese origami was used for religious ceremonies only.  We made the origami frog (which symbolizes good luck in Japan) from the book All About Japan and our daughter played the song "Frogs for Good Luck" on the piano.  What can you make out of paper? American Heritage Girls may choose to further explore the art of origami for their Creative Crafts Badge.  

While we were visiting Lake Dardanelle State Park in Russellville, AR, we attended a Fish Prints program.  Fish printing is another Japanese art that was designed as a way for fisherman to have a record of the type and size of fish they caught.  By rolling ink over a fish and then pressing a piece of paper on it, you create a life-size impression of the fish. We used molds of fish and paint instead of ink for our craft, but it was fun and we love our fishy artwork.  For more information read The Fin Art of Science.

Speaking of fish, being that Japan is an island country, fish and seafood are very common main dishes. They also eat a lot of rice.  In fact, it used to be that so much rice was eaten at every meal that "Gohan" means "meal" and "cooked rice" in Japanese.  After saying "Itadakimasu" (which is a way of saying thank you for this food) and learning a few table manners, the girls all tried their hands at using chopsticks to eat sticky rice.

I'd love for you to share your photos with us on Instagram!  Tag #pocketfuloftreasures and follow me @pocketful_of_treasures.