While the blizzard that dumped 20+ inches on Chicago may have been a royal pain in the neck for some (oh you poor souls trapped on Lake Shore Drive) for me and the boys it has been a complete blast. On Wednesday evening our street looked like it was having a Block Club Party. The kids were running around, even though it was dark outside and the parents were standing around laughing and catching up. Only instead of casually holding cold beers, folks were holding shovels dripping with snow and you could hear the snow blowers in the alley. We've had three school-less snow days, we've dug around in the snow with our neighbors, we've eaten something like 10 home-cooked meals in a row (wait, that might not be totally correct as I don't think dropping dried Ramen noodles into boiling water qualifies as um, home-cooking) and we've stayed up later than we normally would and we've slept in because we could. I'm going to be kind of blue when Monday rolls up and reality hits.
Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Yesterday I actually had the time and all the materials needed to get going on Ben's classroom valentines. If you've read this blog for a while you know that Valentines Day is a Huge Deal at the boys' school and that suits me just fine. I've had a lot of fun coming up with ideas for homemade valentines and the last few years have managed to recycle/repurpose things that would have otherwise been tossed out. And please don't think me Psycho Overachiever Parent Lady for starting them on the 3rd of February -- the teachers actually encourage starting them a few weeks early since the assembly-line nature of making valentines can be a tad slow for pre-schoolers. So yesterday seemed like the perfect day to get started.
Last year I'd seen a post over on The Long Thread about making heart-shaped crayons and told myself I wanted to make them for Ben's classmates. Then last summer a colleague of mine showed up at my desk with a small bucket of old crayons. "I was home this weekend and my mom was going to throw these out, they were mine when I was little. I'm hoping you can do something with them." So hey there Sylvia, wherever you are over in England, I did do something with them . . . well at least some of them.
First, you have to peel the paper off the crayons. Go for the brighter colors and avoid browns and blacks. Just so you know, this step takes longer than you think it is going to. Luckily my bag of crayons had quite a few unpeeled bits already in it and I didn't have anywhere to go.
Then you break up the crayons into thirds, using your hands or a chopper of some kind. Ben helped me chop some of the thicker ones. Be prepared for crayon bits to go flying. Ben and Ricky the cat had a good time chasing these down.
Ben and I put the broken bits into a Silpat pan with heart shapes. I got mine at Michael's for $10 and was miffed that I didn't possess one of those 40% off coupons that I always seem to have in my wallet. Oh well, since the crayons were free, we're looking at about 41 cents per valentine. Works for me.
Then we put the pan in the oven set at 275 degrees. They were in there about ten minutes before all the crayon chunks were melted. When I pulled the pan out I was a little disappointed because it looked like all the colors had just blended into one blah color. But I let them cool off (this happended quickly as I set it on the floor near the back door where we get an icy draft like nobody's business) and hoped the other sides looked better. Or at least different.
When Ben and I popped them out we were delighted to see that "on top" of the crayons all the different colors popped and swirled so nicely. "These are cool, Mom!" Ben hollered. I thought so too.
They fit quite nicely into a 4 year-old's hand and I love how bright they are. Ben picked this one out as his favorite.
I have a bunch of drawstring little muslin bags I got from the thrift shop before Christmas. Maybe I'll have Ben draw his version of a heart, we can photocopy it and then put the valentine in the bag with the crayon. The good news is that thanks to the Blizzard of 2011 we have a almost two weeks to figure the rest out. And now I'm wondering about trying out homemade soap in the heart-shaped pan . . . but I might need another storm to make that happen!