Friday, November 18, 2011

Who needs Twilight?

So, while the rest of the world has been counting down the hours for a chance to see Bella and Edward's vampire/human, werewolf loving baby; at my house we've been waiting for something else... 

Jan Brett is coming to town! 

In her honor we have a little Jan Brett book and activity special! (If you really thought I was going to review some sort of vampire children's book, sorry to disappoint.  This book is great though, and it does have a wolf if that helps.)

Annie and the Wild Animals, by Jan Brett

We all know I can get a little carried away when I am telling you how much I love certain authors, or illustrators, or author/illustrators.  I am going to try not to do that this time...

Jan Brett is one of a kind!  If you haven't read anything by her, do so, now.  (Or, after you finish reading this, but soon, seriously.  Good stuff!)  If you have, then, have you met Annie? 

In the book, Annie's cat Taffy goes missing.  She wants to find a new pet so she leaves corn cakes--really corn muffins-- at the edge of the wood.  Annie attracts anything but the soft cuddly pet she is hoping for.  (It's almost a bigger kid version of another book I recently recommended.)  Just when she runs out of cornmeal, spring arrives and brings her a lovely surprise. 

So, I thought it would be fun to leave some corn muffins outside our house and see what animals we would attract.  The activity?

Corn Muffin Bird Feeders, with homemade birdseed!

You may be guffawing at the homemade birdseed part.  Let me explain. I wanted to do this activity, but I didn't want to have to drag the kids through Walmart just for a bag of birdseed.  So, thank you internet, I searched for 'how to make your own birdseed' and you know what, it's not that bad.  You'll see...

After my friend internet told me all it really takes is some grains, seeds, dried fruit and cornmeal, I got thinking, I'll just go to the cereal cupboard and see whats in the crumbled up bags we aren't going to eat anymore.  I'll tell you what was there, the makings of birdseed. 

I blitzed up some abandoned cereal and a few sad, bottom of the bag pretzels in the blender.  I chopped up some dried blueberries I can't get the kids to eat, and I did by a $0.50 pack of sunflower seeds. All were then arranged in separate bowls for the kids to create their own recipe...

They spooned in whatever they wanted, popped the lid on and shook like crazy.  If you are thinking of skipping this part and buying birdseed.  Don't!  This was the funnest part, especially the shaking.  (And yes, I know funnest is not a word.  Remember, I used the word vocaby last week.)  

If you don't have seal able containers on hand I think a ziploc bag would work fine too, just fold the zipper part down over the sides for easy spooning in.  

In case you're not familiar with the homemade bird feeder-ish concept: You have a vehicle (the corn muffin) you have something tasty for animals (the birdseed) and you have something to get the two together (peanut butter, the e-harmony of bird feeders). 

I wanted to stay authentic to the story so we used left over corn muffins, but we had to dry them out, a lot.  And they broke easily.  I have seen it done with pinecones and stale bagels.  Those both seem much easier.  You could use toast strips, too.  Any stale bread product would work I imagine, old apples would be great, just something to hold the birdseed

After much experimentation we found the best method was to hold the muffin and twist, twist, twist the top in the peanut butter, then do the same in the birdseed. We began by trying to 'shake to coat', but we just ended up with a lot of broken muffins. 

Again, maybe pinecones if you want to stick with the shaking route, the kids do love it.  Oh, paper towels should be on hand for all the peanut buttery fingers. 

Next it was time to poke a hole through the muffin in order to thread it.  (You see why my child's preschool teacher uses bagels.  They already have a giant hole!)  If you use muffins, proceed carefully, remember they break.  Also, this is a good time for a little safety lesson in no pointing the poker toward our hands or face. 

If you are wondering what that red thing is, I intended to use shish kebab skewers since Robyn had such success with them here, but I was out and the only thing I could find in a pinch was the meat thermometer. It worked though.   

Tip for threading: Wrap a piece of masking tape around the end of  the string or ribbon.  This makes a nice straight "needle" so threading will be much more manageable for the preschool crowd.

Finally, it was time to hang them up.  (And you're probably thinking, finally the end of this post. Sorry, I edited, really!  Remember I didn't even swoon over Jan Brett.) 

Wondering why we hung these at all when in the book Annie just places hers at the edge of the wood?  We were hoping to attract more wild animals like birds and deer, rather than the domesticated varieties like dogs. 

Just like Annie, my kids were so excited to check in the morning and see if anything had come to munch.  No, we didn't get a moose through our window like she did.  Thank goodness! 

Happy reading and happy bird feeding! 

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