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Posted by Mama Max - - 0 comments

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Posted by Mama Max - - 13 comments

The Big One has just turned 7... where did that time go?!  And like most 7 year olds he has a pretty good idea of what he likes!  After my flat refusal to entertain the idea of a party at a certain Fromage Eating Mouse's Arcade  (a.k.a. Hell on Earth), he came up with the idea of having a Raptor party.  I initially thought he meant dinosaurs, but thanks to the Kratts brothers on PBS kids,  my budding zoologist meant birds of prey!  Apparently (according to the Big One at least)... "one can identify a raptor by three key features:  they have the forward facing eyes of a predator, sharp talons and hooked beaks".  That's me told!
So once I'd figured that out, I was then a little stumped with how to fulfill this wish.  Thankfully, the wonderful Houston Audubon Society came to the rescue in the form of their Outreach program and their marvelous birds.  We were very privileged to have Cairo (a peregrine falcon) and Tskili (a great horned owl) visit us at our home for the Big One's party!  Both are rescue birds that were unable to be returned to the wild and were absolutely enchanting!  Read below for more ideas for this theme...

Birthday Cake

I created a peregrine falcon birthday cake using a dove shaped cake pan (click on the image below to buy one).  I used my vegan chocolate cake recipe as it is very fail safe for this sort of project and one batch filled the cake pan perfectly.  This gave me a basic bird shape without too much effort.  I then carved the beak slightly to make it a bit hooked and removed the olive branch from the dove's mouth.  A thin smear of chocolate buttercream icing and then a layer of white fondant icing and I was given a blank canvas to paint (literally).  Using some extra fondant I shaped some legs with taloned feet.  Then I used Wilton color dust in brown, yellow, white and some Wilton Dab-n-Color in black, mixed with a little clear vanilla essence (although you can use any clear alchohol) to create the palette of colors I needed and I painted the fondant as if with watercolor paints!


Birthday Party Food
The party was held mid-afternoon and so I only provided a small finger buffet of snacks and treats.  With a bird theme for the party, I decided on the following:

The birds nests were simple chocolate rice crispy treats with chocolate mini eggs on top.

I displayed the grapes in a large glass bowl with plastic eggs.

The owl pops I decorated with ears made from mini choc chips stuck to the pop before coating in chocolate, light brown fondant icing for the tummy, a yellow moon shaped cupcake sprinkle for the beak and two white chocolate wafers (buttons) for the eyes.  I wrapped each one individually in a cello bag tied with an owl patterned ribbon from the discount bin at my local craft store!  I displayed these in a Styrofoam disc covered in tissue paper.

Goody Bags
I used plain 'natural' colored, paper goody bags with raffia handles for the goody bags and simply printed out labels with a thank you message and picture of a peregrine falcon to stick on the front.

For Raptor themed goody bag fillers I used:

Party Activities/Games

The presentation of the birds lasted an hour and kept all 12 children (and their parents) perfectly enthralled and entertained!

After that the children had a quick snack and a game of pin the beak on the owl!

I gave out raptor/birds of prey coloring books and dollar store crayon packs to the winners (click on image below)...

And the best bit was seeing the smile on the Big One's face when he got to have his picture taken with Cairo the Peregrine Falcon!

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Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my documenting of the differences between life here in Texas and back home in Blighty.  Interestingly, it's often the small things that take me by surprise and that I consider blog-worthy... I mean, you'd be fairly worried if I hadn't noticed that they drive on the other side of the road after 2 years here!  Take the upcoming St Patrick's Day on March 17th. Éire is the closest neighbouring country to my native United Kingdom, even sharing a border, and yet the St Paddy's Day celebrations here in Texas are bizarrely more widespread than at home!  In the UK, St Patrick's Day is usually only celebrated in the pubs by the ritual downing of copious amounts of Guiness (complete with shamrocks in the foam), wearing of green and general raucousness by the party crowd!  Here in Houston, I've been noticing green shamrocks and wreaths of green tinsel springing up all over town (and there's still 10 days to go!).  This in itself is no great surprise, becauser one thing I have learnt about the Americans since living here, is they love ANY excuse to decorate the front of their houses for a 'holiday'!  People have only just taken down the Valentine's Day hearts, for goodness' sake!!!

So when The Big One came home from school with details of a project to build a Leprechaun trap, I initially thought it was a weird joke.  A little internet research later and I find out this is standard Elementary Grade stuff... this is almost a national pastime by all accounts!  So how the dickens do you catch a Leprechaun?  Well... the traditional option is a simple pitfall trap in the shape of a leprechaun's hat - the Big One and I saw a lot of versions of these online!  But my lovely boy wanted something a bit more secure to stop the tricky blighter from escaping!  This is what we came up with...

Cunningly disguised as a meadow with open sky and a rainbow, this is actually a box trap set with gold as bait for the greedy Leprechaun!  So that the Leprechaun knows which way to go, there's even a helpful sign..."Free Gold This Way".  However, as soon as the Leprechaun tries to take the gold the trap door slides shut and the only way he's getting free is by granting 3 magic wishes!

You will need...
  • A rectangular box 
  • Some extra bits of cardboard
  • A long cardboard tube, for example from a kitchen paper roll
  • Sticky tape and craft glue
  • Paint & materials to decorate as you choose (we used cotton wool, sequins and craft foam)
  • String
  • A stone
  • Gold paint or glitter

First, seal the box closed.  Then using a sharp craft knife and/or scissors cut the trap entrance, trap door slot, and side door.  See the diagram below...

Then, cut two strips of card about twice the height of your box and approximately 4-5 inches wide.  Cut slots in the top of both, then stick them on the sides of the box on either side of the doorway and the slot you cut for the trap door.

Then put the cardboard tube in the two notches you cut to create a bridge.  Using the point of a skewer or sharp scissors, make a hole in the top of the box near the back (opposite end to the archway).

Next, create a trap door.  This needs to be just a little narrower than the slot you cut across the top of the box and about an inch or 2 taller than the box.  Make a small hole in the top of the door panel.  Then cut a small square of card just big enough to sit under your stone.  Attach a length of string to the small square!

To put the trap together, slide the trap door into the slot in the top of the box with the hole at the top.  Then put the small square of card inside the box and feed the string through the hole above it.  Pass the string over the card tube bridge and then tie through the hole in the trap door.  The trap door should be fully 'open' when the small square inside is flat to the base (held in place with your stone 'bait').

To make your stone look like gold to tempt the Leprechaun you can either paint it, wrap it in gold foil or (as we did) paint it with a mix of craft PVA glue and gold glitter!

Finally, you need to create a door over the hole you cut in the side of the box to allow access to the trap.  Another piece of cardboard cut to the right size and hinged in place with sticky tape works well.  We created a 'lock' for the door with an elastic band and a drawing pin.  You then have the basic trap.  To load the trap, simply weigh down the small cardboard square inside with your lump of gold.  This will hold the trap door open until the Leprechaun comes inside and picks up the bait!

It's then just a case of decorating (camouflaging!) the trap.  The Big One decided to create the illusion of an unthreatening open meadow, with blue skies, white fluffy clouds, and the odd raindrop to make a reassuring rainbow for the Leprecahun!  See the photos below for more details of our completed trap!

Most importantly, have fun getting creative!  And happy St Patrick's Day from a slightly bemused Brit Abroad!
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