Sunday, February 28, 2010

How to Make Cascarones Tutorial

I am on a mission. A mission to spread the word about the fun of cascarones--painted eggshells filled with confetti. Cracked over the heads of unsuspecting friends, the result is giggles, laughter, chuckles, and tee-hees--a guaranteed smile. My mission started with the opening of my Etsy shop, Gracie's Eggies, named for my granddaughter, Grace, who has been a cascarones aficionado since the age of 18 months. There are not enough cascarones in the world for her!

In South Texas, especially San Antonio, cascarones are a big thing--really big. In the spring, you can buy cascarones on just about every corner--literally. Families make the eggies-o-fun and sell them from their front yards. The grocery stores sell them at the check out. The city streets are lined with cascaones vendors at Fiesta events. On Easter Sunday, the largest city park is covered with a blanket of confetti from the families who celebrate the season with the cascarones tradition.

Cascarones are catching on for favors at birthday parties, baby showers and weddings. Wedding cascarones are often filled with birdseed and used to shower the newlyweds when they leave for their honeymoon. With a little imagination, they can be painted to bring merriment to any occassion.

Although I want everyone to visit my shop and buy dozens of my handmade cascarones, I wouldn't be a very good missionary of confetti fun if I didn't share the cascraones secret with the masses. So, here is your complete guide to making cascarones so you can be the "Rey or Reina" (King or Queen) of Confetti Levity at your next celebration.

Before I launch into the tutorial, I must ask that readers heed this warning: no matter how many cascarones you buy or make, you will wish you had more! They are infectious. So make plenty.

Materials needed:
food coloring, paint, Easter egg dying kit
tissue used for gift bags

Make sure and read the "TIPS" following the step-by step instructions.

1. Prepare the eggs by creating a hole at the fat end of the egg. To do this, hold the egg, fat end up, firmly in the palm of one hand. Tap the egg with the blade of a knife, making a break in the egg about one inch long. Tap the egg again, perpendicular to the first crack. This will make an "X" in the top of the egg.

2. "Pick" a hole with your fingers where you have made the starter cracks. The hole should be about one inch in diameter. The holes don't have to be perfect--they will later be covered with a round piece of tissue. Empty the eggs into a bowl for future use (see TIPS for ways to use your eggs). Wash the shells and place them hole side down on a dishtowel to drain until dry.

3. Color the shells with paint or by dyeing as you would Easter eggs (see TIPS for drying your painted eggs). Be creative! Decorate your shells with stickers, paint, and other embellishments (see TIPS for making perfect polka dots on your cascarones).

4. After the shells are dry, fill them with confetti (see TIPS for hints to buying and making confetti). Kids love this part. My granddaughters helped me make an order of eggies this weekend.

Gracie chose the "shower" method of filling the shells.

Summer, my littlest granddaughter, preferred stuffing the shells to the brink and patting them down to make room for even more confetti.

5. Cover the hole with tissue paper (see TIPS for tissue paper). Squeeze a small amount of crafter's glue on the rim of the hole you made in the shell (see TIPS for glue suggestions). Place a round of tissue paper over the hole and gently smooth the tissue until the hole is completely closed.

Making cascarones is only half the fun. Now go out and shower your world with confetti (see TIPS for instructions for cracking eggs over heads)!


TIP: Eggshells will probably get into the eggs you have emptied into the bowl. The shells settle to the bottom. If you are going to use the eggs right away, pour the eggs into another bowl, and the shells will remain at the bottom of the original bowl. I learned this tip from Ace of Cakes!

TIP: What are you going to do with all of those eggs? Look at my archived posts for recipe suggestions. I also recommend for many other recipes. You can also freeze eggs to use in cake and cookie recipes.

TIP: I paint my eggs and place them on bamboo skewers, then poke the skewers into the ground until the eggs are dry. When I have dozens in the ground, it kind of looks like a stand of tulips! I do this in my front yard and curious passers-by stop and chat. I tell them I am the Easter Bunny's assistant. They probably walk away calling me the crazy egg lady!

TIP: Do you like my polka dot style of cascarones? Here is my secret for the perfect dot: Dip the eraser-end of a pencil into craft paint and kiss the shell with the eraser. Perfectly round polka dots!

TIP: Where do get confetti? In Texas, you can buy bags of confetti in the party goods aisle at the grocery store for $1 per bag. A bag will fill 7-10 dozen eggs. Hobby Lobby also sells bags of confetti during Easter season. You can also go to your local printer and ask them to save the circles produced when they drill holes in projects. Another idea is to shred colored paper in a home paper shredder and cut the strips into little squares. You can also buy small bags of specialty confetti (like baby bottles, hats, bunnies, etc.) and add to the paper confetti for a special touch.

TIP: Don't obsess over clean up. The confetti vacuums up easily. If outdoors, the confetti will soon be absorbed into the landscape and causes no harm to the environment. Months later, you will find bits of confetti under the couch cushions, under a chair, or in a corner of a room and recall the delight of the confetti celebration.

TIP: I use the most inexpensive crafter's glue to adhere the tissue paper to the egg. I have successfully used glued sticks, but found crafter's glue more efficient (although more messy). If you use a glue stick, the "disappearing" kind is too thick and doesn't work very well.

TIP: Everyone is using gift bags these days, Save the tissue in the bags to make the tissue circles for cascarones. Smooth the tissue, then accordian fold the tissue. Each pleat should be about three inches wide. Cut circles large enough to cover the holes from the pleated tissue. This method means you can cut about 5-10 circles at a time. Your tissue doesn't have to match the color of your egg. Anything that looks pretty will be fine.

TIP: This is the most important tip. In Texas, kids love to "smash" the eggs directly on the heads. No tears are shed and there are no hard feelings, because everyone knows what they are. Kids who are unfamiliar with the tradition might be shocked and dismayed by being hit on the head. This is how to create a no-tears confetti shower: Hold the egg in one hand about 6 inches over the head of recipient. Crush the egg in the palm of your hand and sprinkle the contents over the head. An alternative to this is to "clap" the cascaron between your hands over the head and then let the confetti rain down.

To the right, I have featured a number of Etsy vendors who have beautiful spring- and Easter-theme products. Please visit their shops for more Easter fun.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


On Saturday mornings, I drive about twenty miles to an egg farm to buy the emptied and cleaned eggshells I use to make cascarones (confetti eggs). There are a few small mobile homes and trailers on the property; I suppose some of the workers live in them.

This past week, there was a truck and trailer with a carnival ride loaded on it. It is rodeo time in San Antonio, and the rodeo is a huge two-week event that includes an impressive carnival. Shortly after the rodeo closes, there is Fiesta, another two-week event where the carnival is a big draw. So the "carnies" usually set up their temporary homes for a stretch in the south Texas sun.

Seeing the carnival truck reminded me of the home my late husband and I lived in when we were first married. It was a 35-foot travel trailer and quite cozy. We lived in a small and well-kept trailer park. Some of our neighbors were just passing though--snowbirds (people from the north who come to Texas just for the winter); some were young people like us who could only afford to live in a travel trailer; some were the carnies. The carnies had interesting names--none were Bob, or John, or Bill. One in particular, was called Crispy. I always wondered how the he got his moniker.

My daughter was born when we lived there. She had a tiny cradle that fit snugly in a nook between the "living room" and kitchen. Our first Christmas tree was only about two feet tall. I decorated it with white lights and tucked sprigs of baby's breath in the boughs. The tree lights cast a beautiful glow throughout the house that reminded me of what I imagined snowy nights might be like. I remember too, that while we lived in that tiny trailer, San Antonio had a record-breaking snowfall, 13 inches in 1985. It was amazing. And we stayed warm in our little travel-trailer corner of the world.

And it was a marvelous thing to be able to take your house, possessions and all, to a car wash for spring cleaning!

Living in or having a business in travel trailers seems to be quite the trend here in Austin. There are "mini-malls" of sorts, made up of groups of travel trailers outfitted to sell food--some quite elaborate, and some selling pretty high-end food. The mini-malls are really pretty festive and carnival-like.

That trailer is gone, but it is nice remembering it. It was a much simpler time. It is also nice to remember the good times my husband and I had there. I miss them both.

Here three pics I snapped of the carnie truck. I like the colors. I like seeing the ride deconstructed and pondering what the ride is (which i could not ever figure out!). I think it is funny that a carnival would impose a "no open-toed shoe" rule at a carnival where probably half of the patrons are probably wearing flip-flops!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For the Love of Junk

I think is my age, but there are so many things I do these days that I relate to things I did or happened to me when I was a kid (see my mushroom soup story). Well, here is another one.

I was born in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, a small town in the western part of the state. Proclaimed an "All American" town (evidenced by the license plate frames on citizen's cars), Clearfield is tucked away in the Appalachia hills along the shore of the Susquehana River. My father was in the Air Force and we moved from Clearfield when I was just a toddler. Most summers, my father would take his annual leave and my mother would load up me and my three older siblings in the green and white Dodge (that had huge fins and a nifty speedometer that looked a bit like a thermometer with a red line that increased in size the faster you went). On the way,my mom would pacify us with Lifesavers and teaberry gum. She packed an old metal cooler with sandwiches that we would eat at roadside picnic tables. No DVD systems in the car or Mickie D's for fast food back then. Just four kids in the back seat for two and a half days.

We would stay at my grandma's farmhouse. It was there I saw my first wild turkey, my first deer herd, my first groundhog. And, it was when I first went "junking" with my mother. My siblings were self-sustaining. I, on the other hand, was the baby, and had to go with my mother. Junking was not my idea of fun. I dreaded being dragged from store to store by my mom. But she loved it. The stores we went to were by no means antique stores. They were junk stores, full of the promise of buried treasure. My mom was thrilled when she found her treasure buried deep under a heap of other junk.

I no longer dread going to  junk stores.  Like my mom, I am now the one who is thrilled to  find the treasures hidden behind the junk stores' doors-the junk that is buried under the nice stuff, the junk that costs a dollar or so.

On a recent weekend, I visited an antique mall in Austin, Texas. Many of the "shops" in the mall were staged to look like little stores. But there was that was a dream come true. There were just shelves of baskets full of vintage lace and trim, wooden thread spools, a few old doll trunks, hats, shoes, scarves, music sheets, this and that. It was a place my mom would have loved. I diligently worked until I found my treasure and headed home.

Here is a photo of some of the treasures I picked up.

I have recently been reading several Stampington publications, including Somerset Life and GreenCraft. One issue featured an article on Victorian-style gift cones. They were beautiful-a little bit frilly and girly, a little bit tacky, a little bit rustic, and easy to make. I thought I would give a whirl.

I bought a paper pad of vintage-style double-sided card stock (on sale at Michael's!), and scoured my stash of this and that, including my recent finds from the antique mall. I came across several cards of vintage lace that I picked up at an antique store in my hometown in Pennsylvania. I found an old hat and some old postcards I bought in Canadaigua, New York. I found buttons, ribbons, reproductions of old skeleton keys, twine, raffia, pom poms, old wire, copper-colored pipe cleaners, glitter, and some really pretty embossed bird and butterfly dies cuts from Germany that I bought some time ago on Etsy.

So I set about to make a cone. I simply shaped the 12 X 12 piece of card stock into a cone shape. Once I found the right shape, I fashioned that into my pattern. I found double-sided tape to be the best way to close the cone. Once I had my cone, I decorated it with items from my stash. The more I embellished the cone, the more beautiful it became. The Victorians were known for their ornate style, so I think I was in keeping with their standards.

There is an old saying, "What goes around, comes around." Remember the junk stores in Clearfield and Canadaigua? Well, I drug my 21-year-old son with me to those stores while on our road trip from Texas to Rochester, New York, where he goes to school. He was very patient with me as I scoured the stores to find my loot. He doesn't know it yet, but one day I am sure he will make the love of junk come around again!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Safe and Warm

“To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.”
Laurie Colwin

I have very vivid memories of being in my sixth grade elementary school class on stormy days and feeling very safe and protected and warm. That feeling washed over me today. The temperature didn't climb out of the forties, and it rained all day. A bit under the weather with a sore throat, I cam home from work, slipped into some flannel jammies , and immediately felt safe and warm. My throat even felt a little better.

I hadn't been to the grocery store this week, so I was looking at slim pickings in the fridge. I did have mushrooms, cream, chicken broth, butter, part of an onion...ahhh...mushroom soup! Perfect.

So, here is my recipe for super-easy mushroom soup. These are approximate measurements. You can adjust the recipe to your taste (if you don't like onion or garlic, the soup will be just as good without them!).

3 tablespoon butter
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 package of baby bella (button) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of chicken broth
1 pint of cream or milk
salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in heavy pan
2. Brown onion and garlic in saucepan
3. Add coarsely chopped mushrooms
4. Continue cooking until mushrooms are soft and tender.
5. Remove about 1/4 cup of the mushroom and set aside.
6. Sprinkle flour over onion/garlic/mushrooms
7. Add chicken broth, then cream or milk

Stir until soup thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pan. If you don't have an immersion blender, put it in a food processor or blender, being careful that the soup does not spray out of the container. Or if you like your mushroom chunky, this step can be skipped.

Pour soup into bowls (this will make about 4 servings), and garnish with mushrooms that were set aside earlier.

Not to brag, but I do make some fabulous soups. They are what you may call "rustic" soups, but I feel very creative and satisfied when I make them. Over the next few weeks, I will share my recipes. So from me to you...warm feelings and happy soups to you!