• Tabitha Frazer Blanks

Lockdown Birthday and a Making a Donut Piñata

When you just need something to bash


Little Em was turning 11 in April and we needed to make a big fuss. We had planned sometime last year to go to Thorpe Park to celebrate, and then Lockdown happened, and the crushing reality enveloped her that she wouldn't get to 'do' anything for her birthday. It was decided instead that she would come to stay at the 'hotel' at home. She wanted to check-in, be shown to her room, come down to the dining room for breakfast, have a spa, an afternoon tea and then dinner in the restaurant in the evening.


It was a very sweet idea. We sent the kids out for a long walk with the dog while we got the house ready. We made some menu cards for the restaurant and various signs throughout the house saying 'private' and 'bathroom'. We stuck numbers on the rooms upstairs and made a tiny reception area. Mr B and I dressed up in work clothes to look like a waiter and reception staff.


We also bought a balloon arch which was very easy to do but took around 2-3hours to set up - so just give yourself some time for this if you fancy it. In the kit comes a long plastic tape with holes in, loads and loads of balloons and some super-sticky glue dots.



It's very effective as a showstopper and hopefully added to the sense of occasion. We'd only moved into the house a few weeks previous to this so everything was still a bit of a pickle with bits piled up in places waiting for a place to be found. All those pictures had been put up just to stop us from catching ourselves on the hundreds of nails that stick out from the walls and to stop them from being kicked on the floor. I know I shouldn't, but I feel the need to explain - the decor is not from choice!


We just shoved as much as we could in the spare room and tried to make it as hotelly as possible. Breakfast was great - we put on a Zoom chat and Em opened her presents in front of the family. After a lazy morning, we moved into the garden for afternoon games, drinks and nibbles.


Making a Donut Piñata

I looked at buying a piñata but realised I probably had most of the bits lying around at home to make one and as we were in the early-ish days of lockdown I was tapping into the make-do-and-mend mentality. After all, I thought, if humanity is going to go forward with the New World Order, then it's time to embrace cutting down on consumerism and work with what we have.

I genuinely thought this would be a Pinterest fail but it actually worked out! It was time-consuming though, but since this was during lockdown, not really an issue.



Materials

  • brown cardboard

  • craft knife

  • pencil

  • string and pin or discs to draw around (plates, bowls etc)

  • ruler

  • newspaper

  • plain flour

  • coloured tissue paper

  • sticky tape (I used masking tape)

  • pva glue

  • glue brush

  • scissors


To begin with, you need to draw the donut shape. This can be done by tracing around a dinner plate with a smaller disc inside or using a string, pin and pencil to create a compass. I used this technique but it wasn't great as my two discs ended up being slightly different sizes. In the long run, this wasn't a problem, but it may be better just to stick to tracing around a template.



Building a Frame


The piñata needs a frame of course! So the next stage is to create some noggins or struts. These need to be the same length between the tabs with the tabs on either end big enough to tape down. I made 10 of these: six on the outside ring and four on the inside.



As you can see, it's a little wonky here because the rings are slightly different sizes. But it's ok. Remember it's going to be bashed in, it's not for life and as long as it does the job, everything is forgivable.


Covering the Beast


I cut the newspaper into long strips about 3cm wide as I needed them to bridge across from one cardboard side to the other to create a wrap.


Next, I mixed up a paste of flour and water with a little salt too. Apparently, the salt helps the mix from growing mould as it dries. It was fairly thick as I didn't want the newspaper to get soggy and collapse as it laid across the gap. This stage is fairly messy and takes a bit of patience as the newspaper is fragile when laid down with pasty glue. I settled down with my favourite podcast Redhanded, and got to work layering the paper.


I went all the way around layering the strips right across from front to back, on the inside and out, leaving a gap on the inside ring in which to place the goodies. This took a couple of sessions as it's impossible to glue a round object in one go, without getting glue and paste everywhere. Basically, do one half of the donut one day, wait for it to dry, then complete the other half later on.



Once the mainframe is covered, it needs reinforcing; a couple of thin strips of paper, a piñata does not make. I made a thinner recipe flour and water mix, then tore pieces off the newspaper strips I'd previously cut up to layer up all over the shell. This was done in a slap it on any-which-way approach and soon the beast was taking shape.


Decorating the Piñata


I had lots of coloured tissue paper kicking around from various wrapping presents and found some gold and pink paper - perfect for the piñata. I think ideally, crepe paper is supposed to be used but this is lockdown and I was make-doing-and-mending so this seemed to be perfectly suitable.


I drew a wavy line along the side of the piñata to give the impression of icing. The gold paper was going to be the donut and the pink, the icing on the top.


Cut the coloured tissue into long strips about 4-5cm wide. Then cut the strips into fringes all the way along. Use these fringes to decorate the piñata with a thin application of pva glue. I used two sheets of gold paper and two sheets of pink to give you an idea of how much paper to use. I then found some patterned paper and cut out some 'sprinkles' and stuck them on top as a topping.


I used the scissors to cut the curve shape to the outline as I went around layering the paper. This took about an hour or two to complete.



It's Piñata Time!


We strung it up to the washing line using a ribbon run through the tabs of one of the struts. I was a little apprehensive that the papier-mâché wouldn't be strong enough to sustain two excited children's heavy-handed bashing. But it was good. It lasted just the right side of tough and there was much joy as the goods spilled out on the floor. Mission accomplished!




• by Tabitha Frazer Blanks •

An expert on being right most of the time, arguinging the toss and partial to the odd daydream, Tabitha is also a hard working designer with a love of travel and food.

copywrite Adventures Big & Small 2020 •

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