When my daughter, Tera, was a little girl, she had a boatload of Barbies in her castle-themed bedroom, and a pink Barbie jeep. She also had several big, expensive porcelain dolls — all gifts from her grandmother. She had a growing collection of Build-A-Bears, including a cat, a poodle and a bunny. She had real live goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, chickens, dogs and cats outside … along with 12 1/2 acres of trees for climbing and fort-building. She had her own glue gun, and a teetering, six-drawer craft-caddy, full of feathers, googly eyes, colored macaroni, pipe-cleaners and sequins — all hers for the gluing. But if you ask her now to name her very favorite thing of all from those long-ago days, she’ll say, “The rice bin.”
That’s right. The humble rice bin. Both of my children had a rice bin of their own, and it was nothing more than a long Rubbermaid bin full of white rice. And they would sit for hours and hours and hours, pouring all that plain, white rice into spoons and cups and funnels.
But this is 2013, people. And it’s time to jazz up the rice bin. So, may I present to you … (insert drum roll here) … RAINBOW RICE!
This is not my invention. This is all over the internet. But here’s what I learned this week making a big batch for my grandson, Gage.
- A nice-sized plastic bin for containing all that rice. I wouldn’t use anything that holds less than 35 quarts, because otherwise it won’t contain everything very well
- About ten pounds of rice, any kind
- Food coloring
- Rubbing alcohol or vinegar
- A mason jar with a lid*
- Baking sheets
*Note: I used wide-mouth mason jars and plastic lids. I do a lot of canning and use these all the time, because it’s annoying to have to deal with both a lid and a ring every time you want a single pickle. But if you don’t feel like buying caps, or you don’t have mason jars, you can mix the rice in a large ziploc baggie. I just think that’s going to be a messier way to go.
In a small bowl or cup, mix 2 TBSP of either vinegar or rubbing alcohol with food coloring. I chose rubbing alcohol over vinegar because I knew the rubbing alcohol would evaporate, and I wasn’t so sure all the vinegar smell would subside. You need one or the other to set the color. And I randomly selected 24 drops as the perfect amount of food coloring … but feel free to deviate from that if you must. 😀
NOTE: If you have a regular food coloring set of four basic colors, you can follow my “recipes” below. But you can also get a handy set of 8 colors already mixed up
To make the purple, I used 12 drops of red and 12 drops of blue. To make the orange, I used 10 drops of red and 14 drops of yellow
Pour a little of this in the bottom of the mason jar (I’m going to assume you’re using a jar. If you’re using a baggie, just make it work for you that way). Add 1 cup of rice. Pour a little more of the food coloring mixture over that. Add 1 more cup of rice. Pour the last of the food coloring over that. Cap and shake well.
Once the color is all through the rice, pour out on a baking sheet.
NOTE: I was so loving the look of this rice and how vibrant the colors were next to each other that I didn’t give much thought to the efficiency of making and baking it all together. So after I made and baked six colors on two cookie sheets, and saw how much longer it took to dry it out all piled up like this, I wised up and made the second batch of each color separately. I think that worked better, but I still think this looks prettier:
If you’ve got three big mounds of color, the way I did above, you’ll need to bake about 30 minutes on 200, or until the rice is dry. If you spread out 2 cups of rice on a baking sheet, the way I did below, you’ll only need 15 minutes on 200.
Second go-round of batches:
For my sized bin, 2 cups of 6 colors wasn’t enough, so I went back and made another 2-cup batch of each. This means my 35-quart bin holds 24 cups of rice. I can’t find 35-quart bins anywhere, but I linked to a 41-quart bin from Amazon in the list of ingredients. You’ll want to assess it as you go and see how much rice you need to color for your bin. You can always add plain white rice to fill it up later.
And here’s Gage, dumbfounded as to why we are letting him — no, encouraging him — to play with this mess-inducing substance.
And while we’re on the subject of “mess,” do you mind if I give you a perspective from this side of my life? I watch my beloved son and daughter-in-law while Gage is playing with the rice, and I (we) know what they’re thinking. They’re very thoughtfully thinking that they don’t want to leave a mess for me. But it’s just not possible to let him enjoy that rice and not expect a mess. Sometimes he takes handfuls and throws them across the room, just for the sheer joy of hearing all those tinkly drops hitting the floor. I laid a tablecloth on the floor under the bin, thinking it might help. Hahahahah! Not so much. I think I’ve swept and vacuumed more in the past week than in the past year.
But here’s the thing: I have grandmother wisdom now. And it differs greatly from the wisdom I had as a mother. Mother wisdom says, “I’m working so hard on keeping the house clean, and I don’t need rice all over the carpet.” Grandmother wisdom says, “How privileged am I to have a grandson to vacuum up after?” Grandmother wisdom is tied in to grandmother perspective. I know what my son and daughter-in-law are just beginning to see, which is that the clock is the enemy, and in about three minutes, Gage will be married with his own children, asking, “Grandma, can you make the kids a rice bin?”
If the president is coming to your house for dinner tonight, then, you know … maybe today isn’t a great rice bin day. But on any other day, let it fly. While you’re watching the developing mess, tuck the memory away. You’re going to need it later.
I think Zac and Britt are worried that I’m going to tire of cleaning up little fruity-pebble-ish rice bits from the floor and carpet. I keep trying to tell them, “I don’t mind the mess. Really and truly.” I’m not sure they believe me. But I think Gage gets the whole notion of grace, and love, and right-side-up priorities. Because often, just before throwing a handful of rice over the side of the bin, he’ll look at me first and grin. 🙂