The way I describe the story in a nutshell is "slice-of-life with yokai", yokai being the word in Japan for supernatural beings/creatures (to put it very simply). Natsume, the main character, was born with the ability to see yokai and interact with them. The story focuses on the impact this has had on his life, in both the human world and world of yokai, and how, through various positive and negative experiences, he matures and begins to reconcile the two, learning that they are sometimes not all that different. Perhaps reticent by nature and certainly taciturn for preservation, appearing aloof and slightly frail, Natsume proves time and again to be passionate, loyal, brave, and possess a deep well of strength both physically and emotionally. Nyanko-sensei, a large and powerful yokai who chooses to be seen in the form of a plump cat, similar to that of a maneki-neko (or luck cat figure), is always by Natsume's side (unless he's off drinking with his pals or pilfering sweets). He acts as Natsume's mentor and bodyguard, and, though he tries to act tough and deny any real attachment to the boy outside of practicality and personal gain, both the readers and Natsume know he's a softy at heart, willing to protect Natsume even in the face of danger to himself.
Nyanko-sensei Cookie Pops
8 Pale Sandwich Cookies (like Oreos brand, but not chocolate. The cream type doesn't matter)
1/2 Bag Bright White Candy Melts
E-Z Thin Dipping Aid (optional, but veeery helpful for dipping. Available at Michael's)
8 Yellow Mini M&Ms OR 1 Yellow Frootie
Tootsie Roll Frooties Candies
Food Color Markers
8 Lollipop Sticks
Styrofoam Block, w/ 8 pre-poked holes at least 1 1/2" apart
Small Roller/Rolling Pin
Small Circle Cutter, about 3/4" diameter
Cotton Swabs (if there are any drawing mistakes you'd like to fix)
1. In a heat proof bowl (preferably glass) over a pot of low simmering water, melt the white candy melts, stirring often. Add a little bit of E-Z Thin (optional) to make the melt have a nice dipping consistency (I cannot praise this stuff enough! I works really well).
2. Carefully open/separate the sandwich cookies & lay them out on a flat surface. Take a lollipop stick & dip 1 end/tip into the melt. Press that end into the cream side of 1 of the cookie pairs & then gently replace the non-cream cookie half on top. So now you have a closed sandwich cookie once again, but with the lollipop stick secured in the middle. Repeat this for all of the cookie pairs.
3. Pick out 16 slivered almond pieces that will look decent as cat ears. Choose 1 & dip 1 end of it into the candy melt & then secure it onto the top of a cookie pop, nestled in the cream to 1 side. Do this with another almond sliver to make the opposite ear on the cookie pop, making sure there is about 1/2" to 3/4" space in between. Repeat these steps until all of the cookie pops have almond "ears".
4. Tilt the melt bowl (careful! Use a pot holder 'cause it might be hot!) & dip a cookie pop into the melt, making sure to cover both cookie sides + the almonds. Let excess melt drip off, very gently tapping the lollipop stick on the edge of the bowl if needed, & then place the coated pop upright into the styrofoam to harden. Repeat with the remaining pops.
6. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface & place the hardened cookie pops on it, prettiest side facing up. Remembering that the orange goes on the left (your left), gently press the orange & purple Frootie pieces onto the "forehead" of each cookie pop & carefully smooth the tops back & between the ears (see the photos for reference). Next, take the red Frootie strips & press them 1 each around the bottoms of the cookie pops to become collars.
7. Use the black & red food color markers to draw Nyanko Sensei's face onto the cookie pops, changing up the expression if you'd like (just do an image search for "nyanko sensei", there is a plethora). If you need to fix any mistakes, use a clean cotton swab to very gently wipe away the part you want to change (adding a very tiny bit of water to the swab tip, & then squeezing it, can help too, but make sure you dry away the water with a clean swab end).
8. Affix 1 mini yellow M&M (or a little flattened ball of yellow Frootie) to each red collar with a tiny dot of candy melt, & then draw on the bell openings using the black food color marker. Place the completed cookie pops back into the styrofoam & you're all done! If you'd like to give them as gifts, carefully slide them into clear "Pop Favor Bags" from Wilton or something similar (try Michael's) & tie with an orange or purple ribbon.
* Click here to see my Puppycat Cookie Pops that I made at the same time as these! *
* And for more of my cookie pop creations, click here! *