Monday, December 15, 2014

"Kids' Table" Christmas Cottage

There are bits and pieces of Christmas coming together over here now, and I am pleased and excited. Our tree is up, wreaths are hung, and wrapping paper has been "borrowed." (How do you "borrow" a consumable like wrapping paper, you wonder? Well I dunno either. You might ask my daughters. They do very well in that category every year!)

I have several menus planned too. Not only for our family dinner, but for Grandma's Cookie Baking Party as well. And, there's another in the works - one that serves up the most fun for me and all six grandkids - the kids' table on Christmas Day!

It makes perfect sense to "cutesy up" the healthy food you feed your grandchildren. Candy and cookies go down the hatch without a pause. But veggies? Meat? Not so much! I anticipate that might change when the kids find little cottages built of deli bread and stuffed with warm turkey salad at their places on Christmas Day! Standing at sentry is a mini cheese ball snowman, just waiting to be poked with pretzel sticks and gobbled down as an appetizer. While the presentation looks appealing, I'm delighted to say there's not a single grain of sugar on this plate. Even the iced detail is tinted cream cheese, not frosting!

Here's how to make a deli bread Christmas cottage to delight the occupants of your own "kids' table!"

1. Cut patterns from paper: 2" square for sides, triangle with 2" base, and 2" x 3" rectangle for roof.
From deli rye bread with a firm texture, cut 4 sides, 2 triangles and 2 roof pieces.

2. Blend a few ounces of room temperature cream cheese with water until it is the consistency of Royal Icing. Spoon the cheese into a pastry bag with a small hole tip. Construct a 4 wall building base on a 7" salad plate by running lines of cream cheese along sides of each 2" square and fitting them together. Press to hold.

3. Run a line of cream cheese along the 2" base of each triangle and press them to front and back walls. (See photo) Decorate roof pieces as desired with piped cream cheese.

4. Fill house with turkey, chicken, egg, or seafood salad. Pipe cream cheese along top edges of triangles and carefully place roof pieces in position.

5. Use small pretzel sticks to outline house as shown in photo. Use cream cheese as "glue."

6. Tint small amounts of cream cheese green and red with gel food coloring. Pipe a wreath and bow to center front of house.

7. Make snowman by mixing remaining cream cheese (directly out of the package) with grated mozzarella cheese. Form 3 small balls and roll them in shredded cheese. Stack them in front of house. Use tiny snips of black olive for eyes and a tiny slice of carrot for nose. Pipe red cream cheese for scarf.

8. Complete the scene with blanched broccoli crowns for bushes, a stack of pretzel sticks for "firewood," small circles or squares cut from bread scraps for stepping stones and a final sprinkling of cheese "snow."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Satan's Little Helper - a "Tail" of Christmas Horror!

Alas! At my house tonight, all is NOT calm, all is NOT bright!

Once upon a time, a gentle, sweet dove - the universal harbinger of peace - nestled contentedly among other ornamentation within the verdant evergreen of my yuletide tree. Pure in whiteness and softly feathered, she appeared again and again, each year growing braver and braver, perching on branches that reached lower and lower and lower...........

And that night there were predators in the fields......

"Seriously? No sauce with this?"

Yet fear not! To those of us who believe, Christmas is a season of hope!

For it is written in the holy book that one day "the tiger shall lay down with the lamb."

(loosely translated from Isaiah 11:6)

Meow-y Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Little Star of Bethlehem

For now, my young grandchildren understand that the Little Star of Bethlehem loves, with passion, every single part of their being. They know that they were wonderfully made, knit together before they were born (Psalms 139: 13-14) by the same one who longs now to be sheltered in their hearts, gently guiding the thoughts of their minds and the work of their hands.

When they are a little older, they will appreciate that their creator invites them to reach out to him for help in everything they do.

"Stretch out your hand," Jesus commanded the supplicant. And the withered limb was immediately restored. (Matthew 12:13). "If only I can touch his cloak," a suffering woman thought, "I shall be healed." And Jesus acknowledged her faith and cured her. (Matthew 9:20-22).

The Christmas gifts for parents we created together will be a reminder to live with the Little Star of Bethlehem safely cradled in one's trusting palm so a reach toward him will never be too far away!

The infant Jesus is constructed from paper punched shapes. Cut a 1.5" head and 2" halo from circles. The body is a 2" oval. Accent the baby with a tiny red heart and place him in a cradle printed of your child's hand. Draw eyes, then sign and date with a fine point black marking pen.

Use scrapbook paper to cut a complimenting double mat. Place inside a standard size frame.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just Practicing!

It's all over but the waiting. And the wondering! Baby brother is closing in on us, due to arrive once Santa has cleared out of the way. Big sister is ready, anxious to see what he'll look like and how long it will be before she can begin actually having fun with him. There's been a family effort, too, to assure Brielle that she will never be replaced by this curious little newcomer. Instead, the two of them will become a team. They will help each other. Baby brother will need her. To fetch things for him. To teach him things. And to read to him.

Cover design by Big Sister!

My contribution to this evolving dynamic is "Baby Brother's Book." Bree is a pre-school student, just now learning letters and sounds. I've been complementing those skills with sight word flash card practice. Bree is a quick learner, picking them up with lightening speed, making it easy for me to construct sentences from an inventory of twenty or so words. I type pages on plain paper, leaving room for her original crayoned and painted illustrations:

"Baby brother and me."
"Come see me and baby brother go up."
"Look! I can help baby brother jump."

Interesting! The lovely "larger-than-life" author is
self portrait-ed wearing splendid jewelry
and a mile-wide smile. Little bro is the
tiny blue birdlike bundle in left
bottom corner!

Then I scrapbook pages together in a home made effort that I hope will appeal to them both.

Colorful ribbon scraps tied along the spine through a row of paper punched holes make a cheerful presentation. It's also easy to add new pages as more words are learned.
And now we're practicing. And waiting....getting ready to be a proud and helpful big sister who will welcome little brother home with the priceless gift of reading!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Funky Turkeys

So, what are we flapping our wings about over here now, you ask? Simple answer: turkey pillows! An entire rafter of them, in fact! See, I know my turkey terms! To call these a "flock" would be inaccurate. A "flock" is a group of wild turkeys. A "rafter" is domesticated. These little characters are destined for living room couch perching only. They've never known anything different and have no interest in Googling alternatives for themselves either!

Our little rafter of three was born on the kitchen table a few weeks ago. Grandkids were given a nice wide brush and brown acrylic paint. Filling a smaller circle on top of a larger one on an 18" square muslin canvas made a nice plump body. Hand printed feathers will always hold this special moment in time.

The artists added eyes, lashes and a painted beak. Then grandma whisked everything away, disappearing for a spell inside her crafty sewing room.

With three "turkey sandwiches" on my plate (painted square, quilt batting, backing fabric) I hand quilted around each feather finger and eye, scalloping a pair of lines across the breast.

Beaks were cut from prepared fabric to match the painted shapes, then ironed on and held in place with tiny stitches all around. Scraps of red ribbon tucked beneath serve suitably as wattles.

With right sides facing, turkey and a complimenting back fabric, I sewed both together along outside edges, leaving bottom open. Turn. Each turkey leg is a 2" x 8" orange fabric strip, seamed along the 8" side, turned, stuffed and knotted on one end for the foot.

Stuff turkey (with polyester, please - not Stove Top!), insert legs and hand sew closed.

The most fun is finishing touches. Attach big wiggle eyes, a jaunty little straw hat, perky posy or crown of silk leaves with strong glue. Narrow ribbon scraps tied in a bow above the knot on each leg become fetching little turkey toes. But why stop there? A truly funky turkey has fancy bows all the way up and down the legs and wears anything else that pleases you!

If you're looking for a cute Thanksgiving Day gift to trot over to your lovely hostess, you may like these easy potholders too!

Perhaps your grandchildren would enjoy making turkey tags for decorating the dinner table like we did last year.

A seasonal treat of home made mini pumpkin donuts is a thoughtful gesture, especially when presented in a personalized gift bag.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Orange You Glad You Adopted?

If your pet was adopted from a shelter, you're my friend! No bones - or soggy catnip toys - about it! We're special people and everybody knows it. Those who know it best, though, lay their furry chins atop our laps and gaze upward with eyes devoted and grateful. "If you find a starving dog and make him prosperous," observed Mark Twain, "he will not bite you. That's the difference between dogs and men." Agreed. I've witnessed this myself and so have you.

The Bissell Pet Foundation plans an October 30-31 pictorial Facebook tribute to pets (and their owners!) who have been rescued by each other. Roxie and I will be there early and we invite you to join us! Take a photo of your adopted pet (cats, too!) bandana-ed in orange, the "official color" of Pet Adoption Month, and post it on the Foundation's page on October 30, 2014. Then come back the next day to see if you're a prize winner!

Photo: Who is ready for a giveaway? On October 30th, we will post on our BISSELL Pet Foundation Facebook page asking to see photos of your adopted pets in orange bandanas. We want everyone to know that the color orange represents adoption and we believe once you adopt, you will always adopt. So go out and find your orange bandanas now so you are ready on October 30th to share your adorable pictures with us! We will announce a winner on October 31 to celebrate Halloween! The prize will be announced soon but be rest assured, it is something really great!
We'll also be asked to name the organization that made our "fur-ever" match possible. I applaud this heartily. How easy it is for me to do my part in pet rescue, yet how difficult for "first respondents" who perform the initial tasks of medical and behavioral assessment, fostering and application evaluation before an adoption is approved. Heart wrenching. Heartwarming. All in one.

Our photo gallery of grateful furry faces will assure them it was all worthwhile.
And that's a "yap!"

This is not a sponsored post. I just followed my nose to this gratifying event and wanted to share it!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tic Tac BOO!

Okay! Just between your grandkids cheat when they play board games with you? Or is it just me who suspects my little darlings think I'm the one who was born yesterday? Perhaps my eyesight isn't what it used to be, but there are times I detect little hands deftly guiding the spinner to the exact number needed to leave grandma in the dust. On other occasions, a playing piece might go nonchalantly slip-sliiiding past a penalty square. In my most recent experience, "someone" decided to change game rules mid stream, announcing an extra toss of the dice to "anyone who is wearing pink socks and a Cinderella t shirt!" Well, that wasn't me. At least that day!

But this brave grandma marches on. Not only are we still playing games together, but we're making them too! This team effort began with a hike in the woods. "Find grandma a rock that looks like a ghost! How about some round ones? Nice and fat - like a PUMPKIN!" They turned them in like there was no tomorrow; my pockets groaned with every shape and size imagined by benevolent Mother Nature. Then we sorted. Painstakingly. And that's when monsters butted their way into a game that traditionally fields only two sets of combatants. "We can paint these now," I announced. And paint they did. To the lively tune of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," amply addressing those appendages in colorful homage. When the painting game lost its charm, I was left behind to turn rocks into creatures with features for Tic Tac BOO!

So, I thought our game was "cheat proof." Ghosts play against either pumpkins or monsters. Not both. One scrapbook paper square per token. Three in a row wins. We enjoyed it tremendously, until it occurred to me that strategy isn't a strong motivator for kids who see these zany characters as a collection of personal little friends, not disposable pawns on a game board. With rules relaxed, squares filled up quickly, each with two, sometimes three, occupants. Neighbors went visiting and discussed things among themselves as the game evolved into a multilevel and far more imaginative experience than I'd ever anticipated. There were still "winners," of course, and the inevitable "losers." Oh, and the "cheater," too. Don't forget about her! She just sits here delighted, "braggy," in fact, about how honestly clever all her young grandchildren are with a pile of rocks after she's tossed that pesky old rule book right out the window!