Monday, August 14, 2017

"Who Goes There?"

Grandma Campers are, by their very nature, explorers! They like to know stuff. Probing, seeking, speculating...."What is that made of, grandma?" "What would happen if we did it this way instead?" Encouraging and rewarding curiosity is the most challenging - and best! - part of this annual summer experience for me!

Last year, we brought home ladybug shaped rocks, painted them, wiggle-eyed them, and secreted them in neighborhood flower beds and mail boxes under the spine-tingling cover of night. How many would still be there the following evening?  Anxious with excitement, we had our answers when we ventured back to see!

But our backyard wooded lot consistently holds the best source of adventure and discovery. We've filled cardboard tubes with peanut butter and added a clever method for detecting critters who might enter for a nibble. Oh, they were there, all right, we learned the next morning, but speculation over what they looked like has hung in the air for over a year! Tiny footprints left behind are simply not enough!

We need to know, "Who goes there?" 

My purchase of a trail camera has been a satisfying investment. It's delighted even the biggest kid among us (me!). The small device I've linked to below (this is not a sponsored post) is perfect for strapping to a tree, a foot or so above a carefully arranged peanut/corn/berry buffet of wildlife treats.

Daylight hours capture full color images (both video and still shots - audio, too!) of scampering squirrels and chipmunks. An occasional blue jay will swoop down to snatch a peanut. But our best mysteries are solved in the morning after all night monitoring. That's how we discovered our inquisitive raccoon guest. He's one of the wood dwellers who only come out at night!

I've coupled the camera with a wildlife guide that we consult daily during Grandma Camp. Clearly illustrated are animals we're likely to see here in the midwest - turkeys, white tail deer, opossums....pretty tame compared to the rattlesnakes and exotic lizards you Arizonians might be fortunate enough to capture! We envy you!

"Hey lady! We're out of peanuts again!"

But I might add some manufactured drama of my own when the kids get a bit older. We'll set the camera right around Halloween. Under cover of late, late night, wearing a spooky skeletal mask, I'll peer into the lens, grunt menacingly, and shake the camera vigorously before the screen goes blank! "Who goes there?" you ask? I don't think the kids are gonna want to know!

Find the battery operated XIKEZAN trail camera (and required memory card) I've been happy with in my Amazon gift shop on page 14. It's a handy 3.5" x 5" easy-to-set-up and use, water proof, motion activated device with instantly view-able images to download to a computer or television set.

The classic Reader's Digest North American Wildlife Guide is also here, on page 15.

This is the fourth post in a series of 2017 Grandma Camp highlights that begins here. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Where Fairies Flutter

Our second annual Ladybug Camp hosted twin sisters, Ava and Angeline, with cousin Kaylee. This four year old trio enjoyed a multi day, overnight affair busy with crafting, baking, play-acting, and exploring. On day two, we ventured into a magical wooded realm - the place where fairies flutter!

My little lady guests arrived well versed on the topic of those daintily winged garden dwelling nymphs, but they were delighted to reexamine their characteristics and the habitats they frequent in pop up books I couldn't resist buying for the occasion!*

This is not a sponsored post, but my, my! Looking to fascinate and educate? This is the set for you! We pored over each page, mesmerizing and rich in three dimensional glory, finding fairies in hidden nooks and crannies.

Gardens, woodlands, and more....I sent each little lady home with her own book (there's a third in the series) to secure delightful memories.

Armed with fresh tips on places to look, off we go a-hunting. Backyard woods held promise for finding fairies of our own.

Nestled in foliage, the first of three petaled sprites awaits discovery! (A favorite moment saw precocious Miss Ava animatedly point out that these fairies were actually not "the real thing!" They were "grandma-made" substitutes that might serve our purpose for today, yet still, not "really real" ones!) And of course, she is correct! Thank you, Ava! :)

Angeline and Kaylee cradle their new friends.

Forging ahead, an enticing vision beckoned! Were guests expected here? With places set for six?

Six indeed! One for each successful fairy finder, another for her newly acquired friend!

Months ago, the thoughtfulness of a cherished blogger friend, Judy, made my dream of today's event even more special. She sent me the tiny tea set pictured here. Her own granddaughter had reached the teenage years, and it was time for pretty vintage pieces to find another home, one where younger girls would take their turn pouring magic tea to serve in teeny tiny portions. This was the perfect occasion to introduce our gift. Thank you, Judy!

Room enough, and food enough for everybody!

Ladybug Campers nibbled cheese wraps and tangerine slices. Pot de creme bowls cradled hummus and baby carrot sticks.

But "real bugs" were not welcome at our repast, so craft punched, flower themed paper covers topped tasty drinks. Friendly butterflies alight on each straw.

Oh, what magic we found today in our foray into the place where (grandma-made!) fairies flutter, little ladies stop to snack in dappled sunlight, and grandma beams away in pride and satisfaction!

My friend, Judy, a master gardener, blogs about beauty in nature, in fabric, and of charming places both near and far at New England Garden and Thread. She is also a fan of fairies. Her 2012 Fairy House Tour  is one of my favorite posts ever!

Fairy dolls are easily made from wooden peg bases found at craft stores. Dress them in petals pulled from silk flowers.

*The three Cicely Mary Barker pop-up fairy books I purchased for my granddaughters can be found on page 14 of my Amazon Gift Shop. Fairy sticker books found on the same page kept my little ladies busy during "quiet time."

This is part 3 of my Grandma Camp 2017 series. It begins right here.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Grandma Camp Magic!

The best part about performing at our week's end magic show is that we know things mommy and daddy don't! We love to see jaws drop in the audience, followed by the inevitable "How did you do that?" Kids usually don't tell though, responding only with smug, impish grins!

But I don't mind sharing tricks of the trade with other grandmothers. I've experienced the fun and camaraderie of introducing, practicing, and performing a variety of easy to do acts that I've gleaned from several sources: a delightful online site, a purchased kids' magic set, and a goofy idea of my own that resulted in an unsolved mystery!

Got your ticket? Good! Take a seat and enjoy the show! 

Our opener is a crowd pleaser and three times the fun when it's demonstrated in tandem. We present lengths of rope. Each is one piece! Come on up and check them out if you'd like. We've nothing to hide! - well, except for the short extra loops we've hidden in our palms to snip in half! There! See? You thought one piece was cut in two and were totally amazed when we revealed the original, uncut length! Ta da!!!! 😲

I love my free subscription to "Magic Tricks For Kids." It's where you'll find this trick demonstrated step by step - and dozens more to choose from!

"Bree! What are you doing?" One of the twins approaches her in the act of breaking an egg. "Making cookies!" she casually replies. No hanky-panky is suspected when the other twin follows up with, "Need any help?" "Sure," she answers. "I want these eggs cracked!" But no one cracks up more than the little tricksters who reach into the carton, grabbing three to toss to the audience! "Here, dad! Help us out!" they shout as rubber eggs go flying toward a ducking audience! 😲

This crazy idea was my own. I found fake eggs at Hearthsong,* an online toy retailer. But I've been the victim of a mysterious disappearing act myself! I have yet to locate the third egg after our show. Looked everywhere! It's gone! But unlike our other tricks, there's no explanation for this one! Poof! Real magic!

The easiest way to conjure up a repertoire of cool performance tricks is to buy a kit designed for kids. I did this last year, relying solely on the nifty eye foolers in a great Melissa and Doug set.** But this year I found another one I like!*** "Spectacular Magic Show" is less than $20 and packs 100 cool ideas into a box that also contains an instruction book plus a fun CD that clearly demonstrates them all - plus more!

We chose the easiest among them for this year's event. My favorite was the "Magic Paint Can." A secret compartment that's very well disguised allows water to stay secured when the can is tipped to "prove" it's GONE! A slight twist and an agile "abracadabra" with the included wand makes contents reappear in a sec!

But that's not all! Bree's cousin stepped up and announced he's got something even better to show! His glass of water met a few drops of food coloring secreted inside the can, and the audience gasped when he poured out GREEN PAINT instead of clear liquid!

The set also includes a well made fake deck of cards and a specially designed case for it. Nick flashed an ace, replaced it, and slid the deck deftly back inside. With a flick of his wrist, the deck disappeared - courtesy of a fake surface on both sides of his prop!

There are a handful of clever tricks demonstrated on the CD that require only simple household items for astonishing a crowd. Here, daddy's been conscripted to choose a crayon from a set of four different colors. Only he and the audience know which one it is. It's placed in Sae's hands, held behind his back. Let the concentrating begin. Our magician closes his eyes. Thinking, thinking, thinking...He dramatically raises one hand to alert the audience he has an answer. "ORANGE!" he triumphantly exclaims. And what do you know? ORANGE it is!

I see a future for this one at restaurants where restless grandchildren are given crayons to keep them busy before meals arrive. Tell grandpa to scrape off a bit of wax while the crayon is behind his back. He can briefly glimpse at it as he flourishes his hand forward to pronounce the correct color!

Nick loved folding a one dollar bill twice to make George Washington turn upside down, and Bree successfully employed a fake plastic thumb to make a silk handkerchief magically reappear. Our audience eagerly gobbled up everything we did!

And then there was Ava! Pictured at top, this little gal has been a fan of magic ever since last year's show when her brothers pulled stuffed bunnies from hats to present to their little sisters. She frequently duplicates this trick at home with toy tigers and Barbie dolls, waving her wand with a pronunciation of "abracadabra!" that she alone has perfected. This year, the right thing to do was give Ava the stage to conclude with her delightful act. She loved every second, and so did we!

Here's part 1 of this year's Grandma Camp series! 

This is not a sponsored post. I just enjoy sharing the success I've had with good products. However, a few of the items I've shown here are available in my Amazon gift shop.

*Hearthsong carries sets of 3 rubber eggs. The company sells many creative toys and stands by their products with excellent customer service!
**This Melissa and Doug magic set can be found on page 13 of my Amazon gift shop.
***This Ideal magic set can be found on page 14 of my Amazon gift shop.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Our Little Sparkler!

Independence Day 2017 came in with a BANG for our family! At 8:50 A.M. my tenth grandchild - and sixth grandson - was born. He arrived 19.5" long, weighing a cuddly 6 pounds, 12 ounces.

Tyler Matthew is the son of my youngest daughter, Karen, and her husband, Joe. He is little brother to four year old sister, Kaylee, and two year old brother, Ryan, who eagerly awaited his appearance along with two sets of proud grandparents, one great-grandmother, four aunts, four uncles, and seven excited little cousins!

Now, here's a Fun Fact for you! Mommy was born on New Year's Day when it was her turn to be the third family sibling! I guess some people just like it when the whole world annually celebrates right along with them! :)

I've got lots planned for little Tyler when he's old enough to handle a paintbrush, but for right now, I'm heeding wise grandparent advice. What mommy and daddy need most is not another bib emblazoned with "If you think I'm cute, you should see my grandpa!" (groan!) What they do need, strictly in this order, is:
1) Sleep!
2) Food!
So, grandpa and I have been cooking and babysitting and just enjoying the euphoria that comes along with every beautiful new birth that enters the life of any grandparent! (And you people know who you are!)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Considering Going Solo In The Workforce? You Should!

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This is a sponsored post for which I have been compensated. 
All content and graphics provided by VSP Individual Vision Plans.

If you're like most Americans over 50, you plan to work after retirement in some capacity. You may even be considering changing the way you work and going into business for yourself. Where once that would have been considered a dream job and beyond the realm of reality, thanks to advances in technological innovation, it's not so remote an idea to work "remotely." Here are a few reasons why the solo workforce isn't a fad:

Mobile and online applications use of cloud computing makes it easier than ever to work from home or anywhere. Your "opening act" into the workforce probably involved being tied to a traditional work arrangement. You may have worked in an office or a school. But your "second act" need not tie you to any specific location, allowing you more flexibility and time for the important things in life like time with your grandkids.

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Apps like Experfy, Handy and 99designs make it easy to source services and products in an instant from people in the area and around the globe. A 2015 report from the Freelancers Union and Upwork found that 51% of the freelancers surveyed had gotten a project online, up from 42% the year prior. The technology empowers you to get into business with little or no infrastructure investment, and turns anyone with a mobile device or computer into a potential customer.

It really has never been easier to be self-employed, even if just part time.

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Thanks to VSP Individual Vision Plans, the national leader in eye-care benefits, people who work for themselves can get the same great benefits and savings as they would if they were covered under an employer's plan. As we age, it's more important than ever to take good care of our eyes, as clear vision impacts quality of life. From increased work productivity to fewer headaches from eye strain, the benefits of healthy eyes cannot be overstated. Annual comprehensive eye exams aren't just about vision. They also give your eye doctor a full view of blood vessels, areas that provide clues about your overall health.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Grandma Camp 2017 - The "Big Kids"

I wonder every year if the "big kids" in my group of 10 will appreciate summer days at Grandma Camp. The boys, twin brothers, will be nine on August 29th. Cousin Brielle will be seven on the same day. Will Boy Scouts, soccer, Minecraft, gymnastics, and the lure of dozens and dozens of friends preempt their previous enthusiasm for spending time with me alone, crafting, baking, play-acting, and hiking in the woods? Apparently not! My most soul-satisfying moment of the year is when I'm told, "All they talk about lately is Grandma Camp!" Whew! Good for another round!

This is an overview of the fun we had together last week!

Over the course of winter, I pick and choose from a myriad of ideas spanning creative construction, nature appreciation, and "showmanship." The latter prepares us for the backyard talent production* we perform for ticket-buying parents at week's end. We're currently fascinated with magic, so a new treasure trove of tricks is enthusiastically greeted. Oh, the looks we love on faces in the audience when a deck of cards disappears before one's very eyes! Or, when lengths of rope are cut in half and then unfold intact! Yep! We know exactly how to make those things happen - and we're not telling! (Well, actually, grandma is! a later post - so your kids can wow an audience right outta their chairs like we do!)

The "big kids" never get tired of baking, so we gather 'bout the kitchen counter and take turns mixing and stirring and expertly cracking the eggs we need. Special requests are always honored; this year chocolate chip cookies filled that obligation - as well as patiently waiting tummies!

Our quarter acre backyard woods is an appropriate venue for exploring and seeking sights of scampering wildlife. This year we left tempting trays of treats in populated places and fired up a newly purchased trail camera to capture images of those mysterious creatures who only come out at night!*

I'm really most comfortable with artsy-craftsy stuff.* And not only do the "big kids" share my passion for creating, they adeptly grow the seed of an idea to grand and leafy proportions with very little help from me. My fondest Camp moments? Sitting alongside those intent young crafters, camera in hand, basking in reflected pride of jobs well done!

See those projects the "big kids" are holding? Glow-in-the-dark night lights! Clear plastic jars, craft moss, and a choice of ceramic wild animals (including dinosaurs) are basic ingredients. "Moon stones," stick-on stars, and spooky little aliens "light up" after a bit of time in the sun and accompany campers into their tents at day's end.

Brielle is enamored with this busy raccoon. His habitat includes moon stones, wood chips, and carefully selected pebbles gleaned from a hike out back.

Boys envision starlit extraterrestrial vignettes. An aura of mystery inhabits their jars. What goes on here? Where does this event take place? I'm really not sure. I did ask, but the answers were as ambiguous as those pairs of unsettling red eyes!

More to come! 
*Additional info on these topics in future posts, along with details on "Ladybug Camp" for a trio of four year old little ladies that includes a very successful woodland hunt for fairies!

Previous Grandma Camp series begin here:

2015 - Part One of an 8 part series on my very first Grandma Camp, including a hunt for zombies, night hikes, and lots of (hard earned!) tips on the art of hosting your own event.

2016 - It's Magic! Part one of a 2 part series featuring kid produced magic and puppet shows.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Face Painting, Anyone?

We can't take credit for this one.
Brielle became a parrot at Disney World's Animal Kingdom!

Before I begin my story, I need to set the stage. Brielle's neighborhood is adjacent to elementary school property. The streets teem with kids. They run freely all summer long, visiting from yard to yard, stopping to lunch whenever they see a mom on a porch with a tray of cold drinks and peanut butter sandwiches. Girls, boys, first graders through fifth - it's a happy life!

Brielle has always shown artistic promise. I babysat frequently in her earliest years, making sure she knew how to wield a paintbrush with aplomb. My effort has paid off. Coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit, my granddaughter has since taken up the trade of facial decor, sharing her skill freely with anyone who lines up when word goes out in the 'hood that "Bree is painting faces again!"

Twin cousins were premier customers on the day our little artist cracked open her crafty kit for the first time. Ava requested a cat design; Angeline, her fave - a giraffe. Brielle went to work. When the girls were dismissed, they raced to a mirror. Ava stared, and then declared, "That's not a cat!" Angeline just stared. In silence. But they assured that they'd be back again for more, and so, at that moment, a career was born.

My daughter, Christy, calls me sometimes when Bree decides to hang her shingle. She vividly describes the unfolding scene, sending pictures as she speaks. We can barely contain ourselves. I hear the incessant chime of the doorbell, the chatter of girly voices. The word has gone out. "Bree is painting faces!" Mommy breathlessly apologizes, pausing to tend to two more standing on the porch. They'd like an appointment. They want to see Brielle.

I overhear each prospective client firmly questioned about parental permission before they line up to morph into a "tiger," or a "poodle" or a "polar bear." Not to worry. Brielle handles all of those requests, plus more!

Where moms and dads and grandmas-on-the-phone may see something else, the carefree magic of childhood is reflected in the "cats" and "clowns" reclaiming streets, sand boxes, and swing sets once each client is duly served.

I suppose the goal of the art of theatrical make up is to induce shock and awe. With that in mind, may I invite you to concur that my granddaughter has, indeed, dropped the mic in this pursuit?