Saturday, January 24, 2015

Welcome "Grow Your Blog" Guests!

2 Bags Full

Hello Friends!

If you are a new visitor, you are likely to be a guest of today's "Grow Your Blog" party. I joined this event two years ago and was delighted by the number and quality of talented fabric artists I met. Quilters, weavers, knitters, cross stitchers, crafters and hookers (the "yarny" kind only!) flocked together, herded in and sorted out by the lovely Vicki at 2 Bags Full Blogspot for the purpose of sharing with and inspiring one another. This truly special annual event attracts over 400 participants and opens today for its third appearance.

Vicki requests that entrants introduce themselves, giving an overview of blog topics featured.

I write as a grandmother of seven, one fully engaged in the lives of those children. They range in age from one newly born to a twin pair of six year old Kindergarten students.

I began to blog as a way to organize memories of creative activities I've enjoyed with my grandchildren. As readers discovered my posts and commented favorably on them, I realized I'd erected a platform from which to encourage other "grand-women" to make their homes a place unlike any other - an irresistible magnet, a welcoming haven of comfort, love, affirmation, spontaneous originality and infectious joy for the entire extended family.

My blog is the story of how I've accomplished that for myself, delighting the children in my life and bonding us all together into a strong, happy, fun loving family unit.

We are a crafty bunch, working together on a regular basis and making a "big deal" out of everything. For example, these long, cuddly fleece snakes were the highlight of a two day "Snake Festival" - one that squirmed and hissed with "everything snakey!" - fun facts and fearsome food included!

I include step by step instructions for making many of my original designs, including these crazy-eyed snakes!

One year, we attempted to grow pumpkins in my backyard. Well, Boo! Too much shade and too many deer. But we sure had fun watering - and watering and watering and watering and watering! - the skinny plants we grew from seed. And we made our own kid-designed "Scare Monster" to watch over them too!

We do "regular" things too. We paint and draw and sculpt cute little critters from clay. And once our inventory is substantial, we pin everything up on a clothesline and invite every single adoring adult family member to come shop themselves silly. We sell home made popcorn and stuff our cute little grandma-provided wallets fat with lots of cash and coin!

We bake "sugar bug cookies" to sell at our own bake sale and sculpt snowmen out of popcorn.

We've gone on a "Monster Hunt" in the woods, seeking paper mache creatures constructed solely for the purpose of being found back there, hiding in spooky darkness!

I show you how to make these for your own hunt, too.

You never know what you'll find in those woods! On "Dino Day" we dug for eggs back there after a tasty lunch of meatball boulders, bread stick bones and a mashed potato volcano!

Ever held a family spelling bee? We do! Every year! And even if you "buzz out," there's a cute cookie waiting for you!

I think it's unanimous. The event I'm most noted for is our Family Carnival. I've hosted three so far, each one bigger and better, according to the 20+ kids who attend. This grandma skimps on nothing! Festive food, clever booths, colorful games and prizes, prizes, PRIZES!

We celebrate each and every holiday as if it's our last on the planet!

"Maca-moldy Mason Jar Monsters" provide a bit of healthy Halloween eating.....

And a zany little easy-to-make cat candy jar serves sweet snacks

At Christmas, grandkids serve themselves from a cute food spread at "Mrs. Santa's Cafeteria" - a fun spin on the traditional "Kids' Table!"

Easter is fun too. My perky little bunnies are simple to make and just the right size to fill the palm of a little guest at grandma's family feast.

The kids make and decorate baskets for everyone too. They're paper mache with big, floppy, colorful ribbon handles.

Sometimes I make things to store away until the kids are older and will appreciate them more. Vintage Mason jars belonged to the great great grandmothers of my granddaughters. I fashioned them into sewing caches with pincushion tops to present on the day they are old enough to attempt tentative hand stitching for the first time.

And what kind of a grandmother would I be if I didn't quilt or own a multitude of cats? I have a half dozen over here. Of each.

"Iggy" welcomes you to read about how I became a quilter over many years of trial and error, coupled with my passion for rescuing feral and discarded cats.

And I welcome you to join me on my blogging journey if what you've seen here appeals to you! Thank you sincerely, new friend, for stopping by!

recently completed:
at left: Starflower
at right: Triple Irish Chain

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pennywise Play School Set

Playing school. My sisters and I were addicted. I recall the experience as not so much reinforcement of academic skills, but more of playacting to sort out social issues that were happening at school. Our "students" were hand drawn faces of classmates, cut out and lined up in rows. In this classroom, I made sure I never sat anywhere near "Jimmy." Due to alphabetical last name fate in real life, I was destined to sit behind him throughout most of my elementary career. One day he turned around to sneak a glance at my spelling paper. With a swish of my pleated plaid uniform skirt, I marched up to teacher's desk to report him. "Sister! James has tried to copy my spelling test!" Swift in the department of justice, Sister soon had James cornered in the hallway. When he slunk back to his seat, he managed to hiss at me, "I have snakes in my backyard and I am going to catch a big one and put it in your book bag!" And so it was on between James and myself. But not for the reason you think. My beef with him was that he never produced the reptile that animal loving, second grader me looked forward to owning as a pet. Jimmy left me with a broken heart and a cardboard box lid lovingly prepped with cotton fluff, "snake toys," a cushy doll blanket and a reserved spot on the sunniest window sill in my bedroom.

Final score: James: 01 -  Prissy Tattle Tale: 00

But enough about me and my half century old tale of woe. I observe today that my grandsons have never shown an interest in playing school. But four year old Bree? Oh my. She's been all in since starting pre-school last year. It's gotta be strictly a girlie thing. And I'm so happy to indulge her.

When this young lady was newly born, I pounced on a play school set that would have sent my sisters and I over the moon. A triple fold board stands up to serve as teacher's backdrop for unlimited learning joy. Maps, hallway passes, stickers, a nifty little plastic pointer - everything included, save for a dozen or so generously loved, mangy stuffed animal "students." No prob. We've got those of our own in abundance!

But the more Bree played, the more I studied that board. As much as this toy delighted her, it was not a bargain! Piece by piece, I challenged myself to not just duplicate, but improve the experience for less than $20 and a trip to Dollar Tree. And this time? Triumph! I'm the winner!

Grandma: 01 - Overpriced Toy Store: 00

Here's what I bought at Dollar Tree, clockwise from top left, to make a triple fold, two sided learning center:

1 set of learning center posters
1 set of Telling Time/attendance posters (packaged together)
1 US map
1 pack of bulletin board trim
1 alphabet practice dry erase board
1 set of stickers
1 set of sight word strips
1 note pad cube
1 plain dry erase board
1 clear plastic storage folder
1 set of decorative awards (not shown)
3 white 20" x 30" foam boards (not shown)

Total $14.00

You will also need:

white duct tape, strong glue (such as Gorilla), rubber cement, Velcro scraps, clip clothespins, 20" narrow ribbon or string and craft paper. I also used leftover red dotted border trim from another project.

1. Use white duct tape to connect foam boards together along 30" sides.

2. Make center board (shown at top) by framing inside with trim or paper scraps. Glue "Reading Center" poster at top, centered. Cut triangles from paper scraps and run a thin line of glue along right angle edges only. Position to hold removable sight word strips and glue down. Attach alphabet dry erase board with Velcro on optional paper background.

3. Make left side board by gluing on Telling Time poster and attendance chart poster. Glue clothespin to right side and clip on dry erase pen tied with ribbon. Cut or punch weather/season symbols and glue on, along with border trim and a second clothespin for notes. This panel is where students gather to begin the day with a review of the month, day of the week, time and weather.

4. Make right side by framing top 2/3 with trim. Use strong glue to attach dry erase board and incentive awards. Glue plastic storage pocket below using strong glue. Place stickers and supplies inside of it.

5. Make reverse side left and center boards by trimming outside edges of map and cutting into two sections to fit foam panels. Glue on with rubber cement.
6. Make reverse side right panel by framing with trim and gluing "Art Center" poster at top, centered. Glue on 4 rectangles of scrap paper and attach clothespins for holding art work as shown.

A double sided play center allows two little teachers to participate while rotating students from one center to another.

And if anyone wants to pass out grades, I'll take my A+ right now. When Little Miss Teacher arrived, her bright blue eyes popped wide open and she exclaimed, "This is for me?! Really?!" - and got right to work!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014: Unwrapped

The Christmas season is like a beautifully wrapped gift. When it is presented, it delivers joyful anticipation. "For me? Oh my! Why thank you! Whatever could it be?"

And then the careful process of opening begins....

Formal evening dinner at grandma's welcomes every member of the family. We've grown, from just the five of us, to eight adults as sons-in-law joined us over the years. My favorite moments include the quiet time before arrival when candlelit places are set, crab bisque is ready to be ladled and hands will soon join in grateful prayer for the blessing of togetherness.

Grandchildren, six so far, occupy the nearby "kids' table." But that's not, by any means, the first "cousin event" of the season. That honor goes to "Christmas Movie Night" at Aunt Christy's. And while the feature title responds to currently popular demand, many things remain the same. Aunt Mary Jo's annual gift of matching jammies keep hot-chocolate-sipping and popcorn-munching kids comfy and cute. This year, Brielle's canopied bed was the site of tumbling chaos for parental paparazzi pictures!

I'm delighted that my daughter chose "Elf on the Shelf" pjs. We're all fans of that little tattle tale, and "elf haters" don't bother us one bit. Our kids excitedly exchange escapade details with cousins and classmates and follow every ritualistic rule. Family bonding, creative thinking, early morning anticipation - each one further enriches the best time of the year!

Christmas cookies - we bake 'em, we eat 'em! This is our fourth year of doing that together, and more pint size participants seem to pop up annually. This year there were seven present - the newest (he'll be born on December 26th!) tucked inside mommy's tummy, hiding behind one of three aprons I made for my daughters to wear each year from now on.

A half dozen hand print reindeer blaze across the bottom half. Wisely, I've left room for more! A wreath of buttoned up yo yos graces the bodice. Hand quilted snow swirls fill in the background and everything else is outlined in stitches.

Grandma's very first Christmas 2010 Cookie Baking Party hosted just the boys - age two at the time. This year, along with Brielle at four, the "big kids" are old pros at the sprinkle station and handle those icing bottles with confident ease.

Youngest of the baking bunch, Kaylee, a newbie at the decorating table, declares,
"I have an icing bottle and I know how to use it!"

And even though dainty little Angeline prefers to taste each morsel before proceeding, there are still plenty of intact and yummy cookies for each family to take home and enjoy!

Nick gets it. "We did that last year!" he shouts when dinner is dismissed and we gather for grandma's "enhanced" reading of "The Night Before Christmas." I'm a "tradition-maker" if there ever was one, and so indeed, my sweet little Nick, this is the second year grandchildren cluster at my feet with fuzzy pet finger puppet mice to raise up with shouts of glee whenever grandma randomly inserts the word "mouse" into the tale of that storied "little old driver" who will forever be "so lively and quick!"

I can't help but wonder how many years I might be indulged with willing participation in this ritual. And if, some day, many years ahead, these children will rediscover a familiar furry face, tucked away among ornaments of old. I hope they will smile warmly at the memory of Christmas eves clustered with cousins alongside the tree, listening for the magic word!

And then it happens.

Present time!

The speculation is nearly as much fun as the opening....

But not really!.......

Yes, over here grandchildren are indulged. But each of the older ones has been guided by parents wise and compassionate to give time, talent and treasure to those less fortunate. The boys are finally old enough to volunteer at the animal shelter, walking dogs and petting cats. Each child also purchased a toy from savings to donate to another, one whom they will never meet. For that reason, the pride I feel over their own generosity makes these moments so much more special. They've given us all so much. It's their turn to receive.

I'm given presents too. This despite my assertion that grandmothers don't really want "things" from their children, they just want to do things with them! But I get both. And I am very grateful. There's a lovely box of "made-by-mommy-and-me" fudge from Brielle. Wow. Squares and squares of different flavors and toppings - so good - too good, really! I'm glad grandpa has his own. Mine are just for me!

Wine, too! Bottles large and lovely. If you ever hear that this grandma "got run over by a reindeer," you'd be wise to suspect my now fully stocked wine rack as a contributing factor!

And then there's this zany and utterly charming critter! He's crafted of wild bird seed and comes with his own pet mouse and a wire rack for hanging outside. It will be tricky to set it where our well pampered squirrels can't make short order lunch of it, but this "crazy cat lady" is really delighted with her new and fanciful feline!

Speaking of new pets, this one appeared on Christmas morning, left by Santa at Brielle's house. She was quickly named "Elfie," allowing me to add a great-grand-pig to my collection of little ones to love!

"Squeak! I'm as cute as a button!"

Inside my gift of Christmas I found the joy of Jesus in family fun, friendly faces and festive food. I found a fortune in fabulous fudge! I found cousins and cookie crumbs and the blessing of beautiful daughters and handsome and loving sons. I found presents to open and many to give. I found meaningful memories, prayers and peace.......

and just one more thing too!
 - this cute little face,
frosted in green and sprinkled in blue!

And this was my Christmas.

Friday, December 26, 2014

12:26 on 12/26

Introducing my seventh grandchild, Austin Michael!
Born at 12:26 P.M. EST on 12/26/14 (really!)
8 lbs. 8 oz. and 21" long
Here he is, cradled by his proud big sister, Brielle.
Austin loves to sleep! So far, so good!
Grandma is totally in love!

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.