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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If the idea of owning your own business and being your own boss appeals to you, also consider what goes into being a good boss. A good boss makes sure their employees (or they, themselves) get the insurance coverage they need to live healthy and productive lives. For example, one aspect of coverage all too often overlooked is vision care.

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.

But astonishingly, 50% of Americans don't have vision coverage, many of whom are self-employed and may not know how reasonable the cost of such coverage can be or how much money it can save you in the long run.

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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?

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Folk Artist

I became a folk artist by default during the summer of my senior year in college. Student teaching would not commence unless I satisfied a single remaining academic credit hour. Sister Mary Lois O.P., esteemed professor and formidable ruling chair of the art department at the Catholic college I attended suggested an independent study agreement to fulfill my obligation. We met in early June, contracted, and went our separate ways. The path I took entertained a glorious summer of beaches, boyfriends, and bars - my last as a single, non-working girl.

On or about the first of August the party was over. I had two (2) weeks to produce a compendium of two (2) month's "Craft Work in America" research and two (2) representative studio originals. What followed was a desperate around-the-clock whirlwind of designing, fabric prep and constructing. I recruited help from mother and two sympathetic sisters, paying the latter to hook and stitch with me on an awkward little rug and a wall banner of many primitive patches. Grabbing sides, we'd feverishly attack, hoping to meet in the middle by the moment the clock struck midnight on Portfolio Day.

On that morning I slunk into Sister's office, laid the goodies on her desk and inwardly cowered in fear. "I don't think she's gonna buy this stuff!"

But I was wrong.

"Ohhh," Sister breathed, radiating an approving smile, "Folk Art!" I picked myself up off the floor, scrambled to recover and solemnly muttered, "Yes, Sister." (blessmefatherforIhavelied....a lot!) "I have indeed chosen Folk Art as my independent study topic."

Folk Art, they say, is characterized by its unschooled nature. It disregards the niceties of tedious things like formal/informal balance and spatial relationships, yet it still manages to please. Forgiving many things, it is, apparently, friendly to those in a hurry, to those in need of lessons in honesty, and to those suffering guilt wrought by a procrastinating nature. The genre also fondly welcomes those who simply enjoy immortalizing the creatures with whom they share their laps and the pillows on their beds. It is a means of expression that has, indeed, been forgiving and friendly to me. And today, many decades beyond our first awkward encounter, I enjoy being friendly right back to it!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Win 20 Books From Dover Publications!

Esteemed children's author, Emilie Buchwald, states, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." I'd expand that sentiment to include grandparents! My fondest "heaven on earth" moments find me rocking away, a cherub or two upon my lap, eyes glued to volumes shared. Fairy tale fiction, puzzles and poems, how-to, heroes, and history.....heeding Dr. Suess: "The more that you read, the more things you will know!"

I'm delighted to offer you a chance to win a collection of 20 books ($135 value) to share with the little ones in your life. Enter the Dover publication GRAND give away by clicking here before midnight on June 30, 2017. The winner will be notified by email on July 5, 2017 and also posted at GRAND magazine. 

Can't wait that long to see if you've won? Enjoy immediate savings of 25% on over 10,000 books when you visit Dover Publications today. Use code WJAG at checkout before September 30, 2017. I think you'll like the vast range of topics covering crafting, coloring, drawing, writing, reading, cooking, magic, and puzzles. A rich summer of "grandma-and-me" fun awaits within the pages of these books! (Reminds me of philosopher Voltaire: "Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do harm to the world!")

Since our founding in 1941, we’ve built our reputation by offering remarkable products at amazing prices. Everyone in the Dover family wants you to be delighted with your purchase. When you shop at Dover, you may do so with complete confidence. We stand behind every product we sell with our unconditional guarantee.
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Early Literacy – Why It’s So Important

It is critical to help young children be ready for school by working with them to develop early literacy and learning skills.  Because strong reading skills form the basis for learning in all subjects, it is important to identify those who struggle with reading as early as possible. Children who have been read to at home come to school with important early literacy skills.  They are prepared to learn to read and write. Children who have not had many experiences listening to books read aloud or talking about books typically start school with poor early literacy skills.

This is a sponsored post by Dover publications.