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 piles 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.
For immediate access to exclusive Dover offers and new titles, be sure to subscribe to our email newsletters.  It’s free to join and you can cancel at any time. We never share your name or information with third parties.
If you are unhappy with a product that you purchase from Dover Publications for any reason, simply tell us within 30 days, and we will replace it or provide you with a full refund for the purchase price.
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.

Monday, May 1, 2017


The stroke of a brush, a flourish of glitter, or a generous dollop of glue are often able solvers of life's little day-to-day dilemmas. For those that defy solution, try a crafty grandkid's finger on the control button of a spray paint can! Problems? Now you see them, now you don't!

Six year old Brielle was excited to participate in the annual Art Show sponsored by her elementary school. Kids were invited to submit an original piece - their own work - for judging by family, friends, and other students. Bree's idea was to create a cardboard sculpture of her beloved kitty, Hudson. We exchanged a knowing wink; there'd be spray paint involved, and she's had plenty of practice at grandma's! (Moms and dads, generally, are not fans of turning kids loose at home, armed with cans of "Fire Engine Red" or "Knock 'Em Dead Purple!")

And, since this grandma has never met a cardboard box or wrapping paper tube she didn't deem worthy of saving, Bree was able to pick and chose feline body parts from an ample basement stash. She liked a pair of giant wiggle eyes and a pink foam heart, too. From there, it was back home, to the kitchen table, to get busy!

Pointy ears, cardboard legs, cotton ball paws, and a generous sweep of glitter had Hudson's mirror image glowing with glossy glamour atop a generously applied orange coat. With a swish of his pipe cleaner-pom pom tail, he was ready to go!

Patiently waiting in line to register, this pair purred with anticipation!

Hudson had an assigned number and a place on the judging tables along with 158 other entries! Here he is, standing proudly on his cotton ball paws in the K-2nd grade division!

Art patrons milled about the crowded gym, admiring, commenting, voting....moms, dads, siblings - and grandparents. Lots of grandparents! - some "attending" from miles away, viewing the show via FaceTime, others taken directly by hand, proudly steered to wrinkly-cornered paintings, wobbly-stacked sculptures...."Here it is, grandma! You can vote for me!" We exchanged fond, indulgent smiles, those other grandmas and I. It's secret "Grandparent Code," you know - our own are always cutest, always best, but we graciously celebrate one another too, fellow travelers on the same road, savoring the status we've earned along the way.

And no, Hudson didn't return home adorned in best-of-show splendor. Some days, there are more ways to win than just the obvious ones..... 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Chicks on a Bonnet!

If you're a grandma, you likely recall the hat wearing era of the 1950s. To venture forth those years without one plopped atop the head was a fashion crime akin to leaving home bereft of shoes! Netted, jeweled, satin, velvet, pinned, and feathered - both mother and grandmother had hats galore, and I ached to reach the age where I could sport my own.

There was, however, an annual hat wearer's holiday inclusive of the youngest among us, and that, of course, was Easter. Arriving brimmed and be-ribboned for early morning Mass, my sisters and I primly perched upon our pews, peeking furtive glances at the finery amidst us. Oh, the records set those days in sins of pride and envy inside that holy place!

But I like hats, I will not lie, and hate to see them ousted!

Want to make a really, really cute one?

My fanciful salute to vintage years is a thrifty one as well. Basic hats hail from Dollar Tree! To those you'll add:

glittery eggs
pastel feathers*
paper basket filler* (1.5 oz. decorates 4)
eyelet or lace trim (hat diameter x 3.14")
pastel ribbon (3" wired preferred)
sparkly tulle roll (6" wide)
a flock of fuzzy chicks
hot glue gun

*also from Dollar Tree

1. Flip hat upside down and glue eyelet or lace trim all around edge of circumference. Flip it back and hot glue basket filler all around base of dome as shown, far right.

2. Tie ribbon into a generous bow. Make it a double by layering an equal length of tulle beneath. Glue the bow to hat as shown.

3. Cluster eggs in three equally spaced areas. Glue them down, adding feathers and chicks.

When my little ladies arrive for Easter dinner, I'll greet them with a hat, a cuddly stuffed bunny, and an escort to the kids' a chick, there a chick, everywhere a cute lil chick a-chirpin'!
This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2017. 
All rights reserved. Thank you! 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wee Woven Baskets

Bunnies aren't the only cute things bopping about here during the Easter season! It's traditional for kids to gather at grandma's for a holiday workshop preceding the big day. We make party favors and gifts for mommy and daddy. I find that well appreciated because those basket-fillers-in-chief are often overlooked in the annual scramble to make the E.B. look good!

My previous post featured our fuzzy yarn bunnies. After dinner on Easter Sunday, the kids will step up and teach mom and dad how to make their own palm size pets. Once those are complete, the teaching team will hand out these colorful "woven" paper baskets. Plenty of room inside for candy and a newly crafted critter!

Use brightly colored craft paper and paper punched accents to make these 8" baskets (4" without handle). Besides that, you'll need only a ruler, pencil, scissors, and glue. 

To make each basket:

1. Measure and cut paper strips:

1 - 11.5" x 3/4" (handle)
1 - 11.5" x 1" (horizontal strip)
5 - 8.5" x 1" (woven strips)

2. Lay the horizontal strip face down and glue all 5 woven strips to it, side by side, also face down. When you flip it right side up, it will look like the sample in blue.

3. Lay the piece reverse side up, as shown in purple, and match the end of strip #1 to horizontal strip as shown. Glue it down.

4. Continue matching and gluing - second strip will line up next to first glued one. This is how it will look in progress.

5. Basket forms as strips continue to be glued in place. Attach all 5, then glue horizontal strip ends together to complete. Glue handle in place.

6. Decorate baskets with paper punched shapes.

Please note that baskets won't stand alone unless you crease strips at bottom.

Experiment with various lengths and widths to make baskets of different sizes. I'm going to try making teeny tiny ones for the fairy party in the woods we'll be enjoying during Grandma Camp week!