Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good Saint Anne

Although not mentioned in the bible, Catholic tradition holds that Saint Anne and Saint Joachim were parents of the Blessed Mother, the pure and holy vessel that brought Jesus, their grandson, into a sinful world. Further stated is that they were a source of love and comfort to the family during his childhood. Were they there when he took his first steps? Did he race to dive into their arms when they visited? Did they tell him stories of prophets and kings from his rich Jewish culture? Did Joachim conspire with Joseph to surprise him with toys crafted of wood? I like to think they did all of those things. Jesus loved his grandparents!

The parish of my childhood honors Saint Anne with an annual nine day novena that concludes on her feast day, July 26th. The parishioner sponsored Society of Saint Anne welcomes all, as it has since 1940, collectively honoring the grandmother of Jesus and praying for members both living and deceased. An elegant gold and white satin banner bears the signature of each devotee. It is ceremoniously unfurled and carried in procession during a closing ritual that I have often attended.....

It is dusk, and candles in white paper cups flicker like wings of tiny angels. I stand silently with others; expectant. A murmur of prayer from the altar. The sanctifying rite of incense. Elevation of the ornately encased Saint Anne relic. A sweep of heraldry as the banner cascades into place. My maternal grandmother once placed her name upon that field, as did my mother and I. We will be included in petitions for God's mercy upon souls long after I, too, am gone.

I take my place in the procession as we exit, row by row. My voice is one of dozens, accompanied by haunting, timeless strains....

To kneel at thine altar in faith we draw near
Led onward by Mary, thine daughter so dear
Oh Good Saint Anne
We call on thine name,
Thy praises loud thine pilgrims proclaim

I pass row upon row of pews. The memorable fifth one, my place on the morning I accepted first communion as a child of seven years. The ones that held me when we buried dad and mom. Ahead is the holy water font where my sisters and I baptized our dolls, slipping into the comforting Saturday afternoon silence of this place during an era of innocence from my long ago past. And here stands the familiar bank of petition candles. I came home to light these in desperation, hoping for final exam week help when God temporally ceased to be important in my life during self-absorbed college years.

Miserere mei, Deus

We move outside now, into a neighborhood once solidly working class, but distinctively less so today. Along this same side walkway, I hurried home from parish school, pleated plaid skirt flying. In season, jacket pockets full of chestnuts from the sheltering row of trees my own grandfather helped plant as a Lithuanian immigrant founding member of this congregation. If I dallied late to help Sister clean the chalkboards, I'd sometimes cross paths with furniture factory workers headed home on foot. Before massive wooden doors of the church, they'd pause, lunch pails in hand, to reverently remove a hat and offer a respectful bow. "Within these walls, my Lord dwells." My father and grandfather would have done the same thing. Perhaps that is why I am always happiest here. This is my home. My heritage.

Back within shelter, I reclaim my pew -  my favorite. The one I occupied the year a guest priest, a vivacious young Nigerian, delivered a homily that changed my life. "Jesus is your brother, no?" he challenged. "Well then, Saint Anne is your grandmother too!" Hmmm. I had never thought of her that way. "Who," he continued, with a distinct twinkle in his eye, "has ever been turned away by a grandmother for anything they've asked for?" I liked that. It was true! "A novena is a petition," Father energetically concluded, "Go ahead! Ask your grandmother for whatever you want!" And so I did. "You are a grandmother, Saint Anne," I reasoned, "I want to be one too!" Well and good. But, I am not sure, even today, what prompted me to bolster my request with an addendum. Perhaps it was the urgency of Father's robust words that invigorated my plea. "Twins, please, Saint Anne! I want to be a grandmother of twins."

One year later, in late August, I greeted the first of my grandchildren. Twin boys. Additional babies followed, a total of eight today - a ninth on the way. Enough for everybody! That number includes twin sisters for the boys. Two sets! I'd only requested one! When the irreverently-crazy part of my brain is active and I contemplate the mounting number of Easter baskets and Christmas stockings I am now obliged to fill, I'm tempted to send a playful message to Saint Anne, "All right! Thank you! But you can stop now!" But of course, I won't. This is my grandmother we're talking about. She knows what I need. And, with approval from her divine grandson, she will always intercede for me. That, with all my heart, is what I believe.

To all who invoke thee, now lend us an ear
Thou soothest the sorrows of all who draw near

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dino Egg Diggers!

See that little blue one up in front? We had to pay him to sit there!
And that little red one? Him, too. To not snatch Ava's shovel! 

The dinosaur couple who live in my backyard woods are a curious twosome. Like most normal reptiles, they lay their eggs here and there, and then frolic away, leaving them to fend for themselves. But family legend asserts that this grandma has conversed with that parental pair, and is now the keeper of an extraordinary secret: These are not, by any means, common, garden variety dino eggs!

But how was that to be confirmed? The only way to solve this nagging mystery, it seemed, was to invite the grandchildren to helmet up, shovel up, team up, and follow a twisting and turning trail of clues to discover for themselves what lies within those ovate forms!

And they're off!

Plenty of parents to go around, serving as assistants who read initial clues, such as.....

Jump up and down, yell "DINOSAUR!"
Hop into the woods, 10 steps more
Flags in a row wait up ahead
Dig for a clue by the one that's red!  

Locating proper places proved productive! Unearthed eggs yielded additional clues!

Close your eyes and count to ten
Stop to think, then do it again
Look for a flag up ahead that's blue
Tied to the tree is a clue for you!

The choice was yours - mommy or daddy could read your clue - or you could give it a go by yourself!

Stay on the path that's long and narrow
Dig where you see a big yellow arrow!

Arrows and flags dotted the trail, and each happy hunter was assigned a dino symbol. The sight of that familiar shape assured that your feet were stomping in the right direction!

Look for your dino symbols up ahead
That's where you need to dig instead!

One by one, the search paid off! We started findin' and haulin' em in! Some were almost bigger than we were!

This picture of Kaylee reminds me of a wee fairy tale forest gnome who lives inside a mushroom and forages for berries during the day!

If you were just a little guy on your first expedition, it was nice to have daddy along. Ryan's egg was laid up in a tree by a pterodactyl! No way could he reach it by himself!

Nick had no trouble haulin' home the goods, but it was nice to have daddy admire his accomplishments!

Just don't think girls can't keep up with boys!
oh yes we can!

One might think that an egg camouflaged in foliage green would be tricky to find, but Brielle wasn't defeated by that tactic!

We gathered back at camp and took a head-and-egg count. Eight of each! Good! Our entire crew was anxious to dig in and shovel out!

Ava tore a little peep hole for herself. After all, it's good to be cautious. No Easter bunny has ever left eggs this big for us!

Piles of wrapped goodies spilled from each egg.

Bubble wands! Stickers! Lego sets! Star Wars key chains! Craft kits! Bath tub toys! Books! Art supplies! Fairy play sets! Candy!.......

And smiles all around, because these dino egg diggers delivered dynamite sized success!

This wasn't our first foray into the woods seeking fun-filled eggs! We did the same three years ago, posting it all, full of details on how to host your own dig at an event no grandchild will ever forget! Here's where you'll find it all!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pretty Birds, Pony Beads, and Pizza!

It's summer and Drop-In Days at Grandma's are back! These two+ hour, weekly opportunities are open to all grandchildren* ages three and up. Cute craft projects and drawing lessons await them. Kids interact with cousins and sample a variety of media - oil pastels, chalk, tempera and water color paint among them. We build inventory for family clothesline art shows and make seasonal decorations and gifts for parents. I'll eventually introduce origami, hand sewing, and weaving. So far, I've kept things simple and limited to what I already know. Very firmly set in my ways, you might say! That is, until dozens of light bulbs went off in my head on a recent visit to Grandma Honey's House!

Now, this remarkable lady, Pamela, is a well-seasoned multi-category baking and recipe contest winner; honors include three stints as a Pillsbury Bake Off finalist! But reading between the lines, I suspect she's most proud of her role as a grandmother who delights in entertaining her kiddoes with cooking/baking lessons. And I don't mean just the push-button ice cream machine output we call "cooking" over here! "Grandma Honey" directs youngsters through the proper process of making healthy breakfast menus, tasty fruit snacks, decadent pastries, and, most recently, pizza! In fact, her blog series on kitchen skills for kids is so clearly outlined that it comprises an excellent guide for achieving the same satisfying results with your own grandchildren. She's done all the homework for us, sharing basics like measuring tips and proper use of equipment - things people like me don't ordinarily consider. All I needed to wake myself up was the fleeting image of my own grandchildren, stranded on a deserted island, knowing nothing but how to glue sequins to a Popsicle stick! From now on, Drop-In Days at Grandma's include Grandma Honey's cooking projects as well!

This week, three year old Kaylee and five year old Brielle dropped in for "Pretty Birds, Pony Beads, and Pizza!"

But first - pizza!

Grandma Honey suggests a packaged dough, but I "short-cutted" that step with a two pound recipe churned up in my bread maker. That quantity was more than enough to yield a pair of nicely sized pies that went home hot in "official" pizza boxes** - dinner for family that evening - rolled, sauced, cheese-sprinkled and pepperoni-topped by very proud little ladies on their way to lifelong self-sufficiency in the kitchen! And how do I know this? Mommy told me that Brielle's enthusiastic comment on the way home was, "I fixed tonight's dinner! You guys just sat on the couch!"

I also scored well with the pet "wrist birds" we made. These were inspired by a design you'll find here at a creative blog sponsored by Princeton University.

Three inch wrapping paper tube sections form the body of these happy little chirps. Kids choose their own colors and punch out oval and circle shapes to decorate. Once feathers are firmly glued, a pipe cleaner is threaded through a pair of punched holes for attachment to wrist.

Sigh!....watching glue dry....not the "funnest" part of anybody's summer!

But don't worry, sweetie! Grandma's got another project for you........!

Little ladies plowed through piles of pretty paper, plastic straws, and pony beads galore. These were the ingredients for summery necklaces (modeled by Kaylee) that offer pattern setting experience - (or not!) It's my suggestion that grandmas offer sumptuous quantities of choices: colors! textures! patterns! In this case, a 2" daisy-shaped paper punch made quick work of the finest in paper jewelry!

Use thin yarn to string necklaces, but roll the ends in a strip of masking tape to make threading easier. I offered a red, white, and blue star option with striped paper straw beads, but both girly-girls wanted to sport daisies - and I didn't blame them one bit!

 *Currently, I'm entertaining just the grandkids. But a "Bring a Friend" event is something I'm considering, too.

**I found pizza boxes locally, but they're available at Amazon and Uline. I received excellent service a few years ago from the latter when I ordered Chinese take out boxes. Both items create a special touch when cooking for the family - "curb-side pick-up" dinners for my daughters' families are very much appreciated!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lemons to Lemonade!

When life gives you a free lemonade stand (that's deeply appreciated but just not up to your standards of lemonade stand artistry!) - say thank you, take it home, take it apart, paint it, decorate it, make lemonade, cat toys, and dog treats and sell everything to make money for a local cat rescue! That's what my granddaughter and I did, and here's our story of sweet success!

Brielle's neighborhood association organizes an annual garage sale event. Weather usually cooperates during the first week in June, so a fresh audience, pockets full of jingling coins, enthusiastically descends upon these normally quiet streets .....

And a competent sales manager shows up after a full day of Kindergarten to serve them!

We chose a very deserving local cat rescue as the beneficiary of our efforts. Lemonade alone wasn't enough for us, so a few of what the industry calls "add-on purchases" were also available!

For example.....

I'm kinda famous 'round here for my catnip snakes! The full story behind them is right here - with a link for instructions on how to make your own.

I supplied 20 of these crazy-eyed, be-ribboned critters - enough to net $100 in sales. But a $5 cat toy is a bit pricey for a garage sale clientele, so these did not go "feline-in' outta here" like "hats for cats" do in the hilarious GoDaddy commercial! We delivered the leftover 10 to the rescue; their audience of volunteers and new pet-parents will snap them up quickly!

Leftover scraps from the snakes were screaming, "Make us into spider toys!" So I did. At 50 cents each, quite a few went itsy-bitsy-ing home!

Layer 5 or 6 strips, each 3/4" - 1" wide, 6" - 8" long, and knot tightly at center. Tie random knots at ends of individual "spider legs." You'll find them under your couches, soggy with cat saliva, after they've disappeared!

We sold out of home made dog treats - eighteen of them at $1.00 each! I had searched a long time for a recipe easy enough for kids to make and also suitable for my silicone paw print mold. This excellent product is found here on page 10 of my Amazon gift shop. Large 6-unit mold makes 3" treats - doubled recipe yields 18 of them.

Here, at Dancing Dog Cabin is where you'll find a lovely decorating blog and the peanut butter/oatmeal treat recipe. We included that web address inside each bag so nobody would have to sit, stay, and beg for it! Thank you, Melissa! This one's a keeper!

Need a simple, inexpensive recipe for lemonade that doesn't involve tedious squeezing?

Mix together: 8 cups of water, 1.5 cups of powdered sugar and 1.5 cups of bottled lemon juice. Add ice and fresh lemon slices.

I think we were wise to price our 9 ounce cups at only 25 cents each. I suppose you could call it a successful "loss leader," because customers who approached often purchased a pet treat or toy - and many really nice people declined their change since our proceeds went to a charity with an excellent reputation!

Here's something that kept young customers coming back for more! I've had this delightful mechanical kitty bank set aside for Bree for several years. Now was the purr-fect time for it to change paws! Customers placed their quarters and stood back to wait for a distinctive meow! Sloooowly the lid raised, just high enough for an eager kitty to quickly snatch the coin and disappear!

Want your own sneaky little coin grabber? I'm sure you do! Here she is on page 4 of my Amazon gift shop.

Tips for a successful learning and giving experience:

1) Decorate your stand so it is bright and appealing. If possible, plan along with a neighborhood garage sale effort to take advantage of built-in traffic.

2) Choose a worthy charity as beneficiary, but ask permission first. Share pictures with them - to post on Face Book or include in a newsletter story. Your grandchild may not expect public acknowledgement, but it is encouraging when it occurs.

3) Measure the lemonade and bake sale items together. Involve the child as much as possible.

4) Role play customer and service provider before opening. Practice greeting with a friendly "hello," brief comment on the charity's value, and a sincere "thank you" when the transaction is completed.

5) Network on Face Book to bring neighbors, friends, and relatives in as customers.

6) Deliver money promptly. Here's Bree, cuddling one of the shelter kitties we met when we dropped off our proceeds the day after the sale ended.

Our first Lemonade Stand benefit brought in $98 after a three day, part time effort! That doesn't count the additional $50+ worth of cat toys pending sale. I am proud of my granddaughter for the poise she demonstrated in operating her business. I am also pleased with the compassion she has for animals. I'm kind of pleased with myself, too, to be honest. It's been my privilege to be part of the effort to lead my grandchildren toward a lifestyle that considers the needs of others. Enjoying an experience like this one is memory making fun with so many dimensions and so much added value to the life of a child - and to that of a grandparent as well!

This wasn't our first charitable project this year! Read about our Girl Scout spay-neuter clinic contribution here!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

13 "Grandma + Me" Summer Ideas!

Current exhibit:
"Invasive Species!"

An anonymous fellow grandma friend insists I use her case study as the intro to this post. She has a great sense of humor, self diagnosing as woefully deficient at entertaining grandchildren in a fun and fulfilling way. She blames years of "corporate bossiness" for her condition. "But I'm just not domestic and crafty like yoooou are!" she wails. "What should I dooooo with them after we get home from the zooooo?" 

Oh, geez, Louise! (not her real name!) Haven't you ever heard of cookie dough or a dollar store glow stick or a home made sock puppet?

I promised "Louise" a handful of ideas to use this summer. And I guaranteed her that my list wouldn't include "Take them to the zoo!" That lame directive pops up on top of every list screaming "TEN Fresh Ideas for Grandparents!" Come on, people! What kind of a grandma doesn't already dooooo thaaaaat on her own? That's what zoos (and their amply stocked gift shops!) are made for anyway!

Try these instead:

1. Make a cardboard box doll house. This one's an ongoing project that will have you working side by side with your grandchild for weeks. You'll utilize scraps of lace for curtains, clear plastic packaging material for windows, toothpaste boxes for sofas, bottle caps for kitchen stools and fabric scraps for carpeting. Recycling. Designing. Measuring. Dreaming. Remodeling. It's all there. My sisters and I each made our own one year after mother came home with a discontinued wallpaper book. I still remember the red flocked huge fleur de lis pattern I selected for my shoe box living room - the "cat's pajamas" to an eight year old of that era. I wonder today, in horror, if anyone actually ever papered their walls with it. Probably. It was the 50s!

If a doll house isn't appealing, turn the box into a Natural History Museum showcasing backyard finds, or a school classroom, art museum or playhouse for a pet cat.

Our Nature Museum is an ongoing project. Cousins add and subtract as seasons change and new finds are discovered.

If you don't want to bother with the fine details, escort your kids into a room filled with cardboard boxes of every shape and size (the bigger, the better!). Add only a roll of wide masking tape and let the constructing begin! Make tunnels and bridges and places to hide. When you're done, fold them all up and lead a good citizen patrol to the community recycling station.

2. Cook age appropriate things together, then create a recipe book that includes photos of the children at work. Provide watercolors for decorating each page. Bind everything together at the spine with ribbon scraps laced and tied through punched holes. Lovely gift for parents!

3. Visit the public library and bring home a huge stack of kids' books covering a range of fiction and non-fiction topics. Design a photo library card for each child and invite them to browse the cardboard box shelves you've stocked. Initiate a reading club and offer a reward for every ten books completed. Create a cozy reading tent with draped blankets and/or bean bag chairs and a flashlight or camping lantern. Install a cardboard box book drop and a kid sized desk and let grandchildren take turns working. Host a story time. Turn your library into a family resource by collecting books and magazines from everyone and include adults as borrowers - serviced (and late-fined!) by the kids, of course! Here's the one I made - now entering its second successful year!

4. Turn your neighborhood walk into an active scavenger hunt. Send grandpa to hide messages beforehand along the path you'll take. Read clues to the kids to direct them to each find. Make messages directing crazy challenges for the entire group (you too, grandma!) such as:

10 jumping jacks!
Sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" as loudly as you can
Spy something yellow (or shiny, or prickly, or sticky, or fuzzy)
Hold hands and skip for 20 seconds
Point to three things that start with "H"
Take one turn each to lead "Simon Says"
Do the "Hokey Pokey!"
Find three bugs each
Go trick-or-treating right now at the house in front of you!*

Yes, the goal is to make a spectacle of yourselves! Leave a trail of neighbors peering out of windows, smiling away at kids fortunate enough to have such a fun goofball for a grandma! (Or wondering if they should lock their doors. That, too, I suppose!)

*Okay, this one does need an explanation! I'm lucky enough to have a fellow neighborhood grandma who agreed to be in on the prank! She dressed as a princess, answered the door, and handed out jumbo candy bars to my kiddoes as if spontaneous trick-or-treating on a balmy afternoon in July was the most normal thing on earth! This year it's my turn to reciprocate when her grandkids show up on my porch!

5. Teach something unique that the kids will always identify with just you. How about a new way to communicate? - American Sign Language - Morse Code - common phrases in a second language - Hieroglyphics - your own invented secret language! My two sisters and I did this, becoming quite fluent speaking "Sister-ish" in public! We authored a pictorial dictionary, adding and practicing new words every day. Wrote songs in our language, too! I still recall many of our descriptive sentences. "Newmon ooff doe gantzie!" ("Telephone for you!") That's from the old days, you know! Phones with a cord were attached to the wall!

Enrich school skills by introducing Roman Numerals or tales from Roman and Greek mythology. Identify classical music. Hold a Swan Lake dance party with silky scarves to wave or decorated wrapping tube wands to twirl up a storm of majestic beauty! March to The Nutcracker. Peter and the Wolf is rich with instruments to recognize and animal behavior to mimic. Display the work of famous artists and discuss them until the kids converse easily about Warhol, DaVinci, Cezanne and Michelangelo. Hang a few Monet prints on a clothesline in the living room and refer to it as the "Monet Gallery" until the works are familiar. Then add another room and artist. Make a Bingo game of significant works and play it together.

6. Guide your grandchildren to give to a good cause. Plant catnip in your backyard and care for it. In the meantime, show the kids (boys too!) how to hand sew small fabric square pouches that will eventually be stuffed with a little polyester filling and a few sprigs of the dried plant. Deliver the completed toys to an animal shelter or sell them at a garage sale for donations to a pet rescue.

7. Contribute to family game night by creating original fun to play at home. Make something as simple as "Familiar Faces Bingo" (family member photos on squares) or a board game that twists and turns with challenge cards that feature inside jokes:
"Oops! Someone forgot to clean the litter box! Go back 3 spaces."
"Can you believe it? Everybody's got their jammies on and it's only 8 PM! Move up 5 spaces!"

8. Going out together after dark is awesome fun! Hide glow-in-the-dark lizards (or glow sticks with rubbery critters attached) and search for them. Then come inside and make plastic jar habitats for them with mini cactus plants and glow-in-the-dark "moonstones" or stick-on stars. Use as soothing night lights.

9. Crafty Grab-Bagging! Go Pinterest-ing for a variety of simple craft projects. Find at least 3 per child. Place directions and supplies inside individual paper bags and tie with a length of yarn. Hang a group of individual bags to the underside of a light fixture, patio umbrella or the branches of a tree. (If needed, mark some for "boys," others for "girls.") Children will cut down one bag at a time and complete the project inside. When parents arrive to pick their kids up, invite them in to view an exciting craft show.

Here's a few ideas:
Stamp pad, paper and marker for making thumbprint animals
Sock puppet
Popsicle stick doll furniture
Paper tube race car
Bird seed ornament
Origami paper and instruction sheet
Wood scrap blocks, bottle caps, glue and directions for robot sculpture
Strips of colorful paper, glue stick and wiggle eyes to make paper chain snake

10. Food Sculpting Lunch Event! Cut trays of veggies and fruit. Supply pretzel sticks, crackers, cheese cubes and small bowls of cream cheese tinted with food color. Create little houses, bugs and animals using cream cheese as glue. Healthy munching while you work? Yep! That's lunch!

11. Ladybug Launch! Take kids on a hike to find ladybug-shaped stones, then paint them. Print "Good Luck!" on the bottom of each one, or "welcome!" on ones destined for new neighbors. Go for an after dark walk together to hide the bugs in semi-conspicuous places in the neighborhood. Indicate spots where bugs are left on a pre-drawn map. Speculate on which ones might be found, then check the next night to see if you guessed correctly. Small and cute. That is all.

12. Create an ongoing family newspaper or single edition magazine with editorial offices at your house. Brainstorm for stories, then compile raw material into published editions. Include a calendar of family events, puzzles, art work and creative writing. Make it extra fun by awarding a prize to the first reader who calls in with the correct answer to "Find the Fake News Story and Win!"

13. And finally, yes! You you do have my "permission" to take those grandkids to the zoo! Attack that gift shop, ride that train, feed that giraffe and come home sticky fingered in cotton candy and frosty-faced in gooey goodness. Fall asleep in the car on the way back - right alongside the kids!*
* Designated grandpa-driver a "must-invite!" - he'll get you "kids" home safely!

And again, for the record, "Louise" you don't need to be "domestic" or "crafty" in order to complete any of these 13 tasks. I don't share a single moment of your corporate boardroom experience, yet I am still quite capable of bossing people around!......

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Under the Sea" Birthday Party!

This party's been splashing about in my archives for more than half a year. It celebrates the day my twin granddaughters became young ladies at the age of three. The majority of the ideas, the planning, and the work are the successes of their talented mommy, my oldest daughter, Mary Jo. But, like all of our celebratory events, tasks were shared with daddy, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. I love this aspect of our family. We work together, allowing the children to experience extended family support while witnessing how creative cooperation results in outcomes that reach far beyond the ordinary!

And, the extraordinary began as guests arrived! Twin mermaids coyly greeted them, beckoning beneath a bubbling balloon arch to a bounty of bouncing beyond!

Greeting guests with giggles galore....
the prettiest pair of merry little mermaids!

"Hello, friendly octopus!"
But exotic sea creatures weren't confined to outdoor decor.....

Floating mystically above the buffet table, home crafted jellyfish created an ethereal atmosphere....

Clustered beneath them, "crabby croissants" eyeballed the crowd....

But I think the kids had their own eyes on a spread of desserts that spilled "beach candy" and "sand" onto an inviting tray. Individual pail sets, also pictured at top, were my contribution. Snorkeling on over to my favorite crafty food blogger's site, Hungry Happenings, I took inspiration from Beth's clever starfish design. I substituted sugar cookies for her recipe, pressing them, thinly iced, into finely ground graham cracker crumbs to duplicate her whimsical results. Sand pail sets were filled with crumbled spice cake and presented to the kids for dessert. They "shoveled it in" using scoops as utensils with varying, but adorable! - degrees of messy success!

Little ladies munched their lunch at an outdoor table laden with pretty party favors. They found dainty starfish wands, beautifully embellished tiaras....

and golden chests of treasure holding sparkling strings of pearls and more!

I had a second job, too. A crafty take-home project! We filled plastic jars with tinted, glittery water and floated toy fish and creatures of the sea amidst a tangle of foliage and a sprinkling of shells.

I've been told that even today, months later, affectionate shakes of these sample slices of the sea still hold gentle swirls of fascination!

Who but resourceful mommy would find a rental bounce house topped by a trio of dolphins? This towering attraction not only set the theme, but provided "oceans" of lively fun for guests who ranged in age from one year to six.

Our lovely hostess also thoughtfully provided a peaceful place to shovel for shells when bouncing wore you out!....

....because even energetic older brothers needed an occasional break from the liveliness that marked the third year anniversary of the doubling of the twin population in this happy family!

Party Notes!
So, where did we get all this cool stuff? We're happy to share! None of these sources are sponsored.

Balloon arch custom made and installed by a local party supply and rental company that also provided the bounce house.

Mermaid costumes from Chasing Fireflies online children's clothing retailer.

Plastic pail sets and treasure chests from Oriental Trading Company. Mary Jo spray painted the chests, which are sold in black.

She also crafted jellyfish from party lanterns and streamers, assembled tiaras with lace ribbon accents, and made starfish wands from materials purchased at Michael's.

Aquarium jars (6" plastic, 32 ounce) from Just Artifacts online party supply retailer. Plastic sea creatures from Hobby Lobby.

Visit Hungry Happenings for a bounty of clever food crafting ideas for every special occasion. It's a real treasure trove for grandmas who like to "swim upstream" against the usual world of ordinary!

And, finally, visit Mary Jo's blog, Mrs. Party Planner, for many more profiles of creative, high energy family party fun!