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!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Purr-fect Project!

"Hi! I'm Hudson! and I approve this purr-fect Girl Scout project!"

"Make the world a better place," reads, in part, the Girl Scouts of America law. It's a maxim that Brielle, my oldest granddaughter, has pledged to honor as a "Daisy" (Kindergarten level) scout. I am very proud of her!

Scouting involves contributing; it's the same vision shared by grandparents who recognize that devoted time and attention help raise a new generation of compassionate and socially responsible citizens. "We make a living by what we get," reflected Winston Churchill, "but we make a life by what we give." Who among us doesn't wish to bestow satisfying gifts of purpose, generosity, tolerance, and gratitude upon society's youngest members? Modeling virtues of giving back, and gently guiding grandchildren toward the same goal accomplishes exactly that! And, not to cast a gloomy spell of morbidity or anything, but it also fulfills personal pledges to leave the world a better place!

Brielle's troop leader recently appealed to parents for project ideas. I was delighted to be called on to help my daughter, Christy, with a charitable activity that will benefit the cause closest to my heart. We will deliver small paw-printed fleece blankets to a local low-cost spay-neuter clinic. Each Daisy made one of these popular items, following directions given below. Clinic staff and volunteers will distribute them to worthy cats or small dogs. Think of the post-surgical comfort 12 needy fur-babies will find in the warmth of these blankets on their way back home to a new life that won't contribute to an overpopulation of pets!

Our troop will also collect clinic "wish-list" items from their community of family and friends. Paper towels, cat food, trash bags, office supplies - all of these things are needed on a continuing basis. Every donation helps! An extra bonus for us was the response Christy recieved from her daughter's principal when she requested permission to initiate an all-school drive. Seems his wife is a rescuing over-the-top animal lover like we are! Somehow, I think our box for donations is going to fill to "over-the-top" too, especially since we were also invited to submit our feature to the community newspaper!

And by the way, if you're a "dreamer" like I am, hoping that someday every single puppy and kitten born will enjoy a safe, happy life in a loving "fur-ever" home, be encouraged! Locally, we are experiencing a "kitten shortage." Its even been featured on the news! "It's spring! Where are all the kittens?" they've asked. And potential adopters have been greeted by shelter door signs that read, "Sorry! No cats left! Try again next week!" Spay-neuter initiatives have made an impact here on a surplus formerly destined for euthanasia, and I am delighted!

If you can't adopt - foster....
If you can't foster - sponsor....
If you can't sponsor - volunteer....
If you can't volunteer - donate....
If you can't donate - educate....
Everyone can do something!

Make 2 kitty/small dog sized blankets from 1 yard each of paw print and solid color fleece. Cut the 36" x 60" wide lengths into two 36" x 30" pieces. Stack a print and a solid with right sides facing out. Trim to match. Cut a 4" square out of each corner. Continue to cut 4" slashes all around perimeter, each about 1" - 1.5" wide. Double knot each pair of fringes to complete.

And what's a grandma to do with those leftover 4" corner squares? Well, make them into catnip toys, of course! Sew, turn, stuff, hand close - purr-fect!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Minnie Mouse Birthday Party!

"We've got ears!"

And pretty pink bows!
And polka dots!
And happy smiles everywhere!

Kaylee has always been an avid fan of Minnie Mouse, but since our recent multi-family vacation to Walt Disney World®Resort, her affection for that perky and personable little rodent has been off the charts! When mommy and daddy teamed up to plan her third birthday party, there was no question on the theme she'd choose. Minnie Mouse! But more specifically, PINK Minnie Mouse! And so, inspired by that familiar Disney creativity, the fun began....!

If you're a grandma with frequent flyer babysitting hours, you're likely familiar with the Disney channel and its popular "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" educational cartoon. You know this lively entertainment keeps everybody humming and hopping to catchy signature tunes - and on rapt alert for appealing puzzles to solve. You'll also recognize the greeting that welcomed our party guests.....

....and know what to do with these "Mouseketools!"

A helping of Minnie's Fruit chunks may appeal to you.....

along with a well-relished "Hot Diggity Dog!" and a side of
"Minnie's Bow Tie Pasta."

The best choice from the beverage bar, in my opinion, was the Cherry Ice Cream Punch! Mmmm! (Recipe below)

By the way, we know you heard Kaylee calling you to lunch because you put on a pair of ears when you came in!..... 

....and she made sure you wore them the entire time! 

That includes you, mommy and baby brother, Ryan!

After lunch, it's time for games and prizes! Here's "Pin the Bow on Minnie" with family friends, Amanda and little Savannah. 

Everyone took a turn at the cheerful bean bag toss game I built on a foam board easel.

And then it was time for a final flourish of cake and ice cream....

With several dainty puffs, the candles were out - and Kaylee was THREE!

Presents! Let's wrap this party up by digging into that big pile and opening them!

"Thank you, Aunt Karrie! This looks like fun!"...... 

"Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom and four of my cousins know I love pink horsies! Thank you!"

And thank you, too, dear readers, for visiting our Minnie Mouse birthday party today!

Here's how to make Cherry Ice Cream Party Punch!
Mix together: 1.5 quarts vanilla ice cream, one 2 liter bottle of Cherry 7 Up, and one 64 ounce bottle of Welch's white grape juice

Wait! One more thing! There's still time to enter for a chance to win the Better Homes and Gardens magazine multi-generational "Making Memories Magical" trip to Walt Disney World®Resort for your family of eight! Kaylee's been there and she knows there's nothing like hugging Minnie Mouse in person! We'd love to see you experience the same joy. Here's where you'll find every link and detail needed to enter!