Monday, April 21, 2014

The Kids' Table

I have heard horror stories about "the kids' table".....that rickety, wobble-legged "card table" set up in a dark, drafty corner of the kitchen, clunky upended plastic milk crates for seating, paper plated lunch meat sandwiches with a skimpy side of nasty vegetables, scowling and squirming cousins crammed across who sullenly eye their own cold potatoes and warm milk - all topped off with a super-duper-sour-puss of a frowning grandma whisking past to hiss, "Don't you kids dare spill any of that gravy on my nice clean floor! Or else! No dessert for you! And the Easter bunny won't come either!" Then away she goes, around the corner, just beyond the whoosh of double dining doors to immerse herself in candle lit warmth, intimate laughter, the gentle clink of company china, a twinkling sparkle of alcohol in crystal stemware, steaming platters of well seasoned delicacies, more premium alcohol and the preferred company of......adults!


No way! Not over here! Not at this grandkid-crazy grandma's house!

I've actually waited "years" for the chance to hostess a kids' table. Special little guests of honor do have to be old enough to sit unassisted and hold their own forks, of course! But most of all, an awakening spirit of independence must be present. Sitting on mommy's lap is no longer the preferred way to dine in style!

And "big kids" don't drink out of baby bottles anymore either!
They use straws!

I placed three "big kids" at a round table mere steps from the formal one that seated eight adults plus three youngest children. Soft springlike yellow linens on the big table indicated that this color be continued on the smaller one, but "store-bought" would just not do! The 72" round covering is a nine patch quilt I embarked upon during the first week of March. I frantically reached for my deadline, hand stitching up a frenzy while envying grandma blogger friends (Hello, Debra and Judy!) who spent those last cold winter weeks enjoying their own projects at a leisurely pace!

And what's a grandma to do about food? Asparagus soup? Arugula salad? Beef tenderloin with Pinot Noir sauce? My adult guests raved, but the kids aren't buying that kind of stuff. The solution was to offer a variety of finger foods, allowing them to graze and own some choice. They love to bop around while they eat, visiting parents and tempting cats with grape tomatoes!

Perfect menu!
Ham and cheese mini croissants
Veggie cups: baby carrots, cuke slices, grape tomatoes
Organic whole milk with Peep-on-a-paper-straw
Whole wheat mini muffins
Deviled eggs
Herb cheese in mini phyllo cups
Grapes, pear spears, watermelon chunks


simply the chirpiest mini cheese balls I have ever seen! These little pipsqueaks are original with super-talented Beth at Hungry Happenings. I searched far and wide for cute Easter food but found mostly sweet items. This recipe is delightful - easy to make and store in advance, great as an appetizer and healthy for kids to snack on. Beth also shows a mini monster version of this recipe - I'll be making those for Halloween! Perfect site, grandmas, for all of us who like to "wow" our kids with clever little treats that aren't commonly seen anywhere else!

I had a lot to be thankful for on Easter Sunday. The most heartwarming moment allowed me to reflect on the significant holiness of this day. Our kids' table guests are students at Lutheran pre-schools. They have been taught well. Grandpa was allowed a break from leading prayer when Nick, Sae and Brielle offered to say it for him. "God is great, God is good...." What a beautiful ecumenical moment. Our family had participated as members in Holy Week services at both Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, and now the little ones among us led a classic Protestant prayer for children. God is, indeed, good!

"Reverend" Nick: "Let us thank Him for our food."

And there's more!

The kids filled the Easter baskets they made and handed them out. Everybody, including Bree's mommy, Christy, loved them!

Baby Kaylee celebrated her first Easter by finding her first egg. We were very impressed with her color coordination skill!

And finally, Sae is very "hoppy" that you stopped by today. He is glad to see you! And so I am!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Somebunny Special

The grandkiddoes start crafting at an early age around here. That includes every glue stick snacker, crayon eater, pipe cleaner poker, and paint water drinker among us. No bunny likes being left out! 


Soon-to-be one year old Kaylee joined us this week to make a suitable gift for mommy and daddy. This will be her first Easter and she'll want to participate when her older cousins present their parents with hand painted Snuggle Bunny Pillows. With a little help, I managed to paint Kaylee's palm, ring and forefingers with white acrylic and press her hand onto patterned paper. She was fascinated by the process, curling her little digits and squirming about in curiosity. The framed bunny face was the best of the series, the last before she was whisked away to the sink for clean up while grandma retreated to add finishing touches.

No, this procedure won't be the easiest or "funnest" thing you'll ever do with a child of this "wiggle bug" age, but the results, I think, are worth the trouble. I was surprised at how small Kaylee's hand appeared inside a 4" x 6" matted opening. It won't be like that for long. I'm so glad I hopped to the challenge this year!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Basket Making 101

We need 14 baskets for Easter Sunday. I suppose we could have brought some home from the dollar store, or hooked pipe cleaners to the sides of margarine tubs. That would have worked. But those methods would not have satisfied a goal of guiding my three oldest grandchildren toward creating together as a team of cousins to build something nice from the ground up. They are ready to work side by side, enjoying the process, patiently waiting to complete the next step, anticipating the excitement of delivery day. On Easter morning, my little crew of eager bunnies will assemble to fill the baskets they made with paper grass, candy and small gifts. Once dinner is complete, they will distribute their own works of art, surprising and delighting everyone ranging from good old patriarch grandpa down to one-year-plus-one-day old Kaylee. I can't wait either!

We built our baskets in a familiar way, relying on paper mache to deliver the basic forms we needed: Turn generous sized soup bowls upside down, cover with aluminum foil and then three layers of newspaper strips dipped into a hand mixed flour and water paste. Allow them to dry for a day or two, then separate baskets from bowls.

Next, we paint. Each child chose family members and selected appropriate colors for inside and outside surfaces. Mixing white with any color makes a "tint," the pastel version of any primary or secondary choice - there's always a way to sneak in some art vocab learnin' when grandma's in charge of the show!

My favorite part was decorating. I cleaned out the aisles of three craft stores to present a dizzying array of cute self-adhesive goodies, and the kids were on their own, carefully matching their choices to the personalities of the recipients.

After decorations have been applied, punch two holes on each basket side near the top and thread 18" narrow ribbon lengths. These will knot around and hold ends of wide wired ribbon handles. Tie the narrow ribbon into bows to complete.

You are correct. The "less is more" trend has not caught on yet at grandma's crafty table!

Bree carefully made and decorated this one for her smallest cousin. Kaylee will find a bunny finger puppet, a toy duckie and a cute little pair of socks inside - along with some baby crackers that Grandma Bunny hasn't hopped out to purchase yet!

Nick, at left, puts finishing touches on mommy's basket. Sae is finishing up his own.

From the chatter I overheard at the crafting table, I know the cousins are more excited about giving, rather than receiving baskets. It was so sweet to watch the boys tenderly decorate for mommy and baby sisters, making sure each sported plenty of jewels, flowers, and pink paint!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Fire in the Hole!"

Please add us to the list of satisfied customers who have constructed the marshmallow catapult originally seen in the May 2010 issue of Family Fun magazine! This popular project delighted the boys last week when we sat down to make them for the purpose of flinging marshmallows to intercept by mouth. Okay...that particular part was not a success! But we were amazed at how far and how fast those projectiles flew, learning that the amount of rubber band tension determined velocity.

Adequate instructions are provided at the above link, but there are a few things I would do differently. The "family size" tissue box was a little flimsy even though the width and depth worked perfectly. I think I'd reinforce the long sides with cardboard next time, or possibly substitute a shoe box.

My grandsons are five years old and quite experienced with crafty and scientific enrichment projects provided at home by their parents, yet I did much of the work on our catapults. Rubber bands must be twisted and tied tightly and holes punched accurately - best done by an adult. The kids enjoyed measuring and observing though, picking up a few related terms as they watched and waited.

As always, grandma learned some new things too. The device made wonderful entertainment for the boys' cats, "Marshall" and "Baby." I probably should have anticipated that one! But then there were the sound effects - loud and lusty shouts of "Fire in the hole!" as ammunition was positioned for launch. I suspect that has something to do with the fascination little boys have with historic weaponry, anything set up to shoot far and fast, controlled, aimed and fired by a pair of youthful engineers whose curiosity and enthusiasm keep this grandma coming back again and again to enjoy more and more of the same!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Snuggle Bunny Pillows

I think I still have every hand made gift and seasonal decoration my daughters created when they were young. My most memorable is the curious little potholder that my own mother helped three year old Mary Jo weave for me. This charming, unevenly matched riot of color still hangs from a kitchen cupboard knob - one of the first treasures I'd grab if I ever had to flee my burning house.

And the tradition continues. Now it's my turn to plot with the grandkids on secret gifts for mommies and daddies. It's the most fun when those are seasonal decorations, destined to reappear annually, turning homes into personal history growth charts and showcases of warm childhood memories.

This year we made Easter pillows. The kids learned that anything can be successfully drawn if it is broken down into basic shapes. Bunnies? Nothing more than round and oval forms in varying sizes!

Our pillows began on 16" squares of muslin. Acrylic paints were used.

Once the artists were satisfied with the painted bodies, we gave our bunnies nice beds of grass to nestle in - hand printed ones for a personal touch! 

Then the kids made fluffy yarn pom pom tails before turning everything over to grandma for completion.

I backed each square with batting and backing and hand quilted an all over pattern on each body, outlining facial features as well. The bodies were cut out, placed right sides together with a backing piece, sewn together, turned, stuffed, and hand closed along bottom edge. I attached the tails and popped a coordinating bow around each neck. All that's left is for the kids to sign and date their work and wait patiently for Easter Sunday's presentation ceremony! 

I think their mommies are going to be very "hoppy" with their Snuggle Bunny Pillows!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Numbers Game

Would I be a mega ego-maniac if I said I wanted my grandchildren to think of me every day at school? Yeah, probably. But that doesn't mean it might not happen. Or that it hasn't already happened!

My grandchildren have wonderful parents who offer them many early educational experiences. But mom and dad also value and encourage contributions from invested grandparents. In this area I am more than happy to comply. And sometimes the results do bring good old grandma right into the classroom!

Like when teacher bounced in with a stack of newspaper, bag of flour and a chirpy, "Guess what we're doing today?" My pre-school granddaughter "just knew" it was going to be "a paper mache project - like at grandma's!"

The boys' teachers also didn't need to tell them how to locate the North Star because night hikes with grandma have been the perfect venue to observe and identify it. It's already known, too, that dinosaurs are reptiles who lay eggs because - well, duh! - a bunch of those were dug up right in grandma's backyard last summer! Words ending in "oo?" This one brought laughter at the memory of super-goofy grandma at the zoo - just flappin' her wings and makin' a fool outta herself by pointing at the word everywhere, wondering who could sound out and read it - and then repeat it with a new first letter. Sound effects and theatrical gestures? All included! Zoo. Boo. Moo. Been there, done that! - with grandma! (It's okay. We were out of town. I'll never see those gawkers again - I hope!)

Brielle has been counting to twenty in proper sequence since she was two, but not yet identifying corresponding figures. So, between the two of us, we checked that little item off our list in the space of one week with a "Numbers Game" we both had a part in inventing!

Awhile back I purchased, and squirreled away, a set of dot to dot books for the kids. It was time to bring them out! I love this series because number samples run along the top of the page, making it easy for Bree to match and connect dots to draw cute animal pictures. I was delighted when she asked to bring extra sheets home so she could teach mommy and daddy what she'd learned. They say, you know, the best way to learn anything well is to teach it yourself - and teach it she did! - sitting them down to take turns and search carefully for the correct figures!

The next step was making sugar cookies using the set of plastic number cutters I found at Hobby Lobby for two dollars. This made the game even more fun! Once each number was connected, the corresponding cookie could be gobbled up!

Today I sit here and watch Little Miss Smartie zip through the pages of her 1-10 book, knowing it will soon be time to bring out the 1-20 copy. Bree is full of confidence now, ready for teacher to ask if anyone knows what a "3" looks like. I just hope she doesn't raise her hand and say, "I'll tell you only if you give me a cookie shaped like one!"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tic Tac TOAD!

Toad schmoad, frog schmog! Yes, I am aware that these are two entirely different critters. But the line blurs after I've spent several days frogging around in my basement, creating a toad-ally new carnival game for this year's family event! Last summer our calendars filled up fast and early with weddings, bridal and baby showers and baptisms, leaving no room for the carnival I initially promised would be an annual celebration. Well, this year is going to be different! I'm setting my date first, and breathless new brides and freshly hatched babies will just have to change their dates of arrival to accommodate me. This summer, grandma comes first! 

Our new attraction is built similarly to the others in my growing collection - over a large cardboard box. Small cups are glued onto a slanted board behind each lily pad hole to catch the plastic frogs headed toward them. Players attempt to sink three in a row.

I suppose most people design a game first, then decide on a suitable prize. Not me! Discovery of these froggie whistle pops made my decision for me - somehow, some way there would be frogs or schmogs or toads or schmoads hopping all over the place as kids lined up, anxious to win one of these pleasing little treats. And perhaps it will be the ensuing sugar overload that lulls them into complacency over grandma's blatant zoological blundering - you know, the way a generous cocktail bar reduces the likelihood that unsavory food at a dinner party will be duly noted!

"Ribbit Pops" are sold in packs of 12 at Chasing Fireflies and Candy Warehouse online retailers.  Tongues whip out when the whistle is blown.

Small plastic frogs are sold in a pack of 72 at Oriental Trading Company (online).

For the record, frogs are slim and speedy, live near water, and have smooth skin. Toads are warty, fat and sluggish. I kinda prefer toads though. Seems like they'd be more interested in sticking around to hear what I had to say. I like that!

More family carnival games are seen here and here.

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