Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just Practicing!

It's all over but the waiting. And the wondering! Baby brother is closing in on us, due to arrive once Santa has cleared out of the way. Big sister is ready, anxious to see what he'll look like and how long it will be before she can begin actually having fun with him. There's been a family effort, too, to assure Brielle that she will never be replaced by this curious little newcomer. Instead, the two of them will become a team. They will help each other. Baby brother will need her. To fetch things for him. To teach him things. And to read to him.

Cover design by Big Sister!

My contribution to this evolving dynamic is "Baby Brother's Book." Bree is a pre-school student, just now learning letters and sounds. I've been complementing those skills with sight word flash card practice. Bree is a quick learner, picking them up with lightening speed, making it easy for me to construct sentences from an inventory of twenty or so words. I type pages on plain paper, leaving room for her original crayoned and painted illustrations:

"Baby brother and me."
"Come see me and baby brother go up."
"Look! I can help baby brother jump."

Interesting! The lovely "larger-than-life" author is
self portrait-ed wearing splendid jewelry
and a mile-wide smile. Little bro is the
tiny blue birdlike bundle in left
bottom corner!

Then I scrapbook pages together in a home made effort that I hope will appeal to them both.

Colorful ribbon scraps tied along the spine through a row of paper punched holes make a cheerful presentation. It's also easy to add new pages as more words are learned.
And now we're practicing. And waiting....getting ready to be a proud and helpful big sister who will welcome little brother home with the priceless gift of reading!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Funky Turkeys

So, what are we flapping our wings about over here now, you ask? Simple answer: turkey pillows! An entire rafter of them, in fact! See, I know my turkey terms! To call these a "flock" would be inaccurate. A "flock" is a group of wild turkeys. A "rafter" is domesticated. These little characters are destined for living room couch perching only. They've never known anything different and have no interest in Googling alternatives for themselves either!

Our little rafter of three was born on the kitchen table a few weeks ago. Grandkids were given a nice wide brush and brown acrylic paint. Filling a smaller circle on top of a larger one on an 18" square muslin canvas made a nice plump body. Hand printed feathers will always hold this special moment in time.

The artists added eyes, lashes and a painted beak. Then grandma whisked everything away, disappearing for a spell inside her crafty sewing room.

With three "turkey sandwiches" on my plate (painted square, quilt batting, backing fabric) I hand quilted around each feather finger and eye, scalloping a pair of lines across the breast.

Beaks were cut from prepared fabric to match the painted shapes, then ironed on and held in place with tiny stitches all around. Scraps of red ribbon tucked beneath serve suitably as wattles.

With right sides facing, turkey and a complimenting back fabric, I sewed both together along outside edges, leaving bottom open. Turn. Each turkey leg is a 2" x 8" orange fabric strip, seamed along the 8" side, turned, stuffed and knotted on one end for the foot.

Stuff turkey (with polyester, please - not Stove Top!), insert legs and hand sew closed.

The most fun is finishing touches. Attach big wiggle eyes, a jaunty little straw hat, perky posy or crown of silk leaves with strong glue. Narrow ribbon scraps tied in a bow above the knot on each leg become fetching little turkey toes. But why stop there? A truly funky turkey has fancy bows all the way up and down the legs and wears anything else that pleases you!

If you're looking for a cute Thanksgiving Day gift to trot over to your lovely hostess, you may like these easy potholders too!

Perhaps your grandchildren would enjoy making turkey tags for decorating the dinner table like we did last year.

A seasonal treat of home made mini pumpkin donuts is a thoughtful gesture, especially when presented in a personalized gift bag.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Orange You Glad You Adopted?

If your pet was adopted from a shelter, you're my friend! No bones - or soggy catnip toys - about it! We're special people and everybody knows it. Those who know it best, though, lay their furry chins atop our laps and gaze upward with eyes devoted and grateful. "If you find a starving dog and make him prosperous," observed Mark Twain, "he will not bite you. That's the difference between dogs and men." Agreed. I've witnessed this myself and so have you.

The Bissell Pet Foundation plans an October 30-31 pictorial Facebook tribute to pets (and their owners!) who have been rescued by each other. Roxie and I will be there early and we invite you to join us! Take a photo of your adopted pet (cats, too!) bandana-ed in orange, the "official color" of Pet Adoption Month, and post it on the Foundation's page on October 30, 2014. Then come back the next day to see if you're a prize winner!

Photo: Who is ready for a giveaway? On October 30th, we will post on our BISSELL Pet Foundation Facebook page asking to see photos of your adopted pets in orange bandanas. We want everyone to know that the color orange represents adoption and we believe once you adopt, you will always adopt. So go out and find your orange bandanas now so you are ready on October 30th to share your adorable pictures with us! We will announce a winner on October 31 to celebrate Halloween! The prize will be announced soon but be rest assured, it is something really great!
We'll also be asked to name the organization that made our "fur-ever" match possible. I applaud this heartily. How easy it is for me to do my part in pet rescue, yet how difficult for "first respondents" who perform the initial tasks of medical and behavioral assessment, fostering and application evaluation before an adoption is approved. Heart wrenching. Heartwarming. All in one.

Our photo gallery of grateful furry faces will assure them it was all worthwhile.
And that's a "yap!"

This is not a sponsored post. I just followed my nose to this gratifying event and wanted to share it!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tic Tac BOO!

Okay! Just between your grandkids cheat when they play board games with you? Or is it just me who suspects my little darlings think I'm the one who was born yesterday? Perhaps my eyesight isn't what it used to be, but there are times I detect little hands deftly guiding the spinner to the exact number needed to leave grandma in the dust. On other occasions, a playing piece might go nonchalantly slip-sliiiding past a penalty square. In my most recent experience, "someone" decided to change game rules mid stream, announcing an extra toss of the dice to "anyone who is wearing pink socks and a Cinderella t shirt!" Well, that wasn't me. At least that day!

But this brave grandma marches on. Not only are we still playing games together, but we're making them too! This team effort began with a hike in the woods. "Find grandma a rock that looks like a ghost! How about some round ones? Nice and fat - like a PUMPKIN!" They turned them in like there was no tomorrow; my pockets groaned with every shape and size imagined by benevolent Mother Nature. Then we sorted. Painstakingly. And that's when monsters butted their way into a game that traditionally fields only two sets of combatants. "We can paint these now," I announced. And paint they did. To the lively tune of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," amply addressing those appendages in colorful homage. When the painting game lost its charm, I was left behind to turn rocks into creatures with features for Tic Tac BOO!

So, I thought our game was "cheat proof." Ghosts play against either pumpkins or monsters. Not both. One scrapbook paper square per token. Three in a row wins. We enjoyed it tremendously, until it occurred to me that strategy isn't a strong motivator for kids who see these zany characters as a collection of personal little friends, not disposable pawns on a game board. With rules relaxed, squares filled up quickly, each with two, sometimes three, occupants. Neighbors went visiting and discussed things among themselves as the game evolved into a multilevel and far more imaginative experience than I'd ever anticipated. There were still "winners," of course, and the inevitable "losers." Oh, and the "cheater," too. Don't forget about her! She just sits here delighted, "braggy," in fact, about how honestly clever all her young grandchildren are with a pile of rocks after she's tossed that pesky old rule book right out the window!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Going Batty!

Things are getting a little batty around here and this time it's not just grandma who's being eyeballed as the culprit! Our Spooky Theater has made its seasonal appearance and the ghost-puppets-in-residence have wailed and waited long enough for a new character to join the cast. We already know (yawn!) that big kid ghosts wear BOO-jeans and baby ghosts crawl around in BOO-ties while their mommies shop for food at the "ghost-ery store." But did you know that bats go to school to learn the "alpha-bat," love doing "acro-bat-ics" and invite their friends to "come over and hang around?" Probably not!

Its been my discovery that the best source of Halloween lore is on stage at a kids' puppet theater. Gathered behind the screen is a squirming, giggling, wiggling and worried crew, just waiting for kick off. Gathered in front of it is a sipping and nibbling rapt audience; grandparents, aunties, uncles and baby cousins. They've paid good money for admission, tasty apple cider and fresh homemade donuts, anxious now to find out "which animal is best at baseball?!"*

A home made puppet show is such an endearing endeavor, engaging grandma and the kids in a satisfying series of tasks that spark creativity and hone organizational skills at every age level. If you don't want to bother with a stage like mine, just curtain a doorway with fabric lengths gathered on a spring loaded rod. We've relied on comedy and joke-telling performances so far, and the puppets have all been made by me. Perhaps next year the kids will take a stab at making their own sock characters and writing an original story script.

I've added instructions for a sock bat puppet here, where you'll also find our ghosts and step by step photos for constructing a Spooky Theater. When the grandkids join me for dress rehearsal on the eve of the performance, we make cute and tasty mini-donuts on this nifty little appliance (see page 8) and sell them at our show's refreshment stand along with cups of cold cider.

*And I won't keep you in suspense any longer! Which animal is best at baseball? Why, a BAT, of course!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Skeletons In My Closet!

Ohhhh yes! There are skeletons in my closet! And it's time for them to come OUT! I love this emerging new national holiday. October 1st appears to be establishing itself as the proper day to infest the house with whatever waited, wailed, scratched, snarled, poked and peeked from within boxes and bags for eleven long months in storage.

I'm late this year, but in the next few I'm going to take this tradition one step further. I'll have my three daughters (fellow Halloween-iacs!) ditch their young families and creep on over to join me late on the eve of that day. We'll sip hot cider and nibble "witch's toes" while viewing seasonal classics, screaming in lusty, loud abandonment when Freddy fleetingly flashes his fearsome face. When the clock strikes midnight, we'll tear open cardboard crypts and festoon my house from head to toe. And then we'll scramble like a pack of rabid rats to the next house! And the next! And the next! At six AM we'll hop back on our bristled brooms, returning home to relish shock and awe on faces of those we haven't seen awake since dusk on 30, September!

Halloween fever is in no danger of abating in our family. In fact, my oldest daughter, Mary Jo, has two life sized skeletons and employs them in "Elf on the Shelf" capers, delighting her children for four fun weeks. The oldest boys dash in after a full day of Kindergarten and race to locate their own "Mister Bones." Those characters have been caught building at the Lego table, snacking on bags of chips in the bushes outside, nestled in, bony skulls on pillows, for a very early bedtime and rattling around, "conducting business" in the bathroom!

Over the past few years, I've designed and posted Halloween projects and activities for the family. When I opened my closet today, this is what tumbled out!

Crafting with grandchildren:

BOO! We made ghost families, carefully constructed of paper mache. Enjoy plenty of extra fun with finishing touches!

A hodge podge of punched paper shapes, ribbon, beads and straws makes lovely seasonal jewelry!

Home made windsocks tumble, twirl and twist in the breeze, dancing to the rhythm of falling leaves and the magic that is Halloween!

Think there's an age that's "too young" to craft with grandma? Ha! Think again! Tiny spiders printed from one month young dainty little fingers make a cherished keepsake.

Make a decorative garland for grandma! Grow it every year with original pictures contributed by each child.

Crafting for Grandchildren:

Encourage all kinds of spontaneous entertainment with a cardboard box spooky theater and simple sock ghost puppets.....

and this year, a batty new character joins the fun!

A seasonal outfit is simple to make with a white t shirt and iron-on fabric scraps. Add matching flip flops too!

What's nice about making your own monsters is that they'll turn out friendly, cute and ready to party! This one's nearly three feet tall and easily made of paper mache.

Party Food and Games:

Here's an easy way to scare kids into eating healthy food at a party!

Big, bright and lots and lots of fun! This home made dart board is perfect fun for kids, but at our house daddies and grandpas can't stay away either!

Here's an original party game that not only personalizes family fun, but ensures that everyone emerges a winner!

Engage kids in scouring the yard for stones shaped like ghosts, monsters and pumpkins to paint as playing pieces for Tic Tac BOO!

Gifts and Decorations:

If I didn't already have six "non-Halloween-color" cats, you can bet that this one would be real and purring in my lap right now. And neither one of us would be loosening our grip on that Mason jar brimming with candy!

I love the elegance of black crows. And the way they remind me of Edgar Allen Poe. And how much I enjoy inserting myself into the eerie ambiance he summons from the point of his pen. And the word "tintinnabulation." I love that too. I think it's my favorite word. Ever.

Party Time!

Gather the family for an afternoon of harvesting food, fun and crafts. Don't worry about keeping grandpas and daddies entertained though. If you pick the right day, they'll be glued to the football game, leaving the ladies alone to glue much more fun things together with the kids!

One of my earliest posts, in 2011, described - in three parts - the annual Halloween party I host for my daughters and their husbands. These parties originated when the guys were still only boyfriends. At that time grandpa was useful for pushing the correct button on the remote control rat that scurried about the foyer as guests arrived. Now we need him for babysitting!

Last year, Mary Jo hosted a small party for her four and a handful of neighborhood children. The kids' table was delightful! - a real riot of color and monstrous fun!

I contributed an assortment of sweets. Rice Krispie pumpkins, red-eyed chow mien noodle spiders, frosted sugar cookies....and a batch of scurrying, lifelike cockroaches! - my favorites!

And here's the lovely hostess herself. The one her husband calls "Mini Martha." She's stirring up a nice potion to serve parents of the guests. I may have mentioned that she writes her own blog. This Halloween party has its own delightful post - right here!

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Art On The Line"

We have a family clothesline art show and sale at least once each year. For several reasons. First is the art educator's obvious position. Every person has something to say, and for many, a drawing, painting or sculpture is the way it is said best. Public recognition and appreciation for one's efforts affirms those expressions, born in abundance at grandma's house where a bounty of art supplies is always available. Here, grandchildren enjoy open invitation to finger paint for the first time at age one or culminate six years of practiced experience in a carefully detailed mixed media masterpiece. These works - all of them - are carefully signed, dated and stored away for the next show. And yes. I am aware of the accusation by some that these days "little Johnny" is excessively praised for the faintest academic effort. I think they're crazy. Excessive? Mind your own business! Over here, grandma and grandpa swoon over every little squiggle and finger painted wiggle and pay big sticker prices for them too. We're grandparents. And that's our job. (DUH!)

Family art shows introduce entrepreneurship too. When little artists observe family members gobbling up their contributions, they recognize that productivity has value. They see, too, that a successful event requires careful planning and cooperative preparation.

At ages four and six, my oldest grandchildren are not too young to offer suggestions on invitations, traffic flow and set up. They show up early to fill popcorn bags and sort and clip artwork for display.

It's not a good idea to sell a food product unless you've tasted it yourself. We handle this task with competent vigor!

When parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents arrive, kids serve as gracious hosts, selling refreshments and seeing to the needs of their patrons with an enthusiasm that is an art form in itself! At show's conclusion, their kid sized wallets bulge with cash to count and save for spending and donating in appropriate percentages. That's important lifelong learning too!

Kaylee, at age one, does not take well to being left out. That's age discrimination! She does a brisk business renting shopping baskets and finding buyers for her original finger paintings.

Scrapbook paper makes excellent framing for a child's artwork. Use purchased mat board frames as templates or cut custom sizes using a quilter's rotary wheel and cutting board. Attach small photos of artists in action too, for a special touch.

Within moments of opening, our clothesline is picked clean, baskets brim with fine art in a wide range of media, and patrons and artists alike report nothing but satisfaction!

And Angeline? Have you any comment on your first family art show experience?

"Sure, grandma! I came. I shopped. I bagged my own purchase!"

And, like the rest of the event, darn if it didn't end up being a perfect fit!

See how much we've grown! Here's where you'll find the story of our very first Clothesline Art Show, Sale and Auction in 2012.