Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Thanks, but NO Thanks!"

"Thank you for this, thank you for that..." Yes. I know my list is lengthy, and for that I am even more grateful. But sometimes, "enough is enough!" In other words, "Thanks! But NO thanks!"

Let me explain.

I admire those super-energized lifestyle bloggers who prep a fancy Thanksgiving table in mid-September; they promptly post it, preening with perfection, on the first of November. By that date, they're done with Christmas and hopping around, looking for table toppers for Easter. Impressive! I could never do that. Mainly for one reason. Over here, I have "help;" those classy ladies do not. Huge difference!

Here, take a look!........

My "General Manager" emerges with the turkey tureen. He's opinionated.

"That napkin looks crooked."
"What?  Only one bottle of wine?"
"Squash soup? Again?"

He's closely followed by "The Weather Girl."

"Hmmm. Well, who really knows what Thursday will look like. It's not here yet (duh!). But today I'm observing a frisky pair of squirrels hanging at the bird feeder, and predicting they'll be back tomorrow!"

When the centerpiece arrives, so does "The Florist."

"Funny. I don't smell a thing! Did you remember to order this arrangement in fresh catnip scent?"

No, we're not done yet.

"The Chair Inspector" is here to do some serious sitting....and commenting.....

"Say I choose this seat, how close would I be to the gravy boat?"

Lighting. Meet my electrician-in-residence!

"Open flames? There's no reason to take that risk in this era of battery operated tea lights. I've even seen some that flicker like real candles. Why don't you go that route?"

So, I've added "tea lights" to my shopping list and made a few more notes:

  1. re-launder tablecloth
  2. re-wash dishes
  3. wish everyone a purr-fect Thanksgiving (who says "no thanks" to that?!) 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Rockin' and Stitchin'

I probably should be bothered by a common "grandma stereotype" - but I'm not. After all, that blissful rocking chair occupancy, the lap loaded with quilting-in-process, the milling about of multiple cats - really does describe what happens at this contented grandma's house. But there's another, more sentimental reason why I'm not offended. A warm childhood memory of mine is the picture of my own beloved maternal grandmother, rocking away, (knitting, not quilting), with her little dog, Tuffy, safely tucked alongside, like a snugly wrapped lap burrito. This welcoming oasis was a place of perpetual sunshine and warmth for me; I'd sit and babble about any old thing that crossed my mind - laughing, narrating, unburdening with abandon - because grandma absorbed every single word I said. She'd smile and nod and shift her ball of yarn and urge me to continue. At grandma's, I could never say or do anything wrong; in fact, I am certain that if anyone had dared make that suggestion, they'd be dismissed with a scowl so penetrating they'd flee the scene for fear of losing their soul.

Grandma has been knitting away, listening, and loving me from heaven for quite a few years. It's my turn now - to rock and stitch and collect cats - and do anything else I want in between. My favorite among those choices, of course, is hosting a place where grandchildren come for their own turn as the most important super star in the world - the place where a word like "naughty" doesn't exist - but descriptions like "precocious" and "ingenious" thrive, along with, "Isn't that just the most clever thing anyone has ever heard anywhere?" Those words rock away with contentment in the sun, under the warming quilt of a grandmother whose offspring, for yet another generation, are incapable of ever doing any wrong!

Yes, I did the make the wall hanging pictured above. Several years ago. It's a Lynette Jensen "Thimbleberries" pattern. I love her work. I bring this one out every autumn. Sometimes it hangs on the wall, other times it covers the kitchen table. There's a risk in doing that, though. Then it becomes more of a resting place for spare sets of paws, rather than one for place settings for people!

Oh my goodness! Look at that scrumptious pair of little fluff-muffins! I just wanna gobble 'em both right up!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween 2015 - Post-Mortem

"I'll have whatever those kids are bouncing off the walls on!"

Buried. All of it! The fuzzy spiders, that rattlin' pile of bones, those scruffy rats, the giggling ghosties.....hustled down to the basement to embark upon an eleven month respite.....

But spectral wisps still linger, refusing to be swept up for thoughtless discard alongside fun size wrappers and crinkled party bags. When memories sneak a seasonal path into the crevices of a grandma's heart, Halloween is never, ever, really over!

Let me show you what I mean.....

It was a dark and stormy afternoon....(Is it ever gonna stop raining on Halloween around here?)
But inside grandma's house, beneath candlelit glow, a curious occurrence promised a show......

A family of skeletons - entrepreneurial ones, right down to their bones - opened for business, and welcomed us in......

"We might call this place 'The Bone Shake Shack,' but slurpin' up ice cream isn't all we do!"

"If you like what you see, we've got tables for seating your two groups of three!"

With children in hand, I inspected the scene - a little uneasily, but it was Halloween!

And that's probably why no one but grandma seemed bothered by a trio of donuts attracting the attention of three scruffy rats!

At this unsettling picture, I suggested we go, but as you've probably guessed, the kids hollered, "NO!"

Plenty of seating, as promised, ahead.......the kids were just dying to sit and be fed!

A tower of goodies, groaning with snacks!

Cheese straws on top,
Cream cheese iced banana muffins in the middle,
Fruit and veggie slices with peanut butter dip on the bottom.....

This little kitty meowed with delight!
(But those nasty old rats weren't scared by the sight!)

Twin cousins, too, here's one now,
Eyeballing a taco monster and thinking, "WOW!"

Lovely ladies fill each chair,
Next year, baby brother joins them there!

Kaylee surmises (correctly!) that if she doesn't gobble down her lunch, someone else will!

Time for dessert!
What'll it be?
Shack's signature drink!
What else would we think?

Bone Shakes served by "you-know-who!"
Twin sissy, Ava, devours hers, too!

We settled our tab and left a nice tip.....
Dining with skellies is really quite hip!

Now, I suppose you might wonder, and I do understand, what kind of grandma brings children to dine out with rats?

Has she no class?

Would I change your mind if I invited you to the Halloween Art Show and Sale that followed the meal? Grandkids and I have been busy; that's the real deal!

My crew hung the pictures; they've years of experience - and know what to do!

Handprints and feet, pumpkins from paper and more from potatoes,
You can trust Bree, she knows where it goes!

Kaylee rents shopping baskets, Ava and Angeline sell tickets, but the "big kids" take care of your need for refreshments! (And here I have to brag. See the brother in the middle? He approached me a month ago, suggesting that we glue eyeballs to green Gatorade and sell it as "Green Goo!" Smartie! And Nick loves mummies, so we added Mountain Dew and wrapped them just for him, too!)

Needless to say, our Halloween Art Show was a sell out! No parent went home lacking a wall-full - enough to last long after the size of these little hands is just a memory to smile about!

But another thing you've gotta know,
Then I promise, I will go.....

If you're ever around on Halloween Day,
Shake those bones right in this way!

Good night, Halloween 2015.
You were, by far, the scariest one I've ever seen!

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bean Bag Bug Eater!



As soon as I glued the final doo-dad to the furious face of this little Frankenstein, he shook the walls, demanding food and freedom. What had I created? A few hours earlier he was nothing more than a random pile of cardboard, a yard of purple fuzzy fabric and a scramble of stuff from the bottom of a crafty junk box. But now he was alive! And hungry. And mad! Hungry, mad, and movin' about scary! What was I gonna do?

I pride myself on skills of negotiation. I surmised that Chomper (he named himself that!) might enjoy a steady diet of bean bag bugs; crazy and colorful, leggy of ribbon, peeping through pairs of plastic buttons, pleasantly plumped with a bounty of beans.....

I offered Chomper a lifetime supply of those. In return, he'll politely attend children's Halloween parties, allowing guests to toss bugs at him for points and prizes. They'll aim for that toothy grin, his fancy hat, and the pair of pumpkin buckets he totes about. He'll get to gobble down all he can catch!

We sealed the deal and now we're on the road! Parties, parties, parties!

So, what about me and the monsters I make? Well, in the end, it appears that we get along just fine, thank you very much!

Make a clone of 46" Chomper for yourself from a cardboard box, approximately 16" x 29" x 12"
  • Cut a mouth into front side, and a 6" square into the back, at bottom (to retrieve bean bags). 
  • Cover box with fake fur (1 yard for the above size box). Secure with glue.
  • Cut into fur horizontally along center of mouth and then clip fabric so it can be pushed in and glued or taped to box.
  • Cover 2 oatmeal containers (10") with contrasting fake fur.
  • Cover 2 sturdy wrapping paper tubes with paper.
  • Stuff a pair of gloves with plastic shopping bags.
  • Push gloves onto ends of tubes and tie tightly with ribbon.
  • Punch holes and insert tubes into sides of box. 
  • Cover and decorate a smaller box and glue to top of head.
  • Fill oatmeal containers with gravel or sand and glue to base of body.
  • Glue plastic Halloween eyes and large bottle cap nose to face.
  • Purchase buckets or cover small pails with orange paper to hang on arms.
  • Glue white paper teeth to inside top and bottom of mouth.
  • Glue strips of black crepe paper streamers to inside top of mouth, behind teeth.
  • Decorate with craft trim.
Feed Chomper with 4" bean bag bugs:
  • Cut two 4.5" circles from fleece fabric for each bug.
  • Cut six 3" scraps of narrow ribbon or rick rack for each bug.
  • Place right sides of fabric together and insert ribbons between them so one end of each gets caught in the seam as you sew all around outside edge, leaving 1" open for stuffing. (It's easier if you do one side at a time.)
  • Turn to right side.
  • Fill bug with small dried beans. About 5 tablespoons will do.
  • Hand stitch opening closed.
  • Sew buttons on for eyes. Glue wiggle eyes on top if desired.
  • Gather a 12" strip of 6" wide sparkly tulle at center and sew to center back for optional wings.
This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Looking for more crazy home made Halloween party games for kids?
Here's an easy-to-make board to use with sticky darts......

......and a carnival style ring toss game starring a slew of dollar store rats!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ring Toss Rats!

Maybe it's because I've never actually come face to face with one, but I love rats! Just adore their pointy little faces and those scrumptious soft ears and the way they think with their whiskers, twitching them from side to side while they decide if they should go out for a bite of insulation from someone's house or just stay in and order a cheese pizza.

What I like even better are Dollar Tree rats! They squeak you know! And come in two poses - still only a dollar apiece - wow! How do they do that? (...she wonders, while jockeying for position to exit the store, groaning with bulging bags clutched at every wrist, elbow and hip...) Um yeah. I guess that's how they can afford to sell "all this great stuff for only one dollar!"

But enough about me and my urge to splurge every time those big green letters loom in my rear view mirror! I admired, but didn't buy any of those little squeakers last year and then regretted it. This year I bagged half a dozen and scurried home to make them into a fun Halloween ring toss carnival game. We'll use this one at the grandkid lunch party I'm hosting that afternoon, but you may need one sooner for a cousins' spooky-craft-making-ghostly-cookie-baking-late-night-game-playing-scary-story-telling sleepover at your own house!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Cardboard box for base, approx. 20" x 24" x 12" deep
  • Orange bulletin board paper (in the teacher section at all 3 major craft stores)
  • Halloween print scrap book paper
  • 6 plastic rats
  • Rings to toss (purchased carnival type or embroidery hoops) 
  • Optional: orange and black crepe paper, orange tissue paper, decorative fuzzy trim
  • Scissors, strong glue, rubber cement, stapler, ruler
Here's what you'll do:
  • 1. Cover box with orange paper, staple as you work.
  • 2. Measure top surface and divide into 6 equal parts with 2"-3" borders all around.  
  • 3. Cut 3 scrapbook paper squares, 7", with a contrasting 6" square centered. Rubber cement together. (adjust these sizes if box surface is not 20" x 24") 
  • 4. Cut 3 circles, 5," with a contrasting 3" circle centered. Cement together.
  • 5. Cement squares and circles to top surface of box.
  • 6. Use strong glue (such as Gorilla, if you have it) to attach a rat to each square and circle.
  • 7. Complete box by decorating the sides with side by side strips of crepe paper, followed by a 4" tissue paper ruffle and fuzzy trim, as shown in photo.

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hello, Fellow Halloween-iac!

Yes. I'm that crazy woman who held up the line in front of you at Target last summer, demanding to see the manager so I could wail, "Where's the Halloween stuff already? It's mid-July! All you've got back there in "Seasonal" is BBQ mitts! What is the matter with you people?" 

If you're a fellow Halloween-iac you understand. Welcome, my friend! Please take a seat!

I've been notebooking this year's event since mid-summer. What fun to go down into a cool, dark basement by myself to cackle away over spooky plans while everyone else basks in the sun, iced drink in hand, on the deck out back. Slackers! They don't know what they're missing!

This time, I'll be hosting everybody for a Halloween kid-centered lunch party. (Saturday this year! yay!) They'll gather at the "Bone Shake Shack,"* a grandma-concocted enterprise constructed of cardboard boxes, but "owned and operated" by a family of bony 'n shaky skeletal figures. The three oldest kids will perch on these custom painted counter stools to munch on a scary lunch and sip the shack's signature "Spooky Shake." 

I'll stash three extra little ones at a smaller table alongside, but they'll enjoy the same repast as their older cousins. I'm hoping weather cooperates so I can set up outside. That way, masked "human skeletons," ("Grandpa? Grandma? Is that you?") can creep about quickly to snatch an eyeball cookie from the kids' table and disappear back into the woods as rapidly as you can shout "BOO!"

Once lunch is cleared, a handsome tray, laden with creepy appetizers and Ghoul-tinis will appear. That'll keep mummies (oops! I mean mommies!) and daddies busy so grandma can have even more fun with the kiddoes. We'll invite everyone to stroll about, admire, and purchase from our clothesline Halloween Art Show.* The kids and I have been creating inventory for a few weeks now. We've got pumpkin pictures 'n more in several exciting media: potato print, cut and paste, and tempera. "Shop your brains out before the zombies get here!" we'll advise our spirited shoppers!

Then, on to a mini-Halloween carnival.* I've got a few purchased and several original games of skill in the making. When the carnival spirit starts to wane, my little guests can enjoy their prizes while I host my first "Spelling Bat" for their parents! Yep, that's right! A Spelling Bat! (Hello..."bees" are gone - flown home for the winter!) My competitors better "bone up!" though. They'll need to conquer some tough ones if they plan on reaching into my icy prize bowl for mystery denomination cash solidly frozen into spidery cubes!

Spelling Bat Word List:

  • Ghoul                           Eerie                       Zombie                Mummified
  • Extraterrestrial              Cauldron                  Werewolf             Vampire
  • Specter                        Haunting                  Macabre               Frankenstein
  • Cemetery                     Spine-tingling           Grim Reaper         Skeleton
  • Ichabod Crane              Ghastly                    Bewitching           Jack-o-Lantern
  • Frightful                        Crypt  

And don't forget "Spooktacular" (Hey! It's Halloween! What the heck! Toss in a few made up words, too!)    

(Keep in mind that the longer Ghoul-tinis are poured, you'll need more and more words that get easier and easier, - like BOO! - otherwise you'll end up with a bunch of first round losers! That's no fun!)

Ooops! Almost forgot! (Zombies got my brain!) If you'd like a set of your own folksy party counter stools, spray paint 24" wooden ones you'll find at Wal-Mart for about $15 each. Then use acrylic paint to decorate. Tie lengths of Halloween print ribbon here and there and invite your guests to "seat yourselves!"

* More on these events in future posts! Promise to come back and see? There! That's the spirit!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Birthday Safari!

A batch of birthdays (seven to be exact!) descends upon us in mid August and doesn't depart until the 13th of September, politely leaving us perennial party-people plenty of time to prepare for another priority...Halloween! Thank you, birthday bunch! We couldn't have planned it any better!

This event began with Bree's sweet little voice on the other end of the phone, sometime in April, I believe. "Grandma? Can you help me with my birthday party this year? I want lots of animals! I think maybe a safari!"

The wheels begin to spin that moment. Mommies, daddies, aunties, uncles and grandparents - a virtual ant farm family - set to scurrying about with ideas and contributions, determined to make a soon-to-be-five-year-old the day of her dreams. It's team work, of course, that gets things done - but Safari Camp Central is always mommy's desk. That's where assignments originate and return to pass inspection. Bree describes her wishes here and mommy moves to make them all come true - with astonishing success!

Our safari is no ordinary event. Wild animals agree to gather amicably to be searched for, petted, and toted home for long-time loving. Nana, Bree's paternal grandma, contributed invitations that serve as passports to the fun. When guests arrive, they "scooch" under the welcoming arch that graces the front porch. Hmmm. Which hoarder of cardboard boxes do you suppose built that party prop?

You can build an inviting entry for any event with stacked columns of covered boxes flanking one long, skinny topper (or a group of smaller boxes glued firmly together.) Decorate generously to hide the seams. Easy going; epic results!

Safari kids - the birthday girl and her 16 guests, munch first on lunch. Bree's backyard hosts an ideal setting; woods, a pond, and an adjoining grassy plain provide perfect habitat for lions, tigers, elephants and more. We're fueling for a grueling expedition!

By the time we've eaten, daddy has transported the arch to our safari entry point. We sport the proper headgear as well as sunglasses framed in tiger, zebra and leopard prints!

First in line, the birthday girl listens carefully to mommy. She's found a clue at the entrance to the sanctuary! Let's listen in!......

Look up in trees for small, cute faces,
Monkeys love those high up places!
They wait for us, they want to play,
Let's round 'em up before they scamper away!

We find them! Monkeys galore! They swing from branches as we pass through. Kids leap up and snatch themselves one or two!

(By the way, our huntin' style is huggin' - never hurtin'!)

And the clues continue!

Do you see a tiger sneaking?
I think I saw one peeking!
I spied an orange face and I heard a roar,
Follow me! Let's look for more!

Lions are big, and lions are brown,
Let's keep our eyes open, just look around!
Count 20 big steps, straight up ahead,
Look for a flag that's square and that's red!

Giraffes aren't small, 
They're really quite tall,
Watch for them closely on a big patch of grass,
They know we are coming, they're watching us pass!

Zebras are a beautiful sight,
They're easy to spot in the bright sunlight.
White and black, black and white,
Run up ahead, look on the right!

Elephants are big and grey,
They're easy to spot - HOORAY!

Mommy leads the charge along the savanna, reading clues and making sure every little hunter finds a friend to take home for hugging.

See the herds waiting up ahead? We didn't miss a single thing!

Successful little adventurers make their way back home, single file, through the waiting arch......

......toting tigers and zebras and giraffes, oh my!

But wait! There's more to explore!

How about lining up for a round of tossing rubbery, dangerous snakes into a pit?

Or choosing a cute jungle tattoo (or two, or three or more!) for Nana to expertly apply to your arm?

Or joining the fun of a two team Cheetah Relay Race?

So sweet, this group of little guests. Every cheetah reaching the half point first waited for a competitor to catch up before heading back to the finish together - as co-winners. :) Love these kids!

There was chocolate cake, too, because we needed even more energy......

......for the BOUNCE HOUSE!

I suppose I can get away with the unfortunate placement of that sign in my picture because those three little fun loving "monkeys" are my grandchildren!

Present time!...which some might say is the best part of any party. But I think we might differ on that opinion, just for the day, simply because......

What fun would it be to go on safari without all sixteen of your cousins and friends to share that happy adventure with you? Nope, I'm sure we agree - not much fun at all!

Party notes: Inflatable animals, sunglasses, tattoos and hats all from Oriental Trading Company. Safari hunt clues are original with me and shared for personal use. Thank you!