Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Tic Tac Bug Attack!

Red bugs, yellow bugs, super duper busy bugs!

Five year old cousins and every day besties, Tyler and Channing, demanded their day at grandma camp this week. Sometimes it’s a scramble to think of effective ways to keep boys of this age engaged in sit-down-and-concentrate activities. This pair prefers to free lance instructions. Example: The red yarn I supplied for decorative use quickly morphed into a mission to trail a length of it around and about the house: upstairs, downstairs, inside and out. Curious cats, enticed from hiding, put an abrupt end to that quest, but I had to admire the creativity of cousin teamwork for as long as it lasted!

Now for the project!….

My artsy sense that every stray bottle cap, spool, and pill bottle has crafting potential yielded thrifty raw material for several satisfying summer successes. This one’s a tic tac toe game, super-starring bugs we carefully studied first, just to get a hang of how they “hang on” with six legs, not eight! We looked at wing sets, too, and the complexity of those big “buggy” eyes. And then we were ready to buzz on over to begin!….

Prep work first, though!

I don’t mind trusting a seven year old with a spray can, especially while I hover at his elbow as he works. But a five year old? With a mischievous sparkle in his eye? Nah! I sprayed bug tokens in advance, five each of red and yellow for each crafter - then hid the cans! 

After that, I sorted a color coded selection of feathers, pipe cleaners, wiggle eyes, paper scraps, pom poms, scissors, and glue….

And then we got to work!….

Some feather fluff atop the head, foam sticker wings, and pipe cleaner appendages are Tyler’s wise choices.

Dripping with glue, these little guys acquire their means of vision thanks to Channing’s artsy diligence.

Once the last pom pom was plopped atop, these brave little soldiers were ready for battle on a grandma-made playing board. The best fun didn’t occur here, though! Nope. Those moments arrived back home when both boys, puffing with pride, challenged mom, dad, and siblings to fiercely competitive games with red and yellow tokens that “may or may not” resemble bugs, but satisfied the souls of those who dug deeply into a box of throw away scrap and emerged winners! 

Intrigued by the thrifty fun you can enjoy with a pile of junk, a spray paint can, and a stream of glue that never quits? Here’s Austin, age seven, proudly displaying the nifty* robot he constructed from reclaimed goodies when it was his turn at Grandma Camp. 

* “nifty” 🀣 a word that’s sooo “grandma vocab” it draws curious expressions around the table every time it’s heard! “Groovy,” too! Now there’s an even better one! 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

“A Lizard Walks Into Grandma Camp…….”

If you know us at all, you know we’re pet-crazy people. Cat-and-dog-rescuing, wildlife-feeding, unusual-critter-adopting crazy people!…..

Ergo, not a single one of us registered a bit of surprise when a lizard walked into Grandma Camp last week! 

Meet Lizzy. She’s Channing’s pet shop purchased pint size leopard gecko. These little critters are friendly, curious, and love to explore. In addition, they enjoy posing for paintings and being studied for sketching. Experiment all you want with creative color combos and a palette of appealing patterns, they won’t mind one bit!….. 

So that’s exactly what we did!

Lizzy is a living, breathing canvas of artistic principles and elements of design. I guided my four-kid-cousin-crew to observe a strong light-dark contrast in repetitive spots of varying size. Lizzy’s flexible, tapering body shape is linear; grippy little toes offer more variety in size. 

Armed with those observations, we established her position on paper with a penciled swirl. That curved line will serve as an axis for her symmetrical body. Viewing from above, it was quick work to sketch head shape and limbs, maintaining balance as we drew. 

And now the fun part! 

Lizzy may, indeed, be cute as a button, but a colorful specimen she’s not. (Her modus operandi, I understand, is to peek from beneath an equally drab pile of sand and rocks, smirking in observation of your frantic search for her little ole camouflaged self!). Our artsy instincts can fix that, though, at least on paper! 

Lizzy says: “Here I am at home in my fancy aquarium. See me? Not even part of my pointy lil tail under that leaf? Ha! No ya don’t!”

Sketched patterns feature repetitive shapes that vary in size, complementing the areas they decorate.

Strongest color schemes are limited to just a few choices, both light and dark, warm and cool. Mix colors for variety and add black or white to introduce tints, tones, and shades. 

Completed work of this quality demands decorative framing! A busy lizard asks for a simple geometric pattern, the opposite for a more languid design. 

So!….now you know what happens when “a lizard walks into Grandma Camp!” 

Insider grandma tip: πŸ˜‰ Don’t skimp on quality of materials for kids, especially paint brushes. They will influence outcomes. Nobody’s inspired by a trail of shed hairs in every colorful stroke, or a blob of a brush when fine tuned detailing is desired. Teach your protΓ©gΓ©es to wash brushes carefully in cold water! Hot water softens glue and releases hair from the ferrule of even the most expensive brush.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Grandma’s Summer Culture Club

One Love is the original art work of Edie Pijpers. Used with permission. Prints available at

Put on your summer thinking capsgrandkiddoes

The arrival of summer break produces an initial burst of exuberant joy and relief. A week or so later, boredom’s creepy little head pokes itself into the crevices of carefree lives. Understandable. School kids are creatures of structure, tuned to the intake of new and exciting facts, ideas, and experiences. Clearly, there’s a mid-June, grandma-with-a-computer gap to be filled here!….

And I’ve got the solution!….

Grandma’s Summer Culture Club is my invention. Its goal is to supply enrichment in language, fine art, and classical music in a relaxed, noncompetitive, inclusive way. Invitations extended to ten grandchildren were enthusiastically accepted. Six of them live within a few miles of me, four are states away. Ages range from nearly five to thirteen. Usually it’s a challenging task to keep such a diverse crew engaged, but I’ve enjoyed full participation with them all. 

Here’s how it works:

Every Monday, I group message two “vocabulary words of the week” with definitions. Included are sentences I wrote using those words. (Grandkids and pets are often the topics, heavy on inside jokes!). Club members discuss the words with mom and submit their own sentences for others to read. A cumulative spelling test is an added option. 

Up next are pictures of two well known works of art, paintings or sculpture. It’s nice to recognize art when it appears in popular culture, so kids are encouraged to research the pieces and learn more about them. They might also decide to make their own copies of a painting. 

Finally, I supply the title of a classical musical work by a significant composer with instructions to “ask Alexa to play it.” That one, I’m sure, is greeted with pre-teen eye rolls and groans, but this grandma marches onward, knowing that the future holds rewards when a familiar glimpse, note, or word pops up and a smug little smile of recognition crosses the face of a Grandma’s Summer Culture Club member! 

Getting started….

Here’s a few vocabulary words I suggest: mandatory, superfluous, threshold, rudimentary, sedentary, legible, heritage, impetus, velocity, verbatim, truculent, innocuous, lament, gullible, quench, proposition, prominent, perpetual, patriot, optimistic, obsolete, nebulous, mollify, restitution, reprimand, quest, legible, threshold, sumptuous, stamina, zenith, vindicate, verbatim, vacillate, unilateral, prudent, augment, feasible, pretentious fiasco, malign, nemesis, obsolete, opaque, accumulate

Art work: The Scream, American Gothic, Nike of Samothrace, Starry Night, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Persistence of Memory, Dancers in Blue, Nighthawks, The Thinker, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Soup Cans, La Grande Vitesse, The Last Supper, Self Portrait - daVinci

Music: Fifth Symphony - Beethoven, Second Waltz - Shostakovich, Daphnis and Chloe Suite no. 2 - Ravel, Morning - Grieg, Water Music - Handel, Hall of the Mountain King - Grieg, Canon in D - Pachelbel, William Tell Overture - Rossini

First day results brought me a sentence from soon-to-be five year old Tyler: “When you drive, it is mandatory to keep the doors closed.” I foresee a lucrative career for this little genius as a writer of consumer caution labels. The infamous “Do not drive with windshield screen in place” comes to mind!  

Monday, November 29, 2021

Love Notes To Grandma!

Here we go again! Time for the annual pickle over "what do we get grandma for Christmas?" I've wrestled with that one through three generations, my own included. Usually, it's evident. We've cupboards crammed with cutesy kitchen towels, stinky hand lotion, funny-saying coffee mugs, and tchotchkes, tchotchkes, tchotchkes! What else is there to say but, "No, no, no, honey! Save your money! Grandma has everything she needs!" (grrrrr!) So, here we go again!.......

"What do we get grandma for Christmas?"

I've found my own little treasure, and my hope is that you might choose to make it yours, too! 

Let me explain!

My fellow Grandma-blogger-friend, Lisa Carpenter, has penned a gem of a thoughtful gift giving solution. And no, it's not the usual "shelf-sitter" that's perused once and carted off to the garage sale bin after a dusty year or two in apathetic residence. The pages of One Hundred Things I Love About Grandma assemble a living, breathing collection of love notes co-authored by the crown jewels of her heart: grandchildren! 

Here's how it works!

Grab a pen! Everybody grab a pen! See those questions on every page? Now open your memory to the enrichment your relationship with grandma has brought to your life. Recall the fun times, the tender moments, the goofy antics, the simple solitude of just being together. Follow the prompts and write the answers down here. Grandma wants to see them. She wants to remember them. She wants to pick up this book over and over and over again, to refill her heart with the unique joy that only YOU bring to her life. 

There! Now what do you think? 

another set of plastic spoons? or.......

this endearing expression of heartfelt affection and gratitude to the lady who took newborn you into her arms, declared you "the cutest, best, and brightest baby she's ever seen!" and welcomed you to join her on the most gratifying "grandma and me" adventure you could ever imagine!?

Anything else?

Well, of course! You need to know where to find your own copy(ies) of One Hundred Things I Love About Grandma. Amazon has them. Feast your eyes there on the generous "Look Inside!" feature.  Thriftily priced at $12.99. On pre-order status today, shipping soon on December 7, 2021. Plenty of time to fill and wrap. Does Grandma have her own stocking? Pop it in! - it's cutely sized at 6.5" square. 

Oh, and Lisa's no "bumbling along, hoping for the best" first time author, either! While you're there, check out her First Time Grandmother's Journal - the place for Grandma's own perspectives and love notes written just for you! 

Visit Lisa's blog, Grandma's Briefshere to enjoy a heartwarming fellowship of grand motherhood! 

What's that? 

You've already bought Grandma a crocheted potholder rack? 

Well, hey, that's okay! We all make mistakes! What about Valentine's Day? Mother's Day? Her birthday? There's a chance you'll need more time to do this one up right. Share with your siblings. Let them initial their own contribution. Grandma wants to hear those love notes from everybody!

I received early release copies of this book in exchange for my honest Amazon review. I wrote this post additionally to share my enthusiasm for a product that I believe will bring joy to the lives of my readers.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Spider Inspectors!

We've actually been Spider Inspectors since Halloween. That topic, along with banter about bats and the mystique of mummies particularly piques the interest of little boys during trick-or-treat season. But "pie-ders" are everywhere - never really out of sight or mind, so they're a popular year round repeat request, dutifully acknowledged by grandma with frequent crafty-learnin' visits! 

We start with a snuggle-up-and-read session to learn a science-y thing or two. We need to know what to look for just in case a bit of "grandma magic" incites the sudden skittering of a menacing Folkmanis tarantula puppet across the page we're viewing! 

Eeek! There he is! - startling and delighting his young audience!

Here's the age appropriate book we learned from, too. Beautiful clear photos that give just enough of an idea of what these curious critters are like! 

Next, a little bit of review......

We locate the cephalothorax, the front part of the body housing legs and a multitude of eyeballs! (eight of each to be exact!) Then, there's the abdomen. Spinnerets are stored here; those spin silk for the webs that snatch up lunch. 

And then it's crafty time!.....

Here's a popular Pinterest paper plate web activity that suited us just fine. Cut plate centers out, leaving rims only. Spray paint, then punch holes around the edge, about 1"- 2" apart. Offer a choice of yarn color, making sure the weight is suitable - thin enough to thread easily, thick enough for little fingers to firmly grasp. (Wrap a piece of tape to secure yarn end so it doesn't ravel.) 

We're weaving away!

Enough eye-hand coordination and concentration exercise experience to send any pre-K teacher into ecstasy! 

Okay! We've got the web......

But who's gonna live here?

Show your little crafter how to wrap yarn around four side-by-side fingers of your hand - the perfect portable loom. When suitably plump, slide the bundle carefully off and tie tightly at center. Cut loops open to make a fluffy spider body. 

From here on, a pair of big buggy wiggle eyes, eight pipe cleaner legs, and a bottle of glue are all that stand between you and your.......

voracious web dweller awaiting further scientific inspection!

I envisioned a return to more pages of snuggle-up arachnid themed book learning for that purpose, but it was not to be! Grandsons usually have surprises for grandma, and I was not denied that day either!.......

See this yarn?

There's a use for it!

Complete fascination with slicing teeny-weeny-tiny little pieces with a concentrated seriousness not often seen in crafty-spider-land! 

Meanwhile, back at cousin's house.....

I found no further interest in arachnid based academics here either! 

(Don't you just love little boys?)


(They crawl right into your heart, string themselves a little nest, and just hang there, making you as happy as a sassy spinning spider enjoying a bit of scrumptious snacking!)

This is not a sponsored post. My purchase and recommendation of the puppet and book were independently made without compensation. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Book Review: The First - Time Grandmother's Journal

Considering the title: The First - Time Grandmother's Journal - you'd think a seasoned grandma of ten (me!) might not relate to this newly published volume. Nope! Not true! - despite being sooo into the business of grandma-hood that common well meaning advice to "be present" finds me rolling my eyes and exclaiming, "DUH!" In fact, I'm sooo into "the business" that the question of whether or not to spoil has me shaking my head, wondering if any such non-participant has a right to exist! 

"Okay," you ask, "If you're such a smartie-pants-know-it-all, why even tout this book as if it's the best thing you've picked up since that pair of twin boys who made you a grandma some 12 years ago?" Great question!......

And here's my answer!

There are things I vividly recall about those earliest days, and some I do not. Most of them, the in -betweeners, coupled with their special sounds, sights, and feelings resurfaced as I paged this book. So did the urgent desire to record them, not only for myself, but for sharing at some later date. But how many of us panic and freeze when handed a pen and told to "Describe what it was like. How were you given the news? How did you react? Do you give advice? How is it welcomed? Do you enjoy 'just-grandma-and-me' bonding moments? Are you able to contribute anything unique? Where do you go from here? Any goals for the future?" 

Well, not to worry!

Author Lisa Carpenter takes you gently by the hand in her 144 page volume, guiding you through the initial stages of grandma-hood to the dreams you hold for days ahead. Her thought-provoking prompts make it easy to answer all the questions listed above, as well as dozens more, defining your role as a significant and valued person in the lives of your grandchildren. Here is where you'll build a road through your personal journey, savoring plentiful tips and meaningful quotes along the way. And when your effort is complete? Lisa does advise, "This is your record for your eyes only," as a way to dismiss grammatical anxiety and resistance to vulnerability. But you may feel differently. Like me. Because......

I'm going to share!

When the time is right, I'll gather my little cherubs to let them see for themselves the excitement and love with which they were anticipated, welcomed, and cherished. They've made the years I've known them the best ones of my life, and they deserve to know that! Thank you, Lisa, for making my path to that goal a smooth, happy, memorable one! 

Highly recommended!

Wow! Look at those  Amazon reviews for The First-Time Grandmother's Journal! Fellow grandmothers heartily applaud this beautifully illustrated memory keeper - a worthy gift for yourself. Think, too, of what a thoughtful baby shower favor for new grandmothers this book would make. Hmm, think you might need several copies? Here is where you'll place your order!

About the Author

Grandma blogging has yielded unexpected perks for me. Among them are coast-to-coast friendships with other sharers of the grandparent experience. My first post published here in 2011. By then, I'd been an avid reader of Lisa Carpenter at her own Grandma's Briefs blog for several years. I was attracted by her gentle, doting style - the way her devotion sweeps aside all of the world's craziness, leaving but one fact standing: no matter what, her grandsons will always have her. Her attention, her support, her praise, her admiration. My blogging goal has been to imitate those same warming vibes. Lisa's long distance friendship and engaging writing style have nurtured and encouraged me and I am very proud to offer this review of her first published effort - one that showcases and shares the loving vibrancy of her personal grandmother-hood!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Fall-ing All Over The Place!

Tribute to the bounty of falling leaves offers a nice break after the saturation of Halloween! I like these crafts because they are usually preceded by a leisurely neighborhood stroll to collect what we need, exclaiming over contrasts in beauty, size, shape, texture, and color of our specimens. It's an art and nature learning experience all in one!

Night falls early now, and the ethereal glow of a flickering tea light within the confines of a leaf strewn lantern is a comforting delight - especially when you're three years young and have built it yourself!  

This technique is ages old. I've also seen balloon-based lanterns constructed with orange tissue paper, jack-o-lantern faces painted on, shining soft and light. Those, next year, for sure! 

Here's how you'll make this pretty lantern alongside your little crafty person!

1. Blow up a 9" balloon and tape it into a small bowl. If bowl is lightweight, put something heavy inside first, to stabilize it. Rocks, for example.

2. Recruit your cutest artsy munchkin to turn over his/her recently gathered leaf collection. (Pressed inside a heavy book overnight before if possible.) Sort for size.

3. Cut 3" squares of white (or ivory) tissue paper.

Dip first layer of squares in water and cover balloon with them.

5. Add craft glue (Elmer's, for example) to 1/4 cup of water, about 50% ratio.

Lay leaves, face up, on balloon surface as you work, and cover all over with tissue paper squares dipped in water-glue solution. 

7. Cover with third layer of tissue dipped in glue solution.

Now! for the THE HARD PART! (ohhhh nooooo! you told us to only do projects that offer immediate satisfaction for little kids!) 😞

Well, yes, I did say that! but this one's an exception! 

(kinda like how bedtime sloooooowly creeps forward when grandma's babysitting and kids are having waaaay too much fun and thank goodness they're too young to tell time and besides who would tattle on good ol' grandma anyway?!)πŸ˜‰ 

8. Allow lantern to dry for several days in a cool, dry place. Then.......

9. FUN TIMES ARE BACK! Separate balloon from bowl and supervise a needle pop to break it. Carefully extract balloon, then place tea light inside with your choice of opening up or down.

"Thank you, grandma, but really can't wait for all this "several days to dry" nonsense! 

Well okay then! Go here, try this! It's a different, easier, one-day version that will work for you, too! 

There! That's better! Happy now?