Sunday, September 30, 2012

Halloween Marathon #3 Make Your Own Live Action Ghost!

No Batteries Required!

So, how often do you see something this cute that bops around all day long without an on/off switch, a plug to poke in or AA batteries to buy? While your other moving decorations need one or more of the above, this friendly little ghost only needs to be fed, diapered and refueled at nap time!

Once you've selected the basic operating component (a two year old granddaughter works great!) the rest is a snap. So easy to put together it's scary! And everybody who sees it is gonna love it and want one of their own!

For each Live Action Girl Ghost Decoration you will also need one white t-shirt, scraps of solid black and orange pin dot cotton fabric, double-sided fusible interfacing, 2 orange 1/4" buttons, 36" length of orange dotted 2" wide wired ribbon (omit for boy version) and white thread and needle.

Make freehand patterns for 2" oval eyes, a smiley mouth and 1" round cheeks. Follow manufacturer's instructions to fuse the interfacing to fabric scraps, then cut out features. Fuse them to front of shirt. Hand sew buttons to eyes. (Omit buttons for very young child.) For girl ghost, make a running stitch by hand along top center of each sleeve to gather. Fold ribbon into a 4 loop floppy bow and stitch to left sleeve as shown on photos.

Ghost shirts look best when paired with solid black biker shorts, leggings, or a ruffled mini skirt.

Here, my completed little decoration is busy introducing herself to another decoration! Dollar store sock ghost puppets are cute and easy to make, so as long as you've got the craft box out you might as well go ahead and make a few of those too. Here's my instructions for the puppets.

But WAIT! There's MORE! We all know about a girl and her shoes! She's gotta have 'em! A new pair for each outfit! How about these little gems? Black mini-size flip flops! Cute as a pumpkin button! Make them exactly the same as these ladybug shoes, but add an (optional) folded 2" x 12" length of purple tulle to tie the two bows tightly together at center before attaching to each shoe. Another option is a pair of purple chenille stems. Twirl them around a finger, fold in half, and glue them behind the button. (Cat Owner Alert! Oh yes! - he/she/they will bite off the twirlies -both of 'em!- and scamper off to play with their new prizes. When you recover them they will be saturated with cat saliva....umm, think this may have happened to me, and is the reason this photo is missing them?)

Your little live action household ghost can even be programmed to decorate itself!

Grandma's Personal Note to Self: Replace that fake birthday party arm tattoo with a pumpkin one! Around here we like everything to match up perfectly!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Halloween Marathon #2 Mason Jar Monday Monsters

Background story: The grandkids and I are into growing our own pumpkins. Well, okay, maybe not actual pumpkins - but lots (and lots and lots!) of vines, plenty of pretty blossoms and a handful of onion-like creatures spaced here and there among the ample foliage. The results we achieved come from believing that the seed packet instructions calling for "full sun" do not apply to us. Guess our "sunny smiles" don't count! So, we don't really have pumpkins to harvest this year, but what the heck! We are having a Family Halloween Harvest Party anyway! And these Maca-moldy Mason Jar Monsters will be served to all 15 ravenous guests!

Pint size wide mouth jars make very generous single serving portions. They are tied at the top with raffia scraps and a narrow ribbon bow. A pair of holiday print paper napkins and a plastic fork are slipped in at the side. Cut 1" green paper circles and glue (Elmer's) them side by side on the face of the jar. Make eyelashes, too, if you like. Keep in mind that these are monsters...who says two eyes are the limit? When circles are dry, use a stronger glue (such as Gorilla brand) to secure gooey eyeballs to the paper circles. Those eyeballs are slippery little can sub wiggle eyes if you like. Fill the jar with homemade mac and cheese, using white cheddar instead of yellow. Tint the cooked pasta with green (or purple) food coloring. The "trick" part of "trick or treat" for the kids is using thin strips of carrot and/or celery sticks as crazy monster hair to also get a few veggies down the hatch! Mini-tomatoes are good to sneak in. And I think the jars would be cute filled with gelatin too....or maybe "gan-green" oatmeal on Halloween morning! You can also poke a name card onto the times of each fork if you'd like.

Nervous Grandma Note: Make sure the kiddoes don't eat the gooey eyeballs! They are easy to peel off to play with, though.

Our Harvest Party and the Mason Jar Monday Monsters are both inspired by the original ideas of my grandma blogger friend, Connie, at Family Home and Life  I love her annual Family Harvest Day gathering and plan to use her basic idea for my event, but I'll spin it into a Halloween affair. Several months ago Connie also alerted her readers to the fun that people have using Mason jars for crafting, serving food, and gifting.  "Mason Jar Monday" is her challenge to all of us to use them creatively and then virtually "store" the original results in the "pantry" on her site. So far, all of the others kept there are dainty, flowery designs. That pantry sooo badly needs my little ruffian maca-moldy monster to stir things up a bit - and that's exactly where this goofy little dude is headed right now! Will we see you over there too?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Halloween Marathon #1 Spooky Theater!

I haven't shown this one to the kids yet, but I think they're going to like it. They love to perform, and the goofy ghost show they'll be acting out will bring them straight to the stack of Halloween joke books grandma plans to pick out at the library. That's really the main goal of this project - to send kids to books to solve their problems. Those little sock puppet ghosts have to say something to the grandparents, daddies, mummies (oops! I mean mommies!) and aunties and uncles who will gather for a spooky Halloween show. My grandkids are too young to read, so I will gladly do that part for them this year. I don't think I will ever tire of trying to guess "What does a ghost wear?" (BOO-jeans!) or "What happened when the ghost swallowed a firecracker?" (He BOO up!) I even made up one of my own. "What did grandma say to her trio of little theater performers?" (I think each one of you is the most BOO-tiful thing I've ever seen on stage!)  
Unless you live in a haunted house, you won't want to leave a Halloween theater out all year long. This one easily comes apart for moving or storing. It's made of three cardboard boxes and is very lightweight. Use fun scrapbook paper for the letters and decorations you already have as accents. The dollar store tube sock puppets are so simple to make that your precocious little performers may want to design their own. And once those little critters come to life, you've opened the curtain to a real spirit of creativity! Here is where you'll find step-by-step instructions for everything you see here!

Happy Haunting, dear friends!

Spooky Theater and Ghost Puppet Instructions

Here's the way I made my Spooky Theater. The simple, basic design is easily adapted to your own interpretation with choice of color scheme, lettering style, stage curtain and purchased or home made decorative accents.

Materials Required:

Cardboard boxes (approximate sizes)
If you don't have a close size, you can build one with smaller boxes and duct tape. Boxes are covered with paper so inside construction won't show.
  • 19" x 23" x 28" high for base
  • 7.5" x 4.5" x 36" long for beam (Got a 3 foot long Subway sandwich box? Use it!)
  • 5" x 10" x 12" high for spider dome
Cardboard wrapping paper tubes
  • approximate 2" diameter, 30" long (6)
  • Orange to cover base and dome. Black to cover beam. Extra, including purple, to cover 6 cardboard wrapping paper tubes. Bulletin board paper or corrugated recommended.
  • Halloween prints and black, orange and purple solid for letters, pennants, and stage floor
Foam board
  • 20" x 30" black
Decorative accents
  • Paper spider, 7" x  9" and paper web, purchased (or other decorations)
  • Purple metallic table skirt fringe, 29"  (substitute Halloween print fabric if desired)
  • Wood spools and 2" stars (2 of each) painted neon green
Utility items
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Craft glue
  • Craft knife
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Masking Tape

1. Cover the base box (4 sides only) with orange paper. Staple to hold.

2. Cover the 2 other boxes, but "gift wrap" those on all sides.

3. Cover all 6 wrapping paper tube. Secure with glue. Cover 4 of them with orange, 2 with purple. Accent purple with black paper stripes. (See photo.)

4. Glue 2 orange tubes together, side by side, then place a purple one on top and glue it down to make a sturdy triple post for the stage. Repeat for second post.

5. Place the foam board on top of base. Center it so there is about 1" overhang at front of base and about 3" at sides. Place the posts on top of base to determine position. The front orange tubes should be about 3.25" from each side, 7" from front and 9" from back. Posts should be about 16" apart, with purple tubes facing inside. Trace each post bottom with pencil when it is in proper position.

6. Remove foam board and use craft knife to cut out opening along traced lines. Return board to base, push point of knife into cardboard box and duplicate the opening. Insert one end of each post into base, as shown.

7. Use 36 purple paper squares, 2" each, to make a checkerboard pattern and glue them down.

8. Glue the neon green painted stars on top of the spools and glue each one to center front of each post, between 10" and 11" from bottom.

The star spool will hold the curtain back on each side during performances.

9. Lay the beam over the top of posts, centering it.
Trace shape of each post on underside of beam, then cut a little smaller than pencil lines with craft knife so posts will fit snugly into openings.

10. Remove beam, measure metallic fringe curtain and cut it to match width of stage opening. Center the fringe on beam and staple it to bottom along back edge. Replace beam. Adjust posts so curtain sweeps stage floor, as shown on photo.

11. Position the orange box so it is centered on top of beam, 12" high, and glue down.

12. Complete the theater by making garlands of pennants using print, solid, and glittery paper. For top garland, cut a 4.5" wide x 3.5" long paper pattern. Fold in half to 2.25" x 3.5" and draw a diagonal line from top outside edge to bottom at fold. Open paper and use triangle pattern to cut 5 printed black shapes. Use solid purple paper to cut 5 additional shapes, each 1/2" smaller.

13. Make a garland of 6 letter pennants using the same method, but cut the initial rectangle 5.5" square for the "spooky" pattern. Make a third garland of seven 4.5" wide x 10" long pennants. (See photo for color ideas.)

14. Use purchased stencils or make a set of them on Word for letters. I used font AR Christy, 3.5" lower case for "spooky" and 4.5" upper case for "Theater."

15. Glue smaller triangles, centered, to larger ones and then top off with letters. Cut 1" paper circles from contrasting colors and glue to points of all triangles and to dome garland for eyes.

16. Use craft glue to attach the two top garlands as shown in photo. Use strips of masking tape to attach larger pennants to front edge of stage table.

17. Glue spider to front of dome. Glue paper web to each side of box.

I made the ghost puppets from dollar store kid's tube socks. Any size will work, but these are about 9" long (size 6-8.5). As with the theater, variations are easily done, especially if children are making the puppets. In that case, black buttons for eyes and ribbon scraps for bows would be much more practical. But here's exactly how I made the ones you see here.

Materials Required:

  • White kid's size tube sock (size 6-8.5)
  • Thin white yarn, 12" length
  • Small scraps of black paper
  • Pom pom, orange, 1/2"
  • Bow tie dried pasta
  • Acrylic paint, white, orange, black
  • Paintbrush, fine point
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
1. Measure about 2" from toe of sock and tie off with yarn. Tie bow and trim ends.
2. Cut 2 freehand oval shapes from black paper, each about 3/4" long.
3. Use paintbrush to dot each eye with white.
4. Paint pasta either black or orange and decorate with dots.
5. Glue everything on puppet as shown in photo.

Here's a friendly bat puppet to join the show!

Materials Required:

  • Black kid's size tube sock (size 6-8.5)
  • 3" x 6" sturdy white paper
  • 3" x 6" black felt
  • Wiggle eyes, 3/4" (2)
  • Orange and black twine, 18" length
  • Orange ribbon, 1/2" wide, 18" length
  • Polyester stuffing or crumpled tissue paper, handful
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors

1. Fill toe of sock to heel with stuffing or crumpled tissue paper.
2. Fold a 3" x 6" scrap of paper in half vertically and cut a freehand wing pattern.
3. Cut wing from black felt and glue to sock as shown in photo.
4. Glue wiggle eyes to face.
5. Cut 3/4" triangles from paper scraps and glue to face for teeth.
6. Wrap twine around top of head and tie into bow.
7. Wrap ribbon around sock once, cut off and glue down. Tie remaining ribbon into bow and glue on top as shown in photo.

These designs are intended for personal use only.
Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.
Thank you!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 13, 2012: Big Brother Day

Editorial note! While grandma is busy being very excited and happy about today's events, guest mini-bloggers will take my place at the keyboard......

Hello Everyone!
Yesterday we were an ordinary pair of four year old twin brothers. Today we are an extraordinary pair of four year old twin BIG BROTHERS! Our sweet baby sisters, Ava and Angeline, were born today at 3:23 and 3:24 PM respectively. They are adorable!

For weeks, mommy was hiding something from
"the men" in the family.....!

But today we know what it was!


Meet little sister, Ava, (right) just a few hours new. She arrived at six pounds, 19" long. Her little sidekick, Angeline, appeared one minute later, also weighing about six pounds and measuring 19" in cuteness!

Thank you for stopping by to visit today!

Guest mini-bloggers,
Big Brother Nick and Big Brother Sae

Monday, September 3, 2012

Would I be a "Push-Face" or Not? You Decide!

I have a question for you! But first of all, any scholarly work must define terms. What on earth is a "push-face?" For the answer, I refer you to Grandma's Reference Dictionary 2012 Family Edition:

Push-Face, n., 1. term derived from inside family joke (derogatory) to describe black and white feline (female) member who notoriously "pushes her face" into everything that both is and is not her business. (see photo) 2. a family member (female) of grandmother age who assumes her opinions and presence are enthusiastically welcome at any and every event that involves her grandchildren. (photo not available)
see also: "meddler"

Okay! Now we're on the same page vocabulary-wise! The idea that I've had bobbing around inside my head was seeded during school-age years of my own three daughters. I actually loved buying the poster boards, the paints and stickers and supervising everything so that our science posters would feature planets that actually revolved, thereby delivering "shock and awe" to the classroom on the day they were due. Our work sessions were intense, and they weren't always fun! Some nights found me amid a "perfect storm" where Mary Jo had a complex geometry puzzle to solve and illustrate, Christy was hopelessly scrambling to construct a scale model reptile habitat and Karen needed a practice audience for a speech demonstrating an object folded in the origami method. Help! Remember the ABC comedy episode of  "The Middle" where Brick's salt dough map of Indiana was accidentally eaten and he was forced to get help from Axel to replace it with one made of pizza? Poor little guy! He could have come to our house. We would have fit him in somehow!

Where I am going with this is in the direction of  "Grandparent Team School Mentors" (or something like that!). The idea is to choose a classroom subject with each grandchild and serve as the "go-to" person when help is needed in that category. That means that grandma might help prepare for a big test by hosting a Civil War Quiz Bowl at her house and having grandpa appear dressed up like Abe Lincoln to describe his well researched observations. (Good luck with that last part!) As the history book moves through every era of time and place, homework posters and dioramas are made at grandma's too, because she has all the supplies waiting. There might be a sugar cube pyramid making party just for fun when the subject is geography or math. Grandma can examine the textbook and prepare creative enrichment projects related to chapters ahead, too. For example, a study of the American southwest might be complemented with a painting session in the style of artist Georgia O'Keefe. If grandkids don't live nearby, grandma can hand make science vocabulary flashcards and mail them to her little scholars.

So, is something like this needless meddling ("push-facing")? Should kids just learn to take their own responsibility and leave parents, and especially grandparents, out of it entirely? I'm not really sure! I'm leaning heavily toward thinking it's a productive idea, though. And this is why. I personally am continually encouraged and appreciated for any kind of  learning experiences I offer my grandkids. I think their mommies and daddies would welcome help even more in days ahead when back packs start coming home brimming with assignments to complete. I think parents would sigh with relief that at least one category per kid can be crossed off their list. (Picture Brick Heck's mom, Frankie!) It is popularly and well stated by educators that parental involvement is a key factor in school success. Why not welcome grandparents to join the team?

I've presented my scientific theory and have set out to prove its validity. To accompany this effort, I have written a set of guidelines for consideration by those who might choose to become Grandparent Team School Mentors. Here goes!

1. Be competent in your field! Even our feline Miss Push-Face doesn't want my math "expertise!"

2. Keep the subject exciting for your grandchild by continually seeking ideas, projects and accurate information online and at the library. Pore through books for little known facts to share. Ones that teacher might not know are the best ones yet!

3. Look for local places of interest that might make a worthwhile related field trip. Not just museums. Study plant life with a sketch pad trip to a pond. Contrast what is seen there with foliage found in an open field. Examine old headstones at a cemetery to bring history to life...err, I mean "death," I suppose!

4. Establish from the beginning that you and grandpa are homework helpers, or coaches only. This means that you will not accept or acknowledge emails that request "two pages, double spaced, on the US Space Program by Sunday night, please grandma!" (Fresh in my mind is the call from a 5th grade Mary Jo asking if I would not only drop off the math book and homework she forgot, but do the last four problems before I came!)

5. Establish a team feeling with the child by continually checking in on classroom progress. Celebrate together when grades are good. But when they are not? Well, for that, a personal visit to the teacher might be in order. Grab Miss Smarty-Pants by the collar and demand to know if she realizes who your grandchild is.......whoa! Oh, well okay! I guess not that. No, let's just do the celebrating part for the good grades your grandchild is almost guaranteed when it is assured that "grandma has my back on whatever they throw at me in this subject." And really, I think once that team gets established there will be some great effort to not disappoint the cheering, poster-board-packing coach back home!

Okay! Your turn! Thanks in advance for your wise comments!