Thursday, December 26, 2013


Leftovers. Not a word that enjoys a good connotation. One suggesting unsavory slush, abandoned at pan or bargain basement bottom. Unwanted. Not chosen.

But if leftovers are remnants, parts and pieces lingering from a bigger entity, we all bring them home every day in the fragile form of memories. The best ones are lovingly collected and revisited time and again. They are shared, compared, and recorded.

I have leftovers filling my heart right now. Christmas 2013 has gifted me generously with moments to actively celebrate what I expressed gratitude for at the Thanksgiving table one mere month, family, friends, and the peace, love, and security that each one of these brings home for safekeeping.

Doctor James Dobson believes that "a family should maintain a variety of traditions that give each member a sense of identity and belonging." Amen! This year we honored not only traditions of the past, but new ones as well, recognizing that the youngest among us are growing in capability and enthusiasm for the season.

Aunt Christy initiated "Cousin Movie Night" early in the month of December. Before "snuggle-up-in-your-sleeping-bag" time arrived, she made sure each kid was "decorated" suitably for the event!

Wearing the "Cousin Christmas Jammies" that Aunt Mary Jo provides annually, the kids gathered around Aunt Christy so she could help them make a festive jingle bracelet. (Nothing to worry about, grandma - the boys loved them too!) These were simply fashioned from bells and a chenille stem....a hint, perhaps, of the Polar Express movie that would round up the evening's fun....?

But whoever heard of going to the movies without a snack in hand - or, in this case - around one's cute little neck? Aunt Christy provided a gourmet spread of colorful cereal, candy coated pretzels, and sugary rings to string on ribbon lengths long enough to carry an "all you can eat" feast that would last all night!

Cousins, happily belled and "necklaced," await the next event - grandma's very unordinary rendition of The Night Before Christmas.

I think mice are rather nice. Their tails are long, their faces small, they haven't any chins at all.....Okay, those words are not original with me. They belong to Rose Fyleman.

But these are my own....

Their cute little faces
show up in places,
where the story goes wrong,
since they just don't belong!

Pulling up her best dramatic flair, this grandma commenced turning pages of the timeless classic. Who would have guessed what was to occur once "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" was read? From behind the book came a series of "whooshes!" and staccato movements that suggested one thing alone. There were, in fact, mice who were still stirring! To the sounds of delighted laughter - while no doubt looking like a peddler just opening her pack - I tossed each child a finger puppet mouse. It was "edge-of-your-seat" fun from that moment forward. They were instructed to listen for the randomly inserted word, "mouse," as a signal to raise their little critters high and cheer loudly for the joy that is Christmas!

"And Mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap - and oh my goodness! There's a mouse in my lap!"
"But a miniature sleigh with three tiny mice!"
"To the top of the house....look! There's a mouse!"
"In the beard of his chin peeked a wee tiny mouse!"

I've gotta be honest. The picture above was posed after the event. Actual story time action was pure unbridled enthusiastic exuberance! Far beyond what I expected from this sacrilegious tweaking of a story no one usually dares tamper with! Try it yourself next year and see!

Perhaps 2013 was "The Year of the Mouse." I began another seasonal tradition too, this time for my four granddaughters alone. Bree was the only one old enough to receive hers this year, but I have three more "in stock," waiting for Ava, Angeline, and Kaylee.........

Hot chocolate was served in Aunt Mary Jo's kitchen after story time. It was creamy, steamy, and delightful, loaded with mini-marshmallows and capped with a mountain of freshly whipped, sprinkle-topped cream. Once Bree sipped the top ounce from her mug, it was evident that this experience would not be like any other. The tippy tops of two tiny ears came into view. Hmmmm.....What's that? Well, drink a little more, sweetie! The pair of tiny ears was soon joined by a poking pink nose!...and then a set of beady black eyes!

To the surprise of everyone - except "know-it-all" grandma, of course! -  a sassy little mouse peered up at them from a place he will forever abide, venturing out but once each year when little girl cousins gather to sip hot Christmas chocolate and recall discovery of childhood magic in the bottom of a ceramic mug.

It's nothing new for me to guide the three oldest grandkids in the making of gifts for mommy and daddy. We do seasonal workshops and wrap what we make. This time we kept everything simple. There was so much else going on!

For mommies and aunties we made paper Santa necklaces strung with sparkly pom poms to wear on Christmas morning. For grandpa, daddies, and uncles we decorated foam cover notebooks with self adhesive stickers.

And then we wrapped what we made - with lots and lots and lots of tape!

Teddy agreed to model one of the handsome necklaces headed for mommy's stocking!

Grandma constructed the basic Santa head. Kids cut triangle hats with scissors, punched red stars, selected color, size, and order of red and green pom poms, drew eyes, and glued button nose and tiny white pom poms to beard. Grandma connected everything on Baker's twine threaded on an extra large needle.

And I should mention that our wrapped gifts each sported their own hand punched star tags!

"I think we're done here!"

May your New Year be full of sumptuous leftovers - more than enough to bring you joy and every good thing you wish for!

Folkmanis field mice finger puppets can be found here on page 9.
"Holiday Mouse" mugs are sold online at Hearthsong and Magic Cabin toy retailers.

Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. (1983). Dr. dobson's principles of parenting.
Retrieved December 22, 2013 from

PoemHunter. Mice. Retrieved December 22, 2013 from

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ring Bell for Service!

Poor grandchildren. Can you imagine? They've never been to a cafeteria! Not one of them! Never once enjoyed the experience of steering a plastic tray down a stainless steel counter. Never once placed their own rolled napkin of "silverware" alongside a cold drink, all the while peering ahead, anticipating. Some of my own best memories are dime store encounters with fluorescently lit food, mother beside me, encouraging something tasty and new. The best part was choosing - all on my own!

Grandkids these days! Far too soft on dining experiences, I'd say! Too much sitting at fancy tables, waiting to be served! Tsk tsk! Time for some old fashioned "do-it-yourself-ing." Time for grandma to step up and abolish "plated dinner syndrome" for once and for all!

I borrowed Mrs. Santa's brand for the cardboard box cafeteria I constructed for lunch at my annual Grandma's Christmas Cookie Baking Party. This year is our fourth event. And the kids are so ready for dining in style the way I did when I was their age!

Allow me now to escort you down the line in nostalgic imitation of simpler, tastier times!

Ring bell for service! This summons a scurrying grandma, a line up of hungry customers, and an audience of adoring parents!

You'll want to take a tray first. And a bottle of cold milk. Grandma's no pastry chef, but somehow those cookies not only managed to look like wreaths but they slipped nicely around the handy straws.

Poke around inside the paper stocking with your name on it to find a napkin-wrapped set of utensils. That perky little elf? Yours to keep, too!

Look for crisp carrot sticks and home baked cheese pretzel twists tucked inside packs of "Reindeer Food." Doesn't really make any sense, I suppose, but just seemed kind of "Pinterest-y" to label them like that!

Notice the "green fruit juice" in the clear plastic cup pictured above? Ha! Mischievous grandma planted a straw inside of Jello before it set and achieved her goal of fooling the kiddoes into thinking they were drinks!

Mrs. Santa and I rounded out our luncheon spread with appetizer sized plates of mixed fresh fruit paired with wells of creamy dip and smug little turkey meatball Christmas mice bewhiskered with chives, sporting almond slice ears, and bedded in white rice. We offered fool-the-eye cups of bright green mashed potatoes and a side sprinkling of lettuce dotted with tiny sweet tomatoes........

Hey, everybody! How about a round of applause? This kid's been to a cafeteria!


But three items remained! And there's a lovely "spirit of Christmas" story behind right below them!

One of my favorite blogs is Hoopla Palooza. As the name implies, it's a refreshingly original site. "Seriously Fun. Seriously!" Lisa creates wonderful food-crafty treasures for each and every holiday, plus plenty of ordinary times in between. I never miss a post. And that proved to be a very good thing for me last month!

Lisa enthusiastically joined an international group of talented and generous baking bloggers in a fund raising auction to benefit victims of the Philippine islands typhoon. I would have bid on anything Lisa contributed to the effort, but lucky for me, her dozen marshmallow snowmen were the cutest prize in the bunch! What a thrill to find out that I'd won and these zany little snow-children were on their way to live with me! Right away, I knew they'd be the stars of Mrs. Santa's Cafeteria at Grandma's Fourth Annual Christmas Cookie Baking Party!.....and of course, they were!

"How about a bite, kids? Just one little teeny, tiny little taste?"
"Naw, we don't think so, grandma! Sorry!"

And finally, you ask, did we ever get to baking our Christmas cookies? Well, yes, actually we did - with apologies for the national shortage of icing and sprinkles we triggered!

Merry Christmas, dear friends, both large and small!

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Snowman Ring Toss Game

Some things never change. At least not around here. The third grader who once made light of telling me at bedtime - always at bedtime! - that she needed help with a project due the next day is now a mother in need of a pre-school Christmas party game tomorrow! She had (wisely) purchased ten small tinsel wreaths at Dollar Tree with a ring toss activity in mind. What the four little girls and five little boys in Bree's class would toss them at was apparently my problem! I guess I owed Christy a rescue mission. It was, after all, her older sister who once requested that I not only deliver her fifth grade math book, but complete the last four homework problems as well!

The things you toss your rings at have to be somewhat weighty. A 2 liter plastic bottle filled with water makes a perfect body. Invert a plastic dollar store cup over the neck of the bottle and duct tape them together.

Measure circumference and height of bottle from bottom to edge of cup. Cut a matching rectangle from white paper, adding 3" to the width for overlap. Duct tape one short side vertically to bottle. Wrap paper around and glue it down, covering the duct tape. Seam will become center back.

Use buttons, ribbon, marabou trim, wiggle eyes, and paper shapes cut free hand or from craft punches to complete snowmen. One of ours is a lady for the girls' line and the other is a boy.

Give each child a wreath and line them up to take turns at (w)ringing the necks of those little snowmen - something I've been tempted to do when panic stricken "last minute shoppers" approach me for help they know I'll never refuse!

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Scrap Baby Angels

I'm in the same kind of pickle that most grandmothers brine in. I don't want my granddaughters to grow up. Ever. Yet, I cannot wait to teach them how to sew! What's a grandma to do except prepare for the inevitable? I've been designing and collecting ideas for projects that I think will excite the girls when they're old enough to learn. This is important. I want them to enjoy sewing, not dread it. Quite frankly, my own first experience wasn't a good one. Mother handed me a pillow case with a stamped sleeping kitty design and a skein of gray embroidery thread. I was given a demo of her perfect outline stitching. Then I was on my own - to tangle and rethread and pull out and twitch in eight-year-old frustration until I finally tossed it aside. It was grandmother who picked things up then and turned sewing into fun for me. Who else has the time or the patience to supervise the threading and guiding of a sharp needle while remaining poised to untangle, and untangle, and untangle....?

Last year I designed a simple stuffed rabbit - very light on tedious sewing. Just the basics with fun, crafty scrap bag finishing. Every-bunny seemed to like it. With supplies in place, you can breed one in an hour. Some parts of the process are best left to grandma, but that makes it a perfect project for sharing with your little grand-bunny, or, I suppose, during this "season-to-be-jolly" - your little grand-angel!

"I feel kinda out of place here. And who is that
dude in the red suit everybody keeps yapping about?"
Here's how to turn this little lady into its Christmas counterpart!

1. Follow sewing steps 1 - 13 as shown here.
2. Draw eyes on face as described in step 19.
3. Hold the big floppy ears and whiskers!
4. Make the dress as described in steps 22 - 26, except use a 3" x 15" scrap of fabric so it wraps all around the angel and overlaps 1/2" at center back. Cut bodice from a 2.5" square of contrasting fabric, or.......
5. Glue on paper doily, ribbon, or lace for bodice.
6. Fold baker's twine into loops for hair and hand stitch to top of head.
7. Cut and glue on tiny paper stars or hearts for cheeks.
8. Cut 3" paper circle for halo and glue behind head.
9. Cut wings from paper using this pattern and glue on.
10. Accent with additional buttons or lace scraps.
11. Make an optional pedestal by covering a plastic spool with craft paper or painting a wooden one as desired.

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Birthday Boy

I believe that grandparents are chosen by God to be part of a team that brings desire for heaven to our little ones. Whenever they see us pray, or do a kind deed, or offer a gesture of forgiveness, our grandchildren are motivated to do the same. In each of these acts, a priceless lifetime gift is delivered to them.

"The Birthday Boy" invites conversation about the childhood of Jesus. He, too, was born to parents who joyfully anticipated his arrival. He played with toys and learned to read and write. He had a birthday and loving grandparents. Yet we, his brothers and sisters, recognize him as God's only begotten son, born to us because the father we share so loved the world.

When I was in grade school, Franciscan sisters taught us to nestle a flaxen strand inside the bed of the holy infant every time we did a good deed. Each of the cribs I make for my six grandchildren will be accompanied by a little bag of straw. I will encourage them to do the same thing I did more than half a century ago. On Christmas morning, the "Birthday Boy" will lay down his sweet head on pillows of love made soft by the innocence of childhood.

Make a crib from 8 "Popsicle" sticks. Glue 2 sets of crossed sticks for head and foot pieces. Lay horizontal sticks as shown and glue to complete.

Add an optional twig to decorate with paper leaves and birds. Glue to crib as shown, top right corner.

Fill crib with excelsior, straw or similar material.

Make a pattern for Baby Jesus by cutting a 2.5" x 5" paper rectangle. Round corners on one 2.5" side for the head.

Trace pattern, centered, on a folded 7" square piece of unbleached muslin. Sew along traced line, leaving open at bottom. Trim fabric to 1/4" all around sewn line. Turn to right side.

Stuff body firmly so it is 3.5" long. Press firmly with hot iron to flatten it. Hand sew opening closed and trim excess fabric.

Cut a 1" x 36" strip of blue fabric. Cotton, flannel, or any lightweight material will do. Begin wrapping baby at an angle at neck. Crisscross fabric until bottom is reached, then hold in place with a few hand stitches.

Use a fine point permanent marker, such as Micron Pigma 005, to draw the eyes. Use pink craft paint and a fine point brush to add cheeks. Hair is a scrap of jute string attached with a hand stitch at center top of head. Glue an optional button to baby's chest for children over three years old. A heart shaped one is a good choice.

Cut a 3" round paper halo by hand or with a craft punch. Lay baby in crib on top of halo.

If using the attached twig, cut paper birds and leaves and glue on.......
Sing "Glory to the newborn king!"

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Donut Delivery!

Like all domesticated grandmothers, I love to bake with the kids. I adore their enthusiasm and the way they patiently perch on stools that circle the counter, waiting their turn at the next task. Even adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the mix delights them, although sweeping a tasting finger through the dough just before it's time to pass the bowl is probably the highlight of this phase!

Over the past few years we've made drop cookies in almost every variety - raisin, oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate chip. We've cut sugar dough shapes for every occasion, made Nick's favorite blueberry muffins whenever possible and enjoyed the bounty of warm loaves of banana bread.

Time to move on!

I bought and squirreled away a mini donut maker when Bree was just an infant, knowing this day would eventually come for both of us. I imagined she would delight in the petite size of these tasty little bites and I was correct! I also admired the fact that we could enjoy donuts without the mess and danger of a deep fryer. Right again, grandma!

And so we got to work, not only making
chubby little donuts for ourselves, but extras for
gifting to those we love....and not just on a slippery paper plate covered with plastic wrap that won't sit still either! Oh, heck no! Bree decorated and filled custom bags for her seasonal goodies. They went to Grandpa, paternal grandparents Nana and Pappy, Mommy and Daddy, and favorite neighborhood playmate, Jakey.
Bree loved stirring and tasting ingredients for the Pumpkin Donut recipe we used. Since the mini  appliance gets very hot, it was up to grandma to pipe the dough into each crevice.

Next, replace cover and wait. That's it!

It's necessary to experiment to find the correct baking time for each recipe. Because this dough is thick, two minutes is enough time for each batch to cook to perfection.

Once the donuts cooled slightly, Bree could dip them in melted butter and then a cinnamon/sugar mixture to complete.

A rubber stamp alphabet personalized each bag with names and tempera paint accented them with a perky little pumpkin - a hint of the flavor waiting inside.

The best fun was delivering them - but no, maybe not! That part might have been tasting our mini donuts, right out of their hot little oven and into Bree's cute little mitts!

If you can't find a mini donut maker locally, here's one (on page 8) at a very good price!
You'll find the recipe we used right here!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Turkey Tags

I'm currently enjoying a love affair with paper punches. Never mind the old school discipline it took to find a suitably sized geometric, painstakingly trace it and then cut along the line to produce the same little charmer you get from one healthy push on a handy little punch. Not only am I in love, but (thankfully!) the young 'uns are too. This time of year we're gobbling up every last scrap of grandkid-water-colored pretty paper and assembling them into cute and versatile Turkey Tags!

I think what I like best about this idea is that kids who are too young to paint figuratively can participate, seeing their hand work showcased in a finished product. The punches are safe and easy to use too, so kids can operate them with success.

After watercolor abstracts have dried, cut five feathers from a 2" oval punch. Alternately, hand draw and cut them out with scissors.

The 5" tall completed bird has a 3" scalloped circle body. Head is a 1.5" diameter circle. Black paper eyes come from a hole punch and wattle and beak are triangular scraps. Assemble and glue everything to a lightweight piece of contrasting cardboard, hand draw legs and cut turkey out, allowing a narrow border all around.

Use completed tags as place cards, napkin rings, units on a seasonal garland or as accents on Mason jars filled with "pumpkiney" goodness to be trotted out by the grandkids when it's time for dessert. This year we'll use them that way, serving a family favorite Pumpkin Pie Frappe recipe. We'll decorate the jars with turkey tags, tying on raffia and ribbon, then slipping in a few fancy straws for easy use.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Two of Everything!

I don't usually turn heads at Costco, but one memorable experience proved an exception. That was the day I found myself not only in woeful need of cat supplies, but determined to never be caught short again. I lumbered along, propelling a double-wide cart heaped with three bags of kitty litter - that's 126 pounds - and another 64 in crunchy dry food. (Hey people! It's Costco!) Yet several shoppers stop me, gaping openly to ask, "How many do you have?" (Of what? Arms? Heads? Oh, you mean cats!) I provided a truthful answer, (six!) although Dear Abby suggests a worthy deflection for too-nosy people that I might have considered, "Why do you need to know?"

Today I write of a return mission to that place, this time in pursuit of three other things - coffee filters, compliments, and observations. Two of these items were collected in abundance......


I glide into the store, fully aware that multiple pairs of eyes follow me. In my cart, snugly strapped into the kiddie seat, are one year old twin granddaughters, Ava and Angeline. They are dressed in pink from head to toe, cute as a pair of little buttons. Their five year old twin brothers, dashingly handsome Nick and Sae, amply fill the "race car" part of the cart. Yes, I know. We are a sight to behold. Grandma has staged it all and cannot wait for the party to begin.

The boys - Halloween 2013

But mommy is here for groceries. Lots of them. She's been told that numerous times by fellow shoppers. You see, everyone has an opinion on the spectacle that is a set of twins, doubled. "Wow! You sure have your hands full!" Sometimes mommy just can't take it any more. So, today I tell her to go ahead on her own and load up. Enjoy the luxury of solitude. My own needs are simple. I know what I came for, and even before I turn the first corner, I find it. "Oooooh! Twins! No, wait! TWO sets? OMG Ellen, come look at this!" The women squeal as if beholding the bearded lady out on a date with the half-snake man. I pull my cart alongside them and graciously introduce us all. The kids are used to it. I'm on top of the world.


We move on, but it happens again. "Do twins run in your family?" "They do now!" I smile in reply. And again. "Do they do everything together?" "No, they are individual personalities with their own  strengths, interests, and friends." I check off my first observation. It is always the ladies who stop to comment. The men in the store are glued to the elbows of their wives, anxious about being in the right place when it is time to hoist a 50 pound bag of oranges into the boss lady's cart. I observe only one poor soul - a bewildered elderly gentleman - break rank to accost a bakery employee, asking if shoelaces (!) can be found near shelves that groan with Italian bread loaves.

With grandma at the wheel, the boys are in heaven. They point and I steer. "To the toy department!" we shout in unison. Three foot Darth Vader and Spiderman dolls are poked and prodded. We return again and again. Grandma is never in a hurry so there's plenty of time to examine everything. We visit the Christmas aisles and the boys stand up in the cart, mesmerized by a decoration that strikes me as bizarre. It is a disemboweled ceramic snowman with a pair of tiny trains circulating in the place his intestines ought to be. "Junk! Dust collector!" I breathe to myself, but only before one of the boys announces that if they had that snowman at home he'd sit and watch it all day and all night long. I didn't expect this observation to strike me the way it did. Has a lifetime of accumulating things misled me to a place where there is no room for the same unbridled joy a little boy discovers on the shelf of a warehouse store?

I brush that aside and move forward again, reflecting on the times my daughter has been confronted with intrusive queries about her children. What kind of a person would ask such things, I wonder. But when we turn the corner I see the answer to my question. She's shopping the pasta aisle. Stopping dead in her tracks, she demands to know if the kids are fraternal or identical twins. I think it's obvious but I answer her anyway. "Fraternal. Both sets." She absorbs this, confirms it for herself, and then brazenly asks if these grandchildren of mine are the result of In Vitro Fertilization. On paper, Dear Abby's rebuttal is genius. I've always kept it in a handy part of my brain - just in case. But I face this young woman and detect only intense interest without a shred of malice. That makes it impossible for me to offer the answer she probably deserves. "No," I reply truthfully. "They are not." Satisfied, she moves away, but not before I tell her that her own little ragamuffin of a kid is cute. That time though, I'm afraid, I did lie.

On our last revisit to Darth and the Spiderman, I am approached in a now familiar way. "Twins?" I turn around, facing a couple who are smiling affectionately. Contentedly. "We have a set of them too!" they tell me. Grandparents. Something about these people makes me wish I could reach out and group-hug them both. Their eyes are kind, not darting and curious, their comments gentle, not probing. Their own grandchildren are 12 years old, a boy and girl. They are so proud of them. I'm not offended that they don't tell me my grandchildren are cute because I live Grandma Code too. Only our own are the world's cutest and smartest. Yours and mine. We know that. No need to belabor it. Grandparenthood is far too wise and much too gracious to indulge in the ugliness of competitive comparison. We've traveled the same road to become who we are now and we celebrate one another with fondness and respect. My chat with these lovely people lasts only a moment, but when we move to part, I tell them how nice it was to talk to them. They tell me the same thing. Grandparent Code - at its finest!

We meet mommy at check out. The young clerk fakes a double take (pun intended!) and asks if we're familiar with the store's "buy one, get one" offer. Hardy har har. He thinks we've not heard that one before, but we chuckle kindly anyway and agree to be "charged" for just one kid from each pair. He means well. They all do.

We're not yet out of the parking lot before I realize that I've forgotten my coffee filters. Understandable. But my observations about human behavior - especially those of my own -  have come home with me to stay!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Bells? For Halloween? Well, consider this reflection from the hand of Edgar Allen Poe......

Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune

I wasn't there when those words were written, but perhaps ordinary vessels of merriment were cast in an eerie glow because the poet, while penning of them, encountered interruption of a disturbing nature.....

....with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a Raven of the saintly days of yore

Here I will help myself to a generous portion of creative license by suggesting that the aforementioned bells shrieked from the perch of ebony birds.....birds that refused departure despite a hearty implore to not only do so, but...

Leave no black plume as a token.....!

Consider this speculative interpretation of Poe's dilemma. Consider the pecking and cawing congregation - the one taking residence on a cluster of bells, bells, bells, bells. Consider, further, their persistence in the casting of curious eyes upon the craftsman who dares assemble them in heroic homage to the poet! Then pose the question, "Will crafted bells and watchful birds comply to actually peal for us a melancholy tune?"

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore!"

Make a set of Halloween bells from plastic or Styrofoam cups. Spray interiors black. Cut a strip of tissue paper a few inches taller than cup height and longer than circumference at its widest point. Wrap tissue around the outside of the cup, pressing along top and bottom edges to make a pattern. Cut on pressed lines. Double check the shape to make sure it curves to cover the cup. Trace pattern on paper, then cut out and glue to cup.

Cut a length of thin cord, string, raffia, ribbon or yarn twice the height of the cup plus ample extra length for hanging. Punch a small hole through center bottom of cup. Pull cord through, then make a knot larger than the hole at the point where cord is twice the height of the cup. Pull backwards until the knot catches and holds on inside bottom. Secure with glue.

Hand draw ravens on black paper, cut them out, then nest them in sticks and excelsior on top of cups. Tie miscellaneous gizmoes to cords for clappers.

Hang completed bells in a group, close your eyes, and imagine......

....the tintinnabulation that so musically wells 
From the bells, bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells

then waken to observe that.....

 the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting......


Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore. (1849). The bells. Retrieved October 5, 2013 from

Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore. (1845). The raven. Retrieved October 5, 2013 from

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pumpkin Patch Dart Board

Someday I'll host a Halloween carnival for the grandkiddies. Not this year, though. They're still too young to fully enjoy what I've got planned for them! Oooooooo! Are they scared? They better be!

But next week I'll be co-hosting a party with my oldest daughter for her five year old twin sons and a handful of their friends. Most of the guests are boys....a species who loves to throw things! Balls, sticks, pillows....and hopefully the sticky darts that go with the game board I've just completed.

I've used sticky darts before. Love them. They offer the same fun challenge that pointed, sharp projectiles do, but without all of the safety concerns. And I've found that, despite being a low cost item (about 10 cents each), they really do last the 20 or so tosses claimed.

Each child will be given unlimited turns at the board. We're not going to add up the numbers they hit, but that's an option for kids who are older and can keep track of their own math. This year, we'll just hand out those darts and "let boys be boys!"

I made the board on a 32" x 40" sheet of Crescent (matting) board. To make it sturdy, I backed it up with a same-sized foam board (both from Hobby Lobby). Cut friendly paper designs, glue on, and finish with a random flourish of stick-on numbers. We'll just lean the board against a wall to play, but attaching it to a heavy box is an option that will make it freestanding. If you'll play outside, you can tape a pair of wood stakes to the reverse and pound them into the ground like I did for my summer carnival version. Firmly clipping the mat board alone (without foam board backing) to a sturdy clothesline is another option.

You might appreciate the way this game sneaks some mental calculating into a classroom party or school carnival if you're an elementary teacher or a "teacher's-pet-room-mother" (like I was!).

If you can't find sticky darts locally, look online. I found mine at Windy City Novelties and was very pleased with their prompt, friendly service.

This design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Charmed by your necklace!......

....and your bracelet! And your belt! And all of those other Halloweenie thingies a-dingie-dangling from every limb and piece of furniture about you! And whaaaaat? Around your cat's neck too?*

I distinctly remember the moment, years ago, when grandpa (back in that day known as "daddy") ventured to timidly suggest that, "Just because you have a coupon for something doesn't mean you necessarily have to buy the thing!" Um, huh? Yeah okay. Nice try. But what kind of an alien actually lives in a world like that? Today, five hundred weeks later, before the same amount of coupons from Hobby Lobby, Michael's and JoAnn's dared to expire, I have a collection of 40% off paper, ribbon, beads, striped paper straws, and craft punches that would blow away any little weirdo who hopped off any UFO!

But what to do with all this crazy-cute stuff?

Although three year old Bree isn't ready yet to design, punch, and string a necklace of her own, she certainly is ready to admire and wear the ones I made for her this week. We worked together, deciding on colors and placement for each element in the basic plan. She was ready for that, too!

Cut an appropriate length of ribbon or cord. Punch an assortment of paper shapes. Trim a few straws to inch lengths and offer a handful of beads in coordinating colors. You will also need a hole punch and rubber cement for assembling center medallions. Assemble jewelry by stringing components as shown above.

As a "crazy-about-being-a-grandma" person, I have planned "girly-girl" sleepover parties for my four granddaughters since the moment they were born. Food, crafts, entertainment....grandma and grandpa busting into the house at 5 AM to heat up the griddle for morning's pancake sculpture's all in my head, although some might suggest it's time to start writing it all down!

We'll have a Halloween-ing Sleepover, too! I think I'll make this project up into little kits for the girls to work on in between getting their finger and toe nails painted like jack-o-lanterns and ghosts, watching scary movies from beneath a glow-stick-lit blanket tent while shoveling down "monster munch" and recoiling in terror from the creepy hand shadows grandma makes from outside that shakin' and shiverin' spooky shelter!

If my granddaughters lived far away, I'd mail them each a kit in mid-October and include some cute candy to munch on while they assemble their jewelry. In fact, I like this idea so much that I think I'll pack the kits into cute little take-out containers and mail 'em off to the granddaughters of two very dear friends of mine. One's in California and the other's in Pennsylvania. Bet those will be arriving very soon!

* Sorry about the cat jewelry visual - "photo not available!"...and no longer is the necklace - unless a scattered pile of beads and shredded string is something you'd like to see! No. Our feline "modeling session" did not go well....the ultimate in "what-was-I-thinking?!" moments!

These designs, like all blog content, are intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Every year at this time I wish I had a solid black cat. But when it is your nature to welcome in only needy ferals and the discards of others, the best colors are usually taken. What is left over now basks in the sun here, in full-tummied splendor, lifting heads only to nod in the direction of the treat jar. "After that," they seem to say, "if you still think you need a Halloween cat, sit down at your sewing machine and make one!"

Yikes. So much for gratitude! But alas. There are six of them and only two of us.......

Even before Scrappy's last thread was clipped and knotted, he was asking what we had around here in terms of Halloween candy. I guess sewing your own cat is the same as giving birth to one. You hope for the best, but ultimately, you get what you get!

So, my new Scrappy is greedy and demanding, won't let go of the candy jar, and sports a crazy-eyed look that fits very nicely in with the rest of this "anything goes" season-to-be-scary!

Want to make your own litter mate on a pint size wide mouth Mason jar? Here's step-by-step instructions!

Materials Required:

Black cotton fabric, 13" x 14"
Black felt square (or scraps)
12" Black yarn or thin cord
1 yard Black ribbon, 5/8" wide for arms and tail
12" Orange print ribbon, 5/8"
2 Orange buttons, 1" mix or match
White crochet cotton
Polyester stuffing
White acrylic paint
Fine point, size 0 paintbrush
Chalk or light fabric marking pencil
Hot glue gun
Pint size, wide mouth Mason jar
Halloween candy
Sewing machine, black thread, scissors, hand sewing needle, pins
Hand drafted patterns for body and paws


1. Draft body pattern by cutting a 4.5" x 11" rectangle from paper. Hold paper vertically and round off both top edges. Draft paw pattern from a 3" circle. Cut 4 scallops into one side for toes.
2. Fold black fabric in half, to 7" wide, and trace body pattern with chalk on top, centered vertically.
3. Machine sew along traced line. Do not turn! Cut body out, allowing 1" border all around stitched line.
4. Fringe the 1" border, stopping short of the stitched line.
5. Stuff body, then hand sew bottom edge closed so piece measures 9" tall.
6. Tie the 12" yarn scrap around the body 3" from top to define the neck. Trim.
7. Cut triangles from felt for ears. Hot glue to head.
8. Hot glue buttons to face, then sketch a nose, mouth, and eyebrows with chalk. Paint over lines.
9. For whiskers, cut 6" lengths of crochet cotton (3) and tie a knot at each center point. Thread needle, push into face, pull through until knot catches inside. Trim.
10. Place kitty behind jar, then tie both together with a 24" length of black ribbon. Knot tightly at side of neck. Knot the orange print ribbon at center point and hot glue it next to the black one.
11. Cut 4 felt paws from pattern and match them in pairs. Blanket stitch all around outside edges. Stop to push small amount of stuffing inside when a 1" opening remains. Continue sewing to close.
12. Make crochet cotton claws. Pull thread through between each toe, clip off and knot.
13. Hot glue paws to ribbon so they meet at center front.
14. Knot one end of remaining black ribbon and glue it to cat at side bottom for tail.
15. Fill jar with candy and then step back! Waaaay back! Those claws are sharp!

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Haunted House Party

Is your home haunted by friendly relatives who pop up here and there - especially around holiday time - expecting to be entertained? Mine is! But to be quite frank, it's usually me who invites them in. Oooooh! Wait! So that's it! You have to invite them in! Guess that explains why, with a little stretch of the imagination, you might presume that my house looks exactly like this!

My family "everybody-plays-and-everybody-wins" competition is a real winner- if you don't mind the self-congratulatory mood I'm in right now! It's a board game that's perfect for a Halloween gathering at your own haunted house. You'll have everyone sneaking around like slinky black cats, disappearing around corners like wispy ghosts, and flapping batty wings with joy when a treasure is discovered. And no one will go home rattling their bones in dismay, because all of the rescued loot is divided equally at the end- everybody goes home with stomachs churning in candy corn and pretzel sticks!

The playing board is a prize in itself. I'll detail instructions and a list of "witch" supplies you need at the end of this post, but for now, here's a closer look at some of the characters creeping around inside my house....I couldn't even fit everybody in! Scary!

This little guy just flutters around and makes everybody happy....the perfect little "batman!"

Nothing witchy about Mary Jo - I just think she looks spellbinding in that pointed hat!

Where's camera red eye when you need it most? I was forced to add Roxie's alien eyeballs with glue and a paper punch!

Game rules are simple. After everyone has finished "ROFL-ing" at the sight of them themselves, they are dispatched to seek treasure hidden throughout the house. When something is found, a bell is rung - or a horn is honked - or an owl is invited to hoot - and everyone gathers back at the board. A group decision is made on "witch" character matches the treat.

For example.....

Someone finds a basket of wax fangs. It also contains bottles of red liquid - human blood! We don't want to scare the kids so we'll just say (wink, wink!) it's Vampire Juice! And then we'll agree to mark Uncle Tom's square with a candy corn piece. Back to the search! We're soooo done with him!

A batch of clear plastic gloves - one per guest - is discovered. They are stuffed with green tinted popcorn. you think that's a match for Monster Nick?

How about Halloween Ghost Peeps - Charlie?
Candy corn packs - Karen?
Cheese crackers - Uncle Keenon?
Pretzel broomsticks - Mary Jo?

Rubbery skeleton toys - hmmmm.....could be Christy, waving "hello!" from the attic - or is it Roxie? Let's go with Christy for the bones - those bars of chocolate bark (woof! woof!) seem to be calling Roxie's name! She's part chocolate lab you know!

After every stash of goodies has been found, and every window square is marked, every haunted hunter distributes his/her/its treat, giving everybody an equal amount of toys and candy. See how everybody wins? It's that simple!

And so, the next time you hear....

Knock, knock!
Say: "Who's there?"
If they say: "Annie,"
You say:
"Annie body want to come in and play Haunted House Party? It's so much fun it'll scare you!!"

To make a game board (completed size 13" x 28") you will need:

Canson paper (preferred), orange, 19" x 25" sheet
Light weight cardboard, black, 22" x 28" sheet
Wallet size head shots of players (print at home)
Scrap book paper, scissors, glue, and a really crazy imagination!

1. Decorate each face with paper scraps.
2. Cut 3" x 4" paper rectangles into quarters for window panes. Glue them on slightly larger rectangles, contrasting colors and leaving space between each 1.5" x 2" pane.
3. Glue each character on top of a window.
4. Make a larger rectangle, 4" x 6.5" for front door. Arch the top, cut hinges and doorknob from scraps and glue on.
5. Arrange windows and door on orange paper, allowing space below for steps and a fence if desired. Measure, then cut paper. Mine is 12" x 20"
6. Cut fence and steps from scraps. Make cats and pumpkin for faces of babies if desired. Arrange and glue everything to orange paper.
7. Cut black cardboard to 28" x 13" or to a width that allows a 1/2" border around sides of orange paper house. Glue house to cardboard, centered, 1/2" from bottom edge.
8. Make a pattern for triangle roof, adding chimney. When you are satisfied with the fit, cut it out of orange paper and glue down. Add attic window and/or character(s) on the roof if desired.

This design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Thank you!