Friday, January 25, 2013

Love Bug Party Bag!

When I sat down last month in a morbid post-Christmas slump to sketch this project, I promised myself I'd meet my goal of making it "the crazier the better!" This tote bag is not only crazier than a bed bug, err I mean love bug, but I made two of them. And they will be delivered to the front doors of my daughters-with-kids on February 14th bearing everything needed for a fun, happy family Valentine's Day party!....a "love bug infestation" snuggled inside a hand made, lightly quilted 18" x 20" bag that also serves as a showcase for the hand prints of all five grandchildren.

The hand print blocks are 6" square. Hand quilting encircles the "bug bodies" and accents the red squares. (If you adapt this idea with an original front panel, use pre-quilted fabric for the outside borders, backing, and handle to complete.)

Glittered hearts (Dollar Tree) cut in half become insect wings, attached with Gorilla glue. Same for wiggle eyes. Fine point (005) permanent marker defines antennae, eyelashes, legs and the name of the bug. Obviously not washable "as is," but then I can't imagine any heavy use, such as marching into church with this slung over a shoulder!

Maybe we'll just designate these whimsical totes a gathering place for all things for decorations, games, prizes and cards bought ahead for next year. When the bag reemerges, the kiddoes can line up to see how much their darling little hands have grown over the past year - and stick their cute little noses deep inside to see if grandma sent along enough candy to keep everybody jumpin' off the walls! (Hmmmm....that well may be the subconscious motivation for the dump-and-drive nature of this gift!)

This year the bags will contain a set of the "Family Reunion" bingo cards I made last week, an equal number of prizes for everybody (dinosaur and princess sticker sheets, glow swords and heart topped wands (oh, how did I ever live before Dollar Tree?), sticky string, light up necklaces, etc.) and some heart shaped cookies for munching along during the game.

 Smack!.....I love my little Valentines (here's 2/5 of them!)....and ya know...I think those little bugs just might love me right back!

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Family Reunion" Bingo!

I love these people! That's why the bingo game I designed for my grandsons is really just a set of oversized Valentine's Day cards. When mommy and daddy join the boys to play, they'll all be reminded of how much they are loved by so many of us, including multiple pets whose furry little faces also appear among those of loving human relatives.

We have 14 in our immediate family. When paternal grandparents and some pets are included, that's more than enough to fill 19 squares on the 25 space board. For now, we'll leave a few empty spots for later as future grandkids and additional animals arrive.

Besides the "everybody-on-this-card-loves-me" factor that is so perfect for this time of year, there are other benefits that come with playing this game. Advanced numbers don't need to be recognized, so kids as young as two can not only play, but also handle a turn at being game caller.

"Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal" will easily become part of everyone's vocabulary.

And then there's the prizes! I am going to evenly divide them by wrapping in individual colors for each child (and adult). Winners select only their own until they are gone, so no one has to fret about being an "unloved loser" on Valentine's Day! (A crime, by the way, that NEVER occurs on any day at grandma's house!)

Here's basic instructions for making a similar set of boards to enjoy playing with your family:

1.) Print head shots on your computer using the "contact sheet" option (that's what HP Pictures calls it), creating individual 1" x 1.5" photos.
Print one head of each person per card with an extra for the set of "calling cards."
Making 4 cards? Print 5 photos of each family member.
2.) Trim the photos. Glue them to a background sheet of paper (optional). Trim again.

3.) Use rubber cement to glue the photos to a sheet of 8.5" x 11" solid color cardstock. Arrange them in 5 rows of 5 photos each with a "free square" in the center. Be sure each card has a different arrangement! Allow about 2" for the header on top of the page. Fill in any empty spaces without pictures with a rectangle of scrapbook paper.
4.) Cut a 22" x 28" piece of lightweight cardboard into fourths and glue the playing cards to them, allowing room at the top for decorating.
5.) Use scrapbook paper and craft supplies to decorate the tops of each card. Trim outside edges.
6.) Mount the extra "calling card" photos on cardstock scraps.
7.) Collect buttons or use candy "conversation hearts" for markers.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Gone Snow Mobile-ing!

I have low tolerance for people who whine, but right now I am going to do exactly that!
Where's our snow? Where's the foot-deep-perfectly-packed-dazzling-white-glistening blanket that's absolutely free but yields hours of snowman-building, ball-throwing, and fort-making fun with the grandkids? The few Christmas inches we had have melted away in an early thaw. The only way we're going to capture the twirling-whirliness of a snowflake cascade is if we gather up our scissors, paper, and glue and go "snow mobile-ing" on our own!

Once in awhile I think I may have done something right as a grandma. A few of my friends struggle with the "monsters" they have created in grandchildren who greet them at the door demanding, "Grandma, what did you bring us?" Yikes. In contrast, my own polite grandsons only want to know what we are going make when I come to spend the day with them! (Yeah, okay, full disclosure...mommy has invested considerable time instructing them not to snuggle up in my lap with a toy catalog, pointing at things and asking, "Grandma, can you buy me that?")
 not that this has ever actually happened or anything, of course.......!

Last week, this "perfect" grandma went "snow-mobile-ing" to their house and delivered radiant smiles, a pizza-eating snowman and the splendor of winter on a dreary, flakeless day!

Crafting with kids means you have to plan ahead. Lots can happen to an unattended glue pot and a jumbo sized bottle of green glitter (don't ask! ever!) if you turn your back for a sec to mix paint or cut the 1" and 4" and 6" shapes we need to make our snow-mobile.

Pre-cut 4" white paper circles, folded twice, became our snowflakes. My little artists love scissors, but they did struggle a bit with the triangle shaped cuts needed for an attractive pattern. I supplied those as requested, but they snipped off the center points and fringed the edges. Most of the fun came from paper-punching holes into the flakes and opening them.

Our snowmen began with 6" white shapes, glue sticks, and an assortment of 1" circles in black for classic teeth, and more bright, happy colors for eyes, buttons and "chicken pox!" I also laid out a handful of hats, scarves, and some orange triangles for noses. What a surprise when Sae plastered a second one of those on the face of his little guy. "He's eating PIZZA!" he shouted with joy, and my initial chagrin that this kid might not know that "real" snowmen only have one nose turned to delight when I realized how much spontaneous creativity is expressed when an ordinary basic shape doesn't just serve the most obvious purpose to an observant and uninhibited 4 year old!

Paper punches are what made this project so easy and fun. The boys loved using them to make extra stars and flowers.

What are YOU staring at? Never seen a snowman with chicken pox before?

Finishing touches: 2 foam board strips, each 2" x 20" to make the crossbar hanger. Intersect them at center and glue to hold. Cut random lengths of curling ribbon to tie to punched holes at the top of snowmen and snowflakes and then hang them by tying to the crossbar. Snowmen go in the center. Balance the mobile with equal weight from smaller shapes on the four arms.

But something was missing! Cardinals! There are lots of them around here, frequenting the bird feeders we generously host. I made a paper set of three in vivid red and they flutter about too, admiring the handsome work of our little boys.

Ahhh....winter! Here at last!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pop Up A Snowman!

There is snow on the ground here and it's cold. Problem is, there's not enough material to sculpt anything worthwhile and the temperature is too low to have a good time out there. That means if we want winter fun we've gotta bring the outside in and pop ourselves a snowman or two. Inside it's warm enough to build one of these little guys, but cool enough of a project so kids will want to make one for themselves - with precautions and lots of help from grandma!

Here's the little prototype I built from popcorn, mini-marshmallows, and a handful of extras for things like eyes and buttons......I made him ahead so I could work out any problems that might arise while my grandkids joined me at our snowman-making table yesterday afternoon.

The boys, age four, devoted fans of any kind of machine or device with moving parts have expertly operated my little air popper for a long time. I could trust them to take turns pouring and pushing the button to yield the 10-12 cups of popped corn (1/2 cup unpopped) we needed per recipe. (This amount will make one 8" snowman like mine, built from a 3.5" lower body, 2.5" center, and 2" head - or several smaller ones like the kids made.)

In the meantime, I gently melted together, on low heat, 1/2 cup butter (or margarine) followed by the 10.75 bag of mini-marshmallows required as a binding agent.

We spread the popcorn out on a foil lined baking sheet, being very careful to remove unpopped kernels.

Once the marshmallow concoction was melted, I slowly poured it over the popcorn, using a wooden spoon to cover as much as possible, while also making sure the kiddies didn't touch the hot mixture. They waited patiently, hands coated with cooking spray, for grandma to give the okay once the quickly dropping temperature was just right for shaping. Careful vigilance is required here for popcorn that's safe to handle, while still warm enough to stick together!

The best part was diving right in to form the mixture into three balls per snowman. While the kids played around, nibbled, and enjoyed the tactile experience, grandma worked quickly to shape and stack because kids this age can't work that fast!

Popcorn Snowman Test Kitchen!

If there's a problem getting the three body parts to hold together, a low heat stove-rewarming of remaining marshmallow mixture will serve as glue for that task.

Next it is time to bring out a tray offering a selection of paper hats and mittens pre-made by grandma, chocolate chips, red hots, pretzel braids, scraps of ribbon for colorful scarves and orange "Mike and Ike" candy noses. (Buy the $1 box and eat every other color in there before grandpa or the kids see it!) Use a wood or metal skewer to drill into the body (if needed) so the nose and arms can be snugly pushed inside....grandma does that, of course! In fact, be ready to take orders on placement of attachments because this part also is better suited for kids older than my two year old granddaughter.

Popped 'em, decorated 'em, gave 'em multiple arms, and now awaiting permission to eat 'em!

And finally....if you think ordinary "helicopter moms" are annoying, you have never compared them to "Black Hawk Grandmas!" For this project, here's my.......


1. Be certain that no unpopped kernels remain in the batch of popcorn you'll use. Little kids don't need to bite down on one of those if they are allowed to eat the finished snowmen. (WHAAAT? We might not be able to eat these? Well, below -  alert #3 - before you make your final decision!)

2. Let the kids watch you pour the hot mixture, but make sure they aren't close enough to reach in. It cools quickly so start testing right away until it's safe for them to handle comfortably.

3. This stuff is going to end up between the teeth of your grandkids. Are you really okay with that?
The best solution is to let parents decide if these little guys will be cannibalized upon completion while sturdy toothbrushes lie in wait, or just snacked upon at the out-of-the-popper stage with an understanding that completed little sentries will serve as winter decorations only!

In the end of course, we ate them all. They tasted exactly like what you would expect from indoor snowmen...they melted in our mouths! cute little "squirrel-man!"