Saturday, February 23, 2013

MEOW-ZERS! Cat Toy Giveaway!

Snakes. Thought I was done with them. Apparently not. My recent Snake Festival posts attracted an interesting comment from fellow grandma blogger and friend, Debra, who writes with charm (often of her cat, Kanga) and photographs with beauty at The Homespun. "You need to make one for the cats now," she quipped. Oh Debra! You shouldn't have! I wasn't able to get that crazy-cute idea out of my head since the second I read it....

Finished my snakey cat toys yesterday. All 18 of them. The resulting embarrassment of riches combined with the guilt of gluttony is an unhappy condition. Time to offer a giveaway and share the wealth!

"I'll take care of that for you!"
Bloggers who know what they're doing host these events all the time. They even download a professional raffle thingie that ensures there's no "cheating" when the winner is selected. I won't bother with that. I have my own in-house assistance for taking care of those matters!

Want to win a set of 6 catnip toy snakes? All you need to do is leave a comment mentioning name(s) of your cat(s). At the last moment of the competition, March 08, 2013 at 12 AM EST I will print out all of the comments and allow Charlie to pick the winning slip by whichever method he chooses. Tap of the paw? Cat saliva drowning incident? Well, that part we don't exactly know yet! But I will announce the lucky cat(s) here on March 09 and request a mailing address for delivery of the prize.

Part of the package is an all green snake - just in time for St. Patrick's Day! The ferocious tiger viper will accompany him.

Now, if I were to enter my own contest, here's what my comment would look like:
Ooooo! I sooo wanna win this! My cats' names are Charlie, Mickey, Iggy, Rosie, Katie and Annie. Pleeeeease Charlie! Pick meeee!

And Kanga? If you're reading this, please email me your address too. I am not a catty kind of person who pounces on a great idea without a purr of appreciation and scampers away to bury it in the cushy warmth of a cat bed, saving it for leisurely disembowelment at a later date. I have this set of three fancy "girly" toys just for you and I'm anxious to see if they meet your royal whiskered approval with a playful swipe or two from a curious paw!

It's ironic that I would be announced as a finalist for a favorite grandparent blogger award during one of the few weeks that I post about cats and not grandchildren. I would like to fix this right now! These snake toys are an easy project for kids to make with a little sewing machine help from grandma. I have added them to the post of instructions for full sized ones. They are suitable as gifts for family members who are owned by cats, as random acts of kindness when delivered to an animal shelter, or as prizes or sale items at a family gift shop, art show, or carnival. Grandma can also guide the planting, care, and harvesting of catnip to stuff inside the toys for a purr-fect finishing touch!

So there! I am back to being a grandma blogger and not just a crazy cat lady! I am deeply grateful to and the professional, well organized, and hard working Susan Adcox for the honor of being included in this prestigious competition. We invite you to visit all five finalists, choose your favorite, and vote. To those who nominated me, to those who will vote in this final round, and to Susan, I am delighted to be recognized among such fine company. Thank you!

Full Disclosure! Charlie wanted to offer his "winner-picker" services to Susan. I told him I suspected she would graciously decline, citing that one of those "professional thingies" has already been installed. He responded by yawning, stretching, and curling up into a giant cotton ball, murmuring, "Tell her to call me first next year!"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

More Snakes! More Festival!

"Snakes are like potato chips. You can't have just one!"
Or is that what they say about cats? I dunno. But what's the dif? I have six of each!

Welcome back to our zany nest of snakes! The colorful ones we crafted last week have snuggled in to hibernate, allowing us to focus attention elsewhere. Day two of the snake festival grandma is hosting for her little charmers moves on to a home crafted lunch and a mixed media art project.

Let's eat first!

We painted the stripes with food color.
The baked snakes retained their shape and vivid hues.
I'll just pretend I didn't see images of grilled snakes artistically skewered and sold to nonchalant munchers in the marketplaces of Beijing. Stumbled upon those accidentally while making sure that my puff pastry dough idea really was the easiest one out there. We sliced a sheet into horizontal thirds and the kids rolled them into tubes, customized as our favorite - non-poisonous, friendly, egg-eating milk snakes! * These were perfect for two and four year old kids to craft because they went together so easily, baking for a quick 10 minutes.

* Not to be confused with the nearly identical - but deadly poisonous coral snake! Yikes! Shoo! Go 'way!

A twin set of herpetologists applies snake eyes with the point of a food color pen.

Quite frankly, I didn't expect the bread stick part of our salad to be so realistic! Very glad when my culinary snake-eating experience ended and it was time to get "artsy" area I'm much more comfortable in!

Our fanciful reptiles were rendered in tempera and paper. They combined the arts of vegetable printing, painting, drawing, and collage.

Here's Bree to demonstrate how she swooped her foam brush below a potato printed head to make a sleek body for her snake. Scales were added with the end of a celery stick. One of the trio she made sported orange eyes, punched from paper by the artist herself and then firmly glued on, along with a handful of body stripes and a long red tongue. Each snake also received a freehand smiling face and a pupil and lashes for each eye.

Where have I been living? Under a rock? * Our snake festival was well underway by the time I was made aware that 2013 celebrates the Chinese Year of the Snake. That means that an event like this one is instructive in both biology and social studies. If you're on the prowl for fun snake-making activities, check out this post written by Diana Rambles. She's gathered a delightful nest of New Year ideas and traditions to honor her daughter's native heritage. There's something blinking in the sun and lurking in the weeds over there for everybody!

* Those who actually live under rocks might find themselves jostling for space with a harmless worm snake - native to the United States. I didn't know that before! Seriously, grandmas - if you've been intimidated by the way I've been rattling off authoritative snake facts lately, throw yourself a festival like this one! You will be surprised at what you'll absorb alongside the wriggling co-celebrators who join you!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snake Festival! Opening Day!

Not really sure why I decided that the kids needed a snake festival. They love animals, but have never mentioned snakes. In fact, a few weeks ago, I asked the boys if they liked them. No. Did they want to learn about them? No. Did they want to make a snake? Thoughtful silence. Then, "no." Oh dear. By that time I had already bought the fleece we'd need for seven of them and the ingredients for both a super sneaky snake lunch and a mixed media art project that would have us all hissing with delight.

But there's no slithering around over here. When grandma decides we're having a snake festival, well hang on to your tail, because we're havin' one!

I planned an educational opening ceremony. Because of the aforementioned disinterest in my topic, I was forced to dust off an old trick from parenting days of yore. Settled myself on the couch within earshot of the kids, opened a richly illustrated nature book, and began to declare observations that a seasoned herpetologist would delight in. "My, my! Look at that! Rattlesnakes! Snuggled up in a huge pile to hibernate through the winter!" and, "That loooong, skinny vine snake sure is a pretty green color. I wonder if anybody can see him hiding there!" Seconds later, they were piled in my lap, poking and pointing at pages, peppering me with questions. "Grandma, how did that snake get up in the tree? Is that an egg he came out of? How? Why? Ewww! Look at that one! He's crawling right out of his clothes!"

Ladies and gentlemen....
let grandma's snake festival begin!

I answered as many questions as I could, glossing craftily over the topic of what's for dinner on the plates of these slimy critters. (Oops! My bad! I meant UNslimy! Snake skin is dry and cool. It looks wet only because it shines in the light. Ha! Bet you didn't know that!) I avoided the topic of eats because Bree is very attached to the rodents in her Calico Critters family. Wouldn't want her living in fear of a scaly head poking inside the window of their cozy little cottage and snapping up a young 'un with the quick flick of a reptilian tongue! And the boys didn't need to know how boas plan their meals either. Right now they both want badly to be policemen so they can "put handcuffs on the bad guys and throw 'em in jail!" That's okay. Just don't think they need to add "crush 'em to death and haul 'em off to swallow whole" to their arsenal right now. I'll let some future second grade teacher handle both those areas for me!

So, now we know (almost) everything about snakes! It's time to apply our knowledge and make one for ourselves. What I like best about this project is that it teaches kids to "sew" even though they never get to touch a needle. I firmly believe it's grandma's job to convey that skill to the next generation. On this day we accomplished "step one" toward the goal of seeing great things made from fabric when you know just how to cut, stitch, turn, stuff and tie on a bow - or, in this case -three, or four, or more of them!

My snake makers followed exactly the instructions I have provided here. Their first step was to choose a "snake skin" to stuff to plump perfection. Taking into account their ages, I offered stitched critters already filled to 75% complete. They expertly shoveled in the last foot, using wooden dowels to make the work easier.

Once bodies were full, a choice for eyes was custom made from a pile of colorful buttons. I offered the option of topping those off with a set of wiggle eyes.

Bree took her eyeball-shopping very seriously! She carefully tried on as many pairs as possible before making a final decision.

While the kids waited patiently, returning to the snake book for another careful look, grandma sewed on the eyes and tied the end of the tails tightly with ribbon.

The kids made their final choices for the ribbon body bows that put the finishing, wild touch on each of their new pets.

Sure, our snakes are beautiful, but are they smart? We introduced them to the alphabet, making sure they knew, at the very least, how the letter "s" sounds!

Here we are! Our snakes are smart and cute, and so are we! But is our snake festival over? Oh, heck no! When grandma comes back in two days, she'll bring part II of this epic event tucked inside the ample pockets of her huge "grandma bag!" We're gonna make ourselves a wonderful reptilian lunch and an art project that I've promised will rate at least a 20 on a "scale" of 1 to 10!  Please sidle on back next week so you can decide for yourself if we succeeded at that happy task!

Best Moment of the Week: Mommy overheard Nick (center) introducing his new pet to one of his twin baby sisters. Looking at it fondly, he sweetly said, "I love my snake!"
Awww! And you know what, Nick? I love YOU too...and your brother on the left, and your cousin on the right!

Stuffed Snake Instructions

Here's what you'll need to make one snake:

Fleece fabric, 1/6 yard (6"x 60")
2 large buttons
2 wiggle eyes and Gorilla glue (both optional)
Polyester stuffing
Wood dowel for poking stuffing down the tube
Ribbon scraps:
  • narrow (1/2" or 5/8") : 12" for tying tail end closed and 10" for tongue
  • wide (1.5") : 36" length for body bows (4) or 18" for body ties (4)
Sewing machine and supplies:
  • scissors, pins, strong thread, needle, marking pen for light fabric, white chalk for dark
Snake pattern - see instructions below

This project is not for children under 3 years old due to choking hazard from buttons.

1. Draft a pattern by tracing a 5" circle (snake head) on paper. Add a 4" x 22" body to back of head. Cut pattern out.

2. Fold fleece in half horizontally, right sides together. Center pattern on top, pin and trace it with marker. Note that head is placed at fold.

3. Machine sew along traced line, leaving short end (opposite head) open for turning and stuffing. Cut snake out, allowing 1/2" all around.

4. Turn to right side. Hand sew buttons to face with strong thread. Glue wiggle eyes on top of buttons if desired. Note that button eyes may also be sewed on after snake is fully stuffed.

5. Pull the "sleeve" of snake down as far as possible to make it easy to stuff the head until it is full and round. Use dowel to poke stuffing in. Continue stuffing and pulling sleeve up until body is also full, leaving the last 2-3" unstuffed.

Almost half stuffed!

6. Tuck the raw open end inside about 2" and tie tightly with a 12" scrap of narrow ribbon.

7. Use strong thread to hand stitch a 10" scrap of narrow ribbon to center front of face, at seam, for tongue.

8. Tie a 36" length of wide ribbon into a bow directly behind head. Space 3 additional tied bows (for girls) or tied knots from 18" lengths (for boys) behind head to complete the snake.


To make a cat toy snake (approximately 2" wide x 9" long),
follow the above instructions with these variations:

SUPPLIES - substitutions and additions:
  • Fleece fabric, 3" x 60" (1/12 yard) -makes 2 snakes
  • Ribbon (5/8" wide or less), craft cord, or raffia, 18" lengths for body bows (4)
  • Feather boa trim scraps (1.5" wide) and strong glue (optional)
  • Quilting thread for eyelashes (optional)
  • Catnip (preferably fresh) added with stuffing

  • Make the sewing pattern exactly the same as above, substituting a 3" circle for head with a 2" wide x 11" long body.


  • Safety Issue! Cats can be just like kids! If the use of button eyes might present a danger when bitten off and swallowed, omit them. Cut circles from felt for eyes and hand sew them on.
  • To make eyelashes, thread a needle with black quilting thread, doubled. Make a triple knot about 2" from end of thread. Push needle into snake head behind button eye. Pull it through to the opposite eye, tug on the thread until knot is embedded in snake head and then cut at desired length to make lashes. Repeat for a total of 4 lashes on each eye...more if your cat likes them on his snakes!

Make snake cat toys to celebrate holidays, like this little green guy,  ready to go for St. Patrick's Day!

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

Thank you! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Grandma's Pizza Company

Aren't grandmas amazing? Not only do they provide a wonderful mommy or daddy for each beloved grandchild, but many babysit all of them (for free!) and some of them also own and operate their own
complete with take-out and delivery service!

Now, grandma knows that little kids are not gonna eat an entire 12" pizza by themselves. And there is only so much "cleaning up" after them that grandpa can do! Each of the kiddoes, also, is not going to like the exact same toppings. So wise and indulgent grandma offers custom baked-to-order food in custom made-to-size boxes that accommodate her hot, tasty English muffin pizzas! Each of those servings is topped off not only with carefully ladled sauce and a generously measured sprinkling of pepperoni and cheese, but also with a logo label that can be personalized with each child's name. That way, grandma can never be found guilty of the unfortunate demise of Little Miss "I'd-die-before-I-ever-ate-a-piece-of-green-pepper!"

So, how exactly does this charming little enterprise work? Well, just before lunch, grandma plants her little darlings in front of the noon showing of Sesame Street. She scurries into the kitchen to quickly assemble and bake her pizza orders. She pops them into the prepared boxes, sneaks out to the front porch, rings the doorbell, and cheerily announces "Pizza Delivery!" to the surprised and happy little faces that appear before her!

But that's not all!

When grandma makes her Mary Poppins-like babysitting visits, she frequently brings a stack of her little pizza treats, all ready to hand out and quickly re-warm in the microwave oven. And if mommy and daddy approve, those are accompanied by cute little mini-bottles of cola and a good movie to snuggle up and enjoy. Why would anybody ever want to go out for an evening? All the best fun is right here at home - with grandma!

Any comments? Oh, here's one!.... straight from the mouth of one of my best little customers!
"That grandma, really! She's amazing!"*

Ding Dong! If you would like to start your very own English muffin-size pizza delivery service, I have cooked up easy step-by-step directions for the boxes you'll need right here!

*or maybe she's just talkin' about the pizza!

Pizza Box Instructions

Here's how to make boxes for Grandma's Pizza Company!

To make a 5" square pizza box, you will need:

  • 7" x 14" piece very thin, flexible cardboard
  •  Straightedge
  •  Bone folding tool (optional)
  •  Scissors
  •  Craft glue
For a label, you will need a 2.5" circle of craft paper with optional smaller circle and a fine point pen for drawing a design.

Begin by scoring fold lines on the cardboard.
Placement is shown on photo in black lines:
Measure 1" along both long sides and score with bone tool or point of scissors. Measure 1" along one short side and crease. Move up 1" and repeat. Cut 2 squares, 1" each from corners as shown. This side will become "box bottom."
Move up 5" from second line and crease again. Repeat again, 1" after to make "box spine." Make the last line from opposite end of box, also 1" from outside edge.

Make 1" cuts into the box where shown in red.
These cuts will create tabs to hold the box together.

Fold up on all creased lines as shown to form the box. Tuck tabs in and glue them to sides of box to hold it together.

Create a paper logo for your pizza box using the circles of paper. Print the child's name or draw a cute design that includes the pizza ingredients.
It is best to use a food safe wax liner or parchment paper inside the box. A pizza placed directly on cardboard makes a greasy, unsanitary mess!

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

Thank you!