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!