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!