Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas Flakes, Pops, and Cookies!

This year, occupants of the kids' table at Grandma's Annual Christmas Cookie Baking Party will nestle beneath a magical indoor blizzard, munch up a storm, and snap with a bang!

"Whaaaaat?" you wonder. "Sure it's not grandma who's finally 'snapped' amidst a flurry of seasonal frenzy?"

Well, fortunately, there are several ways to accomplish what I've just described. And for the record, I'm still a tiny bit sane - at least for the moment!

A 24" diameter round table will seat three children, aged two to six, for the occasion. I love candle lit ambiance, kiddie-sized servings, and party favors galore! I also insist upon a "ring for immediate service" bell so no mini-need goes unmet. Yes, I enjoy sipping my Mistletoe Martini at the nearby adult table, but my heart is really with the munchkins - an arm's reach away!

That small table I described was just begging to be surrounded with yards and yards of filmy red netting cascading from a hula hoop suspended from the ceiling, hung from a stick-on hook that I hope grandpa never notices! (Not a fan of deliberately inflicted wall/ceiling holes and/or stickiness, is he!)

Here's what the kiddies will experience when they sit down to dinner, kicking off an evening of family holiday fun. I've written step-by-step instructions for making the simple table tent here. It wasn't that expensive either. Those pretty, delicate snowflakes are from Dollar Tree, and that beckoning gold bell emerged from an ages old box of Christmas craft goodies. But quite frankly, it's the party crackers you see in the bowl here that I'm most excited about!

A dozen years ago, I passed out "authentic" British crackers at Christmas dinner, instructing family to have a "bang up" time. I'd purchased those the year before, on clearance, after the holidays. (They're kind of expensive.) But what a success! Everyone teamed up to firmly grasp one end of a snapper and pull. With a distinctive POP! the cracker "exploded" with a rush of fun - a party crown, a small prize, and a cute joke to share, setting a festive tone for the evening. We're a lively bunch, so our family doesn't really need "ice breakers," but if any of you do.......!

I've been thinking about crackers ever since then. Dying to make my own. But the best part - the snapper - was something I couldn't find, at least not locally. Yet here I am today - loaded with an explosion of fun in the form of a dozen customized, home made crackers! Olde English Crackers supplies not only finished delights, but the ingredients we creative spirits need to make our own.

And wait! There's more!

The site has an engaging tutorial that sees you through every step of the making process. From there, you'll construct with confidence - or launch your own version. My favors increase the size to 2.5" - extra room for a doting grandma to cram in more cute toys and candy! And I customized what the adults will find too - cash and an instant lottery ticket.

But there's still more! I'll include cute Christmas jokes from a charming set (29 of them!) I've found here on Lisa's Grandma's Briefs blog. That list includes: "What falls a lot at the North Pole and never gets hurt?" Hmmmm.....snow? Each cracker will also be stuffed with gold foil chocolate coins - and confetti stars that should keep six family cats busy for days! Something for everybody in these tidy little packages!

Once we've munched and snapped, we'll visit crafty stations I'll set up - tables for printing Christmas tree and snowman feet, reindeer and Santa face hands. These will enjoy a quick turn around as gifts for paternal grand (and great-grand) parents. I have a stash of frames and hand cut craft paper mats ready to go. In a matter of seconds, they'll be personalized and wrapped for delivery!

While Mrs. Grandma-Claus busies herself with that task, and before we get into frosting trays and trays of sugary stars and bells and good ole Santa himself, the kids will play a game or two with parents, cousins, aunts and uncles - Christmas bingo, like this one maybe, from One Creative Mommy, or an easy card game. Lots of laughs, lots of fun.....lots of smiles beneath a blizzard of snowflakes that never seem to melt despite the warming joy that family brings home to me every year when it's Christmas cookie baking time at grandma's!

This is not a sponsored post. I'm just a happy, satisfied customer of Olde English Crackers and want to share the fun!

Christmas Snowflake Tent Instructions

Nestle your Christmas kids' table beneath a flurry of snowflakes twirling inside a tent of red netting for the ultimate in cozy holiday ambiance! Here's how to construct the lightweight, easy to make project featured in this post: "Christmas Flakes, Pops, and Cookies!"

Here's what you'll need:

Approximately 10 yards of 72" wide red netting fabric*
One 26" diameter hula hoop spray painted red
Red thread and needle
Ceiling hook
Plastic snowflakes, ribbon lengths, small ornaments, bell, etc to decorate
Red and white Baker's twine or fish line to hang decorations

*Four panels of fabric are draped from the hoop. For an 8' foot ceiling, 4 x 8' = 32' divided by 3 = approximately 10 yards. The length will be adjusted by the distance the hoop is suspended from the ceiling. Current regular price per yard of netting at Hobby Lobby is $1.39.

Here's what you'll do:

1) Cut the fabric into 4 equal lengths after reserving a 6" x 72" piece for hanging strips.
2) Cut the hanging strip fabric into two 3" x 72" strips.

3) Tie one end of a 3" strip around the hoop, pull tightly across diameter and knot at opposite side. Repeat with remaining strip to divide hoop into 4 equal sections. Reserve extra strip fabric for use as hanging loop.

4) Working with one panel length at a time, staying within one quarter section, fold the edge of the 72" side over the hoop and hand sew together to enclose it in a sleeve, as shown.

One panel complete, hand sewn to hoop, inside a quarter section.

5) When all 4 sections are complete, use the scrap netting to tightly knot the crossed hanging strips together at center point and make a loop for hanging.

6) Hang the hoop and decorate tent with lightweight ornaments tied to hanging strips with twine or fish line.

You can, of course, use any color netting, but red is suitable for Valentine's Day, too. Invite your little sweeties over to enjoy tea and cookies beneath a swirl of dancing paper hearts amid twinkling battery operated lights! xxxoooxxx

This original design, like all blog content, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wisdom From Grandmothers

Mother with my maternal grandparents c. 1920 -  the roots of my own grandmotherly wisdom   

Grandmothers impart wisdom. It's what we do. And all you need to do is ask for a serving of it. We're so generous, in fact, that some of us (Who, me?) might even throw in an occasional freebie - sage advice you didn't ask for! In any event, we've got it, you need it, and we're willing to surrender it. We've been around awhile, you know, so most of this gurgling font of knowledge comes from simply having lived longer than you have. We've been in love, seen prayers answered, argued with neighbors....We know how to roast a turkey, where to plant tulip bulbs, and when to stay and fight or simply let it go. Ask us for examples of  "this too shall pass," and we'll keep you here for a week, raptly perched at the edge of your seat, hungry to hear more and more and more.....

Now, I'm not saying you won't find an occasional missing page in the encyclopedia of life commonly known as "wisdom from grandma." Alas, those do exist. And where do I go when I need a patching and mending of the gaping holes in my own fabric of information, inspiration, and encouragement? Well, to other grandmothers, of course! And more specifically, to other grandmothers who blog!

Its been my pleasure to be included in a bond of grandmother bloggers who contribute toward a goal of strengthening families through a sharing of information and ideas. Each author named below is a fellow proud member of the GRANDparent network.

1. Most women want to be included when a grandchild enters the family. Some step into their roles effortlessly. Gracefully. They instinctively know how to behave as a "solution" rather than a "problem." "Problems" think only of themselves: "Why doesn't anyone ever call meeee to see the baby?" "Solutions" take advice from this post written by GaGa Sisterhood's Donne Davis:"What Moms Want From Grandparents." My own two favorites from this engaging list? "Be active and present" and "Offer help whenever possible."

2. It made sense to me, a college art student, to learn that Roman senators sought to appear experienced and wise by insisting wrinkles be carved into their marble busts. Leslie Zinberg and Kay Ziplow, bloggers at GrandparentLink, astutely note that aging today doesn't enjoy the same prestige it once did - but that doesn't have to slow you down or initiate a "poor old me" attitude.

Wise women embrace this stage of life, heeding advice to "get rid of anyone who uses the words: can't, never, or won't!" This essay, "Where Did That Little Gray Hair Come From?" will make you want to toss your figurative cane aside and jump right back into life!

3. Grumpy people. Ugh! Stay away from me! Don't those culprits know that "happiness is within your reach?" Don't they know that Susan "Honey" Good has penned a treasury of tips that will guide you to "Be Happy Now in 3 Simple Steps"Here's a honey of a treatise on how some people might just be born happy, while others may have to work at it. To this excellent advice, I add a well practiced tip of my own: "Make a two-column list of what's good in your life versus what's bad. Come back and show me only if the bad stuff is lengthier than the good." I've counseled this one to whiners for years and have yet to see a returnee - myself included!

4. It didn't occur to me that I serve as the matriarch of my family until I was asked for a short blurb on why I blog. That answer described my wish to help other grandmothers establish their homes as welcoming havens of comfort, safety, love, affirmation, and infectious joy for the entire extended family. Teresa Kindred, who blogs at Nanahood, acknowledges her own role in this lighthearted, warmhearted approach: "Being the Family Matriarch Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be." Here's where you'll delight in the classy way she wears her crown!

5. This final one is so good that it won a well deserved award for its humor! It's funny, of course - but really not funny in a way, too. Confused? Well, that's the way it feels some days to be a grandma. Are you still you? Or are you now somebody else? Unravel the mystery here, at Lisa Carpenter's Grandma's Briefs, where "The Grandma In A Box" resides, beckoning you to return again and again, like I do, for multiple re-readings of this splendidly sympathetic and thought-provoking essay!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What Your Grandchildren Really Want This Holiday Season

I remember well my first piece of personal mail. Age of seven, I believe. Mother had subscribed me to a kids' nature newsletter - four pages, black and white, on smudgy newsprint. I held it in my hands and carefully studied the label. My name. My address. All mine! I took it to my room to read. Once. Twice. And then again. I stored this first issue, and each subsequent one, in a shoe box wrapped in pink birthday paper.

Years later, I made sure my own three daughters had subscriptions to kids' magazines so they could experience that same feeling of prideful ownership. A few years back, I repeated the gesture, this time on behalf of grandchildren. One of my choices was Cricket magazine. Issues arrived faithfully, along with calls of gratitude that triggered revisits to the memory of myself, staring in youthful disbelief at the postal label that bore not only my name and address, but the message that I was important enough to be acknowledged with mail of my own......

Here’s a gift your grandchildren will treasure all year long – Cricket.

As the holidays creep up on us, the question of what to get for the grandkids for holiday gifts becomes less of an activity in speculation and more of a nagging feeling. Many kids have so many toys that their parents actively campaign against receiving more of them. And giving gift cards or money just doesn't seem very festive. What's a grandparent to do? 

How about the gift of reading?

Books always make great gifts and your local bookseller will have excellent suggestions for your grandchildren, no matter what their ages or reading levels. But, if you want something just a little more special, a gift that keeps on giving, try a magazine subscription. With the gift of a magazine, your grandchild will receive a reminder of your love all year long as each issue lands in their mailbox. 

Once you settle on a magazine as the perfect gift, you have a lot of choices, so here are some guidelines to help you cut through the noise and discover a magazine with the exact qualities your grandchildren will love. 


First, let's start with what makes a great magazine. Just like great picture books, the best magazines contain 5 key characteristics:
  • Beautiful illustrations
  • Well-drawn characters that kids can relate to
  • Stories with substance
  • Re-readability
  • No advertisements
Most magazines will contain one or two of these attributes but fall short in other ways. For example, a magazine that has no ads may lack lovable characters or beautiful illustrations. If you do your research, you'll discover that very few magazines combine all of these attributes into one product. Some of the few that do are Cricket Media's "Bug Magazines": BABYBUG, LADYBUG, SPIDER, CRICKET, and CICADA.


For more than 25 years, BABYBUG has provided babies and toddlers with high quality stories and poems specifically selected for this age group combined with beautiful illustrations. LADYBUG is perfect for preschoolers with its beautiful illustrations and lovable characters. SPIDER is made specifically for emerging readers, giving them the chance to read both on their own and with a parent (or grandparent). CRICKET, the flagship publication for 9 to 14-year-olds, has been recognized for its high-quality stories and artwork for more than 40 years. In fact, your kids probably grew up reading CRICKET! And CICADA, for teens ages 15 and up, is perfect for older teens with its contemporary illustrations and stories today's teens will relate to.

So, now you know what makes a great magazine and you are well on the way to finishing your holiday shopping. Your grandchildren (and their parents) will thank you every time a new issue lands in their mailbox. To make sure your grandkids don't miss an issue, subscribe to BABYBUG, LADYBUG, SPIDER, CRICKET, or CICADA at Cricket Media/GRAND.

This is a sponsored post for which I have been compensated by Cricket Media.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Crazy Bones Cafe!

No rattlin' bones about it! We're Halloween-crazy over here and mighty proud of it! Every year brings a new creative challenge: What are we going to do to top last year's extravaganza? 

The grandkids and I love to play act when we're together. One moment we're magicians. The next, we're operating a family library. We publish our own family newspaper and have gone digging deep in the woods for dino eggs. Seriously, what was left to do besides assemble a wait staff, cook up some googly-eyed goodies and open our own cafe to celebrate this year's spooky season?

My "Halloween Snack" pin board bursts at the seams, but for this event each selection needed to be kid-friendly for cooking and eating, plus freezable or easy to store. My crew assembled a week in advance for a top secret workshop that yielded an impressive display of "Boo-Nanas," "Swamp Monsters,"* tasty little "Cockroaches," and a perky half dozen popcorn "Monster Munchies."**

BOO! We were in business!

I filled out the repast with some "grandma-made" choices and produced a set of menus. The scary thing about them was the lack of proper info! "Moldy Monster Mash?" Huh? "What on earth is that?" The only wise thing to do was circle everything!.....

Secret Decoder!
Adult Menu:
Baby Mummies = jalapeno poppers wrapped in Crescent dough
Little Devils = deviled eggs
*Swamp Monster = dinner roll blob with raisin eyes and almond slice hair perched in hummus
Swamp Juice = orange punch
Boneyard Platter = ribs, mashed potatoes, broccoli
Moldy Monster Mash = mac and cheese tinted green

Munchkin Menu:
Bowl of Bugs = mixed fruit
Mini Mummy = tiny pizza with string cheese strips and olive slice eyes
Goofy Juice = orange punch

Made by the kids as linked above. My first, and favorite place to go for seasonally unique recipes is Hungry Happenings. That's where our chirpy orange popcorn monsters** and dozens and dozens more easy-to-make, very creative treats for every season of the year come from!

There was some behind-the-scenes work to be done before the Crazy Bones Cafe opened for business. I set a self-serve drink bar at table-center for the adults ("mummies" and daddies!)....

"Drunk and Disorderly!"

Whoa! What's this?

Rubbery cocktail-umbrella-toting skellies wobbled precariously from the plastic Dollar Tree martini glasses I glued 'em to!

Had I not amply sampled the "Purple People Eater" cocktail, I might have reasoned that if you're too early putting out bowls of candy corn for post dinner Halloween Bingo you should expect to attract rats!

Oh, and ghosts, too!

At last! 6 P.M. Dinner hour! My staff arrived, quickly donned Crazy Bones Cafe signature apparel and received menus and final instructions: "greet, seat, and eat!"

Dollar Tree - always grandma's friend! Wire a generous bow to their cute pumpkin headbands! "Done-Done!" as Kaylee (at left) would exclaim!

"We've been waiting for you!"

The food was great, the company better, the wait service outstanding! - and guest diners tipped accordingly! With everyone stuffed and immobile, bingo cards came out - we played eagerly with what candy corn was left!

Here's youngest daughter, Karen, in full Halloween glow, smiling over her first win!

It's heartwarming to see grandchildren playing games alongside their parents. I try to include an activity like this at each family event. Sometimes it's as simple as printing out grandma blogger Lisa's holiday jokes, like the Halloween version on this post at Grandma's Briefs. Cut the answers from the questions and give a scrambled set to each guest for matching. And who knows? Maybe one of them will "deserve" to get a prank set that has zero matches! :)

Our bingo game was purchased, but there's a really cute one here at One Creative Mommy that you can print out and enjoy for free right now!

Need more Halloween ideas for kids? Spiders don't fall far from the web! My daughter, Mary Jo, has great suggestions for you at Mrs. Party Planner. Scurry on over to see them!

Crazy Bones Cafe will return next year, there's no doubt about it. In the meantime, this grandma is beginning to noodle about a Christmas version! Hmmm....."Santa's Snack Stop?" Elf capped wait staff? "Reindeer feed" salad? Mac and cheese "snowballs?" Meatball "mice before Christmas?"....??

Happy Halloween every-bone-y!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mega Monster Mania!

Over here, we fancy our monsters! They've been part of our lives since the two oldest grandsons took a liking to their crookedly odd looks when they were a team of pint size monster hunters at the tender age of three. Since then, we've added younger sisters and a pair of girl cousins to the mix. Under normal circumstances, you'd expect little ladies to flinch at the fearsome fury created by these greedily grasping crazily creeping creatures.....

But not over here!

We recently sat down together at "Grandma's Mega Monster Mania" to paint some scary looking dudes destined to return in the form of embellished pillows that promise to forever haunt the scariest month of the year! I took hold of those freshly painted bodies, turned 'em inside out, stitched 'em up, buttoned 'em, dated 'em and sent 'em right back into the delighted little hands of their original creators!

The only thing we're scared of over here is missing out on Grandma's annual Halloween Workshop Events....the place where cousins gather to paint, decorate, bake and create! We wrap things up like a mummy with sleepovers preceded by backyard-after-dark fire pit s'mores-munching and (age appropriate!) ghost story telling sessions. Moms and dads sometimes join us for Glow Stick Hide and Seek, or a super fun "Vampires at Dark" game you can print out for free right here at "Prepared Not Scared." Be sure to check out Trish's entire treasure trove of exceptionally cute games and graphics that will give you a great start on the path to your own series of grandma-sponsored Halloween workshops!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

We're Four! We're Six! We're Eight!

There's a bundle-o-birthdays for us this time of year. The oldest twins were eight on the 29th of August. They share that date with six year old cousin, Brielle. Close behind, in mid September, are twins Ava and Angeline. They're four this year. Whew! That's five/ninths of the total number of grandkids all bunched up into a busy two week period. We've got ourselves some celebrating to do!

Summer birthdays allow the major part of entertaining to be done in the backyard pool, so nobody's surprised when the guests of honor show up dripping wet!

What's lured the boys inside is a promise of cake, two of them - individualized to reflect their current obsession - Minecraft!

Mommy had them custom made locally. She's a pretty amazing party planner - as you shall soon see! - but cake decorating at this skill level is not a family talent!

Now that I'm accustomed to the interests of boys, I know that blowing things up and setting off bursts of fire will always bring a smile to their faces. This "number 8" sparkler certainly did the trick!

Little sisters celebrated next with family and a pair of close friends at an event that acknowledged their own special interest - animals! Ones to admire and pet and cuddle and feed and share with everybody - in their own backyard! 

Just another of mommy's amazing feats! This group of delightful critters is available for hire to visit parties. Goats! Bunnies! Piglets! Ducks! Chicks! Oh, and how about a curious llama to top everything off? These animals are expertly cared for, humanely transported, and sheltered at a rescue farm that hosts occasional open houses for the purpose of acquainting children with the joy of interacting respectfully with living creatures. Prompt and efficient, the service provides portable fencing, food, water, and tips on gently handling the animals!

Ava is a fan of feeding goats!

And grooming them!

I love this cute little chick! Oh, and the one in the pink dress, too!

Okay, Brielle, you're up next! This crafty little kid chose an art party with school classmates for her celebration -
and mommy really delivered!

Outdoor tables greeted ten little ladies. Each place setting was graced with a blank canvas, a colorful apron, paint brush, and palette.

It was my job to fill those palettes with acrylic paint - all the primary and secondary colors. I've seen what happens when black is an option for kids, so that one's noticeably absent today!

Total concentrated silence prevailed as the girls painted! Canvases sang with shining suns, fuzzy cats, brilliant rainbows, and charming self portraits!

With a final flourish of cake and ice cream, a handful of games, and a gift opening ceremony, Brielle officially became six years old!

On the way out, guests helped themselves to little paint buckets stuffed with cute candy and party favors!

Now, I'm not going to say that creating dream birthdays is an effortless experience. Each one is a creative challenge. What I am saying, however, is that "some people" who barely lifted a paw in the process didn't mind plopping down for a mid-party nap right next to the pile of gifts we thought he was guarding!

Oldest daughter, Mary Jo, found the darling sundresses for her twins, so I had to hurry up and copy from her in time for Bree's sixth birthday! Check out Tee With Sugar (Facebook page) for the cutest in custom design and the best in customer service! (Not a sponsored post.)

And, see what Mary Jo is up to right here, in her own blog full of cute parties and activities that keep two sets of twins entertained and happy every day of the year!

Monday, September 5, 2016


"We made rain sticks at grandma's!"

Summer tumbles in and out of the maze of months that comprise a lifetime. It rolls along merrily in the sun, spreading carefree joy until the bite of autumn snaps it up and tosses it aside. Now, many moons will pass until I see it again: a time when grandma isn't required to compete with school days and soccer balls. I recall an impish riddle from my own days in the classroom: "What are a teacher's three favorite things?" "June, July, and August!!" Today, those months remain a trio of grandma's favorite things! Wide open hours present rested, happy little faces on my doorstep. "Well, tumble right in, you chirpy little cherubs! We have lots and lots to do together beneath these sunny skies!"

"Grandma Camp" is summer's top priority, so I carefully negotiate the week with my three daughters. Once you're three, you're in! I've got a cozy tent waiting for you, a stack of puzzle books to keep you busy during "quiet time," and an agenda of fun that goes on and on, back-to-back, from morning light til sleepy night!

This year, our Dino Egg Hunt and double feature Magic! and Puppets! shows stole the spotlight during that week. But in between, the time was filled with crafty things to make and do.....

Air dry clay is lots of fun. One day our tray of curious critters stand pale as ghosts......

...and the next, they knock you out with personality plus!

Younger kiddoes enjoy a session of basic shape animal building. If you're a manic paper punch collector like I am, this project is a simple matter of punch, glue, and go!

For one Dollar Tree dollar - just one! - you can sink your elbows into the satisfying sensation of shaving cream! (No, this activity doesn't "make" anything - except a moment's well deserved rest for grandma in between adventures!)

We "tumbleweeders" nature-walked for palm sized rocks to paint. After dark, our "Ladybug Launch" secretly re-homed them into neighborhood flower beds and Press boxes!

I don't blame parents for not relishing the sport of "night hiking," but it's a must-do at grandma's sleepovers! We grab our lanterns and follow our noses into the dark, just to see whatever we see!

My recent discovery of step-by-step cooking lessons for kids at "Grandma Honey's House" blog has inspired me to add kitchen skills to the list of things I want my grandchildren to experience with me. Here, Angeline lines a tin in preparation for one of "Grandma Honey's" breakfast recipes.

I want to teach my grandchildren to sew, as well, but had no idea where to begin. Then I stumbled upon the same quality content and style of guidance that Grandma Honey provides in her area of expertise! How nice to have everything all laid out for those of us who are eager to instruct, but need lesson plans that organize skills into sessions that produce appealing, easy-to-make end products that entice kids to return for more. Check out Ana's complete and masterfully written tutorial for offering a (machine) sewing camp of your own at The Lost Apron blog. (note: this blog no longer being published...sorry!) 

Thank you, Pamela and Ana, for adding muffin tins and spools of thread to this grandma's inventory of grandchild enrichment experience ingredients!

You people have six cats in there? SIX??!"
I drew the tumbleweed metaphor from personal observation and the cooperation of my six (6!) cats. A recent, pleasant wine-sipping evening found me enraptured with a busy, hard working little hairball that resembled every feature but size of the menacing monsters that roll the American west. All it needed was open space, the gentle twirl of an overhead fan, and a worthy supply of cat hair to keep it growing and growing and growing......I sipped and I pondered: "How large could this carefree little spirit actually get if left alone to thrive?" But then, as abruptly as the aforementioned "bite of autumn," came grandpa, trusty portable vac in tow. With his cry of, "What?! Not another one of these?!" both summer 2016, and the seed of my tumbleweed reverie faded to a nostalgic end.

I hope it was less traumatic for you!