Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pretty Birds, Pony Beads, and Pizza!

It's summer and Drop-In Days at Grandma's are back! These two+ hour, weekly opportunities are open to all grandchildren* ages three and up. Cute craft projects and drawing lessons await them. Kids interact with cousins and sample a variety of media - oil pastels, chalk, tempera and water color paint among them. We build inventory for family clothesline art shows and make seasonal decorations and gifts for parents. I'll eventually introduce origami, hand sewing, and weaving. So far, I've kept things simple and limited to what I already know. Very firmly set in my ways, you might say! That is, until dozens of light bulbs went off in my head on a recent visit to Grandma Honey's House!

Now, this remarkable lady, Pamela, is a well-seasoned multi-category baking and recipe contest winner; honors include three stints as a Pillsbury Bake Off finalist! But reading between the lines, I suspect she's most proud of her role as a grandmother who delights in entertaining her kiddoes with cooking/baking lessons. And I don't mean just the push-button ice cream machine output we call "cooking" over here! "Grandma Honey" directs youngsters through the proper process of making healthy breakfast menus, tasty fruit snacks, decadent pastries, and, most recently, pizza! In fact, her blog series on kitchen skills for kids is so clearly outlined that it comprises an excellent guide for achieving the same satisfying results with your own grandchildren. She's done all the homework for us, sharing basics like measuring tips and proper use of equipment - things people like me don't ordinarily consider. All I needed to wake myself up was the fleeting image of my own grandchildren, stranded on a deserted island, knowing nothing but how to glue sequins to a Popsicle stick! From now on, Drop-In Days at Grandma's include Grandma Honey's cooking projects as well!

This week, three year old Kaylee and five year old Brielle dropped in for "Pretty Birds, Pony Beads, and Pizza!"

But first - pizza!

Grandma Honey suggests a packaged dough, but I "short-cutted" that step with a two pound recipe churned up in my bread maker. That quantity was more than enough to yield a pair of nicely sized pies that went home hot in "official" pizza boxes** - dinner for family that evening - rolled, sauced, cheese-sprinkled and pepperoni-topped by very proud little ladies on their way to lifelong self-sufficiency in the kitchen! And how do I know this? Mommy told me that Brielle's enthusiastic comment on the way home was, "I fixed tonight's dinner! You guys just sat on the couch!"

I also scored well with the pet "wrist birds" we made. These were inspired by a design you'll find here at a creative blog sponsored by Princeton University.

Three inch wrapping paper tube sections form the body of these happy little chirps. Kids choose their own colors and punch out oval and circle shapes to decorate. Once feathers are firmly glued, a pipe cleaner is threaded through a pair of punched holes for attachment to wrist.

Sigh!....watching glue dry....not the "funnest" part of anybody's summer!

But don't worry, sweetie! Grandma's got another project for you........!

Little ladies plowed through piles of pretty paper, plastic straws, and pony beads galore. These were the ingredients for summery necklaces (modeled by Kaylee) that offer pattern setting experience - (or not!) It's my suggestion that grandmas offer sumptuous quantities of choices: colors! textures! patterns! In this case, a 2" daisy-shaped paper punch made quick work of the finest in paper jewelry!

Use thin yarn to string necklaces, but roll the ends in a strip of masking tape to make threading easier. I offered a red, white, and blue star option with striped paper straw beads, but both girly-girls wanted to sport daisies - and I didn't blame them one bit!

 *Currently, I'm entertaining just the grandkids. But a "Bring a Friend" event is something I'm considering, too.

**I found pizza boxes locally, but they're available at Amazon and Uline. I received excellent service a few years ago from the latter when I ordered Chinese take out boxes. Both items create a special touch when cooking for the family - "curb-side pick-up" dinners for my daughters' families are very much appreciated!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lemons to Lemonade!

When life gives you a free lemonade stand (that's deeply appreciated but just not up to your standards of lemonade stand artistry!) - say thank you, take it home, take it apart, paint it, decorate it, make lemonade, cat toys, and dog treats and sell everything to make money for a local cat rescue! That's what my granddaughter and I did, and here's our story of sweet success!

Brielle's neighborhood association organizes an annual garage sale event. Weather usually cooperates during the first week in June, so a fresh audience, pockets full of jingling coins, enthusiastically descends upon these normally quiet streets .....

And a competent sales manager shows up after a full day of Kindergarten to serve them!

We chose a very deserving local cat rescue as the beneficiary of our efforts. Lemonade alone wasn't enough for us, so a few of what the industry calls "add-on purchases" were also available!

For example.....

I'm kinda famous 'round here for my catnip snakes! The full story behind them is right here - with a link for instructions on how to make your own.

I supplied 20 of these crazy-eyed, be-ribboned critters - enough to net $100 in sales. But a $5 cat toy is a bit pricey for a garage sale clientele, so these did not go "feline-in' outta here" like "hats for cats" do in the hilarious GoDaddy commercial! We delivered the leftover 10 to the rescue; their audience of volunteers and new pet-parents will snap them up quickly!

Leftover scraps from the snakes were screaming, "Make us into spider toys!" So I did. At 50 cents each, quite a few went itsy-bitsy-ing home!

Layer 5 or 6 strips, each 3/4" - 1" wide, 6" - 8" long, and knot tightly at center. Tie random knots at ends of individual "spider legs." You'll find them under your couches, soggy with cat saliva, after they've disappeared!

We sold out of home made dog treats - eighteen of them at $1.00 each! I had searched a long time for a recipe easy enough for kids to make and also suitable for my silicone paw print mold. (Sold at Amazon) Large 6-unit mold makes 3" treats - doubled recipe yields 18 of them.

Here, at Dancing Dog Cabin is where you'll find a lovely decorating blog and the peanut butter/oatmeal treat recipe. We included that web address inside each bag so nobody would have to sit, stay, and beg for it! Thank you, Melissa! This one's a keeper!

Need a simple, inexpensive recipe for lemonade that doesn't involve tedious squeezing?

Mix together: 8 cups of water, 1.5 cups of powdered sugar and 1.5 cups of bottled lemon juice. Add ice and fresh lemon slices.

I think we were wise to price our 9 ounce cups at only 25 cents each. I suppose you could call it a successful "loss leader," because customers who approached often purchased a pet treat or toy - and many really nice people declined their change since our proceeds went to a charity with an excellent reputation!

Here's something that kept young customers coming back for more! I've had this delightful mechanical kitty bank set aside for Bree for several years. Now was the purr-fect time for it to change paws! Customers placed their quarters and stood back to wait for a distinctive meow! Sloooowly the lid raised, just high enough for an eager kitty to quickly snatch the coin and disappear!

Want your own sneaky little coin grabber? I'm sure you do! Find her at Amazon, too!

Tips for a successful learning and giving experience:

1) Decorate your stand so it is bright and appealing. If possible, plan along with a neighborhood garage sale effort to take advantage of built-in traffic.

2) Choose a worthy charity as beneficiary, but ask permission first. Share pictures with them - to post on Face Book or include in a newsletter story. Your grandchild may not expect public acknowledgement, but it is encouraging when it occurs.

3) Measure the lemonade and bake sale items together. Involve the child as much as possible.

4) Role play customer and service provider before opening. Practice greeting with a friendly "hello," brief comment on the charity's value, and a sincere "thank you" when the transaction is completed.

5) Network on Face Book to bring neighbors, friends, and relatives in as customers.

6) Deliver money promptly. Here's Bree, cuddling one of the shelter kitties we met when we dropped off our proceeds the day after the sale ended.

Our first Lemonade Stand benefit brought in $98 after a three day, part time effort! That doesn't count the additional $50+ worth of cat toys pending sale. I am proud of my granddaughter for the poise she demonstrated in operating her business. I am also pleased with the compassion she has for animals. I'm kind of pleased with myself, too, to be honest. It's been my privilege to be part of the effort to lead my grandchildren toward a lifestyle that considers the needs of others. Enjoying an experience like this one is memory making fun with so many dimensions and so much added value to the life of a child - and to that of a grandparent as well!

This wasn't our first charitable project this year! Read about our Girl Scout spay-neuter clinic contribution here!