Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good to the Last Drop

I wanted to get the last drop of paint out of the bottle and needed it to stay upside down a while so the paint would run to the lid. I was looking for something to prop it up with when my eyes landed on a Mason jar. In went the bottle and it worked perfect! I’ll never need to have ketchup bottles and other various long necked bottles upside down, balanced precariously on my counter waiting for that last drop to roll on down. What took me so long to figure that out?!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cloth Photo Album for Toddlers

First birthdays are special aren't they? My 6th grandchild’s first birthday was coming up and I wanted to make her a gift that she could appreciate and use now. I decided on a washable cloth photo album where mom and dad could put pictures of her family for her to see whenever she wanted.

First I choose a size for my book; it needed to be big enough to hold the pictures with a little room left over for embellishing; about 8 1/2 inches square finished. Next I decided on picture pockets so the pictures could be removed and changed out if desired. Then I chose my fabrics. I also decided to use a ‘shabby chic’ design style for my book, and this made construction easy and fast, stitching the edges together with a zigzag stitch rather than turning the raw edges to the inside.

I began construction by making a small paper book to use for reference while I made my cloth photo album. This is a must for me when I make a project from scratch so I can think through what needs to happen next and cut down on mistakes. Then I decided how many pages the book needed to have by counting one photo per family member that would be represented in the book including a page for the family pet. The three finished pages will be the size of two pages across (8 1/2 inches by 17inches), stacked and then sewn through the middle, and folded over to create the book.

I cut a template from heavy interfacing to use as a pattern for my book. I like to use interfacing because it is flexible, I can pin it to my fabric, and it doesn’t twist, distort or tear. I often use my patterns repeatedly so I like them to be durable. I cut out the required amount of fabric pages; each page needs a front and back piece of fabric. I used fusible fleece interfacing inside each page of the photo album to add structure to the cloth pages. 

After cutting out your fabric pages and fleece pieces, fold it over together to see how thick it will be before continuing. I needed to be careful not to have it so thick my machine would not sew through all the layers. It could be done by hand of course, but in the interest of time, I wanted to use my machine.  For the photo pockets I made a template and cut heavy clear vinyl making the pockets large enough to hold 4x6 inch pictures with seam allowance.

I made my album cover, rehearsing each piece of fabric before committing it to the sewing machine. I chose to stitch the fabric pieces onto the cover without turning the edges under. The pink chenille was stitched down by hand after all the pages were sewn into the book for a nice finish on the binding. The front has a place for the title "My Family" and a place to put "from Gramma" on the back.

For a closure, I made a tab and secured it to the back cover page, then stitched Velcro on the inside tab end and corresponding cover front. I finished it with a decorative button. What ever you embellish your books or albums with, make sure they are attached securely so they do not become a choking hazard for the child.
I needed to attach my vinyl pockets to the pages before I ironed on the interfacing, because it would be difficult to attach them afterwards stitching through the thickness of the fleece.  Notice the blue tape on the bottom of my sewing machine foot. It's there to help it slide over the vinyl. If you don't like this idea there are other ways of sewing over vinyl. Don't say I didn't warn you, it can be tricky! I wish I had made a placement template so that each pocket lined up perfectly with the preceding page, but because of my shabby chic design style, I think I got away with it not being exact.

The pockets are stitched on three sides with the opening toward the middle of the book. This will help the photos not fall out while the book is being played with, and not require any other securing.

Some of the pages I embellished by machine before fusing to the fleece, some I embroidered using a wash out marking pen to mark my designs.

I hand stitched labels under each picture pocket that can be written on with a permanet marker later.

When I ironed on the fusible fleece, I was careful to go around the out side edges only avoiding ironing over the vinyl photo holders. Cover your fleece and cloth layers with a thin pressing cloth so you won’t get adhesive on your iron.

Put all of your pages in the order you want them to be and fold them over. I found that the inside pages needed to be trimmed a little so that each one would not be wider than the next after folding over. The first and last pages I trimmed about a 1/8th of an inch back, the next two pages (the middle ones) about a ¼ inch back. Now I was ready to sew around each page edge with a zigzag stitch.

Then I stacked each page in the order I wanted them, pinned carefully and machine stitched down the center. I wanted to make a cover for the spine of my book, and I attached it last by hand, though it could have been done by machine. I decided last minute I wanted an embroidered title on my album front, originally thinking I would use an iron on transfer method. It would have been much easier to do before the title piece was stitched down.

I love my finished Cloth Photo Album for my sweet birthday girl! I think she will love it too.

*Update: I am hosting a link up party at Family Home and Life, Wow Us Wednesdays.

I linked up this post at Cornerstone Confessions, Bear Rabbit Bear, The Shabby Nest  and Skip to my Lou. It is also linked at  Grandma's Briefs an Under the Table and Dreaming .

Copyright© Family Home and Life 2012 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm Loving These Chore Cards!

Well I have to tell you that I wish I had spent the money and had my Chore Cards laminated; because the cards are getting a work out! The kids love them! They still think of using them as a game, not a chore, and I want to preserve that thought as long as possible! So to help with that they are not allowed to ‘play’ Scavenger Hunt with the Chore Cards any time they want to. When the toy situation is getting out of control I announce that we will be having a Scavenger Hunt in 3 minutes. They run to get the doll strollers or something to hold the toys in and wait eagerly to find out which card I give them.

Scavenger Hunt Chore Cards

I choose the cards they get by looking around to see what toy category is most in need of being picked up. I then pass out the cards, set the timer for 3 or 4 minutes and say go! They dash around looking for their items and when the timer goes off I call them back to me. I then pretend to count items they have collected (or not) and make over each one. Then they are to put the toys were they ‘live’. Some times I pass out small food treats for a good job, but usually I just praise their good efforts.
My oldest is actually disappointed when the Hunt is over. She wants to keep playing and is disappointed when I tell her there’s nothing left to pick up. But there will always be another chance to play the game…….soon!
·         I don’t require they find every item in their card’s category
·         I don’t give them cards that contain toys they are currently playing with; they wouldn’t want to pick them up
·         I keep in mind the age of each child when I hand out the cards, some are harder than others
·         I make it an even playing field when I can, if one gets a treat, all do
·         I also plan pick up times such as rite before lunch while they are still in a mood to play it; not right before nap when they are cranky. I also don’t say things like “mom or dad will be here soon so…” I just have them play this ‘game’ 10 minutes before the child’s expected pick up time. Pick a good time to have them play this, when they are most willing to participate
·         At my grandkids ages, this is more about participating and following directions than how much they accomplish in getting toys put away
·         It is imperative that they have fun or this won’t work. I don’t scold or show disappointment in the amount of toys they collected, I praise them for trying and help by looking with them if they are having a hard time
·         As they get older, I expect to adjust my methods of using this chore game
·         When they are old enough to realize this is a chore and not a game, these cards will still help them with clean up because as any parent or grandparent knows even adults get over whelmed when we clean up and are tempted to throw everything all together to just get it done

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Day From My Life…

7am: I got to sleep in! My first batch of grand kids, an 18 month old and a 4 year old arrive at 7:45.

8am: Mom, on her way to first day of a new job, drops off my second batch of grand kids, a 2yr old and another 4 yr old, about 8am. Play has seriously begun as I try to get breakfast into the first two. I see the pots and pans from last night (man of the house cooked, didn't clean, I worked late) and decide to wait a while to wash them. Should we do crafts, or just let the kids play what ever they want? They seem happy so I let be for now, mostly I am a referee.
9:15am: Earlier than expected, Dad of second batch of grand kids (2yr old, 4 yr old) arrives after work to pick up kids.
9:30am: I am making the remaining kids a snack when I spy a almond chocolate bar in the back of the fridge. I quickly take it out and hide it while I remove the wrapper. I didn't have breakfast yet. I am sneaking bites of candy and trying not to get caught while having conversation with the kids. I notice 4 yr old is watching me closely; then realize it is because she is sneaking cheese bites off her brothers plate! Where did she learn that trick?

9:45am: Dad of 3 month old drops off that sweet cuddly thing, aka Itty Bitty, that makes gramma talk silly and grin non stop, on his way to work.
10:30am: Itty Bitty falls asleep, too soon for Gramma’s liking. I play dolls and dress up with 4 yr old and try to occupy 18 month old so he doesn't pester his sister.
11:30am: First batch of grand kids are having lunch and Itty Bitty is still sleeping; 18 month old who has been cranky and throwing food, falls asleep in the middle of lunch, too early for regular naptime. As I clean him up and take him off to bed, I wonder if he is getting sick. This is not his normal behavior, he's typically happy and easy going.

12pm: Only 4 yr old is awake now and I am yawning. We are painting pictures together.
12:30pm: As I am hanging reams of paper picture creations, 10 month old arrives, it’s time for her lunch, mom heads to the hospital to see ill relative. 4 yr old keeps us company while I feed 10 month old.
1pm: Time for 4 yr olds nap.
1:30pm: Itty Bitty wakes up, needs a bottle NOW! I am following around crawling 10 month old while I give the bottle to Itty Bitty to make sure 10 month old stays safe. Also because she wants to go see where the other two are and who I don’t want woke up yet. Make a mental note to myself; “get a child safety gate for hall”
1:45pm: 18 month old wakes up and screams to get out of the pac n play. I get him quick before he wakes up his sister. He has a major runny nose! Now I have the 18 month old who wants to feed toys to Itty Bitty and take toys from the 10 month old, and appears definitely sick. Also he is trying to play by whacking everything and everyone. I’m trying to keep him a safe distance from the little ones because I don’t want them to get hurt or get his germs. I really need a bathroom break! I strap Itty Bitty in the swing, put 10 month old in the pac n play (after changing sheets), grab a toy and take the 18 month old with me to the bathroom shutting the door so he can’t get out.
2:15pm: Papa arrives home from work picking his way through toys strewn on the floor, and is immediately put into service holding Itty Bitty who still needs to burp.
2:30pm: Papa gives Itty Bitty back because he needs to shower and go to his second part time job. Is that a look of relief on his face that he's leaving?? No couldn't be!
3pm: 4 yr old is up and I give her and 18 month old a snack. Anne and mom, now off work, arrive to pick up Itty Bitty and I get to hear about Anne's first day of school. She had fun, and has a new friend. I’m happy for her good day. I am also ready for a break though I hate to see them leave; this is wearing me out trying to keep the little ones separated!
3:30pm: Time for 10 month old's bottle, then off for her nap. I lay down by her pac n play to calm her and soon she is asleep. Me too......for a minute.
4pm: I am getting a bad headache and remember I forgot to eat anything again when I fed the kids, so I make a sandwich and it takes 15 minutes because 4 yr old keeps bringing me plastic dinosaurs so I can read the names of them imprinted on their tummies. Mostly I can’t pronounce them so I make up something silly and she laughs before running to get another one. 18 month old wants attention too so he starts bringing me plastic French fries from the plastic toy kitchen. I pretend they are burning my fingers and my mouth and act silly as I pretend to eat them. He giggles and runs for more things for me to ‘eat’.  Sandwich in hand, I announce to them that I am going to eat my real sandwich and during that time to be patient because I will only be eating said sandwich and not reading dinosaur names either. They stand in front of me with the plastic toys and wait….. for 2 bites before asking "What is this ones name Gramma?"
5pm: Mom of 10 month old arrives and tells me about ill relative. We visit and wait for her little one, the 10 month old to wake. I notice the unwashed pots and pans out of the corner of my eye.
5:30pm: Dad of first batch of grand kids, the 4 yr old and 18 month old, arrives.
6pm: All kids have now left the premises; ( I am trying to not do a happy dance, what kind of a Grand Mother am I???) I walk to the fridge to get a big cold glass of Sun Tea and remember I forgot to put it outside earlier that day. I settle for water. I see that the pots and pans are quietly waiting on the stove. I turn around and head for my recliner. It’s then I notice that there is not one single toy put back where it belongs. How did that happen? No one remembered to help pick up. I turn on the TV to watch news and plop down in my chair wondering what to make for dinner.

Oh well, tomorrows another day, and it starts all over again!

I linked this post at GRAND Social at Grandma's Briefs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grandparents Guide

*Update* 8.11.12   I know some of you have already read this post. It seems that many women learned the art of needle crafts from a grandmother and not as much their mothers. I learned from my mom but it was my grandmother who first gave me a threaded needle. Women who do not sew, often seem to have had a mom or grandmother who didn't either. Just for fun, who taught you to sew or do needle crafts if you do? If you don't sew or do any type of needlework, did your mother or grandmother?

I was asked to do a piece for  Grandparents Guide at About .com by Susan Adcox. I wrote about teaching the craft of sewing to your grandkids. I was very excited to be asked to write about something so dear to my heart! I believe all kids should have the opportunity to learn to sew. I am so thankful that my mother and grandmother took the time to teach me. Sewing has been a skill that has benefited me my whole life from a practical stand point as I have made many items for my home and gifts for my loved ones. But way beyond that it has been a creative outlet that has brought me great pleasure. I was an awkward child growing up that never seemed to fit in. Learning the skill of sewing helped me have confidence in myself when I badly needed it. It was something I could do that would result in something to take pride in.
Susan also wrote a post about my plans for our Family Harvest day that is coming up. I hope you will take time to stop by Grandparents Guide and read the wonderful articles about the joys of being a grandparent in the 21st century as well as the many helpful and insightful articles.

I linked this post at GRAND Social.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Shoo Fly Pie

Here's my Shoo Fly Pie recipe that I made for our Family Harvest Day:

1 tsp of baking soda
3/4 cup of boiling water
1 cup of dark molasses
1/2 c of butter
1/2 c of brown sugar
1 cup of flour
1/2 c of oatmeal, quick cooking works best
2 unbaked pie shells (I always used smallish frozen ones, which are a little smaller than most pie pans you will have in your kitchen)

Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water, then add molasses. Mix oatmeal and flour. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to mix the butter into flour mix well. Pour 1/3 of the molasses mix into pie crusts, then add 1/3 of flour mix repeating with the flour layer being on the top. Bake 35 minutes at 375°. Cool before cutting.

If you are not a huge fan of molasses, use half of the molasses and half corn syrup. Also you can add a beaten egg to the mixture to tighten it up a bit, and you can add spices such as cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg. Make an aluminum foil 'tray' to go under the pies to save a mess if they over flow.

You can dig into this pie before it cools but you will have molasses running everywhere. It is very rich, and a little piece goes a long way. Perfect with homemade whipped cream or ice cream.

A reader, Gail from Buckeye, AZ, sent me the above photo of her pie, and these are the changes she made to my recipe;
"The changes I made to the pie are:  I/2 cup molasses, 1/2 cup of corn syrup, added one egg to the molasses mixture and added one teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I used one homemade deep dish pie shell and it over flowed a lot. Glad I used the aluminum foil under it. This pie was delicious and reminded me of ginger bread." 

Thanks Gail for your photo and trying the recipe!

*Join me on Wednesdays for my link up party, Wow Us Wednesdays.*

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sewing Lessons at Grammas

We had sewing lessons at Gramma’s house last weekend. I invited only Grace, 4 yrs old, and Anne, 5 yrs old, to come because having lots of little ones around can be dangerous with needles, pins and scissors. Anne has sewn with me before, but this was Graces first time. We had another attendee too; Ryan who is 11 yrs old. He was visiting Anne’s family and thought he would come and do art while the girls were sewing, but right away he asked to sew too; he thought it looked fun.

I gave him a piece of cloth and showed him some basics; threading a needle, tying the thread, a running stitch. He quickly mastered it all and asked for more instructions. I was not prepared for a project for him but soon we found something he would like to make; a holder for his ipod. I have a stocked sewing room and we picked out fabric for it. Here is were I found the instructions for the ipod holder. It seemed simple enough so we proceeded. I watched him do a practice run on the sewing machine, and he was great at it, so I watched as he made his holder.

And here is his finished project! We put a hook and loop closure on it and belt loops on the back too. He was so happy with it and he wants to come back for more lessons.

Anne wanted to make another hair accessory as a present for yet another friend, and she quickly finished. Then she asked to do something else using a technique like Grace’s project. She made a small heart, and glued a picture of her family on it.
Grace is not into girlie stuff and her favorite color is red. She loves dinosaurs, and that is what I picked for her very first lesson. This is the first time Grace has used a needle and she did an excellent job! We used a 2 ¼ inch steel yarn needle; it’s thick and not as sharp as a regular needle. As young as she is and her first time sewing, I didn’t want her to hurt herself with a regular needle. I had her color a dinosaur I had outlined onto a piece of loosely woven cloth. (fabric with a loose weave works great for beginners, starting with yarn instead of thread)

We used two separate pieces of fabric and she colored both. I heat set the crayon colored fabric with my iron, making sure to cover my ironing board and the fabric with paper to protect both surfaces from melting crayon.

With front and back pieces of fabric together, design side out, I slipped it into a hoop. I used a marker to make dots where she should put her needle in. I turned the hoop and fabric over and marked again the barely visible dots on the back side.

I showed her how to put her needle into a dot and pull it tight, but not too tight. Then how to hold the base of the needle where the yarn is so it won’t pull out of the needle while pulling it through the fabric.

She tried so hard to do it just right; look at that concentration! When she was tired of sewing, I took the project to the sewing machine and did a zigzag stitch around it leaving an opening for stuffing. I showed her how to stuff her dinosaur, pushing the small bits of stuffing all the way down using a pencil. When it was full I stitched it close on the sewing machine.

We had such a good time and the kids gained self confidence, and learned some valuable skills. I know I can't wait to do this again!

There is a book that has a project very similar to the dinosaur project that Grace made, it's titled Sewing School. It has great projects for boys as well as girls, and includes patterns enclosed in the back of the book. Look for it under 'Shop My Amazon Store.'

Monday, September 5, 2011

Paint Trays

I have found that all kids paint and use their craft materials very differently. Take the water color paints for example. Some of the kids will smear all the colors together, make a mess of their trays, and some of them are neat and use one color at a time. All of the kids like to have the neat clean paint trays, so those are the first paint trays to be picked at craft time. Soon I am left with messy paint trays, with cracked, gouged out paint; all colors the same shade of black. I don’t want this creative time for them to be about me issuing reminders not to be messy though I do encourage clean crafting; but I also don’t want the fastidious kids crafting experience to be less enjoyable than it could be simply because the materials are a mess.
top try belongs to a 4 yr old,bottom tray belongs to a 2 yr old

I have solved this problem by assigning each child their own paint tray by writing their names on the back with a permanent marker, to be used only by them. Then, when it is all gone, they get a new one. At craft time, each child knows they have their assigned paint tray and look for it. Now each child has to contend with using a messy (or clean tray) learning to deal with the consequences of their chosen behavior. Then they each also get to experience the thrill of being the first one to use a brand new paint tray when their assigned tray is used up. This seems a fair way for the kids to use the materials I provide for them; they will hopefully learn to be cleaner and take better care of their materials since they alone will have to deal with the results of what they do with the paint trays. So far, this has been working great for me and my kids.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Harvest Day Check List

When planning for Family Harvest Day, there are a lot of things I need to consider; and a lot of decisions to be made. I will have many people coming, and I will be feeding them a full meal. We will be having age appropriate activities for the kids, and some things the adults take part in too; as well as scarecrow building. I often refer back to my notes and lists I make for the previous years; it really helps out. When planning a menu, last years list will help me with quantities I need to buy. Read my first post if you haven’t yet; it will then be easier to understand some of my reasoning here with my decisions. Here is the first list I have made for myself.
Family Harvest Day 2011
·         Date
·         Location
·         Menu
Choose and Plan:
·         Activities for kids
·         Activities for adults
·         Table service, flatware, etc.
Guest List:
·         Send out Save the Date notifications
·         Re-check contact info
·         Look for table ware to purchase
·         Purchase items I know I will need, i.e. more Mason jars for drinks
We have set the date; when ever I choose a date for a family gathering, I first check with each of my kids and their spouses to find the best time for the gathering. It’s not always possible to have everyone in attendance but we try by starting as early as possible to set a date. A very real consideration for us choosing a Harvest Day date here in Arizona is also the weather. Our event will be outside so we make ours as close to the end of October as possible, hoping for cooler temps. Any other guests we invite are then notified of the date as soon as I am given an ‘all clear’ by my family.
This years location is a problem at the moment as we need a large space, and the family member that hosted this event last year has moved. We are still deciding our location.
I can not choose a menu until I have a location as the kitchen facilities (or lack of) will be a big factor in what I need to serve. The menu therefore, is somewhat on hold until a location is decided on.
I am currently looking into activities for the kids, all but two of them will be age five and under, so I keep that in mind. I also want activities for the adults to participate in. It’s hard to get the men out of their seats and playing games, but I have a couple of ideas, and I will be approaching a couple of the guys before hand and asking them personally to take the lead and take part in these activities. Hopefully the others will follow.
I have decided on my meal service ware; I found a set of Corelle dishes at a local thrift store at half price. The name of the pattern is Abundance, a fitting pattern for our Harvest Day. So no, I will not be serving a meal in a Mason jar! I brought my dishes home and started looking online to see if I could find more of these dishes for sale around town. I still have some time to search; and I can always find something to coordinate with them if I can’t find the exact pattern. One way I searched for more of these dishes was to post on my Face Book page to my friends to help me look for them at yard sales and thrift stores. One hour after I posted my request, a friend called to say she had that set and planned to get rid of it when she moved next month. So I’m almost set for dishes! Just need a few more…..
I also found flatware at the thrift store half off sale, some of it is vintage, which I just adore because it takes me back to my grandmother’s house! I would have loved vintage dishes also but that’s not in my budget. Corelle is light weight, hard wearing, not easily broken, and each dish is thinner than most dishes so it doesn’t use much storage space either. Perfect choice for this event. Even if we end up hosting Harvest Day at a park with no kitchen, I will still use these real dishes instead of disposable! 
As far as guest notification; I have sent out a save the date notice by email and by text. It’s good to find out how your guests prefer to be notified for future information at this point. I will not be sending out a formal invitation this year though I did last year. I can save a little money this way and everyone on my list responds well to text messages and emails. I will send out another one soon as a reminder, another about 3 weeks before the event, a week before, and finally the day before. Yes, I want to make sure everyone is informed and prepared for a great time that day! In future emails/text, I will let them know how my plans are coming along, without too many details, and without giving away any surprises. I will let them know what they are expected to bring, what they should wear, and remind them they need to bring the clothing and the plastic bags they have been saving for the scarecrows.
More to come soon!