Archive for April, 2011

Happy Birthday #7

Friday, April 29th, 2011

My granddaughter who lives 20 minutes away is celebrating her 7th birthday.  She told me that she wanted a butterfly cake for her birthday.  I showed her the Wilton butterfly shaped pan and also an assortment of fabric butterflies on wires that I had purchased at Michaels.  She said that she wanted a “plain” cake with the fabric butterflies stuck into it.

That sounded easy.  I asked her preference of color for the frosting.  She thought for a moment and then took two crayons from a box of crayons.  One was purple; the other, blue.  She combined the two colors on a slip of paper and showed it to me.  “This is the color that I want my frosting to be.”  Gulp,  so much for sounding easy.

I baked the cake in layer pans.  By the way I always use Duncan Hines cake mixes.  The little lady fancies white cake so I used Duncan Hines Classic White.  I have a favorite buttercream frosting recipe that I have used for many years.  It is from Land O Lakes.  Okay, okay, yes, it does have f-a-t.  There is butter and there is half and half.  It is so-oo-oo good, and you only eat it a few times a year.

Best Buttercream Frosting

3/4 cup butter, softened                               6 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt                                            1/3 cup half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla                                           2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Beat butter in mixer at medium speed until  creamy.  Gradually add powdered sugar and salt alternately with half and half and vanilla, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.  Stir in corn syrup.  Makes 3 cups.

Now to make the frosting resemble that hue of purple/blue my granddaughter had drawn for me.  I used just the tiniest dab of Wilton Violet color paste and a couple of drops of liquid blue.  I crossed my fingers and mixed.  I hesitated to experiment further so we had what we had.

Before inserting the butterflies into the top of the cake I shortened the wire and covered it along with a toothpick support with aluminum foil.  This way only a toothpick was being inserted into the cake.  A few decorator frosting stars and pearlized-ivory sugar pearls were added, and voila, the cake.

I can’t wait to head out to her house for the party and to see her face when she sees her butterfly cake.

Keeping in the butterfly theme, here is her gift.

Do you know how difficult it is to find a butterfly, age-appropriate birthday card for your granddaughter?  (I know, I know, sometimes I get carried away.)  After visiting many shops, I did find a butterfly card.   Little butterfly on the package.  And the gift?  A magnetic mosaic kit – one option is to make a butterfly.

I’m ready for cake.

Thanks for stopping by.

May we play dress up?

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

“May we play dress up?  When I have a cousin play date at my house, this is a question that my granddaughters frequently ask.  Their brothers also dress up – sometimes, but they are usually more interested in playing with Hot Wheels or in pestering their sisters who are dressing up.

I have a tub of clothes that the children use for this pretend play.

They have two wigs that I bought in an after Halloween sale.  I also bought some “feather” boas for the girls.  (Money saving tip – clip the coupons from Michaels and Hobby Lobby that appear in the Sunday newspaper.  I used those for the boas.)  There are some of Grandma’s dress up shoes from days of yore and some little girl jewelry.

I made some skirts for the girls from remnants I found at the fabric store.  I put elastic into the waist.  They were quick and easy to make.  I also have some remnants of chiffon and satin that they use for stoles and shawls.

To the collection I added several tee shirts and blouses that I no longer wear.  The girls don’t wear these very often.  Instead they prefer to use the tee shirt that they wore to my house and add a variety of skirts and stoles to form their outfits.

I also have baseball shirts from their daddies’ favorite teams and their daddies’ Little League shirts for dress up.  One son was a catcher so I have a mask, chest protector, and shin guards.  The grandchildren are just a little too short to be able to wear the shin guards.  The boys wear these shirts and so do the girls.

Here we have two princesses in their finery.

Sometimes the girls will be princesses preparing to go to the ball; other times they will put on a fashion show donning one outfit, modeling, and then changing to another outfit.

They prepare to cheer for their favorite baseball team.

All four are ready to take the field.  Wiffle ball, anyone?

A fun way to spend some time.  We do have one rule.  Everyone must help NEATLY fold the clothes and put them back into the tub when dress up time is over.  Not that I bribe, but I do frequently say, “When the clothes are all neatly put away, we’ll have snacks.”

I confess.  I really enjoy dress up days. I always have my camera ready to capture the unique styles that they put together. Each outfit and spin from the models bring a smile to Grandma’s face.

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you stop back again soon to see birthday cake #7 that I’ll be baking this week for my granddaughter.

Earth Day

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Reuse, Recycle!  On Earth Day and every other day of the year we should reuse and recycle to preserve our resources.  I have toys in the playroom that are recycled from their former lives.  The children love to play with them.  They cost virtually nothing to make,  and they have lasted for years.

Several years ago I went down into the basement on a snowy winter day and noticed that I had so many empty oatmeal boxes that I had saved for some purpose.  Think, think, think. (Just like Winnie the Pooh.)

The result – 10 covered boxes for building a tower or for bowling.  I covered each oatmeal box with contact paper.  They have been such a hit with the grandsons.  When they were 3 or so, they expected a tower in the sunporch when they entered the door to visit.  They would look at me with sweet smiles and say they were going to “knock it down.”  The boxes continue to be a favorite with all the grandchildren.  Now they try to see what different types of towers they can build.

Another oatmeal box reused.  This is a table top basketball game.  I covered this box with construction paper.  I cut the bottom out of a disposable cup and clipped it on to the side of the oatmeal box.  The box is placed on the table.  Players stand in front of the box and bounce a ping pong ball attempting to get it to go through the paper cup for a basket.  The cup and clip and ping pong ball can all be stored in the oatmeal box.

Three years ago I read on the internet about a mother who had built a play house for her children out of cereal and cracker boxes.  I was so intrigued that I decided to build one for my grandchildren.  I started collecting boxes.  I asked friends and family to save their boxes for my house.  I was getting quite a large collection  of boxes in my basement so I outlined a house with them.  It was then that I realized I would need many more boxes than I could ever collect.  Cheerios are tasty, but there is a limit to the number of times a day you want to eat them.

I had boxes so I needed an idea to Reuse them.  Having gone to play miniature golf with my grandchildren on a recent visit, I was inspired - a miniature golf course lay out.

I glued boxes to foam board and cut arches and doors in them.  I inserted Pringle cans for tunnels.

This “hole” has a ramp that goes up with the ball landing in a plastic bowl.

I bought a set of plastic golf clubs and balls at ToyRUs for the golfers to use.  We play in the basement in the winter and then take our course outside in the warm weather.  One caveat – strong winds can blow the “holes” away.  We did lose a “hole” when my grandson was running and tripped and fell on the structure.  One smashed box.  No harm, no foul.

Needless to say I had left-over boxes which I put into my recyling bin.

My final Reuse/recycle toy is a collection of plastic bottle caps, milk bottle rings, lids and wine corks.  I poked holes in the caps, lids and corks.  I keep these items with a package of pipe cleaners.  My grandchildren put them together to make creatures and designs.  The ones in the photo were made by me.  The children are much more creative.

Thanks for stopping by.   I’ll talk to you again soon.

Happy Birthday to You!

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

In a few weeks we shall be gathering to sing Happy Birthday to You to my granddaughter who will celebrate her 7th birthday.

Each year I bake her birthday cake.  As I plan for #7, I like to reminisce about the cakes from the past.  I’ll share those with you.

Do you remember your child’s or your grandchild’s first birthday cake?  The explosion of frosting and that sweet look of  “oh, this is so good.”

My granddaughter dug into her first cake with both hands.

The cake that I made her for birthday #1 was a simple affair with pink roses.

On birthday #2 her pink pig cake brought a smile to her face.

Birthday #3 was the year of My Little Pony.  For her birthday I made this pink pony.

Hello Kitty was her favorite when birthday #4 rolled around.  Since the cake was rather small, I made some Hello Kitty cupcakes also for the guests.  Her little brother was a fan of Lightning McQueen and the Cars crew so I topped a few cupcakes with characters from Cars.

Birthday #5 was the year of the princess.  My granddaughter had a party for her friends.  They all came dressed in their favorite princess attire.  I was invited to the party also.  I came dressed as Queen Mum wearing a long dress and a large straw hat.

For refreshments the young princesses had cupcakes with turrets or little towers atop them.  Looking out of the window on the tower, were various princesses.  My granddaughter was looking out the window on her cupcake; the guests each had a Disney princess peering from the window.

She had requested a crown cake for the family party with grandparents.

For birthday #6 my granddaughter said she would like a Barbie cake.  I heard the request and felt some trepidation.  This wasn’t going to be easy. Hours were spent on the internet looking at various Barbie cakes.  I made a trip to a nearby town to seek the advice of someone at a Decorator’s Grocery. 

It turned out well.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  My granddaughter loved it.  Presenting Barbie.

And now birthday #7 approaches.   I am shopping, and I am planning.

Stop back in a couple of weeks to see the cake for birthday #7.

Thanks for visiting Grandma in the Mailbox.

More about my playroom

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

 A few weeks ago I was talking about some of the toys that I selected for the playroom.  Then I became distracted getting ready for Easter.

Now it is back to the playroom and some more of the favorite toys that my grandchildren have continued to play with over the years. 

I bought a Melissa and Doug set of musical instruments to which I added a Tonette.  I was surprised to see that Tonettes still exist since they were popular way back in the day when I was young.  This group of percussive instruments is always a big hit.  Whenever I have a cousin play date at my house, the children each pick up an instrument and go parading through my house providing their own style of music.  Grandmas appreciate the music; parents are not so receptive.  We try to play when the moms and dads are not around.  Dads have been known to hide the hand cymbals.

This photo doesn’t do this toy justice.  They are big chenille noodles.  My sister contributed these to the playroom.  The girls especially love them.  They make crowns and necklaces.  One granddaughter wove them into a cape to use when they were playing “dress up.”  The noodles have been turned into leashes for stuffed animals.  Sometimes they are used as barricades to keep out “the boys.”  I have used them to make letter shapes when we have grandma school and a little one is learning to identify the letters of the alphabet.  (Yes, Grandma, the teacher again.)

I bought this set of Connectagons at Hearth Song a couple of years ago.  If you are not familiar with Connectagons, they are gaily painted and slotted disks of balsa wood that can be slipped together to build items.  One caveat:  The wood is somewhat fragile.  Young children have a tendency to shove the disks into the slots and can break the Connectagons.  With a little help they learn just how to build items.  The girls like to build flowers.  In this photo the group  constructed a fence that is around a playground.  They put some Playmobile figures on the play equipment.  Some new, neat versions of Connectagons are now available.

I have mentioned the basket of animals in previous posts.  These animals from a  Safari Ltd. Farm Toob are played with every single time my grandchildren visit.  Usually it is because we are playing hide the animals.  The animals also are used at Christmas in the Snow Village and when the children are playing pretend setting up a village and farm in the playroom.

By the way, notice anything strange out this photo?  I was taking the photo when my cat Olivia jumped up on the table to see what was happening.  You can see the whiskers of Olivia at the left side of the photo.

This Fisher Price school bus might appear again when I write about “retro” toys.  This school bus was purchased about 40 years ago for my older son.  He and his brother played with it for years.  The toy then went into hibernation until the grandchildren were born.  Its popularity continues.  It has been in the Snow Village.  It has been used as a vehicle to take a group of Barbies to the beach.  It is used in pretend play.  The little people appear in other cars and trucks riding around the playroom.   Still running after all these years.  And it will definitely be tucked away in a special box for great grandchildren to carry on the play.

Just writing about these toys brings back to mind special memories of play dates we have had.

Thanks for visiting.  In a few weeks a granddaughter will be celebrating her 7th birthday.  I am the baker of her birthday cakes.  I’ll show you what I have made for her in the past and tell you want she has requested for birthday #7.

Easter in the Mailbox

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Easter is coming in a few weeks.  Easter is a time for bunnies, egg hunts, family times and church.  When I spend time with my grandchildren at the holiday, we like to read some Easter picture books while we have snacks.  Here are some of our favorites.

Books -

The Easter Bunny that Overslept by Priscilla and Otto Friedrick  I asked my grandson and granddaughter the other day if they remembered this book.  They both eagerly pitched in to tell me what happens in the book.  Obviously a favorite for them.

Queen of Easter by Mary Engelbriet  My granddaughter loves this one.  It is another story about Anne Estelle.

Here Comes T. Rex Cottontail by Lois G. Grambling   Any grandchild who likes dinosaurs will enjoy of this story of T. Rex substituting for the Easter Bunny.

The Night Before Easter by Natasha Wing – Patterned after Clement Moore’s Night Before Christmas   A fun read.

Check out www.kids-easter-activities.com/21easteractivities.htm    This is a terrific website that offers a 21 page booklet of Easter games that can be downloaded, printed, and shared.  It would be perfect to use with your grandchildren when you are together or if you are sending them greetings. 

You will find Easter games: bowling, bingo, hot egg toss and relay races.  There is also an Easter Tic Tac Toe board to print.  The Easter word sudoku 4X4 would be fun for first graders.  There is an Easter math sheet for older children.  You’ll also find instructions for crafts – making cards, wreaths, trees.  And some yummy and easy recipes.  I have picked out some fun activities to do with grandchildren and some to send along to the grandchildren I’ll not be spending time with at Easter.

Riddles -

Of course, I must have some riddles and jokes about the Easter bunny for the Easter in the Mailbox mailing.

What kind of book does a rabbit like at bedtime?  One with a hoppy ending.

What’s a good way to catch the Easter Bunny?  Make a noise like a carrot.

What’s big and purple and hugs Easter baskets?   Easter Barney

Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Wendy.  Wendy who?  Wendy Easter Bunny coming?

Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Howard.  Howard who?  Howard you like a chocolate bunny?

Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Police.  Police who?  Police hurry up and decorate your eggs.

What do you call a rabbit with fleas?  Bugs Bunny.

What kind of beans never grow in a garden?  Jelly beans.

These riddles and  jokes all came from www.brownielocks.com.

Easter Postcards -

These are postcards that I ordered from www.zazzle.com.  The top two ones will be for my grandsons.  One little fellow really likes trains.  The bottom cards will be for my granddaughters.

What goes into the mail – I’ll include a riddle and a knock knock joke on a postcard for each grandchild.  Then they will be ready to send off to my grandchildren’s mailboxes. 

Thank you for stopping by.  I’ll be back in a few days with more about my grandchildren’s favorite toys in the playroom.