Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Best FIVE Toys of All Time!!

... if any of you are like me, you are rushing around trying to get the kids or grandkids the latest popular toy for Christmas, which is often out of stock because everyone else is also rushing to grab up that same toy!

(BTW, if anyone knows where I can get a Leapfrog Leap Pad Tablet (green) for cheap, email me!!)

But, until you find that ONE toy you NEED to get, here are some gifts that are a MUST for any kid, of any age! (grabbed these great ideas from a friend, who grabbed it from a friend's friend..)

Check them out!

1. Stick

This toy is a real classic — chances are your great-great-grandparents played with one, and your kids have probably discovered it for themselves as well. It’s a required ingredient for Stickball, but it’s so much more. Stick works really well as a poker, digger and reach-extender. It can also be combined with many other toys to perform even more functions.

Stick comes in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, but you can amass a whole collection without much of an investment. Avoid the smallest sizes — they break easily and are impossible to repair. The classic wooden version is biodegradable so you don’t have to feel so bad about pitching them into your yard waste or using them for kindling. Larger, multi-tipped Sticks are particularly useful as snowman arms. (Note: requires Snow, which is not included and may not be available in some states.)

There are higher-end models of Sticks if you’re a big spender, from the smoothly-sanded wooden models (more uniformly straight than the classic model) to more durable materials such as plastic or even metal. For most kids the classic model should do fine.

One warning: the Stick can also be used as a sword or club, so parents who avoid toy weapons might want to steer clear of the larger models.

Pros: Finally, something that does grow on trees.

Cons: You could put someone’s eye out.

2. Box

Box is versatile, and also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Boxes can be turned into furniture or a kitchen playset. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots or create elaborate Star Wars costumes. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure. Got a Stick? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.

The Box may be the most expensive item on the list, available from many retailers and shipping companies, but they can often be had cheaper if you know where to look. Amazon is a main sources of the small- to medium-sized Box. If you don’t mind second-hand toys, the grocery store, bookstores and recycling centers are also great sources for Boxes. Oh, and the best place for the extra-large version is an appliance store (though sometimes they’ll try to sell you an appliance along with it, which could get pricey.)

Note: If you’re in a pinch, Laundry Basket is a similar item and can often be substituted for Box in some instances, though it’s generally not as great for costumes.

Pros: Best celebrity endorsement: Calvin & Hobbes.

Cons: Paradox: what do you put Box in when you’re done playing with it?

3. String

String is not intended for toddlers and babies: it is a strangulation hazard and your kids must be old enough to know not to put it around their necks. However, when used properly your kids can really have a ball with String.

The most obvious use of String is tying things together. You can use it to hang things from doorknobs or tie little siblings to chairs or make leashes for your stuffed animals. Use String with two Cans for a telephone, or with Stick to make a fishing pole. You’ll need String for certain games like Cat’s Cradle — there’s even an International String Figure Association for lots more information. String is a huge part of what makes some toys so fun — try using a yo-yo or a kite without String and you’ll see what I mean. Try the heavy-duty version of String (commonly branded Rope) for skipping, climbing, swinging from trees or just for dragging things around.

Although you can buy String at a store, it’s generally sold in much larger quantities than your children will probably need. I actually have no idea where it comes from, because I don’t remember buying them any, so it must be pretty easy to come by.

Pros: It really ties everything together.

Cons: There’s a reason “no strings attached” is a benefit.

4. Cardboard Tube

These are kind of like the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks — they come free with a roll of paper towels and other products but you have to wait until you get to the end of the roll before you can finally claim the toy. Perhaps this explains why kids go through toilet paper so quickly! The small- and medium-sized are most common, but the large versions that come with wrapping paper can be more difficult to obtain. There’s also an extra-large size that is sometimes sold with posters, and a super-sized industrial version which you’ll generally only find from carpet suppliers.

The Cardboard Tube has also been used by kids as the “Spyer” for its most common use as a telescope. Tape two of them together for use as binoculars. If you are lucky to get a large size, the best use is probably for whacking things. Stick is also great for whacking, but the thing about Cardboard Tube is that it generally won’t do any permanent damage. It’s sort of like a Nerf Stick, well, kinda.

If your kids are younger you’ll want to exercise discretion, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to provide them with a Cardboard Tube or two just so they’ll get used to the feel of it and not hurt themselves or others.

Pros: Comes free with purchase of toilet paper, paper towels, and wrapping paper.

Cons: Doesn’t hold up to enthusiastic play.

5. Dirt

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to play with was Dirt. Dirt has been around longer than any of the other toys on this list, and shows no signs of going away. There’s just no getting rid of it, so you might as well learn to live with it.

First off, playing with Dirt is actually good for you. It’s even sort of edible (in the way that Play-doh and crayons are edible). But some studies have shown that kids who play with Dirt have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. So even if it means doing some more laundry (Dirt is notorious for the stains it causes) it might be worth getting your kids some Dirt.

So what can you do with Dirt? Well, it’s great for digging and piling and making piles. Use it with Stick as a large-format ephemeral art form. (Didn’t I tell you how versatile Stick was?) Dirt makes a great play surface for toy trucks and cars. Need something a little gloopier? Just add water and — presto! — you’ve got Mud!

Dirt is definitely an outdoor toy, despite your kids’ frequent attempts to bring it indoors. If they insist, you’ll probably want to get the optional accessories Broom and Dustpan. But as long as it’s kept in its proper place, Dirt can be loads of fun.

Pros: Cheap as dirt.

Cons: Dirty.

I have to admit ... my kids, and grandkids, and myself as a kid, have had more fun with these five toys of all time than any others!! Be creative, give your kids some fun that helps them develop their imaginations and have fun with them!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Imaging the Sacred Art of Chant - Online Exhibition

The Artist Registry at the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts site has posted their current exhibition .. "Imaging the Sacred Art of Chant".

I wish I would have had time to enter this call for entries, but work life interferred in it this time... looking forward to the next call for art there, until then, check out all the wonderful entries posted in the current online exhibit..WONDERFUL!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Shopping and More....

Tomorrow is the first day of Advent, (check out this cool two minute video on what Advent is and isn't).

At Church we have the tradition of having an advent wreath. Since the church went thru a major renovation and remodel in the last year and a half, we are doing some things differently than we have done in years past. One of those things is where the advent wreath will be situated. It used to hang from one of the posts in the Nave, but since there are now pews in that area, it was decided to try out putting it on the baptismal font, which is now placed in the center of the main aisle. So, Father Bill made a base, attached candle holders for the 3 purple and 1 pink advent candles, and I had found, a couple of years ago, a white paschal type of candle on a stand, that would be perfect for the center "Christ candle".

And the task of finding a wreath and decorating the base part was up to me.
Good Will once again came through for me ... I found two artificial wreaths, used them both and bought some additional evergreen picks that matched from the Ben Franklin Store, along with some berry picks. Father Bill had also left me some pine cones, so it all came together pretty awesomely!

And, here are also some pretty neat Good Will treasures I found for myself while looking for the wreaths.

This cool bud vase is made out of an old silver plate spoon and knife handle.. pretty clever!

And these old antique bird ornaments are ones that remind me of my Gramma, she had similar ones on her tree when I was a kid.

And then I found this cool jeweled fish pin ... I have a lot of this kind of costume jewelry bling that I like to hang on the torso in my bedroom, plus this is so odd, I had to get it! *lol*

Turkey Leftovers ... YUMMMMMMMMM

Even though we had a family gathering for Thanksgiving, I did roast a turkey earlier so we could have leftovers this weekend...which, for us, is THE best part of having turkey!

So, of course I made the usual "turkey hash", which includes turkey, leftover mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and whatever else you want to throw in (I also added some cream of celery soup (did not add milk or water to it), since I didn't have much gravy left .. but you can add any creamed soup to it too)... mix it all together and re-heat, it's great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even snacks! *L*

It might not look so good here in the container, but believe me, it is DEEEELICIOUS!
Add some leftover cranberry sauce and it's something to be thankful for all over again!

Then this morning, I decided to try another way to use my leftovers (besides the usual noodle soup, or veggie soup with turkey - which is also pretty yummy, btw!).

I love the Bear Creek Soup Mixes ... they are VERY good, and easy, and make great bases for adding all kinds of extra things to make them even better!

So, I used the Creamy Wild Rice soup mix ... after getting the water to boil, and whisking in the mix, it only takes about 10 - 15 minutes of simmering (and stirring), to get it ready to add other ingredients.

I had fresh mushrooms I sauteed (adding garlic salt to taste), and adding leftover chopped turkey and stuffing.

And, it's a delicious soup/stew to enjoy!! Only took about 25 - 30 minutes total (besides the hours a few days ago in making the food for leftovers, of course! *lol*)

Yummmmmmmmmmm, Yummmmmmmmmmm in my tum!! (as the grandkids say!)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I AM Thankful!! Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Today we headed over to my sister and brother-in-law's, Chellie & Bill's home for the family Thanksgiving dinner and celebration.... and of COURSE, to watch the Packer game!!

I didn't get many photo's of our time together ... too tired, I guess, but we did have a great time cheering on the Packers, while we ate, and watching them get another win!! 11-0 WAY TO GO PACK!!

I was too late arriving to get a photo of the giant turkey that my Mom always makes, but did get my Dad in his usual job of carving up the fowl beast, with Matthew waiting anxiously! *S*

We also celebrated family birthdays ... my camera was slow, but I did manage to get Conner as he blew out candles on the pumpkin pie ....

It was a nice family gathering of about 60 or so of us...not everyone could be there... some were sick, others at other family gatherings, and some upnorth deer hunting.

I did manage to get over to a local WalMart afterward to get a special Christmas gift for one of the grandsons ... YAY! Then home to do some catch up work for Church for a couple of hours.... Thank you Lord, for ALL things!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey Stuffing & Baking with the Next Great Chef - Our Granddaughter!

Jorden came for a pre-Thanksgiving visit for a couple of days, and helped me make a turkey and we experimented with two different kinds of stuffing. We love turkey leftovers, but with a large family gathering, there aren't leftovers for anyone to take home, so the last few years I've been roasting a turkey for leftovers at home... for turkey sandwiches, turkey "hash", and just to snack on... yummmy!!

Jorden had fun helping me get the turkey and stuffing ready ... (I had fun with her too!)

First we had to salt and pepper the giblets, and put them on to simmer so we could slice them up to put in the stuffing along with the other good things.

Then dump the bread cubes into the bowl, add celery, onions, seasonings, butter, turkey broth from the cooked giblets, sliced giblets, and crushed pistachios.

The other stuffing had celery, apples, craisins, crushed pecans, spices, butter, giblets and turkey broth. Jorden had to taste test the craisins, and some celery too! *lol*

I couldn't find my nut chopper, so we mashed/smashed the nuts in a plastic bag before adding them, and then stir it all together.

Get a pan ready for the turkey.....

Jorden really didn't like the looks of the raw turkey much .... she said it looked "scary".

And this is the stuffing, ready to put inside the turkey, and in a baking pan.

And, about 5 1/2 hours later, we have a delicious roasted turkey and stuffing, ready to be feasted on! Yummmmy, yummy!!

By the time Jorden is 4 years old, she'll for sure be a renowned chef! *lol*

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back to Reality ... the REAL World...

Had a busy week catching up from vacation ... one of the worst parts of coming home is just that!

And so, it's back to real life ... and this weekend is part of that....

A weekend of work... renting a Rug Doctor and carpet cleaning the WHOLE house ... ugghhhh... so far I have many furniture items on the front porch, set on unmoveable tables, pushed into the kitchen, and getting the rooms ready for cleaning.... while I wait for some areas to dry before moving on to do the next room, I'll be catching up on bookkeeping work .... a "Cheerful Recorder" program is NOT making me so cheerful here either ... arrgghhh...

I must say, I rather like the empty look here in the house so far though.. *L* (not the stacked up elements however).... I just need Kasey to wake up and move her junk! *lol*

So, I'm off to try to accomplish much ...

Lord, Have Mercy and HELP me!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Road Trip Continues .... Days 7 and 8 ...

We are heading back toward home now ... stopping along the way as we go. On Friday, 11/11/11... Veterans Day (God Bless Our Vets!), we headed toward Pittsburgh again.

Along the way we made a pit-stop at Jersey Shores ... but NOT the one you hear about on the TV Show..*L*

Cool old church in the small valley town...

We drove the back mountain roads for about 2 hours... it was like a roller coaster ride, but in a car.

Once we got back on the interstate highway, we encountered a short snow storm ... it last about 10 minutes.. and then it was clear skies again. And people say Wisconsin weather changes quickly! *L*

Finally arrived in Pittsburgh...

We checked into our hotel and went to a local sports bar & restaurant to get some dinner to go.

Kasey had fajitas and I had a yummy reuben pizza (enough for breakfast even!) *L*

We were both still recovering from our fun in NYC, so we crashed early in the hotel on Friday night.


Saturday we headed to the Mattress Factory Art Museum, downtown.

We had hoped to go up some of the Inclines there, but we were caught in traffic construction and delayed in getting there in time. So we went right to the Mattress Factory Art Museum, which was in a quaint part of downtown. The area reminded us a little of the Brady Street part of Milwaukee.

There were some "streets", that were like alley-ways, but the art on the homes along those streets was interesting...

The entrance to the Mattress Factory Art Museum was amongst the homes in the area.

The Mattress Factory is a museum of contemporary art that presents art you can get into — room-sized environments, created by in-residence artists. Located in the historic Mexican War Streets of Pittsburgh’s North Side since 1977, the Mattress Factory is one of few museums of its kind anywhere.

It was an interesting exhibit ... info from their website:
Sites of Passage
September 9, 2011 - January 8, 2012

Pittsburgh-based, performance artist Tavia La Follette participated in Artists Residency Egypt in summer 2010, where she laid the groundwork for the Firefly Tunnel Project, an artist exchange between Egypt and the U.S. La Follette ran a 3-week performance art and installation workshop, developing plans for Egyptian-based artists to work with U.S artists in 2011. La Follette explains, “The Firefly Tunnels are metaphorical passageways for the exchange of ideas through the language of Performance Art. One can think of them as an Underground Railroad that crosses the borders of language, a system of tunnels [aided by the Internet] that doesn’t believe in the barriers of countries or the obstruction of segregated tongues.”

After the museum, we walked down the street a couple of blocks to a small cafe (Buena Vista's) for lunch. Loved the old colorfully painted buildings.

A bowl of wildrice and mushroom soup hit the spot!!

Then we headed out ... thinking we might go all the way home by tonite, but then deciding maybe we should take another night and see some nightlife or a show in downtown Cleveland....

... that didn't happen ... got there, it was late, and no parking, the hotels looked like they would cost a fortune downtown too... so we ended up staying outside of Cleveland at the same hotel we stayed at on the way to NYC..*L*

But, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner at Don's Pomeroy House...a very FINE, dining experience!! A great dinner that we couldn't finish, so we had leftovers to take back to the hotel, which we will probably eat for breakfast in the morning!

It's been a wonderful vacation road trip... hate to see it end... tomorrow will be all driving to get home .... better sleep now!