Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Don't be a Scrooge! ;-)

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Kylen's Costume at the Christmas Party

Monday, December 24, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Party: Crafts

We had six craft options: dried cranberry ornaments, embossed gift tags (set of 4), cider mix, bottle cap magnets, hankie dolls, and ribbon bookmarks. The last three were planned by me.  Parents were permitted to pay at the party. Each craft was on its own table and had a sign with directions and an envelope with the names of those signed up and how many of each craft they planned to do. We had extra supplies for last-minute folks, but having people sign up really helped with preparation!

You may recall that Greg is crazy about bottled Mexican Coke?  Scandalously, I don't like anything carbonated, but he and Kylen guzzle it regularly for dessert.  I've been saving the caps for quite some time in the hopes of eventually using them for something.  Last year, I fell in love with bottle cap crafts during my art class, so these came to mind pretty quickly for the party.  They're fast and easy, too.  You cut out an image printed on cardstock, glue it inside a cap, spread it over with glitter glue, and stick a magnet to the back.  The caps are magnetic, so no glue is needed for that last step.

Bottle Cap Magnet Craft Table

Hankie dolls or "pew babies" can be as elaborate or simple as you like.  I chose "simple" from the instructions here and gave the option of white or tan.  Requests for the two colors were about equal.  I prefer tan, because it has more of a vintage look (wrinkles and all!!), but it also requires dying the hankerchief with tea or coffee and letting it dry.  Thankfully, they dry extremely fast.  I used instant coffee stirred into hot water and soaked them two hours.  I tried soaking one all day, and it looked identical to those soaked two hours.  Not sure why?  Who knows, maybe they only needed 5 minutes - I should have tried that!  I'm guessing it was due to using instant, because the length of soaking time was supposed to affect the shade.  Anyway . . . Fold one side 1/3 of the way down, knot the right and left top corners to make the hands, place 3 cotton balls centered under the fold, tie and knot a 12" length of thin ribbon around the cotton balls to form the head.  For fancy, add lace around the head for a bonnet or at the bottom of the "dress," sew on eyes, or make pink circles for cheeks.  There are other variations, but I like this easy no-sew version!

My third craft was ribbon bookmarks, another idea adapted from my class last year.  I had grand plans for vintage buttons and lace  - until I went shopping for supplies!  Who knew, vintage buttons are expensive!  I was sad to let my original vision for this craft go, but in order to keep prices practical, I used mostly ribbon, bulk buttons for filler, and a few vintage style buttons for variety.  It's not that the ribbon bookmarks with regular buttons aren't lovely; they just didn't go as well with the theme.  These bookmarks have a nice feel and are fun to play with while reading.  For Christmas, I especially like the fabric poinsettia buttons.  They look wonderful when paired with a green button opposite them.

That wraps up my posts on our co-op's Christmas party!  Right now I'm getting much-needed relaxation with my family while recovering from a virus (sore throat, some coughing, much better today though).  Kylen and I have been alternating between playing Wii Animal Crossing City Folk and the new Wii U Scribblenauts Unlimited.  Oh, and Andy Griffith on Netflix.  I haven't played a video game through with him - just the two of us - in many years.  It's fun!!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Party: Games

We needed games that were old-fashioned, simple, and suitable for large groups of various ages. I thought 3-legged races sounded fun and remembered wheelbarrow races from childhood.   Puzzles, tag, and dice have been around forever.  The card puzzles were made using Christmas cards we've saved through the years, and Pass the Present is similar to the classic game of musical chairs.

Christmas Card Puzzles ~ Ideal for Young Children
Cut Christmas cards into 4 pieces each. Mix them up face down, and give one piece to each player. On go, players must find the other pieces to their card. First group to put their card together wins.  Add or remove sets each round according to the number of players.  The backs were numbered such that a final winner could be chosen by randomly calling out a number between 1 and 4.

Three-Legged and Wheelbarrow Races
Players pair up for 3-legged and wheelbarrow races. For 3-legged races, tie ankles together using a bandana. One puts his arm around the other's shoulders to help maintain stability. For wheelbarrow races, one player holds the other's ankles while he runs on his hands.

Sock Tag
Each players tucks a sock into the back of his pants with part of it hanging down like a tail. Everyone runs around and tries to pull each other's sock. Last one with a sock wins. This game has a problem with children wanting to stand against the walls to protect their socks or team up to go after individual players. A firm leader is needed to keep it fair.

Pass the Present ~ Ideal for All Ages
Similar to musical chairs. A wrapped gift is passed while music is playing.  Player caught holding the present when the music stops is out. Last player left wins. It's important that the person operating the music have his back to the players so that he can stay completely impartial.

A Bit Dicey ~ Ideal for Older Kids
Each player places a single popsicle stick in his mouth. When the timer starts, players pick up dice and vertically stack them, one at a time, on the end of the stick. The dice cannot rest against the nose or touch any part of the face. If a die is dropped, player may take a replacement from his pile to use in its place. First player to stack all his dice or to stack the most after 60 seconds wins.

I didn't have a chance to visit the gym where most of the games took place, but Greg said they went well with the exception of the dice game.  Whenever the dice fell - which happens a lot - they would go bouncing and scattering everywhere.  In fact, 5 didn't make it back!  Lol!  I had imagined the students would be sitting but found out later they were standing, which probably exacerbated the bouncing and scattering problem.  This game has great potential, but I'd recommend playing it sitting down on carpet.

A major highlight of the party was to be the prize table. I wanted items that were worth winning and representational of the past, which I was hoping would make the experience a little more educational.  Manning the table involved taking tickets, giving demos, answering questions, and best of all: sitting down!  A perfect job for me!  Game volunteers were given 10 tickets/game that they could hand out to winners. Most items were one ticket, but a few pricier ones were two.   Winners had the option of picking out 6 marbles or chocolate coins, one of which could be large. I had cinch pouches for carrying them.  The miniature wagon was just for displaying marbles, although I got lots of inquiries on it!  Karla might recognize the Coke. I cruelly stole it from a boy at her Christmas party during the white elephant gift exchange.   Yes, I had my greedy mind fixed on that Coke for 15 long turns until mine finally came.  (Don't feel too bad, since I think he was able to steal something else he liked.)  It came with a box of ribbon candy, and those were a couple of the first prizes to go!

Prize ideas: books by Jane Austin or other period writers, Little Golden books, yo-yos, marbles, Jacob's ladder, pick-up sticks, wooden toys, Tiddly Winks, Tickle Bee, barrel of monkeys, jacks, paper dolls, Slinkys, Coca-Cola memorabilia, Fisher Price toys, etch-a-sketch, Gumby, ribbon candy and similar edible items, hand-crank music boxes, chocolate coins, old-fashioned magnets and signs, kazoos, aprons, paddle balls, balancing birds, Rubik's cubes, sock monkeys, alphabet blocks, tin lunchboxes, mini tea sets, vintage style stationary, puzzles, calendars, glass ornaments, and mittens.  I didn't have all of these, but I had a good variety!  We considered the cost of the prizes to be a donation from us, so anything that didn't get picked we got to keep.  There were some pretty neat items left!  :)

Overall, I think the games and prizes portion went pretty well.  Next up: crafts.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Party: Schedule

Praise the Lord - our co-op's Christmas party was a success!  I worked on the planning and preparation for several months.  This was our schedule, which needed some adjustment:

11:00 Setup
11:30 Dress-Up Contest
11:45 Scripture Recitation
12:00 Potluck, Music & Slideshow
12:30 Crafts & Games
 1:00 Yo-Yo Competition
 1:30 Cleanup

We advertised in our weekly newsletter (e-mail) and placed a sign-up sheet out the last couple weeks of co-op.  Over 130 people signed up, and almost all made it!  The sign-up sheet included a place to record the main dish and dessert or salad each family planned to bring and whether they wanted to help out in setup, crafts, games, or cleanup.  I emphasized areas we were short-handed as we went along, so that those who signed up later would know where we had the greatest need.  We could have used a few more in crafts, but for the most part, I think it was well balanced.

Greg and I and a few others arrived a half hour before the setup crew, but we were still scrambling to get everything ready!  And that's with very little decorating!  We purchased rolls of red and green plastic to cover the tables quickly.  Two were enough for about 28 long tables.  We covered food, seating, and craft tables.  I brought a separate gold tablecloth for the prize table.

We did spend quite a bit of time on centerpieces over the weeks leading up to the big day.  I found the idea of using canning jars with epson salt for snow and miniature decorations.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find many small vintage-looking objects, although I did get lots of bottlebrush trees!  I used miniature bulbs, presents, drum ornaments, a couple park benches, and sprinkles of glitter.  Greg attached a beaded string to the outside and taped a light to the underside of the lids.  We found the lights in the wedding section at Michaels.  Tweezers are a must for arranging!  These turned out nice, though not as "old-fashiony" as I was hoping.

The dress-up contest required about 35 minutes, but that's because our judge did a superb job of improvising as he interviewed each child.  They were to pick a historic period or character for inspiration, and he asked each one who they were supposed to be.  His extensive acting experience, great sense of humor, and quick wit garnered lots of laughs!  I'll post a pic of Kylen in his costume soon.  :)

For the scripture portion, I asked one of our younger students to recite Luke 2:1-14.  He was finished in under 5 minutes, but it averaged out with the dress-up contest.  Where I really messed up was the potluck.  A half hour might be OK if lines diddn't exist!  15 minutes in, some hadn't even gotten their food yet.  I'd start the party a half hour earlier next time to accommodate line time.

Drink options were ice water, coffee/tea, cider (used up two gallons), and Coke (used up 3 1/2 cases of 24 from Costco).  Greg is addicted to bottled Mexican Coke, and it was his idea.  Several parents said it was a major highlight for their kids, so that was a great call on his part.  Plus, Coke is quite vintage!  Just don't forget a bottle opener.  (Don't worry - we didn't forget.)

Taken at the party!

Crafts and games were alloted one hour, and that was about right.  Clean-up took longer than I anticipated, and we left before it was completed.  I need to find out a more realistic estimation.  I was thinking it would start before games/crafts ended, but we had one game that went long.  In the future we might be able to start cleanup earlier.

One of our members created our co-op's first ever recipe book!  We didn't get as much participation as I hoped, but I thought it was a neat project for her to take on.  They made their debut at the party with an old-fashioned cover!

I'll do separate posts about the crafts and games; otherwise, this is going to get very long!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sanding, Priming, and Texturing

Stairs, handrail, and switchplate areas were covered.  The fumes were noxious!  They needed me to come down and clarify instructions in an area.  I was told we needed to be quick, or I'd get asphyxiated.  Yikes!  The dude spraying looked like a toxic waste worker decked out in his plastic suit and gas mask.  Kylen and I stayed in a bedroom with the door shut, me holding a sheet over my mouth and nose.  I could still smell it.

Rough spots made smooth with a sander and texture sprayed on for the bumpy look.

Next step: painting.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sugar Coated Pecans

These sugar coated pecans are excellent!  Kylen couldn't stay away from them.  I found it at allrecipes.com, one of my favorite recipe sites.  I focus on those with five stars and lots of reviews.  This one has over a thousand!

Took a picture this time!

2 egg whites
1 tsp water
2 tsp vanilla
1 lb pecan halves
1 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250. Grease one baking sheet.  In a mixing bowl, whip together egg white, water, and vanilla until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and cinnamon.  Add pecans to egg whites, stir to coat nuts evenly. Slowly add sugar mixture, stirring after each addition.  Spread nuts out on prepared baking sheet.  Bake 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

Shrimp Dip

I got this recipe from an online homeschooling friend who has company often.  Her recipes are always good!  Wish she had a blog, I'd link to it!

1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 can baby shrimp, drained and rinsed
1 jar cocktail sauce with horseradish (don't need even half, great for doubling recipe)
Shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
Green onions, sliced (optional)
Crackers such as Town House or Ritz

Spread cream cheese on a medium round serving platter or medium plate. Spread a thin layer of cocktail sauce on top.  Scatter baby shrimp, shredded cheese, and green onions. Chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.  If you have lots of big eaters, especially people who like seafood, I recommend making two.  We took one to a crowd of 16 smaller eaters, some of whom don't care for seafood, and had just enough.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Game Night

The second event we attended at Karla's was a Christmas game night.  Everyone brought appetizers  and presents for a white elephant gift exchange.  We made shrimp dip and sugar coated pecans (recipes coming soon!).  For the gift exchange, our offerings were "duck tape" in candy cane stripes, a shoulder buddy, and mini flashlight/laser combo - all items under $5 found at Wal-mart.


After food and gifts, a couple of adults chatted, the kids headed downstairs for video games, and most played Apples to Apples . . .

Everyone had a card but me for a LOoOoONG time, so I finally let Greg take my place.  He was able to nab two, a far cry from the 10 or more some held, but better than nada!  He's wearing his "Lighting Engineer" shirt, which I gave him right before he put up our outside Christmas lights.  How do you like his full beard?  This is a new thing he's trying.  I don't much care for it, but I guess it's a great way to keep his face warm during winter!
We had a fine time and appreciated getting together with such a nice bunch of people.  Much thanks to Karla and her girls for all the work they put into hosting!  =)

Easy Almond Roca

This has become one of our favorite kinds of candy to make.  It's extremely easy, keeps well in the fridge, and tastes wonderful.  I've forgotten what it was originally called.  It reminded me so much of almond roca, I had to rename it!  If I ever get a picture taken, I'll come back and add one.

40   Saltines
1 c  Butter; don't use margarine (2 cubes)
1 c  LIGHT brown sugar; not dark; packed
12 oz Chocolate chips
½ - 1 c  Nuts; chopped, YOUR choice
Line up the saltines on a foil-lined jelly roll pan that makes a bigger rim than the pan. There should be 5 rows of 8.

Melt butter and sugar. Stir often and bring to a full rolling boil for 3 minutes.  Pour over saltines and bake in a 400 oven for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips and wait until they are almost melted, then spread over all the saltines.  Scatter the nuts evenly over the top.  Cool, cover with aluminum foil.

Refrigerate for a few hours then break into pieces.  Store in airtight container in fridge.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Baking Party

My friend Karla hosted not one, but two Christmas events within a week!!  I was blessed to be able to attend both, the first of which was a baking party for the ladies.  I arrived with ingredients for a couple of treats and left with a pan full of goodies and the pleasant feeling of time well spent.

A cookie decorating station kept the girls busy!


This was my paper towel, which no one was to touch.  My paper towel!  MINE!

We took a break to enjoy a tea-themed gift exchange and finger foods.  Laura doesn't really have a mustache here.

Me and Karla in our aprons.  Mine makes me look fat, but I loved wearing it anyway.

I made sugared cranberries (bottom left corner) and Easy Almond Roca (not pictured).

Meanwhile, Greg and Kylen shared quality father-son time eating at one of their favorite restaurants and picking out a guitar strap.  They also enjoyed sampling the fruits of our labors!  :)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mudding and Taping

Smoothing the seams with "mud" and rounding the edges with metal and tape.

Sheetrock Completed

What's happening down there?

Stepping into a whole new world . . .
I don't think I've ever seen Greg so shocked.  He spent about 20 minutes walking around muttering, "Oh wow . . . Oh wow . . ."
That's our air hockey/pool table under plastic.  Kinda hard to move, so they worked around it.  The ceiling and walls were finished in probably 6 hours.
We got the thicker stuff, hoping it will stand up to rough play.

The dark circle is where a light will be installed in the ceiling.

Future switch plate.

Waiting for the next phase: mudding and taping.