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Operation Christmas Child: An Opportunity to Give

What could be better than giving the one gift this Christmas that would bring a smile to child’s face?  In our land of plenty, it’s a joy to know that many children are not just satisfied but elated over one small shoe box filled with small gifts.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse has been sending out shoe boxes packed with gifts to children all over the world since 1993.

If you’ve never been a part of this amazing opportunity, I encourage you to head over the the Samaritan’s Purse website and read all about it.  The packers  (people like you and me) choose whether they will pack a box for a boy or a girl and what age child will receive their box.  This is a great project for children, especially now that Samaritan’s Purse makes it possible for packers to trace their boxes all around the world.

We’ve been packing shoe boxes at our house for quite a few years.  When Justine was here with us, she enjoyed helping to choose gifts for the recipients of our boxes.  We’ve packed boxes for boys and girls,  and we’ve chosen different age groups different years.

Some of our favorite items to include are crayons, pencils, stuffed animals, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and a washcloth.  The website has lots of suggestions and a list of items that are not permitted, too.  I saw lots of great ideas for shoe box gifts on Pinterest, too.

The boxes are collected at churches and other locations during the middle week of November, and that is why I’m blogging about this now.  It’s not too soon to decide to pack a box, choose the gender and age of the recipient, and start shopping!  Samaritan’s Purse also asks for $7 to be included in each shoe box to help cover the cost of shipping the boxes worldwide.

Have you ever packed a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child?  If so, what are some of your favorite items to include?  If you haven’t ever packed a shoe box, then what are you waiting for?

 

 

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An Apple {Bag} for the Teacher

When my oldest granddaughter Ciara got a job as a preschool teacher, she knew she would need a tote bag for carrying all of her teacher supplies. Since she is a teacher at Apple Tree Preschool, an apple theme tote bag was the logical choice.

I was pleased to help out with this because I enjoy making theme bags using novelty fabrics. Ciara had given me free reign with the fabric choice and bag design. Her only stipulations were that it would have apples on it and that it would be large enough to carry her binder and books.

I checked some fabric options online, but I didn’t want to wait for a shipment.  So the next day, I drove to two nearby quilting shops and at my first stop, I found an apple print that I loved!  It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind since I thought I would go with a school/apple theme.  As so often is the case, as soon as I saw this apple fabric, I knew that it was the one that I wanted.

I found two fabrics that coordinated with the apple print, and I was already picturing the tote bag in my mind’s eye. I decided to use my Bow Tucks Tote pattern by Quilts Illustrated, enlarging the bag by a few inches in height and width.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lined the tote with the same apple fabric and made the interior pockets to match the trim.  I took the liberty of adding a few pockets for pens, pencils, and a lip balm.  The zippered pocket is a feature that I like to add to a snap top purse or tote to keep cash, cards, or personal items secure and hidden.

I couldn’t be more proud of my granddaughter Ciara, and I hope that this apple tote bag helps her keep her teaching supplies organized and ready to use.  Wednesday is Ciara’s first day with her pre-school students, and I’m wishing her a wonderful beginning at Apple Tree Preschool.

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Make Ahead Meatloaf

When I was a young wife, I wish that someone had taught me how to maximize my cooking time by making extra meals for the freezer. For that reason, I’m going to show you how to turn six pounds of ground beef into four dinners–one for today and three for the freezer.   In this post I shared some other strategies for getting a head start on dinner, but today I’m going to show you how to do it.

Recently I bought six pounds of ground beef at Sam’s Club.  The ground beef was marked down since it was nearing its “sell by” date, but that doesn’t bother me.  I knew I wanted to make meatloaves, and I was happy to find 90/10 (just 10% fat) ground beef for a reasonable price.  I like the lower fat ground beef for meatloaf.

Meatloaf is a favorite of ours, and I use a recipe that I found on a Quaker Oatmeal box in 1980.   Here it is:

1.5 pounds ground beef                                     

1/4 c. onion, chopped

1 egg

1 cup tomato juice (I use tomato sauce)

3/4 cup quick oats

1 TB salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.  Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Since I had six pounds of ground beef, I simply mulitiplied all of the ingredients by four. (I love it when it works out like that.  Math skills are not my strong suit!) I used a clean dish pan to mix this very large meatloaf.

The worst part about making meatloaf is mixing it with your hands.  That’s exactly why I prefer to make more than one meatloaf at a time.  Why go through all of this just for one meal when you can make four meals at once?

When it’s thoroughly mixed, I use a spatula to flatten it out in the dishpan so that I can divide it into four equal portions.

Once you have the meatloaf divided, you can wrap the four meatloaves in plastic wrap or put them into plastic storage bags.

I like to divide each of the four meatloaves in half since smaller meatloaves cook faster.  When I was making this batch, I wrapped up three meals for the freezer, and put two of the small meatloaves in a pan to cook for our meal that day.

You can see that my meatloaves are not exactly the same size.  That’s okay.  I’m not a perfectionist, so I can deal with this. 😉

After bagging the meatloaves in the plastic storage bags and securing with twist ties, I put them in Ziploc Freezer bags before putting them in the freezer.

If freezer space is an issue for you, you can flatten the meatloaves out and freeze them flat.  You can reshape them into loaf form when you thaw them.

The meatloaves that you see here will give us eight meals since I’m feeding just two people.   I love the pay off that comes from this kind of preparation.   It took me about the same amount of time to prepare eight meals as it would have to prepare one meal.  Granted, the bagging up takes a little time, but not nearly as much time as the food prep.

When we want to have meatloaf again in a few weeks, I will thaw the frozen meatloaf in the fridge and then bake according to the directions on the recipe. Meal prep doesn’t get much simpler than that!

What are your favorite make ahead meals?

 

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Snake on the Table!

 It was a normal Sunday like any other.  Grandpa and I arrived home from church,  and I went out back to light the gas grill.  I was at the grill with my lighter, when I discovered that I was not alone on the porch.  This charming fella was watching me from the table ….

The snake was lying so still and had such a plastic appearance that I was totally convinced it was fake.  In my mind, I was already compiling a list of people who might have come to our house to plant the fake snake on our table while we were out. 

When I got inside, I yelled for Grandpa, and he, too, thought it was fake.  I decided I’d better make sure, so I threw a Sharpie marker at the snake.  No movement.

I threw a piece of mail at it.  No movement.  Yup, it’s a fake one.  I’m planning what I will do to my nephew(s) who were probably laughing about this practical joke. 

In one last ditch effort, I slid my broom across the table at the snake.  FANGS!  How clever my nephews are!  They found a battery operated fake snake to place on our table while we were at church.  Creeps!

Just then, the snake turned its head and looked at me.  It was not a battery operated fake snake.  It was a real live black snake.  It was on the table on my back porch.  It was twelve inches away from our grill.  It was six feet away from our doggie door which would allow him access to the INSIDE of our home!!!!

I immediately closed the back door and called for help.  Grandpa is a courageous man, but he doesn’t really like snakes.  So I called my nephew who lives nearby. 

This is the same nephew I suspected of planting the “fake” snake, but he didn’t know that.  By the time he arrived, the snake was not as friendly as he was at first.  He had coiled himself on the table, and his fangs were working overtime.

 Josh used the broom handle to pin down his head, and then he was able to pick him up with gloved hands.  Josh has lots of experience with handling black snakes, and it’s handy having him around.  Grandpa was certainly relieved not to have to deal with our guest!

Here’s Josh, our hero, ready to transfer the snake from our porch to the woods where he will be free to help with pest control.

I still feel kind of shivery when I think that the snake could have slithered through our doggie door into the dining room.  I don’t even want to think about what it would have been like to see a snake on the dining room table!

For now, we’re keeping the doggie door closed, and we’ve got Josh’s number on speed dial!

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A Perfect Summer Day

Last Monday, I spent the day with some family members at Greenwood Furnace State Park , and I remarked to my sister that it was a perfect summer day.

What made it perfect for me?

1. Special people  

Two of my sisters and their grandchildren met me at the park, and I had my new granddaughter Aaliyah with me for the day.  The kids loved getting to meet Aaliyah, and we all had a good time together talking, walking, and picnicking.

2. Gorgeous weather and scenery

The sun was shining, a breeze was blowing, and the temperature was in the seventies.  I love this kind of weather!  It was just barely warm enough for kids to swim in the notoriously cold water at Greenwood.  The cooler temps were perfect for pushing a baby stroller or sitting on a lawn chair.

According to one official website, Greenwood Furnace State Park  “is an area of rugged beauty, abundant wildlife, breathtaking vistas and peaceful solitude.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

3.  Freedom from hurry

While Aaliyah napped in her stroller and the other kids played in the sand, my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful lake and the peaceful feeling of being outside on a summer day with nothing more to do than keep an eye on the kids and to make sure the baby’s bare feet were covered up.

 

This was a day I would love to repeat again and again this summer.  But have you ever noticed how perfect days can never be reproduced no matter how hard we try?

I believe that days like this one are gifts to us from God.  A perfect day isn’t something we can engineer with plans and preparations.  It’s something we receive when we step away from screens and lists and expectations.

Lord, I thank You for this perfect summer day.  Help me to slow down on days like this and enjoy the moments that You will miraculously turn into memories.

What is your idea of a perfect summer day?

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Smocked Baby Bishop for Summer

When it comes to dressing up your baby, a smocked bishop can’t be beat!  You’ll have to agree after seeing this sweet little girl in her yellow floral print bishop.

The term “bishop” refers to this particular style–a round yoke that is smocked the whole way around the neck of the dress.  This is the best style for a small baby, and it is the only style of smocked dress that I have made so far for Aaliyah.

 

For this particular bishop, I used a 100% cotton floral print from the Moda fabric company.

 

Here’s a closeup of the smocking.  I was all set to smock this dress in yellow when my sister advised me to smock it in blue so that the stitches would show up better.  I’m glad I took her advice!  I like the blue smocking on this dress.  This photo was taken before I added the tiny white flowers in between the second and fourth rows of smocking.

I used a geometric smocking design based on the smocking plate “Kayla” by Terry Jane Collins.

This happy baby girl looks so beautiful in this little yellow dress!

 

 

 

 

I can’t resist showing you one more photo of her in her smocked baby bishop.  These portraits were taken by and posted with permission from Stacie Miller Portrait Design.

If you have a special little lady in your life who needs a handsmocked dress, you can contact me for more information on my custom-made handsmocked children’s wear.

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The Gourmet Termite

During our Sunday evening small group meetings, we’ve had the pleasure to get reacquainted with a couple from our church whom we’ve known for a long time.  Mr. and Mrs. White  are two of the most interesting people I know.   They own and operate a sign carving business, and they do most of their business at flea markets and craft shows around the country.

This past Sunday night, everyone in our group was treated to a tour of their center of operation, and it was parked in our driveway.

Mr. White, the Gourmet Termite himself, travels with his own workspace in the back of a mini van.  This may sound like a redneck operation, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve got to tell you that I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with someone’s ingenuity, creativity, and craftsmanship.

Sample signs hang from the inside roof of the van with spotlights lighting them up for passersby.  Neatly stacked signs of all shapes and sizes await personalization.  The van is equipped with a sound system so that customers can listen to music playing while they wait for their signs to be carved.  It’s not a long wait though, since the Gourmet Termite can complete a custom carved sign from start to finish in three minutes.

 

A slide out working surface provides the Termite a place to sit down while he carves.  Every necessary piece is right at his fingertips, and the foot pedal that powers his carving tool allows him to start and stop without wasted movement.

Where did he ever find such a workspace?  He built it himself!  Mr. W. told us that it took him one year to custom design the van that would carry them back and forth to Florida each winter and around to all the craft shows and flea markets in Pennsylvania in the summer months.

Mr. and Mrs. White are now at an age when many of their peers are retiring, but they seem to have no plans to retire.  What keeps them going?  Their mission.

Oddly, their mission is not just to sell signs.  Their mission is to reach their customers and other people they meet with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This elaborately engineered custom designed van is obviously the  work of a genius craftsman, but it is just a tool to take them to places where they can meet people who may not know that Jesus loves them and died for them.

Mr. and Mrs. W. love to talk to people they meet in their travels, and they like to give out a free gift of scissors and a flyer to each one who comes by their business stand.

I salute them in their dedication to the Lord and consider myself blesssed to know them.  They’ve had many interesting adventures and have lots of great stories to tell!  What a pleasure to be a part of their lives again for these past six weeks.

Have you met any interesting people lately?  If so, what have you learned from them?

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A Morbid But Necessary Word to Parents

If you are the parent of a dependent child or children, you have a responsibility that most parents don’t like to think about.  That responsibility is to make a decision about who will finish the job of raising your children in the unlikely event that you are unable to do so.

Nobody likes to think about dying, and some of us fear that talking about tragedies increases the likelihood of their occurrence.  Of course, that isn’t true, but it’s still no fun to think about unpleasant events.  If you have never thought about or discussed with your spouse or family  the matter of who will raise your children if you can’t, you need to set aside some time to do just that.

Some believe that without a Last Will and Testament, upon their death, their children would be made wards of the state and would be placed in foster care.  After doing a bit of research for this post, I can tell you that in most cases, that does not happen.  If both parents precede a child or children in death, usually the dependent children are turned over to a family member.   The only problem is that the parents who are gone will have no input as to which family member fills their parental role.

I urge all parents to, first of all, think about which family members or friends you would want to serve as your children’s guardians if you were not here.  Things to consider are age, health, and values of those you might be considering.  It’s vital that you ask permission of the person or persons you want to name as potential guardians.  It would be best to consult an attorney to verify the laws in your state and to make sure that your wishes will be carried out in regard to your children’s future.

The odds are that you will safely see your children through to adulthood, but this is one case where you don’t want to depend on the odds.

Please stay tuned to My Grandma Knows.  I promise that my next post will be lighthearted and happy!

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When Mother’s Day Wasn’t Happy

I used to dread Mother’s Day.  That was the day we went to church and all of the moms were asked to stand up and be recognized during church.  Some years the moms even got a carnation.  It was a lovely gesture for all the moms in attendance, and I’m positive that the person who thought up the idea of recognizing moms in church with applause and flowers never intended to hurt anyone.

There were, however,  a decade of Mother’s Days when I had to summon all the control I could muster to keep from crying when the carnation-bearing ushers passed me by.  It’s hard not to be a mom on Mother’s Day especially when you really want to be a mom.

This perpetual longing for a child eventually led me to a crisis of faith. I had a choice to make.  I could either become increasingly bitter over the fact that God was denying my wish for a child, or I could cling to what I know to be true about God.  That is that He loves me, knows what is best for me, and makes no mistakes.  I chose truth.  I chose to accept with gratitude all of the blessings that God showered on me, even when  one of those “blessings” was childlessness.

Now that I’m a grandma, having skipped the child-bearing that usually accompanies that distinction, I can look back on those years and see that God had a plan for me.  I just didn’t know it yet.  He knew that a certain ten year old girl was going to be needing a haven for a year (or eleven) in the near future, and that haven was to be our home.

I think about what I would have missed if I’d have had a baby when I’d wanted one so badly.  I’d have missed watching that certain little girl grow up to be a lovely young woman.  A girl who isn’t my daughter, but a girl who perfectly fills the longing that I had to be a mother.  Who but God could do that?

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate and honor mothers, and that is a wonderful thing.  It’s also a time for me to look back and remember that God can fill any longing of my heart, and He can do it in ways that I would never imagine.

 

 

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An Appliqued Sundress for My Favorite Baby Girl

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done any applique work, but what better reason to brush up on applique skills than a new baby granddaughter? 

For the past few months, I’ve been collecting patterns and fabric that would be suitable for baby girl dresses.  Today was the day to let the sewing begin!

 

I started off with three small cuts of coordinating fabric and one New Look pattern.

These fabrics are 100% cotton coordinates from Riley Blake. I had one yard of the dark pink floral, but just one quarter yard of each of the other two.  I had to do some real maneuvering to get all of the pieces out of those quarter yard cuts even though I was making the dress in the newborn size.

 

 

The pattern I chose was New Look 6793.  I paid $2.49 for the pattern.  When I buy an expensive pattern, I always trace the smaller sizes onto tissue paper.  I didn’t do that this time.

This pattern was very quick and easy to put together.  I’m sure that without the applique and some piecing that I had to do because I didn’t have enough fabric, I could have completed the sundress in under an hour.  This took me just over two hours to complete.

The flower applique pattern was included in the pattern.  I like the way the shape of the applique matches the shape of some of the flowers in the fabric.

I am fairly certain that I will be doing more applique in the next few years, so I will have to continue to brush up on my techniques. 

 

Overall, I’m very pleased with this little sundress.  I hope Aaliyah likes it!