Monday, July 29, 2013

A fun special day...or any day...project for kids (and adults)

by RobinsFlight

It seems the birthday party competition is on.  Anymore, Happy Meals and orange drink at the local McDonalds play area doesn't even cut it.  It's the inflatables party, the gymnastics party, the trampoline party.  But I'm a fan of home birthday parties.  You know, the kids come to the house, they play hide and seek in the closets and Legos in the family room, you fill them with pizza and cake and ice cream, they watch the birthday child open presents, and then you send them home.  But no birthday party is quite complete without some sort of craft or game, right?

And so as my daughter's last birthday approached, I scoured the web for some interesting, not too messy, but not too boring kids crafts that would keep a few elementary age kids interested.  And I found a definite winner: do-it-yourself scratch off bookmarks.

This craft does need a little prep, so it might not quite be one of those spur of the moment things.  But it's a lot of fun, and with a little supervision kids from preschool age and up can do this.  It's a two step process- great to start, say, before lunch, and then complete after you've finished eating.

What you need:
patterned cardstock, cut into strips the size of a bookmark (I used 2" x 8")
clear Contact paper, cut 1" larger than the cardstock (3" x 9")
acrylic paint of the desired color(s)
dish soap
paintbrush or foam brush
bamboo skewer, sharpened pencil, or chopstick
polyurethane or hairspray

What to do:
1. Cover the patterned side of the cardstock with the Contact paper and fold over the edges.  I found that it helped to put a second piece of Contact paper, cut slightly smaller than the cardstock, on the back side to help keep the edges from peeling.  This is also a great time to write your name or put a to/from message on the back.

 2. Mix 2 parts paint to 1 part dish soap.  Paint over the patterned side of the bookmark.  Let dry- it could take up to an hour for the paint to dry completely.  Lunch time!


3. Using the skewer, pencil or chopstick (or another semi-pointed object), gently scratch off the paint to create designs.  This is best done on a paper plate or over newpaper, as you get paint pieces all over.


4. Once your design is complete, cover with a light coat of polyurethane or spray well with hairspray.  This will prevent more of the paint from accidentally being scratched off.

5. Mark you place in your favorite book with your new bookmark!

This technique could be used for so many other things also!  Anything you can cover with contact paper can be painted and a design scratched off.  Use it to make chore or prize lottery cards, create a custom picture frame or photo mat, or a personalized greeting card.  The possibilities are endless!

Monday, July 22, 2013



I love my stainless steel refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher. I do not like cleaning them. No matter what I use I end up with streaks. I have tried many expensive cleaning products, but I end up with the same results – streaks.

I have finally found a great way to clean them without going out and buying another product.
Here’s what you need:
2 soft cleaning cloths, I used microfiber cloths
Small amount of dishwashing detergent
Paper towels
Small amount of olive oil or vegetable oil

1. You will need to clean your appliance first. Using one of your soft cloths and dish detergent, wet your cloth, apply a small amount of detergent and rub your appliance. Always wipe in the direction of the grain.
2. Rinse your cloth out well, and wipe down the appliance, making sure you get rid of all the soap.
3. Take your other dry cloth and wipe off all the water.
4. Now take a few paper towels and apply a small amount of oil to the towels. You only need about the size of a quarter. Again, rubbing in the direction of the grain, rub the oil into the appliance.
5. Now take your soft dry cloth again and give the whole thing a good buffing. This takes a little bit of muscle, but it is worth the work. I found it best to use your palm flat against the towel and the appliance, and try to apply even pressure throughout this process.
6. Stand back and look at how shiny and streak free it is. This shine lasts for quite a while and the oil seems to repel some of those finger prints and streaks. I usually buff it again the following week – no need to do the whole cleaning procedure. Depending on how many little fingers you have in your house will depend on how often you need to clean it this way.

This works for all stainless steel appliances.
Happy cleaning :)

Monday, July 15, 2013


     "You should read this book; I'm sure you'll love it!" 
     Whenever I hear these words, the inner child in me comes to the forefront, folds her arms and stamps her foot.  "No, I don't want to read your stupid book!  How do YOU know I'll love it?  This feels like a school assignment."  Of course I don't say that out loud, but politely accept the proffered tome and put it on the table in my house where all incoming items seem to land.  With the passing days the book is slowly covered with a snow-like drift of mail, until the mail is sorted and the irritating book rediscovered. 
     "Have you read the book yet?" asks the one who loaned it.
     "Not yet, I've been SO busy."
     "I'm sure you'll love it."
     "You can have it back if someone else asked to read it."
     "No hurry."
     I move the book to a less frequently glanced upon spot; a shelf in the hutch on which the microwave sits.  Dust gathers on the book, since it is a less frequently dusted spot as well. 
     Eventually, the owner of the book tires of asking me whether I've read it.  I wonder how to give the darn thing back without having to admit I never even glanced at the first page.  Grudgingly, I open the book and read the first sentence, "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person."  Humm, not too bad.  I read a little more.  And a bit more.  That is how I came to read Back When We Were Grownups, by Anne Tyler.  (Yes, I did love it).

     I don't love every book suggested to me; that's why I don't like to push books on other people.  But I will mention a few books (besides the aforementioned title), which I have enjoyed and feel provide a good read. 

     The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, was first published nearly 26 years ago, and became a best seller.  The story centers around the character Penelope Keeling, who at age 64, recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life in Cornwall and London during World War II.

     Published in 1988, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, is now a standard in many college literature classes.  The spirited protagonist, Taylor Greer, escapes poverty in rural Kentucky.  While traveling West, she unexpectedly finds herself the guardian of a little girl.  The book explores the themes of love and friendship, abandonment and belonging.  Taylor's saga continues in the sequel, Pigs In Heaven. 

     Finally, there is Love For Lydia by H.E. Bates.  This novel was first published in 1952, and much later was the source of a Masterpiece Theatre series.  The focus of the story is Lydia, an orphaned English heiress growing up in the turbulent 1920's.

Happy reading!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Thank you Connecticut Construction!

This week we welcome a guest blogger, a member of the Friends of HHU team, etsy shop KPTography.

Last week my mom and I came back from our annual mother/daughter trip. Instead of going south we went north so I could see the Vanderbilt mansions in Newport. Our drive was an uneventful one until we got into Connecticut. I do believe the entire state is under construction but because of that I got to make one fabulous stop. I stopped at a rest area because I needed to stretch my legs a bit and they had the most intriguing little shop within the area. I bought some postcards and a little Yankee’s man and happily went to the check out counter. It was there that I spotted it. It was lying on the counter, all colorful and glossy. It was an advertisement for the Pez Visitor Center or as I affectionately call it Pez World. I picked up the advertisement and couldn’t believe my eyes. 3,000 sq feet of Pez! Mom looked at it and said that it was right down the road from a planned stop and asked if I wanted to go. Since I was driving that was pretty much a given. I could barely contain my excitement as we pulled into the parking lot. I opened my car door and took a deep breath and there it was. The wonderful smell of Pez (the same kind you get when you open the package). When you walk into the entrance you notice several things, the bright, colors, the wall of 750 Pez dispensers and overhead the Orange County Chopper Pez bike. My experience got even better. I had coupons (oh yes, I had coupons for admission) and with the price of admission you get two things, another coupon for money off your purchase and a lanyard with a huge piece of cardboard Pez that you get to keep. I will be sporting that next year at school!

When you walk in it is Pez overload. There is Pez trivia, thousands of Pez dispensers from all different years. Mom was astonished to see that one Pez dispenser sold for $3,000. They have several of the old Pez making machines on display along with a view of the workroom. They were packaging Halloween dispensers that day. I also learned that it takes 3,000 lbs of pressure to produce one piece of Pez. It’s the diamond of the candy world! It’s hard to say what my favorite part was. Was it the different dispensers, was it the wall of Star Wars dispensers, or was it the bucket you could buy for $4.99 and fill it with your favorite flavors. I was proud of myself for not buying the Lord of the Rings set but I did buy my mom’s godson a Boston Red Socks one (being a Yankee’s fan that took a lot out of me).

One either likes Pez or doesn’t but for me it’s the memories. I used to get a Pez dispenser every year in my Christmas stocking and this was like Christmas in June. What was made it even more special was I got to spend the time with my mom. My wonderful mother who had to put up with the massive sugar high I had from enjoying some of my bucket of Pez that very evening. Thanks Mom! I think we should go back next year!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Fantastic Dog Show with a Surprise Ending!

by Nancy of PuttinOnTheDogDesigns

For the past few years I have been in a love affair with Chinese Crested dogs! This unique and lovable breed isn’t the first choice of many folks. Chinese Cresteds come in both hairless and powder puff varieties. Most people, if they know anything about hairless dogs, have seen the entries in Ugliest Dog Contests! Not only are the hairless dogs sort of weird, ones who win those contests usually have very poor teeth and their tongues hang out! But those are dogs that have not been bred to bring out the best features of the breed. The dogs I have been around have very good features and to me they one of the most beautiful breeds. 

I was introduced to Cresteds by my friend Terry who has had a number of show dogs and puppies. When I was looking for a home business that I could do, Terry suggested I make dog clothes! Hairless cresteds often need jammies or coats to keep them warm. To make a long story short, I started Puttin on the Dog Designs in October 2009 and thinking that I could make clothes for Chinese Cresteds. The business and my products have evolved over the years to include embroidered items, but I still have specialty items for Chinese Cresteds.

The American Chinese Crested Club Nationals are usually held in mid-May in Oklahoma City. This year was the fourth show I have attended as a vendor. While other years there were 30-60 dogs entered, this was a bumper year with 160 entries. People from all over the country attended, and there were several international entries. It was a great opportunity to sell some specialty crested products. Terry, who also started doing embroidery, and I started months ahead to come up with some items that would appeal to crested owners. Fortunately, that preparation paid off! And, some rather last-minute options turned out to be great too!
Our newest designs were Free Standing Lace ornaments of a hairless and powder puff crested. These ornaments are embroidered “in the hoop” which means they are stitched out on hooped water soluble stabilizer. When the design is finished, it is removed from the hoop and the stabilizer is rinsed out. What remains is a design that has satin stitch around the edge and both sides are finished. Our powder puff designs were done by two crested owners, and custom-digitized, so they were unique to our shop.

Another friend drew an exquisite crested head that fit nicely on a pillow top or t-shirt. The t-shirts were a big hit and I took orders for personal sizes and colors of t-shirts and then embroidered them at the show. This was the first time I took my embroidery machine to the show and it was a definite benefit to be able to embroider items on site.

Personalized bone key fobs, card key fobs, fleece bones with squeakers, and fleece hedgehog squeaker toys were other popular items. 

 Pea pod beds, shaped like a pea pods, great for hairless crested who love to snuggle, were also very popular.

Dog show people have a culture all their own and crested folks are no exception. There are enough drama queens, both breeders and dogs, to do a soap opera cast proud. Competition is hot as each winner’s features and behaviors are dissected to fine points. Judges are either highly criticized or lavishly praised, depending of course on whether one’s dog won or lost. This goes on quietly around the ring and expands, sometimes loudly, over drinks and around dinner tables. One drawback of being a vendor is not being able to see any of the dogs in the ring, and I have never caught on to the show alphabet soup of all the designations of winners like WB, BOS, BOB, etc. And while most of those who are showing dogs know their competitor dogs by sight, I must admit that seeing over 100 dogs in one place, they soon all look alike!

The show ran from Wednesday through Sunday, and with all the late nights I had doing on-site t-shirt orders, I was ready to fly home Monday afternoon. Several nights of the week we had severe thunderstorms and a couple of those nights there were tornadoes warnings for the area. Since that was sort of the norm, I was surprised when a very severe thunderstorm with high winds and hail the size of golf balls hit in the early afternoon.

A couple friends and I were delayed going to the airport because of the storm, but when it calmed down a little, we headed in the shuttle to the airport. Arriving at the departure level, we saw car after car parked along the sidewalk with no drivers inside. An airport police officer came up to us and told the driver we weren’t cleared to be there! A tornado had been sighted within several miles of the airport and everyone in and around the airport had been evacuated to the tunnels under the airport. That tornado was the one that devastated the town of Moore, OK and a 17-mile swath around it. We were within a couple miles of the touchdown areas!

Within several minutes we were allowed to enter the airport and people were streaming from the tunnels trying to get on with their travels. Security lines were jammed with people desperate to get out of the city as soon as possible. It was still storming and people were glued to the TVs in the airport which were giving reports of local damage. It was surreal! I was beginning to think I would never get home. My flight went to St. Louis before going to Orlando and the same wall of storms that hit OK went as far north as St. Louis. I could see myself either stuck in Oklahoma or St. Louis overnight.

After over an hour of waiting, planes were at last allowed to land and our flight was one of the first ones to leave Oklahoma. After a very bumpy take-off we actually got to St. Louis in time to board the delayed flight to Orlando. I was so relieved to arrive home!

I will remember this year’s show because of the success of my booth, but also the surprise ending to this fantastic trip.