Celebrating Ground Hog’s Day

Groundhog’s Day is always on February 2nd. The official groundhog is called Punxsutawney Phil because he lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in a burrow on Gobblers Knob.     According to legend, carried from Germany by early settlers, if the day is bright and sunny and Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of wintery weather. If the day is overcast and he does not see his shadow, the weather will begin to warm for an early spring.   The customs and stories make it a fun day to celebrate with kids.

Kidzone.com has a little Itsy Bitsy Book about Groundhog’s Day for younger kids to color and for adults to help assemble.  You can find the link to print it here.    Easy to follow directions are found here.



Make this sandwich with dark  wheat bread, peanut butter and jelly, a banana, a dark grape , and edible grass, such as shredded lettuce or tinted coconut.  Kitchen Fun With My Sons has  complete directions for this clever    Ground Hog lunch.

First little groundhog digs a home in the fall,
And curls up all winter rolled up like a ball.
Second little groundhog comes out of his lair,
On February second to get some fresh air.. .
To see the rest of this song and find  templates and suggestions to make groundhog figures to go along with it, go to DLTK kids.

A cute ground hog made from a fun sized candy bar perched atop a chocolate cupcake surrounded by  frosting.  Sweetology has how to directions and links to the inspiration along with cute photos of her adaptations.

Happy Ground Hog Day — sunny or cloudy!

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Get Well Bag

Get Well Bag with gifts for someone in hospital or under the weather -- A Pinch of Joy

Bag packed with small comfort items for someone who is ill

Last fall,  I mentioned my sister Vee had surgery and a few weeks recuperation.  Having gone through that a couple of times myself, I’ve been surprised and pleased by the thoughtful little gifts people would bring when they visited.   Hand sanitizer when you can’t jump up and head for the sink, a lidded water bottle that is easier to handle than a hospital glass and straw, eyeglass cleaner when the glasses are gunked up from being put on and off a dozen times.    When you are stuck in a hospital room little things can mean a lot.    Or perhaps someone is under the weather and not quite mobile enough to get the little things needed for comfort.  A Get Well Bag takes care of  those problems!

You can make your Get Well Bag as big or as small as you like.  I purchased a vinyl tote bag (because I liked the matching note book and other accessories!) from Michael’s.    Here is a printable list of some things to put in a Get Well Bag.  Or just pick one or two to add to a card.  However you do it, your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.  The markers were included in the photo because I knew Vee would have little visitors – then they would not fit in the box for mailing – sorry!

Ruana and Hot Cold Rice Bag Vee also received the ruana from this post and the hot cold rice bag from this post.   Several people told me the ruanas were ideal for hospital or nursing home use.  Not only because they keep the shoulders warm and the back covered, but they are loose so they don’t get in the way of medical procedures.

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Hot or cold pack rice bag – a tutorial

Hot or Cold Pack Rice Bag - A Pinch of Joy

Hot or Cold Pack Rice Bag - A Pinch of Joy

Do you ever wonder about the ideas that change our life?  Who was the first person to put rice in a fabric container and how did they come up with the idea to heat it?  Who  found that the same rice bag placed in a freezer would become cold enough to provide therapeutic value?  Did they start out with those goals in mind?  Or was it some happy accident?  However it happened, I am certainly glad it did!  I have half a dozen different types of rice bags that I rotate all winter long.  Great for warming cold toes, taking the chill off the bed, keeping warm company while reading, soothing aches. (I did mention that I am cold blooded and live where the winters are cold!)  Bytes friend even uses one to warm her car seat while she scrapes the windshield!

When my sister came home from the hospital following surgery, a new gifty rice bag was waiting for her.  The one pictured above, in fact!  Both ice for therapy and keeping warm while inactive were on her agenda.  She needed to cover a large area of her petite self.  She also needed a way to keep the “load” balanced so the heat or cold was even as well as the weight of the bag.  And I wanted her to have a fleece cover that could be washed easily and that would help maintain the temperature, hot or cold.

Make your own extra large rice bag with cover – for gifting or for yourself!

You will need:

1. Tightly woven fabric – about 18 inches by  11.  A fat quarter, used by quilters, is ideal.  It comes in a rainbow of color and patterns.  The dimensions are 18” x 22”  so you can get two extra large rice bags from each quarter.
2. Rice – buy the cheapest.  I used two pounds of rice to make the extra large bag. The amount needed will vary, depending on how tightly you fill the bags.
3. Optional cover:  Fleece remnant about 9 inches by 25 inches and, if desired, trim about 10 inches long.

Large hot or cold pack rice bag Do this to make rice bag:

1. Fold fabric in half, matching right side to right side.
2. Beginning at fold, stitch one long edge, turn the corner and stitch across the end, using 5/8 inch seam allowance.
3. Turn the corner and on the remaining long edge, stitch only 2 inches toward the center.  Back stitch to lock and cut thread.
 4. Begin at fold on the opposite corner of the same long edge and stitch about 2 inches toward the center.  Back stitch to lock and cut thread.
5. Turn so right side of fabric is out and the seams are inside.  Use point of scissors, if necessary to push corners out so they are square.  You will have an opening about 7 inches long.
6.Next create channels to hold the rice in place.  Hold bag with the open edge on top and fold in half.  Mark fold with pins or chalk.
7. Begin at the closed edge of the bag, backstitching to lock thread, and stitch along  marks.  STOP one inch from open edge and backstitch.   Yes, the picture does show the channel stitching running parallel to the open edge.  But follow the written directions and make the stitching at right angles to the open edge.   I came up with this technique for later versions and the way the instructions are written works much better.  I left the picture because it shows how the rice is contained and controlled by the stitching.
8. Trim all loose threads, press if needed.  This gives a more polished look and makes the bag easier to handle for finishing.  But – ahem—skip it if your iron hasn’t seen the light of day for months or is nonexistent.
9. Fill each channel between two thirds and three fourths full, using the opening.  If it is difficult to get the rice to go where you want, create a funnel by rolling a piece of paper into an open ended cone and putting the small end into the rice bag.
10. This is the tricky part!  Keep rice bag on the table for this.  You can either lay it flat or stand it on the closed end.  Some bags work best one way; others work better the other. Tuck edges into the opening the width of the seam allowance which is 5/8 inch,  taking care to keep the folded over fabric even.  Pin as you go, spacing pins fairly close together to keep rice in the bag.  Then stitch to close opening – I don’t have any happy tips to offer, except do the best you can to keep the rice pushed back.  Just go for it!  Closing the opening by hand stitching is also an option, if you prefer.

To use as cold pack:  Place rice bag in a tightly closed freezer bag and keep in freezer until needed.  Rice bag will mold to the body providing cold to relieve inflammation and swelling.  The bag will hold the cold for the twenty minutes often prescribed and, depending on its size, even longer.

To use as hot pack:  Place in microwave and heat on high in 30 second intervals.   BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERHEAT!  Two minutes in my microwave will let me comfortably place the rice bag on skin and provide effective heat. However, that may not be true for your microwave.  Also,  the time needed to heat the rice to a comfortable and effective temperature will vary according to the size of the rice bag.  Experiment with your new rice bag and your specific microwave to find the optimum time necessary to provide you with comfortable heat. (I prefer placing my rice bags on a plate or paper towel to protect them from any food particles that may hide in the microwave.  See Do Not Try This at Home.)

To make the cover shown at top of post:

1. Lay fleece with 9 inch width across bottom.  Fold bottom up about 11 inches.  Stitch both sides closed and turn so seams are inside.  Press with your hand so cover lays flat.
2. Lay cover with opening at top.  The remaining three inches will form the flap when  folded at the end of the stitched edges.
3. The top side of the flap when folded is where the trim goes.  Pin into place and then stitch down the middle for narrow trim or on both sides for wider trim.
4. Done!  Since the fleece tends to cling to itself, I didn’t think this one needed a fastener.  You can add one if you choose.

Hot cold pack rice bag with cover and poem for gift I added the card with an “original” poem and tucked this into Vee’s package with the ruana I also made for her.  If you’d like a copy of the poem – which you are welcome to change any way you choose! —  Right Click here and choose “save link as”.

You can find three more versions of the rice bag.  There are heart shaped hand warmers, a big wrap around your arm (or leg) version and a version with channels to keep the rice from bunching up in one spot.

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