BOOM! Happy Birthday, America! Happy Birthday, Granddaughters!


Well, the Fourth of July was certainly interesting. We left Massachusetts early that morning to head back to North Carolina, knowing it was going to be a looooong day of driving. Our daughter, Katie, was still with us on this leg of Jain and Sofia's vacation, so we took advantage of having a third driver and made the trip back home all in one day.

As we were nearing home, it got dark enough for communities to start their holiday festivities. And, as I'd hoped, we began to see fireworks going off all around us. The girls were delighted as we drove by and saw not one or two displays, but several explosions in many different directions lighting up the sky!

The fireworks inspired us the next day to create our tie-dyed explosion t-shirts. Decorating t-shirts has been a tradition for several summers now, and this year proved to be one of the most fun times ever! If you haven't tried this craft yet, I highly recommend it. Here's what you need and the how-to, including a YouTube video I liked best. Please watch the video if my directions don't make sense. It explains everything except preserving the color with vinegar. Go to

Items: 100% cotton t-shirts (preferably white), t-shirt cardboard, 94% rubbing alcohol, eye droppers, regular —not fine-tipped — Sharpies (as many colors as you desire except black), one fine-tipped black Sharpie for outlining designs (if desired)

How-to: Insert cardboard inside t-shirt so marker ink won't bleed through to the back side of the shirt. Make small designs (asterisks and 5- or 6-dot "flowers" worked best for us) on the front of the shirt with two or three different colors of marker. Drop rubbing alcohol from an eye dropper in the center of your design — the shirt will absorb the liquid and allow the design to spread out. Be careful, though. If you want your design to stay small, don't drop too much rubbing alcohol on it. The more you add, the larger the design will be. After you've completed your shirt, spray it with white vinegar to set the colors. Then wash in cold water; otherwise, the colors will fade when the shirts are laundered. We didn't know this until after we'd washed them once, and now they are quite faded. Live and learn.

You can see in the photos how our designs turned out. The girls really got into this project and made one for their mama, too. We plan to make these shirts again next summer. So knowing they'll want to make more than one or two shirts each, I am gonna have to stock up! Jain made a really cool design on a light-color shirt that looks like a floral necklace going around the collar. If you don't want to wear a white t-shirt, color ones will work. Just be sure they are light colors so the ink from the Sharpies shows up well. All t-shirts, no matter what color, should be 100% cotton, since they accept the ink and rubbing alcohol best. Cotton blends just don't work as well.

I followed the video's suggestion on one of my shirts and outlined the designs with a fine-tipped black Sharpie. And, WOW, that really made the design pop!

Our new method of tie-dying came in handy a few days later. Our girls have quite an eclectic taste in music, the 1960s being among their very favorite. Often we will have a combined birthday party for Jain and Sofia while they're here, and I thought it would be a blast to have a '60s-themed event this year. Peace signs, smiley faces and groovy signs decorated the party room and we all wore our new far out t-shirts! Jain, Sofia, family and friends enjoyed trying out some 1960s dance moves, playing Twister, hula hooping, making peace sign necklaces and testing their historical knowledge of the era against the adults with a trivia quiz I dubbed "Are You Smarter Than a Hippie?" The girls (ages 9-13) guessed a lot and knew more than I thought they would, but the adults won.

I think the most fun we all had was with my long-haired Halloween wig. To the dulcet tones of "Hair" and "Aquarius," each of the girls (and Grampy, to the girls' delight!) took a turn wearing the wig and having everyone else create a hippy look with the items provided: scarf, beads, ribbons, daisies and other flowers, feathers, and even a bird's nest. Why not, eh? As the song says, his hair was "a home for the birds and the buzzing bees!" Needless to say, their coiffures were more of a hilarious hot mess than a true hippy look. Ummm, on second thought, maybe not. Hippies weren't exactly neat and tidy most of the time.

Great fun and memory-filled times with family and friends! And we can't wait to see how we celebrate their birthdays next summer!