Friday, June 23, 2017

Keeping Track of My Ideas

People ask me all the time if I'll ever run out of craft ideas. No. I will not. I will never make one thousandth of the crafts I dream up. Hundreds of ideas pop in my head at all times. Sometimes, I jot them down. Most of the time, I don't.

I make it a point to always have paper with me though, in case I need to sketch out an especially good idea before I forget it. This is why you'll often see me with an open notebook at Scout events, in the bleachers at the ice rink, or even as I'm walking to pick up Trevor from school.

Here's an example of what my sketches often look like, scrawled on the back of binder paper:


This page is from last summer. I scrawled out the sketches and notes while waiting on a bench outside Trevor's robotics day camp. Some sketches are detailed, like the Kissing Hand Raccoon on the right side of the page, that I went on to create a few weeks later. You can spot the Cardboard Tube Shark on the left and the Cardboard Tube Bear in the middle. All three of those came out of the same brainstorming session. 

Other sketches are pretty vague. There's a Pokeball at the top right, but no notes about materials. It just popped into my head as something popular that I should make. But I wasn't inspired, so it never made it off the page. In fact, I haven't made anything else from this sheet. That's not to say I never will. I'm still enamored with the idea of making myself into SuperCindy. Maybe someday. But in the meantime, hundreds of other ideas will have replaced it. Even as I'm typing this, I'm dreaming up a craft using a golf tee. Time to sketch it out!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

40-4-Steve: Nepali Food

Our family enjoys eating a lot of different cuisines and trying new foods. The Bay Area has just about every culture in the world represented, which is such a treat. As part of our 40-4-Steve project, we tried Nepali food for the first time.

Nepali Food (affiliate link)

As usually happens when we try a new cuisine, we wanted to try everything and ordered a ridiculous amount of food. I'm glad we did, because it was all delicious. The leftovers were excellent, too!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

40-4-Steve: Carquinez Bridge

Steve really, really likes bridges. I've never met anyone else who knows or cares as much about bridges as he does. He likes looking at bridges, walking on bridges, learning about bridges, and watching bridges be built. We've walked across the Golden Gate Bridge together a couple of times, but we'd never walked across the Carquinez bridge, so that was perfect to add to the list of 40-4-Steve.

40-4-Steve: Carquinez Bridge (affiliate link)

The new span of the Bay Bridge has a pedestrian path, so I'm sure that's in our future! 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

US State Flag Trivia

I've been working on a HUGE project that I will reveal soon. (If you're particularly observant and reading this from my blog rather than over email or a reader, you may have already noticed the first stage!) As part of my project, I've been using my beloved PicMonkey to make graphics for each of the 50 state flags. In the process, I've learned a lot about each of the flags and thought it would be fun to put together some trivia for you. 



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US State Flag Trivia



1) What is the only state flag that has two different designs on the front and the back?

2) What is the only state flag that is not rectangular? 

3) What state has been using their current flag design for the longest amount of time?

4) Which state redesigned their flag most recently?

5) Which state flag is the only one with blood as part of the design?

6) What is the only state flag that has stars representing its order of admission to the US?

7) What state flag was voted as the best designed flag among all states, territories and Canadian provinces?

8) Which state flag is the only one to feature a president on it?

9) Which TWO states have ensigns (flags for use at sea) that differ from their standard flags?

10) Which state flag was designed by a 13-year old boy?


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(answers below)
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1) Oregon is the only state flag with different designs on the front and back.

 

2) Ohio is the only state with a flag that isn't rectangular. 


3) Hawaii has been using their flag since 1845 - long before statehood!


4) Utah redesigned their flag most recently, in February 2011. 


5) Louisiana has the only state flag with blood as part of the design


6) Indiana has 19 stars, representing the fact that it was admitted as the 19th state. 


7) New Mexico was voted as the best-designed state flag in a 2001 survey


8) Washington's state flag is the only one to feature a US president.


9) Both Massachusetts and Maine fly a different version of their state flags when at sea.

 

10) The Alaskan flag was designed by a 13-year old boy



How did you do? A week ago, I would have gotten two for sure and possibly two more. Let me know in the comments how many questions you got right out of ten!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Nature Scavenger Hunt

I've had so much fun teaching US history to Trevor's fifth grade class! My last day with them was not to teach history, but rather to lead a nature hike and teach about the local flora and fauna. To explain how this came to be, I have to back up a bit. 

At the beginning of the year, Trevor was elected Class President. His campaign promises included: teaching robotics and coding to his classmates, incorporating ping pong into PE, learning about different cultures, and having his mom lead a birdwatching nature hike. I found out about this after he'd given his speech. He'd assumed (correctly) that I'd be happy to lead a hike, but I made it clear that he should never make a promise on behalf of someone else without discussing it first. I also made it clear that we would be leading the hike together and that Trevor would do the bulk of the planning and preparations. I suggested we broaden the activity to include plants and other animals besides birds, and that we incorporate a nature-themed photo scavenger hunt. (The deRosiers are obsessed with scavenger hunts.) Trevor thought it was a great idea. 

Finally it was time for the big day. I headed out with a line of 31 students (plus their teacher and some chaperones, of course) trailing behind me as we walked a few blocks from the school on a sunny afternoon to a beautiful open space area


Despite it being just minutes from the school, only three of the kids had ever hiked there. The rest couldn't believe they hadn't known about it. They kept saying how pretty it was. 

  

We stopped to learn about trees, wildflowers, and other plants. We walked down to a creek, over rocks, and along a slope. We listened. We spotted ducks, turkeys, mice, and evidence of several animals in the form of scat.

We left the open space area to head to a developed preserve, also right near the school. Here, Trevor explained his scavenger hunt. The kids would divide into teams and search the preserve for the items on the list, taking photos of each as they found them. The items were divided by category and awarded points based on Trevor's perception of how difficult each would be to find. He had a somewhat complicated point system that awarded bonus points for completing all items in a category. The kids were excited and set off on their hunt. 

I took lots of photos of the kids... of their backs, that is!
  
  
  

I also took my own photos of the items on Trevor's list, including this orange dragonfly (bug) and blue peacock feather. 

  

Look dead center at the first photo. Do you see the peacock? The close-up could have been used for moss (1 point), but I used it for circle (3 points).

  

We had so much fun on our nature hike and scavenger hunt! I'm really going to miss my time with the fifth graders. As they all head off different directions for middle school, I hope they have fond memories of their fifth grade year. I know I will. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

40-4-Steve: Morimoto

Have you noticed how many items from my 40-4-Steve project involve food? One must-do was to eat at Morimoto in Napa. Since Steve and I both worked from home, we talked about going together on a weekday. But Trevor wouldn't hear of this, as he is as much of a foodie as we are. He did not want to miss an opportunity to eat at such a world class restaurant! So we waited until he had a day off school.

Trevor was very smart not to miss it. The food was absolutely amazing.

Morimoto (affiliate link)

It's dangerous that such a wonderful (but expensive!) restaurant is so close to our house. I'm so glad that we tried it. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Trends Report

In March 2016, I agreed to be a contributor to a trends report put out by the (then) Craft and Hobby Association Designer Section for my area of expertise, kids crafts. I submitted my report last summer, well ahead of the fall 2016 publication date. It came back with a request to make major cuts to shorten it to about 2/3 of the original word count I'd been told. With great reluctance, I made the edits. Fall came and went without it being published. I learned that the association was compiling its own huge trends report, so the smaller one done by just one section of the association was not going to be published ahead of it. Good grief.

In January 2017, the Craft and Hobby Association became the Association for Creative Industries and I was told that our trends report would indeed be published, but it needed to be rewritten to incorporate the new name and branding. Then I didn't hear anything more. When June 2017 rolled around, I'd assumed the report we'd written would never see the light of day, as trends is an inherently time-sensitive topic.

Well, I assumed wrong. The AFCI Designer Section Trends Report, written in the summer of 2016, was published last week. My report is one page of a 34 page document.


Fortunately for me, trends don't move as quickly in kids crafts as they do in the adult crafting world, so my report is not ridiculously out-of-date. Thank goodness. If you'd like to read the whole report, it really is quite interesting. It probably isn't as useful as it would have been last fall, but it's still worth a read. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trevor's First Ice Skates

Trevor has been taking ice skating lessons for just over two years. After using rentals for a year, we bought him his own skates. They still fit, but barely. We'll be buying new skates soon, so I wanted to capture the memory of his first ice skates before that happened.

Trevor's 1st Ice Skates (affiliate link)

I kept the layout really, really simple. The background paper is printed with the four blue squares. I used a strip of polka dot paper, two photos, a title block, and a journaling block to create a square that would sit in the middle of the four squares. To add a little bit of interest to an otherwise plain page, I used different stickers for each word in the title. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Qixels

This post contains affiliate links. 

The deRosiers are huge fans of Perler beads, but there are definitely some drawbacks to creating art that needs to be set with an iron. When I first heard about Qixels, I was eager to give them a try. Basically, they are similar to the various brands of fusible beads, but instead of melting them together using heat, these fuse with water. I bought this set for Trevor to try.


The set comes with everything you need to make four characters.


The beads are about the same size as Perler beads, but they are square and closed on one end.


To make a design, you slide a pattern under the design board, then simply match the beads to the colors. The beads fit very snugly in the board. You're not going to accidentally bump and mess up the design, which can be an issue with Perler beads. 


The best thing about Qixels as compared to Perler beads is that they are set with water instead of heat. Trevor started doing Perler beads at age 2; it took years before he was capable to use the iron to heat-set his own projects. With Qixels, you just spritz the design with water.


The flip side about the water-set vs. heat-set is that the Qixels need to dry before they are set. While it takes just minutes for Perler beads to cool down enough to play with them, you can't play with completed Qixels until the next day. But Trevor doesn't play with the things he builds, so it doesn't matter to him that Qixels have a longer drying time. 

He really liked the Minecraft-inspired pixelated look of the finished characters.  


All things considered, we give Qixels two thumbs up. I don't see them as a replacement for Perler beads, but rather as a supplement to create a different style of artwork. 

What do you think? Have you tried both? What is your preference?

Monday, June 12, 2017

40-4-Steve: Lebanese Food and Lemon Cake

Two of the goals in the 40-4-Steve project were closely related: I wanted Steve to learn how to cook the Lebanese food that his Grandma Mary made when he was a child, as well as the lemon cake that his mom continues to make for special occasions.

I asked Pat (my mother-in-law) to come to our house to teach Steve and Trevor how to make her mother's Lebanese food and her own lemon cake. My father-in-law came too, to help as a sous chef. My job was to be the photographer. Over the course of about 4 hours with Pat's direction, Steve and Trevor made kibbeh, pita bread, a Lebanese bean dish, yogurt sauce, and lemon cake.

Grandma Mary's Lebanese Recipes (affiliate link)


Pat's Lemon Cake (affiliate link)

We sure ate well that night! It was so much fun to watch Steve and Trevor making food from their heritage. Thanks again to Pat for teaching them! 

Friday, June 9, 2017

LEGO Batman Party Cup

This post contains affiliate links. 

Yesterday, I told you all about our awesome LEGO Batman Movie Party. Here's how we made the cups that decorated the table. 



LEGO Batman Party Cups


Materials:


Steps:


For each cup, cut the following pieces, as shown in the picture below:
  • 1 long, thin black rectangle
  • 2 rounded black triangles
  • 1 black circle
  • 1 squat black triangle
  • 1 cream rectangle 
  • 1 small white triangle
  • 2 turquoise almonds
  • 2 smaller light blue almonds


Glue the light blue almonds onto the turquoise almonds. Turn the cup upside down and glue these to the cup to make Batman's eyes. 

Fold the squat black triangle in half vertically to make a dimensional nose. Glue it beneath the eyes. 

Use the pen to outline the edges of the white triangle and to draw a small line, as shown in the picture above. Glue it to the cream rectangle, then draw in a small line on the bottom right. Glue it beneath the nose.

Fold the bottom of the black triangles over to form a small lip, then glue them to the black circle.


Glue the narrow black strip on the inside rim of what used to be the bottom of the cup to hide the white rim. (If your cups are black here, skip this step.) 

Glue the circle with the ears into the recessed portion of the cup. 

Fold the napkin like this:


Set the cup on top of the napkin so it becomes Batman's cape. 


You can use these cups just as decorations, or fill them with goodies to take home as favors. If you want to use the cups for drinking, do not glue the circle with the ears on top. Just place it there while the cup is upside down. When you want to fill the cup, lift the ears out and invert the cup. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The LEGO Batman Movie Party

This post contains affiliate links. 

When I attended Snap Conference back in April, the #1 question other bloggers asked me was what sponsors I was most excited to meet. My answers were LEGO and Wilton. I attended classes from both and really enjoyed my time getting to know their products better. Imagine my delight when LEGO contacted me to see if I wanted to do a promotion related to The LEGO Batman Movie! I decided to throw a LEGO Batman Movie Party to watch the digital release. I reached out to Wilton and they sent me some tasty decorating supplies to add to the fun! 


Decorations are a great way to set the mood for a party, so Trevor and I designed the two simple crafts you see above. The instructions for the *BAM!* treat holder are below. I'll show you how we made the Batman cups tomorrow. 

Food is a must for a party, and popcorn is practically synonymous with movies. With help from Wilton, we turned ordinary popcorn into awesome LEGO Batman popcorn.


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LEGO Batman Popcorn


Materials: 



Steps:

  1. Pop the popcorn.
  2. Spread the popcorn on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 
  3. Follow the directions to melt the candy melts. Drizzle yellow and black over the popcorn. 
  4. Use the candy molds to make black bats and white, yellow, and black bricks. 
  5. After the candy is set, put the popcorn, bats, and bricks into a bowl. 


We served our popcorn in these handy containers. They are actually the take-out containers from our favorite Chinese restaurant! By adding a *BAM!* sticker to the side, it was transformed to fit our party theme perfectly!


With everything prepared, we were ready to greet our guests. Trevor's friend Devin's two passions in life are Batman and LEGO, so his family was the natural choice! Devin arrived in a LEGO Batman shirt and a cape, which was awesome. Here are the boys, posing with the goodies that LEGO sent us! 




Trevor and Devin were so excited to start building!


Once the building was complete, it was time to watch the movie! The boys grabbed some treats and flopped into beanbags (which coincidentally matched their shirts). The adults also grabbed treats, but we sat on the couches (which did not match our shirts).


So how was the movie? We LOVED it! There were so many clever, laugh out loud moments. The adults loved it as much as the kids. I can't imagine who wouldn't love this movie. The digital download is available now, and the DVD / Blu-Ray will be released this Tuesday, June 13.  

  

Thanks to LEGO and Wilton for making our LEGO Batman Movie party so awesome!