Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Visiting State Capitols and The Capitol Collection

During our October trip, we toured the Capitol buildings in Maryland, DelawareNew Jersey, and Pennsylvania. This brings the total number of Capitols we've visited as a family up to 15, all in the last four years! Before we started visiting them, I expected that the Capitol buildings would be more similar than different. Large, rectangular, white, dome on top, grand staircase... that sort of thing. Some do look like that, but plenty don't. We really enjoy seeing the similarities and differences between the different Capitols. It's fascinating how much they vary in size, style, function, public access... and level of security!

Here we are at all of the Capitol buildings we've visited in the past 4 years, starting with our own. 

Sacramento, California

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Denver, Colorado

Salt Lake City, Utah

Juneau, Alaska (closed for renovations)

Boise, Idaho

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Phoenix, Arizona

Des Moines, Iowa

Lincoln, Nebraska

Carson City, Nevada

Annapolis, Maryland

Dover, Delaware

Trenton, New Jersey

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

It wasn't until we'd been to a handful of Capitols that we thought about a way to keep track of which ones we'd visited. I didn't want to start a separate album - some sort of small book would be better. In Iowa, we discovered The Capitol Collection at the gift shop. Perfect!! 


This small, spiral-bound book is lightweight and easy to carry on our travels. There is a 2-page spread for each state, with information about that state and a place to stamp the book during each visit. We bought the book after we'd been to quite a few Capitols, some of which we were unlikely to ever revisit. Would those pages remain blank? No! What I love most about The Capitol Collection is that once you buy it, you can request a sticker version of each of the stamps that you are missing. Just supply the date you visited and the stickers come in the mail. Here you can see the California page. I've attached the California sticker; the Wyoming, Iowa, and Utah stickers are ready to stick in place. 


You can buy The Capitol Collection at some Capitol's gift shops, or at thecapitolcollection.com. No affiliate link, unfortunately, because I've recommended it to a lot of people and now I'm sharing it with you all! It would make a neat gift for kids, retirees, or anyone who enjoys travel. 

Visit my US Travel page to read about our family's travels to the Capitols and other places in the United States. You'll also find gift recommendations for travelers, crafts inspired by each state, and ideas for documenting your own travels.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Paper Plate Artist's Palette .... For Dinner!

I believe whole-heartedly in making everyday activities fun. And when crazy ideas pop into my head, like eating dinner off of an artist's palette, I go with it. 



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Paper Plate Artist's Palette


Materials: 

  • paper plate
  • scissors
  • food


Steps:


Prepare the plate by cutting an arc into one side. Poke the scissors into the plate to cut a thumb-sized hole near the arc. 


The example above is for a lefty (like me) to hold in her right hand. My right-handed family needed palettes cut the opposite direction, so they could hold them with their left hands and eat with their right. 


Now load up the food! Choose items that don't need cutting. Here, Trevor has chicken (cut into bite-sized pieces), red peppers, zucchini, black beans, Mexican rice, sour cream, and corn tomalito.  


Just another dinner in the deRosier house!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

We've finally had some cold weather here (cold being relative, of course) and cold weather means soup. Actually, I'm a fan of soup no matter what the weather. I don't think I've ever mentioned that Steve and I wanted a soup bar for lunch at our May 2004 wedding reception, but we couldn't find a caterer who could/would do it. I haven't asked around in almost 14 years, but as far as I know there's still a hole in the market for someone to fill.  

I love making soup because it is easy and forgiving. I can dig around in the refrigerator and/or freezer and come up with something yummy that works well in soup. In this case, it's Broccoli-Cheddar Soup. We keep broccoli on hand because it's one of Trouble's favorite foods and we keep cheese on hand because it's one of my favorite foods. 


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Broccoli Cheddar Soup


                                       1/4 c. butter                                     2 c. milk
                                       1/2 onion, chopped                           3 1/2 c. shredded cheddar
                                       1/4 c. flour                                       1 c. finely chopped cooked broccoli
                                       4 c. broth (chicken or veggie)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion for five minutes, or until tender. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. It should be completely combined with the onion. Add the broth, stirring constantly. Let that cook for a minute, then add the milk. Bring the mixture just to a boil, continuing to stir constantly. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender until the soup is smooth. Whisk in the cheddar until it is completely melted. If it does not melt completely, heat over very low heat for a minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the broccoli.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Pfeffernüsse: German 'Pepper Nuts' Cookies

Pfeffernüsse are traditional German cookies. The name translates to “pepper nuts,” as they traditionally contain both pepper and nuts. My grandmother, Elfrieda Reifenberger, made them every year at Christmas without fail. She made them without nuts, so that is the version I make.



Pfeffernüsse



                                        4. c. flour                                              ¼ tsp. black pepper
                                        ½ c. sugar                                              ¾ c. molasses
                                        1¼ tsp. baking soda                                ½ c. butter
                                        1½ tsp. ground cinnamon                        2 eggs, beaten
                                        ½ tsp. ground cloves                               powdered sugar
                                        ½ tsp. ground nutmeg


Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and spices. In a saucepan combine molasses and butter; heat and stir until butter melts. Let cool to room temperature. Stir in eggs. Add molasses mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. Wrap and chill several hours or overnight. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on a Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350º for 12-14 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar. Makes about 5 dozen.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pantone's 2018 Color of the Year

Each September, Pantone announces the Spring Color Palette for the upcoming year. I love to see what colors are on the horizon and think about how they will be manifested in the craft industry. 


I also love to predict what Pantone will choose as the Color of the Year. My personal favorite is Meadowlark, but I was fairly confident Pantone would select Ultra Violet or Emperador. I've been anxiously awaiting the announcement, usually made the first week of December. Finally, after refreshing their page at least a hundred times a day for the past week, the Color of the Year for 2018 was revealed: Ultra Violet!


There is a full explanation of the color on their page, but this portion struck me:

".....Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets..... The color is often associated with mindfulness practices, which offer a higher ground to those seeking refuge from today’s over-stimulated world."  
I'm very happy with Ultra Violet (frankly, anything besides the ridiculous twin Colors of the Year in 2016 would be fine). Purples don't usually play a big role in crafting, so I'll be anxious to see if Ultra Violet is evident at the Creativation trade show. I might have to do something fun like I did with Marsala.

What are your thoughts about Ultra Violet? 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Reindeer Gift Tags

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting My Creative Life!

Add a dash of adorable to your Christmas presents by making your own reindeer gift tags.


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Reindeer Gift Tags


Supplies:



Steps:


Cut the blue cardstock and the brown cardstock into rectangles. If you make the rectangles 2" x 4", you'll get 18 tags from a 12" x 12" sheet of cardstock. The tags in my photos are actually 2.5" x 4" because I had scraps that size left over from a previous project. Basically, you can make your rectangles whatever size you want your tags to be.

Punch a hole in the top center of each blue tag and set them aside. Trim each brown rectangle into an isosceles triangle by keeping the base the original length and cutting diagonally up on each side toward the top center. Fold the top portion of the triangle forward and glue the bottom portion to a blue tag.


Use the black marker to add two dots for eyes. Then glue a button nose in place.


Use the brown scraps to cut a pair of ears for each reindeer. Glue them in place, tucking the ends just under the reindeer's head.


Draw antlers using the brown marker. 


Add some baker's twine and your tags are ready to go! That's Trevor's first tag on the left and my first on the right. Even when we follow exactly the same steps, our personal style still comes out in our crafts. Love that!


Looking for more fun gift tag ideas? Try these snowman gift tags! They're my most popular craft tutorial of all time. I have another idea for snowman gift tags that are almost as cute. These quilled holly tags always impress. Give one (or more) a try!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Exploring Delaware Through Little Passports

Our family thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Delaware in October. How fun to see some of the same things as we did a virtual exploration of the First State through Little Passports! And, as always, we learned a lot of things we didn't already know. I'm constantly amazed that, despite teaching about the 50 states and grading 32 state reports a year for 11 years, I still learn something new from Little Passports every single time!


We started our study of Delaware by building a catapult, inspired by the World Championship Punkin Chunkin competition held near Bridgeville. We did a logic puzzle to learn fun facts about the state insect, the ladybug. Did you know there are approximately 5000 species of ladybugs? And that they can play dead when in danger? I didn't! Delaware's state marine animal is a horseshoe crab. A rebus activity taught us all about these 'living fossils' that haven't changed much during their 500 million year history. Fascinating!

Trevor made the recipe, Chicken and Slippery Dumplings, for dinner. 


It was SO good! And it was easy to make. 


We'll definitely be including this one in our regular dinner rotation. Yum!


The next day, we finished up the rest of the Delaware activities. We solved a math-based puzzle to learn about the mile-long NASCAR racetrack in Dover called the 'Monster Mile.' Next was an activity about the 13 original colonies and Delaware's pride in being the first to sign the Constitution. This was familiar to Trevor because I taught it to his 5th grade class last year. We read about famous events in Delaware's history and followed grain through the Oliver Evans Mill, invented in 1784 as the first automated flour mill. We followed the step-by-step instructions to draw a C-5A Galaxy plane, which we saw in person during our visit to the Air Mobility Command Museum! We did a cross-out activity to decode Delaware's state motto. 

Finally, we did a neat art project, inspired by the beautiful beaches of Delaware. Their project was called Sand Art Bottles, but we used a different material. Can you tell what it is?



Sugar Sprinkles Art Bottles


Materials:

  • small transparent bottle or jar with lid
  • sugar sprinkles in various colors
  • funnel

Steps:


Wash and thoroughly dry the container. Place the funnel in the container and pour a layer of sugar sprinkles in. Repeat with another color, tilting the funnel to create variation.


Keep adding layers. There's no right or wrong!

  

When the container is full, remove the funnel and add the cap. Admire your work for as long as you want, then use it to decorate cookies or cupcakes! It's lots of fun to see what colors fall first as you pour or shake the sprinkles onto a treat. 

Thanks to Little Passports (affiliate link) for another fun and educational virtual voyage!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Tissue Paper Advent Wreath

Yesterday was the first day of Advent and the first day of the church year. I love the season of Advent, even if it drives me crazy that so many people mistakenly think we're currently celebrating the Christmas season. (If you haven't read my rant about Advent and the Twelve Days of Christmas, take a moment to do so.) Anyway, Happy Advent!

As he's gotten older, Trevor has started taking a more grown-up role in church services, including reading the lessons in front of the whole congregation. But he still loves the first job he ever did during a church service, which is lighting Advent candles. Starting at age 4, he has had the privilege of lighting the Advent candles at least once each year (depending on how many other kids wanted the job too). Even at age 11, it's one of his highlights each December. I was inspired by Trevor's love of Advent to make and display this wreath.    



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Tissue Paper Advent Wreath


Materials:

  • cardstock (green, white, purple, pink, yellow, and red)
  • multiple shades of green tissue paper
  • scissors
  • white glue
  • small circular punch


Steps:


Start by cutting the green cardstock into an oval shape. Tear the darkest green tissue paper into roughly 1" pieces. Squirt glue onto half of the oval. Using one piece of tissue paper at a time, scrunch it up and stick it to the glue. 


When one half is filled in, add more glue and finish the second half. Don't worry if you can still see cardstock. 

Tear the next lighter green tissue paper into pieces. Dot glue randomly on top of the darker green tissue paper and add the lighter green pieces. 


Tear the lightest green tissue paper into pieces. Dot glue anywhere that you can see the green cardstock showing through. Add the tissue paper to those spots, or place it randomly if the cardstock is already covered. 


Hold the oval vertically to make sure everything is glued down. 


Use the white, purple, and pink cardstock to make candles. I chose to make the Christ candle twice as wide and a bit taller than the other candles. I put the candles approximately where I wanted them, then cut them to the length I liked. There's no right or wrong. You can even make four candles the same color, leave out the Christ candle, or otherwise alter it to fit your denomination's traditions. Cut thin strips of white for wicks and glue them to flames cut from the yellow cardstock. 


Glue the flames to the candles, then glue the candles to the wreath. Nestle them down amongst the tissue paper greenery as best you can. Finally, punch small circles from the red cardstock and glue the circles in groups of three to make holly berries. Tuck some behind the candles to show that they're evenly spread throughout the wreath.


 Technically, an Advent wreath would not be completely lit until Christmas day. One option for your wreath, and the one we are using, is to fold back each flame until the appropriate day. Then unfold it to light one candle each Sunday (purple, purple, pink, purple) and the Christ candle on Christmas day.

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This Advent craft gives me a good excuse to promote my book, currently on sale. It makes a wonderful gift for Christmas. Thanks for your support!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmas Card 2017

This is our family's 2017 Christmas card. I am ridiculously happy with it. 


My sister-in-law took the photo of us during our nephew's wedding, then I designed the card using PicMonkey. Each of the colors is pulled from the photo. The blue background is the same as Trevor's shirt. The red is from his tie. The darker blue is from Steve's tie, and the greens are from the trees behind us. The card was really fun to make, and easy too. And I think it looks better than the ready-made templates that are available online. I uploaded the flattened image to Costco.com and got 50 cards for $15. Custom cards for 30¢ each? Quite a bargain!