9/30/20

Crayon Melt Iguana

It's been a long time since I pulled out the warming tray to do crayon melts. It was the perfect medium for an iguana. Affiliate links below. 


Crayon Melt Iguana


Materials:


Steps:


Plug in the warming tray and put a sheet of paper on top. Fill the paper with the colors you want your iguana to be. I started with oranges and browns, then layered greens on top. I recommend removing the wrappers from the crayons and laying them on their sides for faster, more even coverage. 


When you are happy with your paper, remove it and unplug the warming tray. The wax will set almost immediately. I started by cutting out the body of the iguana from a solid green area. I saw a place where the colors came together to make a perfect eyeball, so I cut that section into a rough circle and placed it on the body so that I wouldn't lose track of it. (I cut it down to an oval later.) Then, I cut a the iguana's spines. As you can see, some of the green wax flaked off when I cut near the edge. I decided I liked the look because it gave a contrast to the green body. 


The legs were the trickiest part. I drew the legs on scraps of white paper, layered it on top of the waxy paper, and cut. If you aren't confident that your legs will fit, or if you want the legs to be cut from a certain area of the waxy paper, make a pattern first and trace. 


Cut the eye into an oval, then cut a similarly-sized oval for the subtympanic shield. Use a strong craft glue to attach all the pieces. 


As is always the case, I learned a lot about iguanas in the process of making this craft. I had no idea iguanas have a third eye, are excellent swimmers and divers, and can survive a 50-foot fall! Check out these other fun iguana facts

9/29/20

Sports Crafts for Kids

I've completed another big organizational task here at My Creative Life. All of the sports-themed crafts are in one place now. I am honestly surprised that I have as many as I do. You can see them all here: 



While I have a decent variety, there are some sports that are completely absent. I'll have to make an effort to add them in at some point. 

Believe it or not, it can be hard to decide what to include when I make these compilation pages. You might think it would be straightforward - either a particular craft has to do with sports, or it doesn't. I decided against including non-sports version of famous mascots, like the Baltimore Oriole, even though in that case the craft was actually inspired by a visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yard. It's a slippery slope. I also decided against including crafts made with sports equipment, like this flamingo made from a golf tee

Any sports projects you'd like to see? 

9/28/20

Jellyfish Painting

Have you ever watched the Live Jelly Cam from the Monterey Bay Aquarium? It's really relaxing. Spend some time watching, then paint your own peaceful jellyfish scene. Jellyfish come in a huge variety of colors and sizes, with varying tentacle lengths. They can move in any direction by pushing jets of water from their bodies to propel forward. So no matter how your painted jellyfish look, they're perfect. 



Jellyfish Painting


Materials:

  • watercolor paper
  • acrylic paint (blue, white, orange, red, yellow)
  • toothpick 

Steps: 


Paint the paper blue and let it dry completely. Then paint white blobs where you want the jellyfish to be. Let the paint dry. 


Layer orange paint over the white to make the jellyfish bodies. While the paint is still wet, add a stroke of red to each body. Then mix a small amount of yellow with the orange and use it to drag tentacles from the body. 


Add definition to the tentacles with a toothpick or skinny dowel. 




9/25/20

Fall ScOutings

Today's layout has photos from three separate Scout outings ("ScOutings") Trevor enjoyed last fall. The first was a quick overnight at the local regional park in September, the second was a hike to the summit of Mt. Diablo in October (which ended in an early morning evacuation due to wind/fire), and the third was a fishing and crabbing trip along the Russian River/Bodega in November. 

Fall ScOutings (affiliate link)
It's now been over seven months since the last Scout outing. For a troop that is used to doing a campout at least once a month, this is a huge change. The boys are doing their best to keep Scouting fun via online activities, but it's just not the same. Fortunately, everyone understands that the Scouts' safety is what matters most. But that doesn't stop us from hoping that we can start planning trips again.

9/24/20

Cream of Zucchini Soup

We've had a bumper crop of zucchini this year, with no signs of it slowing down. I've made all of my favorite zucchini recipes multiple times and we still have plenty. It's the best kind of problem to have! This soup uses a decent amount of zucchini and it's creamy and comforting without being too heavy for September. 





Cream of Zucchini Soup



                                                        1 T. olive oil                                           1 tsp. seasoned salt
                                                        1/2 white onion, chopped                  2 T. butter
                                                        2 cloves garlic, minced                        2 T. flour
                                                        3 large zucchini, chopped                   1 1/2 c. milk
                                                        1 can veggie broth                               Parmesan cheese for garnish


Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another three minutes. Add the zucchini, broth, and seasoning salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook until golden, whisking constantly. Whisk in the milk until it is smooth. Add the roux to the pureed zucchini mixture and combine thoroughly. 

Serve with a garnish of Parmesan cheese. 


9/23/20

Paper Plate Garter Snake

I like snakes. More accurately, I like harmless snakes in nature where they belong. It's always a thrill to see a garter snake or a gopher snake in the backyard, where I know they are helping to keep the rodent population down. While technically it is a thrill to see a rattlesnake, I can live without ever having that thrill again. Fortunately, it is easy to tell the difference between dangerous and harmless snakes here in Northern California. As long as it doesn't have a triangular head and a rattle on its tail, it's welcome to visit my backyard. 

Today's project is a moveable garter snake, made from a paper plate. Both Massachusetts and Virginia have named the garter snake as their state reptile. Give this easy project a try! Affiliate links below. 



Paper Plate Garter Snake


Materials:


Steps:


Cut the rim of the paper plate away from the center. Use the center to cut the snake's head. Cut the rim into four sections that are approximately the same size. 

Paint the head and each of the sections brown. When the paint is dry, add a Camel stripe down the center of each body section and along the edges. 


Line up two body parts so that they overlap slightly, use the craft pick to poke a hole, and connect the two pieces with a brad. Continue until all four body pieces are connected. Then connect the head to one end of the body. 


Use the scissors to round off the tail end of the snake. 

Draw a pupil on the enamel dots, then stick the dots to the snake's face. (I drew them vertical, but it appears they should be round. There is a lot of conflicting information about snake pupils.) Draw on two nostrils. 


I positioned my snake in the dirt to take photos. For a paper plate, I think it looks pretty convincing! 




9/22/20

16th Anniversary

Steve and I typically celebrate our anniversary by picking a semi-local city to explore. We usually stay two nights in a cute inn or B&B while Trevor spends the weekend with his grandparents. We always have a wonderful time. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 ruined our 2020 anniversary travel plans. Our weekend trip for two became a day at home for three. Trevor had an online Scout event all day, so while he was occupied, Steve and I took a long walk together and found some geocaches. We picked up our produce box and took the scenic route home. We played games and watched movies. Since early March, we had not eaten anything that we didn't prepare at home, so we decided to get contactless curbside pickup to make our anniversary feel a bit more special. They messed up our order in more ways than you'd think possible, but we did our best not to let it ruin our special day.   

16th Anniversary (affiliate link)

Check out the patterned paper I used for the background of this layout. I remember exactly when and where I got it... in 2008. I was doing design work for the local scrapbook store and had the option of being paid in cash or twice as much in store credit. I always chose the store credit. I had saved up quite a bit of credit when the owners announced that their family was moving and their successful store would be closing abruptly. Between the employee discount and the clearance prices, I brought home a LOT of awesome product. I used most of it back then, but there are still a few of those papers remaining in my stash. This paper brought me right back to 2008 and my very first job in the scrapbook industry. 
2008 Cindy would be so happy to see where that first job has taken 2020 Cindy. And newly married 2004 Cindy would be thrilled that 2020 Cindy celebrated 16 wonderful years with Steve, even if the celebration wasn't quite what they expected. 

9/21/20

Baseball Sandwiches

They say that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when you have Food Writers (affiliate link here and throughout the post), everything edible looks like a canvas. It only took a few minutes to turn my ordinary sandwich rolls into baseballs. I added peanuts and popcorn to the plate to create a baseball-themed lunch for the three of us. 

 

I made my rolls from scratch, using the recipe for 60-Minute Rolls from Fleischmann's Bake-it-Easy Yeast Book. But you can just as easily use store-bought rolls. It couldn't be easier - just draw stitch marks curving around either side of the roll. 


Then slice the rolls and add your sandwich fixings. Be sure to line up the stitching when you put the sandwiches together. 


Looking at this photo makes me want a frozen chocolate malt (eaten with the wooden paddle). That was my go-to ballpark snack when I was a kid... and still is on the rare occasion I attend a baseball game. I've never even checked to see if they're for sale anywhere besides a ballpark. I don't think they'd taste nearly as good anywhere else. 


Sixty-Minute Rolls


                                                            3 1/2 to 4 1/2 c. flour               1 c. milk
                                                            3 T. sugar                                    1/2 c. water
                                                            1 tsp. salt                                    1/4 c. butter
                                                            2 pkgs. yeast

Mix 1 1/2 c. flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. In a separate container, heat milk, water, and butter until very warm (120°-130°F). Add the liquids to the dry ingredients. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 c. flour, then beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured pastry mat; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes. 

Turn out dough onto the floured mat. Divide it into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and place on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes. Bake at 425°F for 12 minutes. Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks.  

9/18/20

The Most "Fun" States in the US

Back in my teaching days, my 5th graders did state reports. I drew their names randomly to determine the order in which they'd choose their state. (No one was allowed to choose California, since everyone had studied their home state the previous year in 4th grade.) Year after year, it was pretty much guaranteed that first three names I drew would pick Hawaii, Florida, and New York in some order. Texas, Alaska, and Nevada often followed. The kids who had to wait until the end to select their state often groaned that all the "fun" states were taken. 


There was a strong belief amongst my students that some states are fun, but most are not. I didn't believe that then and I don't believe that now. Of course, "fun" means something different to each person. If your definition of fun requires a Disney theme park, for example, only California and Florida are fun. On the other hand, neither state is a great choice is you think ice fishing is the most fun a person can have. 

WalletHub compared the 50 states across 26 different indicators, then ranked the states from most to least fun. It is very interesting to click through the results... and I admit I do feel some pride that California ranks #1 overall. 


Here are WalletHub's bottom ten:


You might be surprised, as I was, that Hawaii didn't make the top 10. Hawaii is right in the middle at #25. No offense to Minnesota (#7), but most of the people I know would consider Hawaii to be a lot more fun. (I should mention that I don't know anyone who is into ice fishing.)

Here are the 26 indicators WalletHub used to rank the states, listed in order of importance by their weighted points: 
  • Number of Attractions: (11.23 Points)
  • Variety of Arts, Entertainment & Recreation Establishments: (11.23 Points)
  • Ideal Weather: (11.23 Points)
  • State & Local Direct General Expenditures on Parks & Recreation per Capita: (8.42 Points)
  • Restaurants per Capita: (5.61 Points)
  • Personal Spending on Recreation Services per Capita: (5.61 Points)
  • Nightlife Options per Capita: (4.44 Points)
  • Amusement Parks per Capita: (2.81 Points)
  • Fitness Centers per Capita: (2.81 Points)
  • Shoreline Mileage: (2.81 Points)
  • Beach Quality: (2.81 Points)
  • Access to Scenic Byways: (2.81 Points)
  • State Fairs & Events per Capita: (2.81 Points)
  • Access to National Parks: (2.81 Points)
  • Average Beer & Wine Price: (2.22 Points)
  • Movie Costs: (2.22 Points)
  • Access to Bars: (2.22 Points)
  • Time of Last Call: (2.22 Points)
  • Music Festivals per Capita: (2.22 Points)
  • Performing-Arts Theaters per Capita: (2.22 Points)
  • Casinos per Capita: (2.22 Points)
  • Golf Courses & Country Clubs per Capita: (1.40 Points)
  • Movie Theaters per Capita: (1.40 Points)
  • Arcades per Capita: (1.40 Points)
  • Skiing Facilities per Capita: (1.40 Points)
  • Marinas per Capita: (1.40 Points)

I don't know about you, but several on that list aren't my idea of fun. The most glaring to me is fitness centers. Does anyone come back from vacation and talk about all the fun they had visiting fitness centers? I'm confused about "Personal Spending on Recreation Services per Capita." Does that mean a state is more fun if its residents spend more money having fun? (Minnesota is #1, by the way.) 

If I were designing a way to rank the states, I'd ditch everything on the list related to night life, bump up the weight of access to National Parks, add National Historic Sites and State Parks, and give bonus points for having a defined regional cuisine and/or state specialty. I'd change Restaurants per Capita to exclude national chains in the count. Then I'd add in the number of factory tours, museums, botanical and/or sculpture gardens, and public art installations. 

All this is to say that it is impossible to rank the 50 states this way..... but it's fun to try.

9/17/20

Boo Halloween Craft

This fun Halloween craft was one of my favorites back in my teaching days. Not only does it have tons of room for creativity and use inexpensive supplies, but it gave my 5th graders a chance to practice cutting out counters. For many of them, it was a new skill. 




Boo Halloween Craft


Materials:


Steps:


Lightly write the word BOO in large block letters on a piece of orange construction paper. The letters should overlap slightly. Carefully cut out the BOO, cutting just inside the lines you drew so they don't show. Cut out the counters by using the tip of the scissors to poke a hole in the middle of each, then cut from that hole to the line. Do this several times to create flaps that will open up space for the scissors. Once you have a large enough space, cut out the entire counter just outside the pencil line. 

Create the items you want to dangle from the BOO. I chose a jack-o-lantern, vampire (in bat form), and a ghost, but you could include all sorts of other items. 

Cut three lengths of yarn and glue one to each of the dangling items. Glue the other end of yarn behind the BOO, placing it so that the dangling item hangs at the desired place. 

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Every once in awhile, I had a student who did not celebrate Halloween and did not feel comfortable making Halloween crafts. Since the point of this craft is about developing scissor skills and being creative, the content doesn't really matter. I remember one student changing the word to FALL (which still has counters) and dangling leaves from it. Perfect!

9/16/20

Jack is Back at the Vacaville Museum!

We have been sheltering at home for over six months now. Besides trips out for groceries and other necessities (and our evacu-cation), we haven't really done anything. But on Saturday, we did. 

Back in 2015, the Vacaville Museum launched a city-wide public art project called We Know Jack. Steve, Trevor, and I had a blast trying (successfully!) to find all 25 rabbits hidden around town. Five years later, they announced a new event:


Museums can't open here and the businesses that are open don't want people coming in and out unnecessarily, so displaying the Jacks meant getting creative. The museum hosted an outdoor, socially-distanced, mask-required, limited-admission, single-day event. Each small group of attendees had a 50-minute time slot to view the art. The Jacks were arranged to allow maximum space between guests. 


As with the original Jacks, each new Jack was completely unlike the others. Each was gorgeous and there was so much creativity. These were some of our favorites:








It was wonderful to get out of the house and view such magnificent art. I'm so glad that we went. Huge congrats to all the participating artists and enormous thanks to the fine folks at the Vacaville Museum for putting on a safe event that was so enjoyable.

9/15/20

Breakfast Rose Rolls

Yesterday was all about faux breakfast. How about the real thing today? I've been making these Rose Rolls since I was a kid. 


After we evacuated last month, I realized that I didn't think to bring my favorite cookbooks or folder of treasured recipes. Several dozen of them are preserved digitally on My Favorite Recipes page, but others could have been lost to me forever. For that reason, I'm going to make an effort to post more of my very favorites here.

Fleischmann's Bake-It-Easy Yeast Book (affiliate link here and below) is far and away my favorite bread cookbook. The recipe for Rose Rolls comes from it, though I've made a few small changes over the years. Here's my version:



Rose Rolls



                                                    3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups flour                      1 1/4 cup water
                                                    1/2 cup sugar                                         1/2 cup butter
                                                    2 tsp. salt                                                1 egg
                                                    2 packages yeast                                   assorted jams and jellies
                                                    1/4 cup powdered milk                        powdered sugar



Combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and powdered milk in a bowl. Heat the water and butter until they are very warm (120°-130°F). Add liquids to the dry ingredients. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the egg and another 1/2 cup of flour. Beat on high for 2 minutes. Add enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. 

Place the dough on a lightly floured mat and divide it into 18 equal pieces. Gently roll each piece into a rope, then wind it loosely to form a coil, tucking the end underneath. Place each coil about 2 inches apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. 


Cover loosely with a clean towel and allow the rolls to rise in a warm place, free from draft, until doubled (about 1 hour). 

Use your thumb to make 1" indentations into each coil, pressing to the bottom. Fill the holes with your choice of jams and jellies. Bake at 400°F for 12-15 minutes. Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks. 

When the rolls are completely cooled, add a tiny bit of water to powdered sugar to make a glaze. Drizzle each roll with glaze. 


Allow the glaze to set, then serve. 


Trust me. These rolls are amazing. 

9/14/20

Salt Dough Breakfast (Fried Egg and English Muffin)

I love breakfast foods, at any time of day. When I debuted my page of Faux Food Crafts, I noticed that there weren't any breakfast foods, despite how much I love eating them. Time to change that! I whipped up a batch of my favorite salt dough and started creating. 



Salt Dough Fried Egg


Materials: 

  • salt dough
  • Folk Art paint

Steps:


Start with two balls of salt dough, one a bit larger than a golf ball and the other the size of a gumball. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the larger ball, then press slightly and as you drag your hand outward from the center. This will thin the edges a little. If it looks like the white of a fried egg, set it on wax paper or parchment paper to dry. If not, try again! You can work salt dough over and over. 

Use your palm to flatten the smaller ball, again pressing just a little bit to thin the edges. This will make it slightly domed like an egg yolk would be. Rub a drop of water on top of the egg white and set the yolk in place. Leave it alone for at least two days until the top is completely dry. Then flip it over and allow the bottom of the egg to dry completely. 

When the egg is dry, paint the yolk yellow and egg white white. 


---------

Salt Dough English Muffin with Butter


Materials: 

  • salt dough
  • fork
  • plastic knife
  • Folk Art paint

Steps:


Start with two balls of salt dough, one about the size of a billiard ball and the other the size of a gumball. Gently flatten the larger ball until it is the size of an English muffin and about 1/2" thick. Use your finger to gently rub water across the top, then gently press the fork into the dough and lift. The dough will stick to the fork and create the beginnings of the distinctive nooks and crannies. Repeat this a bunch of times with the fork at different angles until you are happy with the surface.  

Use your thumb to begin to flatten the smaller ball, stopping when it is as thick as a pat of butter. Use the plastic knife to trim each side. 

Place the English muffin and the pat of butter on wax paper and leave them alone for at least two days until the top is completely dry. Then flip it both over and allow the bottom sides to dry completely. 

Turn on the broiler and set the English muffin underneath it. Watch it VERY CLOSELY, as it will brown (and then burn) very quickly once it starts getting color. Remove it when it is a toasty brown color. Let it cool. 

If you are happy with the color of the English muffin, leave it alone. I touched mine up by dry brushing a tiny bit of brown paint onto the tips. 

Paint the butter yellow, then put it on top of the English muffin. You can glue it in place, but I didn't.  

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I went looking on Amazon for some fun things related to fried eggs and/or English muffins to link at the bottom of the post. Nothing interesting from a search of English muffins, but searching fried egg did not disappoint. 

9/11/20

Missouri Travel 2019

It's a good thing we woke up on New Year's Day in Jackson, Mississippi. Otherwise, 2020 would be shaping up as the only year in my life where I didn't travel out of California. Sigh. All this time at home has been great for catching up on scrapbooking previous trips, though. Today's layout is about last summer's week in Missouri

Missouri Travel 2019 (affiliate link)

After arranging the photos, I decided to challenge myself to use washi tape on this page. Mission accomplished! I used five different rolls on this page (the top green strip is paper). 
I didn't realize it until I was scanning the layout, but the photos I chose reveal my love of oversized objects! (I'm not the only one!) See if you can spot the oversized dollar bills, zipper, books, shuttlecock, and chess piece on my layout. For the record, I love miniatures as much as I love oversized items. Is there a word for that? I searched, but couldn't find one. I did, however, find a guide to buying them
How about you? Do you have a special love of things that are absurdly large or ridiculously tiny?

9/10/20

Paper Plate Cauldron

Halloween crafts are some of my absolute favorites! I particularly like ones where each crafter's personality can shine through, like today's Paper Plate Cauldron. I had great fun deciding what to put in my cauldron and eventually I settled on an eyeball, frog leg, finger, and bone. Technically, the spider is on the cauldron and not part of the recipe. Affiliate links below.    



Paper Plate Cauldron


Steps:


Cut a slim arc off a paper plate, then trim two pieces off the arc to make the cauldron feet. Paint the cauldron and the feet black. Glue the feet to the cauldron.

Layer a piece of lime green cardstock on top of a piece of black cardstock. Line them up with the cut edge of the cauldron. Using the arc of the paper plate as a guideline, cut the two papers. Turn the papers the other way so that the arc curves upward instead of down. Then slide the black paper up about 1/2" above the lime green paper. Glue the two papers behind the cauldron. 

Now it's time to fill your cauldron! Anything goes. To make the eyeball, cut a circle of white cardstock, then draw in a black pupil, colorful iris, and wiggly red lines. I cut the frog leg from kelly green cardstock, then bent the end and draped it over the rim. I used my own finger as a guide for cutting the finger and fingernail, then drawing in the lines of the knuckles. After cutting the bone shape, I snipped the end on a sharp angle so that it would look like it was popping up from the liquid. Finally, I cut the spider and glued it on the edge of the cauldron. 

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I made today's project as a part of Creative Crafts Halloween Edition, hosted by some of my favorite craft bloggers. Take some time to check out all the creative ideas! Leave comments along the way. Rumor has it, there's a prize for a lucky someone!

9/9/20

Grapefruit Slice Felt Coaster: The Last (?) in the Set

I've had so much fun making and sharing my fruit coasters. With the addition of today's, which is a grapefruit, I'm up to seven. 

I think this coaster will be the last one (mostly because the rest of the common fruits aren't recognizable - or aren't round - when cut in half). Seven is a weird number for a set, but since we have a family of three, it's actually not all that uncommon for us to serve a meal for seven. Well, before COVID-19, that is. Now it's always dinner for three. 

Here are the tutorials to make the watermelon, orange, lime, applelemon, and kiwi coasters. Read on for the instructions to make the grapefruit coaster. It's not grapefruit season (approximately December to May here in Northern California) so I don't have a new recipe to share, like I have with many of the previous coasters. But if you're looking for the best-ever thing to make with grapefruit, you can't go wrong with this amazing grapefruit sorbet. Affiliate links below. 



Grapefruit Slice Felt Coaster




Materials:



Steps: 


Cut out a circle of pink felt, approximately 4" in diameter. Cut out a circle of white felt that is slightly smaller than the pink circle. Then cut out another pink circle that is slightly smaller than the white one. 

Set the large green circle and the white circle aside. 

Fold the smaller pink circle in half, then cut along the fold. Fold each half again and cut so that you have four pieces total. Cut each piece into thirds, giving you a total of 12 triangles. The triangles don't need to be identical in size. Snip the edges of each triangle so they are rounded, then space them evenly on the white circle. If necessary, trim them until they resemble the segments of a grapefruit. 

Use pink thread and a very short running stitch to sew the grapefruit segments to the white circle. It is easiest to start at the tip of one segment, work around it until you reach the tip again, and then move over to the next segment. 

When you have attached all the segments, use white thread and the same short running stitch to sew the white circle to the large pink circle.