Quirky Collages to Color

I have a new coloring book that I absolutely love. Don Stewart's Quirky Collages to Color (affiliate link) includes 32 awesome illustrations to color. What makes this coloring book unique is that each illustration is a collage made up of dozens of smaller items that fit a theme. 

The first design I colored was The Right Brain. It was so much fun! I used my beloved Prismacolor art markers

As you can see, the shape of the brain is formed entirely by art supplies. They are listed on the back of the design. Can you spot each one? 

  • airbrush
  • craft stick
  • eraser
  • French curve
  • glue
  • loop tool
  • marker
  • paint
  • paintbrushes
  • palette
  • pen
  • pencil
  • pincushion
  • precision knife
  • ribbon
  • scissors
  • tape
  • triangle
  • utility blade
  • watercolor set

There is a quote associated with each design, too. The Right Brain's is by Frida Kahlo: "I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality."

I received a copy of Quirky Collages to Color this week, directly from the publisher. But that wasn't the first time I saw the content of the book. Back in October, the publisher sent me a digital copy of the book to review. I loved it... in fact, I liked it enough that they printed my endorsement on the back cover!

You can see my name and review (multiple times) in the Amazon listing as well. 

I can't wait to color the next design! The hardest part is going to be choosing which one to do next. 


Cereal Math: Prime Factorization

Did you know that Sesame Street cereal is a thing?! I had no idea! I was really excited when I spotted it in the cereal aisle. It took great restraint, but I only purchased the 123 Berry and not the C is for Cinnamon (affiliate links here and below) because I still have leftover Alphabits and Steve already thinks I have a have an "issue" when it comes to purchasing cereal. (He's wrong. I can stop whenever I want.)

Anyway, when I saw the box of cereal with adorable little number shapes, I thought how fun that would have been back in my teaching days. I pictured students with trays of cereal, doing the same math they'd ordinarily do with paper and pencil, but in a tactile way! They would have loved it. Me too. It's always fun to shake things up a bit and present skills in a new, memorable way.

I poured out some of my new cereal on a tray and started sorting. At first, I was delighted to see how good the numbers looked. Look at the 8 - it is perfect! And the 4, 6, 7, and 9 - spot on! The 1 and 0 are great... but not true of the 2, 3, and 5. They're acceptable at best. Now I know why they designed the box they way they did, lol. Oh well!  

I dug in the pantry and found All-Bran. Together with the 123 Berry, I was ready for some math. I chose my very favorite skill to teach in 5th grade: prime factorization. 

100 = 5 x 2 x 2 x 5, which we write as 100 = 22 x 52.

Same problem, different way of solving it, same answer: 100 = 22 x 52. 

(Fun fact: Now I know how to do superscript tags in HTML!) 

I spent about 30 minutes playing with the cereal making a bunch of different factor trees, which was approximately 25 minutes longer than it took to get the photos I needed. It was fun. I KNOW that students would enjoy using this cereal for math problems. Obviously, you can do all sorts of math with this cereal: adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions, and decimals (Grape Nuts would be great for decimal points), just to name a few. If you have kids at home, I definitely recommend giving this a try!


Onboard Fun (Europe 2019)

I'm almost done scrapping our 2019 Europe trip. Today's page has miscellaneous photos from the cruise portion of the trip, along with a group photo in front of the Sapphire Princess.  

I struggled with this page for awhile, but once I figured out what to do, it came together quickly. What's interesting about it, besides the fact that I used deco-edge scissors for the first time in forever, is that I made this layout with only a single sheet of patterned paper and half a sheet of white cardstock. Here's the secret:

The paper is double-sided with dots and stripes. I cut out a chunk that would be hidden by the photos, flipped it over, then sliced off a bit to use as the waves that would hold the title. Then I punched hearts out of what was left. It wasn't big enough to punch entire hearts, but that didn't matter because the missing part appears to be tucked under the photos. I like the effect and am happy with this layout. 


Inspirational Words Mandala and Name Art Mandala

The possibilities are endless for making mandalas using PicMonkey. Here is a mandala made from 11 years' worth of my choices for One Little Word

The basic steps are the same as in the Easter Egg and Jelly Bean mandala, except instead of graphics, you're using text. After steps 1 and 2, instead of adding a Graphic, you'll click Add Text. Type in your word, choose a font, add some color, and drag it into position. 

Repeat until you have filled the upper right quadrant with words. All words should be fully within the quadrant.

Now pick up the egg mandala tutorial at Step 10. Group the words, then duplicate and flip. Group those two, then duplicate and flip. You should have a completed mandala.

You're not limited to inspirational words, of course. It's awesome for name art, too. (You know what a fan I am of name art!) To make this, I went back to my completed quadrant and changed each of the words to my name. I had to change a few fonts and resize a bit to make it fit, but it's mostly the same.

My brain is already whirring with more mandala possibilities!

Design, edit and store projects with PicMonkey


Making Hard Cards

My stash of cards is dwindling, so it's time for me to replenish. I started with the Hard Cards (sympathy and other cards for not-happy occasions) since they are my least favorite to make. I used this simple design by Susan Opal to create these:

Sorry for Your Loss / Sympathy (affiliate link here and below)

For each card, I chose two coordinating papers and adhered them to a card base. I stamped sentiments from this Hero Arts set onto scraps using black ink, then added clear embossing powder and used my beloved heat gun to set it. I'm pleased with how they turned out and love how this easy design translates so well for sympathy cards.
Next time, cards for happier occasions!


Homemade Wonton Soup

Our family loves wonton soup. By doing some of the prep ahead of time, the soup can be on the table in under 15 minutes, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. 

Steve got me this set of melamine take-out boxes for my birthday and I'm in love. They're so cute and the perfect size for a serving of soup. I already had the spoons (affiliate link). 

So what's the secret to homemade wonton soup on the dinner table in minutes? Making a huge batch of wontons ahead of time and freezing them. 

Then all I have to do is heat up some broth, add plenty of ginger and whatever veggies I have on hand, and then drop the frozen wontons into the boiling broth. In minutes, dinner is on the table.   

You can put pretty much anything you want into your wontons. Start with a ground meat, then add shredded veggies, some aromatics, and a splash of soy sauce and sesame oil. I usually wing it, but for posterity's sake I actually measured this time so I could record what I used. 


Beef Wontons

                                       8 oz. ground beef                                             1 T. ginger, minced
                                       1/2 c. shredded carrots                                   1 T. soy sauce
                                       1/4 c. shredded cauliflower                           1 tsp. sesame oil
                                       2 cloves garlic, minced                                    square wonton wrappers

Brown ground beef in a large frying pan. Transfer the cooked beef to a bowl, leaving the rendered fat behind. Saute the carrots and cauliflower in the pan until just tender. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 2 more minutes. Return the beef to the pan, then stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Remove from heat. 

Create a comfortable station for filling the wontons (it will take awhile!). You'll need a small dish with water and a cookie sheet to put the filled wontons. 

Put a wonton wrapper into one hand and use the other hand to spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of filling into the center. Do not overfill!

Dip a finger into the bowl of water and use it to moisten along two of the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper diagonally so that the moistened sides line up with the dry sides. Press the air out around the filling as you fold, then pinch all along the edges to seal. 

Set the filled wonton on the cookie sheet. Continue, placing each wonton onto the cookie sheet, making sure they don't touch. When the tray is full, cover the wontons with plastic wrap and put it into the freezer. When the wontons are completely frozen, after approximately one hour, transfer them to a ziplock bag and return them to the freezer. 


A Look at the White House China Collections

I've been reading a lot of books about the White House recently. I've always been an avid reader, and before the pandemic I went to the library at least twice a month to load up on a stack of books. When the library closed, I switched to using the library's eBook service, which recommended J.B.West's Upstairs at the White House after I indicated that I'm a fan of memoirs. (Affiliate link here and throughout the post). When I finished West's book and rated it highly, Hoopla recommended more behind-the-scenes at the White House books. I've now read and enjoyed Alonzo Fields' My 21 Years in the White House, Henrietta Nesbitt's White House Diary, as well as Kate Andersen Brower's The Residence. I also read one book that I particularly enjoyed despite it being intended for kids: Joe Rhatigan's White House Kids

One of my favorite things about reading digital books is that I can quickly and easily look something up as I'm reading. Of course, "quickly" looking up one fact often turns into an hours-long descent into a fascinating topic. Thus, I ended up spending a lot of time researching the White House china collections. Among other things, I learned the Trumps did not design a signature china collection, a tradition followed by almost every previous president. If you are interested in learning about the White House china, this timeline is very interesting, and I recommend giving it a look. 

While I can say with near 100% certainty that I will never be asked to design a set of presidential china, it's still fun to think about what the deRosier pattern would be. Simple, clean, and elegant, for sure. Pure white, not ivory. Perfectly round, not scalloped. Beyond that, I'm not sure. 

I couldn't find images of all the presidential china collections in the public domain, but I did find one for my very favorite set, the GW Bush collection. It's elegant and interesting without being too busy. 

There is a better photograph of it, and of many of the other presidential china collections, in this Architectural Digest article. My second favorite, the Reagan setting, shares a similar interesting diamond pattern around the edge. Clearly, the deRosier setting should be inspired by this element!

There are plenty of other sets I like, particularly those of Wilson and Truman. However, having not been in the White House to see how the china looks with the architecture and furnishings, there might be others I love more for the specific location. What are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!


S'mores Campfire Treat Centerpiece

Out of the 2600+ blog posts I've written, my one about the World's Best Classroom Birthday Treat remains my most popular of all time. Today's project uses the same "recipe" to fill this cute campfire treat centerpiece. Affiliate links below. 


S'mores Campfire Treat Centerpiece



Cut 7 teardrop shapes of various sizes from the yellow cardstock to make the flames of the campfire. Shade the edges with orange color pencil. 

Cut 5 cylinders from brown cardstock. Use a dark brown color pencil to draw concentric circles on the ends to mimic the cut ends of logs. Draw knots and bark lines randomly along the length of the cylinders. Switch to a brownish-red pencil and draw more bark lines, then again with light brown. 

Glue the logs together with craft glue, then add flames behind them. Use the tape runner to apply adhesive to the bottom of the display case, then press the campfire against it. 

Add spots of adhesive to the top of the display case. Pull bits of cotton from a cotton ball, separating them until they are whispy. Stick the cotton to the adhesive to mimic the look of smoke. Continue until the top is mostly covered. In this picture, you can see that I've covered the top already and have a large pile of cotton left over. All of that is from a single cotton ball. 

Prepare the s'mores trail mix

Fill the display case with trail mix. Sprinkle additional trail mix on the clean tables around the display cases so that hungry guests don't destroy your centerpieces.  

This would be a really fun activity for a Cub Scout Blue & Gold or other Scouting event, as well as for a camping-themed birthday party.


Summer of Rock

There are some benefits to staying home for a year (and counting!). All that time we'd ordinarily have been traveling, seeing friends and family, and otherwise leaving the house could instead be put into doing things around the house. One of those was making improvements to our front yard. 

Summer of Rock (affiliate link)
The whole thing was our neighbor Curt's idea. He wanted us to replace the grass strips by the sidewalk with rock. Then he decided we should replace the lawn, fix the patio, and add rock and mulch. Curt made all the plans and we helped him execute them. It was a lot of work, but well worth it.

Huge thanks to Curt. Good neighbors are the best.


Paper Plate Easter Basket

Check out my Easter basket! I made it from a paper plate and filled it with construction paper eggs cut from scraps. 

Paper Plate Easter Basket



  • paper plate
  • scissors
  • craft glue
  • binder clips
  • legal-size paper
  • stapler
  • Easter grass
  • construction paper


Cut 12 slits into the paper plate, approximately the same distance apart, stopping where the ridged part ends. (I cut like the numbers on a clock - top and bottom, left and right, then two cuts between each cut.) Bend the cut pieces upward.

Add a dot of glue to the inside right of each flap. Starting with one flap, tuck it behind the flap immediately to the right so that the right (gluey) side is behind the left (non-glued) side. Then tuck that flap behind the next one on the right, continuing until it forms a basket shape. It you use strong glue, it will hold pretty well on its own, but I recommend putting a few binder clips in place to hold it if any start slipping.  

If you look carefully, I should have added one more binder clip, as there's a loose flap in the 9:00 position. I noticed it later, added more glue, and clipped it.

While the glue is drying, cut out eggs from construction paper and decorate them with the scraps from other colors of eggs. 

Fold the legal-size paper in half lengthwise, then in half again and again until you have a long, narrow strip. Glue the ends to the inside of the basket, then staple them in place for extra security. 

Fill your basket with Easter grass, then tuck in your eggs. This basket is surprisingly sturdy and would work well with plastic eggs or real eggs, too. 

I hope you have a wonderful Easter!


Easter Egg Sun Catcher

I love sun catchers. Part of what I like about them is how different they look as the daylight shifts. They also have a completely different look hanging on a window versus a wall, which you can see here:

But what I like most about them is that they're easy to make and always pretty. Affiliate links below. 


Easter Egg Sun Catcher



Cut two pieces of contact paper that are slightly larger than you want your finished sun catcher to be. Make a pattern for your egg, then use a Sharpie to trace the pattern onto the paper liner of one of the pieces of contact paper. Do not draw on the contact paper itself!

Cut narrow strips of tissue paper.

Place the piece of contact paper with the pattern drawn on it on your work surface. Peel the liner off the other piece of contact paper only, and place it sticky side up on the other piece. Now add strips of tissue paper and rows of sequins to the sticky surface. The tissue paper should extend beyond the edges of the pattern, while the sequins need to stay inside the lines. 

Slide the lower piece of contact paper out from under the one you've been working on. Remove the paper liner and set it aside. Press that piece of contact paper on top of the first, sticky sides together, sandwiching the tissue paper and sequins inside. 

Place paper liner with the pattern underneath the sun catcher, adjusting it so that it is lined up properly. Use paper clips to hold it in place if necessary, then cut along the line.  

Poke a hole in the top of your sun catcher with the craft pick, then insert a length of embroidery floss. Tie a knot to make the hanger. Then hang it on a wall...

... or in a window!

If you do hang it in a window, be sure to check back at different times of day to see how the light changes.


Easter Egg and Jelly Bean Mandala Coloring Page

I know that I never shut up about PicMonkey, but that is because I love it. In addition to using it for photo editing and creating graphics for social media and elsewhere, recently I've been using it to make my own coloring pages. My latest is a mandala of Easter eggs and jelly beans, which I colored by hand using Prismacolor art markers (which I also love). Affiliate link here and throughout the post. 

You are more than welcome to print and color my mandala. 

Better yet, read on to learn how to make your own. I'll show you how I made my egg and jelly bean version, but you can use any shapes or objects you want. 


How to Make a Mandala Coloring Page in PicMonkey

1. Open PicMonkey, then create a new blank canvas (square). 

2. Click on the wheel at the bottom to open Alignment. Check Show Grid on Canvas. Set it to 2 rows and 2 columns. 

3. Enter the shape you want (in this case, an egg) in Search All Graphics. There isn't a plain outlined egg, but that's no problem. I chose a polka dotted one, then used Effects to add an outline. 

4. Use Adjust to change both colors to white (if you'll be printing on colored paper, change them to Transparent). Now you have just the outline of an egg. 

5. Drag the egg into the upper right quadrant, then rotate it the way you want it. 

6. Right click and select Duplicate Layer. 

7. Place your duplicated egg where you want it and then duplicate again until you've filled the upper right quadrant with eggs. I fit eight in the space, with some sitting directly on the grid lines. This works because eggs have vertical symmetry. If you choose a shape that doesn't, keep the shapes within the quadrant.

8. Duplicate the egg one more time, then shrink that duplicated egg down to the size of a jelly bean by clicking and dragging on one of the corner dots. Drag the jelly bean into a space between the eggs. 

9. Continue to duplicate and place jelly beans until you're happy with the design. I have 22 jelly beans. 

10. Highlight all the eggs and jelly beans at once. Multiple Layers will pop up. Click Group. (Ungroup is showing in the screenshot because I've already grouped them.)

11. Now it's time for the magic! Duplicate the layer, then use the tool to flip it vertically. Move it into the upper left quadrant. 

12. Now group those two layers together, just like in Step 10. Duplicate the newly grouped layers, then flip it vertically, and slide it into place. 

Now you have a complete mandala, ready to print and color!

Get a 7-day Free Trial at PicMonkey