What Happened When I Discovered My Initials Are an Airport Code

About 99.9% of the scrapbooking I do involves putting photos from special occasions, trips, or everyday life onto pretty paper, then adding detailed journaling to preserve my memories. This page falls into the 0.1% of layouts that don't. This layout has no photos, includes no journaling, and doesn't exist to document a memory. I made it solely to play with product and share something neat with you. 

Travel Goals (affiliate link)

As you know, every airport has a 3-letter code designation. Our family usually travels out of SFO (San Francisco) or SMF (Sacramento), and occasionally from OAK (Oakland). We've flown into some locations whose names were baffling at first, such as YYZ (Toronto), MSY (New Orleans), GEG (Spokane), and FCO (Rome). I recommend reading about the history and naming conventions of the AITA designators - it's interesting stuff.

On a whim, I looked up our initials to see if there is an airport matching each. Sure enough! My initials, CMJ, designate Qimei Airport in Taiwan. Steve's initials, SDD, are used for Lubango Mukanka Airport in southwestern Angola. Trevor's initials, TSD, match those of Tshipise Airport in the northernmost part of South Africa, just next to the Zimbabwean border.
To be perfectly honest, even though I titled the layout Travel Goals, none of these places are high on my travel bucket list. And if I were to visit them, I'd likely be flying into larger airports. Still, it's neat to think about visiting "our" airports some day. In the meantime, we have a much more realistic travel goal to accomplish and under 3 years to do so!


A Flamingo for Father's Day

I recently finished reading a book in which the main character's mom had died giving birth to him. His father raised him alone and the seahorse was a powerful symbol for them, representing what a wonderful job he'd done as a single dad. I was thinking about this as I was going through our Father's Day crafts at Fun Family Crafts. While I've put a lot of effort into making sure our collection of crafts isn't just cards featuring baseballs, fishing pools, hammers, and neckties, there are almost no animal-themed projects for Father's Day.

I thought about making a seahorse project specifically for Father's Day, but the dads that I honor on Father's Day (Steve, my dad, and Steve's dad) aren't single fathers. I thought about making a penguin project. Penguin dads famously take care of their eggs for around two months without eating or moving, while the mom spends those two months eating to replenish the nutritional reserves she used laying the egg. My post-childbirth experience would have been a lot easier if Steve had been with Trevor 24/7 for two months while I did nothing but eat, but that's not the case either. So I decided against the penguin. 

Ultimately, I chose a flamingo for my Father's Day project. Flamingoes mate for life; the pair build their nest together, take turns incubating the egg, and share parenting duties once the baby has hatched. One more reason to love flamingos! 

A Flamingo for Father's Day


  • cardstock (blue - 2 shades, pink, and grey)
  • microtip scissors
  • colored pencils
  • heart punch
  • craft glue
  • black Sharpie


Select one color of blue for the background and set it aside. Cut a rectangular strip from a second blue for the water. 

Daddy and Baby Flamingo each have three body parts: the main body, the wing, and the head/neck. I cut the bodies and wings freehand, but made myself a scratch paper pattern for the necks so that I wouldn't waste the cardstock if I didn't get it right on the first try. 

You will also need a pink leg and a grey heart, so cut those before throwing out the scraps. 

Use a pink colored pencil to draw feathers on Daddy Flamingo's body, wing, and neck. Add a band of white to the top of the beak, then black on the tip of the beak. Add a black eye. Use the black pencil to add dots to Baby Flamingo's body, wing, and head, then color in the beak and add an eye.

Glue the water to the background, then assemble Baby Flamingo and glue him to the water on the right-hand side. Glue Daddy Flamingo to the left-hand side. Glue the heart to the top and write in the I and U with a Sharpie. 

Happy Father's Day to all you Flamingo Dads out there, as well as the Seahorse (and Penguin) Dads!


How to Draw a Chicago Dog

Our family went camping recently, a quick one-night jaunt to check out the nearby state park where Trevor's Scout troop will be doing summer camp. Because it was such a short trip, we brought the bare minimum and kept meals extremely simple. We had hot dogs for dinner, but I didn't bother packing the variety of toppings I'd normally set out for hot dogs. Instead, I just grabbed a few ketchup packets. As we were eating, Steve commented that we'd be lucky if we weren't banned from Chicago for our blasphemy. The only thing we did right was use all-beef franks. 

A proper Chicago Dog is is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, neon green pickle relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. To atone for my ketchup-on-hotdog sin, I'm sharing this tutorial to teach you how to draw a hot dog that would make Chicagoans proud. 

How to Draw a Chicago Dog


  • drawing paper
  • colored pencils


Begin by drawing the basic outline of the hot dog and bun. Sketch very lightly; I've used pen on these step-out photos to make them easier to see. Add the pepper (shaped like a leaf) and half a tomato. 

Add a second tomato to the foreground, then draw a wiggly line of mustard the length of the dog. 

Draw small bits of onions and relish along the mustard. Add a slightly smaller half-circle to each tomato slice. Add an oval plate beneath the hot dog.

Now it's time to color. I used the World Colors set, which gave me a good variety of browns and creams that came in handy. Don't forget to add poppyseeds to the bun!

If the Chicago dog is not your cup of tea, you may enjoy this Ultimate Hot Dog Style Guide, with varieties from across the world. I would like to try a Sonora Dog, stat! There are quite a few others I wouldn't turn down. Which ones catch your eye?



Church in the Red Tier

We have been to church for in-person worship exactly once over the past 15 months, for Trevor's delayed confirmation on March 28. (The rest of the time we've been attending from home via livestream.) Our county had just moved from the very restrictive Purple Tier (Widespread) to the slightly less restrictive Red Tier (Substantial), which allowed for in-person worship at up to 25% capacity. Besides the blocked off pews and mask requirement, there were dozens of other changes in place to help keep everyone safe. These included things like self-serve communion, signing in for contract tracing, closed drinking fountains and bathroom restrictions, a stationary offering basket vs. the usual passed plates, and signs reminding us to stay 'at least one polar bear apart.'

Church in the Red Tier (affiliate link)

Trevor recently had his second vaccination, which means we're closing in on the day when the family is officially considered fully vaccinated. Our county has been at the Orange Tier (Moderate) for a couple of weeks, and today California is ending the tiered system. I don't know that we'll be returning to church right away, as online worship has worked well for us. But when we do it, will be interesting to see which changes from the COVID era remain in place.  


State Foods Bucket List

The first foreign country I visited as a child was Canada. Canadian food is not that different from American food and most of what my family and I ate there was at least similar to what we ate at home. But I distinctly remember trying a new-to-me beverage during that visit to Canada. If Canada Dry was available in California in the 1970s, I'd never seen it or even heard of it. When I first tried that deliciously crisp and refreshing ginger ale way back when, I fell in love.

I have similar food memories from childhood travels within the United States. I have clear memories of fresh huckleberry pie in Oregon and trying Tim's Cascade Chips for the first time at my cousins' house in Washington. I distinctly remember reindeer sausage on my first trip to Alaska and deep-dish pizza the first time I went to Chicago. To me, vacation has always been a time to try new foods and drinks. 

Times have changed, in that you don't necessarily have to travel to try foods from faraway places. I am fairly sure I could get Canada Dry, huckleberry pie, Tim's Cascade Chips, reindeer sausage, and deep-dish pizza either at my local store or delivered directly to my house within 24 hours of an Internet order. But that's not nearly as fun as eating something new where it originated or is most beloved.  

With that in mind, I put together a bucket list of each state's official foods.

The goal is to eat those foods in their particular state. So while I've obviously eaten peaches many times, I've never eaten one in Georgia and thus will not mark it off until I do. Here is my progress so far, as best I can remember. As you can see, I have a lot of traveling and eating to do!


Here's a clean copy you can print.


Note that these are only the officially-designated state foods. I'm still going to seek out all the local favorites I can. Some of my best travel memories are from trying foods that aren't on this list, like Runzas in Nebraska, burgoo in Kentucky, and a Gerber sandwich, Ted Drewes, and Gooey Butter Cake in Missouri


S'mores Pie

The idea of a s'mores pie popped into my brain a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to shake it. So I made one to share with friends. 

I started with a graham cracker crust, filled that with a layer of whipped ganache, and then added a sort of marshmallow cheesecake layer. 

I sprinkled marshmallows on top...

.... then used my heat gun to toast the marshmallows. We've found dozens of uses for the heat gun in the year and a half since I've had it, but this was the first time I used it for food. It worked like a charm!

It was good. Not amazing, but definitely good. The tang of the cheesecake layer was a bit out of place. And that layer was definitely out of proportion - way too much compared with the chocolate and graham cracker. The next time I make this, I might skip the cream cheese entirely. Ooh, maybe replace it with a marshmallow ice cream? And I want to add more graham cracker - maybe as a crumble beneath the top marshmallow layer.  We'll see. This recipe definitely has possibility. 

Here's the recipe as I made it. If you have other ideas for improving my pie, let me know in the comments!


S'mores Pie

Graham cracker crust:
I used a store-bought graham cracker crust. Because we were taking this to a friend's house, I wanted to use a disposable pan so I could leave them the leftovers. When I make graham cracker crust from scratch, I combine a sleeve of graham crackers (crushed into crumbs) with 3 T. brown sugar and 6 T. melted butter. 


Heat 1/2 c. heavy cream for 45 seconds in the microwave. Add one 4 oz. bar of Ghiradelli 70% Cacao, chopped into small chunks. Let sit for 3 minutes, then stir until it is smooth. Put it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to chill. 

Marshmallow cheesecake layer:

Whip 1 c. heavy cream. Set it aside. In a separate bowl, combine 8 oz. of cream cheese and 2 c. of mini marshmallows. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave, stir, then heat for 30 more seconds. Whip for 2 minutes or until smooth and glossy. Fold in the whipped cream. 

Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Without cleaning the beaters, whip the ganache until it has doubled in volume and lightened in color. Spoon the whipped ganache into the graham cracker crust. Spread it into an even layer that covers all of the crust. Spoon the cheesecake layer on top of the ganache layer. Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. 

Sprinkle 1.5 c. mini marshmallows on top of the pie, then use the heat gun to heat them. The marshmallows will swell and brown. When they're evenly toasted, cut the pie into slices and serve. 


How to Draw a Realistic Popsicle

I know it's not technically summer yet, but it definitely feels like it is. School is out, the weather is warm, and the days are long. It's the perfect time for a popsicle - eating one, drawing one, or both!

Drawing a realistic popsicle is surprisingly easy. I did my project using Prismacolor art markers (affiliate link here and below). Because they are alcohol-based instead of water-based, the colors blend easily and the shadows and highlights look very lifelike.  

How to Draw a Realistic Popsicle



Color the basic shape of the popsicle using Deco Blue, Brick White, and Crimson Red. Color the stick Sand. 

Add highlights to the popsicle using Cool Grey 10% to color in three long rectangles, as shown below. The colors will blend to provide highlights. Color the right side of the stick with Light Walnut. Add some Cool Grey 10% to the right side and base of the popsicle and stick to make a shadow. 

Use the Deco Blue, Brick White, and Crimson Red markers to add an additional layer of color to the areas outlined below. Add a tiny bit of additional shadowing to the right of the existing shadow using Cool Grey 30%. 

That's all there is to it! Your popsicle is done. 

Steve and Trevor got me a dozen new Prismacolor markers for Mother's Day, so this project was a fun excuse to play with some of my new shades. I gave them a chart of the colors I already had and asked them to pick markers from Dick Blick's open stock (the best and cheapest place to get individual Prismacolors) to complement what I already had. They did a great job! These are the 42 colors I now have: 

While I would love to have all of the shades, my collection is now big enough to meet most of my coloring needs. Although now that I think about it, when I get my next dozen markers for some gift-giving occasion, I may wonder how I ever lived with *just* 42 before!


Donut Cake

Along with Trevor's donut birthday banner, I got him some donut-themed gifts and baked him a donut cake. It was the easiest decorated cake I've ever made. It barely counts as decorated - it's that easy. Affiliate links below. 

Donut Cake



Follow the directions on the Cake Release to prepare a round tube pan. I don't own a round tube pan, but I made due with a bundt pan. I took extra steps to deal with the fluted pan; skip those if you have a smooth tube pan. 

Bake the cake and let it cool completely. Frost the fluted area with buttercream, filling in the dips. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is solid. Dip a knife into hot water, wipe it clean, then use it to smooth any ridges in the frosting. You want a nice, smooth surface (in other words, exactly what you'd naturally get if you use the correct pan). 

Make ganache by gently heating the cream, then adding chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes, then stir until it is smooth and glossy. Set the cake on a tray over a sheet of parchment paper. Let the ganache cool until it flows smoothly (without being runny), then spoon it over the cake. 

At this point, Steve walked by and pointed out that most donuts are dipped rather than drizzled, giving them a cleaner edge. He's totally right, but I was already committed so I continued to spoon on the ganache. For that cleaner look, pour your ganache into a baking pan that is slightly larger than the cake, dip the top, and then invert it onto the tray. Regardless of which method you use, the final step is to add the candies to mimic the sprinkles on a donut. 

Here's the birthday boy with his cake. I thought I was being clever using the 5 (which I thought was left over from his 5th birthday party, but apparently not) along with a standard candle to make a 15, but the flames were a wee bit mismatched. Oh well!

Because it was just the three of us, we have plenty left over. Not that I'm complaining - the cake was delicious! 


High School Teacher Thank You Cards using Custom Papers

Today is Trevor's last day of ninth grade. His teachers, principal, and counselor have gone above and beyond to make this difficult school year productive and memorable. I wanted to make cards to thank them for everything they did for Trevor and the rest of the students. There was only one place to get the PERFECT papers for those cards: Scrapbook Customs. Did you know that Scrapbook Customs sells individual sheets of school-themed papers that you can customize with your school colors, name, mascot, and logo?! 

I always assumed that in order to get custom papers, you'd have to order at least 25 of the same design. Nope! At Scrapbook Customs, you can order single sheets of custom papers. They are surprisingly affordable. And high quality. There is nothing not to love about these papers. 

To get your custom paper, simply select the paper you want, then choose the colors, school name, initials, mascot, etc. There's even a line for special instructions. Here's what my order for the ADORABLE mask paper looked like.  

The folks at Scrapbook Customs sent me 10 awesome custom papers featuring Trevor's high school's name, colors, and mascot. I saved a few of the papers to use for layouts and other projects and cut the remaining papers apart to make these cards. 

Here's a closer look at each card I made. Everything you see (except for the white card bases) is cut from one of the ten sheets of paper from Scrapbook Customs:

Unfortunately (for me), I don't have an affiliate link for you to get your own custom papers. Fortunately (for you), I do have a coupon code for you to use! Enter Cindy10 at checkout to get 10% off the (already amazingly low) price for custom papers, or anything else you find on their site. 

I hope the rest of you are as excited about the possibilities of custom papers as I am! 


Donut Birthday Banner (Happy Birthday, Trevor!)

Today is Trevor's 15th birthday! 

We're keeping the celebration very low-key this year. Besides the fact that the things Trevor would most like to do to celebrate (ice skating and teppanyaki) aren't open because of COVID, it's a school day. Specifically, he has finals for three of his classes, with the other three finals tomorrow. Tonight he has a Scout meeting. And, while he had his second vaccination on Friday, he doesn't feel comfortable seeing friends or family in person until after the two weeks have passed. 

Since I wanted his day to be special, I surprised him with a theme I knew he'd love: donuts.

Here's how the banner looked strung across his bedroom door this morning. Such a fun surprise! I have other donut-themed surprises planned for him throughout the day.  

Donut Birthday Banner


  • chipboard
  • scissors
  • Folk Art paint
  • cardstock scraps
  • tacky glue
  • yarn


Cut out five circles from chipboard. Do not go to any effort to make them perfect, as donuts are often irregular. Then cut five circles that are slightly smaller than the first circles. These will be the icing and should be even more irregular than the donuts. 

Paint each of the icing circles. I chose to paint two white, one a chocolate brown, one pink, and one a mint green. 

When the paint is dry, decorate the donuts with toppings of your choice. I tore black cardstock to make Oreo chunks for one of the white donuts, cut brown cardstock to make chocolate chunks for the mint donut, cut brown cardstock fudge ribbons for the pink donut, and snipped a rainbow of cardstock scraps to make sprinkles for the chocolate and the remaining white donuts. 

Glue the toppings in place, then use the scissors to cut out an oval hole in the icing. 

Then cut matching holes in the donut bases. Glue the icing to the bases. When the glue is dry, cut a length of yarn to string the donuts. I taped them to the yarn for this photo... 

... then changed my mind and tied them on the yarn before putting the banner on Trevor's door. To me, they look more realistic this way, since that's the way you'd hang actually donuts along a string. 

In case you're wondering, I made the sign using PicMonkey. (Was there any doubt? I doubt it!) Anyway, happy birthday, Trevor!

Try PicMonkey's Photo Editor and Design Tool


Crayola Crayon Coloring: California

I'm a big fan of everything Crayola. I loved my Crayola crayons and markers as a kid, and I still love them as an adult. I love the newer products they've added since my childhood, particularly Model Magic. How much do I love Crayola? I added a day to our time in Pennsylvania in order to detour to Easton, home of the World's Largest Crayon and Crayola Experience. It was awesome. 

Because I'm such a fan, I jumped on the chance to become an affiliate for Crayola. (Affiliate link here, obviously, and throughout the post.) Eager to see if they had any new products of which I wasn't already aware, I poked all around the Crayola site. And that's when I found a treasure trove: Crayola's free coloring pages. There are a bunch of categories, like Disney, Seasons, and Animals, but it was Places that called to me. They have flags, maps, and symbols for most of the countries of the world and all 50 states. These printable pages have instructions for coloring the flags and symbols accurately. 

I printed out this page about my home state of California, then got happily to work using my Crayola crayons to color the Bear Flag, the Golden Poppy, and the California Dogface Butterfly. I cut out my drawing and mounted it on black paper. I love how it turned out.

It's really tempting to drop all my responsibilities and make myself a coloring book of all 50 states. I'm resisting, but barely. 


Drawing Donuts for National Donut Day

National Donut Day is tomorrow. There are many appropriate ways to celebrate beyond what is obviously the most important component of the day: eating donuts. You can dress up, learn donut historybrowse through recipesrelieve stress, decorate your room, hand out stickerstake a nap, do a puzzle, and enjoy a silly story. You can also draw some donuts. My inspiration came from the Doodlewash book I shared with you about six weeks ago. Affiliate links here and throughout the post. 

Watercolor Donuts



Start by drawing a rough oval in the lower middle of the paper. This will be the icing of the donut in the foreground. Donuts are usually fairly irregular, so don't worry about perfectly smooth curves. Add the cake portion of the donut below by extending short lines down from the sides of the donut, then connecting them with a curve. Then draw the small oval hole in the center of the icing. 

Use the same technique to add a donut on either side of Donut #1. No lines from Donut #2 or #3 should cross Donut #1.

Working toward the top of the paper, continue adding donuts. I added a maple bar (one of my favorites) in addition to a fourth round donut. There really is no right or wrong, as long as the lines of the donuts in the background never cross a donut in the foreground. 

When you're happy with the number of donuts, add toppings. I put sprinkles on one, a drizzle on another, and nuts on my maple bar. 

I ended up adding chocolate chips to the mint chip donut. It's ok to add the details later. 

Now start painting! I painted the icing on all of the donuts (in the same order that I drew them) before painting any of the cake portion. To make them as realistic as possible, I decided where my light source would be (around 11:00) and left lighter areas where they would naturally reflect. I darkened the edges and the areas around the holes. 

Next, I painted the cake portion. I used watery yellow and browns to mimic the way donuts are cooked. The darkest color is closest to the icing, with the next darkest near the base, and a lighter section between those. I also painted the holes where the cake portion shows through. 

With the icing dry, I painted in the toppings. The sprinkles were the easiest and most fun to do. I think the drizzle should have been thicker and more irregular in retrospect. 

Finally, I used a very watery grey to add shadows below the donuts, in the holes, and anywhere one donut would shadow another. 

Happy National Donut Day tomorrow, however you celebrate!