1/22/21

Chinese New Year Ribbon Dragon Craft

January is a busy month in the world of kids' crafts. In January, lots of people search for crafts about Arctic animals (as if penguins and polar bears somehow don't exist if it isn't winter in the US). They're also looking for MLK Day ideas, Groundhog Day puppets and treats, 100th day of school crafts, and everything having to do with Valentine's Day. Mardi Gras searches rise dramatically, as do projects featuring Presidents Washington and Lincoln. And then there's Chinese New Year. Technically, it's Lunar New Year, as many other Asian cultures celebrate it. 

Something unique to Chinese New Year is that the crafts people want follow a 12-year cycle. This year, people want Ox crafts. Last year's Rat crafts won't be popular again until 2032, an eternity (and literally a lifetime) for a child. This time next year, the Ox crafts will hold no appeal as everyone makes Tiger crafts. No other holiday is like that. Can you imagine if everyone decorated for Halloween with only witches one year, then threw them all out (or stored them for 12 years) and decorated only with mummies the following year?!

Fortunately, there are some perennial Chinese New Year decorations that make excellent crafts. Red lanterns, firecrackers, plum blossoms, and fish are great choices. And then there are dragons. Dragons are unique among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac in that they are the only mythical creature. As a symbol of power and luck, they are an important part of every New Year's celebration. I had so much fun designing this dragon, made with wired ribbon! Affiliate links below. 



Chinese New Year Ribbon Dragon Craft



Materials:


Steps:


Cut red cardstock to make the dragon's head, two horns, four feet, and a tongue. Cut gold cardstock to make the hair, eyebrows, nose, beard, and tail. Cut two lengths of Twisteezwire to make the mustache. (The photograph below shows most of the red and gold pieces, but is missing the tongue, eyebrows, and nose.) 


Cut eyes and teeth from white cardstock. Then cut pupils, nostrils, and a mouth from black cardstock. 


Glue all the face pieces together, then set it aside. 

Bend the wired ribbon into gentle waves to form the dragon's body. Glue the tail to one end and the feet to either side of the ribbon where it touches the table. 

Make a sharp fold to make the dragon's neck, then the glue the face to the folded portion. When the glue is dry, you can arrange your dragon however you'd like. 


Obviously, you can change out the colors, features, and proportions of the dragon to make it more or less traditional. 

1/21/21

Mystery Hike, in the Album

Remember the Mystery Hike I made up for Trevor's Scout troop? After it was featured on the Bryan on Scouting blog, I heard from dozens of Scout leaders across the country who used my hike as inspiration for a mystery hike in their own communities. It was awesome to know that I helped get hundreds of kids outdoors and exploring their communities safely with their families. 

Mystery Hike (affiliate link)

Scouting wasn't meant to be done from home on a computer screen, but I applaud the Scouts and leaders who are making the best of the situation. We all look forward to the return to in-person Scouting eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

1/20/21

"I Think You Are TREE-mendous!" Valentine

I'm not normally all that into puns, but there's something about Valentine's Day and puns that go hand-in-hand. This "tree-mendous" valentine is cute and easy to make, plus you can fit a lot of candy or other small gifts into the tree trunk. Affiliate links below. 




"I Think You Are TREE-Mendous!" Valentine


Materials:


Steps: 


Cut two slits in a piece of green cardstock that are the same distance apart as the diameter of the cardboard tube.   


Paint the cardboard tube brown and set it aside to dry. Meanwhile, cut the green cardstock to make the canopy of the tree. Punch hearts from red cardstock and glue them randomly on the canopy. 

When the paint is dry, use the Sharpie to draw vertical lines and knot holes onto the cardboard tube to simulate the look of bark. Then write "I think you are TREE-mendous" on a piece of white cardstock, mat it with red, and then glue it to the trunk. 


Fill the trunk with candy, then slide the canopy onto the trunk. Your valentine is ready to give to that "tree-mendous" person in your life! 

1/19/21

Winter Mint Warm Milk

Last week, it was cold here (Bay Area cold, not Place-With-Actual-Winter cold). Now we're in the 70's, so it feels a little weird posting this now. But most of my readers have Actual Winter, so this for you. 

It's a toss-up as to whether hot chocolate or spiced cider is my favorite warm-me-up beverage, but I was in the mood for something different. This warm, sweet minty milk hit the spot. Affiliate links below. 
 

Winter Mint Warm Milk



Materials:


Steps:


Pour an inch of water into a bowl and an inch of sugar into a second bowl. Dip the rim of each glass into the water and then into the sugar. Set the glasses aside. 

Follow the directions to prepare the Candy Melts. Add several drops of wintergreen flavor, then spoon the candy into the molds. Do not fill the molds completely - you want thin snowflakes that will melt easily in warm milk. Allow the candy to set, then remove it from the mold. Repeat until you have 3-4 snowflakes per person. 

Gently heat the milk (use medium power in the microwave or a double-boiler on the stove), stirring frequently, just until it starts to steam. Pour the milk into the prepared glasses and serve with 3-4 snowflakes and a spoon. Each person can drop in their own snowflakes and stir to add the desired amount of mint flavor to the milk. 

1/18/21

Paper Plate King Cake

I've never celebrated Mardi Gras. Growing up Lutheran, I knew that Lent followed the time after Epiphany and preceded Holy Week on the liturgical calendar, but Lent was just a season for us. My family didn't not abstain from sugar or soda or meat or TV or whatever like my Catholic friends did. Because we didn't abstain from anything, there wasn't a reason to have a big party and feast before the depravation began. Hence, I always thought of Mardi Gras as a Catholic party, one to which I might have been welcome but wasn't really invited. 

We spent Christmas 2019 in New Orleans and my perspective on Mardi Gras completely changed. Visiting Mardi Gras World in particular opened my eyes to the joy and spectacle of the holiday. We tried king cake for the first time and watched the massive floats being built and I began to understand Mardi Gras as a cultural celebration rather than (or in addition to) a religious one. I made a king cake necklace soon after we got home and I look forward to February 16 when I'll wear it again. At home, of course. 

Wisely, New Orleans will not be celebrating Mardi Gras 2021 with parades or gatherings, to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Instead, people are encouraged to celebrate at home. I'm going to be sharing a few ideas for a family-friendly Mardi Gras celebration at home. First, a paper plate king cake craft. Affiliate links below. 


Paper Plate King Cake



Materials:


Steps:

Paint the outside edge of the paper plate Camel. The paint should extend about an inch from the edge. 

Mix equal parts Titanium White, water, and flour in a small container. Stir until completely mixed and is the consistency of frosting. If it is too thick to spread, add a few drops of water at a time until it is spreadable. If it is too thin, add a spoon of flour at a time until it resembles frosting. Use the plastic knife to spread the mixture onto the plate, leaving the painted edge exposed.   


Sprinkle glitter onto the wet flour mixture, alternating between gold/yellow, green, and purple. Aim for nine sections (three of each color). 


Let the paint dry completely (overnight is best) then shake off an excess glitter. For extra fun, tape a plastic baby to the underside of your paper plate king cake. (If you find it later, you get to do an extra craft!)

1/15/21

It's Raining Hearts for Valentine's Day

January is the rainiest month of the year here in northern California. It's all relative, of course; we have far more sunny days than rainy ones, even in January. It was raining while I was punching hearts for a Valentine's Day idea I had, which led to this:


It's Raining Hearts for Valentine's Day


Materials:

  • cardstock or construction paper
  • heart punches
  • microtip scissors
  • adhesive

Steps: 


Punch a bunch of small hearts from dark blue cardstock and one large heart from red cardstock. Use the scissors to cut out a shirt, then bend one sleeve upward. Cut out a head, two hands, an umbrella, and pants. I also cut two shoes and a strip of pavement, which are not in the photo below.   


Put together the girl (shoes behind the jeans, hands behind the shirt, shirt onto the jeans, and head onto the shirt). Assemble the umbrella (handle under the canopy, heart on the canopy) and glue it to the girl's hand. Glue the pavement to the blue background paper. Attach the girl to the background so that she is standing on the pavement. 

Glue the small blue hearts upside down randomly on the background paper, avoiding the area protected by the umbrella. Trim any hearts that extend beyond the edge of the background. 


1/14/21

Healthy Snackers

The last time I shared A Day in the Life of Trouble deRosier, I mentioned Trouble's habit of accepting a Healthy Snacker from Steve, then running off to prevent Steve from taking it back. I couldn't resist using the photos to add the story to the scrapbook.  

Healthy Snackers (affiliate link)
Life with a house rabbit is the best. I will forever be grateful to 4-year old Trevor, who wisely knew (and insistently told us) that our family had just enough room in our hearts and our home to invite a bunny to share our lives.

1/13/21

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Puzzle Piece Peace Wreath

It's been almost 58 years since Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream of the day when his children will "live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character." Remember this great civil rights leader with a puzzle piece peace wreath. (Say that 5 times fast!) Affiliate links below. 



Puzzle Piece Peace Wreath



Materials:


Steps:


Cut out a wreath shape from chipboard. Mine is about 8" in diameter, but you can make it as large or as small as you want.

Lay out the puzzle pieces on your wreath to determine how many you will need, then paint them in different skin tones. If you are repurposing a thrift store puzzle rather than purchasing puzzle pieces specifically for crafting, you should add a thin coat of gesso to the glossy side of the pieces before painting them. 


Cut a length of ribbon, tie the ends, and loop it around the wreath to make the hanger. 

When the paint has dried, start gluing the puzzle pieces to the wreath. Write "I have a dream..." on a piece of cardstock and glue it to the front of the peace wreath. 

1/12/21

Money Gift Idea: A Rainbow of Hidden Gift Cards

I have another money gift idea for you. Instead of cash, this one uses gift cards. Five, to be exact. Do you see them? 


If you guessed that the rainbow is made up of gift cards, you're right! 

It felt really weird selecting gift cards based on their color. I can't say I've ever done that before! I ended up choosing AMC Theatres (a particularly lame gift during the pandemic, but I liked the red), Amazon (orange), Subway (yellow), Target (blue), and iTunes (looks pink below, but is more purple above). Affiliate links here and throughout the post. 


The first step to making the gift was to stack all the gift cards to create a rainbow. I turned each gift card to get the widest strip of uninterrupted color, which in most cases meant they were upside down. I attached each gift card to the next with a Glue Dot


I used blue cardstock to make a card front, turned it face down, then traced around the gift card stack to see how large of a window I would need. I used my favorite craft knife to cut a window inside of my traced lines, then tested the fit. (Always cut less than you need, as you can always cut more but you can't add cut material back.) I decorated the front with punched clouds, a cake die-cut, and sentiment stickers, then used a pair of Glue Dots to attach the stack of gift cards. Because the gift cards were in a sloped stack, I needed a way to adhere the card front to the base that wouldn't have big gaps. I solved that problem by adding strips of foam adhesive around the perimeter of the card front before attaching it to the card base. Add a message inside the card and it's ready to go!

This would make a wonderful gift for a teen, a friend, a teacher, or pretty much anyone else who likes gift cards (in other words, anyone who is old enough to know what a gift card is - sorry toddlers). I suspect I'll be playing with this idea again in the future because I see a lot of possibilities! 

1/11/21

Virtual Backgrounds for Creativation

This time last year I was busy preparing to travel to Creativation, the trade show for the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI). Creativation is the highlight of my year as a creative professional. For five days, I get to try all the latest and greatest craft products, take classes, and spend time with thousands of craft manufacturers, retailers, designers, and my fellow Digital Content Creators. 

The 2021 Creativation trade show will be virtual (and has been moved to March). It's not what anybody wanted, but it is what it is. I'm disappointed not to have an in-person conference, of course, but am determined to make the best of the situation and get as much out of it as I can. There are some upsides to the virtual conference (temporarily rebranded as Creativation+ to reflect the expanded possibilities with the online environment). The most obvious is cost. By attending from my own home, I'm saving on the cost of plane tickets, airport shuttles, a hotel room, and meals out. That's huge. Classes will be recorded, so for the first time I can attend multiple workshops and seminars that are scheduled for the same time slot. I won't miss out on anything at home or putting a burden on Steve to handle all the parenting duties for the week. I'm not sure all of that makes up for the downsides of a virtual trade show, but since it is what it is, I might as well look at the bright side. 

AFCI held a contest for its members to design virtual backgrounds that will be used during the conference. I'd intended to make one to enter, but I love playing with PicMonkey so much that I actually created five. Each features the Creativation+ logo and the official color palette. 










In December, the judges announced the nine finalists, of which five would win. One of mine made the cut, the one with the stapler. Click the image below to see a larger view of each entry. 


I have no idea who designed the other eight designs and am very curious to find out. While my design is not my favorite amongst the finalists (it wasn't even my favorite amongst my own designs), it is in my Top 5. Unfortunately, my fellow AFCI members disagreed and mine was not a winner. 


Oh well! I'm interested to see whether people use the winning backgrounds or not. Personally, I'm going to use something with my own branding rather than Creativation+ branding. I'm guessing most industry professionals are savvy enough to do the same, unless there is some sort of prohibition to using anything other than the official backgrounds. 

1/8/21

Lime Cheesecake Parfait and PicMonkey Pro

At Trevor's request, I made individual lime cheesecake parfaits for Christmas Eve. I had fun tinkering with the recipe, which I based on the Mint Cheesecake Mousse that I'd made earlier in the month. It was delicious - tart and sweet, with layers of graham cracker and plenty of whipped cream. (This post contains affiliate links.)


Before serving, I snapped a really quick photo of one sitting on the countertop in our dark kitchen. I prefer to photograph food in our dining room, during daylight hours, with a proper background. But it was evening, I was in a hurry, and dessert and board games were much higher on my priority list than getting a decent photo. I figured at least I'd documented it. At this point, I wasn't even sure if the recipe would be worth sharing here on the blog, so the photo might not even matter. This is the photo I took, straight from the camera. 


The parfait was really good and I definitely wanted to share it on the blog, which ordinarily would mean playing around with exposure and color options on PicMonkey until I got something acceptable. But a Christmas gift to myself changed everything....


After several happy years with PicMonkey Basic, I upgraded myself to PicMonkey Pro. With the switch, I gained access to (among many other features) the background remover tool. It literally took one click and three seconds to remove the countertop background and leave me with just the parfait on its saucer. 

With one more click, I could change the background to black...


... or use the eyedropper tool to make the background the exact same color as the darker green of the lime zest garnish... 


.... or the lighter green of the garnish. 


The background remover tool is a game-changer for me, as are some of the other features of PicMonkey Pro. I was able to move my brand kit directly into PicMonkey, which puts my brand colors, fonts, watermark, etc. front and center when I edit a photo or make a collage. That's going to save me a few minutes on every single photo, which will add up to massive time savings over the course of the year. I haven't explored all of the Pro features yet, but just the ones I've used so far make it totally worth it to me. 

---------


Lime Cheesecake Parfait


Ingredients:

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed

Steps: 


Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 c. powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Set the whipped cream aside. 

In a separate bowl, whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes on the highest speed. Add the remaining 1/2 c. of powdered sugar and then the lime juice. Spoon half of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture and fold to combine. 

Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs into 6 individual ramekins. Add a layer of the cream cheese mixture, then a thin layer of whipped cream onto each. Sprinkle more graham cracker crumbs on top, then repeat the layers. Garnish with the remaining whipped cream and the lime zest. 

You can serve them immediately, but they're even better after they chill for a few hours. They're also really good frozen. This recipe makes six servings. 

1/7/21

Covid Halloween

Having friends over, going trick-or-treating, and passing out candy were out of the question, so we had to pivot from our usual routine for Halloween. (I'd add "pivot" to this list of choices for 2020 Word of the Year.) Following the guidelines of the CDC and state and county officials, we had a socially-distanced backyard get-together with our friends Ken, Sheena, and Devin. The weather was perfect and it was easy to maintain distance between our two households. We had a wonderful time sitting around their fire pit and catching up.
 
Covid Halloween (affiliate link)

The layout came together quickly and easily. While it looks like there are six photos, there are actually only three. I made a collage of the four smaller photos and printed them as a single 4" x 6". I matted the three photos on a square of black cardstock, put that on Halloween patterned paper, added a title (using my all-time favorite letter stickers) and journaling, then adhered the paper strip and the embellishment. Super easy and I'm really happy with how it came out. 

1/6/21

Praline Syrup

Remember the Advent wreath directed drawing that I taught to the members of my church as part of our special fellowship during Advent? One of the other Advent Fellowship activities was a wonderful session called Gifts from the Kitchen, led by fellow congregant Diane. She demonstrated a handful of recipes that make great gifts. This was over Zoom, but even in that format I could tell that everything smelled and tasted amazing. I couldn't wait to try her recipes, particularly the one for Praline Syrup. 

During the class, Diane said that Praline Syrup is fantastic on pancakes and also makes a wonderful ice cream topping. She mentioned she hadn't tried it on anything else, so naturally I decided right then and there that I'd try it on everything EXCEPT pancakes and ice cream. Well, maybe not everything. But definitely brownies. Verdict: Delicious. 


It's fantastic over roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes, too. 


And it is delightful on top of plain oatmeal. 


Diane's recipe, which makes 3 cups, came from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (affiliate link). I made some slight modifications; my version is below. It takes me right back to New Orleans


Praline Syrup


Ingredients: 

  • 1 c. pecan pieces
  • 2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/3 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Spread the pecan pieces into a single layer in a saucepan. Toast over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until you smell their nutty aroma. Remove the pecans from the pan and set them aside. 

Add the corn syrup, water, and sugar to the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the toasted pecans. Boil gently, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. 

Ladle the hot syrup into hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, add the lids, and screw on the bands. Process for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and let them cool, undisturbed, for 12-24 hours. 

1/5/21

The Grinch Hidden Money Gift

This is the money gift I sent my nephew, Timothy, for Christmas 2020. 


At first glance, it looks like a simple card. But if you look carefully at the tree the grinch is carrying, you'll notice that it's a $20 bill. Look more closely. The 'rug' is a second bill, folded with the rest tucked behind the card front. 

To make it, I started by printing out an image of the Grinch sneaking off with a Christmas tree. I fussy-cut the image, then folded money to form a triangular tree that was the right proportion for the Grinch. I cut out Max, then made a card base to fit both characters. I taped the 'rug' to the back of the card front and used repositionable adhesive (affiliate link) to keep the front flap in place. I added the characters, then the tree. Finally, I punched cardstock circles and used the same repositionable adhesive to attach them to the tree and along the floor. I added details with a black pen, then attached the card front to its base. Quick, easy, and super cute!

1/4/21

One Little Word 2021

This is my eleventh year participating in Ali Edwards' One Little Word. My words include: Balance (2011), Celebrate (2012), Try (2013), Enjoy (2014), Relax (2015), Share (2016), Connect (2017), Believe (2018), Reach (2019), and Focus (2020).  

My word for 2021 is Strengthen. 


Some years, my words come to me early. Strengthen didn't come to me until New Year's Eve, but I'm certain it's the one. I'm looking forward to strengthening my mind, my body, and my relationships. I'm eager to see where Strengthen takes me throughout 2021.  

As always, this year's One Little Word doesn't replace my previous words. I'll continue to embrace Balance, Celebrate, Try, Enjoy, Relax, Share, Connect, Believe, Reach, and Focus. My tags hang together in the craft room. There are seven on the first string.



Strengthen joins Believe, Reach, and Focus on the second string of tags, which hangs directly below the first. 


Did you pick One Little Word for 2021? I'd love to hear what it is and why you chose it!

1/1/21

Creative Resolutions 2021

Happy New Year!

It's time for me to look back at my 2020 creative resolutions and set new goals for 2021. March-December didn't go as expected (to say the least), so I'm pleasantly surprised that I was able to meet as many goals as I did. 



Of the eight resolutions I made, I completed five and made partial progress on one. 

First, the resolutions I completed: 
  • I made 61 scrapbook layouts in 2020. I did a great job scratching older items off my need-to-scrap list
  • I tried a bunch of new-to-me art techniques and media. Many were at Creativation, but I've played around with some new things since then too. 
  • I took an in-person painting class at Creativation and have done a few online classes since. 
  • I hosted 10 Zoom craft days for my crafty BFF's. The pandemic allowed us to get together (virtually) way more often than we normally meet in person and it's been awesome. 
  • I taught about the Diamond Art Freestyle Program via Facebook Live in April and led an Advent directed drawing over Zoom in November for the members of my church. 

I gave myself partial credit for one resolution:

These resolutions are incomplete:
  • I'm not sure how many cards I made during 2020, but it probably falls a little short of 25. Also, I didn't make any with the intention of experimentation I'd intended with this goal. 
  • Library Roulette, at least the way I want to play it, is dependent on visiting the library. Even when our libraries reopened (with limited services, by appointment only) after closing at the start of the pandemic, I am not comfortable going there. (As a side note, I've become obsessed with the library's digital offerings and read almost twice as many books in 2020 as in 2019, despite already being a prolific reader.)

I've put a lot of thought into what I want for my 2021 resolutions. I want to set myself up for success, which means I'm not going to include anything that requires travel, visiting a public place, or gathering with people outside our household. I certainly hope I can do those things soon, but I've written my goals so that I can meet them virtually, if need be. Here is what I'm hoping to accomplish in 2021:


Have you made creative resolutions for 2021? If so, I'd love to hear what they are!