Cardboard Tube NFL Referee (Standard and Pandemic Versions)

It's that time of year when searches for football crafts explode. Most of the crafts out there are based on the field, goal posts, stadium, and the ball itself. I went a different direction and made a referee out of a cardboard tube. 

This is the pandemic version:

His mask is removable, if you prefer the pre-COVID version. Affiliate links below. 

Cardboard Tube NFL Referee



Paint the cardboard tube. The top 1/3 should be your skin tone of choice (I used Camel) and the bottom 2/3 should be white. Paint a tiny scrap of cardstock with your skin tone color. You'll be cutting it out to make ears. 

While the paint dries, cut a circle of black cardstock with a diameter about 1" larger than that of the cardboard tube. Make cuts in the circle from the outside toward the center (like you're cutting pizza slices), stopping 1/2" from the center. This will be the top of the hat. Set it aside for now. 

Use a black Sharpie to draw a collar and stripes on the referee's shirt. Draw a rectangle where his pocket goes, then color the red and blue of the NFL logo with the ultra-thin Sharpies. It's really tiny, so don't expect perfection. Color around the logo with the black Sharpie.

Cut a tiny shield from white cardstock and use the red and blue Sharpies to make a second NFL logo. This will go on the hat (but not yet). 

Return to the hat circle. Cupping the circle in one hand, overlap the flaps you've cut so that each piece sits onto the one next to it. This will form the crown. Add craft glue all the way around the circumference of the crown and glue it to the top of the referee's head. You may have to hold it in place for a few minutes while the glue sets. Then cut a black visor. 

You should be here:

Glue the googly eyes in place and add a nose and a smile. Glue the logo to the crown of the hat and add the visor. You should be here:

Cut a short length of embroidery floss, then remove 4 strands (leaving 2). Put a dot of glue on his chest where the whistle will sit, then additional glue on each of his (non-existent) 'shoulders' and another dot of glue on the back of his neck. Place the center of the floss on his chest, then wrap the ends around to meet behind his neck, making sure the floss rests on his shoulders. 

Cut a silver whistle (basically the shape of a comma) and glue it on his chest. 

Cut two ears from the painted cardstock. Glue them in place. Now you're here. 

To make the mask, cut a small piece of seam binding and two short lengths of embroidery floss (use all six strands this time). Glue the ends of each piece of floss to the corners of the mask, leaving just enough slack so you can get the mask in place after it dries. If you don't care about being able to remove the mask, just glue it in place. That's easier. 

I had a lot of fun making my referee. Enjoy!


Mardi Gras Cereal Treat, Inspired by King Cake

Ready for another Mardi Gras craft? This edible craft, which is about the size of a donut, looks like a mini king cake and features some of the same flavors. Cereal is the main ingredient in this treat... but it's not Rice Krispies! Try making your own for Mardi Gras. Affiliate links below. 

Individual Mardi Gras Cereal Treat



Melt approximately 4 oz. Candy Melts, following the package instructions. Pour 1.5 cups Golden Grahams into the melted candy, stirring until it is mostly coated.

Spoon the candy-coated cereal onto a piece of parchment paper, making a donut shape. 

While the candy is still melted, sprinkle green, yellow, and purple sanding sugar on top, alternating sections. Don't cover it entirely; you want some of the white 'frosting' to show through. 

Let the candy harden completely, then transfer the treat to a separate plate. 

To serve, cut straight down with a sharp knife to break it into pieces. This sweet donut-sized cinnamon treat will satisfy 2-4 people. 


Labeling My Flavorings (aka Dealing with My LorAnn Obsession)

Based on my not-subtle hint, my mom got me a You Choose pack of LorAnn flavorings for Christmas (affiliate link here and throughout the post). I'm really happy with the flavors she chose. They aren't a perfect match for what I would have chosen for myself, but it's close. I found a metal candy tin that is just the right side to hold the 18 flavors Mom gave me and the four I already had. The tin fits nicely in a kitchen drawer, so it's quick and easy for me to grab a bottle and add a drop of flavoring to a glass of water or to use in baking. 

There's only one problem.

When the bottles are in the tin, you can't see the labels. I'd be in the mood for raspberry and have to pick up a dozen bottles before finding the one I wanted. I dealt with it for a month before solving the problem with sticker paper, a 1/2" punch, and letter stickers

In just a few minutes, I labeled all my flavorings. Except one. That blank one is a duplicate (Cinnamon). Rather than label both Cinnamons, I left the one that was already open unlabeled so that after I use it up, the remaining one is labeled. 

As you can see, there are some flavors that have the same initial letter (Peach, Pear, Pineapple, and Pomegranate, for example). Worst case scenario, I find the one I want on the fourth try. Not a big deal. It did feel a little weird to label Tropical Punch as TP.

After labeling, I made myself a chart of my flavors. Most are soluble in water, which is important for me to know, since my primary use for the flavors has been to add a drop to a glass of water. After one unpleasant oil slick at the top of my drink, now I know which will blend nicely and give me a tasty drink. So far, my favorites for flavoring water are pineapple and raspberry. 

My chart also shows which flavors are appropriate to use with chocolate and Candy Melts. Some will cause thickening, but that is easily solved by adding a tiny bit of coconut oil or cocoa butter to return to the proper consistency. 

In addition to flavoring my water, I've been using LorAnn oils in all sorts of ways with great success. I'll be sharing some of my ideas in upcoming blog posts. 


Scouting License Plate

Trevor is coming up on his 4th anniversary as a member of Scout Troop 482. Three cohorts of Cub Scouts have bridged to the troop since Trevor did, making him one of our more senior Scouts. I came across the photos of Trevor bridging from Cub Scouts recently (he's SO tiny!) and realized that four of the five Scouts who welcomed him to 482 have since aged out. They helped Trevor develop his skills and served as excellent role models. Now it's Trevor's turn to do the same for the Scouts coming up behind him. 

I was helping Trevor brainstorm fun activities for a session he's leading during a virtual open house. I  offered to make him a visual aid because I'll take any excuse to play with PicMonkey. We brainstormed ideas for a Scout-themed license plate. I put the web address where the state name usually goes, then the Scout motto (Be Prepared) at the bottom. You probably recognize the BSA's fleur-de-lis emblem. Do you know why I chose those letters and numbers for a Scouting-themed license plate?

If not, here's a clue. What is the highest rank in Scouting? 

Did you say Eagle? Good job! The E in the seventh position on the license plate stands for Eagle. Can you figure out what the other letters and numbers mean? 

They represent the seven ranks, in order: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle: ST21SLE. I wonder if anyone has ever gotten this as a personalized license plate. It'd be an awesome choice and one that would probably stump a lot of people!


LNU Lightning Complex

This might be the most plain layout I've ever made. 

LNU Lightning Complex Fire (affiliate link)

It didn't feel appropriate to add embellishments and I didn't want to distract from the photos or the journaling. I thought it was going to be difficult to journal on this page, but I ended up paraphrasing my blog post about our evacuation story, which made it easier. I'm glad to have this in the album as a companion to the page about our evacuation-turned-vacation.


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



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. Enjoy!


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. 


"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



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! 


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



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. 


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



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!)


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


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


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. 


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.


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



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. 


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! 


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.