Laurel Creek Beavers

Last month, Trevor organized a hike for his Scout troop, led by a local beaver advocate and the founder of Laurel Creek Beavers. Our troop started at the Paradise Dam and walked the length of the creek to the Heretic Lodge before retracing our path. Along the way, the Scouts picked up trash (I'm happy to report there was very little) and saw 14 beaver dams. The highlight was seeing the beavers swimming near their lodge. We also saw river otters and muskrats swimming. It was awesome. 

Laurel Creek Beavers (affiliate link)

We learned that the current beaver management protocol includes trapping or even killing the beavers and/or removing their dams. Our guide had a lot of before and after pictures that clearly show that that this is unnecessary, as the creek was in no danger of overflowing even with so many dams. In places where there is a flood risk (which is unlikely in our drought-stricken area), there are better solutions that simply destroying the beavers and their habitat.

The local newspaper featured our Scout outing on the front page of the Sunday paper, which I'm hoping led to increased awareness among fellow residents and greater pressure on the authorities to leave the beavers in place. If nothing else, our Scout families are now fully informed and eager to see the beavers remain a part of our community. 
For more information about the Fairfield Beavers, visit the website or join the Facebook group. Be sure to look through the Media tab for photos of the adorable beaver kit!


An Atypical Sympathy Card

 The coloring page that I shared with you yesterday? I used it to make a sympathy card. 

It is very different than sympathy cards I've made in the past. The most obvious difference is the color palette - pinks and greens that focus on celebrating life rather than mourning death. Another difference is the amount of time I spent making it. Sympathy cards always take me longer than other cards, but between coloring and burnishing the image (another thing I learned about after watching Sarah's videos), adding the stitching, and embossing the sentiment, this probably holds the record for the card that took me the longest to make. And that is a good thing. 

As I made the card, I thought about a life well-lived. I thought about a dad who was devoted to his family, who loved spending time in nature, and who always had a smile on his face. I met John when I was 8 or 9, when he and Jonna joined the same Father/Daughter program my dad and I were in. Over the years, our families spent a lot of time together. John helped me move into the apartment I shared with Jonna in college, but even more notably, he helped me move out of the apartment long after Jonna had moved out. I remember the huge smile on his face during my wedding, and the even bigger smile when I introduced him to my baby for the first time. John will be missed by many and I'm glad he was a part of my life. 


"Art Class" #1: Improving My Coloring

One of my creative resolutions for 2021 is to take two art classes. I was hoping to do in-person classes, but here we are in September and I haven't found any that I want to take. I looked at some online classes and found some interesting options, but nothing was quite right for one reason or another. I decided to take a different approach: I would pick two art-related skills I'd like to learn/improve and then I'd search for the corresponding content.  

The first skill I'm tackling is improving my coloring. Besides picking out colors that look good and staying within the lines on a coloring page, what else is there to coloring? As it turns out, a LOT. 

To be honest, it wasn't until I colored the hummingbird gift bag that I realized how much skill coloring well requires. The more I've read, the more I realize how much I have to learn. (Isn't that the case with everything?) With the hummingbird image, I attempted to add shading and texture to the flowers. I had some success, but realized this would be the perfect topic for the first class I'd put together for myself. Since then, I have skimmed dozens of blog posts and watched snippets many YouTube videos looking for a great instructor. I am thrilled to have found Sarah Renae Clark

Sarah is a coloring book author and talented artist from Australia. Her blog posts are well-written and illustrated beautifully, but it was her YouTube videos that truly drew (haha!) me in. 

These are three of my favorites. Each contains lessons I was immediately able to put into place to improve my coloring.  

This is the first coloring I've done since starting my 'class.' The image is from the Love Grows Coloring Book (affiliate link). 

It took a lot more time than it used to take me to color a similarly sized project, but the extra time was particularly good for this project. Tomorrow I'll tell you why. 


Splatter Paint Fall Trees

After sharing so many splatter-painting backgrounds, it's time for a splatter-painted foreground. Rather than the thumb-across-toothbrush technique, I used a different method to achieve the dots and drips. It was so much fun!

Splatter Paint Fall Trees


  • watercolor paper
  • crayons (brown, black)
  • acrylic paint (blue, orange, yellow, red-brown)
  • two paintbrushes


Use crayons to draw bare trees on the watercolor paper. I drew four trees, each with plenty of branches and twigs, then added a bit of shadow with the black crayon. 

Thin the blue paint and use it to create a wash of color on the entire paper. These bits of sky will show through between the leaves of the tree. Let the paint dry. 

Put the painting into a cardboard box. I have a designated box I use to contain the mess when splattering, misting, dripping, and spraying. Hold one paintbrush in each hand. Dip one paintbrush into the red-brown paint, then tap it on the handle of the second paintbrush. This will cause small flicks of paint to splatter down. Experiment with the quantity of paint on the first brush, where you tap on the second brush, and how far from the paper you hold the brushes to get different sizes of splatters. Concentrate the splatters along the base of the trees and in the branches, leaving the space along the middle of the trunks and above the branches relatively unsplattered. You may need to rotate the paper to accomplish this. 

Without cleaning your brush, switch to orange paint and use the same technique to add splatters. Switch to yellow, building up the layers. When you have a good amount of splatters in the two main sections of the painting, use a pouncing motion to fill in any gaps between the leaves on the ground. With the same pouncing motion, do the same to add leaves to bare branches (if desired). 

It's up to you how many leaves you want on your finished artwork. I kept going until I liked how the trees looked. 

This really is a ton of fun to do. There's something very satisfying about seeing drips of paint transform into leaves. 


First Day of 10th Grade

The first day of school is always special, but this year's marked the first time in 516 days that Trevor attended school in person. While he enjoyed distance learning and did very well, he was happy to head back to in-person school for 10th grade. 

First Day of 10th Grade (affiliate link)

Of course, school isn't back to pre-COVID normal. Masks are mandatory indoors and recommended outdoors. Students carry water bottles instead of using drinking fountains, and hand sanitizer is everywhere. Staff and students must do a daily self-check for COVID symptoms. Trevor's high school takes place entirely on the community college campus, which opted to keep most of their class in distance learning this semester; consequently, the high schoolers have the whole campus to themselves. Well, almost. Key facilities like the library and gym aren't open. The cafeteria isn't operating, but the district brings in free lunch for all students every day. School drop-off and pick-up are a dream because the parking lots are completely empty. Permits are not required for upperclassmen who drive themselves. Things will change dramatically when the community college returns to in-person learning, presumably when the new semester starts in January.


Found Poem: September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. I had just woken up and started getting ready for work when my phone rang. A call at 6:00 am is never good news. And this was as bad as news gets. My friend Brenda told me to turn on the TV immediately. What I saw was horrifying.

The drive to work was strange. The roads were empty and I wanted to turn around and go home. But I couldn't. I needed to be there for a class of fifth graders whose parents might or might not have told them what was going on before dropping them off at school. When I got to work, we had strict instructions not to talk about what was going on, to offer brief reassurances only as needed, and to keep the day as normal as possible. It was very difficult for me to stay in the cocoon of my classroom with absolutely no information about what was going on beyond those walls. We had no internet in the classrooms and this was long before smart phones, so we teachers had to wait until recess and lunch to learn anything. 

The drive home was even stranger than the drive to work.  

The following day at school was even more difficult. By then, all the students knew what had happened. Many had seen graphic images over and over on TV. They were scared, they were upset, and they had a thousand questions. There was no hope of having anything approaching a normal school day. To complicate matters, each Wednesday we got a class set of newspapers. The kids and their parents knew that Wednesdays meant newspapers and current events homework. I couldn't just casually send home these papers with their screaming headlines and disturbing photos, expecting them to pick an article and summarize it. 

During my lunch break, I used the paper to make this found poem. 

At the end of the day, I read my poem to them. I announced that homework was canceled, then invited only those students who wanted to take a paper to do so. I gave them an optional homework assignment to create their own found poem, ideally working with parents and older siblings. I received five poems, all beautiful. 

It's hard to believe 20 years have passed. I have not forgotten. 


California Poppies Craft

After cutting off a strip to make my fall leaf bookmark, I still had leftover paper that I'd painted in oranges and yellows. The colors were perfect to use for California poppies. 

Our state flower grows wild all over our golden hills, offering beautiful pops of color most of the year. Fun fact: the petals close at night and open when the sun rises. On cloudy or windy days, they stay closed. Fun fact #2: Today is California Admission Day. Happy 171st birthday to our state!

California Poppies Craft


  • watercolor paper, painted with oranges and yellows
  • cardstock (a sky blue background and green for the stems and leaves)
  • microtip scissors
  • brown ink
  • craft glue


Cut petal shapes from the orange paper. You need four petals for the flower facing front and three for the one that is facing away. 

From a yellow section of the paper, cut a small piece that looks like grass. These are the stamens. Cut stems, leaves, and a bud from the green paper.  

Add a little bit of brown ink around the edges of the petals. This will give a sense of depth. Then glue everything together, starting with the flowers, then adding the stems and leaves. Finally, glue the poppies to the blue background paper. 

I love California poppies! 


Fall Colors Bookmark

Check out my new bookmark, inspired by fall leaves. 

I made it to answer two questions: 
  • Does a white gel pen write over acrylic paint? (Yes.)
  • Does using a tassel maker improve the tassel-making process? (Yes.)

I like trying new techniques on a bookmark because you really can't mess it up. Worse case, you paint over it and try again. Or you live with an ugly (but still functional) bookmark. Fortunately, this turned out exactly as I'd hoped. Affiliate links below. 


Fall Colors Bookmark



Dot a generous amount of yellow and orange acrylic paints on a piece of watercolor paper. Gently spread them with a pouncing motion until you are happy with the colors. The surface should be smooth, without lumps of paint. Let the paper dry completely. 

Cut off a piece the size you want your bookmark to be. Doodle leaf patterns in different directions using the gelly roll pen. 

Use the Crop-a-Dile to punch a hole at the top of the bookmark. 

Follow the directions on the tassel maker to make a 3" tassel, then attach it to the bookmark. The folks at Plaid sent me the tassel maker to try. I wasn't sure that I needed it, as I usually just use my right hand to wrap the yarn for the tassel. But I discovered that the tool does indeed make the process easier. It's no surprise that using both hands to tie off the tassel is easier than having one hand literally tied up during the process! 

Tomorrow I'll show you what I made with the paper that was left after I cut off a strip for my bookmark. 


Paper Bag Bison

As promised, here is the bison project I made. The entire thing is made with a single paper bag. Affiliate links below. 

Paper Bag Bison



Carefully open a paper lunch bag. You should be able to peel it open without cutting it. I'm reusing one I got from the store when I bought bagels. It's wrinkled, but that totally doesn't matter because you'll be adding even more wrinkles!

Use scissors to cut out the bison's body from an edge of the paper bag. Then remove the head from the template and use it to cut an extra head. Cut the remaining portion of the paper bag into two long rectangles. 

Trim the horns and beard off the full-body bison. Crumple and then flatten each piece, as shown below. 

Paint one large rectangle with light blue, then add streaks of white to make the sky. Paint the other rectangle golden. Paint the back half of the bison's body light brown and the front half (including the head) dark brown. Paint the horns white. 

When all the paint is dry, glue the pieces together. 

I'm really happy with my bison project! 


How to Draw a Bison

What do you call this animal?

Most of the time, I call it a buffalo. I'm trying to get into the habit of calling it a bison. The American Bison, while commonly called a buffalo, is not technically a buffalo. 

This is a buffalo. 

The American Bison is the national mammal of the United States, as well as the state animal of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Bison nearly went extinct in the late 1800's following hunting (and slaughter) by settlers during the Westward Expansion. Fortunately, recovery efforts have brought the wild bison population up to around 31,000 individuals.

I had a bison craft in mind, but I needed to make myself a template first. As I was drawing my bison, I realized I should share the steps I took in the form of a tutorial. As always, I drew in Sharpie for the tutorial so that the photos would show up well. There are several places where you'll need to erase foundation lines, so you should sketch lightly in pencil. 

How to Draw a Bison

Start by drawing the bison's body in the center of the paper. That's its hump on the upper right. 

Add the bison's head. It is positioned slightly lower than the hump and is basically teardrop-shaped. Draw horns and a beard.

Now draw the legs in the foreground. The front leg is quite shaggy, so give it some extra width. 

Draw the other two legs, then add a tail, eyes, and a nose. 

Tomorrow I'll show you what I did with my bison template. 


Paper Plate Washing Machine Craft

A big part of my job at Fun Family Crafts is scouring the internet to find clever and creative craft tutorials to feature. Because we only publish crafts that include tutorials, I can't feature a craft that doesn't have a materials list and an explanation of the steps to make it. When I come across a craft without a tutorial, I first attempt to contact the creator and convince them to add a tutorial. Unfortunately, this is rarely successful, particularly if the post is old and/or in a foreign language. When that happens, I make my own version of the project and write up a tutorial. 

Such is the case for this clever paper plate washing machine craft. The post is in Korean; I hoped when I ran it through a translator there would be a tutorial, but there wasn't. So I took the idea and put a fall twist on it. 

Paper Plate Washing Machine Craft


  • 9" plain paper plate
  • markers
  • 11" x 14" drawing paper
  • tacky glue


Draw and color articles of clothing on the non-eating side of the paper plate. (I know it looks like I used the eating side, but it's an optical illusion.) 

Outline the edge of the plate and the center section with black. Add a black half-circle handle and some black motion lines. Then color the area behind the clothes with blue to indicate moving water. 

Set the paper plate on a piece of drawing paper and draw the washing machine around it. I started with a large square that was slightly bigger than the plate, then added the feet and then the vent at the bottom right. Then I added a rectangle on top with the various dials and knobs. The final step is to glue the paper plate to the drawing paper. 

I drew fall-themed clothes, but you can adapt this for any season or holiday. It would be really cute with Santa and the elves' clothes at Christmas, or swimsuits and towels during the summer. There are a lot of fun possibilities!



The Making of Harry Potter

In April 2019, Trevor and I experienced The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio in London. It was absolutely incredible. We loved every minute. I'd go back in a heartbeat. 

The Making of Harry Potter (affiliate link)

As usual, I really struggled trying to decide which pictures to include on the scrapbook layout. I used 75+ photos for the blog post about the visit, so you can imagine how hard it was to narrow those down to the seven I used!

Once I picked my photos, the layout came together easily. I made my photo grid, constructed the title using three stickers, added a journaling box, and anchored the layout with the sticker strip across the bottom. The last touch was adding the Hufflepuff sticker next to Trevor and the Ravenclaw sticker by me. 

I'm so happy with this layout and thrilled to have it in the album. Only two more pages to go before I've finished scrapping our 2019 Europe trip


Fall Tree with Tissue Paper Leaves

The calendar says that fall is coming soon, but here in the Bay Area our leaves won't be falling for another 2 or 3 months. All the more reason to embrace fall colors via crafting! 


Fall Tree with Tissue Paper Leaves


  • watercolor paper
  • crayons (brown, black)
  • watercolor paint (blue)
  • tissue paper (red, orange, yellow, green)
  • scissors
  • glue


Use crayons to draw a tree on the watercolor paper. Add plenty of branches and twigs. 

Add a wash of blue watercolor over the entire paper. The wax of the crayons will resist the paint; dab gently with a paper towel if any droplets remain. Let the paint dry completely. 

Use scissors to cut the tissue paper into tiny bits. I cut a few squares from each color, layered them, and then hacked at them randomly with the scissors. Dot glue onto the branches of the tree where leaves would be. Sprinkle the tissue paper bits onto the branches. Repeat until all the branches are covered. Lift the paper vertically to allow any pieces that are not attached to fall. 

Repeat the steps of cutting tissue paper into bits, dotting the paper with glue, and sprinkling the tissue paper onto the glue, except this time do not include any green tissue paper. (Green leaves wouldn't have fallen yet. I thought of this a little late, so you can see hints of green behind the fallen leaves. I'm pretending its grass.)

This project was really fun to make and took a lot less time than I'd originally expected. It's a great way to reuse ripped or wrinkled tissue paper. Give it a try!

CLICK.BUY. CREATE. Shop Michaels.com today!