California Sea Lion Watercolor, Adapted from "Draw, Paint, Sparkle"

I've been following Patty Palmer's blog, Deep Space Sparkle, for years. Her kid-friendly art tutorials are wonderful. I finally got a chance to check out her book, Draw, Paint, Sparkle (affiliate link here and below) and it is just as fabulous as I expected. 

The first part of the book talks about Patty's approach to art, the materials she recommends for use with children, and the value of holding art shows that feature children's work. The second part of the book has instructions to make 25 inspiring projects. They are divided into three categories: Beginnings, Inspired by the Masters, and Inspired by Nature. I chose her Watercolor Seal project to make, but gave it my own twist. While her project uses pastels and liquid watercolor to paint a seal, I used crayons and pan watercolors to make a California sea lion.  

I'm a big fan of sea lions. We see them almost every time we go to San Francisco. They're playful, intelligent... and noisy! You can tell that I've painted a sea lion (rather than a seal) because of the visible ear flaps. You can also tell that I've painted either an adult female or a juvenile, as they are slim and tan in color. Adult males are larger and darker in color.  

California Sea Lion Watercolor



Use a black crayon to draw two eyes near the middle of the page. Add a nose and a mouth, then draw an upside down U to make the head. Add freckles, whiskers, and ear flaps (just noticed I took the photo below before drawing the ear flaps). 

With the blue crayon, draw a horizon line. Stop when you get to the seal lion, lift the crayon, and resume on the other side of the head. Draw lines for waves beneath the horizon line. 

Use the green (or golden) crayon to draw gentle hills in the background. 

Paint the sea lion brown. The crayon lines should help keep the paint from spreading into the other sections.  

Paint the sky next; this will give the sea lion a few moments to dry. Paint the ocean, then the hills. California's hills are a sage green during the winter and golden during the summer. My hills are green, so this is a wintertime painting. 

Like I said, this is just one of 25 fabulous projects in the book Draw, Paint, Sparkle. I definitely recommend it for kids or for the parents/teachers who do art with kids!


8 Places to Find Moon Rocks

I recently finished listening to all the content that came with my virtual pass to TravelCon. The amount of information was incredible. Rather than pick and choose the sessions that relate the most to my business, I opted to watch it all. Even the topics that have nothing to do with me have been interesting and have opened my eyes to the challenges and opportunities in the world of travel journalism. I've learned about the needs of those who travel with disabilities, the concerns of obese travelers, and the sometimes-deadly risks faced by openly LGBTQ+ people who visit certain countries. I've heard presentations about becoming a travel agent, working as a digital nomad, hosting a travel show on PBS, and living the #vanlife. I've learned about trends in travel: prices everywhere are up, reservations are crucial, and flexibility is a must because rules and procedures can change on a dime. I've heard about effective techniques for pitching brands and organizations, and I've taken tons of notes during every session about growth strategies, analytics, monetization, and marketing. 

I also wrote down this quote by Jason Cochran, Editor in Chief of Frommers:

"Writers will often twist themselves into knots to make a list. Often I get pitches for things that are off the wall, like 8 Places to Find Moon Rocks. It's interesting - it may be good in a magazine, but not for someone writing digitally where we're based on clicks. No one is searching for where to find moon rocks."



I know he's the expert, but I don't think he's correct. Someone IS searching for where to find moon rocks. There may not be a lot of people, but the number isn't zero. How do I know? Because no matter what search term you can dream up, someone is looking for it. My blog ranks #1 for "twinkie narwhal" and it actually generates traffic. I guarantee you that if people are searching for "twinkie narwhal," then people are searching for where to find moon rocks. 

Just for fun, here are some of the other search terms where I rank #1. 

So who ranks #1 for the "place to find moon rocks" search term? Not surprisingly, it's NASA.gov. It's the best place to go for ANY moon rock information you want. NASA lists the known locations of all moon rocks; Wikipedia has an interesting article about missing and stolen moon rocks

Obviously, I can't compete with NASA for "8 places to find moon rocks." But there is one search term I'm confident will be #1 for me: "8 places to find moon rocks that Cindy deRosier has seen."


Eight Places to Find Moon Rocks that Cindy deRosier Has Seen

I've actually seen moon rocks in more places than those eight. I mentioned the moon rocks in my blog posts about Huntsville, Columbia, and Raleigh. There are probably others, considering the number of museums I've visited in my life. 

All this moon rock research reminded me of a random fun fact. In 2012, my friend Brenda found a meteorite worth $20,000 and had a worldwide 15 minutes of fame. It was really exciting. I haven't had an international 15 minutes of fame yet. Honestly, if "twinkie narwhal" and "boston tea party drawing" aren't going to do it, I'm not sure what will.


Pastry Brush Puppets

Our kitchen is being remodeled, which means everything that belongs in the kitchen is somewhere besides the kitchen. Our cabinets should be done soon (fingers crossed) so I've been going through the piles of kitchen stuff to organize it and weed out anything we don't need. I came across a pastry brush that was looking tired. We hadn't used it in years. I was going to throw it out, but moved it to the craft room instead. After a bit of experimentation, I turned my pastry brush into a pair of painted puppets. 

I made this gal on the concave side of the brush...

... and made this guy on the convex side. 

So I could use them to put on a puppet show... as long as they never appear in the same scene! Affiliate links below. 


Pastry Brush Puppets



Mix a small amount of gesso with whatever color of paint you'd like your character's shirt to be. Paint this mix onto the handle of the brush. My brush had a white band across the top, so I opted to paint that the same color as the shirt. 

Mix gesso with pink to make the mouth and with your desired flesh tone for the nose. 

Glue the googly eyes in place, then paint on the eyebrows and any facial hair. They can match the color of the bristles, or not. 

Now it's time for a haircut. The bristles of my old pastry brush were surprisingly difficult to style. I glued two chunks of 'hair' on either side of the woman's face, then cut the rest of the hair short with some heavy-duty scissors. When you look at the man, you only see the short hair. 

These were a lot of fun to make. The next time I have paintbrushes that are no longer serving their purpose, I'm definitely turning them into more puppets. 


Family Fun in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Part 10: Homeward Bound

This is my tenth and final post about our family's adventures in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I suggest reading the first, secondthirdfourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth posts before this one.


Heading Home from Milwaukee, WI 

Our final day in Milwaukee was Sunday, August 7. We slept in a bit and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Speaking of the hotel, there's something interesting about the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee that I didn't mention before. It was the location of an assassination attempt on Theodore Roosevelt. There's a display in the hotel entrance right where it happened. 

I'd heard the story before, as I'm sure many of you have, but I hadn't realized it happened in Milwaukee. And I certainly hadn't realized it happened in the hotel I chose for our stay. In case you're not familiar with the story, Roosevelt was in town campaigning for president when he was shot by John Flammang Schrank on October 14, 1912. The bullet hit Roosevelt's steel eyeglass case, passed through the 50-page campaign speech Roosevelt was carrying in his jacket pocket (entitled "Progressive Cause Greater Than Any Individual"), and lodged in his chest. 

Despite having A BULLET IN HIS CHEST, Roosevelt insisted on delivering his scheduled speech. As an experienced hunter, he correctly realized that since he wasn't coughing up blood, the bullet hadn't reached his lung and he could postpone a trip to the hospital until after his speech. He went off script and started his speech with, "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a bull moose." 

When he finally did receive medical attention, doctors determined that it would be less dangerous to leave the bullet in place than to remove it. He spent two weeks recovering, then Roosevelt told reporters, "I'm fit as a bull moose." The Progressive Party became known as the Bull Moose Party. 


We checked out of the hotel and headed south to O'Hare. You may be wondering why we flew home from Illinois instead of Wisconsin, as there's a perfectly good airport right there in Milwaukee. The main reason is that I absolutely hate layovers. I don't like flying as it is, but flying to somewhere that isn't my destination only to sit there for hours and then take ANOTHER flight - well, that's torture for me. I will do just about anything to get a nonstop flight and avoid that complete waste of time. By driving 60 miles to Chicago where there was a direct flight to Sacramento, we saved over four hours of layover time. And even better - it was cheaper flying home from O'Hare than from Milwaukee. 

We had one stop to make on our drive from Milwaukee to Chicago. 

Racine, Wisconsin has a large Danish population. It has become known for its Danish pastries, particularly kringle, which is the official state pastry of Wisconsin. You know I couldn't pass up the chance to try the official state pastry and check it off my list. After a bunch of research, I picked O&H Danish Bakery for our kringle tasting. 

There were a lot of delicious-sounding flavors of kringle for sale. 


I had assumed that there would be individual slices of kringle for sale at the bakery counter. I figured we'd get three different flavored slices to share, but it turns out that kringle is only sold whole. A whole kringle weighs 1.5 pounds and none of us were interested in eating half a pound of pastry right then and there. Nor were we interested in carrying a pizza-sized pastry through security or on the plane. 

So instead, I ordered a kringle to be delivered to the house. I sent one to our bunnysitter as well. I debated what flavor to get, but ultimately decided that 'Wisconsin' was the best choice. It arrived in less than 48 hours, fresh and securely packed.

Choosing the Wisconsin was a great decision. The cream cheese, cherries, and cranberries tasted fantastic together. All deRosiers gave it two thumbs up. 

We came home from our trip with wonderful memories and lots of souvenirs, including one we definitely didn't want: COVID. We're finally healthy now, thankfully. 

So what's next for the deRosiers, travel-wise? We have three more major trips to do and eight states to visit before June 2024 in order to accomplish our goal of taking Trevor to all 50 states before he's 18. And, of course, the remaining states are not the easy ones to visit, both in terms of accessibility (no non-stop flights to any of these states) or in terms of weather (winter break is not the best time for Californians who don't even own proper coats to visit New Hampshire or North Dakota).  

It's exciting to be getting so close to meeting our goal. When I look at the map nearly filled it, I have so many great memories of family fun and adventures together. Nothing better than that. 


Family Fun in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Part 9: Milwaukee

This is my ninth post about our family's visit to Minnesota and Wisconsin. I recommend you begin by reading the first, secondthirdfourthfifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth posts before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I received complimentary admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other perks for some of the places we visited. Some attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the others. How much I paid for a visit has no bearing on my reviews, as every place I share is something that I fully recommend.


Family Fun in Milwaukee, Wisconsin


We packed a lot into our last full day in Milwaukee. We began the day with the Urban Adventure Quest. As always, it was a lot of fun and helped us notice details that we never would have otherwise. 

Fun fact: One of the founders of Milwaukee, Solomon Juneau, was the cousin of Joseph Juneau, who founded Alaska's state capital

Many of the places we visited, both on the Quest and during the rest of our time in Milwaukee, were along the river. Every road that crosses the river is a drawbridge. There are a lot of them. And, at least while were there, there were a lot of boats also. Regardless of whether you're walking or driving in Milwaukee, expect to spend time waiting for drawbridges. 

After completing the Quest, we strolled south along the RiverWalk. It's a great way to get around. 

Every so often, the boardwalk is marked with the width and depth of the Milwaukee River at that point. It's a fun touch. 

We walked through Historic Third Ward.... 

... and went to Stack'd Burger Bar for lunch. The food was fantastic. We shared burgers (which came with Tetris Tots!) and their Classic Twisted Mac. Trevor saw Sprecher Cream Soda on the menu and had to try it. It was just as tasty as their root beer. 


Stack'd shares a building with the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, which was our next stop. 

The museum has over 10,000 bobbleheads, of which about 6500 are on display at any given time. They cover all topics and genres, and are organized that way within the museum. The biggest category, by far, is sports.  

But practically any other category you can name exists, too. Here are some Supreme Court justices, a chilly Senator, and Mike Pence with a fly on his head. 

Here are some Christmas classics.

I spy Snidely Whiplash, the Jetsons, and the Banana Splits!  

I LOVED Underdog when I was a kid. 

I spy Pat and Vanna!

Looking at the bobbleheads is fun, but definitely do one (or both) of the scavenger hunts that are available at the front desk. One of them has you looking for Waldo. It is not easy to find him!

We had so much fun at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum!

Next, we walked to the Harley-Davidson Museum

I'd wanted to do the factory tour, but they're still closed due to COVID. So the museum was the next best thing. 

I knew nothing about motorcycles, but it was interesting to learn about the start of Harley-Davidson and see some of their earliest models. It took awhile to develop the more modern look of a motorcycle. 

They have a vault that holds every motorcycle ever made. 

My favorite exhibit was about motorcycles in movies and television. 

I also like the hands-on activities.

Dinner that night was Milwaukee-style pizza from Calderone Club. Their recipe comes from the Caradaro Club, pioneers of the style, which has a cracker-crisp crust and is cut into rectangular pieces. It was delicious. 

Tomorrow I'll wrap up the trip and give you a preview of what's next for the deRosiers. 


Family Fun in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Part 8: Milwaukee

This is the eighth post about our family's visit to Minnesota and Wisconsin. I recommend you begin by reading the first, secondthirdfourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh posts before this one. Because I am a travel blogger, I received complimentary admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other perks for some of the places we visited. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the others. How much I paid for a visit has no bearing on my reviews; every place I share is something that I absolutely recommend.


Family Fun in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I was 50 years old the first time I visited Milwaukee, but in a way, the city has been in my life since I was a kid. Why? Two reasons: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. They were my two favorite shows when I was growing up. It was fun to finally see Milwaukee in person after all these years. 

We checked into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, then headed out to find dinner. We ate on the patio at Milwaukee Brat House and ordered the most Wisconsin meal we possibly could: brats (and beers), cheese curds, and other fried foods.   

The Brat House Sausage Sampler and the Combination Basket (chicken tenders, onion rings, cheese curds, and fries) was more than enough food for the three of us. We ordered two beers but got four, for reasons explained here. For the record, I disagree with the author's assessment of the cheese curds. They were neither soggy nor bland. Everything was delicious, seasoned well, and perfectly crispy. 

After a good night's sleep at the Hyatt, we were ready for our first full day in Milwaukee. We started with a city tour by Untapped Tours

The two-hour tour was the perfect blend of driving and walking. Mike, our guide, took us all over his hometown and taught us so much about Milwaukee. We walked along the river... 

... posed with the Bronze Fonz...

... went to Black Cat Alley...

... visited the North Point Lighthouse... 

... admired Lake Michigan...

... stopped for snacks at the Milwaukee Public Market...

... and much, much more. Mike's tour was an excellent introduction to Milwaukee. 

Next, lunch. I was really excited to eat at SafeHouse. Family-friendly restaurant by day and bar by night, SafeHouse has been Milwaukee's best kept secret since 1966. This was a good clue that we were in the right place. 


You need the password or a clearance test to get in, but first you have to find the entrance. This isn't it. 

Once you're in, you realize that you were on video the whole time. 

While your food is being prepared, you have a mission to complete. It takes you throughout the building, where things are not always as they seem. 

The password was hidden in one of the above photos. Did you spot it? 

After lunch, we went to Milwaukee Public Museum. One word: WOW. I loved this museum. It is huge - permanent exhibits cover 3.5 floors and 150,000 square feet, plus there is space for temporary exhibits. You could easily spent multiple days enjoying this museum. We didn't have multiple days, or even one full day, but we made the most of our time there. 

MPM is special because the exhibits are immersive. We started with the Streets of Old Milwaukee. As you stroll through, you really feel like you're back in 1900. 

Next to that is the European Village. As you go door to door, each house is decorated with the clothing, foods, and other goods from a specific European country. The level of detail is amazing. 

If the museum had been nothing more than just this, I already would have loved it. But there was so much more. The butterfly garden was great. The two-story immersive Costa Rican rainforest was amazing - we loved the walkway through the tree-top canopy. We learned about plants, animals, and natural features. 

But my very favorite exhibits at MPM were the ones about the arts and cultures of people around the globe. I really felt like I was there. 

Like I said, I could have happily spent days at MPM. I will return someday. When I do, they will likely be in their new building. I can only imagine it will be even more fabulous than the existing one. What a treasure the Milwaukee Public Museum is!

Our last activity of the day was a tour of Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery. Pabst was founded in 1844 by Jacob Best in Milwaukee. Although Pabst is now headquartered in Texas, its impact on Milwaukee was profound. 

Our tour took us through Blue Ribbon Hall, the former corporate offices, and many other locations within the historic brewery. Our colorful guide shared stories from the beginnings of Pabst Brewing through the present-day uses of Best Place. It was all really interesting. 

The tour is kid-friendly. Trevor got a can of Sprecher Root Beer to enjoy during the tour. 

After our very full day, we walked to 3rd St. Market Hall for dinner. 

There were so many good choices. We ended up sharing baked potato pierogis from Hot Dish Pantry, arepas and empanadas from Anytime Arepa, and frozen custard from Dairyland. Everything was delicious. 

We had one more full day in Milwaukee (emphasis on full). I'll tell you about that tomorrow.