Pipe Cleaner Cake Sun Catcher

It is so satisfying when I try something new and it works. It took some experimenting to make this sun catcher out of pipe cleaners and tissue paper, but I'm really happy with the results. It looks so pretty sitting in the window. Affiliate links below.

Pipe Cleaner Cake Sun Catcher



I started with the easiest part of this project, the flames of the candles. Cut a gold pipe cleaner into thirds (use the wire cutters - don't ruin your scissors), then bend each to form a teardrop shape. There's no need to twist the ends together; the bend should hold. You can put a drop of glue between the ends if you want. Put glue onto one side of each teardrop, then place them on pieces of gold tissue paper. Hold them in place for a minute to let the glue set. When the glue is dry, carefully trim away the excess tissue paper. 

Use the same technique for the base of the cake and the frosting. For the cake, bend one white pipe cleaner into rough thirds to make a U-shape. Glue this to a piece of white tissue paper. Use a second white pipe cleaner to cut the piece that forms the layer of the cake. Glue it in place. 

Bend one blue pipe cleaner into an arc that will be the top of the frosting. Use a second pipe cleaner to make the frosting drips. Unless you are extremely lucky or skilled, the frosting won't fit perfectly on the cake the first time you try. Just make adjustments until it's correct, then glue it to blue tissue paper. Again, hold it in place for a minute while it sets so that it doesn't spring out of position.

Cut three lengths of pipe cleaner for the candles. As you can see above, I originally planned to use plain red pipe cleaners. I decided purple glitter candles would look better. 

Trim the cake and frosting. Fit everything together on the table, then cut a piece of contact paper that is slightly larger than the width and height of the assembled project. Peel away the paper backing with the sticky side of the contact paper facing up. Move the cake base to the contact paper and press it down firmly.    

Put glue along the edges of the frosting drips, since they will be touching the cake and not the contact paper. Put the frosting in place. Add glue to the bottom portion of the candles (where they will be touching the frosting) but not to the upper portions (where the contact paper will hold them) and place them where they belong. Then adhere the flames to the contact paper. Let the glue dry completely. 

Not all designs will require this, but because the candles have such narrow attachment points, they could flop forward if not better supported. Through experimentation, I found that adding a second layer of contact paper eliminated the problem without affecting the translucency. Do this by peeling away the backing paper on a second piece of contact paper and placing the assembled cake on top of it. 
Carefully cut away the excess contact paper.  

I showed you what it looks like in a window at the top of the post. This is how it looks against white paper.

Obviously, you can use the same technique for any design. I have some ideas I'm eager to try!


I Love Cats Photo Frame

Today's project is a cat-themed photo frame with a heart-shaped opening. I'm calling it the "I Love Cats Photo Frame," but I feel compelled to say that I don't love cats. I don't hate them or anything, but I don't love them. For starters, they're not nearly as awesome as rabbits

  • Rabbits never bring you dead stuff like cats do. 
  • Cats eat cat food, which is one of the worst smelling substances ever, while rabbit food smells like a fresh-cut lawn. 
  • Cats have the uncanny ability to cough up hairballs in the worst places. Rabbits physically can't vomit.   

Despite the clear superiority of rabbits, there are plenty of people who love cats. My niece, Allison, is one of them. I made this frame for her, featuring a photo of her favorite cat, Tips. Tips does not belong to Allison, but that doesn't stop her from dressing her up. Affiliate links below. 

I Love Cats Photo Frame



Paint a thin coat of gesso on the wood frame. Let it dry completely, then use a very fine grain sandpaper over the whole surface. You could technically skip this step, but it makes all the difference in having a smooth surface for adhering stickers. Wipe the frame clean so no dust remains, then paint it white. 

When the paint dries, adhere the stickers. I started with the cats at the bottom, then positioned the cat tree at the top, to make it look like it's in the background. I had to do some minor snipping to fit it in, which you can see by comparing my results with the original sticker sheet. I added the toys next, then the word bubbles, then filled in the extra space with paw prints. 

Because I used high quality stickers on a perfectly smooth surface, I didn't bother to seal the finished frame. If I had, I would have done a test of Mod Podge Ultra on an extra sticker to make sure it would hold up before spraying the actual frame. 


50 State Album: Arkansas (#43) and Oklahoma (#44)

Trevor completed the 43rd and 44th pages in his 50 State Album, following our recent time in Arkansas and Oklahoma


I love seeing the album nearly full. Only 6 pages to go! With Arkansas now in the album (which is arranged alphabetically), the first blank page is page 7, Connecticut. That trip is coming up soon and I'm really excited.

When I posted the most recent pages before these, I asked for your thoughts about arranging the pages alphabetically or chronologically in a slideshow. I'm leaning towards chronological for a number of reasons. For now, I'm continuing to put the images alphabetically side by side below the flags on my US Travel page. Having both might be the answer. 


Trevor's Eagle Project, Documented

I blogged about Trevor's Eagle project right away, but now it's finally in the album 13 months later. 
Trevor's Eagle Project (affiliate link)

I really struggled with this page. I wanted to show a lot of pictures of Trevor's two workdays, but I also wanted to include the before and after photos from the installation. That meant a double-pager. Once I finally got the photos the way I liked them, I went back and forth with the colors. I switched out the papers countless times before settling on the khaki with a small black border for the photos and the green patterned paper as a background. It took awhile to figure out how to do the title. I added the journaling and thought I was done. 

At the last minute, I decided there was too much empty green space. I added the 12 flags along the left that list the points of the Scout law. I liked the way it looked and decided the layout was definitely done. I scanned the page and put it in the album.

I liked it in the album, but when I saw it on my monitor, it looked really unbalanced. I added the 7 Scout ranks on the right and I'm much happier with the page. 


Decoupage Watermelon Flower Pot

I don't know why, but I have an abnormal love of things that look like food but aren't actually food. While the flower pot I made is a bit small for growing an actual watermelon plant, you can use the same technique for a larger pot, preferably at least 7 gallons. Affiliate links below. 

Decoupage Watermelon Flower Pot



Paint the entire clay pot, inside and out, with a coat of gesso. When that is dry, paint the pot red and the saucer green. 

Tear the two shades of green tissue paper into strips. Put a coat of Mod Podge on the inside of the saucer, then add strips of light green radiating out from the center. Paint each strip in place with more Mod Podge. Then add dark green strips to fill gaps between the light green. 

As an aside, you'll see classic Gloss Mod Podge in the photo above. A few minutes after I took this picture, I realized that a flower pot needs to be waterproof. So I switched to Outdoor Mod Podge for the rest of the project. 

Speaking of Mod Podge, this beloved craft supply turned 56 on Friday! Since I'm 51, it's no wonder I feel like Mod Podge has been around forever. On Friday, I took a quick photo of my paint shelves and discovered I have 17 different types of Mod Podge within easy reach. Believe it or not, there are more bottles in my craft closet. 

When you have decoupaged the inside of the saucer, let it dry completely and start covering the inside of the pot with red tissue paper. I like to put projects on these paint stands while they're drying. 

Use the same process as before to decoupage the underside of the saucer and the outside of the pot. You can add as many (or few) layers of tissue paper as you want. Use scissors to cut teardrop shapes from the black tissue paper and decoupage them around the rim of the pot. Let everything dry completely, then add an additional coat of Outdoor Mod Podge to make sure it is completely sealed. 

Since my watermelon flower pot is too small for growing healthy watermelons, how will I use it? It'd be great for growing smaller plants, like flowers or herbs. Or, it would make an adorable container to hold plastic silverware or whatnot for an outdoor BBQ or party. I made a piñata for a strawberry-themed party years ago; this could be the inspiration for a watermelon-themed party. Lots of possibilities!


Silly Peafowl!

We have a colony of approximately 200 peafowl that live near our neighborhood. We usually see a few in people's front yards or on the sidewalks when we drive by, but it's rare to see more than a handful at a time. If you go looking for them at the 6-acre nature center where they're actually supposed to stay, you're lucky to find more than a dozen roosting in trees, foraging on the ground, or otherwise hanging out. 

There was light rain on one of Trevor's first days of driving practice. I suggested he drive us by the peafowl property to see if we could spot any in the rain. They weren't at the nature center; instead, they were crowded onto neighboring porches and eaves, sheltered from the rain!

Silly Peafowl! (affiliate link)

I had Trevor stop so I could take some pictures. It was so funny seeing dozens of them all packed like that when they normally don't hang out in large groups. It was equally funny that a few of the peafowl perched on the roofs, just getting wet! There's always a kid in every class (and always a boy) that intentionally stands under the downspout at school on a rainy day; apparently, there are peacocks like that too. Silly peafowl!


Trevor's Moler Bear

Recently, Trevor sewed a mole-shaped polar bear stuffed animal as a homework assignment. If that's not weird enough, the assignment was in Chemistry.  

As you may remember from your high school days, a mole is approximately 6 x 1023 and is known as Avogadro's number. It is called a mole based on an abbreviation of the German word for molecule (moleküi) and not for any relation to the subterranean mammal. 

Trevor's Chemistry teacher apparently loves mole puns, so anyone who was earning at least 95% in the class could opt to make a punny mole stuffed animal instead of taking the final exam. She provided a mole pattern, then it was up to the student to sew up something clever. She gave example the example of making a green mole and calling it Guaca-mole. You could also dress up your mole like a super mole-del. 

I don't think Trevor has used the sewing machine since 2014 and he has no experience using patterns, so I was surprised that he chose to make the mole instead of just taking the test that he would surely ace. But I'm all for creative projects and glad he opted to give it a try. He chose to make a moler bear (polar bear + mole). 

He cut out the pattern pieces from white felt...

... and sewed them together, leaving a small opening.  

He turned the fabric right side out, added stuffing, and hand-sewed the opening closed. He sewed on a black felt nose, then glued on googly eyes and little white ears. He did a great job and his moler bear is really cute. More importantly, he learned how to read a pattern, how to thread the sewing machine, how to sew something that isn't just a straight line, and so much more than he would have learned taking a test on a subject he's already mastered. I approve. 


Prospector Popcorn

I love giving (and getting!) consumable gifts. Bonus if the company has a mission I believe in, or that my recipient would appreciate. It's like a 2-in-1 gift! The folks at Prospector Popcorn recently sent me a sampler pack that I couldn't wait to share with you. 

First, a little bit about the company. Prospector Theater is a 501(c)(3) non-profit movie theater in Ridgefield, Connecticut which employs people with disabilities. Started by Valerie Jensen, Prospect aims to provide their employees with "popportunities" for higher quality of life through meaningful work. Val noticed how few adults with disabilities (including her sister, Hope, born with Down syndrome) were employed. (Nationally, 80% of people with disabilities do not have a job.) She sought to create an opportunity for talented, motivated, capable, and hardworking people with disabilities to work.

Since opening in 2014, Prospector Theater has employed over 300 people, 75% of whom have a disability. Obviously, you can't run a movie theater without popcorn! Professional "popcornistas" create Prospector's gourmet flavors daily at the theater. It is so popular that they now ship it around the globe.  

We got to try three flavors and they were all AMAZING. We started with the Belgian Chocolate Toffee: caramel popcorn, drizzled with Belgian chocolate, and sprinkled with toffee and pretzels. It was absolutely fantastic. 

I thought the Belgian Chocolate Toffee would be my favorite until I tried Maple Walnut Ice Cream. Wow. It was so unique and so, so good. The popcorn is drizzled with "ice cream" (white chocolate vanilla drizzle) and local maple syrup, then sprinkled with walnuts. It's to die for. 

Even the 'boring' Classic Caramel is something special. It's not a glorified Cracker Jack; imagine gooey caramel with a hint of vanilla and just the right amount of salt. Perfection!

There are eight standard flavors, which you can buy individually or in packs. It makes a fantastic gift for practically anyone. It would be an especially meaningful gift for someone who has a connection with, or cares about, the disabled community (in other words, practically everyone). Of course, you can also support Prospector through donations or by seeing a movie if you're local to Connecticut. Enjoy!


Egg Carton Very Hungry Caterpillar

I'm certainly not the first to turn an egg carton into the Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I used a technique to paint it that I haven't seen before. I'm such a huge fan of Eric Carle and I love how my caterpillar turned out! 

Egg Carton Very Hungry Caterpillar


  • egg carton (paper, not foam)
  • scissors
  • acrylic paint - 2+ shades of green, 2+ shades of red, yellow, violet 
  • plastic wrap
  • tacky glue


Start by cutting apart your egg carton so that you have a 6-humped caterpillar. I checked both a 12- and 18-egg carton to see if one would be better than the other, but they were the same for this brand. Cutting is the most difficult part of this project by far. Adults should do this step ahead of time for young children. 

Use the egg carton lid to cut out two antennae, two oval eyes, and a round nose. 

Use a single shade of green and a single shade of red to paint a base coat on the caterpillar. The goal is to completely cover the egg carton so the color and writing don't show through. 

Paint the antennae violet, the eyes yellow, and the nose green. Let the paint dry completely. 

Add green pupils to the eyes and set them aside to dry. 

Use a piece of plastic wrap to cover the red head completely to protect it while you paint the body. On a second piece of plastic wrap, dot the different shades of green onto the plastic wrap, then use it to smoosh paint against the green parts of the egg carton. You'll get mottled color that mimics the look of Eric Carle's painted tissue paper.   

Let the mottled green paint dry, then wrap the green with plastic wrap to protect it. Add multiple shades of red paint to another piece of plastic wrap and dab it on the head. 

When the paint is completely dry, glue the antennae, eyes, and nose in place. 

This was so much fun to make! I have it sitting with my Very Hungry Caterpillar pencil, which totally makes me want to create more things inspired by Eric Carle. Soon, I hope!


These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

This is a layout I've been wanting to make for a long time and I'm super happy with it. I like seeing 30 of my favorite things all on one page. 

I did not take all of those photographs, nor did I steal them. PicMonkey has an enormous library of Shutterstock images I can use with my subscription. I opened a 6x4 collage, set the spacing to zero, searched for the photos I wanted, and dragged them into place. I repeated that four more times, giving me five photos to print, each with six items on them. Once I had my prints, I adhered them to a 12x12 background, then used a 6x4 journaling card to hold my title. 

I'm strongly considering making a companion page with a few of my least favorite things. I think that would be a lot of fun, too. If I do, this will be #1 on the list


Cat Painted Rock

In over 12 years as a craft blogger, I've only shared a painted rock craft once. Time for another! Here is a cat painted rock. To clarify, it's not a cat-painted rock. I painted it. I don't even have a cat, let alone one who paints. Affiliate links below. 

Cat Painted Rock



Use the white colored pencil to lightly sketch the shape of your cats. I started with what would become the gold cat and worked my way outward. No details - just the oval shape of the cat with ears on top. 

Paint the cats whatever color you want. When the paint is dry, add white bellies (if desired) and white eyes (kinda necessary). When that paint is dry, use the Sharpie to outline the cats and add their facial features, including pupils. 

Spray the rock with Mod Podge Ultra to seal it.



This is the second of two layouts I made for a BYSS challenge on National Scrapbook Day. As I'm sure you can tell, this one really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Nothing about this page is something I would usually make. 

CHA / AFCI (affiliate link)

The challenge was to use three different stencils and three different inks to create a background for a layout. I'd decided my page was going to include a waterfall of my 7 badges from CHA / AFCI trade shows I attended over the years, so I used the badges for my color inspiration. I didn't really think through the fact that most of the badges wouldn't be showing!

Here's my stenciled background before I added anything on top: 

I started by adhering my 2011 badge directly to the page, then used washi tape to attach the 2015 badge slightly above the 2011. I continued adding 2016-2020. I added a photo of myself next to the stack, then used letter stickers to spell CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) and AFCI (Association for Creative Industries).  

I didn't plan out my journaling at all. I just started making bullet points about my experiences at the shows: 7 shows in person plus one online; my changing section membership; 2 years as a Creator VIP; show locations (LA, Anaheim, Phoenix); etc. 

I don't love this page and that's ok. I made it purely to try something different, which makes it a success.

I have three more pages to share from National Scrapbook Day, but I'll be interspersing them with other projects I've been doing. Tomorrow is an animal craft. 


Celebrate 51 - Making a Franken Page

I mentioned that two of the seven scrapbook pages I completed on National Scrapbook Day were for challenges at Bash Your Scrapbook Stash. This is one of them. Can you guess what the challenge requirement was? 

Celebrate 51 (affiliate link)

If you guessed that we had to use random scraps to create a background (called a Franken Page) and then use that for a layout, you are correct! It probably wasn't hard to guess, as that's the only element of the page that is out of the ordinary for me. We were expressly forbidden from making a grid, which would have been my natural inclination. Oh, how I love a grid! 

I made this page to document celebrating my 51st birthday with Sheena and Jennifer. My color palette for this page was inspired by the dessert plate. It was easier than I expected to make a haphazard background that I actually liked using nothing but scraps. Here it is before I trimmed the edges to make them even. 

As is almost always the case with challenges, this pushed me outside my comfort zone. But I still found a way to make it work with my style. I could see doing a Franken Page again. 


Scrapping Our 12-Hour Vacation to Nowhere

The second page I made on National Scrapbook Day was this one, documenting our 12-hour vacation to nowhere on Christmas Day

The whole situation was super annoying at the time, obviously, but it was a really fun layout to make. I chose seven photos: a screenshot of Trevor on the news; the board showing our delayed flight; Steve impatiently waiting in the line from hell to Baggage Services; tons of unclaimed baggage; a screenshot from the Southwest app when our flight was finally canceled; Christmas dinner at Panda Express; and a picture of my suitcase when it finally arrived. I added the newspaper headline from Dec. 26 onto the photo of the all the baggage. 

I went all in with the Christmas paper, borders, and sticker. Waiting 12 hours to go nowhere would be lousy any day of the year, but for that to be the way we celebrated Christmas really adds insult to injury. I picked word stickers like "blah" and "done and done" to line the edges. I had fun with the title too. I'd originally planned to call this the 12-Hour Trip to Nowhere, like I'd titled the blog post, but when I came upon the red 'Vacation' die cut, it struck me as funny how festive it looks on this page about a really bad day. 


(Outdoor) Adventure Documented

Saturday was National Scrapbook Day, my favorite day of the year. While you non-scrappers were doing things like watching the coronation of King Charles or rooting your favorite horse to victory in the Kentucky Derby, I was making scrapbook layouts for 12 hours straight. I completed 7 layouts (two of which were for Bash Your Scrapbook Stash challenges) and nearly finished an 8th. I also watched all of the NSD classes at Scrapbook and Cards Today and checked in with my various scrapbook communities. 

This is the first page I made: 

Five of the photos are from the whitewater and kayak trip Trevor took with his Scout troop last September. The other two are from their rock climbing trip in December. Trevor earned the merit badges for all three skills, which is what prompted me to make this layout as a stand-alone, rather than mixing the photos in with October and November's monthly trips. I love that Trevor has gotten to try so many cool things through Scouting. 

I started by making a grid of the photos, then fussy cut the 'Adventure' title piece. My plan was to add the DOCUMENTED sticker underneath and have that be the title, but after I glued it down, I didn't like how much empty space there was above the tent. I found a cute kayak sticker, but it would look ridiculous floating above the tent. I didn't have anything else that could reasonably float above a tent, which left a word sticker as my best option. I chose OUTDOOR and I liked how it looked. 

Until I realized the rock climbing photos are indoors. Argh. It makes me twitch, but I decided to leave the sticker there. 

Hopefully this isn't a slippery slope for me. If ever you see me put "Best Day Ever!" on more than one layout, you'll know OUTDOOR was what started it all. 


Family Fun in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, Part 13: Dallas

This is the thirteenth and final post about our family's visit to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I suggest that you read the firstsecondthirdfourthfifthsixthseventheighthninthtenth, eleventh, and twelfth posts before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, some of the places mentioned below gave me free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits. Other locations we toured are free for everyone. We paid full price for the rest. None of that has any bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If there are gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, hotel, or restaurant enough to recommend it, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Dallas, Texas

Scouting is a big deal in our family. I'm the proud mom of an Eagle Scout. Steve reached Life Scout (the rank right below Eagle), worked at a Scout camp as a young adult, and currently holds positions at the troop, district, and council levels. I'm part of the troop leadership, and both Steve and I are merit badge counselors. So it should come as no surprise that Steve suggested we swing by the National BSA Headquarters in Irving, Texas. They weren't open on a Saturday, but we took photos out front. 

And then we found a geocache on the property. 

National BSA Headquarters used to be the home of the National Scouting Museum, which we definitely would have visited if it were still there. In 2016, they moved it to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. 

We had dinner in Irving that night, at Via Real. It was Steve's favorite restaurant when he lived here, so I was really excited to try it out. It was fantastic! Everything was so good, including the flaming steak that Steve ordered. 

We started our final day in Dallas at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. See that cool escalator that's visible on the right side of the building? It's called the T. rexcalator. There's a T. rex inside at the top. His name is Stan and he is the 2nd most complete T. rex ever found.

Dinosaurs are only a small part of this enormous museum, but they appear in quite a few fun places. 

We started with the temporary exhibit, The Science Behind Pixar, guessing (correctly) that it would be more crowded as the day went on. By being one of the first in the building, we had the place almost to ourselves for a few precious minutes. 

This hands-on exhibit focuses on the STEM concepts used by the artists and scientists who create Pixar movies. It's very well done and so much fun, particularly if you're fans of Pixar like we are! Mike and Sulley are two of my favorites. 

The activities in this exhibit are really fun and surprisingly effective at teaching often-complicated math and science concepts. 

We took our time, reading every sign, watching every video, and trying every activity. It was all so interesting! And after so many days of racing from one museum to the next, it felt downright luxurious taking our time at the Perot. 

The rest of the Perot was great. We saw some exhibits that are standards at many science museums, but there were plenty of things that were totally unique. 

I really enjoyed watching this woman at work. Whenever I see someone working behind glass like that, I wonder what it would be like having people stare at me all day. Then I remember that I was an elementary school teacher for 11 years, actively telling 32 people to keep their eyes on me. 

There's a lot to see and do at the Perot. You could easily spend all day here. 

I really liked the rocks and minerals. 

This digital puzzle was a lot of fun. 

The Perot does a great job of presenting so many different facets of nature and science. We loved our time there.

 We were more than ready for a (very late) lunch, so we headed to The Henry

We shared a few items. The food was very good. 

We skipped dessert at the Henry in order to have ice cream at Braum's

We kept hearing about Braum's while we were in Oklahoma, but it never worked out to try it there. The first Braum's opened in OKC in 1968 (though the family had been in the ice cream business longer than that). Now there are 300 Braum's locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. It turns out their reputation for great ice cream is well-deserved. Not only is it delicious, but it's ridiculously inexpensive. 

And with that, it was time to say goodbye to Texas. 

We flew to Sacramento, arriving home around midnight (2:00 am Texas time), with school and work bright and early on Monday, April 17. It was a wonderful trip with so many good memories.