CategoryJust for Fun

Pretending to be a Photographer 2.0

Over the holidays, we stopped at the beautiful Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. With warmth, butterflies and flowers in the middle of winter, this place is very inviting and inspiring!

Here are a few of my favorite shots from our visit:




My designer takeaway: Practice makes us better, and sometimes it’s even fun to practice!

Our BB8 Cake

I always love to surprise my family with a fun birthday cake or cupcakes. When my husband’s birthday rolled around this year, I really wanted to make him a BB8 (the robot from Star Wars) cake. I hunted around the internet, and I just couldn’t find anything simple enough that I felt like we could tackle it. Most of them were 3D made with two ball-shaped cakes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there. And, I don’t do fondant, which ruled out a lot. But, I finally found some flat examples that we based our cake on.

Here is what we came up with:


This is just two round cakes. One pan was slightly smaller. I chopped about a third off the smaller cake and angled the bottom edges. We frosted it all in white. Then I drew the details into the white frosting with a tooth pick.

My mom (aka Grandma) with her steady hand and my kids traced on the orange and gray details.

We were all pretty pleased and eager to show it off to the birthday boy, who loved it.


My designer takeaway: Research and then simplify!

Groundhog Birthday Cupcakes

My mom’s birthday is February 2, Groundhog’s Day. While we have teased her every year about seeing her shadow, we have never gone so far as to incorporate a groundhog into her cake. This year, I went there (and then I promised her to never do it again). 🙂


I found this cute little cupcake tutorial on Pinterest for groundhog cupcakes. They were pretty simple. I just had to buy a few kinds of candy and cookies. (And, I used cookies rather than peanut butter cups for the head because we have a nut allergy in our family.)

To build these cute little heads, you use melted chocolate chips for glue. Boy did it hold well!


Sorry mom, but it was just too much fun! (She loved them!)

My designer takeaway: Go ahead and make the obvious every once in awhile.

Wrist Rattle Baby Card

I did a simple, cute little project the other day that I thought would be fun to share. I have this stash of gifts in my basement for birthdays, baby showers, etc. I was digging in the pile one day and discovered a package of wrist rattles. I had an idea to turn them into a baby card.


Of course I needed a saying for the card, and the song “Shake, Rattle and Roll” popped into my head. Cheesy works, right! I added a little color, some fun fonts (I’m currently addicted to the font Lilly Belle. I could go nuts with this sweet font. If you don’t have it, download it here.), and two holes to wrap the band through. And, TADA!


I love this card because it has a nice 3D focal point, it looks great on a simple gift bag or wrapping, and it’s a little gift, too.


My designer takeaway: Add a little dimension to your work. It may not fit in an envelope, but it might be too fun to be hidden, anyway!

My Favorite Things #1

I love a list of favorites. Don’t you? I usually discover something new with an honest critique/recommendation.

At this time of year, the feeling of beginning again or starting anew, has had a big impact on my favorites. Here is where my heart is at the moment:

1. Decluttering calendar
For the last three years, I have started to follow a calendar like this. Even though I get stopped each time, I love the progress I’ve made and the philosophy of tackling it in little steps each day. Recently, we even organized our junk drawer. I love to open it now!


2. Adult coloring books and this blog post: How to Color Like a Boss
I have given them as gifts, but this year, I received one! I love telling my family to stay out of my coloring book and markers. I love the excuse to enjoy a “child’s activity.” It’s nice to take the time to concentrate on it, even if it’s just five minutes. The activity seems to suck me in, and I lose track of time. It feels like a good test of color combinations and visual depth.


3. Draw a bird each day to avoid depression
I’m not so much worried about avoiding depression, but I love the concept of having one little drawing to do each day (and I love his collection of birds for sale). It’s like an ongoing artist study. We could easily switch this concept to any animal or object.

4. Audiobooks
I love a good story, written or read. Lately, I seem to be stumbling on to audiobooks that are like performances. It makes the experience so much richer than if I had just read the story. Here’s one to try: JoJo Moyes’ “The Girl You Left Behind”

5. Mini canvases
I bought a pack of canvases to try out, but I’ll admit it, I was chicken to start and “waste them.” One day recently, my son asked for something sturdier to paint on, and I busted them out. I love them. I hope to play some more, even if I do waste some.

6. Trying new recipes
I try to use a new recipe most weeks. Lately I’ve been toying with making a new soup each week. If that goes well, I’ll share with you here! But here is this week’s recipe that I’m going to try, Mongolian Beef. I love using a slower cooker!

7. Minute to Win It Games
Every time I host a party, I search for some minute to win it games. I love this concept, silly and fast. They are games that we haven’t done and won’t inherently be good at. They will make everyone cheer and laugh. My son’s school teacher even incorporated some at their last class party. Genius!



8. Homemade Valentines
Over the years, I/we have made a lot of Valentines for my kids’ classes. We’ve made puppies, ladybugs, rockets, guitars, fish, superheroes, dinosaurs and more. It’s always a lot of fun and a lot of work. I realized as my kids have gotten a little older and more able to help that it’s a good project for them. They get to not only create something, but also think of others and give to them.


9. Fairy Gardens
While I don’t have mine up and running yet, I’ve been collecting items and ideas. I have a lovely front door and a large log with a vision. I hope to share this with you in the summer months.

10. Just Dance
Our Wii has come back into play since we bought a copy of Just Dance (a old edition). It’s a lot fun with some silly moves and, hey, it has to add a little bit of exercise into our playtime. In the winter, we need to get our energy out somehow!

The Pretty Pumpkin Patch

One of my favorite ways to celebrate fall is to visit a nearby pumpkin patch. I love being outside. I love spending the day with my family I love hunting for the perfect pumpkin (It’s all in the stem for me. I like a stem with personality.). I love taking photos.

Here is a little joy from the day at the pumpkin patch.

Love this pumpkin and stem!

Love this pumpkin and stem!

I love gourds. I would take home this whole bin, if I could!

I love gourds. I would take home this whole bin, if I could!

Big beautiful sunflowers! They amaze me.

Big beautiful sunflowers! They amaze me.

Sunflowers, mountains and sky! Yes, this might be heaven!

Sunflowers, mountains and sky! Yes, this might be heaven!


The reddish color of this pumpkin provides some nice variety!

The reddish color of this pumpkin provides some nice variety!

My designer takeaway: Find a place you love, and bust out your camera. You won’t regret it.

A Mermaid-Themed Birthday

Last month, I threw a mermaid-themed party for my young daughter. Here are a few highlights of what we did:


Food: As our friendships have evolved and grown, we have groups with nut and gluten allergies as well as vegan lifestyles. While I can be accommodating to these, I just avoided it with this party. We held it in the morning, ending at noon. We had some simple snacks of watermelon sticks and a homemade party mix, and called it a day.


Homemade party mix:

  • popcorn
  • Teddy Grahams, honey and chocolate flavors
  • M&Ms


Cake: Well, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. For parties, I prefer cupcakes because they are less messy and quick to pass out. For the cupcakes, I made white chocolate sea shells with a candy mold. I bought some of those pearl sprinkles to add to the shells. They were very pretty! Later on her actual birthday, we made a full on mermaid cake using a shaped cake pan. The mermaid cake was a big hit!

shell-cupcakes mermaid-cake

Activity: I have done many parties in our pole barn, but I just didn’t have the urge to prep all that this time. We held the party at our local botanic gardens, which has a children’s garden, complete with water to play in.


I have been wanting to create a scavenger hunt for a birthday party for ages because my brother and I used to make them for each other growing up. They were so much fun. I decided since my oldest can read, I would make a group scavenger hunt. It was great. I picked three areas of the gardens: the sand area, the tepees and the puppet stage. I had goodies set up with an adult at each part. The first stop included a bucket to hold all of these goodies. Inside the bucket were three shells buried in sand. We did this in the sand area so they could just dump the sand there. Then my son read the next clue, and they were off to the teepees. I had an adult in a teepee with a treasure box filled with goldfish packages and fish-shaped suckers. They read another clue and ran to the puppet show area. There we had spread out these fun beach balls with fish inside. Everyone got to pick one. The scavenger/treasure hunt was a big hit. I would definitely do that again.


Overall, I think the party was a success! It was a nice day with some structured and unstructured activities. The kids ate sugar early in the day, but they ran around too. I got to take it easy the rest of my day. Over and done!

Me designer takeaway: Remember your childhood favorites and re-purpose them for today!


Entering the County Fair

Our local county fair was held recently. I’ve been trying to make sure I enter something because it means 1) I’m doing something creative at home and 2) I’m finishing projects. It’s fun to share them with the world every now and then. 🙂


This year I didn’t have much to share in the knitting department. I haven’t finished much, but I have been knitting! I did have this cowl hanging around that was almost done. It just needed buttons. I found these great huge red buttons that were exactly what I was picturing in my mind for finishing it. The buttons are roughly the same size, but vary in design and shade of red. It really pops on the black wool cowl.


I also entered a photograph this year. The photography entries for the fair rarely place because there are so many entered, but I had this great photo and thought I’d give it a try. We were given the InsectLore butterfly habitat as a gift. You get caterpillars in the mail and watch them become butterflies. This photograph was from the day we released them. They were hanging out on my daisies in my flowerbed before they flew away. The whole experience was really amazing to watch. We’ll definitely do it again! And, I took a ton of photos!

This year, I also had my son enter in the Lego category. What a great option for kids, huh!

My designer takeaway: Get a little public recognition every now and then. It’s good for the soul. (And it can even be as small scale as the county fair.)

Summer Flowers 2015

I usually share my gardening adventures each summer. Here’s a peek at this year’s flowers.

We had a weird, cold entire month of May, and it left me not in the mood for gardening. I went really simple this year, mostly sticking with pansies and petunias. They are sure pretty now, though.

I also tore out a big weedy/grassy chunk in the middle of my flowerbed. The ground was so wet from our cold rainy May that it was easy. I decided to leave it bare for this summer and keep pulling the weeds from that area. Hopefully next summer it will be ready for something new.

My designer takeaway: This summer’s lessons were (1) to just keep going (when I really didn’t feel like planting because the effort was worth it in time), and (2) it’s okay to rip it all out and start over!

Second Class – Flower Arranging


I just took my second flower arranging class, and I love how much it overlaps with graphic design. This class was part of the “Life Enrichment” class offered by our local community college, and the teacher is also from the community college. He’s very excited and passionate about good flower design. It’s really fun and eye opening.

This class was based on a design for a mason jar. All the flowers and tools were provided. The the theme was doing a “hand tie” design. It took me a bit to get this meaning, but it shouldn’t have. 🙂 It just meant we started with a bunch “tied” together like a bride’s bouquet. We took that bunch and inserted it in the center and then built around it.

He talked about building vertical and horizontal lines for visual interest. Although this style of bouquet is more symmetrical, he assured us it would have plenty of visual interest.

We worked in layers after that. He’d give us one type of greenery and suggest the area for it’s use, like around the bottom edge or immediately around the center to help hold it upright. This is where everyone’s started to take its own shape.

We talked about how much interest the greenery adds with all the different textures. It builds a lot of depth into the arrangement.

Then we added three long grass blades. This felt like such a funny step to me, but they made a big impact. Mine arched outward. Others’ stood up nice and tall. He had me work mine so they arched at three different heights.

The second to last step was to insert the second row of flowers. I did mine all about the same height and in between the grasses. Others did theirs in a spiral, or stair step, around it.

Lastly, we checked for holes or areas that needed a little more greenery for balance.


I could tell that I felt much more comfortable this class than the first one. I just might develop an eye for this. Time will tell. I think there will be more classes in my future, though.

My designer takeaway: Texture and layers are always a good thing!

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