A Very Merry UnBirthday Card!

I’ll own it. I’m bad at getting birthday cards out on time. My stepmother graciously celebrates ‘birthday month,’ insisting that I’m always on time, but I know better.

And I just have to own it. So I do, with this card I designed.

I just had a streak of orders for it come through on Zazzle and I’m excited, so I’m putting it out here as well.

In case you’re like me, and end up late a few birthdays a year, you may want to order a few (or more…) to keep in stock here.  And have a very merry!



DIY: Clay Potion Bottle Soap Dispensers (Harry Potter-inspired)

Row of jars for potions bottles
We have been on a bit of a Harry Potter kick lately! We are planning to vend at Chestnut Hill’s 2017 Harry Potter Festival and getting our wares ready early.

Nothing is more mystical in the Wizarding World then potions. They bewitch the mind, ensnare the senses, slay the bacteria…

At least they do when the potion is actually soap. And so, here is an easy tutorial for DIY Harry Potter-themed potion soap bottles, decorated with clay.

Step 1: Choose a small jar

Jar for Harry Potter potion soap bottle

Step 2: Use a three-quarter inch spade bit to drill a hole in the jar lid. Use this bit, hold it steady, and watch your perfect hole appear in less than 5 seconds – seriously!

Set 3: Create 3D accents out of polymer clay. This Sculpey clay is magical – easy to work with and takes color perfectly. Follow baking instructions – but if you want your pieces to curve around your jar, apply them with a bit of Elmers glue and bake the entire jar, clay and all.

 Step 4: Stamp the name of your potion into your clay. You can also paint the name on, but these vintage rubber stamps create a great effect. They settle into the clay cleanly and show up well after baking.

Step 5: Paint to your heart’s content. I highly recommend these paints for any metallic look you try to create. Their smooth shimmer creates a beautiful effect.

Don’t forget to seal everything to protect against chips and scratches: <a href="http://Bulk Buy: Plaid (2-Pack) Mod Podge Dishwasher Safe 8oz CS15059“>Martha Stewart’s Mod Podge creates a very hard surface that will protect your clay nicely. (It looks expensive, but that bottle will carry you through many projects!)

Step 6: Use epoxy or Superglue to attach a soap pump to the lid. I used this gorgeous soap pump for a classy look, but these black plastic pumps are a definite value buy.

Fill it with soap, screw it together, and you are ready to blast those doxies. I mean, germs.

Seriously, though, this is a great gift for anyone who loves Harry Potter or the Wizarding World. As such, it will be available in our Etsy shop soon!

How to Make Natural Soap: A Beginner’s Guide

For years, I’ve been asked for a guide like this, and finally, here it is!

how to make soap cover ss
Click to download

If you want to try your hand at soapmaking, this is an excellent 101 guide (if I do say so myself) to creating your first batch.

(The first tutorial video inside stars Kaili (aka Shea); the rest are just my hands, but still very helpful, if not as cute!)

Please do download, make use of it and let me know what you think!


Before and After: How to Refresh a Lamp Post

With blue skies breaking through the clouds and crocuses suddenly flourishing, it is time for one of my most-anticipated and most-dreaded times of year…

Spring cleaning!

The perfect excuse to shove everything aside and really scrub those baseboards. And a perfectly uncomfortable amount of internal pressure to shove everything aside and scrub those baseboards. (So long, winter’s overdose of Netflix-and-chill!)

While Mr. Mark over here kicked things off with soffit vents and insulation, I’m starting with prettying up our curb appeal.

Today’s Project: The Lamp Post!

Let me just say that our lamp post wasn’t leading anyone out of Narnia. The glass was dingy, the paint extremely worn, the numbers all but unreadable, and the bulb inside have a glaring white light more reminiscent of a security guards Maglite than warm homeyness.

Time to Spruce Things Up


  • Windex
  • Goo Gone
  • Wire brush
  • Rust-Oleum spray paint in classic black with hammered texture ( the texture is key!]
  • Valspar white lacquer for wood and metal
  • Rags, paper towels, screwdriver, toothpick and other sundries.

Step 1: Pull everything apart as much as possible. Unscrew the top of the lantern. Pull out the light bulb and the hurricane glass and all the dead ladybugs and weird maple tree keys.

Step 2: Scrub everything down. This is where the Goo Gone comes in handy. Somehow, between tree sap and glue, we had streaks of sticky stuff everywhere. Goo Gone is invaluable for removing all of it super easily. If you’ve never used it, I highly, highly recommended. You can grab it on Amazon here and you will be absolutely delighted with your new free pass to never scrub stubborn goo again.

Step 3: Block off your glass. If you can remove it, by all means, do. Ours was not coming out so I used masking tape and paper to seal off each panel. It looked messy and awkward and so I leave it to your imagination instead of providing a photo. Just block anything you don’t want sprayed black. This includes covering the open top of the lantern so you don’t spray any fixtures inside.

Step 4: The fun part! Scrub scrub scrub scrub with your wire brush. Get any old rust flakes and lumps right off. Then wipe everything down with some Windex and a rag. All of that loose dust would make awkward lumps in your paint that you just don’t need.

Step 5: The REALLY fun part. Shake up your can of Rust-Oleum black and go to town. Remember to start at the top and work your way down so you can cover any drips, to keep the can moving so you aren’t creating a thick puddle anywhere, and to pretend to let your small child have a turn because their hands won’t be strong enough to press down the lever anyway and then you can still look like a good parent who gave them a shot while maintaining the sanctity of your paint job.

Step 6 is just for us. Our number plaque was tipping and if we were refreshing the post, we were going to do it right, so after thinking about various legitimately construction-type things that we could use to support the drooping side, we ended up just wedging a broken toothpick in and spritzing it with a bit of black paint.

Step 7: The final one, finally! The Valspar white lacquer went on to the numbers with a tiny paintbrush. Then a thin layer of clear craft sealer went over that. Now you can actually find our house from the street!

I also switched out the lightbulb. We went from harsh white LED to a warm, trendy Edison bulb. We have to see how much light it actually casts, but I love it.

And, done!

Next up: Shutters. Take a look at those photos again and you’ll see that those aren’t actually shutters on our house – they are dirt spots from where our shutters used to hang! But that is another story and hopefully I’ll have it up soon.

The Magic of a Harry Potter Birthday Party

She gasped and gave an excited wiggle the first time she saw Hogwarts. She jumped up to cheer when Griffyndor won Quidditch. She’s feeling all the feels when Harry sees his parents in the Mirror of Erised.

Having escaped to the magical world often myself, I love sharing Harry Potter with my daughter. So when she wanted a Harry Potter-themed party for her 8th birthday, that was it.

My mom created the Hogwarts cake, my grandma made the Harry Potter decorations, and my sister helped run the magical activities. (And my poor fiance set up the chairs and ducked out of the way.)

It was a magical, Hogwarts-y blast of a party. The kids loved it. I loved it. My daughter loved it. Here it is:

The Activities

The Decorations

The Food

The Aftermath

I’d say the party was a success, because here’s what’s happening now:

  • My mother is ready to make a Hogwarts cake, Round 2
  • I’m signing up to be a vendor at the next local Harry Potter Festival
  • My daughter keeps picking up the Goblet of Fire to read herself (she’s 7)

Mischief managed. 😛 


Well, we have been crafting like mad lately.

Kaili and I took one day this week to wrap up a bunch of projects. (Her dad might have fled the house for a few hours to escape from all of the drops of glue flying and scissor blades flashing around, but it was all done by the end of the day!)

Here’s what we got done:

Christmas snowflakes-it is July!
Christmas snowflakes – it is July!
A skirt for Kaili , made out of a petite jumpsuit
A skirt for Kaili , made out of a petite jumpsuit

“Don’t Call It A Comeback”

So, the almost-most-recent post on here is about how “we are back.” I’m not going to say the same thing this time (many moons later), knowing how life goes (crazy!), but I am going to say that I’m starting to compile all my efforts in one place (this place) now.

Cocoa & Shea is a brand I’ve already built up a bit. All of you are a great audience, and I miss this. So, this brand is opening up to include different sides of me, different offerings for you. While I love earthy living and gourmet soap, I don’t want to be constrained by just that one channel of creativity.

Marketers can say what they will about finding a niche, but I fall in love with new art crafts every few months, and so my niche (hopefully you!) will be people who just love Gorgeous Things in general. That is my new tagline:

Making Things Beautiful

(It’s our new tagline if you include Kaili, who still loves to be part of anything creative as long as it’s pretty.)

kaili mommy coloring

These are the things I’ve been working on that I may (or may not) be incorporating here and offering on Etsy, and which I’d love to hear if you like (or not!):

The Gnome Folk

The Gnome Folk, which I was thinking of as a brand called Monkey Boots. Colorful and playful.

Word Pictures

Words pictures, which I was thinking of as a brand called Cabbage & Roses. Sort of poetry, nursery rhymes, and flowers.

Rose Silk Soap

rose silk soap
Rose silk soap, which is already part of Cocoa & Shea, just improved. I’ve been working on a video tutorial for this. I’ll post it once I sit down for about 30 hours with video editing software (…after I get a new computer!!)


Cyanotype, an old photography development technique, is kicking up in popularity under the name “sun prints.” I don’t just want to do the standard ferns & leaves sun prints, although those look just gorgeous. I’m trying to bring in more of our lives: our hometowns, our kids, our favorite things. I’ve been calling this project “Life in Cyanotype.”

At Any Rate

At any rate, I’m throwing some of these things up for sale soon, because they’re too good not to share.  I’ll let you know when everything is ready!!