Island of Berk Birthday cake!

Need an idea for a little kids birthday cake- dragons can be a simple win and unique as well. Step by step instructions on how to wow the party kids and parents!

My good friends son was turning 6 years old and I wanted to get him a few small toys. He recently saw the new How to Train your Dragon-The Hidden World movie in the theater,  and he loved it! Target has pocket sized dragons at a very reasonable price. One type has a baby dragon you can see and then a mystery baby dragon in a box next to it. I got three, one of each type of dragon they had available.

Birthday boy was not having a party, just a friend and family and us two went to the Laser dome for the day. I asked if it was okay if I make a cake. Permission granted, just no nuts due to allergies.

We got a chocolate cake mix and two medium vanilla icing containers.

Edible decor such as Swedish fish are always a great cake topper when working with an ocean theme.

The only tools I used to decorate this cake were a fork and knife.

I always lay down two pieces of wax paper onto my finished plate before I place the cake to decorate. The wax paper should just slightly overlap in the middle. This will allow me to have a clean plate for presentation by gently tugging the wax paper out after completed.

Two cake pans at the dollar store are perfect for a small stacked cake. Be sure to let the two cakes completely cool before decorating. Otherwise you will have a big sliding melted mess on your hands.

In order to have the layers stack nicely I needed to slice just a bit off the top of one in order to make it flat. Don’t throw this piece out, I will be using it later for the island.

I have to take this cake to a party so the end location of the cake is the cake carrier.  Notice how I placed two sheets of wax paper to gently tug out later.  Right now it is my crumb catcher. A bit of green icing for in between the layers.  I will be using more blue icing on the outside, so green goes into the middle.

Top layer on, flat in the middle, round on top.

Remember that spare piece of cake top from the bottom layer.  Here it will be used as the Island, giving the cake dimension.

Here you can see that I am using the green icing on top of the addition.  I will smooth on the icing first and then add the texture to make it look like grass.

I liked using the extra piece of the cake because it gave me a clean and clear picture of the area in which will be the island. Also waste not want not! You can see in this photo that I am using just the tip of the fork to create the grass look. I am pressing down very gently into the green icing and pulling straight up.  Not deep enough into the icing in which I will reach the cake, which might pull up chocolate cake bits or pull the icing up off of the cake.

Here the Island’s grass is complete.

Now comes the harder part, the blue ocean.  I am starting off with a lighter blue because I will need to darken up the color as I add to the cake.  We start with lightest blue next to the island.  When at the beach the water is lighter closest to the beach. The water is shallow and you can see the bottom, which is usually a light tan, sand color which makes the water look a lighter blue/green color.  As you move away from the island the icing should be tinted darker to give the illusion that the water is getting deeper- thus darker.

A nice light blue ring of icing around the island.  The icing doesn’t have to look perfect yet. you will be blending and creating waves after it is all on all over the cake.

Add a few more drops of blue food coloring to the rest of the container of blue icing. Then mix in to give a slow and gradual darkening of the ocean.

Slowly the blue icing is going on. I added blue food coloring to darken the icing about 4 times. It looks like slight waves in the blue already.  I am practicing with the knife with adding the icing to the cake in order to have the technique of wave making with a flip of the wrist and knife for the end result. A light slow flip of the knife, no one needs icing all over the kitchen.

Here you can see how the knife strokes ended up blending one shade of blue into the next very gently. Also it shows the close up of what your waves might look like. Remember it does not need to be perfect, it just needs to be edible.

Here is the cake on the carrier. Notice how I slowly slid out the wax paper. The back piece has not been taken out yet and you can see were the carrier bottom would have been a disaster.

Fish, dragons and candles are last and right before the kids arrive.  You are sure to get all the oohh’s and wow’s you need to over come the anxiety from the night before when decorating is a challenge. I know I sure did, and the employees of the pizza shop came to check it out too. Delicious and fun! RickabaughReviews Approves!

Seed Starting is Hard

I am pretty average when it comes to keeping house plants alive.  A few die and most survive.  I greatly enjoy the over all look that it gives my home, as does my husband. I have worked hard at finding plants that help clean the air in our home without flowering aspects with pollen due to my allergies and to help us sleep better at night. My husband and I have had a smaller vegetable garden for eight years and this past summer moved in order to have more garden and running space for our Shepherd mix dog.  It is working out great for the dog. We on the other hand are having much more trouble with the garden. The soil here is completely different, mostly clay and with not being in the city with a privacy fence, we are fattening up the wildlife. I recently posted starting my seeds in small windowsill green houses. I have found we keep our house too chilly in the winter and none of the windows that are available to start seeds in get near enough light or heat.  So, if you first do not succeed, try, try again.

We just happen to be looking for different light bulbs when I came across a light bulb type that is specifically made to help your seeds start growing indoors. The aspects that we greatly like are that we could put it in a regular desk lamp. It is LED, so it is energy efficient. It also gives off a very low amount of heat which greatly helps the seeds in our chilly home.  We keep the house at about 67 degrees in the winter, we don’t mind wearing sweatshirts. We asked an employee if she knew of anyone who has tried this light bulb.  She herself uses it in her home and gave it great reviews.  We decided to give it a try. For just over $13 with a 22 year life if it works, it will be a game changer.  We liked it so much we now have two!

I was using dirt from the back yard and baking it to kill mold and bugs but it just wasn’t working and it was frustrating me. We were visiting family and my cousin said they sell dirt at the store.  My frustration came with I just purchased an acre of dirt, I don’t want to buy more dirt. Well I thought about that for a good week and we bought a bag of indoor potting soil.

My reasoning for buying potting soil is this: our dirt outside is mostly clay- not awesome for veggie gardens. The way to change your soil is you have to add good soil to the bad soil. Yes I compost, and it was the perfect amount for the old garden. Not enough for the new garden, so If I start the seeds indoors in good soil, transplant time they go outside with their potting soil, they have a good start for the growing season. Also I am slowly, very slowly adding good nutrient rich soil to my clay veggie garden.

I always have spare flower pots somewhere in the house, shed, or garage. And our Aunt and Uncle when they moved south left us a bunch of small decorative flower pots behind. So with seeds and spare flower pots, new dirt and light I got busy planting and documenting in my garden journal. I started new seeds on January 27th. our success rate in sprouted seeds so far is anywhere from 95% to 100%. Every single lettuce seed I planted sprouted. We started with Lettuce, Beets, Cactus, Coleus, Yellow Bell Pepper and Marigold seeds. Lettuce, Beets and Pepper seeds have sprouted. We have been so happy with our second try results we went out and got more soil and more seeds and the second grow bulb.

The six new pots that we planted yesterday under the new bulb contain Carrots, more beets, more lettuce, more coleus, green onions, and spinach. The coleus that we are planting are not a veggie but a flower. My husband liked how beautiful the two that we had in the backyard last summer that we are giving them a try from seed to transplant in the spring. $1.78 for over 50 plants is a much happier price then for one plant. For the cheaper price I have zero problems putting in a little effort.

The lettuce packet has around 200 or more seeds and it suggests that if growing in containers to start new plants about every 4 weeks in order to have a continuous harvest. $1.96 for fresh lettuce for an entire year compared to $1.96 every four days at the grocery store. I am really saving some money!

My husband and I are also super excited to be able to have a year round supply of beautiful leaves from all sorts of plants in order to continue with my hobby of concrete leaf casting.

LED grow light-RickabaughReviews greatly approves!


Work from home scams

I would love to be able to work from home considering all of my allergies. I have been looking for a work from home position for over 4 years.

The first scam I was taken on was a doosie.  Weston Distance Learning-Medical Billing and Coding. NO one! No one is hiring for someone that pays $5,000.00 to take this course. The only way to get into this position is to take more courses costing thousands of dollars more in the specific field. Take a look at your area. See what they are hiring for. I did a quick search before I enrolled. There are a bunch of practices hiring. None from home and none without certification in the specific field and 5 years experience. If no one is hiring how is anyone supposed to get experience? They suggested to me that I volunteer in a office for 5 years to get experience.  Volunteering doesn’t pay a single bill.

Scam number two- Idictate and Quicktate. Only cost me $20 for a supposed background check and hours and hours of my time. I put in two work order requests for payment for services rendered. They have yet to reply to my inquires as well as pay me for work done a full month and a half ago.

And ironically the same day I confirm my information my place of employment and random distant family members start receiving phone calls all on the same day claiming that they need to pay this business money on my behalf, they immediately hung up on me at work because it was my identity that they was being stolen and I knew that they didn’t need money.

A huge word of caution when looking into companies that are hiring work from home positions make sure you read all of the fine print. There are credit card companies that state that they are entitled to all of your personal information and that they will sell this information.

No Thanks! RickabaughReviews comletely disapproves!

Be careful with your personal information when using electronics 🙂

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

I remember these words that public school worked very hard to instill in us. Throughout my adult life I have been very concerned with recycling when and wherever I can.  With my crafting projects I find ways in which I can use left overs from one project for another two or three projects.  I have more recently in the last few years have been working very hard on donating items in order to live a little bit less cluttered life. But this most recent craft project I am getting reuse some things I have thought about donating and recycling.

We light around one or two candles a day.  We only buy candles when they are on sale. It really helps take the slight chill out of the rooms in the winter. I have been trying to use less plug in night lights around the house, so in the evenings the candles give a nice cozy glow. I clean a lot but dogs will always smell, scented candles help that smell. This is the end result of a burned candle


I have been making back up candles with the little wax that is left over. I melt the remaining on a jar warmer. Below is a picture of mine, it plugs in. When we have guests over I put this on the kitchen counter to give a nice scent with the fire hazard.


I am a bit of a cheater when it comes to the wicks when making new candles.  I purchased a box of Hanukkah candles many years ago because I thought they were so pretty and never burned them.  They sure have come in handy.  I put one or two into the empty jar and as I melt wax from other candles I pour it into the jar with the old thin candles.  I have a partially started new candle in the candle cabinet at all times.  The new candles I am making with left over wax are not the most pretty candles in the world but they work and have saved us money.


Now what to do with all the old empty jars? Well for a while I was recycling them, Then I saw an adorable post on Pinterest and thought they might be cute for my crafts.

First step is getting all the residual wax out of the jars.  My sister in law cleans out her jars with very hot water. I tried it.  I am too impatient for this process to work for me.  I happen to be cooking the one evening and set the empty waxy candle on the stove top next to the burner.  Not touching of course, nobody needs exploding glass.  What do you know it heated up the wax super easy, I just wiped it out with a paper towel. Jar nearly clean.  I hit it with some Windex.


Perfectly clean now! ( cleaning tip-Windex is amazing on getting sticky, dusty grease off of the fan blades and light fixtures and stove hoods in the kitchen.)

I used to watch little kids in my home and I had a small indoor sandbox for the kids to play with when it was rainy outside.  I had beads, rocks, small sea shells and of course my favorite, small plastic dinosaurs to play with.  I also had a small set of plastic farm animals.  I have been thinking for the last year or so what to do with this and I haven’t had the heart to donate these toys.


The dinosaurs and farm animals are perfect cute toppers for my jars. So we have clean jars and washed off my sandy dinosaurs.  Got the craft glue and put a little on their feet and sometimes tails. Let them sit a bit on the lids to dry.


They are totally adorable.  I thought about spray painting the whole lids and dinosaurs all one color such as black but the husband said it will take away too much from their design and fun.  So this is how they will stay.


Filled with odds and ends will help organize my craft shelves and make it unique to my taste as well as reducing waste and reusing what I have.

RickabaughReviews greatly approves of this super fun crafty, craft organizing project!



Old Sign-New Life

The whole idea of this blog is about trying new things. In this post I get to try my hand at using a Dremel. A coworker asked if I could help bring an old sign that was on her In-laws mailbox for many years, back to life.  It has their family name etched into it but it is bearly readable. When I first saw the sign I was very unsure of how I would tackle this project.  I try very hard to not let my doubts get to me.  So after studying it for a few minutes, I said something along the lines of my game plan. This was the shape of the board when I took it home to refinish.


I knew I had my work cut out for me when I first touched it and it was a bit soft because it was so soaked through from rain.

Step one: Bring in the board, mold and all and let it dry out.

Step two: Hand sanding.  It has a large crack down the board and I was thinking too much vibration from the palm sander might break it right in half.



I have a few stages of hand sanding. It looks better and better each time. I only do about 5 to 10 minutes of sanding per day so as not to wear out my hands or arms.   Most of the top layer was mold that had grown on the surface of the board.

Due to the great amount of mold I had no idea about the deer silhouette  after the name, at first. I am so glad I did find it and was able to save it.  It adds so much to the sign.

I found that I needed to refresh the slight engraving on the board.  I checked out my husbands tools. He is always so willing to share with me and help me with almost anything that I try.

I found a sharp pointy tool and slightly pushed deepening the outlines of the letters and the deer silhouette in order to continue to sand down to good solid board.


It worked very well and helped me so much when I was able to try the Dremel for the first time. After it was mold and mildew free from sanding and mostly smooth we took the board outside to Dremel.


This was the start! The husband showing me how to use the Dremel. And this was after all the Dremeling was complete.


Next was painting! I used Black paint with a touch of pearly white which gave it a beautiful graphite look.


I totally love this raw soft color, but my coworker was not sure if they were going to put the sign outside or inside. So I needed to have a sealer. Polyurethane is my favorite, it brings out the rich natural colors.

Putting on the polyurethane is not too hard. I do suggest using disposable paint brushes with the polyurethane, it is so much easier.


And there you have it! Far better than I ever imagined it would turn out. My husband and I want to make one for ourselves already.


All the coworkers and the RickabaughsReviews Approve! Hope you liked it too!




My January garden prep!

Fall fun is over. Winter is here. Garden with me while the snow is on the ground.

I have to be honest-I never stop gardening or thinking and researching how to better my garden for the upcoming season. I garden all winter long.  I have already started.  I looked up how to bake my dirt.  I am so frugal, I don’t spend a penny if I can do it myself.  So I got dirt out of the garden box put it in a (now designated) foil pan and popped it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. I have read that it is really stinky.  Well I lit 2 candles in the kitchen and I didn’t open the oven door until the timer went off. Then it was a tad stinky until it cooled. Why bake the dirt?


Well it kills off fungus and bugs-good or bad.  When I was scooping it into my small seed starting greenhouses I saw steaming bits of worms. It was so gross and I was super happy my plants were going to love it. I want germ free dirt for my seeds to start them in.

So I put in my starter green house boxes:


used coffee grounds. Freshly used from this mornings coffee pot.


baked dirt,


ashes straight from the fireplace, and a bit of water to moisten it all up well.

Then I got out my big box of seeds which includes my gardening book as well as my gathering apron my beautiful sister-in-law made for me.  In the move I some how misplaced the bottoms to my large greenhouse starters.  But I did find 4 of my small greenhouse starters. They will do for now. Wiped out the lids and got out the label maker.


I decided quickly on marigolds and bell peppers.  The two things I have always planted in the early spring by seed like nearly everything else and they are only just ready by October.  We really enjoy bell peppers and would eat them every week and all year long if they were not so expensive.  When ever I purchase a pepper in the grocery store I 9 times out of 10 “harvest the seeds” when I cut them up.  This makes so many less seeds I am purchasing come growing season.  In October of this year I also harvested my orange marigolds that grew from the previous years seeds. I had about a dozen plants come up from all the seeds I put down after all 200 sugar snap peas were half grown and eaten down to the dirt in one day by bunnies. I pulled and laid out to dry about 100 flower tops. In full bloom petals and all. I only planted orange marigolds last year.  I need a bunch more marigolds this year because BUNNIES. And also chipmunks were scaling the fencing and eating my beets right down to the dirt. Marigolds are very pretty to the human eye, attract bees to pollinate your garden and deter bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks and deer from eating in your garden. Yes I want every fourth plant to be a marigold.  Also not one but two of our friends have moved to the area which means I am working on getting marigolds started for three gardens not just one. In my seed stash I had left over yellow marigold seeds from a few years back.  So as Sherlock would say-the game is a foot! I have one container of yellow marigold seeds and one container of orange marigold seeds planted.  I also started one container of green bell peppers and one container of red bell pepper seeds.  We shall see which sprouts first! We are very competitive in the Rickabaugh home.


So that is just a bit of my summer garden-winter prep.   And since the snow is now on the ground it is indoor gardening from here until spring. If your your winter gardening is just watering the house plants.  I do that too and RickabaughReviews approve.


Stepping stone too thin?

Last year we had a honey bee hive relocated to our back yard.  We put it at the edge of the woods and behind the shed where they would get less noise and not direct sunlight so as to not get too hot in the summer.  We also put up a small fence so that our big dog would not be too curious and upset them.  We have a rocky pathway from the veggie beds to behind the shed that leads to the picnic table where the bee box lives.  What I did not realize is how many weeds would grow up between those rocks.  I am not a huge fan of weeding around a bunch of buzzing bees. The husband doesn’t like to weed at all. Well the queen swarmed and left half the hive behind without any queen, so what remained died.  Alas we will try again this upcoming spring. But until then I get to kick butt on trying to make a better pathway, so no weeding will need to be done around the hive.


I first started making concrete stepping stones in order to make a pathway down to the creek.  They are adorable and work okay, but I think we need much larger, sturdier steps for getting down to the creek, and I would not mind a hand rail either, it is so steep. I still have around 30 stepping stones that I made earlier this summer, most of which are still in the shed continuing to cure. I have been bringing them out one at a time to paint and waterproof, and set aside for placement on the First of March.  The husband and I decided that we can use the stepping stones in among the rocky/pebble pathway back to the bees. Much better pathway with less weeds and when we start laying them down we can add a barrier under where the rocks are so that no more weeds come through.

I discovered earlier this summer that my first three stepping stones were good and sturdy, being and inch thick each. I thought well maybe I can make them thinner and they will be much more cost effective for us.  Well when I made this paver we didn’t know it was too thin.


When placed in the pathway down to the creek I was able to walk carefully on it just fine.  But I am small and did not think how it would hold up to a bunch of guys going down to the creek to fish. Well the step cracked in half, and then in half again.  Live and Learn!

So the rest of my stepping stone are going to be too thin no matter where I put them.  This means I need to thicken them up.

But How?


Well take this step that I just finished painting the top. I just flipped it over. I mixed up concrete pretty thick and chunky ( be careful not to make it too runny I didn’t want it running down overy the counter everywhere) just a small amount at a time so that I wouldn’t have too much.



I mix small amounts in a disposable cup with a disposable knife.  Then I used the knife and spread the concrete on the bottom side of the step like I was icing a cake.


This before photo shows it was kinda thin and it also shows where the bottom of the cardboard box came together. The other step first cracked right along this line perfectly.


This after shot shows the old half of the step with its new sturdy backer. It really is as easy as helping it slide out of the mixing cup and spreading it out evenly with the knife, its easier than cold butter on fresh bread.

I am letting it harden up for 24 hours in the garage, and then bring it inside to the painting table to harden completely for 2 days, then it will be put in storage to cure for 30 days then I can waterproof front and back and then back into storage till spring!

As you can see- the step doubled up in thickness quickly and easily.

RickabaughReviews Approves!

Bonus!!! Below are a few of my other stepping stones that are in process!