The Shop @ A Mandatory Activity

May 24, 2020

Did I Accidentally Start A Company? Maybe.

I’m writing this post a little late, and so I apologize to those dear friends to whom I have not yet shared this news.  COVID-19 and staying at home has affected us all differently, but I am firmly in the camp of people who have been having the weirdest dreams (when I’m actually able to sleep, that is).  One morning, I woke up to realize that I had designed an entire product line in my sleep, and so I accidentally (?) started a company.

Ok, I’m simplifying matters a little bit, and nobody accidentally starts a company.  At some point I did have to get a business license and tax ID number and all of the things that don’t happen by accident, but it’s accidental in that it wasn’t part of the GRAND PLAN.

Ok, I never really had a grand plan.  I had a blog idea and things to share and teach and that was good enough, until quarantine. 

Let Me Welcome You to The Shop @ A Mandatory Activity

Please allow me to introduce you to The Shop @ A Mandatory Activity.  There is now a convenient little shopping link at the top menu bar, and that will take you through to the site if you want to have a look around. 

If you’re just here for the tutorials, that’s totally good.  These are still mandatory activities and nothing is going to change.  As I’m writing this blog post I’m also supposed to be working on a design for my nephew’s birthday card, so my projects have increased, but not shifted!

I’m very proud of my accidental little company, and I’m really enjoying the journey so far, which is why it’s felt so weird not to have shared the news here.  Honestly, I had to take a moment to catch up with initial demand, which was a fantastic problem to have (do NOT mistake that remark for complaining)…I just didn’t expect the initial volume. 

I’ve since restocked everything over the course of the last few weeks of evenings and weekends though….so no worries if you’re actually in the market for some candles or need to order gifts for someone. 😉

Let me talk to you a little bit about the genesis of the idea, and my vision of the future and where this all fits in…

Word Play At Play

While in my strange limbo between sleeplessness and vivid dreaming, I started having a game of word play in my head.  It’s not totally abnormal, but I can usually shake it off.

This whole blog is one giant play on words, and I think my brain does a lot of these shenanigans on its own that don’t make their way to paper or pen or blog or idea.  I blame my Dad, who was the same way.  Dad jokes for me were on a whole other level.

If you read my first blog post, The Blog Post Nobody Will Read, you will know that I started this blog almost in response to his death.  I decided life was too short to be scared to try to do the things that make you happy.  My mandatory activities.  

There are plays on words throughout a lot of my posts, and a warning shot in the “about me” section…I like a good bad pun.  

And I Am A Materials Girl

That header has been in the list of things I’ve been wanting to write about for awhile, so don’t be surprised if it makes its way to a blog post title too…but I need it here right now.

I am often thinking about what kinds of things I’d like to make next, or what I want to learn, or whose birthday is coming up and what I’m going to make or give them.  During the process of putting together this blog, I’ve run into SO many creative people, and creativity inspires creativity.

I’m really happy making cookies and cakes and papercrafts and a handful of other projects, but I also want to continue to learn new things.  

You might call me a materials girl. 🙂  For me, inspiration for something comes from an idea that I then need to think about how to communicate and in which material, OR I have a material in mind and I need to figure out what to do with it. 

Here’s an example.  I found this stupid pillow at CVS last Fall on clearance for $4.  It made me smile and I walked away from it, and by the time I had finished actual shopping, I decided I needed to swing back to the clearance aisle to bring him home.  

Because in my mind, he was a great-looking cookie.  See what I mean?  

CVS owl pillow

(Incidentally, this all happened before I started the blog, but not before I had the idea for the blog…so I will have some footage to share when we get closer to Fall project time!) 

In this case, the material to convert this owl pillow into something to share with friends and family, was to make him into a cookie.  That was the right “material”.

The more materials I learn how to use, the more ideas I am inspired by, and that’s what happened with my shop.

Some of the Products

What I was thinking about, lying in bed, was how difficult this time must be for people who were already unhappy.   I know how fortunate I am to be quarantined with 2 of my favorite people, but I started to feel so sad for those who must feel much more hopeless.

What came to mind was the idea of social distancing, and how I wish I could put some Zing into it for those who really needed some help.  

Suddenly, there was Social Distance-Zing.  A burst of grapefruit and mango to lighten your spirits. The right material for this project was wax.  20-40 hours of aromatherapy… 

I had most of the materials except the fragrance in my candle stash.  I designed the labels and branding myself, put in an order for the fragrance oil and some others I thought might be nice. 

 One of those scents was almond.

And a couple of days later, there was Marzipan-demic.  A nice, warm, nutty fragrance that makes you want to cozy up at home with a good book.

Marzipan-demic candle

Two other pandemic-related candles emerged as well.  Flat-tin the Curve (which was inspired by…you probably guessed it, the candle tins I saw when I was shopping for candle jars online.

And also, Shell-ter in Place, which in my mind was the nautical option.  We can’t go to the beach at the moment…but you can take a vacation with your nose.  This one smells like sun and sand and sunscreen and legit makes me feel like it’s summer.  I got playfull and made little shell embeds for the top, and did a little swirl of color to make some beachy waves before my wax totally dried. 

Shell-ter in Place will be the first candle that I show you guys how to make.  Embeds and all.  Coming soon…

Flat-tin the curve candle
Shell-ter in place candles with open lids

The embeds led to more embeds…and when I started working on my graduation gift set, On A Grad Hoc Basis, and Caps and Grounds…it seemed like a great plan to throw some wax coffee bean embeds on the top of Caps and Grounds.  When you melt the candle, the embed melts and the colorant disperses and turns into kind of a latte color when it cools and solidifies again.

More to Come

So, it’s safe to say that we have some new mandatory acvities, because man is this a lot of fun.  I have been working on my Father’s Day candles this weekend and then I’m halfway through ideas for the Fall fragrances and bubble bars and pumpkin pie soap slices and OMG THERE ARE SO MANY FUN PROJECTS TO BE DONE.  One. At. A. Time. 

I have also been making soap (and made soap cupcakes this weekend which I’m in love with).  If you saw my soap making post and video from last week, you will have seen the first soap that will be for sale in the soap section.  Soap takes 4-6 weeks to cure, so the soap will slowly pop up as it becomes available.

I’ll also get to show you how things are done!  I recorded the soap cupaking making, of course, so there will be more to come.  

More candles, more soap, likely a slight re-org of the blog (Lifestyle to candles and soap? What do you guys think?)

Sorry for the length of this post, but the longer I put it off, the more there was to share, so I’ve ripped off the band-aid now and I can just work on posting updates instead of a whole explanation of what the heck…

For those of you who already knew and have been so super-supportive.  Thank you.  Truly.  I’m trying to be brave and take chances, and follow this journey wherever it’s going, but it’s SO much easier to do when people believe in you.


Nature Scavenger Hunt

April 29, 2020

Who Needs an Outdoor Activity?

We interupt your regularly scheduled Cricut tutorial to bring you a fun lifestyle post, a nature scavenger hunt!

I think I speak for all parents everywhere when I say that keeping the kids off of an electronic device during this particular time is difficult, particularly while parents are trying to work.  I don’t know about you, but I desperately needed an outdoor activity.  In fact, before I even publish this post, I’m likely to need another one. 

If you follow my blog and YouTube channel, you will have heard me talk about Lia Griffith before.  She’s kind of amazing, and one of those people I feel like I would be friends with if we met in real life, you know?  Anyway, Lia posted a nature scavenger hunt on her blog and offered it up to us all for free.  I thought I would share that link with you, as well as the fruits of our scavenger hunt! Lia Griffith’s free printable scavenger hunt.  I also feel that it’s my duty as a fan, and someone who is a lot like you, if you are here reading this, that once you get to the site you might get stuck there for 45 minutes…there’s a raging amount of cuteness.

Little Bits of Things

Lia arranged the scavenger hunt items into little squares so you could cut them up and put them on something like an egg carton to collect your findings. scavenger hunt photo

I was pretty positive that if I implemented this particular form of scavenger hunt, I was going to end up with an egg carton full of dead bugs and muddy things in my house, so I made an adjustment.

I took the scavenger hunt somewhat virtual.  We still got outside and walked around for over an hour looking for stuff, but when we found our items, we took a picture to “collect” them.

So, our printed scavenger hunt page ended up being more of a coverall bingo card. 🙂

The Thrill of the Hunt

Looking at the list of items we needed, there were some that Spencer and I thought for sure we wouldn’t be able to find, like a shell.  We don’t live near a beach, we are in a residential neighborhood, and I thought short of finding shells in someone’s landscaping display, it probably wasn’t going to happen.

Spencer did not take that as an answer, and actually ended up discoverying a creative solution to this issue.  For him, the hunt was ON and he was going to prevail!

This was his “shell”.  Frankly, I can’t argue with him…it’s a shell of something, it’s just not the seashell I had in my head.

That’s it, in a nutshell.  (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

Nut shell of some kind

Scavenger Hunt Results Collection

Here are some of our other finds, which I’ll include, because nature is pretty and if you are stuck inside while you are reading this, maybe it will make you happy.

Green leaf
Green leaf
Pine needles
Pine needles
red leaves
Red leaves
Seed / pod
Yellow leaf
Yellow it was waiting for this scavenger hunt so it could be found!
Bug - he blends in a lot, but he's right in the center of the image. This is the bug I didn't want in my house. 🙂
brown leaf
Brown leaf

The Final Hunt for an Elusive Feather

Pretty, huh?  But you may notice that this is 16, plus the “shell” is 17…and there are 18 items in our scavenger hunt.

We could not find a feather to save our lives.  We followed the sound of chirping birds into the woods, hoping there would be a stray feather on the ground, but we got nothing.  Plenty of birds, zero feathers. 

Luckily, we were able to be a little creative again.  When we got back home, there was a feather on the couch cushion!  I put it outside so we could “hunt” it.  

It felt better to check all the boxes, but admittedly it was a sneaky solution!

Couch feather
Couch feather in the wild

But there you have it, a couch feather “in the wild”.

If you try this scavenger hunt, enjoy!  I was honestly amazed by the assortment of things all around us that we don’t bother to look at.  

Love, Amanda

Want to Learn Brush Lettering?

March 20, 2020

FREE Brush Lettering Class at!

You’ve seen those incredibly popular brush scripted signs used for decor, or on t-shirts, or on cards, and even on cookies, right?  Here are some examples of brush lettering fonts…

Brush lettering fonts are everywhere these days and I can’t say that I mind.  I used to think I wanted to learn calligraphy, but every time I looked into it, I decided it was a little too rigid for me. That statement is not meant to offend any calligraphers out there, quite the opposite.  Calligraphy is an artform, and it’s lovely, and if you’ve ever had the chance to watch a real calligraphy artist work (I had that chance in college), it’s absolutely mesmerizing.  When I tried to do it, however, I couldn’t get my markmaking uniform enough, I usually ended up with something that looked like a cross between calligraphy and my own handwriting (or my Grandma’s).  It just wasn’t right.  Since I knew that wasn’t the goal, I always felt like I’d failed and eventually stopped trying. 

BUT NOW, there are all of these very popular brush lettering techniques, with lovely free-form letters that are all kind of different and unique.  So maybe we’re back in business?  I tried my hand at this a couple of years ago with this cookie set below, and quickly decided that this was NOT something that was going to come naturally to me either.  If I couldn’t do it on paper, how the heck could I expect to do it with icing?  

In order to get through these cookies, I cheated. 
I used a projector. 🤷‍♀️

Brush lettering on baby cookies

My point in sharing these is that I think if we can learn brush lettering, and become comfortable with the ways in which your hand applies pressure and releases pressure, it shouldn’t matter what medium we are using.  Maybe you’re making a cookie, maybe you’re making a card, maybe you’re designing a t-shirt?  Maybe you just think it will be meditative and take your mind off of things (holding hand up).  Regardless of your reason, if you have the interest, now’s your chance.

Don’t you love it when your email brings you exactly what you want on any given day?  Or maybe it gives you something you didn’t even know you wanted?  Well, my email today contained a messages from (ok, every day there is an email from, we’re close like that), and in that email it asked me if I wanted to learn brush lettering from one of the masters, Kelly, of Kelly Creates.  I DO, I DO! is hosting free courses right now, and one of them is here, Kelly’s class (I’ll imbed the link in the BRUSH LETTERED “crafty” inspiration below). is an affiliate of mine (I told you, we’re close like that), and while I do a lot of my shopping on their website and think they have an awesome collection of goodies, I didn’t know they had so many classes!  I got excited and inspired and wanted to share with you guys.  I think I’ll take some time this weekend and watch Kelly Creates magically brush letter things as she teaches me…. there are thick pens and thin pens and water pens and metallic pens (insert the “Whole New World” song in your head here).

If you try it out, send some pics.  I’d love to see what you create! [email protected]



Freshly’s Delivery Instead of the Grocery Store During COVID-19?

March 13, 2020

Coronavirus Got You Worried About Grocery Store Visits? Meal Delivery May Be the Answer.

So, I haven’t yet made any mention of COVID-19, and indeed talking about it and seeing the global implications does NOT make me happy…but I felt like I would drop a short blog post with one of the things we are doing.  It’s a small thing, but it’s a thing. 

Over the last few days, I’ve stopped into big chain stores to try to grab a few things like rubbing alcohol (because I was going to DIY some hand sanitizer and make cute labels with the Cricut and pass them along to loved ones, and blog it for you guys), but it’s ALL GONE, just like half of the other things on the shelves.  The grocery stores are full of people shopping in gloves, and while I have been uber-careful to wipe down grocery carts before I start shopping, I am finding it difficult to stop touching my face.  Does anyone else have this issue?  Why is it that my face feels so itchy when I’m actively trying not to touch it? It’s like there is a phantom hair whisping around in front of me…  

My in-laws are on the older side and living in a community with other similarly aged folks, and we have encouraged them to have their groceries delivered, because of the sensitivity that population has to this COVID-19. But we are also signing them up for Freshly’s, at least for awhile, to get through this particular time.

We’ve tried most of the meal delivery services, and meal prep kits, that are on the market, and the one we have become most attached to is Freshly’s.  Primarily, it’s a super easy way to get dinner quickly without having to eat fast food.  During the work week when timing is tight, and we are struggling to get home from work, pick up our son, feed him dinner AND get him to basketball practice by 7, popping a Freshly’s meal into the microwave is really helpful.  

Freshly’s are not frozen meals, they are refrigerated, but ready to cook.  They are all gluten free, if that’s something that is a concern for you.  As someone without gluten issues, I will say that I don’t notice the gluten-free-ness for the most part.  And so I thought I would just send this out in case it was an option you wanted to consider, if not for your own family (indeed, we may all have a little more time on our hands at home to cook!), then for some of the more delicate members of our population that we don’t necessarily want going out into the world for groceries. 

I am not a Freshly’s affiliate, so this is not an affiliate link, but since we have been Freshly’s customers for many many months, I can share my referral link with you.  They will send me a coupon (disclosure!) but they will give you $40 off.  The link below will get you 6 dinners a week for $39, and is good for 2 weeks, which is $20 off each week.

Like I said, it’s not a big thing, but it’s a thing…and if it keeps Grandma and Grandpa off the streets for awhile, it’s worth it! My favorite is the mahi-mahi with romanesco sauce (which is not always available), and my husband is a fan of the steak peppercorn with sauteed carrots and green beans, for what it’s worth.  Freshly’s has a way of making these meals so when they are microwaved, the proteins aren’t weird and tough.  They also suggest that you take them out of the microwave and put them on a real plate, which we do.  It does make the experience feel a little more…cozy?

Stay safe everyone!

Love, Amanda

Feedspot Top 75 Happiness Blogs! ME!!

February 25, 2020

Today It's the Blog, Not Just the Content, That Makes Me Happy

Thank you to Feedspot to featuring my blog on the Feedspot Top 75 Happiness Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2020#41, woot!  I use Feedspot to help me organize all of the blogs and websites I think are cool…and I trust them to direct me to new ones that I will also like.  So I am THRILLED to have made this list and to be in such good company!  

You see that glow on my cheeks in the pic above? I’m going to start calling that “the Feedspot glow” (can I trademark that?)  I started this blog with the intention of sharing the things I do that make me happy, and to hopefully help my readers do the same.  If I inspire you to try a project or cookie design that you might not have considered before, that’s a win.  If I even just entertain you because you like watching OTHER people do those things, that’s a win.  I enjoy it too, I have watched hour long videos of people organizing their craft rooms, because I like to see what ideas other people have, and that’s one reason I love the blogoshere so much.  There are SO many people, and SO many ideas, it’s just the best.  

Today’s lesson for yours truly, is that while the blogging experience itself has been tech heavy with a gigantic learning curve, I can add it to my list of things that make me happy.

So thank you to Feedspot for the shout out, and thank you for those of you who have elected to come on this journey with me. I’m grateful for the love, for the shout outs, for the shares, for the comments, and for the encouragement! 

Working on some fun St. Patty’s Day cookies, so come back soon for those. 🙂


Valentine’s Day Napkin Fold and Placecards

February 12, 2020

Valentine's Day Napkin Fold and Placecards

Do you love love?  Why not add a little extra love into your place settings for Valentine’s Day? 
This year, we are having a small gathering of friends over for Valentine’s Day dinner, so I wanted to make a special table preparation with a fun and simple napkin fold and placecard.

The placecard design is a manipulated Lori Whitlock box card design, purchased from her website here:
You can see when you open the link, the original card design has an XOXO on the back of the truck, and I removed that and made space instead for the names of our guest.  Finally, the design gets miniaturized, assembled, and multiplied!

Construction on these guys wasn’t too bad.  The first one took the longest, somewhere around 10 minutes, but the remaining 5 I did much faster and I think I was finished with those in about 30 mins total.  Video tutorial for adjusting the box card into a placecard, and for assembly is available here:


Finally, I wanted to do a fun napkin fold for the table.  In my opinion, napkin folding is an under-utilized entertainment art form. 🙂  Guests tend to be really impressed, and it typically doesn’t take that much time.  I did a really simple heart napkin fold, which comes together in just under a minute (although the video tutorial is a little longer than that because I stopped to explain, etc.).  It’s a quick watch, and I mostly managed to keep my head out of the way while filming 🙂 

Items used in this project are linked for you below. 
AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. If you order through these links I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you do use the links below, thank you in advance for your support of this blog! 
Cricut machine (if you are new to Cricut, you will want the bundle so you get all the tools and mats and goodies!) 
Cricut paper: The red paper and the black wheel paper are both Cricut cardstock, available here.
The silver paper for the bumper and tail lights is Cricut pearl paper, available here.
The red sparkle paper used for the license plate holder is Cricut shimmer paper, available here.
The Cricut black pen 0.4mm was used to write the names on the placecards.
Pick up stick for tiny paper pieces.
My favorite glue used for almost all of my projects.
Cats Eye chalk ink.
Red bling used for tail lights / Clear bling used for rear view mirrors.

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Thanks for joining me today, and until I see you again, do what makes you happy.

Love, Amanda

30 Second Christmas Candle Napkin Fold

December 31, 2019

Got 30 Seconds? Fold a napkin into the shape of a candle...


It’s easy to feel like you don’t have time to do something “frivolous”, especially during the holidays when a hundred other things all need to be done at the same time, but this adorable napkin fold literally took me 30 seconds.  I typically try to pull off a cute napkin fold for the holidays, and I’m also typically planning ahead well enough that I don’t need to worry too much about last minute folds…but this year, that didn’t happen.  It was Christmas DAY, and I was frantically ironing my napkins trying to think of what might be an easy fold.  I’ve done trees, and elf booties (look for future blog posts on those!) but didn’t think I had time for either.  I pulled out a book my son got me about 4 years ago, and it’s become kind of my bible for napkin folds.  Even if I can’t find a fold that I like, I often find a technique that helps me make my own easier adjustment.  In this case, I just followed the instructions, and voila! 

Once I realized how easy it was, I ran up to the filming studio and filmed for 3.5 minutes and folded 2 napkins while stammering a little along the way.  So, rest assured, I didn’t spend hours and hours practicing my napkin fold so I could perform on camera…this is an easy one.  I literally ran out of the kitchen (if you listen closely in the video, you can hear my husband moving dishes around while cooking Christmas dinner).   This is definitely a post that lends itself better to a visual tutorial, so watching the video below is probably your easiest bet! 

 Until next time, do what makes you happy.


I'm Amanda, and I put the AMANDA in A MANDAtory Activity (and I like a good bad pun). This blog is a focused on baking and crafting for gatherings and gifts! I LOVE making things a little extra special and I love sharing those ideas with you. Have a look around, or read more here.


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