DIY Chocolate Cacti

Since I’ve already made cactus-inspired cupcakes, cake, and hard candy, I decided why not also go for some chocolate cacti. As long as you have the cactus cookie cutter, these chocolates are super easy to make. And if you purchase a cactus cookie cutter for this, you can also make my Cactus Candy once you’re finished.

Cactus with Flowers 2Cacti Chocolates

Materials Needed:

  • Cactus cookie cutter
  • Baking sheet
  • Colored chocolates (aka candy melts) in green + yellow
  • White chocolate chips
  • Microwave-safe bowls
  • Spatula
  • Piping bags

Materials Needed


Step #1: First, grease your cookie cutter and place on a flat sheet (or plate/tray). Pour 1 cup of green colored candy melts into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium for 1 minute and 30 seconds, stopping to mix the chocolates every 30 seconds. Once melted, pour the green chocolate into your cactus cookie cutter. Use a spatula to smooth and even out the surface. If you cutter doesn’t sit perfectly level on your sheet, balance a bowl atop the cookie cutter to weigh it down. Place in the fridge to set for 10 – 15 minutes.

Chocolate Cactus DIY

Step #2: Pour 1 cup of white chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and again microwave on medium for 1 minute and 30 seconds, stopping to mix the chocolate every 30 seconds. Once melted, pour into a pastry piping bag and tie shut with a rubber band.

DIY Chocolate Cactus

Once your white chocolate is bagged and ready, cut off a small tip at the end of the bag and pipe on the cactus’ spines. Once finished, place the chocolate cactus back in the fridge to set for 5-10 minutes.

Chocolate Spine Cactus

Step #3: If you also want to add flowers, repeat the same process from Step #2 with yellow (or any colored) chocolate chips. [Note: I found it easiest to pipe my flowers onto the baking sheet I used for the cactus. Once they had hardened in the fridge, I used my spatula to gently lift each flower up and then applied a small dab of melted chocolate to secure the flowers to the cactus.]

Cacti Flowers

Now, how easy was that?! And wouldn’t they make for great gifts – housewarming parties, weddings, birthdays, Valentine’s Day (with a cactus pun)…endless possibilities with these edible desert desserts. This definitely won’t be the last time I make these!

Chocolate Cacti DIY

Yesterday I arrived back in California (aka HOME aka my HAPPY place) for a week. I wish you could all see the incessant dumb grin on my face since I walked off the plane…it feels SO great to be back! While I’m here, I’ll be spending half of my time in LA and the other half back home in San Diego. I am really looking forward to getting a couple full days in LA – while I’ll be doing more work-related things up there, they sure won’t feel like work. I have a DIY scheduled for tomorrow (warning: it’s a GOOD one!!), but will be quieting things down after that until next week so I can focus on what I have in the works out here on the Best Coast. I’m sure I’ll be posting plenty of updates on the ‘gram, so follow along there (@alanajonesmann) if you’d like!

San Diego

DIY Terra Cotta Pots_title

I have been experimenting with marbling techniques lately, and decided I wanted to give marbled terra cotta a try. However, due to the texture, the material itself, and the paint consistency, my previous techniques that worked great on other materials were just not doing the trick with terra cotta (or any type of ceramic clay for that matter). I was determined to figured it out, so I experimented a bit and gave it another go – and hurrah, it worked! Now, I’m not saying this is THE best way to marble pots…I’m definitely no expert in this area, but I am very pleased with how mine turned out, so thought I’d share the process for you. Click “Read More” to find out what you’ll need and how to do it!

Marbled Pots Marbled Terra Cotta Pot

READ MORE (more…)

Czech artist Veronika Richterová might be my new favorite person. She creates amazing sculptures from repurposed plastic PET bottles and has turned them into a wide variety of objects – including animals, light fixtures, and plants.  It may come as no surprise that her plastic cacti sculptures are my favorite…her attention to detail is inspiring. See more of Veronika’s incredible work HERE.

plant-2  plant-9plant-1

[Photos by Michal Cihlář; via ThisIsColossal]

I very rarely partake in a good ole’ #tbt post on the Instagram, but when I do, I was thinking I should share it on here as well. After publishing a few hundred posts on this blog, it’s easy for things to get lost. There’s some real gems from a couple years ago that deserve a second shot of internet love, such as these camp-inspired cupcakes. This post is still one of my favorite DIY dessert projects to date. Head on over to the original post HERE for the DIY.

Camping Cupcakes DIY

Naked Cake Flowers and Strawberries

I wanted to post a little peek at a pretty wedding cake I made last weekend. I know I’ve shared a fair amount of these “naked” cakes lately, but with wedding season coming up and brides looking around for ideas, why not share the visual love?! Just so you don’t get bored, I decided to snap these photos from some different angles to mix it up (don’t get too excited).

Naked Cake with Flowers and Strawberries Naked Cake with Ranunculus

If you did stumble upon this post while looking for wedding cake ideas, I’ve gone through and tagged some of my favorite naked cakes so they can be seen all in one place – find those HERE.

DIY Hanging Planter Tutoria

I was attempting to organize the kitchen closet the other day and realized I currently have way too many Trader Joe’s bags saved. Instead of just throwing them into the recycling bin (to be re-recycled), I decided to craft them into something cool (as a crafter does). What resulted was this pretty two-tiered hanging planter, which made for a great home for some spare heartleaf philodendron plants.  With just a bit of mod podge and a few materials, you can upcycle your plethora of  grocery store bags into a hanging planter too – follow along below for the how to.

DIY Hanging PlanterPaper Mache Planter


  • Recycled paper bags (i.e. grocery store bags)
  • Mod podge + Water (or your preferred papier-mâché mixture)
  • Paint brush
  • 2 (or more) nesting bowls
  • Plastic wrap
  • Scissors
  • Soil and plants
  • Hole punch, String + Circle ring (to hang)
  • Optional: Rocks, Moss, Waterproof sealer

First, rip your recycled paper bags into thin strips. Make sure each edge is ripped by hand (this will help the fibers mold to each other better during the papier-mâché process). Prep your papier-mâché mixture – mine consists of 1:3 ratio of water: mod podge. Use a brush to combine the mixture.

Line your nesting bowls with plastic wrap. Dip each strip of paper into the mixture, use the brush to wipe off any excess glue, and line the interior of the plastic-wrapped nesting bowl with the paper. If there are any graphics on your recycled bags, make sure those are positioned face-side up. Continue to work along the interior of the bowl until you have lined all the way to the top of the bowl. Set aside (preferably outside) to dry for 30 minutes. Once dry, go ahead and add a second layer of papier-mâché lining, this time use the back (the plain) side of the paper bag. If you’ll be adding heavy plants, go ahead and repeat this process a third time. Once you’ve added your last layer, set aside to dry outside for 1-2 hours, or overnight if inside.

Paper Mache DIY

Once the interior of your bowl is dry, pull out the plastic wrap and your new bowl from each nesting bowl. Trim around the edge of the bowls to make the edges level. Flip the bowls onto a flat surface (they should sit level when upside down; if not, you’ll need to trim the edge some more), remove the plastic wrap and allow additional time for the exterior of the bowls to dry.

Once your bowl is dry (it should be hard when you knock on it), it’s time to line each of the bowls for your plants. You’re going to line them one of two ways dependent on your filling. If you will be using plants that require a significant amount of water, you’re going to want to spray a waterproof sealer on to the inside of your bowl first. If you’re going to be using plants that require little water (i.e. succulents), no need to add a sealer. Once your bowls are prepped, add your filling. For succulents, line with a light layer of rocks, then soil. Once you’ve potted your succulents, add moss to ensure the soil doesn’t spill out easily.  For plants that need more root room, just use soil for the filler.
Potting Filler

Since I was going to be potting individual heartleaf philodendron plants in my bowl, I laid a section of the plants into the bowl to estimate the space I would need, filled the bowls with soil, and then added my plants.

Potting PhilodendronPotting Philodendron 2

Once you’ve potted your plants, it’s time to assemble and hang your new planter. Using a hole punch, make 3 holes equidistant around the rim of each bowl, making sure to punch about 1/2-inch down from the top of the bowl. There’s a number of ways to string the bowls.  For mine, I took 3 equal pieces of string and knotted them onto a circular ring (to hang from). I then looped one piece of string through each one of the holes, added a double knot, and then made sure my bowl was level. I then looped the string through the holes of the larger bowl, again double knotting the ends, while making sure to leave space between each bowl. Once I confirmed that my second bowl was level, I tied the 3 pieces of string together at the bottom of the bowl. If your bowls aren’t level, continue playing with the position of your knots until they are.

planter holesHanging Planters

Whichever way you assemble the hanger, once you’ve finished, go ahead and hang that beauty! Make sure to hang in a well-lit room and water accordingly!

Hanging Bedroom Planter

According to the calendar, it is currently Spring, but it sure hasn’t felt like it in New York. I’ve been so desperate for some warmer, sunny weather and for those bare trees to start blooming again…it’s that constant grey that is destroying my spirit. These weeks where it borders on the actual, physical turn of the seasons are always the toughest for me. In an attempt to retain my sanity, I’ve taken many trips to my favorite local greenhouses. In my opinion there is no better way to beat the winter blues than to sit inside a sun-drenched greenhouse. So for this weekly installment of inspiration, I wanted to post a few photos from my recent greenhouse visits, because for me, there is no greater source of inspiration than nature.

Fern KingCactus GreenhouseString of PearlsPalm SundayPalms Sunday READ MORE (more…)

Cake Flowers 2

I was planning on doing an Easter-specific DIY today, but as I begin to plan for one I was looking at my Pinterest feed and became completely overwhelmed with all the amazing Easter DIY’s out there already. I got a bit intimidated and scratched that idea. So instead, I went with another pretty DIY I had been wanting to make. It wasn’t until I finished the project that I realized this DIY would still work well for Easter Sunday, as it combines two popular table centerpieces – a cake AND a flower arrangement. I’ll be posting more photos over the next day, but wanted to get the instructions up now for those of you interested in replicating it for your Easter table.

Flower Vase Cake

Now sure, you could just cut the stems off flowers and adhere them onto a cake with buttercream, but with flowers as pretty as these, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could keep the flowers even after you’ve eaten the entire cake?!  Well folks, now you can!  Using plastic test tubes, you can turn a cake into a vase. A CAKE VASE, you guys! Follow along to find out how to make one for your next party table.

Materials Needed:

  • Cake
  • Spatula
  • Plastic test tube(s)
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • Flowers


Before You Start: Head to your local farmer’s market and pick out some of some beautiful spring blooms. I couldn’t resist the poppies from the Union Square Greenmarket. While I was there I picked up some daffodils and ranunculus too, because these are what spring dreams are made of, right?!

Cake Flowers

Cake Flowers 3

Step #1: Once you have your flowers, you’ll want to finish your cake (or start it).  I went with a naked cake for mine, but any style of cake will do. As you begin to finish frosting your cake, you’ll want to make sure your sides are smooth and even, but no need to perfect the top of the cake (yet).

Cake Flower Vase DIY

Step #2: Measure the height of the cake and cut your plastic test tube (or tubes) down to size, if needed. Once the test tube is cut to size, fill it halfway with water, and insert the test tube into the center of the cake.

Test Tube Vase

Step #3: Push the tube(s) down, just below the cake’s top, so that the tube disappears from view. Next, use a spatula to smooth and even out the top of your cake. Since your cake has more than likely warmed up a bit at this point, place it into the fridge for 15-20 minutes to allow the frosting to re-set.

Cake Vase DIY Step 2

Step #4: Cut the stems and arrange the flowers into the test tube, while making sure not to overcrowd the tube. I would recommend no more than 3 stems per tube and no more than 3 tubes per cake. Once you’ve arranged the flowers to your liking, go ahead and display that beautiful cake vase! Don’t forget to remove the test tube vases before cutting the cake.

Cake Vase

Flower Vase Cakes

I thought I might as well make the most of these Easter crafts from previous years and put together a recap of my favorites. Click on the photos below to hop on over to each corresponding post. I’ll have one new Easter DIY for you tomorrow, so make sure to come on back for that!

1. mini Bunny Cupcakes [you can also catch a video DIY for them HERE]

Bunny Ear Cupcake

2. Dip Dyed Easter Tote (Video DIY)

Dip Dyed Totes

3. Hatching Chick Deviled Eggs (Video DIY)Chick Eggs 2

4. Succulent Egg Garden

Succulent Egg Garden