Sunday, December 30, 2007

Birthday Boy Part I

I'm doing this post in two parts because - for some unknown reason - I can only post three pics at a time.  Go figure???

Anyway - today is Magoo's 5th birthday.  Five days after Christmas.  Can you guess how many presents this only child gets in December???
He came out at lunch time, so we had a nice pizza lunch with our good friends the Jacobson-Suzuki's.

I made him this birthday crown with five beads, based on this design.

Here he is about to blow out the Spiderman cake.  It was my first gluten-free cake and frosting.  (Our friends have a gluten-free child.)  It was pretty good!


Birthday Boy Part II

Magoo loves Spiderman.  Why Spiderman as opposed to Superman or Batman?  I do not know. But anything with Spiderman on it is A-OK by him.  So here he is worshipping at the alter of Spiderman (a bank that dances when you put money in it) wearing his Spiderman costume - which he is still wearing as I type.

As a sidenote - he calls The Green Goblin "Veetenna".  Neither Michael or myself know how this started, but whenever he sees Spiderman's foe, he shouts, "Veetenna!"  So, of course, Michael and I now call the green guy "Veetenna" too.
Here's Spidy and his pals - Aki and Teo.  Notice how even when SPiderman is posing with the fans, he still has his hands ready to sling some web.  This guy's a professional!

Here I am - "Spidermom" as I am known in the house - finally resting after the guests have gone.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cat Haiku




Quiet resting cat
soaking up sun, so peaceful
why can't it be me?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lutz Museum

It's school vacation week, which means it's 24/7 Mom Time, which means museums. Fortunately we have some good ones around.  This morning Magoo and I went to the Lutz Children's Museum and had some fun. 
The Lutz Museum is pretty small - for a museum.  They have two main rooms - one of which is a farm, the other changes - and a "zoo" in the back.  But it's good because you can keep track of your kid pretty easily.
Here, Magoo is fishing in the new "Sea Life Exhibit".  There was a big boat the kids could get in and fish and drive and a submarine.  Magoo caught dinner!
Milking the cow was a big hit.  
And back in the "zoo" room there are about 10 different animals: opossum, owls, pigeons, snakes, rabbits and TURTLES!
We spent about 70 minutes there running around and trying everything out.  There was a "lecture" where you could pet a bunny.  Magoo was not impressed.  Last year he got to pet a snake - I think he liked that better.  But it was a good time, and, as always, it's good to get out of the house on a rainy, spitty day like today.
Three days until his birthday!!!  

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Highs and Lows of Christmas

Let's face it, if you have kids, Christmas is about the children.  Nothing is better then telling them stories about Santa and watching their eyes light up with the magic of it all.  And of course, the moment when they get to open their very first Christmas present.  So one of the highs was Romper Stompers.

Remember these?  I was kind of excited to see that they are back and Magoo LOVED them - although it took a little practice.
One of the favorite gifts for me, was from my son.  He made it at school and it's an ornament size version of him sitting on a popsicle sled.

It's so sweet!
Another cool gift received are a couple of things called, Bilibo's, which you can stack, spin in, jump on - all sorts of things.  Magoo likes to be a snail.
Lots of gifts.  Lemon pound cake for breakfast.  A nice family dinner in Boston.  Those are the highs.  
The lows - well, clean up.  Poor Magoo got sick on the way up to Boston.  It's about a 2 hour drive and midway he let the pound cake fly.  It's been awhile since he's vomited in the car, but in his youth he didn't always travel so well, so I'm chalking it up to that.  FORTUNATELY, we brought his jammies.  So we cleaned him up pretty quickly.  But then my husband, Michael started to feel ill when we were there.  He'd been sick with a nasty cold a week before, but he seemed better.  Anyway, he was feeling pretty crummy, so we didn't stay long.  Then Magoo was upset we were leaving so soon.  He wanted to stay longer with Gramma and his aunties.  So, that was a bit of a downer - but we made it home and a warm bath helped settle things with, at least, one boy.  The other is lying in bed as I type.
Now I have to plan Magoo's Five Year Old Birthday Party.  December 30th!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Gingerbread Man Puppets

In a few weeks, I am signed up to volunteer at my son's pre-school.  I'm supposed to "read" a story but I've wanted to do a puppet show for awhile.  We borrowed a library book of the Gingerbread Man that I liked a lot so I am making puppets to tell that version.

In it, the little old lady and little old man make the gingerbread cookie and he, of course, runs away.  Along the path he encounters a butcher, a cow and a muddy old sow.  So here are those three:
And here are the old lady and old man.
I still have to make the Gingerbread Man and the fox that eats him at the end, but they will be slightly different as their rolls are different.  For example, the Fox will be closer to a standard hand puppet with a moving mouth so he can eat the cookie.  I'll post those when I'm done. 

But I've had so much fun making these guys.  I can't wait to start rehearsing!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gingerbread House

About a month ago, I bought a kit for a gingerbread house. We had made one last year and it was a big hit. Magoo had fun with the electric mixer.
He even did some of the icing this year. (Look at that level of concentration on his face.)
He placed a few m&m's here and there and then he got bored. It probably had something to do with the fact that, last night, we had dinner at a friend's house and they brought out gingerbread houses for the kids to decorate. It was a lot of fun - but it took the buzz out of our project, I think. So I finished it myself.
I showed it to Magoo when I was done and he said, "Mommy, you did a beautiful job." Aw, shucks. (Then my big heart burst.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Behold the Powers of - Ice Cream Pie

Years ago, my husband, son and I traveled to Ohio to visit family.  While in Perrysburg, we stayed with my dad and stepmother, Pam.  Pam's kinda like a small town Martha Stewart, only no jail time.  
For dessert one night, Pam made ice cream pie.  And my husband turned into Homer Simpson.  "Ice cream pie......rrrrrghh." (That's supposed to be drool.)  Oh, how did he talk about - dream about - ice cream pie.
So, last summer, we had a BBQ and I decided to make Pam's ice cream pie.  What I discovered is that MOST men turned into Homer Simpson.  They went back for seconds.  They ranted. They raved.  (I'm being a little dramatic, but it really was a big hit. PARTICULARLY for the men.)  And it was recently requested for Christmas dinner.  So, I just finished making two ice cream pies.

And because it is the season of giving, I will share the recipe.  Use it with care:

ICE CREAM PIE:

You start with a pre-made Oreo crust.  
Spread a layer of a softened, vanilla based praline ice cream.  
Then add a layer of caramel and a layer of crushed Heath bars.*  (The hardest part of this recipe is finding the Heath bars.  Not all stores carry them.)
Spread another layer of ice cream.
Sprinkle another layer of Heath bars.
Top with a drizzling of chocolate Magic shell.
Freeze until firm.  (I usually make mine a day or two ahead of time.)

*Note: about 6 Heath bars will do it for one pie.
Mmmmmmmm good.  Enjoy and know that this will be requested again and again.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peony

It's been a lot of fun getting crafty these last few weeks.  But I thought I should get back to what I do best - painting.  Actually, I did this painting in the watercolor class I teach - and finished it in November.  But our scanner was down for the longest time, so I'm only now getting to make it digital.
I think it turned out pretty well.  It's a peony - or so I'm told.  I often take pictures of flowers, but I have no idea what they are so I have to ask people "in the know."  

I just started another big koi painting today as well.  So far so good.  But it feels so nice to get back to painting and swishing the brush around.  I love my glue gun - but I love my brushes even more.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cookie Week

One of the things I like to do every year if make a bunch of cookies for our friends and neighbors.  However - this is something that is very time consuming and could be omitted from my ever increasingly busy schedule.  But I like it.  I want to do it.  So I fight to keep it in. Besides, I think I know people who would cry if they didn't get their Christmas Buckeyes.

The Gingerbread folk and world famous Buckeyes.

A new one for me: White Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies.   Soooooo good.  I kept a bunch for myself!

A finished box.  

For all the energy it takes to put these together - I feel really satisfied when it's done.  After school, Magoo and I will take them around to the neighbors.  That will be fun too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Robot Destiny

It must have been in the summer when I was walking home from dropping Magoo off at school when I noticed a neighbor throwing away a box filled with jars full of these...
1. I love oddly shaped jars.  2. These little copper bits and bobs called out to me.  "Juuuulie, make something with usssssss.  We're way too cooooool to pitch."  How could I resist that?!  So for months I have had them off to a corner of my studio.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Until finally, last week, looking for something to do with Magoo and eager to use my new hot glue gun, I asked him if he wanted to make a robot.  He, of course, said, "Yes!"
So here are the results.  Magoo did the big one.  He designed it and placed the items - I did all the hot gluing.  And I made the smaller one as a magnet for the fridge.  It actually has turned out to be a rather large magnet - so I think I'll have to redesign.  But man - was that fun!

And now some happy little copper bits have achieved their destiny.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm


Here's the calm.  Our cat, Java, looking out into the backyard. 

And here's the storm - a KARAOKE storm!  Last night we had a small gathering of would-be rock stars over to eat pizza and jam out.  Mostly, it was for the adults, but the kids got in on the act ever now and again.  Here's Magoo singing "All Star".
I'm probably going to get in trouble for this - but here are our neighbors - the WHOLE family - feeling the beat.  (Maybe I won't get in too much trouble if I leave out their names???)  But how could I not include this?  It's too much fun!
The littlest one's on tech support!

We had a great time and thanks to my friends for coming over and singing with me.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Snow Day

I had plans yesterday - things I wanted to get done.  I needed to go to the art store and buy paper.  I needed to clean the kitchen and finish my Christmas cards.  None of that happened. Instead, I got a snow day - and it was wonderful.
I wasn't expecting school to be closed.  It wasn't supposed to start to snow until 1:00.  I thought the kids would go in and then it would be an early release day.  But the schools were right not to open because it started coming down at 10:30 - and boy, oh, boy - did it come down.
Magoo (my nickname for my son) wasn't out five minutes before his long eyelashes were covered in ripe snowflakes.

We went to the park to go sledding.  We made snowballs and, of course, snow angels...
We had lunch at one neighbor's house.  We had another neighbor over for cocoa and playing.  And there were many trips out in the snow and many pairs of mittens soaked through.  At 7pm, while my husband continued to shovel in the dark, I had to call Magoo in and he was none too pleased.  But a warm bath made everything better and I think the child slept really well last night.  I know I did.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baked Tomato Rice with Sausage

I'm not much of a cook.  Well - I'm fine, really.  I can follow a recipe and have it turn out alright.  What I mean to say is that I don't really enjoy it.
Maybe it's because I have the smallest kitchen in New England or maybe it's because my child would prefer a hot dog anyway - but I just don't think of myself as a culinary wizard.  And I get bored with the things I make over and over again.  
So, when I was in the craft store and I found a thin little cookbook called Let's Cook One Pot by Sarah Green, I took a look.  "One pot" sounded promising and it was one buck.  One pot, one buck - I'm sold.
Not all the recipes are gonna get made.  I'm not going near Squid Stew.  (I'm not making that up.)  But I did try Baked Tomato Rice with Sausage and it turned out really well.  So I thought I'd share.

Baked Tomato Rice with Sausages

2 Tbsp veg. oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 & 1/2 cups long grain white rice
4 cups light chicken stock
8 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp shredded fresh basil (I used dried)
6 oz. mature Cheddar cheese (about 6 - 1" cubes), grated
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives (I used dried)
4-5 herby pork sausages, cooked and cut
2-3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used packaged)

1. Heat oil in large flame-proof casserole over medium heat.  Add onion and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in garlic and thyme.  Cook another minute.
Preheat oven to 350.

2. Add rice (uncooked.  Just pour that stuff right in.) and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes or until rice is well coated and translucent.  Stir in stock, tomatoes, and bay leaf.  Boil for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in basil, cheddar cheese, chives and sausages and bake, covered, for about 25 minutes.

4. Take it out, sprinkle with the parm and put it back in the over for 5 more minutes, or until it starts to take on a nice golden brown.  (I broiled it a tad.)

MMMMMMMMM!  My husband went back for seconds and that's always a good sign.  Plus it made a ton.  You can have 4 big helpings, easy.  Also, should you want to go vegetarian, change the chicken stock to veg stock and replace the sausages with butter beans, kidney beans or sweet corn.  Enjoy!



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Quiet Corner

My son, who is nearly five, is an emotional boy.  Whatever he feels - he feels it big time.  If he's happy - he's the happiest kid on Earth and his laugh is like winning the lottery.  But when he's grumpy - OH BABY - that kid has a dark cloud over his head and it's very difficult to blow it away.  And, quite frankly, it can be a little trying for my husband and myself when he's huffing about over nothing. 
So I had an idea - The Quiet Corner.


In theory, it's a place where he can go and deal with his emotions and try to calm himself.  I cleaned out a corner of my art studio (which was no small feat,) put a cozy pillow in there, some puppets and books, and a colorful curtain - because I don't want it to be a punishment place, just a special place.
At first, he was pretty excited about it.  It was fun and cool.  Later in the evening, when an opportunity arose due to messy sequins, we tried it out.  I took Magoo (my nickname for him) over there.  Told him he could hang out and try to calm down and come out whenever he wanted to.  And he did quiet down - but he hadn't really calmed down.  I could go on about the next 30 minutes - but let's just say it wasn't that quiet.  
Only time will tell if his special place will be a place of calm or a place of play - maybe both.  Or maybe - in a month - it will simply go back to being a place where I put my stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And the winner is....

Drumroll please......

The winner of the sock monkey ornament is:
Angela!  Congratulations Angela.  Since you live in town - I will just give it to you.  Actually - you didn't specify which one you wanted so you can see them live and choose.

Thanks to everyone who participated.  This was fun.  I will surely do more.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Layouts are In

Last week I got my Ninja layouts from the Viking Art Director. For those who do not know, these are page layouts - with my rough art - in the actual size that the book will be with the text placed on the page in the size and font as it will appear in the book. This is like a formal dummy book. It helps make sure the story is clear and well paced, and lets me know where the text will be so I don't put anything too detailed behind it.

I'm happy to say that – for the most part – they kept my page breaks. Which means that I did a pretty good job in the first place. Yeah me!

There are many pages with little notes on them like, Can Grandmother be wearing a one toe sock here instead of bare foot? That kind of thing. No problem. I had to do a couple character re-designs because the facial hair looked more Chinese than Japanese and they were totally right to catch that.

When I started this book -YEARS ago – I didn't do such a fabulous job in the research department. I just drew things how I thought they looked. Over the revisions with my agent, I did a lot more research so things like architecture got cleaned up – but the issue of facial hair never emerged. Until now. So I did a Google search and sure enough – the Japanese are not known for long mustaches. (And can I just say how much I love Google?! Books are great too, but there's nothing like the internet to help you find obscure little things fast.) So I have to alter the grooming styles of two characters.

And there's 2 pages where I need to redraw from scratch. I finished the first one. Now I'm on the second.

I should have the changes back to the art director tomorrow – THEN – I think – I can begin the final art.

However – the release date has been pushed back. It was Spring 2009 – but in order to meet that due date, ALL the finished art would have to be in by March 1st! That would be pushing it. And I want to do my best work. I don't want to be stressed out about this. So I guess it's best to push things back a bit. Now the book should come out in July 2009 – which means I have until July 2008 to finish. Ahhhh.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Good Day for the Boy

It was a good day for my son.  It snowed last night and he was very excited to see that the white stuff stuck around.  Since it was going to warm up, my husband and I knew it wouldn't last.  So we went out around 9:30am to get some fun in.  Lots of snowballs were thrown - mostly at me - and a teeny, tiny snowman was made.

My son's newest favorite item on the menu is hot cocoa with marshmallows.  He was always iffy on the cocoa part - but add marshmallows - it's a MUST HAVE!  Here, we're trying to teach him to sip it while leaning over his cup so he doesn't spill.
In our town, there is a new development called Blue Back Square.  I have to say, it's pretty nice. Lovely shops and walkways.  A new movie theater.  A couple BIG stores like Barnes & Noble and a Crate & Barrel.  So they're having a "Holiday Stroll" this weekend to get the folks down to check it out.  Batman was there!!!
And so was Santa!
Santa being there came as a great surprise to us.  We knew about Batman.  We went for Batman. But as we were walking along - we saw Santa sitting on a bed in a shop window and only one child had discovered him so far.  So we walked right in and popped our only child in a bed with a man we've never met before and told him to talk to the stranger - that's Christmas spirit!

Our little guy did a great job.  He answered Santa's questions - although he was brief about it. What does he want for Christmas?  A fire toy!  Maybe we'll get him a Johnny Human Torch costume.    :)  

Saturday, December 8, 2007

SOCK MONKEY GIVEAWAY

About a month ago, I got a tiny package in the mail.  I hadn't ordered anything - so it was a surprise.  When I opened it up, it was a tin ornament in the shape of a blimp.  It was from a company called Aaron's Tin Toy Arcade.  A YEAR ago I had ordered my son a robot - he was into robots then - from this store.  They sent the blimp as a "thank you" for doing business with them in their first year.

I thought that was very sweet.  And what's better than getting a little something for free?!  So when I was making my sock monkey yesterday, I had an idea to make a little sock monkey ornament - then I thought "I'll make two, then I can give one away on the blog."

So here they are: Blue Sock Monkey and Brown Sock Monkey.  They are each about 3 1/2 inches tall, made from polymer clay and coated with glossy Modge Podge.

All you have to do to own one of these babies is comment to this post with your choice of blue or brown OR - if you can't post - send me an email and I'll enter your name.  I will draw ONE name on Tuesday morning.  (That's my post office day.)  Good luck!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Monkey Ho Ho II

My son was pretty happy to see a new member of the family waiting for him on the couch.

And I think Monkey Ho Ho is pretty happy too.

Snowballs and a Sock Monkey

I've been sewing.

I've been wanting to make a sock monkey for a little while now. I'm not sure what that says about me to have "make a sock monkey" under my list of goals - but there it is. I had the pattern - I didn't have the socks. And excuse me for not wanting to pay the big $$$ for some really nice wool, red heel socks to cut up. So I had to journey out to Odd Lots and buy a cheap pair. No red heel, but they would do.

Then I got really busy. Not really busy with making sock monkeys - but really busy with wrapping presents, preparing for my watercolor class, dropping off paintings, working on illustrations, cooking, cleaning - that stuff!

Just TODAY - I carved out a piece of time to fulfill my sock monkey destiny. Wa-la! I named him Monkey Ho Ho, in honor of my sister-in-law's favorite animal growing up. I think he turned out pretty darn cute.Below Monkey Ho Ho is another of this week's little projects - snowballs. I first saw these on a site called Lucky Beans and they looked like something my little guy would enjoy - and he surely did. He even helped me sew a little on the machine.

Very easy and very fun. My son, husband and I have been chucking these things at one another all week.
Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Winter Village

It's time for Christmas crafts! I was inspired by SouleMama's blog to make a little winter scene this year. First, I made a stacking fabric Christmas tree.
Then we made some people to go around the tree. I started by painting Santa and Mrs. Claus on wooden "dolls" I got from Michael's craft store. My son wanted to join in too. (I love how he sticks his tongue out when he works!) Even my husband got in on the fun. And TA DA....
...our little Winter Village! You can see Mr. and Mrs. Claus on the right. My husband made Tom Brady. And the green guy in front? I asked my son who that was - an elf, perhaps? Nope. It's Eager Bob. Who? Eager Bob. That's just his name. I asked him twice.

Where do these things come from? I couldn't tell you, but I LOVE it!

(I'm sure there will be more additions in time. I think tomorrow I'm making Spiderman.)

Pretty...ICY

We were supposed to get snow. Instead, it rained ice. Makes for a risky drive, but, oh, so pretty. After I returned from dropping the hubby off at work, I had to snap some shots.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cute and Cuter

My son and I take an art class on Monday mornings.  It has been a really great experience because it introduces him to things I don't think of.  One of my big issues with art for kids is that I tend to find/create projects that are simply too darn complicated for little ones.  (This was a problem when I volunteered for art projects in pre-school last year.  I would go crazy trying to help four 4-year olds complete a five step project!!!)
Last Monday, our art teacher put out big pieces of craft paper and my son laid down on it and I traced him.  Then he painted and pasted and designed the final look!  I helped with a few of the dots and cutting out the form, but the rest was all him.  Now it's hanging in our hallway.  The original is still the best, but I think son # 2 is still pretty great and I know that son #1 is very proud.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I am thankful for...

...Trampolines! My husband, son and I went to Rhode Island for Thanksgiving to my husband's cousin's house. You got that? :) It's always a lot of fun every year. It's easy on us because they have three children and then another cousin has three children so that's seven kids altogether running around and having fun. Also, this house is GREAT because they have a fenced in back yard with a trampoline!!!What could be better than jumping all your ya-ya's out in the back yard?! (My son is in the stripes.)
It was a lovely trip with great food, wonderful folk and FANTASTIC weather, but I did do something I have never done before. I forgot my camera. By that, I mean I left it behind.
Normally, you can't pry the thing out of my hands. I love taking pictures. Because I love going through old scrapbooks and looking at the pictures. But my son is getting a little tired of the paparazzi, so after a few shots, he's been saying, "No more pictures, Mommy." And I have been trying to comply and "be in the moment" a little more.
Well, look what that got me. I put the darn thing down and forgot about it!
So I am also thankful for my cousin-in-law, Mary Beth, and UPS.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Picture Book Layout

While I patiently wait to hear back from my editor regarding my current picture book project, The Ninja Book, it is time for me to start laying out my new project. I'll call it The Coat Book. (I never use the real titles in my posts because I don't know if the titles will change. So I use working titles.)My process is basically this. I write the story first - having some illustrations in mind - but basically I'm just looking for a coherent text. Then I workshop it with my online critique group for a few weeks - and by "weeks" I mean "turns". It will actually take a few months for my manuscript to go through 2 - 4 times. By then the story may not be perfect, but it's good enough for me to get started on the art.

Above you see a big piece of foam board with pages drawn out in Sharpie marker and numbered. Most picture books pages are a number of 8, like 24 pages or 32 pages. I aim for 32 pages - and this has to fit in title page and copyright info and all that jazz - so I try not to start the story until page 3 or 5. Then I just go through my manuscript and break things up where I think it is natural to do so. I sketch out crude images on post-it notes and place them on the board. When I'm about mid-way through, I jump to the back and go backwards. If I'm lucky, they'll line up perfectly in the middle. I have never been that lucky.

Now I have to go through and figure out what can stretch and what can crunch. This is where it's nice to have the post it notes that I use for the pages. I can move them around or just through them out. And I basically keep at it until I think I've got all the important stuff in there.

It's probably my least favorite thing to do - and it might take me a few days to get it right. But I also get a lot of ideas from the process and an occasional Eureka! moment - and those are always nice.

From this point, I begin working on my dummy book. For more on that topic, please check out my MySpace page: www.myspace.com/juliephillipps

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sand Art

This is one of C's new favorite art mediums, sand art.  The toughest part is finding the sand. We got a box of "scenic sand" at Michael's craft store and then I put mine into old baby food jars. (I'm always so glad I kept all those.)
On a piece of paper, the artist makes designs with plain old glue.  Then s/he spoons out some sand and sprinkles it over the paper.  The artist can pick up the paper and move the sand around that way too.  (Here's my little tip, have the artist work on an old baking sheet with edges to keep the sand from going all over the place.)
If you're around, or if you have a slightly older artist, teach them to cup the paper and pour the remaining sand back into the container.
Make sure you cover all the glue with sand, and it's fine to add more glue and sand in shifts.
I think it comes out looking pretty cool.  And I'm always excited about anything that keeps C busy and creative.
I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!