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!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crazy Snow



Who knew it was going to snow?! I certainly didn't. But SOMEONE sure was happy about it!


I took this shot at the pre-school. I love the sled tracks going by the trees with their autumn leaves. It's a little mixed up. Makes me think Mother Nature is as frazzled as I am. :)

Upside Down Apple Skillet Cake


Not too long ago I had a birthday. I threw a tiny shindig and made this cake. I had clipped the recipe from the newspaper about a year ago, but at the time I didn't have a skillet. Also, because my husband and my son both do not care for apples, I needed an occasion.

This year, I bought the skillet and made the occasion. It turned out very well and was super moist. Here's the recipe:

Topping:
1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 medium apples, such as Jonathans or Golden Delicious (I used goldens), cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick

Cake:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
2 large eggs

For topping: Place butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Heat skillet at low heat to melt butter. Remove from heat, and stir in brown sugar with a fork. Spread out evenly. Arrange apple slices on the bottom of the skillet.

For cake: place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on a low speed for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed (continue to scrape sides of bowl). The batter should look creamy and smooth. Pour batter on top of apples in the skillet, smoothing it out.

Bake in 350 degree oven until cake rises high in skillet and springs back to the touch - roughly 40-50 minutes. You'll have to keep an eye on it at the end. Remove skillet from over and run a knife around the edge. Carefully invert cake onto serving plate. Best served warm. (But it's darn good room temperature too!) I think this would also make a good breakfast cake for Christmas morning - if that's your thing. Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Leaf Monoprints


Friday I visited my son's preschool to do an art project with the kids, leaf monoprints.

This is a really easy project to do with young children, with only a little adult prep work.  First, you want to get some leaves, the flatter the better.  (You can flatten a leaf in a book overnight.)
Then, on a sturdy piece of cardboard, glue the leaves down.  Now you'll probably need about an hour or so for the glue to dry well.  Good time for a lunch break!

We used a small foam roller to apply yellow and red paint, and we covered the entire board.  Then you take a nice clean sheet of paper, press it down on your cardboard, smooth it with your hands, pull it off and VOILA!  A monoprint. 

One template has about 3-4 prints in it before the leaves pull off.  So if you're doing this with a group, better make a few templates.  (The kids will like the variety anyway.)

We all had a lot of fun and I think the kids enjoyed painting on the leaves.  A nice project for capturing fall colors.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why Ninja Woman?

I am not a ninja.

Let's just get that out of the way.  Most of the people reading this already know me and therefore know that I possess zero ninja skills.  But, for the people who perhaps googled 'ninja' and wound up here, I'm sorry for your disappointment.

I chose the name for two reasons.  1.)  My first picture book which is slated to come out in Spring 2009 is called The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed.  I thought I'd pay homage.  So if you did google 'ninja' and you made it here and you have a pair of num chucks and a kid, won't you buy a copy?  I bet you'll like it.

The 2.) reason is:  It's really, really hard to find a domain name that hasn't been taken.  My other choice of available names was Snappy Hands.  When my husband heard that one, he burst out laughing.
That wasn't really the reaction I was going for.  At least Ninja Woman sounds like I'm kind of badass, right?

Anyway, Ninja Woman is going to be a little more free form than my MySpace blog (www.myspace.com/juliephillipps).  I don't intend to limit it to only book news.  I'll talk about any other projects I'm working on, show my art, maybe have some craft tutorials - that kind of thing.  And, hopefully, all the people who cannot leave comments to MySpace blog postings because they are not MySpace members - which is to say everyone I know - can hopefully participate a little more here.

If you don't know me already, please feel free to check out my MySpace page as an introduction to me.  www.myspace.com/juliephillipps

I feel like I should have a sign-off phrase, like "Hi-ya!"  But instead, I'll just fade into the background, all stealthy-like...