Thursday, December 31, 2009

Magoo Turns 7

Can you believe it?! I can't. He's so big - but only seven years ago I was a big, bloated mess in the hospital with a sweet, fuzzy haired baby in my arms.

Anyway - he's far from a baby now.

Sometimes I just have a small cake and a few presents for Magoo on is actual birthday (I firmly believe one should always have cake on their birthday) and then we have a family party a couple weeks later. But since I hosted Christmas Day this year I just wanted to make one more cake and get on with life. So he had a party - but we kept it mellow.

The day started with a morning playdate with the Metcalfes before they had to head back down to B-more.

Legos are the best. Just pop a box full of them in front of three boys and they can occupy themselves for a good long time.

Then, after lunch, we met up with another couple of brothers for some bowling and arcades.

Here's Magoo celebrating his shot, but really he wasn't that into the bowling part. Every chance he got he went to salivate over the demo graphics on The Simpsons arcade game. But that all came soon enough. We loaded the boys up with tokens and they played and collected tickets. Then they spent the tickets on the cheapest crap imaginable. :)

I'm always blown away by the low quality junk behind the display case window, and by how each child carefully decides which crap to choose as if it were treasure. I'm sure I would have done the same at that age. But in the 80's, our arcades were just for spending quarter after quarter on Miss PacMan. No plastic junk required.

Then we went home for cake and ice cream.

Magoo wanted a Kirby cake topper so I made one out of clay. Fortunately for me, Kirby is a rather simple character. (That's carob cake in case you were wondering.)

Magoo had presents that he opened over the course of the day. Mike got him a Lego Mindstorm set so they could build Lego robots and such, (they're playing with it as I type.) I got Magoo a set of karate sparring gear.

Oh yeah, baby. Don't mess with him!

Our guests stayed for a chili dinner and well into the evening. I don't think the boy could have asked for a better day and I certainly couldn't ask for a better boy.

Happy Birthday, Magoo!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas Post

On Chirstmas Eve day, we went down to Niantic to Gramma Mary's house. Mary has a great backyard with the loveliest sunsets. I have taken many pictures of Mary's sunsets and I've even painted it once. But nothing is better than looking out on a light purple, snow covered, woodsy backyard with a streak of gold cutting across the sky when it's Christmas Eve and you're feeling kind of warm and fuzzy anyway.

Inside it was a little less magical as Larry played funny Christmas songs for Magoo, such as Bob Rivers' I AM SANTA CLAUS.

Then, because Magoo was super hyped up with the expectation of Santa, he had some energy to burn. Mike took him out back to build a snowman. The snow was GREAT for it, too!

Larry contributed the furry hat, pipe, and glasses. Isn't that the best snowman?!?!

Then the family went over to our in-laws for dinner. Actually this was a kind of funny part. We took two cars. Mike, Magoo and I in our family car and Mary, Larry, Charlie, and Pam in the other car. Mike had parked down the block a touch to clear Mary's driveway for the other cars. So we walked down there, situated the food we were taking, got Magoo buckled in, and then drove up to Mary's so we could follow them because we didn't know how to get to the place we were going. When we pulled up the Mary's house - they had already left. This is funny if you understand that Mary is never fast to leave the house. Every time we go to the beach we have to stop as she goes back in for sunglasses or a forgotten towel or sunblock. It's quite a production. So for this one time when we count on her/them being pokey - they were suddenly super efficient and stealthy.

Good thing for cell phones. Got got directions and caught up to them.

It was a late night for Magoo. He was totally conked out when we got home and went straight to bed. But it was OK. I made sure to leave Santa some milk and fudge.

And then it was CHRISTMAS MORNING!!!

Because Magoo went to bed so late, he was not up at 5am, 6am, or even 7am. But Mike and I were up at 7am and we were anxious to get the magic of Christmas going. So after walking around the house - not too quietly - and opening Magoo's shades - not too quietly - Magoo woke up and came down to behold the wonderful mountain of presents.

Bionicles was the big go-to gift this year. This is the one thing he asked Santa for and Santa delivered! That said, this is Magoo's "take the frickin' picture' face.

We're not huge on tradition here, but when I was growing up, my mom always had a coffee cake on Christmas morning. It's really the only morning we ever have coffee cake and I've kept this one going. Now, of course, I can't buy something gooey to heat up, I have to make it from scratch. But I was good and mixed all the dry ingredients the day before so it only took 15 minutes or so to whip up my GF, Sugar-free carob chip coffee cake and pop it in the oven.

It was good. it was a little over-baked but it was good.

And here I am showing off my gift from Michael, some beautiful lilypad earrings.

These are from a shop called Bijoutiful on Etsy. The jewelry maker (is that what you'd call her?) makes lovely, lovely things so I want to include the link to her shop. I LOVE my earrings!!!
I also kinda like this pic of me because I feel like I'm starting to see my age come to my face, but in a nice way. I feel I'm looking a bit like my Grandmother Tony in this one.

In the early afternoon, Mary, Pat, Tom, Pam, Charlie, and Larry came up to celebrate, exchange gifts and eat. If you recall the story of the unicorn, that came from Charlie's house. So when I made cards for Charlie and Larry, I made souped up photoshop versions. Larry received an image of his face on a bare-chested man riding a unicorn, and I made Charlie into a centaur. That's what he's looking at in the photo. (I don't dare show the full sized image. Charlie would probably have my head - but I have to say it's pretty funny.)

Gramma Mary gave Magoo a calculator which he loved!!! Here he is smoochies of appreciation.

(Do you see my little papercut Santa int he window. I love that thing!)

It was a casual meal because I can't handle a fancy meal for more than 4. So I made pasta. Mary brought her SUPER YUMMY puttanesca sauce and her meatballs which were sooooo good. I have to get the recipe for both!!!

So we ate.

Then Mary cleaned my kitchen. Mike helped. I did very little in that department and I declared it the best Christmas ever!!!

Thanks so everything who came over. Thanks to the Hulmes for a lovely Christmas Eve dinner. And thanks for all the wonderful gifts received by Magoo, Mike and myself. We hope everyone had as much fun as we did!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

I was very fortunate this year in that Viking Press asked me to design their company Christmas cards. I finished this in November but I had to be a good little girl and wait to reveal it at large.


Viking pre-printed a lovely message to their list, but I got a chunk of these blank so I could write my own message. Mike came up with the saying:

Wishing you a Kickin' Christmas and a Choppy New Year!

And I do.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sled Day

Lucky us - we had a beautiful snowfall Saturday night which left us with a day of snow play and sledding on Sunday.

Magoo had been so excited to go sledding - I was so glad the day finally came. Here he is pulling the new sled, which I've named Grapey, up the hill.

And doooooooooown the hill.

We took the first few runs on the mild hills but graduated to the steep one pretty quickly. This is the hill where the big kids sled and, often times, they build a jump. Here's Magoo (on Big Red) catching some air.

I would have loved to have been able to get down there and get a shot from the side, but the top of the hill is so steep, Magoo can't hold himself still while I get in position. He probably wouldn't want to wait for me anyway.

I, accidentally, caught the ramp a few times myself. You see, a couple years ago, i took a bad bump on a sled and bruised my tush bone something fierce. Man, that makes you feel old! So I';ve been careful about my sledding activities ever since. But Grapey got my through the jumps without any pain. You go, Grapey!

Finally, Magoo had enough.

So we went home, watched School of Rock on TBS, and drank some warm vanilla hemp milk.


Friday, December 18, 2009

How To Make A Wall

Sometimes when I'm really busy with a book project, it's hard to know what to blog about. I can't really show you the finished illustrations. You have to wait for the book for that. And I can't share my writing. So I thought I'd show you the specifics of how an illustration comes together.

Today I am working on a wall.

I start by taping my watercolor paper down on a board, wetting it, and splashing it with blues, greys, a little pink, and a little brown. Then I will take a big brush and mush it together. (I'll have to make a few walls for the new book so I'm using more paper than I'll need for just one wall.)

Next, while the paint is still wet, I spatter small drops of water on top.

Then, after it has started to dry a bit, I spatter small drops of paint. Blue and grey, mostly.

See, there's my nasty toothbrush - perfect for spattering.

Now I have to let it dry completely. See all those wrinkles? If I'm a patient girl, those will flatten overnight as the excess water evaporates. But I am not a patient girl - so I waited until it was dry enough, then I took it downstairs and ironed it.
Now it's ready for stones. I penciled off the area for the wall and started painting in stones. If I wanted to be a super perfectionist, I could cut out individual stones and paste them onto black paper. That would take much, much longer and for a background wall it's just not necessary.

When the black is dry, I cut the wall out, making sure to make small indentions in the top edge of the wall.

And now I have a tiny wall upon which I will paste tiny posters.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good Girls Get Paper

I made my list and I checked it twice. I was ready to go to ... the paper store!

The art notes are in for the next Wink book, Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted To Nap. I still have a couple sketches to work on. But enough of them are "good to go" so that I can start shopping for paper and get my tush in gear.

I always want something very special for Master Zutsu's kimono. I didn't find it at Jerry's Artarama (although I found plenty of other papers there - love that place) so I went online to find that the Japanese paper company that I bought stuff from for the previous Wink book was no more. Gasp! BUT, there's a new paper seller in its place, Paper Connection, and they're actually closer in Rhode Island. (Aiko's Art Materials was in Chicago.) Not that I'm going there. I just ordered online. But it's nice to know I can go there if I should ever want to.

It was so hard to choose. There were sooooo many beautiful papers. But I finally settled on purple cranes for Master Z and a lovely, soft design (that's beyond my description) for Grandmother. I can't wait until they come. (clap, clap, clap!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Honey Shack

Magoo can't eat regular gingerbread because of the molasses and sugars. I have tried to find a recipe that I can alter, but haven't had much luck so far. So instead of making a gingerbread house this year, I rolled out my GF, sugar-free graham cracker dough and we made a graham cracker cottage.

Of course, the other thing that's tough is not being able to use frosting as glue or colorful candies. So I thought I'd try doing some design in the dough. I just pressed the tip of a spoon in for a shingled roof and pressed in a little door design. Next year I'll probably let Magoo help me with this part.

But he did help put carob chips on the roof and he sprinkled coconut snow on top.

I used honey to hold it together and I poured a little agave syrup on the roof. It turned out looking a little less like a cottage and more like a run-down honey shack.

But it was goooooooood eatin'!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Java's Koi Pond

When I am in the process of finishing a painting - especially a large one - I put it on the ground and step away to get a good look. When I put this painting, Five Koi 2009, on the ground, Java was very, very interested in it. It was funny to watch her check it out. I took it as a compliment.

Here it is behind glass and officially finished, but Java was still pretty intrigued.

Some detail shots:
The koi above gave me so much trouble. It was UGLY for the longest time. Finally I just scrubbed as much paint off of it as I could and started over. I had to cheat a bit and paint some white gouche on the forehead b/c the paper was just too stained and worn. But that's the thing about good paper, it can take a lot of abuse. In the end, I'm quite happy with it and I love little victories like that because it gives me the courage to try new things, knowing, if they blow, I can scrub them out and still make it into something beautiful. Sometimes.

The gallery (Center Framing and Gallery in West Hartford, CT) had been wanting a new fish painting for some time and I simply was not able to get to it until December. But it feels so good to have finally gotten one more thing off my big to-do list.

I hope someone feels like giving the gift of koi this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The First Big Snow

They said it was gonna storm and storm it did. We woke up this morning to about 4" of snow, followed by rain. (It's raining right now.) Guess what that means? No school! And I know one happy camper that was eager to jump around in the white stuff.

I decided to bake some cookies because what's better than watching the snow fall while the smell of baked goods wafts through the house? Nothing, right? So we had to wait for those to finish and then the rain started up. I explained that maybe we could go out in the afternoon because rain is no fun to play in, but the little guy got on his snow pants and coat anyway. How could I resist?! There's no stopping a 6-year-old boy on a snow day! So I said we could go out for a little while.

His agenda was snowballs, snowballs, and more snowballs.

And when his little wrists got too wet and raw to stand it, we came back inside.

Now he's playing video games while I putz around trying to get a little cleaning and work done.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Nana's Coat

It's cold. So, while searching for my winter coat in the upstair's closet, I came across my nana's old coat. For some reason, I thought ti was a touch too small for me and I was keeping it for sentimental reasons. But since I couldn't find my regular black coat, I decided to try this on. And you know what? It totally fits! What had I been thinking??? Too small - no way! It is all kinds of kitchy awesome!

There's no tag and I don't know exactly what it's made of. It's kinda like felt - maybe felted wool? It's SO warm and it's covered with seals, walruses, and polar bears!

It's certainly a conversation starter - I can tell you that much!

In other news, we have put up the tree. Our friends, The Brudz family, put theirs up over a week ago and Magoo had been asking about ours ever since. So Saturday morning we hauled it up from the basement.

For some people, Christmas is about hiking through the forest and finding that perfect evergreen. For me it is finding the branch with the red dot and wiggling it into place, then fluffing the branches. Every year Magoo can do more and more to help and he was a great helper this year. Of course his favorite part is putting on the ornaments, which he does so well!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Whirlwind Visit at Whiting Lane

I spent two days at the Whiting Lane School in West Hartford. In that time I did two auditorium presentations and art projects with every single class, K - 5. Oh my goodness. It was so much fun, but by the end of day two my dogs were barking. No, howling.

Day 1 was the big kids. I do a slightly longer presentation where I talk about revision, rejections, and working with editors and art directors a little more. I keep things pretty light for the little ones, but the big kids have to deal with revision in school so they get it.

Then class by class (and in some cases, three classes at a time) the students came into the library to learn how to make Wink collages. All the kids rock at these and I could fill post after post on pics of all the creative things they add once the ninja is complete. But I edited down to two photos.

On Day Two, I did my presentation for the youngun's, and then they marched into the library to learn how to make Japanese Cherry Blossom Branches.

This is easier in the sense that it doesn't require mad cutting skills, but messier in that it's paint! I have to say, they didn't trash the library. Well done, youngun's!

The trickiest part of this project is blowing the paint out to make branches. Some kids have a very difficult time with this. But once they get it, they get it.

Like the collages, there are no two branches alike. Every one is awesome in its own right, but this one is my favorite. I love the balance between the positive and negative space.

My son's class came in last so I am pretty glad that I have the photoshop ability to airbrush the shine of my sweaty brow.

Don't I look fresh as a daisy?

Well, I wasn't. But I was very happy. I had a wonderful two days. Much thanks to Whiting Lane and their librarian Mrs. Gluck and all the helpers who came in. It was a fabulous visit!