Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wink Goes To Gaffney School


Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading Wink to the kids at the Gaffney School in New Britain, CT. I went as a part of Book Bash. What's Book Bash, you ask. Well, a group of honors students at CCSU (Central CT State University) wanted to promote literacy and home libraries for kids who didn't have as much. Philip Day, who ran the program, collected enough books so that each child in the school could pick out 2-3 books to take home. They were nice books too!

After I read Wink and went through my Powerpoint presentation on how I made the book, I taught the kids how to draw Wink so they could make their own bookmarks.

Here are some examples:



To be honest, when I found out we were doing an art project in the auditorium with 150 kids - I was a little wary of the outcome. That's the recipe for chaos and Crayola explosions. But the kids did a FABULOUS job! I did two groups and in each group there was one child who assured me that he couldn't do it. I just talked them through it one by one and every kid had a bookmark they were proud of.

I love talking to kids at school visits - but I think seeing the art projects is my favorite part. I am always so blown away by what they do.

Thanks so much to Philip Day for organizing Book Bash and to the lovely staff and students at Gaffney School who made me feel very welcome!

OH - I just remembered something. When I took a few questions from the kids, one child asked what the other three ninja students names were. No one had ever asked me before. The fact is, I've only named the girl. She is Fo. I don't have names for the other boys. So, for the boy with glasses, the kids suggested Tony. And the stocky boy is Sam (for now.) :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicago - The Fun Stuff

I just read a post about how author's blogs should stick to the business stuff and not have a bunch of personal stuff on it. But I'm not famous and my readership is mostly friends and family so what the heck. Here comes some personal stuff!

These are my very dear friends Staci (necklace) and Kristine (bangs). We all went to Hope College together in the early 90's.
Staci has two adorable children and since the second one was born last December, I needed to get my tush out there and meet that baby! I made him some soft blocks (below.)


The animals are embroidered. Here they are being played with. (below)
I didn't include pics of the kids' faces b/c Staci isn't on Facebook or blogging or anything so I didn't want to plaster her children's sweet mugs all over the internet.

For her daughter, who is nearly five, I made an art bag and filled it with markers and blank books. Here is a drawing she made of me (in blue) and her. Isn't it the girliest drawing ever? I love it!


We ate out. We had our nails done. We shopped. It was great! And Staci is an AWESOME cook so the meals she made at home were even better than eating out. She made eggs purgatory, people! It was dee-lish!

Now, while I was out and about, I stopped in the lady's room. Have you seen these new dyson hand dryers? Maybe we just don't have them in Hartford, but these things are AWE-SOME.
You pop your hands in there and a wind storm begins. Seriously, Dorothy's house and a mean lady on a bike flew by in there.


And when you pull them out they are SUPER DRY! No wiping on your jeans - nu-uh. Hats off to you, dyson!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chicago - It's My Kind of Town

Sorry for the delay in posts. I was in Chicago visiting friends, visiting a school and having a pre-birthday celebration.

Business first. I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the Catherine Cook School.

I read Wink! to three different classes and they were all wonderful! What awesome kids! One of the highlights for me was after I had read the page when Wink gets in trouble for yelling "Yahoo!' "The loudest cricked is the first to be caught," Master Zutsu says. Then I read that Wink was sent home. A sweet little boy in the front said, "Wink was the first to get caught."

This is pre-school! I don't really expect the little ones to follow Master Zutsu's sayings, but this kid was on it. I gave him a high five.

Here I am reading about stealth, "Silent to the ear, invisible to the eye - that is the art of stealth."

After I read, I do a little presentation about how I got the idea for the book and an overview of the writing and illustrating process. I tried something new this time around. To show the kids how I make the collage illustrations, I had a bunch of paper pieces laminated and I had the students help me put a scene together.


It gives the kids a chance to get up and do something and I think it really helps them see how the illustrations come together.

School visits can be difficult at times, but most of the time they are fantastic and I love doing them. The kids at the Catherine Cook School were attentive, polite, and so much fun to be around. Thanks a bunch!

Tomorrow I'll blog about the pleasure part of the trip.

ADDED NOTE: I just got a lovely message forwarded to me from a mother who's son was at this reading. You see, my very generous friend Staci and her husband, who brought me to the school, bought every child in two classrooms my book - so I signed them all. Normally I write a note off to the side, but this time - because there were so many books to sign - I had Wink (on the title page) shout out their names, like, "Becky is great!" or "Tyler rocks!" This little boy went home and told his mother all about me coming in. Then they read the book and the boy said, "Wink knows me." I think that is so cool I wanna burst!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wink-A-Palooza!


I present the new line of Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed greeting cards! At the last minute I decided to put origami borders around them and I think they look pretty good.
I made six packs for the show. I might make more. But I still have to make a bunch of flower cards - those always sell. So we'll see. It's difficult to predict what to make each year.

I also ordered some bookmarks.


I'm heading to Chicago to visit a friend and do an author visit on Friday and I wanted to take some bookmarks. Usually I just make a batch myself but I found a good deal from Overnightprints.com and ordered about 1000 of these babies - so now I can hand them out all over the place! (I need to take some down to the local bookstore.)

And I've begun the process of making Wink Wear...

I have a love/hate relationship with iron-on T-shirts. I love how they look. I hate making them. For one thing, the iron-ons ain't cheap. Then you have to cut them out and peel the backing off - which is almost the worst part. And then sometimes, they don't take. I bought some new ones and am not having much luck with them, but I got lucky and found a 5-pack of some old Avery transfers and those have worked out great so far.

This mass-production aspect of marketing is low on the fun-scale for me. But I like having a bunch of smaller, lower priced items at the art show so even if someone isn't looking to drop a hundred bucks, they can still walk away with something.

How much do you think I should charge for the T's? Between buying the T shirt, buying the iron-on's, and the cost of ink, each shirt costs about $11 bucks to make. Is $20 a pop alright? (Not for the onsies, those will probably be $10.00.)


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Girls' Night In


My real birthday is October 26th, but since I'll be in Chicago that weekend on a work/pleasure trip, my friend, Heather, hosted a Girl's Only Dessert Party this past Saturday Night.

This has been a tradition for, oh, three or four years now. Everyone brings something yummy to eat (nothing healthy!) and we play The Game of Love. (below) Here's the gang (above) with our "dream guys" - minus my good friend Sara who lives down in Baltimore now. We all sent a big HELLO to you, Sara.

Now if you're wondering What the heck is the Game of Love? Well, it's a board game that I made up eons ago when I was in college. I made the 2nd edition when I lived in Chicago, post grad. And I made a 2008 edition last year. Basically, you move around the board picking up guys and when you get married and get to home base, you win.

It's fairly difficult to win since most of the guys are not the cream of the crop. And the fun is really in reading the profiles of the dorks. Angela won this time . She married a cute Irish jewelry maker! Well done!


I got some fun presents (thanks guys.) Angela, knowing what my favorite reality show is, gave me America's Next Top Model Handbook.

It has a checklist of the Must Be and Must Not Be in order to be a Top Model.
Must Be: Helpful, Kind, Go-Getter, Charming
Must Not Be: Troublesome, Difficult, Lazy, Messy
Heck, half the girls on that show are difficult and ALL of them are messy!!!

It also teaches me how to have fun at a photo shoot - and here I am posing against a fold out beach scene:


Now I can be 38 and Fierce!

Thanks to Heather for hosting such a lovely evening and thanks to all my friends for coming and having fun with me! It was a blast!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day at Rose's Berry Farm


Today it was cold and soggy. Sleet, people. There was sleet. But it was only this last Monday when Mike, Magoo, and I headed out to Rose's Berry Farm with our good friends, The Brudz's, for some pumpkin and apple picking.

But before there can be picking, there must be running around. Here (above) are three little monsters ready to face the mystery of the Corn Maze.

And they're off...

We picked some pumpkins after that. Magoo picked out a dainty one for me and a medium sized one for himself. I took a bunch of pictures and Magoo was getting quite sick of it. You know those smiles that say, "Fine. Just take it." I got a lot of those.

Then we headed back down to the playground where the boys spent a great deal of time jumping from one bale of hay to another.

Then - at last - there was apple picking!

It's funny because if you go late in the season, all the easy apples have been picked. You can't find any apples. Then, slowly your eyes adjust and you can see them hiding behind leaves, low and high. Magoo found a beauty for his teacher...

And wasn't too sick of modeling to pose with Mom.
I made an apple coffee cake with a couple of the apples but haven't quite mustered the energy for a pie. Maybe this weekend?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Open Studio Weekend

This weekend I made up some postcards for the "art show," Hartford's Open Studio Weekend.
The organization provides us with postcards, but they don't feature any of my art so I usually make my own. That way people get a good sense of what I'm showing.

And I'm exciting to be able to show my book this year. So of course I have a bunch of ninja art, cards, and t-shirts to go along with it. It will be like Ninja-pa-looza!

Here's the show info:
November 14 &15th
11am - 5 pm
Artspace
555 Asylum Ave., Harford
I'll be in the third floor hallway. (I'm hoping by the window, but I haven't received my placement yet.)

You may be asking, "What is Open Studio Weekend?"

Open Studio Weekend is like a big indoor arts and crafts show. ArtSpace is a four-story building that houses visual and performing artists. Many of them open their studios up for the weekend so people can come in, see how they live, and many of them will have their art up too. Artists who live elsewhere, like me, can rent wall space. So the halls are filled with artists as well. And crafters - there's always a ton of jewelry and scarves and good gifties.

There's a main gallery on the first floor. There's usually some live music and many people put out food. One of the local bakeries brings pies to promote Thanksgiving orders. Man, I LOVE IT when they bring pies!!!

Kids are welcome - especially at my area because I have lots of fun art for kids. (And candy!)

Parking is across the street at the train station.

So if you're in the area, stop on by. It's a fun event and I'd love to see you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

I UNICORNS

Before my husband and I were married, he came up with a joke. I don't know how it started, but he began telling people that I loved unicorns.

I do not love unicorns.

I do not dislike unicorns - but I have no fondess for them. You can lump them in with badminton, rice cakes, and sweat pants for all I care.

Still, the idea of telling everyone how much I LOVE unicorns tickles my husband to no end.

Early in our marriage, he bought me this:


A few years later, he brought this home:

To this day, if a unicorn comes on TV, he will call me into the room saying, "Julie, look, it's your favorite!" He He He, he will chuckle at his own cleverness.

Well, turns out he's not the only funny one in the family.

This weekend, Mike's sister, Pam, and their mother went up to Vermont to get some family furniture for Pam's new house. We watched Pam's dog, Poppy. When they returned in the moving truck, Pam handed me this rather large thing wrapped in plastic and said it was a thank you gift. It was this:

Pam told her uncle Charlie that I loved unicorns so they brought this LARGE CERAMIC unicorn back just for me.

Ha ha ha - the joke lives on.

Thanks SO MUCH Pam!




Thursday, October 8, 2009

GF SF Banana Muffins with Carob Chips

I think I finally figured it out. I finally worked out a good recipe for gluten/sugar free banana muffins with carob chips.

Ever since we got the OK to put bananas back in Magoo's diet, I have tried to find a good banana muffin recipe. The ones I've done before have been OK. Sometimes they weren't all that sweet. Sometimes they were too dense. But I combined a couple different recipes this morning and the results were TASTY!

GLUTEN & SUGAR FREE BANANA MUFFINS w/ CAROB CHIPS

Preheat oven to 350.

In one bowl mix:
1 1/2 c. gluten free flour mix
1/2 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp. xantham gum
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. allspice

whisk it until well blended.

In a large bowl, combine:
1/2 c. raw honey
1/4 c. melted vegan margarine
1 egg
splash of oil (I used grapeseed oil)

mix with electric mixer until well blended.

In another bowl mash 3 ripe banana with your hands. (Wash you hands first :)

Add bananas and carob chips. I didn't measure how many chips I used - I just poured them in. No more than a cup though.

Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups and bake 17-20 minutes - or until the tops are golden and starting to crack. ENJOY!

Look - it makes your child so strong that after school he will run up on a hill and do push-ups!


And one-armed push-ups!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The New 'Do


My hair was getting long - like Cousin It long. Clearly, I needed a haircut.

For those of you who know me, I RARELY wear my hair down. My hair is like wild horses, wanting to run free. It will not hold a style if I wear it down. You might say, "But Julie, your author photo has your hair down." Yes. I will style it for professional photos. Otherwise it is in a bun or a braid.

But I wanted to be able to wear it down, so I walked to the corner hair salon armed with photos of Mary Louise Parker and Sandra Bullock and got a cut.

The New 'Do.
I had some layers put in and there are light bangs - which are on the shadow side of my face here. I did a little curling iron action when I got home because my hair still wants to roam free - but all in all I'm very pleased. It feels lighter and I'm enjoying having it bounce when I walk. And it's long enough so I can still pull it back when I want.

Thnak you Anna at Anna's Hair Perfection. Twenty-one bucks, baby!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Things I Did On Monday


It was a productive Monday. I did some fun things:
worked on story revisions (coming along)
finished collage of geisha girl (above)
watched Mad Men during lunch (great episode!)

And I did some chores:
laundry
went to local bookstore to introduce myself and my book*
returned a popcorn popper to Walgreens
disposed of a small dead animal**

*Yes, this is a chore to me. I feel very awkward going into stores and saying, "Hey I wrote a book." It always starts out with someone staring at me like I'm trying to sell them something. You know the look, What do YOU want? Then they might be excited for me, or not. This time I got mildly chided for not coming in sooner. I bought a book for my nephew and left feeling better that I had finally gotten that monkey off my back.

** Don't ask.

Yesterday, I got some GREAT news. I found out that my book (Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed) was nominated for a CYBIL Award. A CYBIL award is something given by a group of literary bloggers - bloggers that blog about kid lit. The idea is to pick something that has high kid appeal but is also a quality book. There are a bunch of other books nominated, but I'm still very excited! I'll find out if Wink makes it to the finals in January. That would be SO COOL!

I hope you all had productive Mondays!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Art from KidLit


When I prep for the November show - I like to do things in groups. For one thing, someone might have a theme going in a kid's room and they might buy more than one. For another, I can use the images in groups of cards. Third reason, usually once I get started on a theme I get inspired to do a few more.

Since this is the debut of my picture book at the show, I thought it would be fitting to feature other characters/scenes from classic works of children's literature. (I really wanted to do my own version of Where The Wild Things Are, but I was concerned with copyright infringement.)

I finished Puss in Boots (above) today. I think it's my favorite. I love how watercolors work on cat hair.

The Three Little Pigs (below.) I'm super pleased with the houses. One of my former watercolor students works at a wallpaper store and she gives me books when they go out of stock or stop carrying a certain brand. Some of them - like the roof of the straw house - have great textures!


Little Red Riding Hood. Little does she know there's a wolf lurking. I'm hoping people don't notice him up there at first, then they go "Holy crud! There's a wolf up there!" Maybe not that loud, though.


Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. This is the only one that comes from a poem. I painted a dark purple night sky for something else, then thought better of that composition. Then I was left with a purple sky and no purpose. I had to think what it would work with it. The poem came to mind.

This is actually the second grouping of the boys I did. The first was too large when I put it together. The mood wasn't right. They didn't feel like they were at sea. I like this much better. And I LOVE their little newspaper hats!