Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Birds of a Feather

I'm sluggish.  I'm not entirely sure why - but I have low energy and simply don't want to do anything on today's list.  Therefore, I will procrastinate and show some of the bird pics I've taken over the last couple weeks.

The birds were PSYCHED when the big branch came down.  They had all this new exciting habitat that was close to the bird feeder - SCORE!

And I benefitted as well b/c I could take lots of pics.  (And they were much less skittish in the security of branches.)

(Above.)  A White Breasted Nuthatch chooses his favorite seed.

(Below) I believe this is a female cardinal.  We get a decent amount of cardinals now, so it stands to reason.  Plus, the tip of her wing and tail have an auburn glow to them.  But, if you know better, please correct me.

A male cardinal, obviously.

I know my birds like I know my flowers: rose, daisy, tulip, daffodil, iris - then I get confused.  Birds: cardinal, bluejay, robin, crow, pigeon, seagull - then I get confused.  (Well, not about the difference between a penguin and an emu - but all the little flighty ones, yanno.)

(Below) I had to look these up.  They're a lovely pair of house sparrows.

These two actually put on a quite a photo shoot.  And the branch has an interesting shape to it and good lighting.  I might have to paint some house sparrows...hmmm?

I hope you all have good energy today.  And if so, send some my way!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The (Not So) Itsy Bitsy Spider

It's spider season 'round these here parts.  It's not at all uncommon to see new webs on windows, off lamp posts, beneath the mailbox - anywhere really.  

One morning I opened Magoo's shade to find an EMORMOUS spider wrapping her dead mate (perhaps?) in a coccoon.  I called Magoo over and rushed to get my camera.

 Here's some video.  You can really see her pulled the webbing out of her abdomen.  Pretty cool.
(I have tried twice to upload the video but blogger isn't having any of it.  Sorry.  It was cool.)

I shot another video of her pulling her prey out of the web and moving him.  I don't think she liked us spying on her.  Then I went on the internet to look up "egg sacks" because that giant thing on her abdomen concerned me.  I actually like spiders, but I don't want hundreds of baby ones hatching outside my son's bedroom - no thanks.

Based on the pics I pulled up, it did look like she had an egg sack going.  So, and I'm not proud of this, I got a big stick and flung her from the window.

I bet she survived.  Spiders are pretty tough.  And I wish her and her babies well - just as long as they move next door or something.  :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Honey Thumbprint Cookies

We were in need of cookies!

All the oatmeal cookies had been eaten and the last store-bought ginger cookie went out in Magoo's lunchbox.  I didn't feel like going to the store and spending $4 on a box of 5 cookies (that's how much cookies cost when your boy can't eat gluten, sugar, dairy, nuts, yeast, etc.) so I decided to go through my cookbooks and online.  What I found was a recipe for Old Fashioned German Honey Cookies.  Of course, I can't really make them like that.  I have to adapt.  I have to substitute.  I have to experiment.

And there was SUCCESS!

Here's my Magoo Friendly Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Casein-Free Recipe.


1 ½ cup vegan butter
1 ½ cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
4 cup GF flour
2 tsp xantham gum
carob chips
coconut milk

  • in a small saucepan, melt honey and butter. Cool.
  • In another bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg together.
  • preheat oven to 350.
  • add honey mix to egg mix.
  • mix flour and xantham gum. Add flour mix to honey mix, slowly, combine.
  • drop teasppons of batter on cookie sheets. Bake 9 minutes (rotate sheets at 4 minutes if baking more than 1)
  • while dough is warm, make indentions with thumb. Then move cookies to cooling rack.
  • heat bowl of carob chips (about 1 cup - I didn't measure) in microwave, 1 minute. Add a bit of coconut milk. Stir. Spoon into center of cookies.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deathly Hallows Beret

When I finished my shrug, I found myself on a bit of a knitting high.  I think part of it was due to feeling proud of that project and the other part is that I like to have new clothes.  It's knida an extra bonus when I'm able to craft something for myself because then I still get to have something new but I don't have to feel like a greedy consumer.

I decided that I needed a black beret to go with some of my autumn/winter wear and I found this pattern on Ravelry.  It was inspired by the beret that Hermione wears in The Deathly Hallows.  (See above.)

You can't see the texture as well in my version - the profile (below) offers a better shot at that.

This knit up super fast for me, mainly because I had a wee cold and sat on the couch for hours knitting and having a Sons of Anarchy TV marathon.  (LOVE that show!)  Maybe I should call this my Sons of Anarchy beret?  

Anyway - I'm pleased with how it turned out and when I wear it Michael can pretend he's married to a French woman.  Oo la la.

If you are a member of Ravelry, you can find this project here along with the yarn, needles, pattern, etc.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Descent of Woodpeckers

A Descent of Woodpeckers marks the fourth in my series of bird collectives.  I think this will probably do it.  I have a Herd of Cranes, a Parliament of Owls, and a Murder of Crows.  I don't want to overdo it because I have no idea how these will sell.  One might say, "Don't worry about selling your art, just create what inspires you."  And yes, that usually creates the best art.  But I also want to make a profit.  I'm a little bit artist, a little bit business woman.  Although I'm a much better artist than businesswoman, to be sure.

But since I just did a woodpecker collage, I thought it would be nice to note that we had a woodpecker visitor recently.

A woodpecker stopped by Magoo's birdhouse.  I caught him there a second day too - he had made his way inside the house.  I thought he might set up shop there, but I think he saw Magoo and me checking him out and decided the neighborhood wasn't elite enough.

In other news:  Mike's a lumberjack and he's Okay....

The tree guys came and took our big branch away, but they left nice chunks of wood for Mike to cut up.  He pulled out his mighty ax and didn't some sweaty manly man work.

Magoo and I helped with the stacking (but only a little.  Mike did most of it.)  See it in the background?  There's a ton of it.  But I guess cut oak has to season for a year so we can't even use it until next winter.  D'oh!!!

Still - good work Mike!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Evening Shrug

Just in time for the cool snap - I have finished the shrug I was working on.  I used the pattern, Evening Shrug, from the PurlBee site and Madelinetosh yarn in Cove.  My yarn-pusher/friend Heather talked me into the pricey Madelinetosh yarn (the most expensive I have used so far) but I think it was worth it.  The colors are lovely: blues, greys, greens, and bits of brown.  And the feel is lush.

It's actually too chilly this morning to wear it - but I think I'll strut around in it this weekend when the bite is gone.

Here's the back.

And the detail on the sleeves.  This is also a better shot of the colors in the yarn.

Now that it's cooling off I'm kinda in a knitting frenzy.  I'm working on a black beret for me and a scarf for Mike.  I had made him a scarf last year.  It was my very first knitting project.  And because I was a beginner I used cheap yarn.  Therefore, it is not soft and Mike doesn't want to wear it.  I can't really blame it.  So I bought some Misti Alpaca which is very soft and hopefully this one will keep him warm and cozy.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wink Won an Award!

I received a most wonderful surprise in the mail the other day - a plaque!

As if I didn't love Texas enough (b/c of Friday Night Lights "Texas Forever!") the good children of Round Rock ISD (Independant School District) voted Wink the Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed the Armadillo Reader's Choice Book of 2011!!!

I am thrilled, delighted, honored - the works.

As Wink would say "Yahoo!"

There are so many great aspects of being a writer/illustrator for children, but the best has to be knowing that kids love my book and my little ninja.  Every time a person tells me that their child loves Wink, or dressed as Wink for Halloween, or did a book report of Wink - I gush.  It's the best!

So THANK YOU Round Rock ISD!  I will find a special place for my plaque and every time I look at it, I will think, Go Texas!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Parliament of Owls

You know, I've never been a HUGE owl fan.  I've liked them, but it was never like I was gaga for owls.  (Like Heather.)  But having done the last owl collage and after looking around on google images, there are so many different cool-looking owls, I simply could not stop at one.

And since the theme behind my bird collage is "collectives" I had to do a Parliament of Owls.

This is a small piece.  Only 7" X 5".  Most of the paper is prepared watercolor paper.  I tried using a flat black in the background, but it didn't work at all.  I had already painted some wood texture for the barn beams, so I just took the leftovers and darkened them up.  I like seeing the grain of the wood - that works for me.

As for the owls, the wings have different layers of paper for the feather.  The bodies are one piece of watercolor and I used a nice natural paper with bits of leaves and flower petals in it for the faces.

I am planning one more owl collage for a fundraiser at Magoo's school.  The owl is their mascot so it fits perfectly.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Brown Owl

This is my third bird collage.  I thought the feathers of the owl would look really good in collage, so I was sort of excited about doing it.  It turned out to be a bit of a challenge, though, getting the feathers just right.  I made all sorts of papers - watercolor here and spattering there - that sort of thing.  But once I figured the wing out the rest of it came together.

In other news, the giant branches in my back yard are now gone.  The very friendly tree guy came by this morning and - chop, chop, chop - made it all go away.

See all this sun?  This is all new.  There was a big bush by the side of the house and a tree that went between my house and the neighbor's house.  It was kinda nice.  I felt like I was walking through a secret door of greenery to my backyard.

But maybe now I can grow some grass back there.  I'll definitely have to rethink the landscaping.


Here's the extra wood.  Good to have, but maybe not to keep by the tire swing.  I guess I have a task for this afternoon, eh?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Whooo - Doggie

You know what's not supposed to be between these two houses?  A big ol' branch - that's what.

It was just yesterday when I contacted a tree guy about the big oak branch that seemed to be broken and stuck up in the oak tree in the back yard.  Of course, yesterday it didn't seem like that big of a deal. It seemed pretty secure up there. (Damaged by Hurricane Irene.)  But last night it rained HARD.  HARD, people.  DOWNPOUR!

And sure enough, around 3:30am, a loud rumble woke Mike and I up.

After a groggy "What was that?"  I figured it out - the branch had been shaken loose and fell.

So I got up and checked on the back yard.  It was dark, but I could see leaves and branches where there were not supposed to be leaves or branches.  But it also looked like the roof dwas in one piece and the windows were intact - so I went back to bed.

Well, it was a little worse than I thought.  The big branch brought down a couple lesser - but still substantial branches - and a small tree.

To make everyone really cranky - the basement flooded too!

It's not major.  No one was hurt.  Both our house and our neighbor's house seem to be fine.  The basement will require bleaching but most things were picked up from the hurricane.  So that's just work and fumes.  Ahhhh, bleach fumes!

I've got two different tree removal companies coming out to give quotes and I'm going through our insurance policy now to find out if any of it is covered.  But all in all, it's cool.  Things could have gone sooooo much worse.

But still - whooo doggie.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sailboats and Kayaks

On Labor Day, we went down to Niantic for the final beach day of summer.  Apparently someone did not move their sailboat before Irene hit.

Amazingly enough, the mast is not touching the house behind it at all.

It was kind of wild to walk along the shoreline.  Some houses were in fine condition.  Others has boarded-up windows.  In some places the sand was pushed up to the concrete wave blocker, in others it was at a normal height.  Irene was very choosy.  

But, for the most part, the beach was fine.  

The water was lovely, except for the fact that it was a bit choppy.  If we'd only had boogie boards, we could have done some fun wave riding.

But Magoo did have his flippers.

While we were doing that, my sis-in-laws and bro-in-law enjoyed a mellow kayaking excursion.

I don't really know if it was mellow.  But it looks mellow, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Murder of Crows

You know I love me some crows, right?

My favorite collective names for birds are a murder of crows and a parliament of owls.  Well, maybe they are my favorites or maybe they are simply the ones I can remember.  But a murder of crows...how perfect is that?!

I thought it would be kind of cool to have a small splash of red blood somewhere in there, but I had to consider the audience.  If I did that it probably wouldn't sell.

This collage is 11 X 14".  I painted the crows' paper myself so it's not straight black - it's a mix of purples, deep blues, greens, and payne's grey.  I would have loved to make this really big.  But, once again, if it was huge it probably wouldn't sell.

Over the years I have learned a bit about what this Open Studio customer base is like.  You can make a big, expensive watercolor.  But not a big, expensive collage.  It's wise not to price any collage above $150 and that's even a stretch.  $125 - $75 is the goal for a decent sized collage.

This one will hang in the group show under the Double Digits theme.  Twenty crows - that qualifies.

I think it's going to look pretty sharp when I slap a crisp white mat and a black frame on it.  Oooo yeah.

But, most of all, I think it will represent what the rest of my collection is about this year.  My goal for the group show is to hang a piece in gallery that people will remember.  Then, when they make it to my space upstairs - they will recognize the style/subject matter and say, "Oh, she did the crows downstairs."

Maybe they'll buy something or maybe they won't - but having that moment of recollection connects them to the art.

Besides, I plan to have some lovely $1 postcards available this year, so hopefully people will be able to take a little something home with them.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Herd of Cranes

Now that Magoo is back to school, (his first day went really well, BTW,) it's time for me to turn my focus to the November art show.

I've done plenty of watercolors this year, but what I've been struggling with is a theme for the collage portion. Last year I did Fables. One year I did Recreation Dogs. One year I did Cats in Art. I don't have to have a theme, of course. But I like to.

I'd been making lists. I could have done more fables. Those are always fun. I thought about Greek Myths. I thought about just doing straight up animals. Then it came to me.

Duh! Birds.

But not only birds - bird collectives. Then I get to use those super fun names: a parliament of owl, a murder of crows. I LOVE those!

Also, now I can a bird collage into the Group Show which has a theme of Double Digits this year.

My first piece (above) is a Herd of Cranes.

I wanted something quiet, something where the repetitive shape of the crane would be calm and soothing.

I'm not entirely sure who the audience for the bird collages will be. I thought the fables would go like hotcakes last year, and I probably sold only 60% of them. The main thing is that I'm producing art that I'm excited about and hopefully other people will be too. And I certainly am happy with this piece. It's exactly how I pictured it. And I'm psyched to be excited and inspired to produce more.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

More birds next week.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First Day of Third Grade

I'm not a sentimental person. I'm really not. But lately I've been going through some of the photo albums and looking back on when my little boy was actually little, and now, putting together this progression of first day photos (kindergarten, first, second, and third) it's hard not to get a little misty.

First days are always a mix of excitement and nerves.

Whenever we would ask Magoo if he was excited about starting school, he'd say, "Yes!" But yesterday (before the open house) I heard him talking to his buddy Mo, confessing that he was scared to meet his teacher. Mo was very sweet, saying that he shouldn't be scared. Ms. Paradis (Magoo's teacher) is really nice.

We went in to meet her and see the classroom for a few minutes and Magoo was courteous, maybe a little shy, but happy and chatty and told her about a book he had just read. She seems great, BTW. I don't really know her at all, but everyone says she's fantastic. The vibe was good.

This morning, we got our act together with plenty of time for the mandatory photos. Then we headed out. As we were walking, Magoo seems upbeat. He even flashed my this third grade smile:

At the front lawn at school, the nerves kicked in.

One of his best buddies is in his class this year. But he wasn't there yet. Magoo was brave. He stood in line with the other children. He clearly wasn't the only child feeling somewhat unsettled. I gave him a quick kiss (something he still allows me to do in public) and backed off to the parent section. He stood like a statue for a loooong time.

Then his teacher came out, shook everyone's hand, and had a little chat with each one.

I could see him loosen up after that.

The principal gave her first day of school speech, then all the students followed there teachers inside.

And that's that.

Now he has to adjust to his student lifestyle and I have to adjust to my author/artist lifestyle, which I am sure we will both do just fine.

Hope all my Whiting Lane Mom friends had smooth mornings and hope everyone else is having a great day!