Saturday, July 30, 2011

Five Stages of Grief (for a Zombie): a Stop-Motion Short Film


Two posts ago, I mentioned that I would be taking a stop-motion animation workshop through my local library. The video above is the fruit of that labor. I hope you enjoy it!

As it turned out, I got the perfect animation partner, Jon. He's a puppeteer in the Hartford area, and is very used to writing and performing his own puppetry so he came to this workshop to learn a new skill and had no desire to put in extra work. Since I had put in 8 hours of prep - we were ideally suited to working together. I had a ton of fun with Jon and I think we both did a great job.

Thanks to the West Hartford Library for hosting this awesome event, and to Joe, Tessa, and Dan for running it and teaching us!!!

For those of you in the area, there will be a "film festival" with all the shorts (9 in total, I think) outside the Faxon branch library on Thursday, Aug. 11th at 8:30. It's al fresco movie watching in the parking lot. And you need tickets (they're showing How to Train Your Dragon after the shorts) but they are free. Call the Faxon branch and reserve some, if you like. I know I'll be there!

Oh, in case you're wondering, the star of my movie is Little Noah, the mascot of the Noah Webster Library.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

HACKED!

Last night, I got hacked.

Someone hacked into my email contact list and sent an email to EVERYONE on it with a link to Viagra.

The bad news: Well, it's creepy to think that someone is going around pretending to be you. Also, it's embarrassing as heck to think that my professional contacts think I'm sending them ads for Viagra. (Sorry to everyone at Penguin!)

The good news: it was only a link and not a virus. So apart from being annoying and confusing - no harm should come to those who received the message. Also, I've been hearing from all sorts of people today!

What really boggles my mind is this advertising technique. I mean, does this work? Is someone going to open a message that they think is from me. Click on a link. See an ad for Viagra and think - OK. If Julie thinks I need this, I'd better order some.

I hope not!

Hey, maybe I should hack into the email of corporate Wall Street brokers and send them a link to my book on Amazon? ;)

Anyway - if you received the message - sorry about that. I've contacted Yahoo and changed my password and hopefully that'll do the trick.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stop-Motion Zombies (I hope)


On Thursday, I will begin a 3-day workshop to learn some stop-motion animation techniques. This workshop is being run by the town library and I'm PSYCHED to be participating.

I've had a concept ready for a little while: The Five Stages of Grief (for a Zombie.)

Then I got a notice from the library asking that we try to place their mascot, Little Noah, in the short film. This threw me for a moment, as I wasn't sure how to put this character in my monster movie. Then it hit me, Little Noah can be the main character. I'll turn him into a zombie!

The library isn't expecting anyone to come with stuff prepared, but that's how I roll. I have a storyboard ready and I have cut characters and props for 3 scenes.

I *hope* that I can make this film. There are two possible glitches:
1.) Everything I have cut is the wrong size.
2.) I get saddled with a partner that has no interest in this topic.

In which case, I will learn as much as I can about the cameras, software, etc. and try to make my zombie movie on my own in my own time.

But, in the meantime, fingers crossed for stop-motion zombies.

In other news: The heat wave has broken. Yesterday it was downright cool (awesome) and today it's normal. The house is comfy and I finally got around to cutting the lawn. I didn't have to sit throughTransformers 3 on Saturday. Instead we went to see Captain America - which was fine. Today Magoo and I just took it easy - had a lazy day - and for awhile we counted the cars pass in front of our house while sipping on milkshakes. It was a most excellent fifteen-minutes.

PS - This is my 700th bog post!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot

It's flop-sweat hot around here. Which means I'm not at my productive best.

Fortunately Magoo is off at camp where they have him swimming and tossing water balloons and things of the like. I'm going to try to hit as many air-conditioned places as I can. Then it will be evening swim for Magoo and me. (Maybe Mike.)

Tomorrow we'll hit Transformers 3. (The things I will sit through for air-conditioning!)

And then, hopefully, the heat will break.

Hope you're staying cool.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Esmerelda

There is an author/illustrator named Aaron Zenz who created a blog to feature the artwork of his talented children. It's called Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty. Once, a couple years ago, he invited other artists to re-interpret his kids' art. I must have read about it on someone else's blog and thought it sounded like a fun idea. So I found a lovely bird drawing by one of his daughters and turned it into a collage.

Go here and see what other artists came up with.

Well, Chicken Nugget Lemon Tootie is celebrating it's Five Year Anniversary - so I got an email from Mr. Zenz asking if I wanted to play again.

Yes, indeedy, I do.

Here is the drawing I chose.

It's called Wabbit and it's by his daughter, Gracie.

And here's my interpretation:


I decided to give the rabbit a girl. As I was making the girl, she started to speak to me. Turns out, her name is Esmerelda and she loves it when things go wrong. As I was putting this collage together, all these little story ideas started weaving their way into my mind and I now think I have a new idea to write up.

Time can only tell where it all leads - but I think little Esmerelda and I are going to have a lot of fun together.

The blog post on Chicken Nugget Lemon Tootie isn't up yet. I'll let you know when it is. I'm sure it will be a blast to check out what everyone's done!

Happy Tuesday everyone!



Monday, July 18, 2011

8 1/2 Year Celebration


Magoo was born right after Christmas, which is not an ideal time for having a fun, friend-filled birthday bash. So, Lucky Duck that he is, he gets a small family party on his birthday and a second "friend" party in the summer.

I had planned on this being a small affair. Last year's party had me running around like hummingbird on crack and, this year, I had just spent a lot of time planning the Disney trip - but, as is often the case - one thing lead to another and I had nine boys in my yard.

BUT - I had a plan. And that plan was ... treasure hunts!

The day before the party, I had hidden 6 treasures around the yard and made directions sheets for each one. Here's Magoo reading the first "map" to the party-goers.

It said something like: Start at the front steps,
walk backwards to the basketball hoop,
twirl around three times,
run to the backyard,
stand on one foot,
now look where the clothespins live.
And then they'd find a treasure in the little bag on the clothesline. They'd run it back to me and I'd give them the next set of directions.

All the while, I'm sitting in the shade chatting with the other parents. Pretty smart, right?

All the treasure boxes contained the same thing: gogo's. Magoo LOVES his gogos. These are popular toys in his crowd. So I emptied them all out and had the boys take turns choosing their gogo teams.


After that, I set them up with clay and let them make their own gogo and gogo accesories.

And after that, it was cake time!!!


Magoo requested a honey cake. It's the standard birthday cake around here. Although now that I have my new babycakes cookbook, I might be able to perfect some of those recipes and add a little variety to our cake eating lives.

Magoo, of course, was MOST looking forward to the present opening. A few weeks ago, Magoo and I were in a toy store and he found a great big Ugly Doll that he really liked. Well, have you seen these things? They are SO EASY to make (if you sew.) So I noted which one he liked, (this one,) bought fabric, and made the darn thing myself. (Don't worry, good folks at UglyDolls, I am not selling your fine product. I only made one for my son.)


Magoo was psyched - which made me psyched. And he has slept with it ever since. (Well, only 2 nights - but still.)

And that was the party, folks. It was a lovely day and all the kids had a pretty good time. We were so happy that our friends, The Metcalfes, were in town from Baltimore and could be a party of the celebration. It made it all the more special for all of us.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Stuff On My Cat


The other day Magoo and I had a grand old time placing ninja after ninja on Java's tummy, while she stared at us, confused and annoyed.

In total we were able to place twelve ninjas and an army guy.

Yesterday we uploaded the photo to the site: Stuff on my Cat. Hope it gets picked!!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Magoo Presents: George Washington and the Amazing Battle


Like last summer, Magoo and I are working on writing stories. Writing was a big challenge for poor Magoo this last year in school. He is a boy full of ideas, but the slowness of his writing prevents him from getting them down in a timely fashion. And while he's concentrating on spelling the words correctly, he forgets where his thoughts were going. All that equals great frustration.

So, in order to promote the skills of story-telling w/o worrying about the fine motor skills or spelling, I am Magoo's secretary. He now dictates his stories to me. That way, we can record all his thoughts and ideas. We print them up. And then we edit a bit.

His first story is George Washington and the Amazing Battle.

Page 1:
Early one morning, George Washington was practicing his gunfiring at the firing range when he got captured.

Page 2:
George Washington said, "Who are you?"
The leader of the group said, "We are the British."
Then the British captain said, "Check all his pockets for weapons."



While soldiers checked his pockets, George Washington pulled out a banana peel and threw it on the ground.
One of the British soldiers slipped and bonked his head.

Page 3:
George Washington grabbed his gun and fired it before being locked up.
The bullet flew through the window of the American Army barracks.
A man in his army said, "Hey look - a bullet! Something must be wrong!"
The Army marched to the British hideout and said - in a creepy, old voice - "We are old scoundrels."
The British Captain said, "Come in."
The army went in and got a piece of wire and unlocked the prison gate where George was being held.


The army said, "We will fight you at 10p.m."
The British said, "That's our bedtime."
The British changed it to 9 p.m.

Page 4:
Later that night, the British arrived with stuffed animals.
George Washington said, "Why do you have stuffed animals?"
"Because there's thousands of bullets in them!"
The British fired the stuffed animals. BANG!


Page 5:
George Washington had a shield. He said, "Ha! In your face!"
The British were steamed with anger. The British shot their guns but they misfired.
George Washington fired his gun and he took down ten guys.


The British ran for their lives and said, "We surrender!"
George Washington put the British in prison and locked them up forever.

The End.

I guess you could call it Historical Fiction. :)

Didn't he do a great job on the illustrations. He printed p pictures of George Washington and British soldiers so Magoo could get the details of each uniform and he worked really hard on these.

I'm very proud.

Magoo is at day camp for the next two weeks so there won't be another story until August. But I'm so impressed but he work he did on this one, I'm super optimistic about what else he'll come up with.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Am the Grill Queen

I'd been wanting a grill for a little while.

What I really wanted was a husband who'd grill. But I married Mike and he doesn't want to grill. So I had to think, Do I really want a grill if I have to all the grilling?

I should probably mention, in addition to being fairly cheap and not wanting to drop a wad on a good grill, I'm also a little fearful of open flames. Perhaps you will recall this. But we have a small house and it's difficult to have people over, so I thought a grill might open us up to summertime entertaining a bit more.

To buy a grill or not to buy a grill?

Then fate took control and a grill was given to me by a neighbor who was moving away.

May I present, for the first time ever, MY GRILL .....


It's a Charmglow 3-burner propane grill. I had to buy new heat distribution plates and fill the propane tank, but then it was ready to roll.

I also bought stainless steel grill sheets.

Those are nice because A.) we don't want to eat the crud (metals etc.) from the grill rack and B.) they're easy to take into the sink and clean.

The first night I made Easy Grilled Tri Tip from a recipe I got online here. (Although Trader Joes didn't have tri tip so I just got some sirloin.) Yum.


The following night I made Ginger-Lemongrass Chicken with Cilantro Rice Noodles. Yummy. Yum. Yum.


That recipe was from the fabulous book Grill It! from Better Homes and Gardens which I got at Border's 40% off with a coupon. Thank you very much.

You see, when I don't know about something - like grilling - I need to do a lot of reading on it so I don't make stupid mistakes. This is a great big cookbook full of useful basic information and lots of great recipes. I'm totally psyched! This recipe called for a rub. I'd never made a rub before!

So, after two successful grilling adventures, I feel I am getting a grip on it and am prematurely crowning myself The Grill Queen. At least of my house. :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beaded Origami Crane on Etsy


I'm not sure if you noticed, but my etsy shop was down for a bit.

I was cleaning a few things out of the shop - the pendants for one thing - and I accidentally deleted all of the items. Oops! I still don't know how I managed to do that. But it was cool. Although my paintings had been "favorited" by a few people, I hadn't sold any of them. It was time to re-evaluate the store, shake it up, give it a make-over.

One of the things I've learned about etsy stores is that in order to stay current and in the "line-up" that pops up on the homepage, you have to keep adding things to it. For example, if I have five new items, it's better to post one item a day for five days then to post all five items at once.

So I'm going with a soft opening this time.

And I thought I'd start with some beaded origami cranes. Well, specifically, this beaded origami crane.

If you follow this blog, you know that these things sold like hotcakes to the hungry at a recent school fundraiser. (If you don't know, you can read about it here.) And they're cute and easy to ship - just right for an etsy shop. So we'll see. It's a little experiment.

Anyway, the shop is back on.

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Company of Gannets


This is a painting I had been working on for awhile. Wait, that's not exactly right. I started it a couple months ago then I put it aside. After I snapped some bird pics in Florida and got jazzed about working on cranes, I decided I'd better finish up the gannet painting first.

I LOVE painting rocks. It had been awhile since I'd worked on any so I had to get my rock groove back on, but once I got going it was like riding a bicycle.

And I love how the expanse of blue sky balances with the busy rocks.

All in all, I think it came out well so I'm a happy-pappy.

Now I have to choose which crane I want to paint. Or a blackbird. I got a nice blackbird shot too. Decisions, decisions. And since Magoo is headed off to camp for two-weeks, I'll actually have some time to get some painting done. (That's why I'm cleaning my studio today.)

Have a great weekend, everyone!



Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Whole Lotta Baking Goin' On

Remember that bakery I mentioned last week, Babycakes NYC? And remember how I told you I got the Babycakes cookbook by Erin McKenna? Well, I couldn't make the cupcakes right away because I needed a few ingredients, but I could make the lemon-poppy teacake!


It's not the best photo because A.) I snapped it right before we were all going to eat it and I didn't "dress" the photo at all with a pretty plate and all that jazz, and B.) There was too much batter and it baked over the sides of the pan! So it's not as pretty as it ought to be. (I was pretty sure when I poured the batter in nearly to the top that there was going to be an issue. But when I make something for the first time, I try to follow the directions as closely as possible. Next time, I will either use an 8X8" cake pan or pour some extra batter in a few muffin tins. It's always good to have a few extra muffins!) But worry not - Magoo and I ate all the cake that had rolled over the sides and baked on the outer rim. Yum, yum, yum.

And it was YUM YUM YUM! I will definitely make this again! Lovely.

Yesterday I got up early to make Magoo a Gingerbread cake. I even made frosting.


This recipe even suggested that you pour some of the batter off into muffin tins. If I had made this one first, I probably would have figured that out about the lemon-poppy teacake but - oh well.

The muffins were great!!!

There's pumpkin puree in these and I could certainly taste it. I LOVE pumpkin - so the cake was all the better for the addition. Mike is more of a gingerbread purest, he thought the taste was a little mild.

I am psyched that I finally have a frosting recipe in my repetoire. Sugar-free frosting is a toughie. I made the vanilla frosting, but because we can only use alcohol-free vanilla extract (which is milder than the regular kind) the taste of the vanilla is softer than the taste of the coconut oil, so it's more like a coconut frosting. Still yum though.

Next up: Icebox cake!!!

I just want to send a SHOUT OUT to the good folks at BABYCAKES NYC. I am now a huge fan of this store & company. Thank you for making awesome treats and thank you for putting them in a book so that those of us who have to bake with restrictions can provide healthy, yummy treats for our loved ones and ourselves!

YOU ROCK!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fourth of July


This Fourth of July, we didn't venture out to a big firework display. Instead, Mike bought some smaller (legal) fireworks and we set them off in Gramma Mary's backyard. (Please insert the Boston Pops music here. BA ba ba ba ba ba ba BA BUM BUM)

The top, left shot is Magoo with a sparkler. It's really just like the shot below, only the previous shot is darker and I used the "fireworks" filter on my camera.


Even thought the fireworks were super fun - the big action happened the next morning. You see, there's a raft out at the beach we frequent. It looks like it's not that far a swim, but with the wind and waves pushing against you - it's a decent haul. Magoo has been wanting to swim out to it since last summer. We thought this might be the year.

First, we made him take a swim test. He had to swim a long line going across the beach to test his endurance. He did that with no problems. So we took a short rest and then, with Mike and I on either side of him, headed out to the raft.

We were about 4/5ths of the way there, when Magoo needed a bit of a break. I held him for a moment, then I passed him over to Mike. Then Magoo was ready to go again and finished the journey. Yeah!!!


I asked Magoo if he wanted me to get a shot of him on the raft. At first he declined, but quickly changed his mind. So I swam back tot he shore to take this shot. I was trying to get them to wave at me, but Mike didn't have his glasses on so he couldn't really see me. Oh well.

Here's a shot so you can see how far out they are.


Swimming back is much easier b/c you're working with the waves - so Magoo didn't need any help at all with that length.

After a swim test, swimming out to the raft, and swimming back, Magoo said, "I think I've used up all my swimming energy." Me too. So we left the beach a little early. But everyone was pretty darn pleased.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Disney Saratoga Springs


We stayed at the Disney Saratoga Springs Resort. Here's Mike and Cam approaching our building after a long day out.

It's a huge, lovely resort, and although we were not super close to the main building/pool/restaurant, we had a bus stop right outside our building. And on a day when you've gotten up early and walked all over Disney World, it's soooo nice to have a bus stop just steps from your front door.

We had to walk around (or over a bridge) a large lake to get to the heart of Saratoga Springs.


Here are some shots of the pool. Well, the waterslide, really. It was a lovely pool, but it was a really fun waterslide. I went on it a few times myself. Yep, it was me and the kiddos all standing in line for the slide.


There were a TON of little lizards at the resort. They were probably about 8 inches long, nose to tail, and they were stand really still until you came close, then they'd scamper away. Magoo and I counted 31 of them on a walk from the pool to our room.


The other shot is a little frog Magoo caught as it was getting too close to the pool. He saved it!

There were also a few cranes at the resort. A white one (below) and a black one.


There was some other bird that had the body of a crane but the bill was rougher, kinda like a turkey. Mike thought it was kinda cool, but it looked at little weird to me. Like the Gonzo of birds.

Saratoga Springs was a lovely resort, as I'm sure all of the Disney hotels are. We had a lovely room, but it's hard to get good shots of a hotel room. So if you want to see more you can check out shots here. Everyone there was extremely helpful and did everything they could to make our stay a great one - which it was.

OK. I think that's it for the Disney trip. Next week - back to real life.
Thanks for stopping in and checking it out.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hollywood Studios/ Downtown Disney


On our final day at Disney, we hit Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was hotter and we were all a little wiped out - so I'd say this was the least fun outing of our vacation.

For one thing EVERYONE rushed over to Toy Story Mania! At Magic Kingdom, even though a bunch of people rushed over to the BIG rides - you still got on relatively quickly. But Toy Story Mania is kind of a slow loading ride, so right off the bat we had about a 20 minute wait. Once on it, though, it was super fun. I would simply suggest getting a FastPass right away or even riding a small ride and coming back to this 30 minutes later. The line got shorter after the initial rush.

Then we made our way over to Star Tours (above) and that was super fun. (Notice Magoo's eyeliner remnants from his pirate make-over. We just couldn't get that stuff off!)

Then we saw the 3-D Muppet Show. WOW. The 3-D was truly amazing. I don't know how they do that. At one point this little animated flying thing comes out and says, "The audience thinks I'm talking to them, but actually I'm just talking to you." And it pointed right at me. And I KNOW it looks like it's pointing right at everyone, but I don't know how on earth they make it look like that.


Of course Waldorf and Statler were off to the side heckling the show the whole time.

The 3-D was so good, Maggo was constantly trying to reach out and tough the things that appeared to be right in front of his face.

Then we made it over to the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. And I got to be an EXTRA! That's me, waving. And see the guy in the baseball cap and Hawaiin shirt? Mike knew him from his days living in New York. I knew him a little bit, but I didn't recognize him at all - and I was too busy cheering for Indiana Jones and trying to keep that scarf on my head to notice much else.


After that - I walked the boys over to take the backlot tour, but the line was long, everyone was hot, and the guys just wanted to go back and get Magoo in the pool one last time.

Downtown Disney.

For those of you who don't know, Downtown Disney is a shopping/eating/entertainment area on the "Disney Reservation." It wasn't far from the hotel and it had two major features we wanted to hit. A LEGO store:


(Magoo poses with LEGO creations.)

And a bakery Magoo could actually eat at!!!! Babycakes NYC!

When I found out about this place I got downright giddy. You can find a gluten-free bakery. But it's very difficult to find one that has sugar-free goods. This one is vegan so they have all sorts of great things.

Here's the cupcake display.


Magoo picked out a pumpkin cupcake. Mike had vanilla. I had chocolate - of course! And they were so YUM!

If we had been staying longer we would have stocked up. BUT - as luck would have it - they had a cookbook available. So I bought that and, as soon as I got home, ordered some things that Whole Foods didn't carry. When those come in, it's going to be Babycakes Cupcake City around here!

I can't wait!

Tomorrow: The resort and wildlife.