Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Covers at Central School

I'm having three days of fun at Central School this week.  I'm a visiting artist working with the 6th graders, creating book covers.

I have to head out the door in just a minute, so this will be text-light.  But I wanted to show you some of the cool covers the kids worked on.

I talked to them about how to bring character and setting into the covers.  How to create a certain tone.  And composition.

Now some of the kids chose to make covers for sketchbooks, so character and setting didn't really factor in.  But they still had to work on a design and compose it.

There weren't enough O's in the scrabble tiles, so this kid used pom-pom's.  Points for creativity.

Magoo said he'd like to read Weird Stories.  So I'd say this cover did it's job.

This cover is for a book of poetry.  Isn't it perfect for poetry?!

Love the one in The Dark Side.

 This one's so sweet I can barely stand it!!!  (Seriously, I think I might need to write a giraffe story.)

But this one ... this one is truly awesome.  It has tone.  It has character.  I love the blood dripping.  I love the green hand contrasting the red.  Love, love, love it!!!

Off to make more covers.
Happy Thurdays!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beach Day

On Sunday we went down to Niantic for our first beach day of the season.  Magoo is a water baby - no doubt.  He loves being at the beach.  He was all geared up to go into the water, but we explained that the water would still be pretty cold at this time of the year.  He still went in, but he didn't stay in long.  Most of the time was spent digging holes in the sand.

Of course I took a ton of pictures.  I haven't progressed in my digital photography book beyond composition, so I was really just looking to make good shots in the autofocus mode.

The one above is my favorite.  I like the two lines of horizontal darkness: one from the seaweed and one from the shadow of the wave.

(Below)  Here's my nifty new gadget for the summer: the Sport-Brella!  Neither Mike or I like to bake in the sun.  Last year, at the pool, Mike would cover himself in towels to keep from burning.  I thought maybe we could get some sort of sun tent this year.

A lot of the ones I looked at said that they were easy to put up, but they all had removable bars and whatnot.  I don't want to spend the first 10 minutes putting up a tent while everyone else is onto the fun.

The Sport-Brella is basically an umbrella with two flaps.  You just pop it up like an umbrella, unhook the flaps, and spike them into the sand.  Three minutes - tops.  I've only used it once but I LOVE IT!  (Sport-Brella is not paying me any money and if it turns out to be crappy, believe me, I will tell you about it.)

Here are a couple other beach shots:

This beach is called The Hole in the Wall.  Some people are in the frigid water, but most didn't venture in beyond their knees.  I didn't venture in beyond my toes.

I just liked how these three sun-soakers were all lined up.

You can see all three faces and their knees are all bent at the exact same angle.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bottle Rocket

I love a simple pleasure.

We're all used to gadgets and technology as being the latest, greatest thing.  But this Saturday some friends came over and I guess they'd been making bottle rockets earlier that day so Mike got out a bottle, a cork, his bike tire pump, and a thin air pump needle, and they spent a good 45 minutes shooting rockets into the air. 

I didn't make one myself, but here's what i think you do.
A.) Fill the bottle 1/3 with water.  (You can play with variations as you go on, but this is a good starting point.)
B.) Put a tight cork in it.
C.) Insert the thin air pump needle.
D.) Prop it in a bucket or on a chair or something that will guide the bottle rocket in the safest direction.
E.) Pump it!

Man - that think went FLYIN'!

Magoo thought it would be fun to send his LEGO mini-figures on a trip.  (Below)  He has Woody (from Toy Story) and I think Han Solo rubber banded on for a fun ride.

Our friends K and J tried putting the mini figures into the rocket. 

Then BLAST OFF!  Hold on tight, Woody!

Magoo's been having such a blast with this that he showed his gramma the following day and I'm sure he'll show Curly and Mo later this afternoon.

Hope you're all having a great Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yarn Along: Goodale Cardigan

It's Wednesday, and I've started a new project!  So I thought I'd join the gang at Ginny's Yarn Along.

First, the project.  What you see here is about halfway through the yoke of the Goodale Cardigan available on Ravelry.   When I chose this cardigan, I scanned through all the other knitters projects and was drawn to the red cardis.  Since I'd just done the Whisper Cardigan in the blue/greens of Nebula, I thought I'd go with a good strong ruby color for this one.  It's a little heavier weight, too, so it'll be a good sweater for fall.

Now, the book.  I just finished Stolen by Lucy Christopher.  Stolen is about a 16-yr-old British girl, Gemma, who is drugged and abducted while traveling with her parents abroad.  She is taken deep into the outback by a 26-yr-old Australian man who had been watching her for 6 years.  The book is written as a letter from Gemma to this man.  It's pretty darn good!  I don't want to give anything away, but I will say it's a real page turner as the tensions run very high and Gemma is constantly assessing her situation and her captor.  I tore through it in less than 24 hours.  LOVED it!

Happy knitting everyone!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Photography Class: Autofocus

I'm going to take a long story and condense it.  Here goes.

I wanted to buy a new camera.  I did some research.  I realized that I already had a better camera than anything I could afford to buy.  So, instead, I bought a book. 

My goal, this summer, is to read the book - Complete Digital Photography, Sixth Edition by Ben Long - and practice all the steps.  And, eventually, learn how to use my camera's manual features.

And if I blog about it, then I might actually do it.  So here starts the beginning of my education in photography.

The first exercise was simply to take some photos with the camera's autofocus feature.

I wanted to plant some cilantro, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I gathered up my camera, my son, and my son's camera, and we went over to the Gledhill Nursery in West Hartford to take a few snapshots and buy some herbs.

I could bore you with a ton of my photos, but instead I think I'll take a page from America's Next Top Model, and simply show you what I feel is my best shot.

I haven't retouched this at all.  I haven't bumped the contrast or anything.  This is exactly the way the camera captured the windmill and the reflection.

And now here are a couple of Magoo's best shots. 

I love the range of colors he caught in the leaves, from the super lightness of the front leaf - which, to me, is the focal point of the photograph - to the black recessions above and below it.

I also love the way he caught the wood beams on this bridge.  He balanced the space very well.  There's a calm repetition in the wood, but by photographing them at an angle, the diagonals make it more dynamic.

I have a lot of fun taking pictures.  Sometimes you hear people say, Put down the camera and live in the moment.  But honestly, it's the moments of taking the pictures that I like to live in.  But I'm finding that I also really love seeing how Magoo approaches photography.  He sees things differently.  Different things attract him.  And, quite frankly, it's just fun to go out and do something together.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dandy at Duffy

I love visiting Duffy School!  This is my second (or third) time. ( I can't remember.)  The library space is just gorgeous.  You can see a little bit of it above.  It's a big, open space.  High ceilings.  Big windows.  And there are lovely sculptures all around.  It was a bright, sunny day after two dreary ones - so that helped too.  But it's just a real "positive vibe" kind of space.  And, the library staff rocks - so that's a bonus too!

I actually had my first full technical failure yesterday.  You see, I bring my Powerpoint presentation on a stick drive.  The day before any author visit, I test my stick drive in my home computer and make sure the presentation is there and fine.  And it was.  I checked it.  I'm a very good Girl Scout.

But when I got to Duffy school (early, thank goodness) the darn thing wouldn't read.  They couldn't even get the computers to acknowledge it.  Did the media specialists freak out?  No.  They were cool and calm.  Did I freak out?  Only a little bit.  Inside. 

But, being the good Girl Scout that I am - I had a back-up.  It wasn't the same presentation: the one that went with the first Wink book.  But I had a second stick drive with a presentation for the second Wink book and that was was working just fine.  Phew - crisis averted!

After the presentation, we proceeded to the dreaming ninja collage project which is always so fun, because the kiddos can draw any dream they want.  I'm always super interested in what they come up with.

This ninja dreams on Wink books.

This ninja dreams of talking to Master Zutsu in outer space.

This ninja dreams of bathing in money.

And this ninja is dreaming of meditating on a cloud.

I want to have that dream!  I bet I'd sleep like a baby!

Much thanks to all the wonderful students and the fabulous library staff at Duffy Elementary School!  It's always a great pleasure to visit you!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Magoo Gets Musical

It's close to the end of third grade for Magoo.  In his school, that means that he will be choosing an instrument soon to learn next year.  So we've been discussing what Magoo might like to play.   He started by saying "trumpet" which surprised me, but alright.  Then I remembered that Mike had a clarinet hidden somewhere in the house, so Mike pulled that out along with his saxophone.

Magoo took to the clarinet right away.  We explained that it might be a little challenging to get a sound out of it.  It's not like a harmonica or kazoo.  But Magoo persisted and eventually got a nice toot.

We needed new reeds, for sure.  And once we got some nice, soft ones, Magoo played even better on it.  Now, I'm not saying he's Mozart and whipping out the melodies or anything, but he's getting sound out of it.

I think we're going to take the instrument in for a little love and care and then maybe get Magoo a few summer lessons to set up the basics.  Right now, Magoo is into it.  And I find it's best to jump on something when there is interest rather than to push it on him later after he's moved onto something else.

We'll see how it goes.  But if he's anything like his father (and he certainly is) then Magoo will have a little music in his bones.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Boring Post

I have to confess, I'm not in a blogging mood today.  It's a little rainy, a little dank, and I just watched the movie Dear John over lunch and it kind of bummed me out.

But, since I'm working on a painting today and it needs time to dry before I can proceed, I decided that I'd upload a couple pics from the weekend.

This is the reservoir on Mother's Day.  We were going to see The Avengers, but can you imagine sitting in a movie theater on a day like this?!??!  No, me neither.  So I asked for a family bike ride.  And because it was Mother's Day and I get whatever I want on Mother's Day, I got one.

I believe Magoo snapped this pic.

 Here's a pic courtesy of PhotoBooth on the Mac.  Magoo and I were into it.  Java ... not so much.

What else have I been up too.  Hmmm?

-got a pedicure.
-got a massage.
-ate too much chocolate.  So I ...
-did pilates.
-finished the first draft (with sketches) of a graphic novel I'm developing.
-got a couple books from the library
-worked on a needlepoint project for Magoo's teacher
-started a new sweater, and
-ordered a book on digital photography so I can learn how to use the manual settings.  (That's my summer project.)

OK.  I should probably get back to my painting and then clean a bit. 
Happy Tuesday, Blogosphere!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Magoo Paints: Spring Landscape

On Thursday, the children were asked to make pictures or write letters to their teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week.  Magoo decided to paint a watercolor landscape.

We worked from a tutorial in The Watercolor Painting Book by Wendon Blake, which is a great old book that I got from the book barn that has a lot of nice step-by-step watercolor tutorials in it.

Magoo was able to do everything except some dry brush technique for the leaves.  Then he got rather upset that it wasn't working out.  So we took a little break and switched the technique to an easier splotchy-dot approach. (That's not a technical term. ;)

I think he really liked working with the fan brush to make the grass, though!  (Top photo.)

He did a fantastic job and I'm super proud of him.  He has a very nice, natural handle on watercolors.

Have a great weekend everyone, and HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all the wonderful, hard-working mothers out there!  I have lunch with a friend, a pedicure, and a massage all in my immediate future.  I'm one happy Momma!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yarn Along: Whisper Cardigan

I finally finished it!  My Whisper Cardigan!

I started this sweater two months ago, and although I was working with US 7 needles (which is a good medium sized needle for those of you out of the knitting loop) the yarn was lace weight.  OH - it took forever.

I hadn't even bothered jumping in on the weekly Yarn Along because how boring would it be to, week after week, come on and show mere inches of progress?  Pretty darn boring!

But it's finished now - and I love it.

The Ravelry page is here.
I used a Hannah Fettig Pattern, Whisper Cardigan.  And the yarn is Tosh Lace in color: Nebula.

I'm reading Chime by Franny Billingsley, which took me awhile to dig into, but I stuck with it and it's paying off in spades.  It's a Young Adult book.  Early 120th century.  English swamp country.  Witches and swamp creatures and hangings and all that.  If that sounds like your kind of thing, go forth to the bookstore!  However, if you cringed at witches - stay away!  It's very witchy.

Magoo and I are reading The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.  This is a great read for third/fourth graders.  It's about a brother and sister who've made a angry bet about who can make the most money at a lemonade stand.  They even work math and business theory into it!  We're both really enjoying it.

Happy Wednesday!

(Joining Ginny's Yarn Along.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mugs by Magoo

I'm not Oprah, but I do have some favorite things, and one of them is ceramic markers.  See, it's Teacher Appreciation week this week.  In the past I have made canvas bags for the teachers, but this year one of Magoo's team is a repeat, so she already has a bag. 

Then I thought back to the ceramic mug painting I did with the boys for Sunday Morning Art Class, and I thought Art by Magoo Mugs would be so cute!  And they are!!!

The mascot for Magoo's school is an owl, so he did one mug in an owl theme.  Having a limited number of colors - red being one of them - I suggested an apple theme as well.

We used Pebeo Porcelaine markers, which I bought from Michaels.  If you're not happy with the design, you can wash it off.  But when you are happy, let the paint dry for 24 hours.  Then bake at 150 for 35 minutes.  Done!  The paint is baked on and these mugs can go in the microwave and the dishwasher.

I filled them with tea and chocolates and the teachers should be getting them right!  (I hope they like them.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Angry Bird Catapult

Here's the catapult! (For the Angry Birds game for the school fair.)

I was able to scrounge enough stuff around the house and didn't need to buy a single thing!
I used an old wood box for the base.  Two of Magoo's building blocks for the sides.  A bamboo skewer for the axis.  A wooden spoon for the launcher (and a wooden block, b/c the spoon was tooo thin to drill a hole through.)  I clipped some hanger wire for the brace at the top and two rubber bands.  (Various screws and hooks were used as well - all found in the basement.)  And viola'!  A catapult!

(I should add that it helps to have an electric drill and a Dremel tool.)

We played tested it all weekend and it held up nicely.

This should be much easier for the youngsters to use.

Here's Magoo in action.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Friday, May 4, 2012

At-Home Angry Birds

The school Spring Fair is coming up.  As room parent, it's my job to pick a "booth" or rather, a game, that kids can play at the fair.   I had the idea that I would set up an Angry Bird table.  There's actually a wealth of information on the web about how to make your own Angry Bird live action game.  Some of it is helpful - some, not so much.  One guy built a HUGE Angry Bird set in his backyard with, like a 5 ft slingshot.  Crazy!

I already had blocks.  But that was about it. 

I looked at the plastic Angry Bird games that they had at Target and they seemed a little too flimsy for an outdoors game.  (The wind would blow them over, yanno.)  Plus, I was trying to spend as little as possible. 

I got lucky and found 2 hackey sacks at a tag sale for 25 cents.  Can't beat that!  So I painted them.  I used little blue squares to paint the piggie faces on.  And Magoo and I went out to the park to search for a branch that would make a good slingshot.

You should have seen me out in the back yard with my hatchet, chopping the extra pieces off the wood.  Then I got my grandfather's fishing knife and peeled the bark off it.  Oh - I was quite the pioneer woman!  Magoo and I went out shopping for rubber bands and other stretchy materials - because the stretch is very important.  I made a cup out of felt, tried out several different widths and lengths of elastic until I came up with something that worked pretty well.

I could shoot it.  I could knock all the blocks down in two shots.  Oh - the pride.

Problem was ... Magoo could not.  The slingshot is too big for him.  Also, it takes a certain amount of coordination to hold it steady with one arm, aim with the other, and release the ball without your fingers getting in the way.  And if Magoo - a coordinated third grader - was having problems, the kindergarteners were never gonna be able to do it.

So, the plan this weekend is to make a catapult.  I've been gathering supplies around the house and we're going to try to make it a family weekend project.  I'll update here on Monday.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Space-Age Ant Farm

Magoo got a super funky space-age gel ant farm for his birthday in December.  We thought we might collect our own ants in the Spring, but by the time Spring came around we thought, "What the heck, let's just order some flippin' ants."

Last Wednesday, the ants arrived.

They came in a test tube - all alive but one.  I poured them in and Magoo put the roof on their new home.  I bet it seemed awesome - all that space! 

Then the ants got a real treat - the ant farm lights up.  It's like Ant Saturday Night Fever in there.

These ants are saying:

Ant 1:  Hey Baby, you wanna party?
Ant 2:  Sure do, but first I have to make a tunnel.
Ant 3:  This sure is some funky dirt.
Ant 1:  But it's totally groovy, baby!

It's really fun to wake up and see what the ants have been up to.  And I can tell you something I have learned - they totally sleep.  I have to wake them up in the morning the same as I wake Magoo.  They're all hanging out and clustered up.  I turn on the lights and they're like, ""What!  Huh!  What's going on?  Oh yeah - time to tunnel."

(Below)  A week later.  They have been busy!  They seem to like to hug the edges of the ant farm.  Maybe they were looking for a way out.  They tunneled down each side and along the bottom.  They they are starting to work through the middle.  And all the little pellets on the top are the things they have brought up.  They have even started tunneling through that too.

The directions said to open the lid once a week to give them some fresh air.  I do it every couple of days.  They seem sluggish otherwise.  But man - when I do open the lid - they go nuts!   They all rush to the top.  I have to blow on them to keep them contained - which is why this is outside.  I take them out to give them air in case any escape.  Either they are well aware that the way out is up, or they think I have awesome breath.

Here's a close up.

No ant have dies yet.  They all seem to be doing really well in their super groovy space-age ant farm.  And Magoo certainly has enjoyed checking them out.  Thanks Uncle Steve and Aunt Kristie for the cool gift!