Sunday, December 13, 2009


I miss my blog friends.

I won't be around blogland much for a while, because at least for now I need to focus on other things. Sometimes life throws you a curve.

It looks like some of my dreams will have to be put on hold for a while, too - but I'll find a way to get back to writing and illustrating.

Even though I won't be visiting much, I'll be thinking about you and wishing you all the best.

Hope to be back soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Post NaNo Help, Art Contests, and Proof that Life Really is Stranger than Fiction

A few random finds I thought I’d pass along:

For writers - Here’s something you might be interested in, particularly if you're in the process of revising your manuscript. To celebrate the end of NaNoWriMo, author Roz Morris is offering a free PDF download of her book, Nail Your Novel. She describes it as “a writing buddy in a book. It holds the reader’s hand every step of the way, from the blank sheet of paper to the finished manuscript.” If you’ve been struggling with any part of the writing process, this book may provide the inspiration you need to assess your material and successfully continue your project. Click here to find out how to download a copy.

For artists - Art supplier Jerry’s Artarama is holding a series of art contests. There’s still time to enter several of them. I didn’t notice any entry fees, but specific products may need to be purchased to create your entry. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to try out some new materials anyway, check out the contest guidelines here.

And, for anyone who just needs a break (I’m guessing that’s everyone), have you visited My Life is Average? It’s my new favorite place to remember how funny and surprising normal life can be. Who knew celebrating mediocrity could be so much fun?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Small, Small World

My daughter's world history class was assigned to watch this video over the Thanksgiving break. I think it's a good way to keep things in perspective this season.

More information about the Miniature Earth project can be found on their website here.

P.S. The comments line might be pulling a disappearing act. If it's missing and you'd like to leave a comment, try clicking on the post title above. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to say thanks. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement, and for making me laugh, even on the days I think I might be chasing unicorns.

I thought blogging would be a good way to force myself to write and paint at least a little bit every day. I jumped into it with no particular focus in mind. As it turns out, a lack of focus is my focus. It’s worked out pretty well, because I’ve been lucky enough to connect with moms and writers and artists and travelers - all kinds of creative people who share some of my passions and are kind enough to share their ideas. I’m delighted and surprised every time you come back. I know my blog is a mixed bag. In the words of Forrest Gump, you never know what yer gonna get.

I hope you’ll keep visiting, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Art of Reading Coincidences

I pay attention to coincidences. I always think there could be a message there. The trouble is it isn’t always easy to interpret what the message might be.

I don’t know how many times I’ve sent manuscripts out only to receive rejections all at once, within a day of each other. It doesn’t matter if I sent several different pieces out, or if they were sent months apart. If they’re going to be rejected, the rejections always come at the same time.

Naturally, I find that discouraging. It’s pretty hard not to jump to conclusions about what the universe is trying to tell you. My husband, the unrelentingly optimistic one, thinks this is the universe’s way of letting me get bad news over with at once, sparing me multiple days of misery. This way I spend less time feeling sorry for myself and more time on the business of writing and trying to find the right place for my work. I like his theory, but either way, I require a good amount of chocolate.

I pondered the meaning of all this after my last clump of rejections arrived. My son and I were taking the dog for her nightly walk. I was absorbed in my own troubles when I noticed how clear the night sky looked, and how many stars were out. I suddenly thought to myself that it’d been an awfully long time since I’d seen a shooting star, and wouldn’t it be nice to see one right now?

Less than a minute later I saw it – a flick of white across the black sky, as brief as a blink. I gasped, and then caught myself. I didn’t want to say anything out loud, since I’d probably just imagined it. Then my son, who’d caught my surprised expression, said, “I saw it too!”

I don’t know what it meant. But it did make me feel better.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pods and Berries

No, the title of this post is not a reference to iPods and BlackBerries. Put those down, and go for a walk. Unless it's ridiculously cold where you are. Then make yourself some tea, and look at the pictures.

This looks like a good place to start. See, Mr. Duck thinks so. Okay, back to pods and berries. I noticed we have quite a variety in our neighborhood.

These Chinese golden rain trees line the streets where I live. In summer they provide showers of bright yellow flowers; in the fall, the papery seed cases resemble bougainvillas. The only downside is the seeds take root in my yard - they're tenacious little devils.

I wonder what ever happened to ball fringe. Didn't it hang from things like lamp shades and sombreros? I always think of it when I see these sycamore seed pods.

Here are crepe myrtle berries. The dried out cases (in the top left of the photo) are shaped like tiny sectioned oranges.

These butterfly iris seed pods are almost as delicate as the flowers. They look like they're ready to take flight.

Indian hawthorne berries.

Heavenly bamboo.

I have no idea what these are, but I think they're cool.

Not a pod or a berry. More like a nut.

Here's some desert broom - our version of snow. This kind can give you the sniffles, too.

A magnolia seed pod about to burst.

Jacaranda seed pods remind me of castanets.

Way up in the tree, some palm fruit. Those are awfully big berries...

...and last, some tiny birch cones, about the size of an almond. They look cute on small holiday ornaments.

I hope you have the chance to get out and explore - maybe somewhere other than the mall.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Little Poem...

...made up entirely of picture book titles (the last one can be found here).

This is what happens when I spend too long in the picture book section of the library. It inspired a new illustration, too.


Raindrop, Plop!
This is the Rain
Love, Splat
Tick-Tock, Drip Drop
The Rain Came Down
High in the Clouds
Shadows and Reflections
Terrible, Terrible!
Clang Boom Bang!
What’s Up, What’s Down?
Achoo! Bang! Crash!
Now What Can I Do?
In My Heart
A Blue So Blue
Close Your Eyes
Make a Wish
Just a Minute
I Can Hear the Sun
Peace at Last
The Gift of Nothing
A Rainbow All Around
Rise and Shine
Let’s Go Home

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Organizing is Just Another Chore

A trip to the store with the upscale cardboard boxes and frilly coat hangers was supposed to inspire me to get organized. It didn’t work. Not even the expandable spice rack tempted me.

We do at least have a way of dealing with dreaded household chores. Eight of the chores that ought to be done weekly in a civilized household get divvied up. Two chores per week shouldn’t be too much to gripe about. We rotate, so no one gets stuck scrubbing toilets more than once a month.

To help keep track of whose turn it is to do what, we write the tasks on a dry erase board. Sure, it sounds a little stringent, but it helps keep peace. Under each of our names is plenty of leftover space to indicate whether we’ve done our chores for the week.

There’s been some evolution in how we mark off our completed chores. In the beginning, a checkmark or a simple ‘x’ sufficed. Things have changed. Let’s take a look at this week’s chart.

Here’s how my husband filled in his space:

Two little piggies…one for each chore! Don’t they look jaunty? I’ll bet that’s because they don’t have to live in a pig sty.

Now here’s my entry:

Oh, yes, you can tell who the artist is in this house. Those are supposed to be mice. I think the cleaning fumes got to me.

Moving on to my daughter’s space:

Wait a minute. I know she did her chores – I saw her sashaying about with a bottle of window cleaner. I hope she put more effort into the chores then she did in checking them off.

And finally, my son’s input:

I think he has some issues he’d like to take up with the management.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Holiday at a Time

You might remember me mentioning the neighbors who had Halloween decorations up in early September. As I passed their house yesterday morning, I was greeted with a four foot pine wreath and Christmas lights. On November seventh. The best part is - they still have a big hanging skeleton and a witch decoration up on their front porch.

These people don’t just rush the seasons, they clump them all together. Happy Hallo-giving-mas. Or maybe Merry Hallowistmas. They could be taking the retailers’ approach and skipping over poor Thanksgiving altogether. I’m starting to see why some communities have rules about decorating.

I wonder if these neighbors take the same approach to everything. Do they skip ahead to read the last chapter of a book, but reread the same Family Circle every month? Did they potty train their kids at six months but bottle feed them ‘til first grade? Do they eat breakfast before going to bed, but stay in pajamas ‘til 3 pm?

Is this a sign of how overstretched are we – racing through special times and letting other things slide? I’m always curious to hear how people manage the stress of the holidays. Most people I talk to don’t really seem to enjoy the pressure of all that’s expected of them. I’ve learned that even if it comes with a twinge of guilt, I enjoy things more when I scale them down.

I’ll be pondering this, while fully expecting to see jingle bells AND Easter bunnies sometime in January.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Best Movie Line Ever

I’ve seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show a few times over the years, but a couple of weeks ago we watched it again with the kids.

Some of their friends had already seen it in elementary school – I thought that was pushing it. When the kids were little about the only things they were allowed to watch were PBS and the Food Network. But by the time they reached middle school, they’d come across more objectionable things on prime time TV. I don’t even want to know what they’ve Googled at friends’ houses.

Anyway, I was glad we decided to watch it, because it contains my new favorite movie line. Besides being hilarious as always, it’s proved to be useful, too.

About three quarters of the way through the movie, after committing murder and mayhem and turning a good portion of the remaining cast into stone, the deviant Dr. Frank N. Furter pauses, mugs for the camera, and pouts, “It’s not easy having a good time.”

It’s impossible for us to picture Tim Curry sporting lipstick and uttering that line, and not laugh. That quote has dispelled family arguments. It’s averted a few adolescent meltdowns. It’s become my silent mantra. I think of it while fighting my way past the herd around the buffalo wing samples at Costco. I mutter it when being forced to pick dog hair out of the clogged vacuum cleaner hose because company is coming. With the holiday season coming up, I just know it’s going to come in handy.

I’m sure the magic will eventually wear off, but until then I plan to get all the mileage I can out of that line. Because, you know, it’s not easy having a good time.

Is there a famous movie line that’s worked for you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pickled Eyeballs and Other Delights

It's November! I hope everyone had a fun Halloween. I've been too busy to think up a new blog post, so I figured I'd put up some pictures of the festivities.

We gathered a large group of trick-or-treaters together, including my brother-in-law from Mexico and his girlfriend, who'd never experienced this ritual. They arrived all decked out and ready to go, and only got a little discouraged when one Halloween Scrooge told them the candy was "just for the kids." We conviced them to jump right back in.

As for my kids' costumes, I noticed a couple of repeat themes this year. Here's a picture of them from last year, as The Joker and Amy Winehouse:

My son decided to stick to the Batman villain thing. This year he was Two-Face. We went with more of a Tommy Lee Jones inspired look, rather than the more recent burn victim Harvey Dent:

The boy has a wild side. I could've gone crazy with the make-up, but do you know how hard it is to get a 12 year old boy to sit still for hair and make-up? Overall when there's a neighborhood overflowing with candy just waiting for him?

For my daughter, however, it's all about the hair and make-up. I think she settled on Cleopatra because it's the only costume that requires EVEN MORE eye make-up than Amy Winehouse.

Here she is, the Queen of the Nile. Or in this case, the queen of the eyeliner.

While I was searching through the craft box for something for Cleopatra's necklace, I found a pack of undecorated plastic masks. They saved my husband and I from being totally costumeless:

What's black and white and ready to be dragged all over?

Here's a picture of the happy trick-or-treating couple from Mexico:

Under that archway, this looks like some bizarre alternative wedding.

We're now the proud owners of that giant double axe prop. For some reason my brother-in-law thinks it wouldn't go over well with airport security. And speaking of props, I have to give my son credit with coming up with this lovely decoration:

Pickled eyeballs.

That's it. On with November. And for those of you participating in NaNoWriMo this month, good luck!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trick or Treat

Yeah, they work hard for the candy.

Of course, if mine bring home any dark chocolate Reese's, they'd better hide 'em.

Which treat do you love the best?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


It looks like the perfect day for a walk in the woods.

Try not to wander too far. How easy it is to get confused.

Wasn’t this the path you took before?

The colors don't seem quite right.

Limbs point in all directions – no help here.

Chalky fingers wave you on – Come along, this way.

Something rustles behind you. You turn around but nothing’s there.

You feel something tickle behind your ear – a stray strand of hair?

Close to your foot a spider darts out from under a leaf, reconsiders, and slips back into hiding.

The air smells of ashes and clay.

Try to remember. Were you heading east or west?

Overhead a woodpecker tests the bark of the tree– tap, tap, tap - and then hurries off. Maybe he knows the way?

At last, a tiny window.

You know this place!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Other Kind of Cell Project

Yes, we’re still working on the school projects. Last week it was the prison cell diorama; this week we’ve moved on to my son’s animal cell model. This post must have at least some useful information for creative types, moms, and even writers about children with dreaded school projects. In case you’re rushed for time, I’ll get right to a couple of points:

1. You can not glue two pieces of plastic together and expect them to be watertight.

2. Hand sanitizer is flammable.

The above mentioned model could be made of any material. That kind of artistic license can be trouble.

My son thought it would be cool if the model were squishy and lifelike. Our first thought was to glue two circles of plastic together and fill it with gel. I bought a giant bottle of hand sanitizer, and my son gathered up household items like marbles and crayons to make the parts of the cell (try to remember studying things like vacuoles and mitochondria).

He wanted to use modeling clay or silly putty for one part, so we tested how these would hold up in the gel. It turns out hand sanitizer turns both modeling clay and silly putty into a terrific representation of vomit.

Next we discovered we couldn’t glue the pieces of plastic together. I should know this already. I should. BUT (and here’s where it gets fun) you can melt them together with a hot iron.

One sticky detail - we realized we'd have to melt the last part of the circle after the cell was already filled with the hand sanitizer.

Alcohol based hand sanitizer + very hot iron = ?????????

Did you know hand sanitizer has a flash point of 69 degrees Fahrenheit? Don’t worry, we decided not to find out the hard way what would happen if we ran a 140 degree iron over an alcohol based squishy cell. After only a few minor mishaps that required scraping plastic goo off the iron, here’s the water-filled finished product:

Do you think he’ll get extra credit if we donate one giant bottle of unused hand sanitizer to the classroom?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good Advice

At my last illustrator’s critique group meeting I had the pleasure of meeting comics artist and graphic novelist Eric Shanower. Eric’s work includes a number of books based on the Oz tales by L. Frank Baum. He wrote and illustrated Adventures in Oz, a collection of stories that take place after Dorothy’s first adventure in Oz. Last week the hardcover collection of Marvel Comics’ series The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Eric and illustrated by Skottie Young, was #2 on The New York Times Bestseller list for Graphic Books.

Eric brought an impressive selection of intricate ink drawings for us to view (my hand cramps up a little just thinking about all that tight rendering). Just one issue of his latest project Age of Bronze, a retelling of the Trojan War in comic book format, has over 140 drawings (I know this because he gave us a copy and I counted them).

He knew from an early age he wanted to write and illustrate comic books, and his foot-in-the-door job after finishing school was doing the lettering for comics. He stressed that making contact with the right people can be the key to finding success, so his advice is to put yourself in a position to meet those people as much as you can.

After telling us a little about his career, Eric was nice enough to take a look at our current projects and offer some critique. Good thing I had my newly revised picture book dummy with me. He gave me some helpful tips to strengthen the composition in a few of the drawings, then gave me my favorite bit of advice so far – “Go sell it!”

No problem. When I go to Staples to get copies made, maybe I’ll pick up one of those ‘Easy’ buttons, too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Pit, the Pendulum, and the Folding Chair


My daughter’s hard at work on her diorama of Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. All the creepy elements are coming together nicely, with a decidedly high schoolish irreverence to the classics.

At the dollar store we found cheapo plastic wrestling action figures. After a bit of convincing she conceded they were at least the right size. We managed to find one without a mask; she could fashion a robe for it to play the part of the unfortunate narrator. Mr. Wrestler even came with his own little plastic folding chair to throw at people. But more on that later.

Doesn't he look like he could take on a pit full of fuzzy pom pom rats?

The jewelry section of the craft store supplied the perfect pendulum. That part was too easy.

She thought there ought to be some bones strewn about for drama. How lucky were we that this assignment was given just before Halloween? The craft store did have the perfect package of realistic tiny skeletons - unfortunately, perfect tiny realistic skeletons cost a little more than I was willing to spend for something destined to gather dust in the garage. Instead we found a slightly less dramatic version...

We think he needs to lose the sign.

We found most of these skeletons already broken. You should have seen the suspicious look I got from the cashier when I asked if we could take home the already broken heads. Like I’d actually destroy the merchandise and then ask permission to take them home. Yes, that makes sense. Anyhoo.

With all the pieces falling into place, my daughter’s only remaining challenge was to figure out how to utilize that little plastic folding chair that came with Mr. Wrestler. She couldn’t bear to let it go to waste. Here, on top of the diorama, is her interpretation of what one of the evil guards outside the chamber was up to:

Everyone’s got to have a hobby, right? Is that one of the Dummies books I see off to the side? Could it be Knitting for Dummies? Poe for Dummies? Hmm…I’ll let you use your imagination. Try to think like a high schooler.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Little Faith

Maybe you’ve seen the TV show Medium. A psychic solves murder cases by having dreams in which she sees the crimes being committed. The most implausible thing about this show is that no matter how many cases she miraculously solves this way, her boss and family are still skeptical EACH and EVERY time she dreams up a psychic vision.

I feel her frustration. No matter how many challenging craft projects I triumph over, my kids still don’t believe I can pull it off. How easily they forget the amazing jellyfish costumes I whipped up out of hula hoops and shower curtains. And what about the dazzling dress I fashioned from a fake pumpkin and a Wheat Thins box? Or the giant flower vase constructed out of a traffic cone and an umbrella base? The Christmas trees made of inverted tomato cages? How ‘bout the thatched hut made out of a cocoa tin, or the teeny weeny charcoal barbeque grill we made out of a shaving cream cap, black aquarium gravel, and some red foil?

So with two Halloween costumes and two school projects (a model of an animal cell and a diorama inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”) to conquer, they still have no faith in my ability to ferret out the perfect materials for them to carry out their visions.

We started at my favorite store for inspiration…The Dollar Tree. A store full of curious and quirky finds - all for a buck. I met resistance:

“Mom, what are we doing here?” I endured eye rolling each time I paused at displays of things like blue metallic scouring pads and toxic looking action figures. Don’t they understand how it works? You have to sense these things.

“So, can we go now, Mom?”


We hit the big craft store next. I did redeem myself a little when I convinced the cashier to let us take some skulls that had snapped off their kitschy resin skeleton figurines – for free. Wouldn’t those little skeleton heads dress up the pit diorama nicely? Maybe Poe would be impressed, anyway.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Southwest Fall Color

Since I grew up on the east coast, I get all moony for fall foliage around this time of year. Once again I’ll settle for watching the autumnal spectacle unfold on the internet.

While driving around the other day, I noticed our own autumn palette really isn’t too shabby. There’s soft sage and rust, terracotta and steely blues. If the northeast corner is the big brass band of pigment performance, the southwest is a nice wind ensemble. We’ve got deciduous trees. Sure, the sycamores go right to an unremarkable brown, but the cottonwoods will at least have the decency to turn bright yellow.

These are some pictures I took around Old Mission Dam in Mission Trails Regional Park. It's still early. Stay tuned for more yellow:

What color is your world?