Monday, February 28, 2005 8:34 PM

Birthday puppets! These three charmers were made for Sophie, Peter, and Angela's birthdays. Handmade from chenille socks, felt, polar fleece, and very thin foam rubber - because your first puppet should be very special, and above all, baby-proof. :) Sophie's already fed her monkey (plastic) bananas. So what do you need to make these guys for yourself? Socks, thin foam (get at your craft store), and lots and lots of patience. I also can't recommend the book "Puppet Mania" enough (by Henson alum John Kennedy) for showing a straightforward and simple explanation to making a sock puppet cool. His instructions call for glue; I sewed and stitched and reinforced like crazy since I knew they'd get chewed on. And of course, I played with them a lot! Making the arms floppy and long makes for great gestures; a little flip of the hand makes those arms flail around like crazy. Making these puppets for me was especially poignant because I hadn't made any puppets for years. In the past, I'd taken classes and even auditioned (and got in) for a pilot for a new cable tv show with puppets. The pilot sadly never got made, and I hung my dreams of working with the Henson company up on the shelf and got a real job. I hoped that I'd be able to make the switch someday when I was ready. Then I fell in love, got married, had kids - and I literally couldn't make puppets for a very long time; because there was no inbetween for me - it was either travel the world as a puppeteer or nothing. And one day it occurred to me that it was the joy of making puppets, and operating them, that was what was vital to me. I could do it in my living room with my kids. I could someday start a troupe and do a show now and again at the local library. It could be fun, it could be art, and it could be on my terms. Sounds really stupid, to allow your own self to keep you away from something you loved so vitally, but there it is. So now we have new puppets to play with, and I can't wait to make some more. For me. As a contribution for February's Month of Softies Alice-In-Wonderland-themed project, these characters strike a pose as the three gardeners painting flowers to appease the mad Queen.

french toast girl #

Saturday, February 26, 2005 5:19 PM

Happy Birthday, Sophia Grace (with party pics ) Dear Sophie, You turned 2 years old today, and I couldn't be happier or prouder to be your mama. You've had quite an exciting life so far; breaking in a first-time mama and daddy, having surgery at 10 months, and getting twin siblings when you were one. You took it all in stride. You constantly amaze me with your astonishing vocabulary, your boundless capacity for love, your enthusiasm for all things Muppety (hmmm, where did you get that from?). I love that you think the Beatles are the Tweedle-Beetles from the Fox in Socks book and sing their songs. I love that you're crazy about books and try to spell the words you see around you. I love that you called out, "Sophie is a good little monkey!" in church. I love that you get so excited when Grandpa comes over that you invented a Salad Dance (and song) that you have to do every week when you eat his salad. I have days where I just look at you in wonder and know that you are entirely your own person, sent from God to be in our care. All I can do is take the best care of you I can and love you with all my heart. You are a miracle, the one who makes me laugh each and every day. I love you so very very much. All my love forever, your Mama

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005 8:53 PM

Illustration Friday: Sorrow The magpie is a most illustrious bird Dwells in a diamond tree One brings sorrow and one brings joy Sorrow and joy for me I saw the gentle Magpie bird in the dusky yestereve one brings sorrow and one brings joy sorrow and joy for me.... sorrow and joy for me.... Painted this with Sophie yesterday in about 15 minutes, using watercolour pencils, a pen, and occasionally dipping into her little tray of watercolour pans to grab that awesome teal color. Sophie did her thing, I did mine, and we all listened to this favorite album (which the above lyric comes from.) I'm really cheating, in a way, because although I wanted to paint something new this week, I had a perfect "Sorrow" painting from my self-appointed art therapy sessions this summer. But I'm too chicken to show it. And I guess the main reason I don't want to show it yet is for the best reason... ...because I don't feel sorrowful anymore.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005 7:47 PM

Snowglobe favors for the big all-inclusive I'm Not Sure Why You All Wanted To Be Born Within A Week Of Each Other But You Were Anyway So Let's Celebrate Birthday Party. Sophie will be 2, Peter and Angela will be 1. All within 5 days of each other. If that's not reason for celebration, I don't know what is. The down-and-dirty easy way to make snowglobes:
  • Get a baby food jar. Come to our house if you don't have one, we have 7 million of them.
  • Spray-paint the jar lids if you don't like them saying "Gerber Organics" on the side.
  • Go to your local craft store and get yourself some little plastic animals.
  • With waterproof glue (I used Goop), attach your little friend to the bottom of the jar. Throw some glitter on there if you don't want anyone to see the blob of glue. Mine all came out sort of short, and they're just peering over the lid. If I was doing it again, I'd build the glue up to make a little mountain.
  • After the glue is completely dry (I gave it a few days), fill the jars with COLD water and glitter and screw the lid on. If you want more glitter or water, do it now.
  • When you like it, close that lid as tight as humanly possible.
  • Hot-glue the outside of the jar shut. Glue on the inside means the lid won't close properly. Unless you have some very liquidy glue that you can still get a good seal with while you close the jar, this is the way that worked for us.
  • Cover the line of glue with a ribbon and knot.
  • Print out hearts or whatever tags you want, punch with hole punch, and tie ribbon again.
  • Ta-dah! You're done! I strongly suggest storing them lid-side-up, and tell the people taking them home to do the same... I'm still not 100% convinced they're watertight but I did my best.

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    Monday, February 21, 2005 9:50 AM

    Projects. Process. Progress. So as a number of people wanted to know, "just how in the world does she do this?" I figured I'd periodically do a brain dump and explain to the best of my ability, how it is I do what I do. Currently, I have these projects on board:
  • Illustrating Spirit House (completed last week)
  • Illustrating Spirits Unwrapped, cool fiction collection
  • Making three puppets for the kids (Sophie is 2/26; Petey and Angela are 3/3 and their big birthday shindig is this weekend)
  • Making snowglobe party favors for said party
  • Overhaul and redesign of Paul's site in time for spring recitals
  • New prints/items in my store
  • Possible site redesign for me to focus more on illustration
  • Knit kitty cat hat for nephew Jude (done)
  • Wedding present for Snowflake (and HA! I'm not going to describe it, S., you and Lucky will have to wait till you see it, hee hee hee)
  • All of these items need to be completed before MAY. The way that I'm doing it is mainly by doing two things: 1. I keep lists of every single little thing that I can think of that needs to be done for the project. I do this on my Handspring, but you could do it on a calendar or piece of paper or whatever. I assign dates for everything. That way, I don't spend all my time now working on Paul's site, because I know I'm not starting on that until the end of March. I concentrate on the things that need to get done this week. SARK calls these teeny little lists "micromovements" and I've also heard them called "baby steps." But this way when I have only 5 minutes to spare, I don't waste my time wondering what to work on; I have a list right there of what needs doing. And it also serves to not stress me out, because I've spread out tasks over a length of time and I'm not going to wake up one morning and go, "AAAAAAAGH! I need to have 4 illustrations and a cover done tomorrow!" I'm on top of it all. 2. I never turn off the creative flow. I read a wonderful quote on the Illustration Friday forums: joe, the novelist, tells how he doesn't suffer from writer's block. growing up, joe's dad, the mason, would come from the quarry and joe would rub his shoulders and make him dinner. never once did joe's dad come hime and say, "well, joe, today i just couldn't do it - i couldn't cut the stone, because i had a bad case of cutter's block." joe understood that it was his dad's job to cut the stone, and when joe sits down to work on his writing, he knows that his job is to write. so he writes. I make the most of every single second I have. The instant I put the kiddies down for a nap, or to bed for the night, I start working on my art. If I'm in a full-on, painting mood, I work on that. If I'm listening with one ear for someone to wake up and I know I don't have much time, I do research for my illustrations, call printers to see who has a large-format scanner, scan in and clean up artwork, or exchange emails with other artists. At night, when I know I have a few hours, I'm all prepared to draw because I already did the research I needed. And when I'm too tired to draw and I'm afraid I'll mess things up, I knit or work on those scans again. And I'm very happy with the work I've been doing - I feel proud of it because it's well-researched, well-thought out, well-executed. It doesn't tire me out; it exhilarates me. Of course there's more to it than this, but that's all I have time for now... the puppets are calling me and I need to do some sewing. :)


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    Thursday, February 17, 2005 4:11 PM

    Illustration Friday: Flight Because some days the only way to get anywhere is to gather up the pieces and try again.

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    Wednesday, February 16, 2005 10:10 AM

    I have a lot of projects in the works right now. So here's my question for today: Do you want to hear about projects as they're in progress so that you can hear about the work/creative process? Or do you want to be surprised and just see the finished project? Or could you really care less about it all? :)

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    Tuesday, February 15, 2005 11:53 AM

    Spirit House. (fantastic news, part two) I'm super-excited to be a part of the new upcoming anthology, Spirit House. All proceeds from the sales of the books go to tsunami victims. Illustrations by me, lots of good stuff from a dedicated group of writers, including this talented guy. If you missed out on the artwork auction in January, you can still help out and get a little art as well. You can learn more or order a copy here. The graphic above is a linkback icon, should you feel so inclined, please feel free to post it and spread the love! Just right-click and save, and link to

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    Monday, February 14, 2005 12:00 AM

    Happy Valentine's Day!

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    Wednesday, February 09, 2005 9:31 AM

    Fantastic news, part one. I've been featured in the April issue of the national art magazine, Artist's Sketchbook ! I've known about it since October, but had no idea when it would actually be in. It's in the Inspirations column, a nice place to be. Believe it or not, there are several other bits of exciting news coming... this is just the beginning. Special thanks to 'Toine who found it almost as it hit the newsstands.

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    Monday, February 07, 2005 3:53 PM

    Ash Wednesday is in 2 days. Since I feel like all of 2004 was my own personal Lent, I'm looking for suggestions on what to do this Lenten season that are more meaningful than giving up donuts. Thoughts? +++++++++ Thanks for all the suggestions - I've decided use a great book I have called Vision 2000: Praying the Scripture in a Contemporary Way, (the site) and do a reading/meditation from it each day. I try to light a candle and sit in as much silence as I can get when I do it. I figure for everything God gave me in my life, it's pretty sad if I can't give him 10 minutes, no matter how busy my day is. And I also love Journey to the Cross, thanks for the suggestion, Rich!

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    Thursday, February 03, 2005 8:30 AM

    Illustration Friday: Friendship (starring Sophie and Lambie) "What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?" "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." ~ from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. But you already knew that. Note: Another from the Elena archives; I apologize, but I have really exciting projects I'm right in the middle of and this week I couldn't do a new illo, though I really wanted to. I have been blessed with some of the truest and most wonderful friends a girl could ever hope to have, and I will write more about them later (and illustrate, too, I hope). And I will also share some great news soon. (And NO, it's not a baby!)

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    Wednesday, February 02, 2005 9:16 AM

    Our love will shine on forever.* My husband Paul has quite a romantic soul. Our engagement, 9 years ago today, still makes me weak-kneed to remember... It was a Friday night in February; and I thought we were going to his mom’s for dinner. It wasn’t until we arrived at our church instead that I realized something unusual was going to happen that night. He unlocked the doors of the darkened church, and led me down the aisle to the first pew where we first met when we both joined the choir. Arranged in front of the church were his guitar and a music stand. He serenaded me with a song he had written specifically for us, just for that night. On the music stand were the words of the song, matted and in a beautiful frame. When the song was finished, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I was so overcome, I said, "Sure!" instead of Yes, a fact I get teased about to this day. (I did eventually say yes!) He then said we weren’t done yet – we had to return the keys to the church to a priest who was a very good friend of ours. He gave us a special blessing that night, and was the one who married us a year later. And then, there in the parking lot, Paul said, "There’s more…" I didn’t think I could take any more! We were off to a B&B by the shore, driving through a snowstorm to get there. I’ll never forget the look on the owners’ faces when they threw open the door and shouted, "She said yes! Congratulations!" We were all snowy and freezing and in love and everyone was just as starry-eyed for us as we were. And yet, even after that tremendous engagement, I can honestly say it’s only gotten better and better. Nine years later, we have the twins and Sophie, and my definition of romance has expanded to encompass all sorts of things. In past weekends, Paul did 9 loads of laundry (including mine!), folded and put them all away, watched the kids so I could nap, made dinner, and then encouraged me to have time to do artwork in the evening. And I find that incredibly romantic. *from the song Paul wrote and serenaded me with on our engagement

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    Tuesday, February 01, 2005 1:20 PM

    Just plain funny. What's making me laugh today: the Six Patron Saints of Graphic Design (I need to light a candle to St. Concepta) and ze frank's Communications #1 guide to the hidden language of punctuation. Good stuff.

    french toast girl #

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