Tuesday, March 23, 2010 8:13 PM

sweet sixteen

This is a card my boss and friend Rich sent me a few years ago for my PRI anniversary with a bouquet of flowers. I tucked it away and forgot all about it. I've written before how he wanted to have a big celebration for my anniversary last year, but he passed away before the actual date and it was a really hard day for me without him.

A couple of weeks ago this card fell out of the back of a notebook where I'd placed it for safekeeping. Am I surprised that it "found" me just in time for my 16th anniversary this year? I see a hand at work here... and I love you, kiddo.


french toast girl #

Sunday, March 07, 2010 11:01 PM

illustration Friday: Brave

This is Ruby Bridges. One of my children brought home a worksheet about her from school, and I realized that I already knew her story, and if you're an artist, you may recognize her too. Norman Rockwell painted her walk to school, escorted by federal marshals, in 1964 as "The Problem We All Live With."

It really hit me in the gut reading about her again, and probably even more now that my kids are her age - how incredibly brave she was to go to school in the face of all that opposition, and just as a little six year old. I don't know how her parents managed to let her leave the house every day! This is the part of the worksheet that really got me:

"Many white parents took their children out of school. I was the only child in my class. My teacher, Mrs. Henry, was my best friend."

That just kills me. The incredible thing is that years later, she went back to the same school and volunteered there. Forty years later, she and her first-grade teacher, Mrs. Henry, now speak to other parents, educators, and students. I find Ruby and her bravery so inspiring.

Who is inspiring you today?

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french toast girl #

Saturday, March 06, 2010 6:00 AM

the 6th annual michelangelo project

Today, March 6th is Michelangelo's birthday! To celebrate the birthday of one of the world's most inspiring artists, I invite you to participate in this project.

What you do:
1. Do something creative today, March 6th. It can be something you love to do, something you've forgotten how to do, something you've never done and always secretly wanted to try. Here's your excuse! Some ideas are:
- paint/draw/collage
- sculpt (like the master)
- write a poem, a short story
- take a photo
- visit a museum or art gallery
- sew
- cook something exciting you've never made before
- see an art film, foreign film, or movie about an artist

2. Come back here and share your experience!
Post a link to your creation, write about your trip or creative process - share your creative story with others. How creative can we get?

3. Link back with the above graphic if you've written about it on your site.

4. Have fun, for goodness' sake! This is not about being perfect or creating the best piece of art. It's about embracing your creative side in whatever form it happens to take.

I can't wait to hear your stories!

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Monday, March 01, 2010 9:32 AM

green eggs and cookies

Tomorrow is Dr. Seuss's birthday and also Read Across America day. These are the cookies I made for Peter's class - unfortunately, they looked much more egg-like before they went into the oven than when they came out.

What's your favorite Dr. Seuss poem or book? I have a soft spot for "Too Many Daves."

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010 7:19 AM

fast and feast

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of life.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.
~ William Arthur Ward
from a card my mom faxes to me every Ash Wednesday

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Friday, January 29, 2010 7:35 AM

kids helping kids (and you can too)

I've been busy this week making art to help the children of Haiti. No, not the new painting... my very talented brother-in-law Marc asked if I'd help design a CD for a benefit fundraiser for the Children of Haiti this Sunday in New York. Of course I said heck yes!

The benefit is called Kids Helping Kids. It's a family show, and looks like it's going to be loads of fun! The CDs will be available at the show at The Bowery Poetry Club on Sunday afternoon, January 31. If you are in the area and want to go, it certainly looks as though A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All. Check out all the acts and more details here.

Of course, me being me, I couldn't make just one version of the cover.... here's the one they chose, followed by the other two covers. I'm curious to know: which cover would make you most likely to buy it and donate money to kids in need?

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010 5:12 AM

remembering Rich

It's been a year today since Rich died, and I think it's finally sinking in.

I started working for Rich fresh out of school, showing up for my interview in a grey suit and a magenta tshirt and hat, lugging the world's heaviest box portfolio. I wasn't sure if this was the job for me, since I was going to leave at any moment to become a puppeteer (note how that still has not happened), but Rich encouraged me to stick around and that we'd work around it when it came up.

I have never met someone who was as encouraging as Rich. Nothing would delight him more than to be someone's mentor, to pass along what he knew, to buy a print/hire someone/send you something out of the blue because it reminded him of you. When I sang in an a cappella group, not only did I get days off for gigs, but he set up a whole school assembly at his children's elementary school so we could sing there too. He bought artwork - mine and of other artists - to support them, and he pretty much had a standing order for my Christmas cards each year so he could send them out. Books and CDs would be sent to my house because they were written by someone with twins who lived in Rome, or because the singer loved Fred Astaire too, or because Rich was in a generous mood.

Rich was pretty much always in a generous mood - he didn't let people take advantage of him, but he always shared whatever he had. He started up PRI and it became so much more than a job - it was a family. (I am so proud to say that it still is.) He supported numerous charities - he wasn't the kind of person who would talk about helping. He just did it. He encouraged creativity like mad and if the company did well, it would always come back to you too.

Could he be infuriating and drive me up the wall at times? Of course! You don't know someone for 15 years and not have times like that. (In all fairness I'm sure I had my days too.) I'm thinking of one time in particular when he blithely told a client over the phone that I was a whiz at a program I had opened once. I was jumping up and down, waving my arms and signaling "No no no no no!" and he kept smiling and getting details about the project that would be due in two days' time. When he hung up the phone, I said, "Are you crazy? I can't do that!" and he said, "But of course you can! I have faith in you." And wouldn't you know it, it was done on time and it was great - but I never would have attempted it for myself without that shove.

Right before Rich died, we were gearing up for my 15 year anniversary at PRI. We had celebrated 5, and 11 (I think I was having the twins around 10) and he was gleefully planning something HUGE. As much as it pains me, I really do not like to be the center of attention and was known for running out of my own bridal shower in horror that it was all about me. He wanted to invite anyone we'd ever known together, and have a big celebration that I was really not comfortable with. One day I explained all of this to him, and he got sort of pouty. But the next day he was back to his old self. "I figured it out!" he said. "It's not going to be about you at all. It's going to be about me!"

"Oh really," I said. "And how do you figure that?"

"We will be celebrating my genius in hiring you 15 years ago!" And after that, it was referred to as "his" party, to his delight.

Except he wasn't able to be there for it. And my heart still hurts thinking about it.

I could write for days about great Rich memories. About things that made me laugh. (The clamp he put on his head. The cat he put on his head. "Crackers not part of soup! Pepper part of soup!") About how we would talk almost every single day. About how he would always say "love you, kiddo," because he wanted to make sure I knew. And I would say "love you right back" because it was so true. About how he'd been there for most of the biggest things in my life, and did whatever he could to make them special or easier for me (he even read at our wedding). About how much we both loved the Beatles and could go on and on about music we loved. About the big PRI weekend we had down the beach because he wouldn't take no for an answer and insisted everyone and their families go to LBI for the weekend so we could all be together.

And I could go on and on about the things that hurt. The anniversary party he wanted so much for me where I kept looking for him and could feel him there like a presence. The first client meeting without him where I sobbed the minute the door closed behind me when I was back home. Missing his birthday. Having the first-ever new hire at PRI who didn't know Rich, and was never going to get to meet him. The PRI holiday party where again, I felt him there and wished with all my heart he would physically be there with us. Looking at his Skype window and hoping he'd somehow IM me with some crazy video or song he had to share with me so we could sing it together.

The biggest comfort I felt after he died was that he knew how very much I loved him, because I told him all the time. :) And meeting people at the memorial service, people would say, "Oh, you're Elena? He loved you!"

I still love you, Rich. And don't think that's going to stop any time soon.


french toast girl #

Saturday, January 16, 2010 11:37 AM

music therapy

I haven't had much of a chance to write about the group I've been singing with for almost a year now. Yes, I hear you say - what? You've been in a group for a year and never thought to mention it? That's just how my life's been going lately. Not too many chances to write about lots of things, even if they are important.

Music's always played a very important part of my life. For a while, I was out of circulation (ahem - three kids in two years), and then was invited to come to sing harmony at whatever Mass I could make it to. And I did - with one baby on my hip and two hanging onto my pants legs - and then that sometimes got to be too much, too.

This past year, a friend of mine started up a small group at her house, of women from our church who were all (a) good singers/musicians (b) learned music quickly (c) happened to be moms with young kids, and as such (d) couldn't make any of the regular rehearsals for choir practices. There are five of us, with kids ranging from 18 months to preteen. Over the past year, we've gotten to be great friends and have gone from tentative arrangements from the hymnal to serious "wish list" music. One of the moms calls our weekly rehearsals "music therapy" and she's so right - it's such an amazing thing to sing again with fast learners who are always on pitch and up for a challenge! I've established my position as "the one who likes to sing the strange parts nobody else wants." :)

And that's why I'm so excited as we are approaching Lent again, to start lining up music we love. Godspell songs. This song from my folk group days - and it hasn't properly felt like Easter without it. And we've just started this one, which is so incredibly exciting to me because we can actually do it justice:

Here's hoping that if you are in a place of being on hold in your art right now - especially if it's because of family obligations - that grace is coming your way and you will be able to get back to it soon.

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french toast girl #

Thursday, November 26, 2009 7:30 AM

in thanksgiving

To print out and share. And for before the meal, how awesome is this mix from NPR: Songs for Stuffing? Please pass me some of that Frim Fram Sauce....

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Sunday, November 08, 2009 3:28 PM

amigurumi, part two, or, birthday lessons

Looking back over the summer, it's amazing how little I painted and how much I crocheted! I posted earlier about amigurumi and the bunnies I made for the new babies in our circle of friends. This post is about the second wave - my birthday presents. Not presents I got on my birthday, but the presents I gave to my family, on my birthday.

Let me explain.

One of my favorite illustrators is Tomie dePaola, not only for his gorgeous linework, luminous palette, and sense of humor, but also because of how his life and his art are so intertwined. If you are a fan, you know all about his family and heritage because so much of his work contains bits of his life; from his grandparents in "Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs" (I cry every time I read that book), the 26 Fairmount Avenue books, his own love of art and how it was nurtured as a child in "The Art Lesson", and his love of God in countless books, "The Clown of God" being one of my favorites. (And don't even get me started on Strega Nona. She rocks!)

I've been really enjoying Tomie's website where he shows new work but also reminisces about pretty much anything that strikes his fancy. I was struck by this story in particular, where it's his mother's birthday but she begins the tradition of giving to others to celebrate her special day.

"With that simple but magnificent gesture of giving all of us presents on her birthday, Flossie taught us the depth of the old cliché, "It is more blessed to give, than to receive." As the years went by, the real fun of each of our birthdays was not what we would GET, but what WE would GIVE."

The following are the presents I made for my kids for my birthday this summer:

For Peter, a turtle with a rainbow shell.

For Sophie, a finger puppet mushroom.

For Angela, a family of baby birds in a nest....

who went with this mama bird (already made).

Sophie loved her mushroom, but when she saw those baby birds, she just couldn't keep her hands off the tiniest one, and kept trying to sneak it out of the nest and take off with it! So I had to make her another bird, one she called "the teeniest bird of all." And that's the wee bird next to Angela's foot in the top photo.

Patterns for pretty much everything:
* Tiny Turtle
* Baby Birds in a Nest/Teeniest bird of all
* Mama Bird
* Happy Little Mushroom finger puppet

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french toast girl #

Saturday, November 07, 2009 8:24 PM


Doodled while playing with the kids. Some faces from a "Famous Composers" workbook, because naturally, my kids know their Bach from their Beethoven and their Grieg from their Gershwin. I can't recall exactly, but I am pretty sure that lower right was Beethoven, I think bottom left is Clara Schumann, and big head guy in the middle might be Bach. All those wigs start to look the same after a while.

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Friday, October 02, 2009 1:29 PM

5 amigurumi bunnies and a cuppa

This summer was a great summer for new babies! I spent my spare (!) time whipping up some small friends to go to the newest additions to our circle. I love amigurumi because they're quick to make up, easy to modify/make up your own pattern, and because the kids totally love them. The cuteness factor again is also a big encouragement.


Bunnies: available on Ravelry, free pattern.

Little rabbit: I modified the the pattern by crocheting around in a lace sort of pattern to make a dress. I also made longer legs instead of little balls for feet so she could stand up. This was the companion bunny to go with the yellow one - the baby got the soft yellow bunny, and the big sister got this sweet brown one. According to their mom, she says that it has superpowers. ;)

Coffee cup: Peter is a rather uncomplicated lad. He likes, in no particular order: trucks, art, and food. He plans to be a baker who also drives trucks and paints when he grows up. Sounds good to me, especially if he makes deliveries to my house. This pattern was so darned cute and when I showed it to him, he asked for it right away. He also has an amigurumi donut to go with it, which will be coming in a later post.

Any other great amigurumi links to share?

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french toast girl #

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 7:26 AM

We go bento

Sophie's very excited about having LUNCH at school now that she's in the first grade. We are going bento to have as little waste as possible. No plastic baggies, no paper, and apart from this special lunch, she'll be eating leftovers from (planned ahead of time) dinner. The cuteness factor is a big plus too, of course.

I'm excited too - it's a chance to get creative in the kitchen and make sure they're eating healthy at school. Besides, it's fun!

Sophie's lunch, clockwise:
Watermelon balls
Purple cabbage salad
Little container of soy sauce
Veggie sushi rolls with carrots, cabbage, cucumber, and avocado
Annie's bunny grahams
Not pictured: Her water bottle and chopsticks (she wants to bring them!)

Angela is bringing her own container of sushi rolls for a snack (again, she wants chopsticks too, but she's actually pretty expert with them)

Peter wants pretzels and goldfish crackers today. Tomorrow they've all requested roasted chickpeas for snacks and Sophie's having an apple and cheese sandwich.

Anyone want to swap recipes? :)

Ultra-inspiring links to get you started:
Vegan Lunchbox: You don't have to be vegan or a have a fancy lunchbox, but this mom shows some excellent twists on old favorites. Sophie's first-day-of-school lunch was inspired from this site.

Lunch In A Box: Great site with lots of recipes and tips for making lunches fun and to get you up and out of the kitchen fast.

Bento accessories and supplies: This link's on Amazon, or go on eBay and drool over all the fun stuff they have. I think we might get a set of teeny sauce containers. You do not need any of these things, by the way. They're just, again, cute.

Cooking with Dog: We love love LOVE Cooking with Dog. It's a Japanese cooking show you can subscribe to on YouTube, that is hosted and narrated by Francis, the poodle. This link is for bento - look, an apple rabbit! Just awesome. We are fascinated by the dishes they make, though I have not attempted any of the recipes... although I did try to make veggie sausages into octopi and they just didn't work (maybe not enough fat?) Anyway, these are just so fun to watch.

Bento Boxes Win Lunch Fans: How timely that this was in the NYT this morning. :)

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french toast girl #

Thursday, August 06, 2009 4:36 PM


Finally, catching up on things... I wanted to spread the news to those who don't already know that I got to design a theme with Patrick McDonnell for iGoogle! It's a MUTTS theme, natch. It's been so very exciting to get to be a part of this, and it's also been so very hard not to spill the beans!

The theme changes several times during the day, and there are even a few Easter eggs... see if you can find them!

Further Sophie update: recovery has been very slow for the Sophster, but today she actually opened her eyes, played with her brother and sister, and drew a picture! Woo!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:34 PM

jumping for joy

I've been in a whirlwind over here at Creativity Central. I've been trying to take photos and I'll be uploading and posting more stories. I swear that every day right now has moments where I stand back and think, wow, this is my life, and it's like a storybook. Every day, I'm constantly growing, creating, doing, making. And every morning I wake up so eager to do more and to see what the day will hold.

Today, I'll show the dresses I've been making for the girls out of tshirts. I am making them up as I go along and it's so fun! Three are done, I have about 5 more to go.

Angela is holding up a picture referencing My Milk Toof, a new family fave. The tooth is saying "I don't wanna."

While I sewed the dresses, I let the kids make their own stuffed animals, whatever they wanted to do. Sophie made - I cannot make this up - a stuffed JOHN DENVER doll. For most of today, Mr. Sunshine on My Shoulders was riding around in that front pocket. God, I love that child.

Life is good, people. Life is good.

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french toast girl #

Friday, May 08, 2009 8:15 AM

every day in may: eight

I know this doesn't look like it, but I worked for about an hour on this so far today. I'm working with washes that are sort of subtle, I guess. Maybe I should post some closeups?

I mentioned previously that I've been painting in the morning, and it's worked out very well. My routine is this: I get up early, pray, try to do the Mass readings for the day (this doesn't always happen), sort out things the kids want/need for the morning, grab some coffee in my favorite blue mug, and hit the paints. Some days I've been out on the porch, but the past few days have been so depressingly rainy I've stayed up in my studio. I find that the quiet songs in my Somedays mix are very satisfying to paint to, and I've started to get into sort of a trance/groove/meditation/what have you. By the time I get to "Love's In Need of Love Today" I'm usually on my feet, painting and dancing and singing at the same time. If you don't know the song, please give it a listen - this version is especially lovely.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009 6:33 PM

What do you want to know?

I know I have been posting more on the sporadic side - I look at all the paintings I was doing this time last year and want to sigh - but here is a quick list of things going on in just about the past month or so, and maybe you'll forgive a slowness to post:
  • family member in and out of hospitals since before Christmas
  • dear friend and boss of 15 years passed away and I still miss him every day
  • my sister's getting married: I made her wedding invitations
  • and secondary invitations for the reception for people at work
  • and invitations for her bridal shower
  • which I also hosted at my house
  • wedding at end of this month and I am in the wedding party
  • Sophie's 6th birthday was this past Thursday
  • Sophie's incredibly awesome fairy-themed birthday party this past weekend
  • and I made hand-painted magic wands for each party-goer to take home after
  • Peter and Angela's 5th birthday is today
  • their safari party is next Saturday
  • did I mention I have a day job
  • and have been helping with my husband's paperwork to try to lighten his load
  • this weekend is the super-fantastic mother's retreat
  • and of course I am hand-lettering the poster for it
  • ...there's more, but don't you think that's enough for now?
While a few of the things on this list are stressful, the majority of them are joyous, and for that I am truly thankful. But they all take time! Whenever I think, "Ooh, I should post that!", by the time I get the pictures in the computer, or sit down to write, I think it's all old news, and then I don't bother. So I'll throw it out to you: what do you want to hear about? Do you want to see the magic wands? Do you want to hear about the Mother's Retreat? Or none of the above, go paint something already?

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Thursday, February 05, 2009 9:01 PM


Thank you so much, everybody who's written to check on me. I have several posts, not to mention paintings, in me that no doubt you'll be seeing something one of these days. I have so many things going on right now, but I'm truly doing okay, and in fact have felt pure love surrounding me. I swear God is holding my hand. It feels really good.

In the meantime, there's a luscious new cake to try out with new illustrations by me in Craft Magazine! (And I'm working on the next new illo right now.) Click here to view it and try it out for yourself.

UPDATE: Sadly, this issue of Craft will be the last one in print. WAH! I loved illustrating for them! But the good news is that the website will still be going strong. Go show them some love.

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french toast girl #

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 9:35 AM

No words are good enough.

My amazing, incredible, funny, creative, loving, and caring boss and friend, Rich, passed away this weekend. My heart is breaking.

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Friday, November 21, 2008 8:41 AM

Take the Handmade Pledge

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

If you didn’t see the “handmade pledge” button last holiday season, here’s your chance to be a part of it for this year. Instead of adding to the commercialism of the season and spending extra money, why not try to make your gifts, or purchase them from those who do?

Why buy handmade?

Buying handmade is better for the environment.

The accumulating environmental effects of mass production are a major cause of global warming and the poisoning of our air, water and soil. Every item you make or purchase from a small-scale independent artist or crafter strikes a small blow to the forces of mass production.

This year, I’ve already told friends and family that if they’d like, I’ll paint a picture of pretty much anything they want for Christmas this year, instead of buying a gift. So far I've had requests for the night sky, Kermit, koalas, soccer balls, and (this could only come from Sophie) "A lamb and a cat, both wearing boots." My kids know also that they will be getting homemade dolls and can pick out some of their clothes as well, and my husband already has asked for a painting with “lots and lots of trees.”

Buying from small businesses and crafters assures artists that they can keep doing the work they do so well. And if you’re lucky enough to be the one doing the creating, you’ll see the joy that comes from making – and giving – a present that’s one of a kind.

♥ Take the Handmade Pledge here.
♥ Check out Etsy for all sorts of simply gorgeous artwork, jewelry, and other homemade items.
♥ Have you taken the Pledge or are you an artist with things to sell? Leave a link in the comments and tell me about it!

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french toast girl #

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 8:19 PM

Holiday Mail for Heroes

My Uncle Dominick sent me this great email and I thought the idea was such a good one, it needed to be passed along! What a great project this would be for church groups, CCD class, scouts, a class, or a family to send.

When doing your holiday cards this year, take one card and send it to the address below. If we pass this on and everyone sends one card, think of how many cards these wonderful, special people who have sacrificed so much would get.

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD

Please read the details and guidelines here - they need to be postmarked no later than December 10 to arrive on time.

Also note that if you've received an email about this and it gives the address as Walter Reed Hospital, they are no longer taking cards. Use the address above instead. They also give links to places that accept phone cards and care packages.

What a simple and loving way to make a difference!

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french toast girl #

Friday, November 14, 2008 12:06 PM

Lessons from a 4 year old

This morning, in a nutshell: CA-RAZY. I was working very early in the morning to get something done and then couldn't upload my files to the server. Our router just bit the dust. I packed everything up to go to the library, finally got there, was trying to figure out alternate ways to do the file transfer with a different setup, and Paul calls me on the cell to tell me the router has arisen from the dead. I race home, run up to the tower, upload everything I need to and send an email about it, unpack the laptop and all its accouterments, and get back to work... until the router dies again.

I was stomping around and muttering under my breath, and I said, "This is a wasted day. This day has just been wasted." Peter came over, looked up and said insistenty, "No, Mama, it's not."

And I thought, he's absolutely right! (and I told him so.) There is no way I could declare a day ruined at 10:30 in the morning. I have a whole day ahead of me that could be filled with all sorts of lovely surprises and great joys - it's too early to condemn it. (And I'm posting this now from the library, again.)

As Anne says, "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?" Here's hoping tomorrow brings a router that works!

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Friday, November 07, 2008 8:36 PM

large art, large living

The posters arrived... and holey moley, are they gorgeous! I have one little thing to change about the Storytime poster, but the Tree/Bird/Heart one looks amazing. Every stroke, drop, and sketchy pencil line is blown up and I think I like it even better than the original size. I'm very happy with it.

We just have to calculate shipping costs (and buy us some tubes!) and if you want one, you can have it! Yay!

Magical thinking for today...

I partied with my co-workers (I work from home and they are over an hour away, so I don't get to hang out with them as much as I would like.) We had italian food, ordered lots of dessert and shared it all. My boss ordered a dish ending in "dolce vita" purely for the name.

I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather by wearing a little black sweater and a very full and fluffy skirt the color of a bright fall leaf. I wrapped a necklace of earth-toned rocks around my wrist as a very chunky bracelet.

Sang myself hoarse in the car by putting the iPod on alphabetical order, and singing whatever came next.

I've been planning out all my Christmas artwork presents... and I'm having so much fun doing it! For some reason, I don't find this overwhelming in the slightest bit. Tomorrow I start on the dolls for the kids.

Laughed myself silly watching YouTube videos with Paul and the kiddos.

How did you live out loud today?

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french toast girl #

Sunday, November 02, 2008 8:16 PM

pockets full of leaves

Today while Sophie had CCD class (Paul's her teacher), Peter and Angela and I went to return a video to the library. Can I just interrupt my story before I even start, by saying how awesome the library is? It's the greatest deal in town. I ♥ the library so much.

Instead of driving, we decided to walk, and turned it into a nature hike. We gathered as many different kinds of leaves as we could, just scooping up any leaf that grabbed our attention. We found tiny red leaves the size of my thumbnail. Big, feathery lemon-yellow leaves the size of my outspread hand. Long leaves, football-shaped leaves, and the most delicate, lovely, tiny oak leaf ever. (I have a thing for oaks.) At one point we wandered under a maple so gorgeous I almost knocked on the door of the house it was in front of to ask exactly what kind it was. Its leaves carpeted the sidewalk and patterned the grass like a riot of tulips in June. Some leaves were all red, some were red with yellow hearts, and others flirted with shades between the two. By the time we got home, my pockets were full of leaves, Angela was holding seed pods, and Petey clutched a stick in his hand, which he referred to as "a piece of tree."

When we got home we gathered them all in a basket and took out our tree manuals to look them up. While we couldn't find all of them, I looked up to see the new trees Paul planted this summer out in the yard - two maples and two pear trees. Right outside our dining room window, we now have a view of our own gorgeous autumn blaze maple that's already lived up to its name. Out of the next window, we'll see flowering pears in the spring. Surrounding myself with trees - that's something that makes me happy.

What made you happy today?

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Thursday, October 30, 2008 2:02 PM

Mahna Mahna (and the Snowths)

Remember when I promised some Mahna Mahna? After much sewing, hot-glueing, and dancing around and singing, the kids' Halloween costumes are finally finished. I am SO happy with the way these turned out (and so are they)! Paul already has the video loaded onto his iPod (which has speakers) and will provide a soundtrack - or an explanation as needed - when we go trick or treating. And instead of "Trick or treat" they can say "Mahna mahna."

I had the best time making these! I didn't have any kind of pattern, I just made it up as I went along. And now it makes me want to go back to making puppets even more.

For those who need a refresher course on Mahna Mahna and the Snowths, watch this. And crank it up!

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Monday, October 20, 2008 10:12 PM

art show today

It's been an exciting week - I have two paintings up at the Westfield Art Association's Autumnal Exhibition going on right now at the Community Room on East Broad Street (in the same building as the police station, next to Mindowaskin Park). I know not all of you are in town, but in case you're passing though Westfield, you might want to check it out. It's running from October 19, 21, 22, 25, and 26, from 1pm - 4pm. It's free and open to the public, and you could see the Blossom Fairy and Storytime in person!

The kids had their own art show up at our house as well - our walls are covered with even more than the usual amount of drawings! As soon as I can set up a little photo album, I'll publish both our sets of gallery experiences - together.

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Friday, August 15, 2008 10:50 AM

Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.

Me, Kermit, and Jim at the Henson Memorial Garden on Wednesday at the University of Maryland, following a trip to Jim Henson's Fantastic World at the Smithsonian. Naturally, I'm wearing a green dress.

Today's my birthday, and what I have learned about this year is that I have so, SO much more learning to do. And dreaming. And creating. And you know what? I'm really looking forward to it.

Here's to the lovers, the dreamers, and you.

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Friday, August 08, 2008 8:07 AM

On the street

Sesame Street season 39 kicks off August 11! Check out the highlights reel from the press kit and meet the first Indian cast member, Leela.

More Muppety goodness to tide you over till Monday:

All the brand new clips that have been circulating on YouTube gathered in one place (I agree with my brother: the Swedish Chef and Beaker doing Carmen is the best one)

Other Henson projects in the works: Sid the Science Kid and (cannot wait for this) Where the Wild Things Are.

And my Muppet news sources and references (be prepared to lose a few hours) Muppet Central
Muppet News Flash
Muppet Wiki (best. logo. ever.)


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Thursday, July 17, 2008 8:55 PM

Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you

If you have ever been in the same room with me and a piano (and ahem, we have quite a few of them in our house), you know that sooner or later I'm going to go play "Martha My Dear." Only my most favorite Beatles song ever, with sugar on top. "She Loves You" is a very close second, but "Martha" wins the day for me for its sheer pluckiness and relative obscurity.

My love affair with "Martha" started back when I was a teenager and taped WNEW's "A-Z Beatles Weekend", to supplement my growing desire to learn the entire catalog. My parents had no Beatles records other than an instrumental version of the Hollyridge Strings doing Magical Mystery Tour - my mom said, "Every time you turned on the radio, they were playing a Beatles song, so who needed to buy the records?"

Later in my teenage years I would start teaching myself to play songs by ear, playing my tapes (and eventually, records) over and over, writing down lyrics in a large spiral notebook and adding in my fake chords above them, in red pencil. I would even write down the date, so thorough was I. Generally, fake chords were good enough for me, but there was something about "Martha".... this was something that I might actually be able to play. I've never had piano lessons, and my big thing prior to this was studying the sheet music and teaching myself the intros to "Against All Odds" and "Honesty". But for some reason, I found myself loving this song and wanting to play it exactly like the recording.

I think I was 16 or 17, and I remember a summer where I spent a lot of time at our broken-down piano with a tape recorder by my side, playing, listening, rewinding, replaying, finally pressing the piano keys, and listening again. And finally, I HAD it. Same key, same intonation, same exact notes, same everything. I had to go back to fake chords once the orchestra kicked in at the middle section and I couldn't hear the piano as well, but the main part, the part that makes "Martha" MARTHA, I had. I owned it.

Over the years, I played it all the time - because we were passing a piano, or to cheer myself up, or once even on the radio, when I was called as an early morning phone gag and wound up taking them up on their offer to play it on the air, and they sent me prize money and a sweatshirt. I played it when I was pregnant and the kids must have heard it in utero!

About 20 years have passed since I taught myself to play "Martha My Dear." And while I've grown in that time as a musician and singer, my piano skills haven't improved - I still play "Martha" the exact same way; awesome intro, fake chords in the middle section. And I was starting to feel a little frustrated about it, because I could hear everything I wanted to do, but couldn't figure out how to make my hands do it. Oh, and the three preschoolers and the job and the lack of any semblance of quiet have put the kibosh on any arranging time too. :)

Yesterday, while looking up something entirely different on YouTube, I found a tutorial. TO PLAY MARTHA MY DEAR. This was so exactly the way I needed to see and learn this, that I swear that the sound of something clicking into place in my brain must have been loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Sheet music for this song looks like this, and while I have an amazing piano teacher for a husband, looking at that jumble of notes makes me dizzy. This guy shows his fingers, and then posts the notes of the chord above the keys. Yes, yes, and for goodness' sakes, YES already. It's like someone tapped right into my brain to see the way I'd learn best, and then made a video.

My family has been enjoying watching me running back and forth between the computer and the piano. I watch the computer.... pause it ..... say the names of the notes over to myself ... bang away at the piano, shout, "AHA! D major 7th! Yes!", and then run back to the laptop. I was watching it yesterday, grabbing Paul and yelling, "OCTAVES! He's doing OCTAVES in the left hand! Yes! Why didn't I think of that?" You would think I was discovering gravity or something to hear me go on, but my family's getting a kick out of it. Silly girl...

So in case you have ever been secretly jealous of my amazingly single-minded talent, you too can learn how to play my favorite Beatles song. And thank you to the Internet, for proving that while I may be obsessed, I'm certainly not alone.

And please see...

Wikipedia's entry on Martha My Dear. Lyrics from James Joyce? Uh, I don't think so.

How to Play Martha My Dear, Part 1 and Part 2. The tutorials I've been watching and exclaiming over, and he does many other songs as well. I plan to write him a thank you note.

Martha My Dear performed on classical guitar. Just amazing and really lovely. If this man has an album, I'm buying it. Lots of other songs too; give him a listen.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008 9:17 PM

The secret

Hanging above my drafting table right now. Yes, yes, yes. Read the rest of the interview here and please dive in deep to The Principles of Uncertainty (the archives are now all free, so what are you waiting for?)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008 10:40 AM

Edit your life

Beginning this week, a group of us at Miomarmo are going to work through Zen Habits' awesome Edit Your Life series together. (The parts about going through and cleaning up rooms, closets, and my wardrobe are where I will personally need the most work, as I have three preschoolers and they generate a lot of stuff. Okay, truthfully, I can't blame the kids entirely for this; I've always been the Oscar Madison of the house.) We're hoping that by doing this together, we can encourage each other, and hopefully by the end of the summer have cleaner, simpler lives. In that spirit of togetherness, we're inviting anyone who wants to, to join in and make a commitment with us to a simpler life.

The sections are:

We'll be taking a week to do each part, beginning today with the first week, Commitments. So please, join in! We'll be doing a recap each week marking our progress, and if you're doing it with us, feel free to write us and let us know how you're doing as well. (Feel free also to grab the above graphic to use for yourself.)

As Thoreau said, "Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify." Here's to less frittering. More living.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:13 AM


Right around Earth Day, I showed a little sneak peek of a project I've been working on at my day job, that is so dear to my heart. And now I can show it off: TA-DAH!

Miomarmo is a new site for basically everyone. I know, that sounds so corny, but it really is true. Basically, we're a group of friends and coworkers from varied backgrounds, each doing our take on saving the planet. I'll be writing about everything from teaching your kids about protecting the earth, to organic food, crafts from recycled materials, yoga, you name it. My coworker and her husband are building their own "green" house from the bottom up, and will be talking about everything from wind and solar power to the environmentally friendly paint they choose. If you're a pet owner, we're going have lots of posts on animal welfare. We have a life-long vegetarian writing about his choices. There will be posts on science and global issues. Of course we will be writing about how to green up your office, because we practice what we preach! And my boss (who at the start of my employment didn't even own a car and used to bike our newsletters to the post office by way of a little cart attached to the back) will be covering my ultimate favorite topic, how all the little changes you make can truly add up to make a positive difference in the world.

Right now it's a blog to start, but we will be adding to it - with fair trade products from around the world that help support the communities that create them, to original items designed by an artist you know and love (hint, hint, ahem.)

It's a site that's meant to inspire. To show how all of us - no matter what background we come from, or what our jobs are - can make a change in the world for the better. Because it's your world too.

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Monday, May 12, 2008 8:36 AM

In which I dream of a faucet

I haven't been posting much lately. It's not because I don't want to, or have no ideas, it's because I have so much inside that can't get out that I don't even know where to start. I never dreamed in January when I started doing Zen Habits that I would be rethinking everything I do, because the way I do things isn't working any more.

The other morning I had a semi-awake dream of a big faucet in my stomach. And I was turning the handle of the faucet and letting all the stress leak out. Call it detoxifying, destressing, whatever it is, the message was clear and simple. That stuff has to come out, and I can't keep it bottled up any more.

I have made a resolution to start morning pages again - I did it this morning, and boy, was it weird! Lots of random stuff, but as I can't unscrew the top of my head like The Man with Two Brains I have to settle for more conventional means. Normally that outlet would be painting, but that's been really slow to come lately. So... baby steps.

One of the other things that has been helping immensely has been doing yoga as much as possible - I would love for it to be every day, but when the kids climb on me and do combat yoga, I have to take my quiet time when I can get it. I average about 4 times a week, for an hour each time. I like to think I'm squeezing the stress out. This site is super-fantastically wonderful. I want to write them fan mail. While it's soothing to me and I feel I'm learning a lot, I am in no danger of getting this flexible.


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Thursday, May 08, 2008 3:58 PM

a letter

(I didn't write this, but wanted to share.)

My Daughter,

My precious one, I see and know the courage lying within your heart. It delights Me to use you and your special gifts in unique ways I have planned just for you. Don't compare yourself to others. My plan for you gives you freedom and ways to tell others about Me. My greatness is not destroyed by any inadequacies of My children. I have given you abilities and talents, and I will use each one in My best possible way. And I will empower you with courage. Know Me, My daughter. Trust Me. I know you intimately by name.

You represent Me! And I am pleased with you, My daughter, My princess. I know you sometimes fail. But I also know the desire of your heart is to show others your love for Me. Do not doubt My desire to have you represent Me - or your ability.

I am working in your life so that you will grow ever more able to be my ambassador in this place to which I have sent you. I give all My children courageous hearts. But some refuse to accept My courage as the foundation for all they do. Let Me be the courage you need to stand for Me.

Your Heavenly Father, the King

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Friday, April 25, 2008 8:12 AM


I received a letter from the lovely Yung Kincer, anatomy teacher at a performing arts school in Montgomery AL, asking permission to make one of my favorite paintings a mural at the school. Of course I said YES!

I think it's a gorgeous reproduction. I absolutely love the idea of more art (especially mine!) in schools, and at a school that already focuses on the arts.... let's just say I'm very happy. Note the framed box to the right, with a little bio. And while the original painting is very small (about 9" x 12"), this is the size I picture in my head. Thank you, Yung!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 8:49 PM


Stuff I really need to remember right now.


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Wednesday, April 02, 2008 9:56 PM

my tea


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Thursday, January 24, 2008 2:21 PM

so I was thinking....

I'm going to start sending out a monthly newsletter, with bits of news, links to sites, music, and other inspirations, and maybe a freebie or two if I can swing it. It won't be anything big or stressful, just simple and fun. If you want to receive it, just sign up for the list here. If you're already signed up in the past (it's my yahoo group), you're already done!

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Sunday, January 20, 2008 9:12 PM


More coffee, more glitter, more watercolour. The inspiration for this dryad was the creative totem/fertility goddess I created last year in clay - she sits in my studio and just makes me smile. Although I have once been called a dark-eyed naiad, I have a real connection with trees, and I've been looking for more ways to bring nature inside in the cold weather. And what I really need to do is bundle up, go outside more, and BE among the trees.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008 9:05 PM

riding the tiger

A metaphor for my life right now. I'm doing my best to ride in peace, wherever it takes me.

Closeup: coffee, glitter, watercolour. These paintings are making me really happy, how about you?

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Friday, January 11, 2008 8:09 AM

the night tree

Inspired by a new favorite Christmas book, The Night Tree, and Soulemama's solstice tree, we set out on New Year's to make our own tree for our little friends. In the book, you think the family's out searching for a Christmas tree, but they're really going into the woods to decorate a special tree for all the animals in the woods.

We made popcorn-and-pomegranate chains, chains of cheerios, orange slices, and the ever-popular pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed. Was it messy? Absolutely. But lots of fun. Sophie finished her string first, so she read us The Night Tree while the rest of us finished up.

Peter and Sophie join hands in front of the two arbor vitae we decorated. As we don't have the woods in our backyard, we thought we'd put the goodies somewhere near a window so the kids could watch the birds.

In the story, after the tree is decorated, the family sings a carol (I think we sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", and we did it ala A Charlie Brown Christmas with our heads thrown back and noses in the air) and then drinks cocoa. As my kids don't really eat sugar, this suggestion was met with much excitement.

Angela is making the most of her hot chocolate experience.

The view out our window, which now boasts a proper birdfeeder as the kids wanted to feed the birds all year long. The lumpy thing in the corner is a canvas-wrapped amaryllis, which we planted while the girls sang "The Garden Song." You don't know how badly I wished I'd filmed it.

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