Archive for August, 2010

Halloween ideas.

I can’t believe we are starting to think about Halloween here. Well, maybe I feel like I should be thinking about Halloween with how long it takes me to get costumes done.  I mean, every year I think valiant thoughts like, “This Halloween, I’m going to make my kid’s costumes!” And then I realize I have to start so far in advance to make sure that they get done. But, what to do about the last minute requests like, “Oh, I really don’t want to be a skeleton! I wanted to be a dragon!” And then my weeks of planning and sewing are in vain. Well, at least in my mind. I haven’t yet actually sewed one…I always end up procrastinating or thinking that my kids will keep changing their minds, and so we end up making last minute trips to the store. And I vow to not do that again!

So while I sit and stew over this dilemma that happens every year (do I make the costumes or let the children pick them out at the store), enjoy these cute pictures of Halloween past. Notice: no Sponge Bobs, Bloody Vampires or Hannah Montanas. Kinda wishing I could whip up something as wonderful as that European clown in a cone hat. Kinda darling.

What do you do for Halloween? Hand sewn? Online purchase? Cardboard box and taped toiletpaper rolls? Do share. I’m a bit terrified of procrastinating again!

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Book’s you’ll love: Dotty

With the theme of school starting, I have to introduce you to our family’s favorite new book! I mean TRUE favorite. The kind of favorite that had my 5 year old sleeping with this book 2 nights in a row even though it kept poking her in the elbow when she slept. We’re big fans.

Julia Denos has been a favorite new illustrator of mine. Personally, I think this book matches her brilliance. Dotty is a book about Ida’s first day at school, and how she spends the school year with her imaginary friend Dotty…which is some kind of polka-dotted half-cow, half-lion, half-who knows what! She learns that most of the other kids in her class have imaginary friends too, but as the year wears on, they start to get too big and grown up for their pretend play mates, and Dotty finds herself trying to learn how to handle the fact that she still has one. The ending is so incredibly charming, and sent my children in complete justification for having their imaginary friends (we have Jason, Max and Sally come visit regularly to our house!)

But honestly….just look at the illustrations. Julia has reinvented this fresh vintage-y whimsical style that I appreciate so much. Her freshness and creative take on her characters matches the fun flair in the story. It’s a perfect match!

I don’t think I have ever read a picture book about imaginary friends. Honestly, I wish I had the idea first! But this is charming, and a PERFECT first day of school gift. I can’t decide who likes it more….me or my children. We keep fighting for who gets to read it next!

Happy first days of school to everyone!

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Green eggs and Kindergarten.

Tomorrow is the first day of school for Addie and Ian. Addie is starting Kindergarten, and to be honest, I can’t tell if I am completely freaked out, desperately sad or in complete denial that I have a child old enough for public school. But underneath all that, I am actually excited to see my baby moving up in the world.  But mostly  because she is really excited about moving up in the world. She’s been talking about it all summer, and has been losing sleep over what her teacher will look like, where her class will be and what friends she’ll meet. There has been the typical nervousness too, and so to make things extra special we decided to put on a fancy schmancy “Before School Dinner.” I got the idea from Nie Nie’s  blog post 2 years ago, and I thought it was such a great way to get everyone involved in the celebration of starting a new school year. And with Ian starting pre-school as well, it seemed the perfect timing.

So Saturday night I sat them down to help me plan.

Me: For your back to school dinner, Dad and I are going to make you your favorite dinner. You can pick whatever you want! What’ll it be?

I’m thinking they’ll pick like homemade pizza, chocolate cake or mac and cheese. Something they actually eat 100% of the time.

Ian: (without hesitation) Green eggs and ham!

Me: (wondering if I even could figure out how to make it) Are you sure? What about homemade meatballs, or hamburgers? Maybe fancy cut french fries?

Addie and Ian: Green eggs and Ham!!!!!

But then I got to thinking: That’s actually kind of a brilliant idea for a back to school dinner! You know, school really is about just learning to try new things, reading good books and have fun in the process. Perfect! A (very loosely) themed Dr. Suess dinner.

So, considering we put it together in about an hour, there wasn’t anything too elaborate here. But it was a lot of fun.

The kids came up with the menu for the most part. I added in this theme, which we’ll keep trying to memorize through the school year.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Our kitchen is all very white at the moment…and nice clean slate for when I can start decorating…but this garland from Bonne Nouvelle gave just the perfect color splash.

But the real triumph, was the green eggs and ham. I know, I know. They look very…um….not pretty. But since when were green eggs and ham supposed to look appetizing? Ken made Mont Saint Michelle style eggs (think puffy omelette’s with German pancake flavor) and added green food coloring. And the ham was topped with a green brown-sugar glaze. They were delicious and to be perfectly honest, they were a hit.

And of course, there was real food for the adults. Fresh garden veggies….delicious.

We spent a bit of time letting them each tell the table what they were most excited about and what they thought they were going to learn this year. We even had an after dinner ball complete with capes and wooden stick horses for escorts. Letting the kids pick the party events was such a blast.

But all in all, it was the first of what will be a very fun tradition for the kids. It put me in the right mood too, considering that I’m most likely going to cry my way home from taking Addie to her first day. There is something about those “firsts” that is that interesting mix of wonderful and meloncholy. I guess that is where the word “sentimental” fits best.

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Christmas in August!

This week I made another normal trip to UPS to send my illustrations to Harper Collins like I have been for months now. But this time….it was a special delivery.

The final art for Christmas Goodnight is in! DONE AND DONE!

Did you hear that? I have to keep pinching myself. For real? Have I really finished? Remember how this journey started a year ago? Yes. One year. And a great year at that. I have a completely new perspective of children’s books now. I’ve always known in my head how much goes into a picture book, but it wasn’t until I actually became an illustrator myself, have I fully understood the labor of love involved.

The actual final art took only about 6-8 weeks in the making. What takes so long is getting the vision, storyline and sketches just right.  Well, that and a whole bunch of big life events that I had to work around (having baby #3, moving twice and becoming a first time homeowner all while trying to make deadlines!) And though the book took longer than expected, it couldn’t have worked out better. In that year’s worth of work, I’ve also been given an education of a lifetime! For someone who kinda skipped the whole art school scene, this has been my Illustrating Children’s Book Degree. You guys, the publishing world is SO COOL and the people that get the books out there on the shelves are SO SMART and TALENTED and just plain AMAZING. I’ve been so lucky to work with such gifted mentors. There is so much that goes into getting a book to be at it’s best. I think I’ve gone through at least 15 revisions of just this short Christmas book. But getting the vision and the storyline just right, as well as all the visual details right takes patience and creativity, and I’m so glad I got to work with the kind of people that know creativity and ideas come when they come, and can’t be forced.

I will for sure post more about the book and it’s insides once it gets closer to publication. But, it’s not going to be for a good while. I’ve sent the art to the big guys in New York and there are a lot of color scanning and adjustments that they do, and then it’s off to press which takes several months all together.

So that’s that! Now it’s off to unpacking boxes and really moving into our house…and getting out some new art. Sorry guys…this blog hasn’t been very artsy lately…but that’s cause everything has been going to this book. Stay tuned for more art soon. There’s a lot bubbling up that’s needs to surface now that Christmas is over around here!

PS-If you are new to the blog, here’s the info about the book:

A Christmas Goodnight written by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright

Published with Katherine Tegan Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Children’s

Coming to stores Fall 2011

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Got Joy?

Happy Monday!

We’re back from  another vacation visiting family. This time to my back East home right outside of DC as well as to the beach. A perfect getaway right before summer’s end! So we are getting (slowly) back into the swing of things, but all the while missing all the extra hugs and kisses and wonderful company of parents and siblings.

Taking a time-out to be with family always gives me a chance to reflect on how happy I am. I adore my husband, my children, my home, my church….my life!  And yesterday, as I was teaching Sunday School to our group of 13 year old’s somewhere along the topic of “It’s All About Your Attitude” and “You Can Choose to be Happy” we watched this clip and this clip which always get me in that grateful mood. There is so  much to be grateful for!

And I made these little bumper sticker reminders, which I have had on my fridge for years. Sometimes you need a good reminder when you’re grabbing that glass of milk.

But, if you have a baby Ella, you get the reminder every day. I guess I just keep the sticker up for when I can’t see her charming face…which actually is this sunshin-y every day. Man, I love her!

Oh, and feel free to download the sticker and print it for your own personal use.

Well….happy Monday! Hope you are having a joyful day!

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Summer Growing.

We’ve been so lucky to have a garden this year. Our yard was, well, in ruins when we purchased it. And with a little love, we (well, my strong and burly husband) were able to knock out a few mangly briars and dead trees to reveal a once-upon-a-time-this-was-a-garden area. The children have had so much fun watching their seeds grow into edible treats. Garden’s are magic for kids. And to me, it’s like watching my own children grow.

Granted, we didn’t start the cherries from seed. But we brought a rather untamed one back to life. Oh, they’re yummy!

But there’s more growing than just snap peas and cherries here. Grown garden, grow.

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More books to love: Tilly.

Polly Dunbar’s Tilly books are so delightful. Have you seen these books yet? They are rather new. You may have heard of her from this favorite picture book. She is a young British illustrator, and I just love her whimsicality. Her stories are very simple, but that is what makes them so appealing. If you can’t tell, I am a big lover of simple childhood…and these stories are just that. Childhood at it’s essence.

You’ll fall in love with her sweet characters.

And even better..there’s a whole series of books about each of her friends. If you library doesn’t have these, talk with your Librarian about getting them. They really are delightful little books perfect for very young readers.

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Manners really are fun.

Can I tell you how much my family loves this book?

My mother read it to us when when we were children, and I am most certain my mother’s mother read it to her.  My 5 year old brain remembers so well the silly characters and faces from which I learned to say “please” and “thank you.” My Mother bought this (at Anthropologie of all places) for Addie and Ian on their first Christmas together, and honestly…I think my kids love it as much as I still do. But honestly…tell me the beginning of the book isn’t pure genius.

If you can’t read it, here’s how the book begins:

“Having good manners is really just living with other people pleasantly. If you lived all by yourself out on a desert island, others would not care whether you had good manners or not. It wouldn’t bother them. Most of us don’t live on desert islands. So this is what we do-We meet people…” And so it goes on. Simple and brilliant.

Addie’s favorite part is the section where you meet the children who are very unpleasant to be around. The Whiney is so ugly and unappealing, Addie has vowed to never whine again. Uh-hum. She makes strong promises. But the impact of these illustrations does the trick. Coupled with a naive yet very modern 1930’s illustrative style, this book catches your attention almost surprisingly.

These other books are just as delightful, and will invite your kids to think manners really are fun. I find it fun to think that these books are still teaching kids after nearly 75 years (these were published in 1936.)  And if anything, I’ve used these for decoration. The book jackets are so colorful, and make me so happy. Display them on the bookcase and you’ve made your point already. Subtle hints…but pretty, yes?

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