Monday, December 26, 2011

Face Time -- blessing or curse?

Face Time might exist on all the smart phones...I have it through my iPhone.

I have never used it before yesterday, Christmas, when I got a FaceTime call from my niece, Sarah...and all my family gathered around her.

Let's just say for the future...should anyone plan to FaceTime call me...give me a text message 15 minutes in advance so I can prepare.

I spend Christmas in myself...doing quiet painting new pictures and sewing on my quilt...nothing that requires make up much less a cute outfit.

We can safely say I wasn't prepared for public viewing. : )

Thank goodness, I'd at least washed my face and brushed my teeth.

The beauty of FaceTime is that I could show my sisters the projects that I'd been working on...and more importantly, I could see everyone. I do love my family. And how wonderful it was to see them in real time.

I remember as a kid...Dick Tracy and his two way viewing wrist watch. The future is now!

Are you ready for your close-up?

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Best Thing About Being an Author - School Visits!

Working with Young Writer.

For the last three weeks, I've been doing a writing / illustrating workshop with 2nd graders at a wonderful school in Brooklyn, NY.

Through Behind the Book, a non-profit organization, I'm able to go and do what I like to do with young people on writing and illustrating their own stories.

Illustrator in Action.

What a great group of students these are! And their! She did work above and beyond what was expected with her students. It paid off big time in how well the students wrote and illustrated their stories, understood structure, setting, characters, conflict, and more.

Because the students did such an incredible job of writing and editing their stories and creating wonderful illustrations, they had time to also write short biographies and draw self portraits.

Handsome Self Portrait
Now, Behind the Book will take all the stories and illustrations and create a book that the students can have in their classroom and school library.

Signing Books for All!

Behind the Book also made sure that every student received their own copy of "Not Afraid of Dogs," which I was very happy to sign for all my new writer friends.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Muppets are Back!!

Last night, I went to see "Muppet Movie." It was just as wonderful as I had hoped. Filled with the same wonder, humor, kindness, and inspiration as their very first movie, "The Muppet Movie."

The story behind the making of this new Muppet Movie is equally heartwarming.

Listen to the interview on NPR with the movie's writer / producers, Jason Segal and Nick Stoller.

Then give yourself the gift of a movie night.

Here's hoping that one day we all find the Rainbow Connection.

Quentin Blake and the Process of Illustration

Check out this great 10 minute video of beloved illustrator and author Quentin Blake.

Quentin in Action

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bird in the House

If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, how much is a bird in the house worth?

Maybe an analysis of the life you have chosen.

I came home several weeks ago to a morning dove perched on my floor lamp. 

She flew around the ceiling a bit, then landed again. 

I opened the window wide in case she wanted to get out. She didn't seem in a hurry. She nestled down in the fixture of the overhead light.

And since I'd had a long day, and she seemed fine, I took a nap in the bed underneath. 

When I woke up she had moved to the corner where I have a branch positioned to hold the vine of a Pothos plant.

She looked like she belonged...and it was chilly outside, so I left her alone.

Finally, after a couple hours, she flew out the window. Which I promptly shut because it was now freezing in my home.

Over the following weeks, the mourning dove would peak through the closed glass window. Nestle in the empty flower pots outside the window and eat our bird feed.

I was torn about what to do for her. Sure I put out food and water for her, but should I also buy her a bird house?  Or, did she want to come back inside and live in our home? 

It was a bit tormenting, because I believe that birds should be free to fly. That short lives in freedom are better than long lives in captivity. 

But I could also see with her constant peaking in the window that maybe she would prefer a long life in warmth complete with food and water.

The mourning dove hasn't been around for a week. Maybe she found a warmer place to live or someone took her in...or maybe she found a partner and flew South. 

Wherever she is...I send her my best.

And I wonder if given a choice of being out in the freezing cold where food and water are hard to find, what would I do? Would I give up my freedom? Would I start going along with what other people have to say just to make sure I got a meal?

It's easy to judge others when our bellies are full, our houses are warm, we have running water...but maybe the people we find in the streets and the shelters, just lost their way. Like the mourning dove, maybe they don't have anyone to count on when the chips are down.

I'm lucky, I have a big family. So whenever I start to worry about what would happen to me should I lose my job, my home, my savings, all things that have happened to many people in the last years...I take solace in knowing that my sister Jennifer will take me in. Oh sure, other friends and family would take me in...but my sister Jennifer would be happy about it. : )  And I do love her for the peace of mind she has given me.

That is what I wish for all living things. Peace of know that if everything goes wrong there is at least one place you can go where they will be happy to take you in.

Who would be happy to take you in?

Who would you be happy to take in?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Creative Motivation is Home Baked!

It's been far too long since I baked or blogged.

Today, fresh cookies are on the table and here I am back at the computer.

I find it funny and interesting that my ability to produce new creative work is so closely linked to being able to walk back and forth to the kitchen table for regular home-baked sustenance.

Truly, I thought 'cookies and creating' was a game I played with myself, until yesterday.

After a several month absence from the oven and from any new creative work, I felt a strong urge to write and illustrate as I watched warm cookies pile up.

Thank Goodness! It's fall and the projects due are stacking up on my 'plate' just as the cookies did. : )

Work is delicious!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A View from Bear Mountain

A View from the Top
Last week, we hiked all around Bear Mountain. The views were incredible, whether from the top of the mountain, or walking around the lake, or down a stream. 

When I'm in these locations, I always wonder why it's so hard for me to tear myself away from my work. 

I think most of us get so caught up in what we think we are supposed to be doing, that we lose sight of what would actually give our life a nice boost.

Taking a day trip to Bear Mountain was a nice break for my brain. It was a wonderful time with my family. It refreshed me. I returned to my life and work the next day with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. 

I think I need to go back to Bear Mountain. ; )

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nature Finds a Way

This Flower Grew where the Base of
Building Meets the  Sidewalk
Examples of nature finding a way, like this flower, always affirm for me that there is a strong will in living things to survive and succeed in life.

Sometimes, as humans, we forget that we have this strong survival instinct ourselves.

However, just a quick recollection of your own history will remind you that even in the worst of times, you managed to get up, find food, and make it through the day. Yes, you may not have wanted to, but as a living thing you were programmed for survival and you have incredible inner strength.

From early childhood, every time I saw something green  growing up through the cracks of a sidewalk, I felt hope. I realized that as much as man built over nature, nature was going to find its way to live. And if nature could find its way in the unfriendly environment that was cement, I could surely survive in a harsh world myself. 

This flower is an amazing symbol of hope. It not only grew from an impossible location, where a crack at the base of a building meets the sidewalk, but even more incredible...the hundreds of people walking by it every day allowed it to grow and thrive. 

There is much good in this harsh world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remembering Past Summer Days

Originally Published in 1953
While at my local New York Public Library researching lions, turtles, and spiders for future Story Clubhouse episodes, I spied this gem of a book, "On a Summer Day."

Lois Lenski is a favorite of my dear friend, author / illustrator Lizzy Rockwell. And I'd never seen this book before.

So, I piled "On a Summer Day" on top of my 'science' books and headed for a table. I confess I read it first. I was so blown away by the words and scenes inside. Kids playing like real kids played, like my sister and brother and I did as children....pretending to chew on hay...actually doing it sometimes, acting like dogs, being wheel 
Playing "Horsey"
barrows and so many other things that kids used to do when our entire summer days from morning to sun down were spent playing outside. Free from shoes, parents, and any expectation that our clothes would be clean or undamaged at the end of the day.

I'm sure there are children somewhere who still spend their days outside, but I don't know any.

Honestly, at the time, I would have liked to have been in air-conditioning on hot Kansas summer days, watching television, but that wasn't the life back then. We were out playing restaurant, serving soup to my brother made from grass and mud puddle water, collecting rocks for our rock store, jumping off the barn into soft grass, climbing up into a tall 
Playing Dog
tree and watching people come and go from my father's veterinary clinic, digging a swimming pool, using and losing the household spoons in the process....the list goes on and on.

To this day the three of us can claim to never being bored. I wonder if it's because during our early years we learned that we were the masters of our days and could have them be anything we wanted.

Here's wishing everyone, young, middle, and old, the gift of playing freely and making your days anything you want them to be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunflower Growing in NYC

Sunflower Growing in NYC
As a transplanted Kansan now thriving in New York City, I was quite happy to see this sunflower boldly doing the same thing in my Upper West Side neighborhood.

The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas. As a born and raised Kansan, I was proud to see our state flower taking root in some pretty harsh ground at the side of a parking lot. It's weaved its way out of the metal fence where the flower is now blooming freely in the open.

I love how nature finds a way.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Polly Dunbar Talks About Creating Books

This great interview was forwarded to me by Mark Mitchell, Childrens Book Illustrator.

Polly Dunbar discusses something important that we all need to remember...most books aren't created and completed overnight, they are a project that evolves over years. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In the Midst of it All

Today, I'm in the midst of pulling together all the pieces for the first episode of "Story Clubhouse."

It's all quite exciting and a bit overwhelming at the same time.

My original idea was to produce a podcast for children, which instantly triggered me to think of all the things that could be connected to that podcast via a website...such as educational activities, craft projects, fun facts, sharing of club member stories and pictures, and then of course, videos.

Most episodes will be around a subject from nature, but as I allowed my niece, Sarah, to choose the subject for the initial episode, we start off with Dragons. Facts about dragons are hard to come by. ; )

In the near future, I'll be sending out a call for your ideas, stories, illustrations, etc. around the subjects of the podcasts/videos for the coming year.

Story Clubhouse will be a place for everyone to have fun and share.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do You Draw On Yourself Enough?

Sarah H. and Lucas M. drew on themselves.
"Do you draw on yourself enough?"  Hmmm?
My original thought was the literal "draw on yourself"-- get out the washable markers and have a funfest drawing all over you and your friends: fake tattoos from flowers to anchors, a big mustache, maybe even a beard, some gruesome scars, the possibilities go on and on.

Then as I typed: "Do You Draw on Yourself Enough?" the second meaning occurred to me. Do you draw from your inner resources enough? Or, do you continually turn to others before exploring what you have to offer yourself?

Both drawing on your outside and your inside will give you an exhilarating sense of freedom.

Both activities stand in the face of all those who say -- "You can't do that!" -- whether it is drawing a flower on your arm or achieving a goal.

It's easy to back down when others forcefully tell us something shouldn't or can't be done. But, I've found that they in turn back down easily when you tell them it can be done, and that you are doing it.

My Tips for Drawing on Your Outside: 

  • Check with any adults in your house before beginning, they might want to draw with you or have some tips of their own
  • Wear your 'play clothes'
  • Don't use any marker that says "permanent."
  • Legs and arms are the best places for drawing. They are easy to wash off.
  • Before you go to bed, make sure to wash off any drawings.
    • One time I forgot to do this and had red flowers all over my legs for two weeks. 

Have fun!!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Little Independence Goes a Long Way

The 4th of July is a celebration of our country's freedom. Our forefathers fought so that we would be allowed to make choices as a nation based on the needs and wants of our people, not based on what another country thought was best for us.

French Lentils
Sounds much like the independence each of us achieves in a healthy relationship with our parents. The day finally arrives when we are ready to go out on our own and make our way in the world. We get jobs, pay our expenses, and this gives us the freedom to make our own decisions about our lives.

Today, I think back over all the ways that I have been independent in my life...whether it was fixing a broken toilet, paying the last several years of college myself, or the latest...learning how to cook my own lentils.

Okay, that probably sounds funny, but seriously, yesterday, I learned to cook lentils. Guess what? It's super easy. Who knew? All this time, I'd wait for Bill to be around when I wanted lentils. Yes, it's good to have a lentil expert around, but I feel so free knowing that now I can cook lentils anytime I want.

This reminds me that education is invariably at the core of independence. The more we know about the world, how to do things, and believe that we are capable beings...the more we are willing to step out and take care of ourselves...and be independent. Today, I celebrate that an individual and as a nation.

What are your large and small gifts of independence?

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Dr. Fonten, Draconologist

What a fun day!

I've been collaborating with my niece and nephews on the beginning episodes of "Story Clubhouse", a new podcast for children that will begin airing next month.

Each episode of "Story Clubhouse" will focus on a specific topic. Today, we worked on the Dragon Episode. It was so fun to see and hear what others came up with and for us all to build on each others' ideas.

Story Clubhouse involves not only fun made up material: jokes, stories, songs, but also facts requiring a bit of research on the topic of each episode.

Sweet Innocent Teen Attacked by Dragon

Like, did you know a person who studies dragons is called a draconolist?

One of the most exciting things we did today was create the video, "Dragon Exploration."

We filmed our search for a dragon through the jungles of Kansas with famed draconologist, Dr. Fonten.

Oh, we found a dragon alright, but it was much more dangerous than anticipated.  The day was scary and exciting, and best of all, we survived!  : )

Look for the video to appear soon on the Story Clubhouse website.

What to Eat...

"What to Eat: The Environmental Impacts of Our Food"

This morning while researching rabbits for an upcoming "Story Clubhouse" episode, I ran across the Plate to Planet website and this video, "What to Eat."

Great website and video, full of pictures and information that made me think. Who knew that pig farms could be so big that they create a literal lake of waste? Ewww!

Not good for the planet, not good for the neighbors, and surely not good for the pigs.

My mom also recommends the documentary, Food Inc. She says it will totally change the way you eat and where you shop.

I'm not going to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't eat...hey, I love desert with every meal...I'm just recommending that we all think a little more about what we put into our bodies. Your body is the most important thing you have to take care of...if it's not running properly, well, you aren't.

So maybe treat yourself to the best quality have the best quality life. : )

Check out Super Kids

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Day of Summer!

This first day of summer was a beautiful peaceful day in Kansas.

Last night, the air were filled with lightening and thunder. Today, it's beautiful clear blue skies with lovely warm weather.

It's good for me to remember that beautiful days usually follow stormy ones. Because somehow in the midst of a big storm, my heart beats fast and hard. I'll admit I feel a bit scared, even though I always act brave. I remind myself that I'm safe, and that it's probably human nature for my adrenaline to start pumping with the sound of thunder and the sight of lightening.

The storms of life have a similar effect. They seem like they will never end. That they are dangerous. I'll be honest, some are. But storms of all kinds come with being alive.

Some people seem to have more than their fair share of storms. I don't know why this is. In my past there were some majorly stormy years...and all I have to say about that is... I survived. They made me much tougher and more sure of what I wanted for my life. When it got really bad, and I couldn't take any more bad storms, I finally changed some major things about myself and my life. Now, my life is pretty great.

If you live in a place where stormy days outnumber glorious beautiful days, and you would prefer the later...maybe it's time to move.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Working on My New Podcast

As some of you know, I'm working on a new podcast for children that is scheduled to start airing in July. 

Title to be announced. : )
Side note: coming up with the right title for anything is HARD.

It's been quite exciting putting all the pieces for this podcast together.
I love thinking of the overall project and what I want it to be, planning episodes for the next year, then bringing together all the little elements to make each episode.  At the same time, I'm making notes on all the extras I want around each episode, such as: fact files, games, videos, art and craft projects, etc. 

This is the perfect project for me as it uses all the things I enjoy doing: research, writing, acting, drawing, organizing, and collaborating with others, and probably many more things that I can't think of right now. 

What can you look forward to in this new podcast?
Learning, laughing, singing, hearing a new story, and listening to my nephew Lucas tell about a recent Safari experience. Roar!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vacationing in Kansas

Beautiful Portion of My Mother's HUGE Water Garden (pond)
I'm in Kansas for two weeks, enjoying time with my mother, sisters, brother, niece, and nephews.

There are butterflies galore right now. They must have just come from their cocoons. I'll try to get a picture. It feels quite magical walking through a cloud of butterflies.

The ones at my sister's house started off grayish and now are changing to bright orange. I'll have to investigate if they are truly Monarchs butterflies.

Photos of Kansas

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tomi Ungerer and Jules Feiffer Speak

Tomi Ungerer and Jules Feiffer
What a treat to see and hear Tomi Ungerer and Jules Feiffer at the Society of Illustrators last night.

I've admired Jules Feiffer's work since college and Tomi Ungerer's since grade school.

Both men embody putting your whole heart into your work. Daring to do what you want to do because you have no other choice. That doing anything else would be a life half lived.

These men, both in their early 80's now, spoke of the gift of age. Ungerer spoke of it as a ticking clock, that you start to realize your time is limited and you really need to get to work.

They also spoke to the fact that if you are doing what you love, you will never retire. Why would you want to?

These men, especially Ungerer, spoke openly about their life experiences and what those experiences brought forth in their work.

This morning, I've been reading more information about them on the Internet, and being even more inspired by their prolific careers and fearless creations.

Seeing wonderful events like this are one of the true gifts of living in New York City.

For more, read:
Tomi Ungerer's Interview with Antonia Saxon, Publishers Weekly

The Branch Grew Roots!

This week, the branch moved to its next stage. The leaves and flowers had all dried up and it was time to cut them off and go forward on wrapping the branch with fabric to become the installation that I had originally intended.

I took the branch out of its water can and pushed it through the window onto the fire escape. In this process, I received a slight shock. Roots were growing from the bottom of the branch. This might sound like an overreaction, but I've been emotionally attached to this branch from the some strange mental battle of guilt over it being alive and on its way out.

I wasn't the one who cut it down in the park. I was the one who picked it up and brought it home. Still this whole process has highlighted for me two things...the strength of living things to stay alive...and how we anthropomorphize everything.

Over the past weeks, I've tried to keep this small tree alive by making root cuttings and planting seeds, neither it was quite exciting to see that the little sawed off tree had grown roots itself in an effort to keep going.

So now, I've cut the branch back a bit to allow more nutrients to focus on the growth of roots.

I went ahead and wrapped some cotton, breathable fabric on the branch, leaving places open for future little branches to poke through.

At this point, it's wait and see what happens...but isn't that the way it is with everything.

Hope for the best and wait and see. : )

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Incredible Week that included Daniel Radcliffe!

My niece, Sarah, waiting to see the show. 
What an incredible week! I saw Daniel Radcliffe in "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying" and I found Dark Chocolate Hob Nobs.

Daniel Radcliffe was amazing. He has such energy and spirit...and he's adorable! As was John Larroquette. The show itself was uneven, but Radcliffe, Larroquette, Mary Faber, Ellen Harvey, and especially, Christopher J. Hanke, who played the nephew...were hilarious and right on.

There were some standouts in the chorus also.

And I must give a nod to a favorite actor who had a more serious role, Michael Park...who was dreamy and commanding.

It was a fun show. Like watching a favorite nephew who has grown up and is doing well...because for many of us...we've watched and loved Daniel Radcliffe since he was 11 and now he's a man. And those of us who have been adults watching him over and over again all those years, because admit it, we watch the Harry Potter movies many more times than once...well...many of us feel pride in the man he has become...though we've done nothing to make him so wonderful, it just feels like we've known and cared for him for a long time.

I'm excited for July with the bittersweet event of seeing the last Harry Potter, I'm anxiously awaiting Mr. Radcliffe's new movie, "Woman in Black."

Oh yeah, the Hob Nobs...well, if you've read my blog before you know that Dark Chocolate Hob Nobs are my favorite cookie. They have been unattainable for a year or so here in the States. They are made in England.

I did some research on the Internet. I could have them shipped from England, but as luck would have it, there was a British store, Myers of Keswick, down in the West Village that had them in stock. So yesterday, I made my way down to the shop and bought three packages. MMMMMmmm! Are they delicious!

Wishing you all a wonderful week full of your favorite things...whatever they may be!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Delightful Visit to P.S. 87

Enjoying the Book of a young author / illustator

Friday, I visited Ms. Theresa's class at P.S. 87 as part of their "Everyone Reads Week."

First, I read and discussed my book, "Not Afraid of Dogs," with the students. Then I was able to show them my new book project, "Turtles Can't Race." 

It was wonderful to hear the students' comments, ideas, and questions, and to also receive feedback from their very insightful teacher. 

One of my favorite parts of the visit was seeing some of the students' work: their poems, illustrations, and the incredible park that they had planned and built in model form. The park model is so cool and now sits in the center of their classroom.  

What an amazing group of young people! If I were to go back to grade school...I would want to be in Ms. Theresa's awesome class. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

American Museum of Natural History - Membership Renewed

Really? There's a dinosaur behind us.
As NYC tour guide for Sarah, my niece, I knew the American Museum of Natural History was a must.

For years, Mr. Green (Bill) and I were members. We spent many a Friday night touring the quiet hallways. Then the tragedy of 9/11 caused the Museum to shut off the majority of the museum on Friday nights and only keep open the planetarium.

After that, our membership became irregular.

Yesterday, I renewed the membership. It felt great. I love knowing I can pop into the museum anytime I want...and not have the feeling that I need to stay and get my 'money's worth," like you do when you buy a one-day pass. Plus, as a member, I get to take the very short and fast admission line. 

Yesterday, we ambled in and out of many exhibits, so Sarah could get a feel for the museum, we weren't planning to stay 'that' long...but found upon leaving that we'd been there for the afternoon. It's easy to get lost in all the interesting exhibits.

I love this museum! 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Play Dead

Sarah and Bill, not sure when I'm going to take their picture
My niece, Sarah, has made it to New York at last! On her first night in New York City, Bill and I took her to see "Play Dead" down in the Village.

What a wonderful theatre experience. I've been blessed to have a few of those lately. All of them quite different. "Freud's Last Session," beautiful in it's realism, "Peter and Wendy" for its magic, "Play Dead" for its theatricality. All of them for their clear and brilliant writing, their amazing honest acting, and their visual perfection in setting.

"Play Dead" is a fun being a kid again...waiting and wanting to be scared...and also having the adult brain that can understand the deeper implications of what's going on.

Todd Robbins is so comfortable, benevolent, and fun on stage that the audience is happily lead wherever he wants them to go.

This was a night of theatre that exceeded my expectations. As they all have lately. I'm not sure if it's because I'm in the mood for theatre or I've been lucky in my selections, or because I've avoided heavy dramas...which are the stinkers of my past experiences that make me long for that time and money back.

The last three shows, actually four, if you count, "Born Yesterday," which I should...have provided plenty to think on, as well as entertainment, humor, and beauty...ingredients that help us, as humans, survive the drama that is life.

Click here to read helpful and interesting information from Todd Robbins blog: Modern Con Man

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fabric is a Great Medium

In preparation for the next stage of my tree branch...turning it into a piece of art...I washed a selection of cotton fabric scraps.

I'm going to wrap the branch in strips of fabric and then create leaves and flowers to 'grow' on it.

Sort of like recreating what it once was...only in fabric.

I used to wrap branches all the time when I lived in a big farmhouse in Kansas. I had a surplus of branches in my yard and a house big enough for little fabric covered trees to sprout everywhere.

The idea for wrapping things in fabric came from my friend K.T. Walsh, an incredible artist from Kansas.

One night we were sitting together at the thrift store she managed. After closing, she picked up a pile of stuff and started wrapped random items with fabric and making these incredible 'flowers." I loved the process and the product so much that I'm still doing it 15 years later.

K.T. has always created with objects at hand. I aspire to that myself. : )

It's a good way to live...knowing that really we always have what we need.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Chapter for the Branch - drying up

The leaves and flowers on my little cut-off tree are now dried out and curling up. It looks as though the days of the branch being alive are over.  Sadly, the cuttings that I made didn't take. Next, I'm going to try planting the seeds that are in the now dried flowers.

When I was a child, my father showed us how to make cuttings from willow trees. I remember it being so magic. We started with what looked like foot long sticks with tiny green leaves, the sticks grew roots in water, then we planted them in the garden next to our patio where they could grow a little bigger under our care, then we moved them to their permanent location. There they grew huge. 

Every time I looked at those trees, I had such a great feeling. I was part of their beginning. 

I have a next stage planned for my little tree...actually, what I had planned for the tree when I brought it home in the first place. Just wait and see...

Still, I do hope I can grow a new little tree from the tree's seeds. I like the idea of its life going on.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Freud's Last Session - Great Play

This week, Bill and I saw "Freud's Last Session" by Mark St. Germain. What an amazing play!

This production was so real, I felt that I was in Freud's London study watching Freud and C.S. Lewis in conversation. The credit for this belongs to the flawless production. Every element was perfect: the amazing acting - real and engaging, the script - a terrific blend of thoughts and emotions, the direction - which kept the show entertaining as well as thought provoking, the set - perfect in it's complete detail.

And no small feat, the attention paid to the little production details, a radio being turned on and off and the same with lamps. Now, you may say, why would I notice those things? Well, I do. And I really don't like it when an actor turns of a light or a radio and a beat passes and then the thing really goes off. That was not the case in this production. When the actor turned something off or on, it was off or on. It was real time.
That's how detailed toward a beautiful reality this production was.

If you live in NYC or close, buy your ticket. You won't be disappointed. This show is well-worth seeing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Real Reason I Can't Leave the Upper West Side

Mondel's Chocolates - Delicious!

It important for me to live within walking distance of a candy store selling handmade chocolates. Being that these establishments are limited, I feel quite lucky to live so close to Mondel's. They have been making fine chocolates for nearly 70 years.

My favorite: dark chocolate pecan turtles.
This is usually what I purchase for myself and give as gifts.
Sometimes, I push myself to try other candies, like a dark chocolate almond turtle or maybe a dark chocolate covered coconut candy...but usually, I stay with what I love the most - pecan turtles. I'm quite loyal that way. : )

Now, if only a delicious homemade bakery would move down the block.

I've very picky about my sweets, largely due to my taste buds being set on high standards as a child. I grew up in Concordia, Kansas, where we were fortunate enough to have "Lester's Sweet Shop" and "Longton's Bakery."

The owners of both these businesses made everything from scratch: the candy, donuts, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, danishes, etc. All made by hand, not from packages, not frozen, no preservative ingredients. I know the people worked hard. They did all the jobs, made the sweets, sold the sweets, cleaned up after the sweets. I appreciate all the work they did...and, I appreciate their patience with children who took deciding which treat to purchase quite seriously.

As an adult, I have been on a constant quest to find true home-made candy stores and bakeries. Mondel's is close. They do do it all.

Here's wishing us all, homemade treats, made with real ingredients, no chemicals, no additives, no preservatives.

As my friend Karen's grandmother used to say, "You need a little sugar every day, so you stay sweet."

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Weekend Break in the Country

My friend, Honor, going round the May Pole
I'm just  back from a lovely weekend in the country visiting dear friends.

In addition to basking in the glory of spring in the country, I also had the pleasure of attending a May Festival and watching many many children going around a May Pole.

I'm lucky to have the best of both worlds, the big city life and plenty of time visiting the country, here and in Kansas. I can't really imagine spending all my time in one place or the other. It would be hard.

The break to the country also gave me time and a clearer mind for working on one of my big projects.

I often find that a break from my normal life routine is exactly what I need to see the grander possibilities of my projects. Somehow, being away makes me braver about going forward after my dreams.

Here's to all of us being more open and braver at going after life's many possibilities.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Much Cream Should One Person Have Per Day?

That's all...

Just answer the Cream Question...

I'm guessing that unless you're a dairy farmer who wants my business, your answer will tell me I've gone over the limit for a day.

I couldn't help it though, I had strawberries and blueberries. They needed rich, thick cream flowing over them, sprinkled with a little sugar, floating on a giant Whole Foods Buttermilk biscuit. Strawberry Shortcake.


I'm off to the country for a weekend with kids and friends...and I'm guessing more strawberries and cream.

When Life is's Good!

Check out Milk Thistle dairy of choice...their milk, cream, and chocolate milk are the BEST!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Chapter for the Branch

I find it so amazing that my branch (small tree) continues to grow and evolve just sitting in a can of water.
This morning, I woke to see new flowers blooming above my head. With the blooms have come a few tiny winged insects. I wonder if the flowers need them to help with blooming or if they just hatched on the branch at the same time the flowers opened. Either way, they don't bother me. They are just part of the 'life' of the branch. 

I'm also happy to see growth on my tree. This week, I realized that one way to keep the branch 'alive' would be to make cuttings from it. Then I could root them to make a new tree. One that I would grow on my fire escape.

I'm not sure the cuttings will grow, but I need actual green growth for it even to be a possibility. The tree is now growing, so, it is a possibility.

This small tree, that I brought in thinking it was a 'done for' stick, continues to amaze, educate, and emotionally effect me as it passes through its natural stages.

I love sleeping with it as a natural canopy over my head...and look forward to seeing it continue to evolve over the coming months.

Read about growing your own trees and plants from cuttings.

German Chocolate Cake - from Scratch!

My German Chocolate Cake
This picture doesn't do the cake justice. Well, it's not a beautiful cake even in real life, but man, oh man! is it DELICIOUS!

My life changed in some major ways this week. First being that now I own my own cake carrier. I really feel like I moved to an entirely new level of being. : )

Next, I'm so impressed with myself for making a German Chocolate Cake...which is my very favorite kind of cake...from scratch.

I used the recipe from my Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. To their recipe writing credit...the homemade cake tastes just as delicious as the cake purchased at their bakery.

I will admit that if I was planning to save time, it would be of great benefit to just buy a piece. Because it does take quite a bit of time to make this cake...between the mixing, baking, cooling, etc. It was about 3-4 hours.

And I'm not sure of the logic behind having a giant cake in the house when there are only two people living here that will eat it....and only one of will eat most of it. ; )

Still...I feel quite happy about this momentous occasion. Mmmmm!

Cookie of the Week - Homemade Brownies

This has been another week of homemade. So, my 'Cookie of the Week' is Homemade Hershey's Best Brownies. This recipe is by far the most delicious I've ever found. MMmmmmMmmm! We are enjoying some of them right now. I use walnuts...keeps them extra healthy.   ; )  They are chewy, rich, and amazingly scrumptious!

I keep this recipe posted up in my kitchen at all times -- Ready for a Brownie Emergency. : )
Enjoy them!!!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring is Here with All My Flower Favorites

Dandelions and Violets
Dandelions and violets, two of my favorite flowers, are now blooming in abundance. I took this picture in Morningside Park.

I find in almost everything, I prefer what grows easiest and in abundance.

My favorite fish ... guppy... not too scary.
My favorite cat ... grey tabby.
My favorite dog ... collie. (they were much more common in my childhood)
My favorite bird ... sparrow.

Thinking of or seeing these gives me comfort. Maybe because they seem hardy and enduring. They are the characters of a world I prefer. I know it's a fantasy to think there's a world where life is safe, but that's why I say fantasy.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stretch Yourself

Rough Sketch from "Turtles Can't Race"

I'm working on a new book called, "Turtles Can't Race."

And as happens with all my projects, I'm being reminded of valuable life lessons.

Ted wants to race. All the members of his family tell him that he can't. They have various reasons, some just mean, some out of caring, and some about facing facts.

Ted holds onto his dream. He continues to do his stretches everyday, eats right, drinks plenty of water and eventually does enter a race.

It's easy to let go of dreams for all the 'right' reasons. They can't logically come true. Maybe we aren't talented enough. Maybe we'll get hurt.

But usually dreams won't let go of us. Maybe we shouldn't fight them. Aren't we hurt just as bad when we work hard to ignore our dreams? Why not do our stretches everyday? Why not gently push away all the reasons people give us to not try?

Why not agree to do our stretches everyday, drink plenty of water, eat food that nourishes us, and live a life that is a journey toward a dream?

My experience is that living a life believing in a dream much better than the alternative.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Life Changing Book - About Spiders

I was never afraid of spiders. However, I didn't understand their true value or really want them around until I read, "Be Nice to Spiders" by Margaret Bloy Graham.

After discovering this book, I actually felt a fondness for them.

"Be Nice to Spiders" is a sweet book about Helen, a little spider, who greatly improves the lives of all the animals at the zoo.

Helen helped me realize what a mess we'd be in if there were no spiders to keep flies and insects under control.

I love to read this book. Kids like to hear it over and over too.

Who doesn't want to make peace with the idea of spiders?

Click here to solve a Spider Puzzle.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

"Our Own Chicken Pot Pie" - picture by Bill
 Chicken Pot Pie - the ultimate comfort food.

Bill (my partner) has been wanting chicken pot pie for quite awhile now. Rather than buy a frozen one, I opted to pull together the ingredients and make one ourselves.

First, I downloaded a recipe to use as a guide from I made sure to read all the helpful suggestions by previous cooks of the, 'bake the bottom crust for 6 minutes before adding the center ingredients.'

Then I revised the recipe to remove the ingredients I didn't peas...and add the ones I do like... potatoes, mushrooms, fresh corn, broccoli, and lots of extra onions.

Bill cut up most of the vegetables, while I got everything started.

We didn't make a homemade pie crust. I bought the Whole Foods brand pie crust. Oh my goodness! It is the most delicious pie crust I ever had. It's really not like pie crust. It's more like pastry. So, if you don't like a touch of sweet with your savory pie, then it wouldn't be the right crust for you. However, it was perfect for my taste buds.

Our chicken pot pie was a MAJOR cooking success. Hurrah! We have some leftover for tonight.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to make the German Chocolate Cake from my Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.


What's baking at your house?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cookie of the Week

This week's cookie is delicious!

I thought of it when a friend suggested I look for a good gingersnap and I realized I already had a recipe for the very best.

I found this Gingersnap recipe years ago in the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, 1951 edition. (Just so you know, it was a well used cook book when I bought it at a Used Book Store in Kansas.)

Every time I share these cookies, everyone wants the recipe. They are mouth-wateringly delicious. A combination of soft and crunchy.

Extra bonus: if you keep them in a tin, they will last for weeks. I'm not kidding. They really last and still taste GREAT.

If you were to bake your own cookies this week, what recipe would you choose?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Brilliant Book

I remember when I found "There's No Such Thing as A Dragon" by Jack Kent at Woolworths, many, many, many years ago.

I love the illustrations, they are what drew me in. What kept me was the brilliant story.

A little boy wakes up one morning to find a tiny dragon sitting on the edge of his bed. Everyone tells him, "There's no such thing as a dragon."

So, he and everyone else ignores the little dragon and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger, until at last they have no choice but to give it some attention.

This book is a fun and remarkable telling of something most of us experience: avoiding a problem until it's so big we have no choice but to deal with it.

For me, "There's No Such Thing As A Dragon," is reminder to deal with my problems while they are still small and manageable. Usually I'm successful with that.  : )  Hope you are too.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Update on the Branch

This week, I woke up, looked up, and there were flower buds on the tree branch at the head of my bed.

I can't wait to see what flowers are going to pop out.

This whole branch saga has been quite an experience. I drug the branch home from the park several weeks ago, so I could enjoy the lines that the branches make.

I stuck it in water to keep the branch supple...then buds popped forth, then leaves, and now, flowers!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fill Your Page!

Yesterday, I was back in the classroom working with students on illustration through Behind the Book.

The students and I discussed some of the important points of illustration, drawing multiple ideas before choosing one, how to draw the interest of a potential reader, how to enhance the written story or to even create a second story that only appears in the pictures.

Shown here is one of the student illustrations.  When I saw it, I thought of how wonderfully she had filled the page.

Then I started thinking of life. How we should fill our life in good ways, with people, activities, and experiences that we love. Filling your life isn't about being busy, it's about being filled with satisfaction.

One of of my satisfying activities is going into schools. Reinforcing for children that they are smart and creative and that's half of how they will accomplish their goals. The other half is work. Success isn't usually a first day activity. It happens with work and time. Something these students start to understand as they write and illustrate their stories over several weeks.

The playing field is far from even. However, we all have the ability to work toward something we truly want. To persevere through disappointment. To work on improving our skills. Sometimes just working toward something we want makes our life far better than if we never tried.

Here's to trying every day, and for filling our life with satisfying moments.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cookie of the Week

In keeping with my pledge to recommend a new cookie each week, this week, I tried three new cookies. As a result, my clothes are fitting just a little tighter. ; )

These three cookies choices are very different from each other.

The "Butter Crisps" are sweet and crunchy. They would probably be good with a little ice cream. The serving size says "3 cookies," but I found 2 enough most times...because they were a little sweeter than I like.

Next, "Ginger Spice," a dry cookie that isn't too sweet. Good in combination with a cup of tea. This is a cookie for people that like very dry snickerdoodles.

Third, "French Butter Cookies Coated in Dark Chocolate." Okay, the title alone makes this seem like a winner. They are super rich, which makes them a two or three cookie at a time serving. They are very thin and crispy.

Because none of these cookies were 'just right' for me. They have all lasted more than one evening.

Sad that I didn't love love love any of them, but good because I didn't eat eat eat all of them at once.

Now, I begin my search for next week's winner. Send in your recommendations.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Branch Continues to Blossom with Leaves

The Branch Continues to Blossom
 I'm fascinated with the fact that the branch continues to blossom with leaves. More and more little green leaves are popping out and growing bigger and bigger.

Now, I'm curious to see if it will go the entire circle of having full sized leaves, a bird coming to nest, and then the leaves changing color and falling.

It would interesting to wake up with autumn leaves falling on me. However, as much as I would like a little bird to build a nest in my home, I wouldn't want it to do so over my sleeping head. For reasons I'm sure you can imagine.  ; )

Nature is magic.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mouse Agility

A friend, who is also a Mouse Biologist, told me of this mouse several years ago. I remembered it today. I am still busy with my taxes and needed a light-hearted distraction. No, my taxes aren't that hard, well, trying to figure out NY State taxes one ever gets them right...sigh.

Anyway, I love watching what 'Brain Storm' can do. And, when I think of the patience this woman must have to train mice, it gives me the encouragement I need to focus on and finish my taxes. Yippee!

Enjoy this video and her site: Mouse Agility.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's Chickie Time

Chickies are one of my favorite childhood memories.

Every spring, we would either hatch our own chicks under setting hens in our playhouse turned chicken house. Or, we would order a box full of chickies from the feed store. Either way, we would have a surplus of little fluffy chicks. They were super cute and funny to watch.

I live in the city now. No chickies for me this spring. I do have an old chickie watering dish. I'm saving it for that one day in the distant future when I live on my dream farm. There I'll have chickens, nice horses, a small cow, a few barn cats, and some really great collies. Until that day, I'll be content using my fantasy farm as a setting for some of my stories. : )
If you're planning to get some chicks of your own, click here to learn "How to Care for Your Spring Chicks".


Friday, April 8, 2011

In School with Behind the Book

Reading "Not Afraid of Dogs"
 Today, I had the pleasure and honor of visiting an incredible class of first graders in Brooklyn.

Wow! They were so full of great ideas, stories, and drawings. So much positive energy and enthusiasm. It was brilliant.

A wonderful part of my life is being an author / illustrator in schools through Behind the Book.

I usually start off my visit by reading, "Not Afraid of Dogs." Then I answer questions from the students like: "Are you bothered by the paparazzi?" and "Where did you get the idea for 'Not Afraid of Dogs'?"

After that, we write a story together. This is so much fun! It gets our brains supercharged.

Writing a Story Together..."Not Afraid of Werewolves"
 Today's story was a surprise...well, not the fact that the class' chosen main character was a vampire. Vampires are pretty popular these days. The surprise for me was that the class kept wanting her to eat someone. lol

Luckily, we were able to steer the character away from eating anyone to being satisfied with fake blood in bottles. ; )

And, we successfully wrote an entire story together - beginning, middle, and end. Our main character, Draculaura, (isn't that an incredible name?) overcame her fear of werewolves.  She even became a friend to one.

Writing a story as a team is so much fun. You come up with things that you never would have imagined on your own.

After our group story was finished, I went around the room to each student to see the stories they are writing and illustrating. Every story has a main character overcoming a fear. It's great to see the creative characters students came up with and the unique ways they found to resolve that character's fear.

Next week when I go back for a visit, we're going to work on illustrating our stories. I can't wait!!

To read more about Behind the Book, Visit: