Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cuppa Jolie's La La Goals

Jolie is keeping us honest and is at the ready with her licorice lasso over at Cuppa Jolie. I have today and tomorrow to complete my La La Goal and I *just* *might* *make* *it* if Aaron can help me with my first ever Combined Excise Tax Returns also due tomorrow.

My goal was to finish a picture book dummy and send it off. The power of self inflicted deadlines had worn off a bit this year, but doing the holiday monster art show -- making 12 paintings by November 30th -- was a wonderful kick in the patoot. A real accomplishment for me that proved personal deadlines are worth working toward and possible to attain if you can just let your inner critic die for a bit.

is helping me out with these matters, too, giving me ideas to stick in my pipe and smoke. I am not sure a licorice pipe is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen (candy pics from the Carmel Cottage of Sweets.)

I prefer it to the corn cob pipe,

but not the bubble blower.

Why does the Goofy bubble blower look like a cyclops?

Tell Betsy at Fuse #8 what to stick in her review pipe by voting in these three fun polls. Actually, I think Betsy could pull off smoking a pipe. If only smoking was still allowed in libraries.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why are children taking my job?

Stay with it, it has a happy ending. The illustrating or animating possibilities for this are out of this world. If she already has a three book deal with Chronicle, I wouldn't be surprised. Thanks to Simple Lovely for the simply lovely link (and a bunch of other lovely links as well.)

Once upon a time... from Capucha on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Video

Oddly enough, Aaron got me these exact outfits for Xmas!!! I love Stairway to Stardom -- if you have a chance to check out the HAIRDRESSER song video, it's kind of amazing.

Happy Christmas to You!

And Hanukkah, too!

My family in Snohomish told us to stay home today -- I guess they've been getting loads of giant snowflake flurries this morning. It's been snow/rain here only, but we will have a belated Xmas with them this weekend.

Bebop and Logan got their pressies this morning: bones and snuggly beds and even a previously used ball that seems brand new to our genius of a dog after we wrapped it.

I got all my wish list items from Santa:

A subscription to Marie Claire Idees

A mini madeleine pan

MAKER OF THINGS by Denise Fleming (this is such a great series of books!)

Kirby on Blogger!

Aaron got a zombie video game, Alan Moore comic book, and a very nice Seattle Sounders jersey.

I've been watching a lot of Nigella Christmas episodes and am still unclear what goes on with a Christmas pud, but I now understand and am a fan of her idea of mincemeat. Will my favorite British illustrator please explain the pud to me?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tool of the trade: Costco, PLUS a little bookmark tutorial in Part Two

I think I'm channeling Tiny Tim today - my ankle is on ice and I'm sneezing while also huffing noxious wood stain-y fumes because Ebenezer Aaron is insisting today is a work day, BUT I'm so happy to have it be Xmas Eve and to have our house be getting more lovely.

Tool time!

Yes, I know, Costco is not an indie print shop. We happily pay large sums of money to indie print shops for archival quality arty bits. But this summer I discovered Costco as the go-to printer for cheaper promotional items and hope you can use them, too.

Why I love them:

• Fast! I email a pdf in the morning and it is done and ready to go within hours if not by end of day. No time or money lost on shipping.
• Cheap! Bookmarks -- the way I've set the file up for Costco -- is waaaay cheaper than any other online printing option I've found. And even when I did oversized postcards with full color on both sides the job was still cheaper than VistaPrint or PSPrint. And I get them same day and can come in for proofs if I'm nervous.
• Consistent! At first I was going in to look at proofs before each printing, but now I don't feel the need. Costco prints laser and the color is always really consistent, rich and fairly spot on (unlike Kinko's).
• Dummies! Costco can print bw or color tabloid size laser prints.


• One little drawback is that you probably have to live within driving distance of a Costco with a copy center so you can reap the low cost benefits.
• Minimum orders -- not really an issue when you want 300 postcards or 500 bookmarks, but it is something to consider if all you need to do is a dummy.
• Limited paper types. The heaviest cardstock isn't outrageously heavy, but I'm satisfied with it and think it is in keeping with most postcard and bookmark paper weights. They can't print on labels/sticky paper, but will try to print on watercolor paper for you, though I haven't tried that yet.

After being dissatisfied with a promo postcard printing I did with VistaPrint I tried out Costco for standard and oversized postcards and haven't looked back since.

I've done two bookmark jobs for Kirby Larson with Costco and I was sooo pleased with them and it was faster and cheaper than anything else I could find. Next post I'll tell you how to set up your bookmark job. You do need to have a designer set this up and/or have InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop or a similar design program.

I'll post the list of Costcos with the bookmark tutorial in Part Two, or you can see if your local one lists a Print & Copy Center

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cabin Brain Fever

That's been my view for the past couple of days, derriere cemented firmly to the couch.

I don't know if this is normal creative behavior, but I think I heard it on Craftcast or maybe from Laini (happy birthday!): that when you are stuck on a project you shouldn't try to plow through necessarily, but move on to something else until you are so sick of not working on that original project that you feel compelled to get back to it.

Two 'original projects' I've been taking a breather from are: the gym and a picture book dummy. Took time off from both this last week or two and am now feeling compelled to get back to work or else I might scream. We braved our snowy, West Seattle hills to get to the gym this morning and only had to help push one car out of the road on the way there. So, check, back in gym mode.

And now, if I can convince Aaron that he doesn't need my help with home maintenance projects today I think I could get some work done on my picture book dummy.

I really like being lazy sometimes. And being snowed in is excellent breeding grounds for laziness. Holiday movies are my best friends -- we watched Mickey's Christmas Carol and Die Hard 2 last night.

One thing that might have pushed me over the edge to get moving and creating again, though, more powerful than cabin fever is that I started knitting a sock. After an inch of stockinette stitch was completed last night and my hands ached from using such tiny needles I thought, my god, it's just going to be a sock. I'd much rather be making a book right now for heaven's sake.

So the sock will wait in line behind picture book dummies and some new ideas for non-holiday shop items.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hug your Moms and Nanas

Go, now. Hug your mom or nana or call them or something.

A bit of a scare today. Apparently, my Nana went to the hospital early this week after she slipped on some ice and hit her head. I just found out about it today after calling them this morning. She's home, safe and feeling better now. But I wasn't going to stop worrying until I saw her with my own two peepers. Logan and I made a slightly frantic drive north to Snohomish. The highways were fine and the roads up north are so beautiful right now if a little slippery. All the trees look taller with snow on them.

My Nana normally does more before 8 am than most people do all day, so it was a bit upsetting to see her in her pyjamas at two in the afternoon. She also finally told me that she'd passed out at Costco (of all places) a while back after a stressful day prior. A neurologist that did some tests while she was at the hospital this week will see her again in late January to give her a report. I think the PJ thing is okay, she's taking care of herself and is not doing any baking or iceskating or table dancing. I promised to bring their favorite cookies on Christmas day and cook the brunch.

Now I know for sure what I've suspected for quite a while. My family is officially related to St. Stephen. Steve-o is known for being the FIRST MARTYR and that's how I know my mom and Nana are related to him. If they don't tell me they are feeling poorly in a timely fashion becaust they don't want to be a bother I'm seriously going to knock their blocks off.

Their dog, Calvin, put Logan's Santa costume on while I was there to restore the peace. Above is Calvin in his favorite spot by the refrigerator, tail wagging. I think he's giving me his bedroom eyes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow day leftovers

Holy mackerel. It's already almost two in the afternoon!
I must have spent more time looking at the snow fall than I thought.

The house got a bit of a clean up this morning after yesterday's frenzied packagings and mailings. Sadly, one of the etsy shop mailings made almost two weeks ago never made it. That was one of the things that went out yesterday. Express mail is nearly the cost of the item itself!

Aaron is working from home today and I thought soup and bread would be nice for lunch. But no bread! Luckily, on the side of the whole wheat flour bag was a recipe that said NO FAIL and also contained no yeast/proof time. It is amazingly delicious. We were lucky enough to have a pint of buttermilk already in the fridge to do the bread with and some leftovers that became a nice tomato-y carrot soup.

If you have a chance to make this bread you won't be disappointed. We ate it while it was still warm and watched the snow and yesterday's episode of Old Christine.

Last night after dinner while watching the new Muppet Christmas I discovered pom-pom making. Holy Codfish, it is addictive and fun. I am going to put pom-poms on everything! There is the best yarn shop right by my house where I got the pom-pom maker from. Someday, when we are retired millionaires I will go there everyday, but for now, I'm happy with my pom-pom maker and quite pleased with the beginnings of my mistletoerantula. When I figure out all the assembling kinks I'll post a tutorial...which might not be until next Christmas, but I think this is way more fun than your standard kissing ball.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Etsy holiday items on sale until the snow melts!

Sorry, Suze Orman, but I am for sale. We also added a shipping upgrade to our CocoaStomp Etsy shop so you can get your holiday monsters even quicker.

There are TWELVE Holiday Monster Prints perfect for Christmakkuhing up your walls.

And it's still not too late to wish someone a monster of a good holiday with cards.

The clouds outside my window are very Susan Cooper right now. Must go ponder whether to work or nog (work I think.) Or maybe reserve all of Betsy's picks for 2009. Or hoard Ovaltine. And soon, Circus Animals!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Polls for no reason are the best polls of all

It is silly, but I love blogger.com's poll widgetybit.

And until Christmas Day I'm going to keep the favorite holiday book poll up. I know I missed Kirby's favorite, Katherine Paterson's ANGELS AND OTHER STRANGERS, and probably Holly's is DREAM SNOW by Eric Carle (did you know he has a blog???), but I was only going off of my own library/wish list.

If you haven't read SANTA CLAUS, THE WORLD'S NUMBER ONE TOY EXPERT by Marla Frazee yet, I don't think you can honestly take my poll because it is truly my most favoritest holiday book and I've given it to at least four different people.

Still, if there's another book that makes your holiday sparkle and I missed it, I hope you'll post a comment here with the book title and author and illustrator info!

Monday, December 15, 2008

So, good news! I saw a dog today.

My dog! Footloose and fancy free in the snow -- so excited we couldn't get a non-blurry photo of him. Snow in Seattle. It's snow wonderful.

And Aaron's birthday was yesterday. He kind of had to work on Saturday so he took today off, too. We have been eating like kings and queens using recipes from this book. Trying to build in some extra layers of blubber (I went through 4 and 1/2 cups of cream last night for our dinner, a heap of brown sugar, bourbon, and some darn good wine, but it WAS a birthday.)

We were so full after the birthday dinner we didn't even get to dessert. Trivial Pursuit Dessert. Which will be, I think my new favorite game/food. Hopefully tonight we will play Trivial Pursuit Dessert, which is when you play Trivial Pursuit and each time you get a pie piece you actually get a color coordinated piece of pie. There's only the two of us tonight, though, so there will be more pie to go around than last night. Aaron's not only really good at Trivial Pursuit, but his pie threshold is very high, so he could probably eat it all by himself. I'll get a bite or two in, I hope.

West Seattle is lucky enough to have a great pie shop. I went out and got six different pieces of pie in the snow yesterday. A bus was stuck on the road right out front so I parked at the top of the hill and walked down to buy pie. Posie says Portland freaks out in snow, too. It's so much fun to be in a town that shuts down with snow! The flavors I got from Shoofly are: apple cranberry crumble pie (History), pecan (Wild Card), chocolate cream (Science & Nature), cherry (Arts & Entertainment), blackberry/raspberry (People & Places), and key lime (Sports & Leisure).

So cold still that the snow hasn't melted. Bebop is not entirely pleased. But I am because it means I need to wear a scarf. And when I wear my Arsenal scarf it likes to fold itself so all you can read is ARSE. What a smart scarf!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Delicious Reading and the author is in Seattle today!

It has been a busy November and December for me. But I'm looking forward to having not much to do save reaching my La La Lasso goals for the rest of December and


Baking! I'm so excited to bake this year. Our new kitchen, a real dishwasher, an oven that is the temperature it says it is. And a new holiday cookbook. I have LOTS of cookbooks. I also keep all my favorite magazines from holidays past and have my grandmother's amazing cookie recipes. Didn't think I needed anymore inspiration for the season, but I have found some and I love it, The Christmas Table by Diane Morgan. New from Chronicle.

Don't take just my word, below is a picture of the author, Diane Morgan, (on left) with a customer at a book signing yesterday who bought EIGHT COPIES of the book! Can you imagine? I've bought four copies of Santa, The World's Number One Toy Expert, before, but this takes the Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Créme Anglaise (pg 137 and soon to be in my belly.)

Oprah loves her, Diane's got six pages of gorgeous food gifts in the December '08 issue and her hot fudge chocolate cake is on the cover of this month's Cooking Light, too.

She's signing books and sampling recipes at two Metropolitan Markets today. The book has whole sections on food gifts, breakfasts, a Chrismukkah menu, cookies!, drinks, great veggies and crafts, even!

Sand Point market (5250 40th Ave. N.E.) from noon to 2 p.m.

Admiral market in West Seattle (2320 42nd Ave. S.W.) from 4 to 6 p.m

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shop Update! Fuse as Muse

Hey, hey, hey! It's Fat Tou-kee!
Rotund animals rule my life right now.

A while back I had the good fortune to attend the Kidlitosphere blogging conference and see my favorite NY librarian, Betsy Bird. Her Fuse #8 blog now at School Library Journal is a constant source of great children's book related information and wonderful picture book and middle grade reviews. And she's a posting maniac! Whenever I do get to see her it reconfirms that she is indeed a kindred spirit. Who else would let me interview them with zombie sock puppets? She's working toward a December 15th book deadline -- Go Betsy!

Betsy says her favorite animal is a toucan and I painted this as her imaginary dream candy bar label (which would be a mishmash of Twix and Toblerone.) I got to thinking that the little guy would be ever so adorable in a book on a bookplate for you to personalize! Available here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lovely night! Inspirational talk and loads of pressies

Laini did a wonderful job last night. Her talk was not only applicable to novel writers, but to illustrators, picture book writers, crafters and designers, too. Of course, I should have known that and let YOU know that all should attend.

My favorite strategy of hers for getting unstuck in your work is: Be Flexible. Don't cling to your ideas. Do question all of your assumptions. "Be extravagantly open."

And that's one of so many. I also loved all of Laini's photos in her presentation, her lovely quotes and her references to Agatha Christie's working habits. Oh, Aggie. Hopefully she'll be speaking on this in your area soon and you MUST go hear her.

And the pressies!!! Well, I was blown away by all the love and goodness that abounded last night from my fellow advisory committee members. I should retire from things more often! Joni, Laurie and Kim picked out the most perfect purse for me -- the Phantom Firefighter book cover purse! And a gift certificate to my favorite local book store.

And Laini and Jim brought presents, too! Lots of awesome Laini's Ladies swag and the cutest little salt and pepper shakers.

Can you believe these are our first ever s + p shakers? And they go perfectly with my Henry the 8th teapot.
And the teapot Sara got me last year.

And from Sara in the holiday monster theme I received a lovely Sendak Wild Thing. He's too cute up there in his Xmas tree.

The highlight of the presents, though, was the independent giving of the same gift. Jolie and Sara BOTH bought me the Hello, Cupcake book unbeknownst to each other. Boy, those girls really do think alike and they sure know what I like. I think I'll have an upstairs and a downstairs copy. Or maybe a copy for the kitchen and one for the car.

Below you can see the wondrous Ladies, purse and double bookings! Plus a present I got myself -- Alicia Paulson's Skating Afternoon Felt Ornament Kit! I am counting on this as my cozy Posie project for Christmas Eve/Day. These sweet ornaments won't be done until next season, but what a nice project to have. I adore the Posie blog. If you need a corgi fix or gorgeous photos and daily inspiration, check out Posie Gets Cozy. Or for writerly/illustratorly inspiration plus deliciousness check out Brimstone Soup! I forgot about Holly's post on toffee. Said toffee was described to me AGAIN last night at eleven and -- if I wasn't normally an in-bed-by-nine-ish person I would have totally tried to make some immediately.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Laini Taylor

Tonight is our SCBWI WWA Holiday Meeting/Party. It's also the last meeting that Sara, Jolie, and I will be Co-RAs and ARA of. The amazings -- Joni, Laurie, and Kim are taking over for 2009. Right now it's a bit too bittersweet to write about how much the experience of being ARA has meant to me. So only something happy for now:

The evening will start with a cookie competition, lots of snacks, some farewelling, maybe some singing and bawling, a slideshow and perhaps a surprise or two. And then we have someone speaking on revising your novel, Laini Taylor.

I met Laini BPH, Before Pink Hair. Maybe it was Between Pink Hair, I bet she had pink hair when she was incubating. From the first, she and husband, Jim, have always been the sweetest, cutest, warmest, chic-est couple you'd ever want to meet.

If you are just embarking on your children's book career and decide to follow the advice of Steven Malk (which is to find an industry hero and study their road to success) you should consider studying Laini not only for her industry success, but for all that she shares with friends and the children's book world in general.

She is a tireless supporter of books and reading, an excellent craftswoman, an appropriately hard worker/researcher for the important job of writing for children, a cupcake connoisseur and very supportive of others in their careers by sharing tips and building networking or craft of writing experiences. Add to all that her kickass writing and illustrating skills which have brought us her excellent books and Laini's Ladies. She is one imaginative, smart, mango chomping cookie.

Laini just makes me happy. On her blog she shares the high highs of book successes as well as heartbreaking personal lows and her politics. I wish I had that courage. On her blog she also shares photos of her and Jim's art and home. It's clear that they've really crafted their own special world and their personalities shine through. Jolie did a great interview with Laini here.

And Laini loves the holidays. So, for me, she is one step away from Santa and I hope you all have the chance to meet her someday, if not tonight at 7!

PS - Isn't that a cute wreath up top? It is from here. If Laini was a wreath, I think she'd look like that one. Below is what Jim would look like if he was a wreath:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Great news for a sweet cupcake

Jolie over at CuppaJolie is a dear friend and wonderful person. She's got big, grand news and I am so pleased and proud. Check out her blog for the announcement.

Going to buy her sooooo many of the above when I see her next. The un-monstery kind.

Reading (while drooling) over the Cupcakes Take The Cake blog I saw something cool -- the Etsy Giveaways site. Maybe next Monday, in honor of National Cupcake Day, we'll give away some Dessert Monster prints? I wonder when National Blancmange day is.

Today is National Brownie Day, too, so go visit a favorite food blog and then partake of some brownies why don't you? Do you see all the Muppeting they do at Blondie and Brownie? Could they be more wonderful?