Tag Archives: children

A New Year of New Projects

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My concept illustration of Mary Poppins from P. L. Travers’ description in the original story. [Chapter 2, “The Day Out”]

With  Snowmageddon raging outside of my window and the start of a new semester lingering overhead, I thought I better take advantage of the unexpected snow days to update my blog with my latest projects.

It has been an exciting couple of months without a doubt!  First and foremost, I spent an incredible weekend at the New England SCBWI conference in Springfield, MA last May!  I attended writing workshops with some amazing authors such as Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Melanie Hope Greenberg, and enjoyed insights and inspiration from keynote speakers, Grace Lin and Sharon Creech.  Next, I learned valuable tips on creating an illustration portfolio from Sarah Brennan, Teri WeidnerNicole Tadgell and for a grand finale, a two day storyboarding workshop with one of my all time favorite illustrators, Ruth Sanderson!  (Insert happy dance here.)  By the time we returned home, my head was spinning and my notebook bulging with notes and an action plan, motivating me through the summer and my upcoming semester.

Last Fall, I had the opportunity to enroll in an Illustration class.  Our first project was a children’s book illustration based on a character of our choice.  With Peter Pan and Robin Hood tied as runners up, Mary Poppins lead the way in first place.  A few weeks later, we were given the assignment to design a product label in my Digital Imaging class, that we would eventually wrap around a jar in Photoshop and finally insert this new product image into a magazine ad.  I used a hybrid of this illustration along with other images I was able to find along the way, to create Poppins Preserves… “Just a spoonful of sugar in every practically perfect jar!”  Too much fun – I just couldn’t resist!

Fitzurka_Michelle_Assignment 6_Magazine Ad

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Toy Retail Gone Wrong

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Ahhh yes, what tiny, brightly-colored plastic bricks can do for a house filled with children on a rainy day!  Lego’s are simply a part of our family’s daily routine.  Within a week or even a day, full civilizations are built and destroyed – sometimes not by the architect, which then leads to an outpouring of tears and the taking away of said bricks.  So when we decided to plan a birthday party extravaganza, merging three summer birthdays, the natural choice for the theme?  You guessed it… Legoland!

With a bit of collaborative planning, we decided that they would build cars and race them as a main activity.  While the birthday kids were at camp, my oldest daughter & I trekked over to the mall to scope out ideas.  I had figured that each could invite 4 friends and with the cousins & neighbors, we were soon up to 20 party favors!  Ay Caramba!  Well considering it was a merged party, the budget could go a little further on favors, so I was still optimistic… that is, until I quickly realized that the smallest Lego kit for a basic car with 70 pieces cost $5.99 each!  Keep in mind that more than half of those pieces are no larger than a pencil eraser… and as you will recall, they are PLASTIC…  Let’s compute, shall we?

20  sugared up party goers

x  $6.35  the inflated price of each tiny plastic kit with tax included 

= $127.00, the room spinning and Mommy seeing stars at the register

WRONG!!!  There had to be a much, MUCH better way of working out this madness!  We purchased one 1/2 priced birthday kit with favors for 10 kids, so I could rationally inspect the value once we got home and I had cooled my jets.  An in-law purchased another birthday kit, so we were good on themed invites & little LEGO people.  Then after more research at home, and pulling out the creative fairy wand ~ Hey!  Desperate times, desperate measures!… I had the makings of Plan B ready for action!  I was on a mission!… Project LEGO Lemonade was a go!!!

Fortunately, we have a LEGO store in our local mall, where we promptly formed an assembly line: Tire!  Wheel!  Axel!  Sort, count, hand off… and I hovered over 2 tall bulk containers filling them ever so tightly… beginning with the microscopic pieces, then the larger base plates in the middle, round pieces, fill in with more micro pieces, tip, shift and settle… next layer… All of this on a Saturday no less!  Other parents probably thought I was nuts, but I didn’t care… I was in the Zone!  I lost count a few times, but at the end of it all, I had 2 full buckets ~ that the kindly sales people allowed me to tape the lids over for my final layers.  Once we broke it all out over the kitchen table, we had just enough for 18 cars, then completed the other sets with like parts we had in the playroom!  Reassessment computation…

plumply filled bulk Lego buckets  x  $14.89  for each container with tax included  =  

$29.78 + Mommy’s sanity restored… priceless!

 

In the week following, I instructed the kids to build basic cars, so I could determine how many remaining pieces we would need.  With a coupon for a local toy store, it cost another $30 for a box of 650 basic bricks in the Builder of Tomorrow Set (6177), to complete the car kits.  So as the adage goes:  When the toy store gives you lemons, go to Plan B!…

 

Mission LEGO Lemonade accomplished!

The foundations for our individual car kits that filled 2 Bulk LEGO containers.

For more perspectives on the theme for this week’s photo challenge “Wrong”
or  just to join in on the fun, visit:
 http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/weekly-photo-challenge-wrong/

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth of a Centerpiece!

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The inspiration for our centerpieces.

Oftentimes I will find a photograph in a magazine that inspires a project or determination to figure out how to replicate or reconceptualize a design.  One of these pictures was a miniature wreath created by pine cones.  I was immediately drawn to the simplicity and elegance of this piece.  Years later, as I was planning my winter wedding reception, this image returned to my mind, and the concept for our centerpieces was born!

Pine cones that our children painted
were used to decorate the wedding chapel.

My parents live in South Carolina surrounded by magnificent Loblolly pine trees that yield thousands of HUGE pine cones.  We collected bags of fallen cones during one of our visits.  Then my mum shipped extra boxes as we cried out for more!  It turned into a family project to tediously pull each scale off of the cones.  But eventually, with the hot glue gun in hand and some perseverance,  a finished wreath emerged ready for painting and of course, the shimmer effect!

This was also a great way for our children to contribute to making decorations for the ceremony and reception as we all became more excited for the upcoming wedding!

One of our wedding reception centerpieces.

Later, we used the wreaths to decorate our new house for our first Christmas together as a family!

      May we continue to grow in love,

as we create new family memories together

                                                                     in our days ahead…

For more information about joining in on the weekly photo challenge, go to:  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/weekly-photo-challenge-growth/

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth!

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Earlier in the spring, I brought my children to a butterfly garden at Brookside Gardens.  It was surreal and so delightful to walk into a room with so many stunning colors fluttering around us!  This week’s photo challenge gives me the perfect opportunity to share pictures of the growth cycle for the Monarch butterfly!  …And their chrysalis is among the most incredible I have ever seen in nature!

  

Forty Years of Video Games

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Summertime blues and boredom have gotten me surfing the web for ideas on how in the world we can get out of this house and explore something new and exciting.  We live in this vibrant area – in one direction you have Washington, DC, then drive north and you run into Baltimore, Maryland!  I grew up in Virginia, and there are still places I haven’t seen in this metropolitan mecca.  So with a Saturday of rest under our belts, we decided to head to the museums in the city after church.  It was a late start, but it was a tad spontaneous — I mean, we did go home and change out of our ‘Sunday’s best’ after all — yet it still qualified as an adventure!

A classmate had mentioned that the Smithsonian Museum of American Art was showing “The Art of Video Games” exhibit through September.  It wasn’t a mind-numbing electronic device — no, no… it was a trip to the museum disguised as a video game!  This was perfect!  So the, “What? We have to go walk around in the heat to boring museums?” morphed into, “Cool!!!  Are we there yet?”  It was magical…  I was even a little excited about it myself.  One area of graphic art that I have been intrigued by is 3D gaming animation.  I was able to get some introduction to creating a 3-dimensional space in my last summer course, but I would like to delve deeper into that virtual arena… especially with its dynamic rate of innovation!  I feel like Marty McFly hanging onto the bumper of technology with sparks shooting out from under my skateboard!  Well, if you think that last reference dates me, take a look at where the genesis of video gaming began with me… That’s right, “Era 1″… bring on your “Pac Man”, the “Space Invaders” and “Break Out!”  Those were the days, alright… when the characters were subtle and the audio was muddled.  Fast forward thirty years, and I am watching my children flailing their arms about while bringing their Miis to life in a virtual game space.  I wonder what the next 30 years will bring… Will we be installing a Holodeck in our basement for our grandchildren?  Fortunately, we’re not there yet, so I have time to savvy myself up to speed with the young-un’s and to jump into this genre of illustration.

While the exhibit was a fun stride down memory lane, it was much smaller than we anticipated.  Three virtual stations were available to people who wanted to showcase their gaming skills in public, with a loOong line of hopeful players watching on.  There were probably three small rooms with video interviews sporadically mounted throughout the exhibit — none of which I was able to hear well with the crowds.  So the obvious lesson learned here was, don’t visit on the weekend unless absolutely necessary… and if it IS the only time you can go, try to get there when it first opens.  For the homeschoolers & parents of younger children:  WARNING… I will advise you to move along quickly past the huge hypnotic wall of multiple screens.  As I was standing there trying to snap a visually interesting photograph, I was dismayed by the images of a topless women at the hub of this digital display that appeared rather suddenly (and then lingered) in the looped video sequence.  I felt that was inappropriately projected considering the target audience for video games, but I will stay off my soapbox for the moment.  At the end of the day, I would not recommend heading into DC specifically to see this exhibit, which we found to be somewhat underwhelming.  We felt that the potential to show 40 years of technological gaming evolution was underachieved.  On the upside, the kids enjoyed seeing all the different displays of games and listening to narratives through the phone tours.  Additionally, there are other engaging exhibits in the museum, and blocks of attractions to enjoy all over the city.

A Festival Frolic in Annapolis

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Phew!  In desperate need of a break from Google Sketchup tutorials, I am sharing a fun find here in downtown Annapolis.  This weekend, my oldest daughter & I spent a special ‘Mommy & Me’ day at the “First Sunday Arts Festival.”  Even with the heat, it was a nice post derecho diversion.  Speaking of which, our prayers go out to those of you who are still dealing with the aftermath of power outages and damage!  With the intense and rather unseasonal temperatures in our region, it’s not a time that you want to be without A/C!  What a crazy & unexpected mess!!!

KeyLime Designs by Mollie Dennis
(click here to learn more about this artist)

So in spite of the recent tribulations, the crowd and the vendors seemed to be in good spirits, the music was lively and the breeze was just right…  I wanted to share a few pictures of some of our favorite vendors of the day.  Probably one I liked the most was a table of beautiful children’s artwork by KeyLime Designs.  Artist, Mollie Dennis has a degree in Art Education and has focused her talents on these charming and cheerfully colored collages.

Decorative pieces by Art Sea
(click here to find out more about her seaside decor)

Another table we enjoyed was covered with inventive creations by Art Sea… and who wouldn’t love the name! 🙂  Her specialty was a collection of lovely sailboats she crafted from driftwood and grommeted decorator fabrics.  What a great idea for repurposing natural materials into something, oh, so very Chesapeake Chic!

There were clothing vendors, jewelry, housewares, whimsical garden ornamentals, natural soaps… everything you can imagine, and some gorgeous fine art displays.  It was a textile paradise!

And then there was the food!  My feeling is that it’s just not a festival until you have a taste of the town.  Living in Maryland for around 12 years now, you get used to the usual crab claims of the locals and frankly, I was up for something a little different. As we turned the corner of West Street and found another row of tables down Calvert, we were drawn to a tent bearing the sign, “Mad Flava Catering.”  The grill was flaming, the aroma of Caribbean jerked chicken was wafting and my mouth was watering!  One taste, and we knew this was the real deal!  The chef, Andre Sherwood, is Jamaican born and bottles this amazing sauce.  I bought 3 jars, got home and cooked up a batch of chicken for my — and I don’t use this term lightly — highly flavor-critical family.  It was a unanimously HUGE hit, which, for our 4 kids is practically unattainable… many of you parents out there know my pain!  So 12 thumbs up here, Chef Andre!!!  We will be back for more soon, I’m sure!!!

Click here to visit his website & find out more about Chef Andre’s awesome food!


The Beauty at Brookside

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“Jaws” by Seth Goldstein and Paula Stone (2009) created with oriental bittersweet vines (Celastrus orbiculatus).

School is out!!!  Time for fun, excessive playing of video games, popsicles, suntan lotion, and above all… field trips!!!  One place I have never visited, and always wanted to explore with my kids was Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County.  I knew this place by reputation alone and had heard about the butterfly garden that they maintained.  With summer fever alive in our house, a sunny and breezy day in the forecast and the need to get out of the house for a new perspective, we packed up the family van & set off for adventure!

Upon our arrival I could sense the excitement building as we made our way through the jam-packed parking lot.  We parked and unloaded in a way resembling the clown car at the circus and finally began to take it all in… It was beautiful!  On our way to the Conservatory entrance, we passed a series of unusual vine sculptures created by repurposing a non-native, invasive vine from a local parkland.  According to its plaque, these vines would have otherwise smothered and strangled other plants.  This in turn, would have seriously hampered the regeneration of the woodlands necessary to support wildlife. The sculpture was very appropriately named, “Jaws”.

The grounds were so peaceful, even with all of the visitors… and the landscaping was absolutely  stunning!  I could see why this was a haven for photographers!  But by far, the highlight of the day was the “Wings of Fancy” exhibit.  I have visited butterfly

gardens before, but this was such a different experience with the infectious enthusiasm and wonderment of the children.  Gorgeous butterflies fluttered wildly all around us!  They landed on our hats, our shoulders… it seemed like the brighter the color of our clothing, the more they were attracted to us as if we were giant flowers filled with nectar.  Our favorites were these gloriously huge Blue Morpho butterflies from Mexico… They were so vividly hued, and they were everywhere!!!

We had a wonderful day!  Breathtaking gardens, a nice exhibit of paintings in the Visitor Center, a whimsical children’s garden complete with a lovely little treehouse… all came together for an enchanting afternoon.  I highly recommend a visit, just be sure you get a bite to eat before you arrive.  There are no picnicking areas on the grounds, and you will want to be there for a while!