Thursday, January 31, 2013

step 2, star ceiling

So, now it was time for step two of Rain Dragon's sky ceiling. I wanted it to be clouds and blue sky during the day but I wanted it to be stars at night.  I wanted the stars to be pretty realistic, those glow-in-the-dark star stickers just didn't seem right after all the work I did to make the clouds. So using the intergoogles I found this make your own planetarium kit  and put it on my Christmas list:

Thanks, Santa!
It was a pretty neat kit. You choose the date and time of your star chart, project it and , following the projection, dab in glow-in-the-dark paint:

I choose Rain's Dragon's birthday as the time and date!

I think the star theater was made for a bigger room because there was a fair amount of distortion. Also, it was impossible to dab the glow in the dark paint in a neat way and at first I was in a nervous panic that I was ruining my clouds.

But, surprisingly, it turned out great! The overall effect is actually rather magical, though you will have to take my word for it because none of the photos came out.  Suffice to say it came out so well that I might do a star ceiling for my studio, too!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


So the big library awards were announced on Monday and my book did not receive one. Of course, I wasn't expecting one but I admit after hearing some very respectable people favoring it, I did nurture some hopes.

However, even though the award was not meant to be, it's been heartwarming to hear from individuals who thought the book was worthy. If anything it reminds me that my pact as an author is with the reader. I promise to create my absolute best for the readers of my book, not for a committee and not for an award. And the winning books are wonderful...heck, I probably would've chosen them over mine as well.

This year, while the winners were being called and announced I was at a doctor's appointment for Rain Dragon and she had to get her vaccination shots. I hate when she has to get shots, I've had to hold her while the nurse pricks her and she looks at me with wails of betrayal.  I feel awful;  the last time she got her shot I had to close my eyes and not watch.

But on Monday, for the very first time she didn't cry. When the nurse poked her with the needle, she tensed up, screwed up her face but didn't cry. She just sucked her fingers and looked at me as if to say, "Now, can we go home?"

I wouldn't be human if I didn't admit I was a little disappointed about the awards, but if Rain Dragon can be that brave, I think her mama can take some lumps too.

Congrats to all the winners!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

on my desk monday

As the snow powders the outside world, I have beautiful, golden oranges on my table:

They are what is becoming an annual gift from my librarian friend Mary whose lives far away in a Paradise where the orange trees are so plentiful:

photo from Mary's garage!

and large:
this one was 1.3 pounds!
That she felt obligated to share her fortune...which we were only to happy to receive. Yum! Fresh oranges! Remind me to send Mary our new address for next year's harvest...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

sky ceiling, step 1

We're still living in two places but that hasn't stopped us from starting our own personalization in our new house. My pet project is getting Rain Dragon's room ready. I have big plans for it. At first I though I would paint a mural in it like I did for L& R but the view outside Rain Dragon's future window changed my mind:

and I decided on an elaborate sky ceiling instead. First, I needed to paint a daytime sky with soft puffy clouds which meant blue paint on the ceiling:

Rain Dragon watched me with great interest and confusion the whole time. Since she was going to be witness to all my painting I used low voc paint which is pretty amazing-- it really is odorless!--but gave me a bit of shell-shock at the cash register. So I tried to use it sparingly. The color is Benjamin Moore Barely Teal, which is a very light greenish blue instead of the typical sky blue because I wanted more of a fairy tale sky.

But I still wanted the clouds to be realistic looking. So I mapped out cloud formations:

and then I layered in four different shades of white (just in case you want to do this yourself the colors were Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, Vanilla Ice Cream and then a mixture of Vanilla Ice Cream + Peach Parfait  and a mixture of Vanilla Ice cream + Majestic mauve) to give the clouds depth.  Painting clouds and making them look real isn't that difficult (the trick is to dry brush--not a lot of paint on the brush and be willing to ruin your brush by scrubbing the color in with it), but it is time consuming--mainly because you have to keep going up and down the ladder to figure out each step. It took me a couple days until I was satisfied.

And while I liked how the winter white color of the walls brought out the whiteness of the clouds, I felt it was too cold for a baby's room. So we changed the wall color to a soft cream which makes the clouds look a little peachy--like a clouds at sunrise.

I think it turned out well, if I do say so myself! I admit I'm pretty proud!

Rain Dragon didn't seem that impressed, though. Oh well, maybe step 2 of the sky ceiling-- glow-in-the-dark constellations-- will!

Monday, January 21, 2013

on my desk monday

Pretty fabric! These are going to make curtains & cushions for Rain Dragon's room and the studio. That is if I can get over my fear of the sewing machine!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pocket Pacy's Pals

One of the winners of my special edition Pocket Pacys decided that she needed some friends and made some of her own:

Aren't they cute? Can't wait to see where they all go!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

13 resolutions for 2013

Every year I make resolutions (or as my friends the BRG prefer to call them "goals"). Sometimes I achieve them (donating my hair, finishing my novel), other times not so much.  Last year, with Rain Dragon on the way, my only goal was to have a healthy and happy baby (which I am so grateful  came true!).  But this year, I'm going back to the resolution tradition, though I like to pretend that I don't have to start until Chinese New Year (Feb 10th, Year of the Snake!).

1. Loosen up. With upcoming school visits and work demands, I need to be able to let Rain Dragon be cared for by others. Truthfully, this might be harder on me than on her. But the goal is to spend time away from the baby without guilt and be confident that she'll be fine. This will be my biggest challenge this year.

2. Eat healthier. More salad! I've been indulging my sweet tooth a bit too much recently...

3.  Move to the new house with as little stress as possible. Because who needs more stress? To try to achieve this goal, we are moving slowly...which may or may not help.

4. Let go. Selling the condo is fraught with emotion for me, as well as declutter-ing that is a part of moving. I have to remind myself constantly that these items are not my memories and that getting rid of things does not mean I love any less.

5. Donate. Time, unfortunately, is limited these days and I can't do the charity I've done in the past. So, instead I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and purge my flat files as well as do a good deed. I want to donate a big chunk of my art to someplace like the Kerlan or the Dodd Center as well as smaller organizations that could use it well.

6. Decorate. I want to decorate the living room, studio and baby's room in a way that I love. I've decided to leave the other rooms for next year, I figured I should keep these goals achievable!

7. Sew. I want to finally get over my fear of the sewing machine and sew curtains and babyclothes--get over my fear of the sewing machine and finally get to use the fabrics I've been stockpiling for years.

8. Write. I want (and need) to nail down a plot (and hopefully a draft) of my new (and perhaps final) novel. I have all these nebulous ideas floating around but nothing concrete--time to start making things solid.

9. Illustrate.  Strangely, I now think of myself more as an author than an illustrator these days. In some ways, I think my illustration growth has stagnated because I've been stretching  and focusing so much on writing. I'd like to get back to my illustration roots a bit  and growing in that direction, focusing on...

10. New books. Baby books or a new picturebook--more ideas (Star Baby wants to be born!) that need to be nailed down and brought to fruition.

11. Branch out.  With Rain Dragon around, I've had to start cutting down on school visits which is painful on the pocketbook. Babies= increased expenses + decreased income = not a good combo! So I've been trying to think of ways to make extra income without having to leave home. Right now the two ideas I have are offering portraits (though I need to see how well the winners' portraits come out first) or making & selling Chinese flashcards, but I'm not sure if either are going to be financially feasible...

12. Connect. All these goals are well and good, but people--baby, husband, family and, yes, readers!--must have a place, too. I want to make sure for all my personal goals in which I focus inward, I also spend time outward.

13. Remember. Every year has its low points and I know this year will have its share. When that happens, and even when it doesn't, I want remember how lucky I am. Life is a wonderful thing--sweet and sour--and I want to make sure I live it --a sentiment that I now realize, in hindsight, is partially inspired by the words of  Maurice Sendak:

Monday, January 14, 2013

on my desk monday

Every year I think I will get out holiday cards and I never do (maybe Chinese New Year cards?). Part of the reason why I never get it done its because I see all the creative cards my children's book colleagues do and I feel I just can't compare. This year the coolest Christmas card award goes to Leo Landry who sent this crossword puzzle card with a secret message (which I haven't solved yet). Isn't it neat?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

how I spent my winter vacation

Just like last year, I felt like I had to finally answer all my reader mail* before the new year. I'm getting better--my return rate is about 4 months versus the 6 months(!), now!

But that makes it sound like responding to reader mail is a chore. It isn't, really. It's actually quite a joy. I love hearing from readers--what they like about my books, who they are...and their ambitious cats:

though, to be fair, this writer didn't tell me why her cats were so ambitious! I am very curious. Doesn't it sound like a book that needs to be written-- "All the Ambitious Cats?" Maybe she'll tell me in her next letter.

*helpful hint if you want a response: Please make sure you write your return mailing address on your letter--sometimes I lose/mix up envelopes and can't figure out where to send! Apologies to anyone who does not get a response at all, it means I misplaced your return address.

Monday, January 7, 2013

on my desk monday

So many cute knobs! I'm trying to decide which ones I want to use for my drawers in my brand-new studio!

It took us a long time to find a house. Originally, I had dreams a la Return to Gone-Away Lake-- finding an old fixer-upper and bringing it back to life while it making it our own. However, as time went on, I realized that I didn't even have enough time to even go and get my haircut--renovating a house was not realistic.  But I still want to make this my House of Dreams (or rather my House of Dreams on A Limited Budget) so we are adding a lot of personal touches, including a new studio with cute knobs! Which ones should I choose?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

new view

moon over our new backyard
As I mentioned earlier, we're moving! It's official, we've closed on a house in western MA--two hours away from our current location.

I have many mixed emotions about the move. I love the new house and with Rain Dragon showing signs of crawling, I know it's the right thing to do. We want her to have a swingset, a yard, the whole works--and the apartment is already squished past capacity.

But I have a lot of memories here, from renovations to Robert it's hard to let go. Luckily, we've decided we're going to move slowly so we can do some minor renovations on the house (bookshelves! need bookshelves!) and not put the apartment on the market until spring. So gradually I've been getting used to the idea. I feel like Randy in The Four Story Mistake, lamenting how each thing she did was going to be the "last time."

But, just like in that book, I know "the last time" will be joyfully replaced with "the first time."