Friday, February 27, 2009

Gracie Eats Her Alphabet

It has only been a month and a half since three year old Gracie decided she wanted to learn how to read, but she has pretty much learned the entire alphabet in that time.

There are a few letters that she doesn't know yet (like 'x' which she doesn't quite believe is a real letter - it just makes her laugh), and she is still confused about the sounds of some letters. But when it comes to recognizing and writing her letters, she has completely amazed me.

Will has learning disabilities and never really showed an interest in learning as a kid. He was more the rugby playing, class prankster type, who spent more time in the headmaster's office than he did in the classroom.

I don't really remember being eager to learn as a kid, either. I do remember that reading was hard and I was in the slow group back when I was 6. I also remember being excited about the art cart that went from classroom to classroom each week... and that was about it. At least until college, which was when I really discovered I loved to learn - my favorite classes being art, music, English Lit and theatre history (I was a Creative Arts major, can you tell?).

But Gracie... well, I'm not entirely sure if she isn't just a changeling. Bedtime stories have been replaced with reading her Winnie the Pooh encyclopedia, or laying back with her eyes closed while I read her poetry (okay, its Shel Silverstein, so its pretty wacky and cute... but still).

I wanted to give her a sweet treat as a way to celebrate her hard work and learning strides, so the other day I made her some alphabet cookies.

One bag of sugar cookie mix would have been enough to make the entire alphabet, measuring at about 2-3 inches per cookie. Annelie ate quite a lot of the dough, and then I burnt J, P, O, and N, but I was able to make about 16 letters and Gracie cheerfully decorated them all.

Kids are just amazing little things aren't they? The older my girls get, the more I realize they they are not quite the tiny little babies I imagined them to be when they were small. They are smart, independent, strong-willed and creative little ladies... and though they drive me completely bonkers about 90% of the time, I'm pretty darned proud of my girls!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Pillows

I am always happy to discover easy and kid-friendly recipes for my girls, and I was not let down by the Chicken Rolls recipe I found on the blog Melt My Butter, the other day. I was excited to find this blog by Janna, who is a pediatrician and mom of two brilliant and adorable little boys (who never fail to entertain. I've been reading her other blog, Keeping Up with the Jennings for months now, and her kids are quite the little characters).

Melt My Butter is a blog about family-friendly freezer cooking recipes, so that dinner can be made in double or triple batches and then frozen for convenience. Wow, sounds good to me! I was writing my weekly shopping list when she posted her Chicken Rolls recipe, so I decided to try that one first.

2 cooked chicken breasts, diced or shredded
8 oz cream cheese, softened (reduced fat is the best)
2 cans Pillsbury crescent rolls (also try to get the reduced fat ones)
salt to taste
(optional: 1 cup chopped broccoli florets)

A way to make this recipe even easier, is to grill chicken ahead of time and freeze it. Chicken can be frozen twice - once while raw, and once after cooking. Making a bunch of grilled chicken ahead of time and pulling it out of the freezer when its needed cuts a ton of time from meal prep.

I have chicken cooking issues, in that I have this bizarre compulsion to chop my chicken into little bite sized pieces while its being cooked - I'm paranoid that it is still raw inside and that everyone I know and love with die of raw chicken disease (or something like that). Luckily most of the recipes I make call for chicken pieces, but if any of you come over for grilled chicken, just know you wont have to cut it yourself!

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix chicken with cream cheese. I added broccoli because my kids love it and I'm always happy to find recipes that I can add more veggies to.

Plus, with all of the chicken and cream cheese, the broccoli taste is pretty masked. Even non-broccoli lovers will probably enjoy it with broccoli in it!

I had a hard time getting the rolls filled, as Annelie wanted me to spoon feed her all of the mixture. She loved it!

Roll out crescent rolls. Separate rolls into rectangles made up of 2 rolls. Each can yields 4 rectangles.

Put 1/8 of mixture in center of each rectangle. Fold over and press edges closed. Pinch closed any gaps in the perforated line between rolls of each rectangle.

Gracie decided they looked like "Chicken Pillows" so she renamed them and then invented the Yummy Yummy Chicken Pillow chant (in which she shouted out "Yummy yummy chicken pillows" over and over until I kicked her out of the kitchen and sent her to her room to play) which is now the chicken roll anthem in our house.

Place on baking sheet with a few inches of space around each one and bake as directed on can of rolls. My oven runs a little hot, so the time on the can was perfect, but with some stoves, give a couple of extra minutes, as the filling inside might need longer to cook.

And voila! They are done. They were quick, they were easy, and they were an absolute hit.

And the best part? They were so low mess that Annelie didn't have to eat her dinner in her diaper, like she usually does. With the exception of rubbing some of if in her hair, she was able to pick up her chicken pillow and eat it easily, without making a big mess. YAY!

I'll be keeping my eyes on Melt My Butter, eager for more kid friendly, easy recipes to try. Next on my list: Chicken Cordon Bleu Lasagna. Yum!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sparkly Little Pendants

Sweet Swallow Tattoo Pendant

I have exciting news for all Elegant Snobbery fans, especially those who love my work but don't have a wall to stick the prints on...

Sharon of the shop Haber Heartwork now has the exclusive license to utilize my artwork for her gorgeous glass pendants.

Each of the pendants are handmade by Sharon, printed on superior paper/card stock and attached behind glass with strong, acid-free, non-toxic adhesive. The 1" square glass pieces are crystal clear, handmade, high quality glass with smooth edges. The backs are sealed with a non-toxic gloss sealant.

And even better... an 18" ballchain necklace is included with every pendant and the little package arrives in a cotton lined small gift box, so they are perfect for gift giving!

Chocolate and Roses Cupcake Pendant

Best Friends Forever

Hello, Friend! Pendant

So go on by and take a peek inside Haber Heartwork. Her handmade jewelry is absolutely fabulous.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Anthropomorphic Flowers

About ten years ago, I visited the SF MOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and discovered the picture Blossoms in the Night by Paul Klee, which I instantly fell in love with. There is something about the flowers, which look like they are cheerfully dancing in the moonlight, that appealed to me. I ended up sketching little anthropomorphic, dancing flowers for ages, after that - pansies and roses, all joyfully dancing in the garden. I was in love.

The other day, I pulled out one of the sketches from the Alice series I've been talking about for the last hundred million years (well, since August, but you know what I mean) and thought, "Hmmm... perhaps I'm ready to paint this now." I love and adore the human-like flowers surrounding Alice. They are quite intimidating, aren't they?

Poor Alice.

Here is a little sneak peek at what will most likely be my next watercolor painting. I'm still frightened of watercolors, but I'm not really seeing this one in colored pencil when I visualize it finished in my head. So watercolors it will be. Good thing I have a large stash of paper, because I might have to paint and repaint and repaint again, with this one.

For all you other dancing flower lovers out there, here are a few Etsy favorites of mine.

Poppy Orange
Fine Art Photograph
by Allie Art 4 Children
(15% of each purchase from this shop will go to Reach Out Children's Fund, a non-profit organization benefiting people in the remote areas of the Andes mountains of Peru.)

My Deep Purple Dream
Original Watercolor
by Karen Faulkner

Two Flowers
Original Mixed Media Collage
by Alisa Nordholt-Dean

Aren't they so lovely? Yup, I agree.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Marvelous Adventures of Muschka Mouse

Little Muschka lives in Princess Gracie's pocket and eats marshmallows. Together, the two of them go on many adventures, usually involving dragons (who seem frightening at first, but are very sweet at heart), mermaids (who take the princess/mouse duo down to the bottom of the sea in search for pirate's treasure - watch out for sharks!) and fairies (who like to eat marshmallows, just like Muschka).

I don't remember exactly when the Muschka Mouse stories began. I think Gracie was about two and a half... something like that. It was Will who started the mouse talk in our house. As long as I've known him, he's had this habit of taking a bite of EVERYTHING that he hands me, whether it is a slice of buttered toast, a cookie or a doughnut (yeah, I'm a seriously healthy eater, can you tell?).

"A little mouse took a bite," he always explains.

And so the stories of Muschka began. I think Muschka came into our lives as an explanation to Gracie, for why her snacks always have bite marks in them. Now, she just automatically says, "Look, Muschka took a bite!"

The other day (now, this is a sad story, so be warned... your eyes may just mist up), Gracie and I were sitting on the couch together, sketch books on our lap and pencils and Pink Pearl erasers in our hands. I was sketching out Miss Muschka for Gracie and was too absorbed in my own sketch to notice hers until I heard her suddenly burst into tears.

"Why are you crying?" I asked. She has never cried while sketching before... art usually makes her smile.

"My mouse doesn't look like yours!" she cried. "I don't know how to draw the ears!"

Wow, talk about heartbreaking. She is three. I didn't expect her to become aware of her artistic capabilities for years yet! Luckily, I was able to calm her down and point to the little mouse head and instruct her to draw two circles. She did, easily, and then laughed at her picture when it was finished. I assured her that her Muschka was perfect. And it is - though that just might be a mother's love shining through my rose-tinted glasses as I gaze upon the perfection that is her picture.

But a part of me is sad, still, because Gracie's innocent little drawings are beginning to change. No longer does she pull out the marker and draw a large and simple, happy-faced critter. She now hunches over her sketch book and draws tiny and very detailed characters (usually rabbits in wedding dresses), with the ability of a 6-7 year old. She really is an amazing little artist... but I'm not sure just how many new illustrations will be added to Tootsie and Grace, as her work is too small and detailed now.

Ah, well it was fun while it lasted, and we did a lot of awesome illustrations together.
My own version of Muschka is finished and in the shop. Of all my illustrations, she is, of course, Gracie's favorite, as Gracie knows her very well as the little mouse who tucks up in her pocket eating marshmallows and nibbling at her toast.

And I expect the two of them will have many more marvelous adventures together, in the years to come.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mama Knows Best

Mama Knows Best
8 x 8 and 10 x 10 inch prints

Mama knows best... and lucky for Mama Owl, little baby owl knows it (unlike my own two kids who seem to think that they know everything there is to know about everything and that I'm just around to pass out juice boxes and fruit snacks when they demand them).

I love the look of adoration on baby owl's face... this illustration actually reminds me of my Grammy and me. When I was first born, my mom was pretty sick so I used to cuddle up next to my Grammy all night long.

Ever since I was a little girl, she would tell me that I just looked at her all night with great big eyes. Like an owl, I was pretty nocturnal (I still am) and as I was painting this one, all I could think of was cuddling up next to my Grammy. I still do, as often as I can, though now it is pretty hard considering that I'm not the teeny little 5 and a half pounder that I was when I was born. Good thing she has my girls to cuddle up with, too.

I still don't have watercolors figured out. I'm sure I never will... but at least I'm having fun playing around with them. That tree is my absolute favorite part of the illustration. And I love the look of light washes, like in the night sky. Colored pencils are so opaque when blended. I love that about them, but its nice to try something new and end up with a whole new look.

So here it is... Mama Knows Best.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Watercolors, Watercolors Everywhere...

....And plenty of it to drink.


I'm one of those moms who, on a whim of insanity, thinks, "Hey, I should let the 3 year old and the 2 year old paint!"

Gracie has finally proved to to me that she can behave herself when the paints come out -- though I can tell you now, when black watercolor gets absorbed into the white walls, no amount of cleaning, priming or re-painting can make the darned stuff go away.

Now Annelie is trying her hands... and face, and teeth and clothes, at painting and is loving every second of it, so the mess is worth it to me.

I have a love/hate relationship with watercolors, myself. I love how they look - LOVE how they look - when other people paint them... but I just hate the way the slippery stuff controls me when its my turn to paint with them. Colored pencils are predictable. You draw a line, you blend it in, and it stays that way always.

But watercolors.... they have a mind of their own and right now I have no idea what they are thinking. I paint a line, I blend it in, and then, when my back is turned, all sorts of crazy stuff happens. Sometimes, the line blurs, sometimes it fades to a pale wash when it is supposed to be vibrant, sometimes it gets mucky and brown when it is supposed to be lovely... I can hardly handle the aggravation. But you know the old saying. When at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I've failed more times than I can count, when it comes to watercolors, but I'm not giving up, because I just love the look of watercolors so much.

Plus, they are the only medium I can think of where I can sit next to my kids and work. If Annelie flings anything toward a colored pencil illustration, it is as good as ruined... but with a watercolor, I can blend it and fudge it to make it look like the dots and smears were done on purpose (thanks, Annelie). And sitting down and creating art with my two little girls is probably one of the best feelings I can have.

I love my little girls and I love how creative they are... and sometimes that is worth much more than a mouthful of blue Crayola.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Captain Frederick Frog and Lady Imogen in Love

Captain Frederick Frog and Lady Imogen
8 x 10 Watercolor Prints

The love that Captain Frederick Frog feels for Lady Imogen is so poetic that it can only be expressed with the poem:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

- Christopher Marlowe

And as he goes off to woo his love with a beautiful bouquet of roses, you can only hope that the Lady Imogen, the beautiful Imogen, will return his love.

And she does. Of course she does.

Her beauty is legendary, and can only be expressed in the sonnet by the Bard, himself:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

- William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Who could resist a face so lovely? Not Captain Frederick, that's for sure.

These two little prints are now in shop, both alone or as a set which you can find {{{here}}}


Sunday, February 15, 2009


Yesterday, as a birthday present to moi, Will took me down to the Southside tattoo parlor on S. Congress Ave in Austin and I got my first tattoo.

I'm a sucker for old school Sailor Jerry tattoos. I love the hearts, I love the swallows, I love the scrolls... I just love 'em, and I'd had this tattoo idea in my head for ages now. It was nice to say to Jack (the artist), "I want a heart, a swallow with wings up, and a scroll saying "LOVE..." and have him whip up the perfect tattoo and color it in just for me. I think his work is amazing and I'm pretty smitten with my new tat - it's bold, bright, and classic, and suits me perfectly.

What do you think?

Will's birthday was a little over a week ago, and a new tattoo was my present to him as well. You can sort of see the Welsh dragon tattoo on his arm, which was my Christmas present to him a year ago - tattoos make the perfect gift).

He is a huge fan of rock and roll, both the history and the music, and our tour of Sun Studio in Memphis back in December was his favorite part of our anniversary road trip. Sun Studio is where Elvis, Johnny Cash, BB King and Albert King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, ... (and the list goes on) all got their break, and Will (the ultimate Elvis and BB King fan) was completely wow'd.

Pretty awesome tattoos, huh?

Thank you all for my birthday wishes on Friday! I had a lovely day and all of your lovely comments made my day even better!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy, Happy Birthday to Me!

Cupcake Party Hat

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to Mareeeeees-uhhh
Happy birthday to me!

I'm not one of those people who shies away from birthdays. Are you kidding? A whole day to celebrate me, with cake and presents and awkward singing from everyone I love, while I just smile and think of a good wish that just absolutely has to come true.... how could I not love birthdays?

I was born on Friday the 13th, and my first birthday was on Friday the 13th, and now here we are again... Friday the 13th and I am now 28 years old. but hey, that's okay, because we are celebrating in Austin with my family and I'm quite excited.

Actually, not all of the day will be fabulous. We have the 3.5 hour drive to make with 2 kids and a medium sized dog with intestinal issues in the car... and then the actual reason we are going to Austin isn't quite to celebrate my birthday but to spend the afternoon at the Clerks and Records office because someone has waited two years to get her youngest daughter's birth certificate and she has to turn it into the immigration officers by next week or else her husband will be deported back to England pronto... but other than that, the day will be all about me and all about cake and I can't wait.

So without further ado, I think I'll link you to last years post {{click here}}, which was a photographic ode to ME and the first 26 years of my life - though now that we are at the end of my 27th year, you can just imagine that last picture with a pixie cut and a year's worth of wrinkles added to my face. I still look the same.

So happy birthday to me, and feel free to go out and treat yourself to a cupcake, or a bottle of champagne so you can celebrate right alongside me.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New in Shop: Print Sets!

Gnomes in Love Set

Because some prints just deserve to be together... and who am I to stand in their way... I am now offering print sets of my popular prints that go together like peas in a pod.

Little Gnome Houses Set of 3

Silly Sock Monkeys For the Boys Set of 3

Silly Sock Monkeys For the Girls Set of 3

Medieval Monkeys Set

Fruit-Topped Cupcake Trio

And even better than that..... a fantastic money savings per set, because who doesn't love a deal?


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