Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Illustration Friday - Asleep

Let me just say, going 6 months without picking up a colored pencil is a CRIME. I didn't even know how much I missed the suckers until last weekend when I picked them up to work on a project for my friend's dissertation (which I shall share another day). Seriously, heaven. I love my pencils.

When I saw this week's prompt for Illustration Friday, I knew sweet Consuelo needed a colored illustration, not just the occasional sketch here and there.

Raise your hand if you can guess my inspiration picture for this one?

The fair Consuelo,
dreaming of her sand and sea-glass cottage by the sea.

By the way, I want to live in this cottage.

I have a companion piece that is going on my drawing board someday. Hopefully sooner than later. I don't want to go 6 months without picking up a pencil again!

Happy Tuesday, folks!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Make a Board Game and Clean This Mess!

My kids figured out long, long ago that there are approximately ten thousand and five better things to do than clean. Which means when it's cleaning time, I get nothing but resistance. Parents out there - unless your kids are on the OCD side of cleaning, I'm sure you're in the same boat - especially if you are a creative-type with little creative-types running around your ankles.

When it comes to my kiddos' creativity and the materials it takes to create, I don't limit - they've always had free reign of the art supplies. They love it and make the most amazing things - bird beak masks, wings, paper dolls, doll houses, they write and illustrate books, snip paper like it's going outta style... and they make the BIGGEST MESSES. Bigger than mine! When it's time to clean up, I get so much resistance that simple pick-up-your-stuff requests turn into fights with time outs and me putting them on art probation. I hate that.

And then there's the whole clean-your-room business. Oh man.

Well, something needed to change, so, inspired by the book Time Management For the Creative Person, by Lee Silber, who gives ideas for turning boring to-do lists into more creative ways of accomplishing the necessary items in life, I got the idea to make a board game for the girls - heck, the whole family - and now we have CLEAN THIS MESS.

A mess-cleaning board game that is colorful like Candy Land and a silly-fun way to get things done. With a winner's circle - definitely a goal my kids want to reach - and fast!


Materials -

  • Sturdy cardboard about the size of a Candy Land board (shape doesn't matter!)
  • Colored card stock for squares and game piece backings
  • Double stick tape
  • Clear contact paper
  • Optional magazine cut-outs
I figured that for my kiddos (ages 4 and 6), 12 tasks were about the limit they could take in one clean session, so I have 12 squares on my board. Because of my board size, I made my squares 1.5 inches then arranged them in a wiggly shaped path to the winners circle. Around the path, I taped the magazine cut outs.

When all items were loosely taped down, I covered the board, front and back, with clear contact paper.


  • Snap a couple full body digital photos.
  • Print them out (ours are 4-5 inches)
  • Cut them out
  • Tape them to colored card stock
  • Cover them in clear contact paper - front and back
  • Cut them out again, this time with a base for the feet

Cut thin strips of card stock like so:

Give them two little snips - then connect the slits so that you have a little hoop stand.

Make two snips in the base of the person game piece and stick it on the stand. Admire your merry band of cleaning warriors.

(I was being fierce - dust bunnies, BEWARE!)


I made a stack of cards that can be reused. When we played, it was a Clean Your Room game, so my cards had tasks like:
  • Pick up all blue toys and put them in the toy box
  • Put all My Little Ponies on the shelf
  • Gather all dirty clothes and put in laundry room
  • Throw away ten pieces of garbage
Mixed with funny cards:
  • Dance while cleaning for one whole song
  • Clean for two minutes while holding a book on your head
  • Pick up ten pink things and put them away while hopping on one foot
Mixed with non-cleaning cards (everyone needs a break!):
  • Make up and sing a silly song
  • Recite the Preamble to the Constitution
  • Spin around in a circle while counting to 20
  • Brush your teeth
Definitely write cards to suit your needs - you will need enough cards for each person to have a card for each space on the board.

When making the cards, fill them with the necessary items on your to-do list, only make them even shorter tasks than you'd ordinarily give your kids. You can do this by having them do tasks by color or limit the number of items they'll pick up per card. I had three garbage picking up cards - one for throwing away 10 items, one for throwing away 6 items while wearing a princess dress backwards, one for throwing away 8 items while singing the alphabet. MAKE IT EASY AND FUN and most of all, NOT OVERWHELMING. Give them the ability to move their game pieces quickly from one square to the next in order to keep the interest level up!

ADAPT THE GAME TO SUIT OLDER KIDS by giving them cards that allow them to steal the space of other players, or force them to lose a turn by taking a break while the other people work. Build on my game idea to suit your own needs!


My kids played yesterday and Gracie's insanely messy room was cleaned up in an organized manner in only 15 minutes.

YOU GUYS! It usually takes about two hours - kicking and screaming included - to accomplish the same amount of cleaning.

I am a happy mama once again.

If you want to make CLEAN THIS MESS, too, and have questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

Have a great weekend, folks!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fare-thee-well, Kindergarten

I'm in constant disbelief that my kids are growing up - Gracie's last day of kindergarten is today and I SWEAR it was only 6 minutes ago that I was wiping off her strawberry cream cheese mustache before taking her to school on her very first day.

(my ickle baby)

She's grown three shoe sizes. She's grown two clothes sizes. She's moved past the days of knowing only the alphabet and is full on reading.

And writing!

(Her journal from September 21st - the G represents Goldilocks)

Her journal from May 16th - about her Girls Just Wanna Have Fun b-day party
"I got to do wat I wonid to do"

(I'm seeing NYT bestselling memoir writer in her future)

(perhaps the James Frey kind...
about 90% of her journal was made up)

(all grow'd up!)

This past weekend Gracie said, "I'm glad it's summer. It will be like the old days again."

She often talks about how much she misses "the old days." (I do, too, little duckling - you grow way too fast).

So, in honor of the good ol' days, we're prepping our summer for the HOPKINS FAMILY (virtual) WORLD VACATION (inspired by Michelle at Michelle's Charm World) in which we spend the summer traveling the world through music, food, art and science projects.

Annelie begged to make a working replica of Mt. Vesuvius - why does this not surprise me? - and Gracie begged to make a paper mache globe. I see a messy future for us all.

I know a bunch of my mama blogger pals are saying fare-thee-well to their kindergartners and welcoming home their brand new first graders today. Congrats to you on surviving this first school year! And good luck to you, as well - three months of summer vacation! I'm already wondering how I'm going to cope...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Outta the Mouths of Babes: The Harmonica Edition

Just an average conversation with my four year old...

ANNELIE [plays a little tune on her harmonica]: So can I?

ME: Can you what?

ANNELIE: I just told you. Let me do it again. [plays a little tune on her harmonica] There.

ME: What was that?

ANNELIE: I wanted something to eat.

ME: Sure. What do you want.

ANNELIE [plays a little tune on her harmonica]: That's what I want.

ME: I have no idea what you're asking for.

ANNELIE: Listen carefully. [plays a little tune on her harmonica] Can I have one?

ME: Annelie. I don't speak harmonica. Please tell me.

ANNELIE [impatiently]: Oh Mom, just listen. This is what I want. [plays a little tune on her harmonica]

ME: Do you want a banana?

ANNELIE [plays a little tune on her harmonica]: That means no.

ME: Do you want a sandwich.

ANNELIE [plays a little tune on her harmonica]: That means yes. I want this kind. [plays a little tune on her harmonica] Got it?

ME [ready to grab harmonica and chuck it out the window]: If you don't tell me now, I'm not making anything at all.

ANNELIE [plays a little tune on her harmonica]: That means I want a peanut butter and frosting sandwich.

ME: Nope, not an option.

ANNELIE [plays a little tune on her harmonica]: That means I want a peanut butter and honey sandwich.

ME: That I can make.

ANNELIE [plays a little tune on her harmonica]: Do you know what that means?

ME: Please?

ANNELIE: No [plays a little tune on her harmonica] that one means please. This one [plays a little tune on her harmonica] means thank you.

*eyes twitching*

At least she's polite....


Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Flashback: A Midnight Beach

I'm still planning on taking a mini blog hiatus because I have over-committed myself just a tad and need to catch up with life, but I'll toss in a Friday flashback first.

So. I've blogged about my wretched (but amusing! - to me at least) poetry from 7th grade in previous flashbacks, and here I go again. Only this poem was my 7th grade Young Author's Faire submission so it has fancy pictures!

A Midnight Beach

And in usual Marisa fashion - a page in which I dedicated my book to one of my childhood cats.

And, in case you aren't sure whether you just read a truly terrible poem or a REALLY AMAZING poem, I'll just go ahead and show you the reviews:

That's right you guys - my poem is one of the greats.

Best. Poem. EVER.

Seriously, though, I hated this poem when I wrote it. I might have had a ginormous love for writing and poetry back then, but my self-confidence was atrocious. It was supposed to be a descriptive poem, and even now, writing descriptions usually ends with me banging my head on my desk and blubbering that I'm a no-talent hack.

Although I am happy to say that my teacher liked my poem more than I did - every teacher picked two books from each class to enter the Young Author's Faire, and my poem was one of her choices.

But I will add that even then I was positive my teacher picked my poem because of the illustrations - this is the same teacher who announced to the class, while looking directly at me, that book reports and other non-artsy class assignments (she was also my history teacher) were not allowed to have illustrated covers because they will NOT count toward the grade.

This is also the teacher who, ten years later, saw me working at the elementary school her daughter attended, remembered me, and asked if I was still into art. That was pretty cool - she was one of my favorite teachers. I felt awful that I didn't recognize her. I also can't believe that at age 23 I looked enough like my 13-year-old self (eeek!) that my teacher recognized me.

Have a flashback of your own? JOIN IN THE FUN and hop on over to Tia's blog while you're at it.

Happy weekend, folks!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

MIA for some R&R

I have been over-committing myself lately which is something I am really good at. If there is an award out there for people who take on too much and end up stressed and insane, I'm totally going to win this year. So, I may be scarce 'round these here parts for awhile -- I'm ready for a little rest & relaxation!

(I use the words rest and relaxation very loosely, as I don't really know how to do either)

In an effort to enjoy spring, Annelie and I been spending our days outside. I figure the Texas sun will be too intense to keep this up once summer is in full swing, so I'm getting my vitamin D while it's only, oh, a hundred degrees out.

And spending my days outside with my kiddo and my cat is as close to a vacation as I get.

And it is nice and relaxing.... although I do find myself saying more and more each day:

"Annelie, please don't torture the cat."

"No, really. I'm not kidding around, here. Please don't. torture. the. cat."

She doesn't help in the relaxation department, but one of these days she'll listen.

I keep telling myself that (weirdly, all the cats like her best).

Are you guys enjoying spring where you live? I hope so!

Happy Thursday, folks!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BLOOD MAGIC by Tessa Gratton (or a post in which I admit I'm a crazy fangirl)

WARNING: Content shows fangirlying of epic proportions. You have been warned.

Once upon a time (a little over two years ago) I was having a BAD day. You guys, this day sucked royally and went right on sucking into the night where I sat in my room, at my computer, bitter and alone. Will was working late, late, late. The girls, practically babies back then, were finally asleep - or else they'd knocked each other unconscious in their usual bedtime fighting - I was too grumpy to check. That night, I was wallowing in my bad-day misery pretty hardcore.

Now, I'm a firm believer in the whole 'every cloud has a silver lining' thing, and I typically find my silver lining when I'm shopping online. This day was no different, but what to shop for, what to shop for?

A book - that's what. But not just any book - I wanted an incredibly fantastic faery story - something modern yet fantasy, something a wee bit gory, definitely creepy, dark yet funny... Oh yeah, and it had to be YA fiction. I had no idea where to even begin searching for a book such as this.

And then I stumbled upon the blog belonging to the Merry Sisters of Fate.

If you aren't familiar with this blog, let me fill you in: FANTASTIC FREE FICTION. Short stories posted regularly by three gals with a love for all things magic and creepy, dark yet funny. Fantasy, fairy tales, monsters (OH MY!)... I could go on forever.

I spent the rest of the night reading story after story by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff and Tessa Gratton - made my feel-good purchase when I saw that Ms. Stiefvater had a published book called Lament, about homicidal faeries and an evil queen (O_O!!!) and I thought: this BETTER be good.

Uh. Yeah. The book came in the mail a couple days later. Good ended up being a bit of an understatement. Though she might tell you otherwise, I'm pretty sure Maggie wrote this book specifically for me.

- insert fangirlying of epic proportions -
(this includes but is not limited to me jumping up and down, hands flapping, eyes twitching, and OH EM GEE, OH EM GEE, OH EM GEE repeated for dayz)

I decided then and there that these three gals would share my fangirlying equally because if I focused my attentions on one of them specifically, I'd probably end up with a restraining order. Well, okay, not a real one, but they might block my IP address or something, so they wouldn't have to deal with my embarrassing amounts of fawning. Actually, that's not true. I mostly fangirl from afar with an occasional OMG I WANT TO BE YOU GUYS WHEN I GROW UP! thrown into a blog comment or tweet. But still.

Maggie's other books came out - all fantastic (you might be familiar with Shiver - a NYT bestseller for a billion consecutive weeks). Brenna's book The Replacement came out - also a NYT bestseller (if you haven't read it, go on!)

And now, coming May 24, 2011:

If you haven't guessed yet that I'm excited about this book, let me go on and tell ya:


Only two more weeks to wait, but until then, here is a book trailer to whet your appetite.

I know. That was blood. Blood Magic features BLOOD.

And if you would like a little sample of Tessa's beautiful (and creepy FTW!) writing, check out my favorite short story of hers:

PUDDLES <- click that.

You guys, if you haven't read a book by one of the three Merry Sisters, don't follow my example and wait for a terrible day to do it. Do it now! You don't need to be a young adult to love and adore YA fiction. You do, however, have to be awesome -- are you up to the challenge?

And if you want a chance to win an advanced reading copy of Blood Magic, hop on over to the blog of Natalie C Parker and enter her contest. (I'm totally on it)

Happy Tuesday, folks!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Day-After-Mother's Day!

During playtime in class today, Gracie asked her teacher if she would help her type up a poem.

And with it - a portrait!

I said to Gracie, "Thanks! This looks just like me!"

She rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, Mom. It doesn't look just like you. You never wear pink lipstick."

Well, if I did wear pink lipstick, I'd look exactly like this. It's an awesome likeness.

And a totally awesome poem!

Mother's Day should be every day!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Today we're celebrating the moms in our life with a little poetry:
Though they might sound exactly like the super sophisticated poems I write, these poems were written by my daughters. I must admit the lines - I love my Grandma/ with me and you (by 4-year-old Annelie) are my favorite.

For all you moms out there - have a wonderful day! For all you daughters and sons out there - have a wonderful day, as well! As for me - well, after hosting Gracie's b-day sleepover last night, I look like I've been smacked repeatedly in the eyes with a stick and I'm ready for bed! We also have a new rule - no sleepovers until second grade. I'm pretty sure it will take me at least a year to recover from this one...

Happy Mother's Day!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Flashback: Middle School Marisa's Book Covers

I've blogged before about the stories I used to write in fifth grade, middle school, my freshman year of high school... well guess what, folks! Some of those stories have BOOK COVERS! And attached to those book covers are the stories that go with them and, oh man, they crack me up. I might need to share samples from some of those stories in another flashback.

This post is about book covers, so I'll begin with THIS:

From 5th grade - check out those eyebrows.

I didn't get my first set of fancy colored pencils until 6th grade, so I made do with crayons. And check out the calligraphy in that title! Practicing calligraphy was one of 11-year-old Marisa's favorite pastimes.

From 6th grade - a sci-fi story about doppelgangers found in an alternate universe.

From 7th grade - another sci-fi about an alternate universe inside a mirror and a girl who falls in and has to convince the dorkiest, smelliest boy in her class - who she and her friends made fun of - to help her find a way out (he's the one who has the mirror). This story was about unexpected friendships - I was big into writing stories featuring unexpected friendships.

(for those who recognized the frightening girl in the mirror - yes, that was me. You'll find brown-haired, blue-eyed, moley-faced characters on a lot of my covers because I learned how to draw people from looking in the mirror. Also, I never finished the drawing because I thought it was so darned ugly)

Also from 7th grade (1993) - how NINETIES is this book cover?

In this story, my main character's BFF dies. Her name was November Shane. I was a huge Guns N' Roses fan, you guys.

Also, I killed off someone in just about all of my stories. I loved killing characters. In fact, here is a little clip from the diary I kept when I was in 5th grade:

(my character in this particular story was called Capulet Montague, by the way. 11-year-old Marisa was fascinated by desperately sad love stories)

(also, in case you are wondering, this entry was from March - my diary did a great job of reminding me of those missing summer pages in that when I came to them, they were missing!)

From 8th grade - the main character spends the summer suffering from a horrible illness, confesses her love for her very best friend who confesses his love for her, too, and then she dies.

Also from 8th grade - a ghost story. This one featured a haunted doll that was made as an effigy of a girl who had been murdered by her tutor - the girl's bones and dress were found in a locked trunk that was in the basement, hidden behind a brick wall, The Cask of Amontillado-style. I had just read that story and it freaked me out so badly I simply HAD to include my favorite part in a story somewhere.

According to my notes, I planned for the doll to have the hair and eyelashes of the dead girl... but how that could be when she disappeared and her body was found a hundred years later locked in a trunk behind a brick wall, I have no idea. But hey, not too bad for age 13!

And because it amuses me: The title page, complete with publishing information.

And another ghost story from my 8th grade days:

This one was Scooby-Doo-like in that the ghost was a hoax in order to bring guests into the haunted inn where the characters were staying.

This was my 8th grade Young Author's Faire book.

I didn't win. Heck, I wasn't even chosen from amongst my classmates to participate in the actual Faire - my story was pretty darned boring, despite the mildly interesting title. However, I wasn't upset. Only one book was chosen from each class to be entered into the contest, and the girl who won from my class asked me to do the illustrations for her book, which I did. That made me happy.

And now for a mermaid story (because there has to be a mermaid story somewhere - these are MY stories, after all):

This was the very last book cover I made in my middle school days, drawn just before freshman year, and I worked on this story off and on through high school.

Sadly, I cannot find the other book covers I drew, though I know they are around my house somewhere. Most of these I found in a file marked: MARISA'S TAXES '02. My organization skillz are clearly lacking.

Have a flashback of your own to share? Head on over to Tia's blog and join in the fun!

Have a great weekend, folks!


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