Monday, July 30, 2012

Castles, Cafes, and Places to Play

Our 9 week Grand European Adventure is coming to an end, and I've learned that our outings can pretty much be lumped into three groups - visiting castles, visiting cafes, and visiting playgrounds.

Naturally, our favorite outings feature the ultimate trinity - a castle, cafe, and a playground - so what's a mom in Sweden to do but take the kids to....



The park in Uppsala has a lovely garden with a pond, where we had a picnic lunch.

(I say 'smile!' they hear 'strike a pose!')


I am officially of the philosophy that pink castles are the cutest kind. 

And, of course, we can't forget the cafe.

"What is an outing without some kind of dessert?" says my sweet tooth.

(my kids are my sweet tooth's biggest fan)

Uppsala not only features the ultimate trinity, but it has a cathedral to throw in the mix.

And at the end of the day, Gracie thought it was sad that I'm wasn't in very many pictures, so when I said, "Ooooh, I love the corner of that building." she excitedly said, "I can take a picture of you in front of it!"

So I pointed out the part of the building I wanted a photo of... 

It's a good thing I have a habit of checking my camera immediately after taking a picture.

"Um, Gracie? You know you completely missed the part of the building I liked, right?" I said.


So she took the picture again.

Much better.

We had a lovely day!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Image Theft and the Crediting of Artists

I started this post the other day, but then deleted it, because I was sounding a little too high-on-my-soap-box. Not to mention, the topic of image theft and the lack of crediting artist on Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, ect, is one that leaves me so angry and emotional that I end up with a migraine and need to sniff some lavender essential oil and coerce my kids into giving me a neck massage in order to survive.

But after reading my pal Dianne Salerni's blog post today, which mentioned the cautionary tale by writer/blogger Roni Loren - Roni was sued, an extraordinary sum, for using someone else's picture on her blog (an excellent, informative post - you really should read it) - I thought I might share a few stories.

The other day, a pal of mine discovered one of my Elegant Snobs on one of her favorite blogs - and the image wasn't credited to me. Or linked to me, or the Etsy shop where I sell my work, in any way.

Now, I knew the woman who used my image was just another blogger, not trying to make a profit off my design. When I got in touch with her, she said she found it on Google Images, and couldn't find the original source.

I KNOW my work is all over Google Images. According to Google Analytics, I get THOUSANDS of blog hits a month because of my Elegant Snobbery artwork. And those are the images that actually LINK to my blog! Who knows how many of my images lead nowhere? I don't even want to begin counting.

The woman in the above story was kind, and genuinely apologetic, and gave me credit immediately after I asked her to either credit me as the artist or take the picture down. I wasn't bothered by the event - I understand that the original artists behind many, many, many, many, many, ect, works are getting lost to the World Wide Web (those who follow me on Twitter and Pinterest might have seen recently how preachy I've been getting about crediting original artists - I seriously spend HOURS trying to find the original artists for uncredited images when I pin them on Pinterest, and it sickens me when that info is deleted when the pictures are repinned)

When images are used, without crediting the creator of the images (or asking permission if you plan on making a profit from those images!!!), it is, in a way, stealing.

See this cupcake necklace? Isn't it adorable?*

I cried when I saw it being sold on-line - No, not because I thought the necklace was delicious-looking, and I couldn't afford it because my PayPal account was empty at the time. 

I cried because I DREW THAT CUPCAKE, and my image was stolen off Google Images and used to profit someone else (I was also probably highly hormonal at the time, and if there's one thing to know about me, it's that at least once a month, EVERYTHING MAKES ME CRY) 

My artwork pays for my kids' trips to the roller rink, you guys. I use my profits to buy presents for their birthday, most often from other indie artists on Etsy. Or books by my favorite authors on Barnes& When people steal my images, I lose out on a lot. My adorable kids lose out on a lot. 

I didn't sue, or make a huge stink, because I shy away from drama unless I have tickets to see Les Miz or Shakespeare. I kindly sent the jeweller a message saying, "Hi. This is my art. You have stolen it. You need to remove all jewellery made from my pictures from your site and pay me back for all the necklaces you have sold using my artwork."

The person immediately removed all jewellery featuring my art from his/her shop, compensated me, and has since had his/her shop removed from the web, as every other necklace in his/her shop was made from stolen art, I later discovered, and the person was reported for theft by many other artists.

*is it considered image theft to use said person's image on my blog, if the image within the image was stolen from me? Things to ponder...

I'm one of the lucky people, who was able to resolve the art theft issues quickly and painlessly. I have many artist friends who have not been so lucky.


(Okay, so that's not actually Kathy in the picture there, that's the one, the only Flowerina, of which the original is IN MY HOUSE and I love her so) 

You might know Kathy on Etsy, as The Dreamy Giraffe. You might also know her motivational words and images from Tumblr and Pinterest though they often don't link to her website, where she makes her living as an independent artist. You might even find her images altered - other people's watermarks over them, different backgrounds behind her words, though her words and layouts haven't been changed.

You might even recognize her work from other indie artists and/or stamp makers who have stolen her original words and images in order to make a profit of their own.

I know Kathy as the artist who inspired me to take a chance on my own silly little pictures, and open an Etsy shop to sell my art back in '07. Hundreds upon hundreds of people have my artwork hanging on their walls - which is pretty much one of the raddest things ever - and I never would have sucked up my courage and sold my work on-line if not for the awesome Dreamy Giraffe.

It kills me to know that awesome people like Kathy are stuck dealing with art theft. That they are trying to make an honest living as a creative individual, and have to deal with people taking their images and claiming them for themselves.


*needs lavender essential oils and a neck massage, stat!*

Okay, I'm going to calm down and end this post. There's a moral to this story, and that is: if you post a photo on your blog, and you didn't take it yourself, and you don't know who did, and you don't credit anyone, you might get slapped with a lawsuit, and rightfully so. It's unfortunate, if you didn't know better (and I know a lot of people see Google Images and think they're free for the taking). But it happens. And it really does pain the artist behind the art. IT REALLY DOES.

Also, I'll leave you with a note about the Flickr account my awesome pal Dianne Salerni (author of We Hear The Dead  -Sourcebooks, 2010- , and The Caged Graves -Clarion, 2013) started, which is filling with images that bloggers are welcome to help themselves to - really, use them in your blog posts! She won't sue you, she promises!

You can find Dianne's free-to-share Flickr account  HERE.

Also, if any of you want to use MY art on YOUR blogs, I'm totally cool with that, as long as you credit me as the artist. I love when people love my work enough to share it with their friends! That is one of the best things ever!


Now, I was shocked to see that Roni Loren had to close her blog comments on her cautionary post, because people started name-calling and being all around disrespectful.

I know my blog readers are kind and won't resort to being jerks in my comments, so I'll keep my comments open. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Berry Picking!

We've been very, very busy lately, as berry season is in full swing and the forests here in Sweden are brimming with blueberries and wild strawberries. 

It's been rough, very rough, if you can imagine - waking up, walking outside to the forest in our backyard, blueberries bursting from every bush, strawberries hiding under every leaf.  

And what has all this back-breaking labor been for? 

I mean, is it even worth all our blue and red-stained fingers?




Also, I'm just going to add, this ice cream is made by the happiest cows in Sweden. Probably even the world. No really - they milk themselves when they're feeling up to it. Just hook themselves up to a milking machine and pick themselves up a little treat on the way out of the barn. Is that not the cutest thing?

And last, see those cookies up there? MOVE OVER, OREO, because Ballerina Marängsviss are the BEST SANDWICH COOKIES EVER. 

Take it from me, they even beat out Double Stuf Oreo's, which is saying a lot. I might never leave Sweden, just so I don't have to give up Ballerina cookies. 

Hope you are all having a wonderful week so far, folks! We leave in 8 days, which means this trip is flying by. I'm pretty sure I'll be going into shock when we leave summer in Sweden (normal climate) and enter summer in Texas (hell).


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grand European Road Trip!

We road tripped our way from Paris to Sweden, hitting a whole handful of countries in a small handful of days. I have to give my kids some serious credit - they are amazing on long journeys. And because of that, we had a delightful time. 

Here are a few photo highlights of our Grand European Road Trip


This city was just as great as the movie In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes. (which is, in my opinion, a great movie)


I'm just going to go on and admit that I wasn't too big a fan of Amsterdam. It was lovely, yeah, I'll give it that. And swarming with stoned college kids, which can sometimes be very entertaining...

But THE BICYCLES! I figured, as a non-driver, I'd love a city in which everyone rides cute little bikes with cute little baskets and panniers filled with groceries and such. But being a mom, walking around with two kids in a world where people riding bicycles have the right of way and live in La La Land while they ride - lemme just say, we were all nearly killed a thousand times. 

The Anne Frank house was the highlight for me, although several times I had to find dark corners to ugly-cry where people wouldn't see me. The Diary of Anne Frank inspired my diary-writing days, from seventh grade through high school (though the fact that I only ever wrote silly, shallow stuffs about boys always caused me to rip my diaries apart and throw them away in embarrassment). Being there reminded me of myself as a young wannabe novelist, and it was incredibly moving. But as a mom with two dreamy, creative, and smart daughters, not that much younger than Anne when she lived behind the bookshelf, I was moved a million times over. 

I went there kid-free, and when I was done, Gracie cheerfully chirped, "Did you just have the best time EVER at the Anne Frank house!?!" I had to answer by hugging and hugging my girls - no words, because I was very close to another round of ugly-crying. 


Which I don't really have pictures of, except this one with Annelie, on the ferry to Denmark. 

We weren't in Germany longer than a day of driving, and only stopped a few times to stretch our legs at rest stops.  But Gracie was wow'd. When I told her we were in Germany, she blinked. 

GRACIE [eyes wide]:  We're in the real Germany?

ME: Yup. The real Germany.

GRACIE [shakes head slowly]: No, but I mean, GERMANY Germany?

ME: Yes, Gracie. Germany. 


ME: Yep, that one. 

GRACIE [shakes head firmly]: No, we're not. 

ME [sighing]: I give up.

Eventually it sunk in. We stopped at a rest stop and Gracie played with a little German baby and was delighted. Especially when the baby - who had just been in Spain with her family on holiday - said, "Hola!" 

Now Gracie is convinced that the national language of Germany is Spanish. 


My new favorite city! 

Hans Christian Anderson!

We didn't have long to spend in Copenhagen, but I will definitely plan a trip to this city again. I loved it! My pictures don't even begin to capture how cool this city is. The modern section reminded me of the fun, artsy parts of San Francisco (my old stomping ground, of which I will always be partial), and the historic section flashed me back to my years of reading Hans Christian Anderson tales (my fave!) - with my aunt, when I was small, and with my kids as I've grown. 

But the highlight for me - the Little Mermaid statue, looking out over the Copenhagen harbor! This statue is like Mecca for the mermaid obsessed. I had a children's atlas when I was a kid, and the page on Denmark was my favorite, because of this statue. 

My own little mermaids loved Copenhagen, as well!

And that concludes the road trip portion of our Grand Eurpean Adventure! Now we're in Sweden, and in Sweden we will stay for two weeks longer - then it's back to our home sweet home.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

An American Mom in Paris

One thing to know about travelling to and around Europe as a mom with two very adorable and well-behaved little girls: PEOPLE WILL LOVE YOU. You will be brought to the front of the hour+ line at immigration, so that your wait will only be five minutes. You will be given seats on trains, metros, buses, and the like. Incredibly long line at the Musee D'Orsay? No problem - just get in line, and two minutes later, very nice people will see to it that your darling girls don't have to stand in line for a single minute more. Teach the girls to say 'Merci!' in their cute, high-pitched voices, and those people will smile.

In fact, the only place where we stood in line was for the bathroom, because when a girl's gotta go, she won't let the two little kids, who will most assuredly take too long, go first. Plus, all the people in line for the bathroom seemed to be tourists, and they're not as nice as the French.

With that said, getting around Paris was a breeze. I do know enough French to get by in a country in which many, many people speak English. I did, after all, take 7th grade French. And, since the boy I was massively in love with at the tender age of twelve sat in front of me, and I was too busy doodling our names together on the front of my Trapper Keeper to actually pay attention to my teacher, I passed the class with these important phrases:

Je ne comprends pas - I don't understand.

Je ne sais pas - I don't know.

Parlez-vous Anglais? - Do you speak English?

And survived our trip to France with this one:

Un Big Mac et deux chicken nuggets, s'il vous plaît - Yeah, I took my kids to McDonalds whilst in Paris. It was delicious.  

Unfortunately, my pronunciation is just as bad as it was in 7th grade. I could try to pronounce things better, but honestly, when I try to pronounce things the right way, I feel like I'm making fun of the French, and then I feel like a terrible person since they're all just so nice.

Gracie found Paris just as delightful as she hoped it would be after watching Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale and listening to MC Solaar and Claire Diterzi for years. She was thrilled to discover she understood people everywhere we went!

GRACIE [looking around Paris in awe]: Mom! I can UNDERSTAND PEOPLE!!

ME: That's because they're Americans and they're speaking English.

GRACIE [deflates]: Oh.

Another thing to know whilst travelling with two little girls: don't assume the walk from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower is as short as it appears on the map. TAKE THE METRO. Especially if you plan on walking up to the second tier of the Eiffel Tower. That's a lot of walking. 

Luckily my girls are walking pros, and they didn't complain once. My legs, however, were killing me.

Our trip was lovely! Paris looked like this:

 In the park at the Tuileries Gardens

Orangina and cuppuccino - yay street cafes!

The Sacre-Coeur Basilica

 Paris, from the Eiffel Tower

Dancing in Montmartre

French bread.... *drools*

French pastries... *drools*

Gracie's future chandelier
(in the Napoleon apartments at the Louvre)

Gracie and La Enfanta Margarita

Gracie going armless, with her pal Venus de Milo

But the highlight of the trip, if you ask the girls, was saving a Parisian hedgehog, crossing the street. 

It went something like this: 

At crosswalk along the outskirts of Paris.

GRACIE: Look, Mom, a hedgehog is crossing the street! Look, Mom, the light is green and the cars are coming. THOSE CARS ARE GOING TO KILL THE HEDGEHOG!

[Driver in front of long stream of cars stops when he sees our looks of horror and hears mass amounts of shrieking]

[hedgie waddles in front of his car tire and goes up onto hind legs to inspect tire with his paw]

[build up of cars in intersection, all honking and honking and honking - girls shrieking even louder]

DRIVER [gets out of car, inspects cause of traffic under his tire]: It's a PIG??!

ME [runs into intersection, smiling apologetically while everyone in stopped stream of traffic glares]: Um, yep. [grabs hedgehog with jacketMerci! [runs back to kids at side of road]

I put the hedgie in the bushes and had to wiggle leaves against his adorable little hiney to get him to run away from the road. Also, perhaps not everyone - entire long lines of Parisians in traffic, for example - love moms with very adorable little girls, after all. 

And that concludes our trip to Paris! 


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