I wish I could bottle this beautiful day. I can't even take a photograph that will do it any kind of justice. This lovely, light, lilting song captures it a little. I'm off into the garden to pull weeds and absorb vitamin D and then later drink a beer on the deck while we run the sprinkler under the trampoline.
Another week has flown by. We are counting down to our epic trek South. We fly to Australia this coming weekend so lots of what this last week has been about is getting organised in a largely disorganised world.
More Botanical Water-Cooler conversations. (above)
We watched the first four episodes of Netflix's House of Cards which I will continue to watch, despite not liking any of the characters much yet - especially now that (trying not to spoil) Z disappointingly shifted the power by sleeping with X... while Y didn't sleep with sleazy ex-W due to, I'm not sure, feelings of loyalty to X? Disappointing all 'round. Such a let down in a show that seems to have a good number of gutsy, powerful, interesting women characters. But I will continue to watch.
Books for Mother/Daughter bookclub. The brainchild of one of my friends here on the island. It's just as it sounds - Mums and Daughters get together once a month or so for book discussion. We rotate book choice and hosting with book inspired snacks being all the rage. Thus far we have read Because of Winn-Dixie, A Wrinkle in Time (both the novel and graphic novel were included in the discussion) and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Grade five seems to be the perfect age for this, and ours is a small group of five girls and five mums. The girls are all from a collection of different schools but they will all be going into (deep, dark) middle school together next year so this is a good way for them to get to know one another. You would be amazed at the enthusiasm of this group as they chat about the books. The girls have strong opinions and they experience the books with such strong sensitivity. Super cool.
Amelia and I both read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell last week and loved it. Micro-review: Based on a true story. A 19th Century Nicoleño Indian girl is stranded on a small island off the coast of California for 18 years, left behind after the rest of her people are taken away by boat by white people. She waits for her own rescue while surviving many hardships - including wild weather, wild animals, isolation and grief. It was slow to start but after about a third of the way through neither of us could put it down. I had to download an e-version to compliment our old tattered print copy so that we could read side-by-side. Everyone else at bookclub loved it too - though it should be said that some found it scary and sad in places.
I was talking about this article the other day to someone - (Kim? Aidan? Maybe both you guys?) and I see that GeekDad has re-posted it again - it's a good one: 67 Books Every Geek Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10.
I made chicken wings with a blue cheese dip which was pretty good.
Don't we live in a pretty place? It really is as good as those pics, especially on days like today when the sun is shining.
My soon to be niece-in-law wrote this piece on her blog about the traditions of name taking and giving. I gave her the advice "do what you like!" - and if my ultimate plan works then they will be one day moving to Salt Spring, and each one of their children can all be given different last names (or even better, choose their own last names) and fit in with everyone else on this crazy island.
Anyway, time to go and do something constructive. March Fourth!
Electronic music producer j.viewz plays Massive Attack's Teardrop on vegetables using the MaKey MaKey.
In the cinema! In the city! I spent the weekend in Vancouver and finished it with a movie. What a treat: Silver Linings Playbook. I didn't know anything about it before we went to see it and I loved it. I will call this my favourite movie of recent times.
Roast Chicken - one of my favourites since childhood. I usually stuff the chicken with a boiled, pierced lemon (boiled (to make it extra juicy) when I am par-boiling the potatoes) and a big, generous handfull of fresh thyme. Our thyme has all but died off and Spring is still some way away so I found this recipe on Etsy (which seems to be doing more food stuff lately) and will give it a try.
Pad Thai - dinner out at Krua Thai in North Van on Saturday was so good. Their "all time house-favourite" Pad Thai was delicious. Now I am craving more but North Van is not that easy to access. My pantry is, however, and I found a recipe for a pantry-staples version at Hellobee. This one also looks good. I wonder if I can find tamarind here on the island.
Oliver Jeffers books. I was lucky enough to see Oliver Jeffers talk about his life, his work and his process at the The Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable annual illustrator's breakfast on Saturday. He was inspiring, entertaining and incredibly talented, of course. Here are my favourites of his:
While in Vancouver we stopped by the gallery and checked out the Art Spiegelman Co-Mix exhibition which was fantastic and comprehensive. If you are at all remotely interested in alternative, underground comics or illustration this retrospective is well worth the admission fee.
I've carved out a little space in the corner of the sitting room to be my studio. Now I have no excuse. Back to work!
Here is a sneak peek at the new cover for the next Tan book - Truly Tan, Jinxed! by the lovely Jen Storer, with illustrations by me. It will be out in Australia April-ish or May-ish -- I hope you have managed to find a copy of Truly Tan (book 1) which is still available. Book 3 is due out in November. What a busy year for Tan.
Did I ever tell you that I met Amy? Well, yes I did (and I will tag this post "name dropping"). We had breakfast in Portland at the end of last Summer and I think we both spoke (probably at the same time) at full pelt for an hour and a half before she drove me around downtown Portland like a crazy person and then dropped me back with my conference posse. It was one of my favourite Portland experiences. She is almost exactly how you would imagine her, that is, pretty much perfect - creative, warm, passionate, a little bit wicked (you know, in that good way), hilarious and beautiful. Anyway, she was off to San Francisco the next day to film her craft tutorial for Creativebug. You can find Amy's tutorials here.
This morning I have been watching some of the other instructor introductory videos from Creativebug, learning a little bit more about some incredibly creative women. The videos are all inspiring and beautiful but here are some of my favourites. I originally had more than 15 in this line up but decided it was too many. Narrowing it down was really hard. Please take the time to have a look at the other videos at Creativebug.
We are trying to compile a list of our top favourites so the freezer is full of fruit and the fridge full of tubs of yoghurt. So far we are loving one we have dubbed The Flying Purple People Eater - blueberries, banana, vanilla yoghurt and almond (soy, coconut, cow, whatever) milk. A close runner-up was a banana/peanut butter combination (whizzed with some honey and enough almond milk to keep it moving). I also have a bag of baby spinach waiting to be turned into something bright green and alarmingly healthy.
I am just about to start The Night Circus by Erin Morgensen for book club, on my suggestion. It's always a bit nerve-wracking finding a book to recommend for book club but one of my club comrades read it overnight and she told me she loved it and wrote on my facebook wall "Just finished Night Circus. I cried a bit cause it was over and I wanted it to go on and on. SO GOOD. Thanks!" so I'm relieved and I'm looking forward to it.
I downloaded the Silver Linings Playbook (Matthew Quick) sample chapter for my kindle last night and started reading it while I was sitting in the dark waiting for the small kid to go to sleep. I think I will end up clicking "purchase" at the end of the sample.
I wrote a piece for the Children's Book Review - Five Family Favourites. I had to narrow down all our favourite books to our top five... it was tough.
"...plusss another guy".
This last week was the second week of a screen-free challenge month the kids are doing for school. They have already used up their two allowed "flex days" - one to watch a film at a friend's house, the other to enjoy a glut of video games, tv, and computer time the Saturday before last. The rest of the month might be a little bit of a struggle. On their precious flex day, I think we watched this video close to 15 times. The kids can recite it word for word.
Cards Against Humanity
A party game of pure, offensive craziness. Think Apples to Apples, for adults. We first played this in Portland in a pub with a group of fellow XOXO attendees, mostly strangers, and it was one of the best evenings of the event. Since we have played it with small groups and very big groups and it's always a lot of fun. Not one for kids, or even when kids are in earshot, but a great way to laugh so hard your stomach muscles ache the next day.
I was sad to wake up and read this on Twitter this morning. Briers seems like he was a wonderful man. One of my all time favourite shows is The Good Life (known as Good Neighbours in North America, I think). I watched it as a kid, and I am sure Tom and Barbara's life choices have had a resounding effect on me. If you haven't had a chance to see it yet, it's really worth making the effort to track it down. I think you can find it on Netflix and Amazon UK.
I have been a long time fan of Danny Gregory's, and his new book "A Kiss Before You Go" is so beautiful and moving that I encourage you to pick up a copy and let his story and his incredible art wash over you. Be sure to watch the book trailer (below) for a taste. While grief and losing a loved one is such a scary subject for so many of us, do not let this get in the way of experiencing a wonderful book with Danny's deeply personal story - expect deep, dark empathetic sadness but also joy and laughter in a great love shared.
"After the loss of his wife in a tragic accident, beloved artist Danny Gregory chronicled his grief in the medium he knows best—the pages of his illustrated journals. This intimate volume reproduces these journal pages in a stirring visual memoir of Gregory’s journey towards recovery. Uniquely sincere, and by turns tender, raw, and hopeful, Gregory’s idiosyncratic text and illustrations capture the darkest and lightest moments of his “year of magical drawing.” Gregory’s process reminds us that creative expression offers its own therapy, and that living each day to its fullest may be as simple as putting pen to paper. Anyone who has experienced loss will take solace in this refreshingly candid look at grieving, while art lovers will marvel at the artist’s beautiful celebration of the power of creation."
Danny has a great recent guest post on Chronicle Book's Blog. I love the little peek into his world as a life-long journaller that this offers. I relate to his desire to record life's moments through words and pictures as I am sure so many of you do too.
Give Away -- NOW CLOSED! Thanks for entering lovely people, and thank you to Chronicle Books for offering a copy of Danny's "A Kiss Before You Go" to a lucky reader. I will draw a winner shortly and contact them via email.
Colour -- I need colour... The temperature is starting to rise a little but there is a cloud hanging over our house most days. I have been drawing and stitching and knitting and surrounding myself with lots and lots of colour. It seems to be working.
Amelia and I have been reading A Wrinkle in Time. Lily and I have been reading The Wishing Chair (the "children off on adventures through space and time" theme continues). I have been reading Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness for book club, and The Family Dinner (our Taco Tuesday experiment begins tomorrow) which is making me feel like I might be getting one tiny, happy thing right when it comes to our chaotic family life.
I'm back into it again. I have found a friend here who is a knitting whizz and can help me navigate complicated patterns and brainstorm fabulous ideas. She has even encouraged me to buy some yarn from Purl Soho -- so you see, she a very good kind of friend. A knitting gang has spontaneously generated. I like my knitting crew - even though I tend to travel to distant parts of the island for knitting evenings and then realise I have no gas left in my car... thus ensuing madcap, terrifying late-night drives home, filling up my tank from friends' lawnmower gas supplies at various stops all the way back up the island.
I have my eye on this pattern. What do you think? Too tricky? I've never done cables before.
One day I may even knit a sweater for a horse.
Hourly Comics Day
Hourly Comics Day was last Friday-- the idea is to draw one comic every hour about something that happened in the hour before. I took part last year and it was pretty fun. I decided to try again this year and did two comics (one at 6am and one at 7am) before realising that it wasn't going to be compatible with my busy day. It's so much work and completely exhausting. I admire anyone who manages to squeeze it in to their days. Here are some from a few folks who not only managed to complete a comic every hour but who also managed to be bright, sensitive, moving, entertaining and talented all in a bundle:
And now, some cheerful music - close your eyes and pretend it's Sunny:
My kids have just started karate classes so we have been talking about martial arts a little bit. Capoeira is incredible.
The fast and the furious today. Lady Godiva, dontcha know. Ok... now off to do a bazillion other Saturdayish things. See you anon.
This has been a tough parenting week. We all have them. I spend my whole time trying to get my creative, imaginative, anxious kids to relax... yet I can't seem to do that exact thing when it comes to dressing them for the weather. At least they're warm!
I'm working on some dolls at the moment. They look a bit like this.
Stitching, knitting, stuffing, giving. Drawing them takes a lot less time than making them. They are labours of love and an expression of an urge to create little characters. How strange.
Sketching like crazy... can't quite get it. Some days I feel like the sketches are better than the finished pieces. I like this one. There is a lightness to it that my other, more finished work, never seems to keep. This is Amelia and her imaginary friend Arkala.
Still drawing -- This weekend I spent a little time playing with the new Vine.co app. It really is a neat little thing to tack on to a twitter account. I will attempt to not over-use it... but in the mean time here is yesterday's drawing, a raw little stop motion animation called "Mad Hair Day". I used one sheet of paper and added to the same drawing with each frame. The eyes are two circles from a hole punch sitting on top of the paper, which could be moved around with finger tip. You can't get too much simpler than that.
Clearly this isn't really a new image for today but just yesterday's drawing finished up. As time goes on I am getting less fussed about the rules, as long as I am drawing every day.
"On getting yourself to the studio: Create a personal challenge or daily/weekly project. Do you respond well to parameters and structure? Do you enjoy a personal challenge? Start a “drawing a day” project or “a new medium a week” — or something unique that gets you making new work on a regular basis. Collection a Day 2010, 365 Days of Hand Lettering, and The Reconstructionists are all personal projects that have forced me to create on a regularly. And while none of them paid initially, they all led to more work in the end and in a couple of cases, book deals. The key for me was not just doing the daily practice, but sharing it publicly on the internet. That held me accountable and increased my visibility as an artist (which leads to more work)."
Creating regularly is the absolute key. Last week I was disappearing into a vortex of web redesign and at the end of the week I felt sad and uninspired again. I know now to make more time for drawing, no matter what, even if I don't get an entire illustration finished, even it's just 30 minutes a day. Even if it's on a napkin in a coffee shop. Sometimes those are the best.