Featuring colorist Ronda Francis

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Is Your Kid a Nerd? GOOD!

Years ago if you were a bookworm, band kid, or if you had a pair of glasses with dark, square frames, you could be considered a nerd.

Being a nerd could get you picked on, relegate you to a terrible school experience, and cause every member of the opposite sex to run for the hills.Nerds on television shows were constantly being made-over so they would appear acceptable and suddenly popular. 

Right now it is hip to be square, and being a nerd or geek is in. People emulate the smart and science-ish, so times are not as hard for the un-mainstream. Find some cool geek sites HERE.

Not too long ago kids could be teased for staring at a computer screen for hours on end, or practicing the drums, or drawing in their sketchbooks. Parents worried that these kids were not outside until the streetlights came on like the other kids on the block. They did not want to play football, dodge ball, or ANY ball for that matter. They had puzzles to solve, codes to figure, and only so many hours in the day. 

Geeks and nerds do not obsess about how they look, they do not stand in front of the mirror wondering if they are worthy. Drinking and smoking at night when they go out with friends? Probably not--they are more likely to be taking things apart and looking for new and interesting ways to put them back together. Happily, they are far too busy inventing, creating, and figuring to stress over image or trying cigarettes to fit in with the cool kids.

Some famous NERDS and GEEKS

Tim Burton
Being a geek and a loner was one of the best thing that ever happened to the film world. Burton spent time alone as a kid developing and using his creativity. He had plenty of hours to delve into the dark corners of his personality. Without him or his wonderful geekiness we would not have Edward Scissorhands, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, or any of the other dark and delightful movies his nerd-brain invented.

Nicola Tesla
Neon lights, remote control, the modern electric motor,  radar, and arguably the light bulb are all attributed to Tesla. He was also the inadvertent father of radio astronomy and builder of the first hydroelectric plant at Niagra Falls. He worked on and held patents for information that would later be used to develop transistors which have revolutionized electronics, (thanks for the info Dad!), 100 years before the actual invention. The list goes on. 

Steve Jobs
No need for an explanation here, many of you are probably reading this on an Apple product. But his geekdom started in a garage where he started his computer company in 1976. 

Bill Gates
During his time in high school, a local computer company offered the students computer time. A fundraising club used their proceeds to buy a teletype terminal for the students, and Bill Gates spent much of his free time learning there and working at the terminal. 

So don't be concerned if your kids aren't the perfect definition of popular, or if they have interests that you might not consider mainstream.

They could be working on something to change the world. Be proud of who they are, pocket protectors and all.

And truly, the GEEK shall inherit the earth.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Style from the Forest

Although I am over 50, I still have a penchant for certain styles. As an artist, muted colors, animals, and flowers still make my heart flutter when I see them incorporated into fashion. (And when I say animals I do NOT mean fur!)

I can't get away with the same things the twenty somethings can. Plus when you are young, people assume you are experimenting, learning, and are willing to put yourself a bit more out there when it comes to fashion.

But today I found shoes that I may not be able to resist.

These grey flats (already two checks in my BUY THEM box for color and heel height), with a very faint stitched and sleeping bunny, complete with ears on the instep, make me happy just looking at them. They are fairy tales for the feet!

To make us smile even harder, the same company, ModCloth, (click HERE for their website to buy) sells Tiffany blue flats (two checks), with a wide eyed cat on the front that is reminiscent of the Totoro cartoon. Who is the genius that designed these! Love them.

Okay, okay, maybe the Totoro skips are a bit too youthful for me, but the Furry Up, We're Dreaming bunny shoes might be just subtle enough for me to get away with.

And ya know what, if something makes you THAT happy, go for it--opinions be damned.


And for those of you that have not seen Totoro yet, please see the trailer above, then rent it for the kids. It is one of the most beautifully animated shows you will ever see. 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

ART ~ It's In the Genes

My mother started to get grey hair when she was 16 years old, and people tell me I look like her. She has pure white hair now, and so do I. I did not pick up her flair for really good cooking unfortunately.

My father is a wonderful photographer, and although I like taking pictures and some of them are very cool too, I do not have his skill or his knowledge. But I did get his very long legs. 

Both of my parents are artistic. My mother used to oil paint when I was a kid, and my dad would draw pictures of eyeballs running down the street and rising like the sun that would rival Dali in style.

My sister does not think she draws well, but she has other artistic skills. She is an amazing interior decorator, and can host an event that would Martha Stewart jealous.
Pastel by great-grandpa Paul.

I am starting to learn that the artistic thing goes back beyond my parents. Seems I had a great grandfather that had a flair for art also.

We found his portfolio that is so old it is crumbling, and we are going to try our best to salvage and frame some of the artwork. It ranges from cartoons to oil paintings.

If both your parents have blue eyes, the chance that you will have blue eyes too is very high. I wonder what the genetic chance is in becoming artistic if there are artists in your family?
One of his cartoons.

According to a study at Penn State artists are both born and made. They feel natural born talent, along with societal influences, shape the artist.

In any event, it can't hurt to draw and paint with your children if they love it. And doing art helps them with critical thinking, decision making, and self confidence--so go for it!

So I wonder, did my love of art come from my parents drawing with me as a kid, or did I inherit it in my DNA?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Should We Give Our Kids Christmas Presents?


Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but somehow (removing all religion from the equation, that is a whole new blog post) the gift-giving part has been diminished. Stampedes in Walmart, 2:00 am mall shopping, and the stress of advertised but unavailable tech toys blows the circuits of our Christmas sparkle.

That being said,there is something magical about decorating the tree with lights and ornaments with our loved ones. Making or purchasing presents for our near and dear and placing them under the tree is a lovely tradition. Giving a token of our feelings can bring us closer.

The wise men, or Magi, (okay, so I am touching on the religious side of it after all) brought presents to the manger. Signs of devotion and love. 

Doing charity work during the holidays and getting your kids involved is a wonderful and important idea. It helps them to know how lucky they are, and how to help those that are in need. It also lets them them know that Christmas in not only about getting, but giving, too. My son helps with a small drive for St. Jude's hospital every year. We also collect canned goods and donate books, food, and Thanksgiving baskets to local charities. I recently read an article by a woman who wrote that she was not going to give her kids any gifts for Christmas this year. Instead they were going to do charity work. Another said they were giving their children the gift of experiences in lieu of toys, because they simply had too much stuff around the house.

I love my family and friends more than words can say, and on this one day a year this is how I choose to show them I love them.

Do they know I love them?

Of course. I spend time with them throughout the year doing things they like to do. I help them if they need me and they do the same in return--and not only during the holidays. 

In my humble opinion, a gift of love at Christmastime is a wonderful thing. Try not to get hung up in the commercialism of the times, and choose and give with love and cheer. I will continue to give gifts as long as I am able because it is just one of the ways that I am able to tell people I love them.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Happy December! Our Favorite Christmas Movies

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year!

The decorations right after Halloween were a bit too much for me, but now I am ready.

I was thinking of my favorite Christmas movies, and ELF is at the top of the list. Yep--the protagonist has his share of issues: being bigger than all the other Christmas elves, trying to find his real father, not quite fitting in, and being eternally and almost annoyingly optimistic--but though it all we are laughing and rooting for him. We do not have to sit through 85 minutes of depression to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel--or in this case at the top of the tree.

(Click above video for background music ;) )I also love A Charlie Brown Christmas. Believe it or not, that cartoon is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. I love the quiet of the Peanuts cartoons, and the problems they have. Charlie Brown knew the gang was going to give him a hard time about the tree--but he got it anyway. One of the best parts of the show is the gang dancing to Schroeder's piano playing before the rehearsal. Oh! The wild abandon. Plus, I think everyone in the world has mimicked at least one of those dances. And I think we can safely say that the music, written by Vince Guaraldi, may be one of the best scores EVER. For a cartoon, TV show, movie. Anything. 

I also love How the Grinch Stole Christmas--the original cartoon version by Dr. Seuss. I am not a big fan of preachy or lessony stories--but this one is close to perfect. When the Grinch's heart grows three times I feel like mine does too. Plus, his little dog/ reindeer sidekick is one of the cutest pets depicted in a show.

I am happy December is here even though my son is almost 19. I will still be watching my favorite shows, cartoons included.


P.S. Maybe I am the only one on the earth--but I do not like It's a Wonderful Life. Please don't hate me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Downloadable Turkeys!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Since I won't be eating any turkey tomorrow I drew some that you can download and color--one for the big kids (and adults, let's be real) and one for the little ones.

For the little ones

For the older set, and adults.

Have a wonderful day!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Kid Art, Creativity, and How-To Kitty

Pablo Picasso said, "We are all born artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

So true!

Children gain self-esteem and emotional fulfillment when they are allowed to create without judgement. 

They do not have preconceived notions or endless loops of internal negativity to get in the way of their thinking. 

If we foster the creativity in a child we are allowing them to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The Whole Child of PBS states: "The experiences a child has during their first years of life can enhance their creativity."

For all those parents out there that want to do art with their kids but think I do not have a creative bone in my body--maybe you do, but need a little help finding it. 

Make it easy. Get some paper and some pencils, crayons, or paint and go for it. Don't worry about the result. Enjoy the moment and  just go for it.

For those that need a bit of a nudge, here are some prompts:

* A lovely November morning
* A yellow bird
* A cup of tea
* A monster in the closet
* A rocket ship in space
* A new planet
* A flower no one has ever seen before
* Constellations in the night sky 
* Your pet
* A pet you wish you could have
* A cool car
* Snow flakes with faces

Choose any of these items and draw one on a page, a few, or 50. Just have fun.

And here is a quick how-to for Kiki the Cat :) Show me your version when you are done!


Kiki starts with two circles, kind of like a snowman, except the bigger one is for her head! (Only slightly bigger--mine almost look the same size and that is fine.) Draw lightly here because you will be erasing some of these lines later.

Now draw some VERY light guidelines on her face so you know where to put her eyes and nose.

Her face is looking right at us, so her nose will be right in the center, on the lower guideline.
Make the nose with just a tiny triangle, and then draw another short time down from the bottom point of her nose. Then draw the top of her mouth--it looks like two very shallow Us. Her eyes fit between the top and bottom guidelines. My Kiki will be looking to the right. (Her head is facing forward, but her eyes are looking off to the side.)

Lightly draw two triangles on her head for ears. If you draw them wide apart she will look calm, if you draw them more on top of her head she will look alert, or surprised. 

Her front paws are just small ovals with the tops of the ovals erased. Her back paws are kind of like parenthesis with tiny cat toes. Her tail looks a bit like a large backwards C.

She's starting to look like Kiki now!

Now we can darken the lines and make her look fluffy. I also left some white spots in her eyes for highlights, and lines under her for a shadow. I also added some very light whiskers and I shaded part of her ears.

Voila! Kiki!

I will be adding more Kiki how-tos in the weeks to come.

I'd love to see what you draw!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Make This Adorable HAPPY BOX From a Cereal Box

Just a quick weekend post to show off this great craft from a cereal box by Craiftingeek!

You will need:

A cereal box

An Exacto knife


Decorative paper

Glitter and other crafty decorations

I thought this was great, and of course you can update it in whatever fashion you choose. Flowers, under the sea, holiday--the sky's the limit!

Have fun!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Visit From a Deer

I was talking to a friend as I was driving home last week. I looked left and saw a deer approaching my car.

I slowed down, worried that he might run in front of me.

He didn't run out, in fact he walked right up to my window. I felt like he would have gotten in the car if I opened the door.

"He's literally inches from me," I said to my friend.

"Get the camera! Take a picture!" she said. I'm glad she did, I would have just stared at him.

I moved a bit and he started to walk away, but I was able to snap a few shots.

His mate started to run and hopped the fence, and he followed.

I felt like he had a message for me. My friend said it was a very special blessing.

I had to agree.


Monday, November 16, 2015

My Book Shelves and The Shelfie Hop

I looked around this weekend and realized there is not one corner of my house that does not feature some type of books.

I have The Great Artists (van Gogh, Raphael, El Greco, etc.) under a coffee table, paperbacks (tons of Stephen King, 100 Years of Solitude) in a tiny bookcase in the living room, and hardcover biographies of Tim Burton, Kurt Cobain, Charles Addams and Edward Gorey in the armoire.

My son has floating shelves from MoMA that give his room a very modern look.

(I also realized he is more well read than I am at this point, and he is only 18. Kurt Vonnegut, Ulysses, Nabokov, Tolkien, Cormack McCarthy, and C.S. Lewis are few that he read in the last year.)

Buy MoMA Floating Book Shelves  HERE

Some first editions (Bram Stokers Dracula), my book 100 Unfortunate Days, and other antiques sit between beautiful cut out tree books ends.

Buy cut tree bookends HERE

There are more books resting in piles on the floor, piled neatly on tables, and tucked into corners. I only posted four pix--I had to stop somewhere.

Just wanted to share.


LOVE these book ends. Buy them HERE

Visit the rest of the Hoppers :) Some have prizes, giveaways and all have awesome shelves!

Happy hopping!


My Friends Are Fiction
Between Fantasy and Reality
The Literary Hedonist
Books and Ladders
Let’s Take A Shelfie
The Bookkeeper’s Apprentice
In Love With Handmade
Ex Libris
Just Another Bookish Blog
Here’s to Happy Endings
A Tree Grows in Bookland
Please Feed the Bookworm
Perks of Being a Book Nerd
Bookmark Lit
Christina Writes
By Breenah
Novel Ink
Adventures of a Book Junkie
The YA Book Traveler
The Bookish Emporium
Books In My Suitcase
Big Books & Grande Lattes
The Green Reader
YA Indulgences
Hope To Read
coffee-inked tales
The Reader & The Chef
Yellow, Green, & Read All Over
It Starts at Midnight
Blame It On the Books
Wandering Bark Books
thoughts and afterthoughts
Here be Me Shelf
A Reader Under the Sea
Books and Prejudice
Lauren Skidmore
The Best Books Ever
Cruising Pages
Loving My Lit
Pretty Deadly Reviews
Chasing Faerytales
Savings in Seconds
The O.W.L.
Word Revel
Follow the Yellow Book Road
Rebelle Reads
A Perfection Called Books
The Magical Adventures of Cassie the Weird
Once Upon A Dream Books
Reading Among the Stars
The Reading Nook Reviews
The Novel Orange
Betsy’s Random Assortment of Thoughts
Fiery Reads
The Fox’s Hideaway
Rattle The Pages
Beauty and the Bookshelf
Bookish Bevil
Spines & Covers
Quality Fangirls
Ohana Reads
Bookish Unicorn
Mia in Narnia
There were books involved…
Literary, etc
The Book Addict’s Guide
My Thoughts…Literally!
Books and Swoons
The Psychotic Nerd
The Novel Hermit
Writer of Wrongs
Only True Magic

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November Haiku as We Wait for Christmas

This has been a glorious November. 

For the first time in many years it feels like we are having a fall. The leaves stayed green and on the trees for a bit longer than usual, and we were able to hold on to summer for a while.

But the wind came through the other night, and I thought I heard some freezing rain.

My yearly winter denial has once again been crushed, and Christmas is right around the corner.

I love the holidays, but there is still that tiny part of me that will be crossing my fingers for an early spring and looking forward to that first warm ray of sunshine.

Stay bundled up and cozy.


My website.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Thankful Tree!

I've always found plenty of crafts for Halloween and Christmas, but Thanksgiving lagged behind.

Not this year!

I am finding so many adorable things from so many creative ladies.

This thankful tree from Simply Vintage Girl is so charming. 

It is rustic and modern at the same time. The jar is filled with unshelled nuts, but I think pine cones, rocks, or even your favorite candy would do the trick too.

The tags are pieces of wood painted with blackboard paint. Pieces of cardboard written on with colored pencils, markers, Sharpies or even crayons would do the trick.

Find the complete How To HERE

Have fun!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015


As I was looking though the Lamberts Lately blog I came across THIS on her Create It Thursday linky~the cutest cornucopia from Growing Up Gabel! A perfect November craft and lots of fun for Thanksgiving.

It's easy and probably delicious.

I can't wait to get all the ingredients, which include Laffy Taffy, Tootsie Rolls, and ice cream cones.

Get ready to have fun, and grab the kids so they can help too.

Thanks Lamberts Lately and Growing Up Gabel! Cute, cute cute.

Instructions HERE.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Future's So Bright

Today it dawned on me that my future has a direct correlation with how I feel today.

And what I do today.

And what I don't do.

SO--Facebook? You have been cut to 5 minutes.

Drawing and writing? Business hours.

The rest of the time will be delegated to activities that are positive and NOT time wasters. (We only have so much.)

Most importantly--the endless loop in my mind will be carefully monitored. NO MORE personal negativity.

Tough goals? 

You bet.

I have a feeling it will be worth it.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Welcome November, Fall, NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo!

I realize that the first day of fall in North America is in September, yet for me the summer does not officially end until today, November 1. 

It is the same every year. Until then there is a feeling in the air; summer is hanging on for dear life and does not want to let go. The sun wants to keep warming us, the leaves hang onto their small places on the trees. 

Until today.

Something chilly takes over. The sun rests.

I know this isn't actually true, yet there is something in me that believes our ancestors thought this too. 

Maybe they lived by instinct a bit more than we do, or maybe it just had something to do with the end of harvest season, but now it feels like winter is around the corner, and we should take a bit more care to be home, snuggled up with our loved ones under a big puffy blanket drinking something warm.

So welcome November--welcome fall.


(November also kicks of NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo for fellow picture book writers--check out Tara Lazar's explanation and sign up HERE. Yes! We kids book writers can have fun with this too!)

See you there! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Pet Ghost

I had my first pet ghost in the 70s.

I saw it on a commercial while watching Sabrina on Saturday morning cartoons.

This little ghost could fly! It could dance!

On the commercial...

At home it was basically a tiny Styrofoam ball, some gauze, and a rubber band hooked up to some fishing wire. It did come in a cool haunted house box which was actually the best part of the toy.

A few years ago Hallmark came out with their own Pet Ghosts, and they were totally adorable. Complete with flashing lights, spooky moaning sounds, and a floating ghost in a jar, they were every spectrophile's dream.

But they were almost $30, so not everyone ran to the card stores to pick them up.

How cute is this!

I looked them up recently and found a crafter that did her own version, and they are adorable! See the how to HERE.

Although I have not done it yet, I am going to do my own version based on the Penny Wise version above--I'll post it when I'm done.

Have fun! 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Working on a Book

My version of Old Barney in LBI--haunted.
The shivery Halloween season is upon us, my favorite time of year.

Although it won't be ready this year, I am working on another book for kids.

I used to love spooky books as a girl, and now I am just as thrilled to write them today.

So here's the thing: like many authors, I'm sure, the ideas for books come to me rapid-fire. I write them in notebooks, dictate them to Notes in my iPhone, or scribble them where ever I can--napkins included.

At home I quickly type the first draft into Word before I forget the feel of the story.

Then comes the hard part.

For me, the illustrations grind the creative process to almost a halt. It's not that I don't have the pictures in my head that go with the story, but the pictures seem to take a loooong time. Even compared to edit after edit of the writing, the drawings drive me nuts.

Penelope the Witch from a soon to be book.
To make it even more weird, I love to draw. If one of my books was being illustrated by someone else I am sure I'd feel odd about it. (If someone's style fit my story I would consider it--but I'm sure I'd still prefer to do it myself...I think...)

Anyway--I think the writing occupies my mind in a certain way that allows the time to seamlessly go by. When I draw I can think too much--the wash, dishes, MORE STORIES.

I just decided I am either going to start listening to music while I draw, or maybe digital books.

Sometimes this blog is better than therapy.


Monday, October 19, 2015

My Favorite Witches

I am getting old.

Not ancient, but old enough to remember some of the most wicked witches in books and movies.

Sure I watched the pretty witches in Charmed and Sabrina for five minutes like everyone, but I am talking about the witches of almost half a century ago.

The first witch that terrified me was on the back of the Disney book Sleeping BeautyLook at her! Those eyes. Oh and she was a sneaky one trying to pass off that apple as a delicious snack. She was nothing to mess with and it is funny to remember that I would not go into the basement for about a year because she was on the back of the book that rested on top of the bookcase at the bottom of the cellar stairs.

Another Creepella of my childhood nightmares was The Wicked Witch of The West from the Wizard of Oz. If you crossed this one she would take you down. Unless of course you had just altered the space-time continuum in ruby slippers and you were trying to find your dog. She had an over sized hourglass of doom and a huge crystal ball that filled with garnet smoke when she wanted to divine the future.

Witch Hazel from the Bugs Bunny cartoons was pretty bad ass too. She would tie you up and start heating the pot she where you would be cooked, right in front of you--until you started talking about her pet tarantula, Paul. Then she lost it and got all sappy. She also had a wicked laugh and lost her hairpins when running quickly to ask her magic mirror if she was indeed, still the ugliest witch in town.

Endora, Samantha's wicked mother from Bewtiched, would be trouble even if she had no otherwordly powers. She did not like the mortal Derwood, and never had a problem telling him how she felt. As a mother I would be doing the same if my daughter's new husband was trying to make her into something she's not. Girl Power, Endora!

My idea and drawing of a good old fashioned scary witch. Trick or treat ;)

Bellatrix from Harry Potter, Nancy from The Craft, and Minnie from Rosemary's Baby deserve a runners up nod of excellence. They were all wicked and wonderful. 

To be honest, I love almost all the witches. Hermione for being smart, Aunt Clara for being adorable, and all the other ladies that cast a spell on me when I was young, and charmed me when I was older.

Happy Halloween all! I'd love to know your favorite witch.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Illustrator's Weekly Challenge

Every year around this time I pull the decorations down from my attic and transform the inside of my house into a glowing black and orange Halloween explosion.

Starting on October 1st I began drawing ghosts to post on my Instagram account because the spirit moved me. I decorated a box of matches with a fiery little apparition, then I made Mod Podge Ghosts a few weeks ago and hung them in the dining room. 

I love Halloween and not only wanted to share my art, but wanted to see art from others too.

So I started the Weekly Challenge.

The prompt will change weekly. Feel free to add paintings, sketches, or crafts--whatever medium grabs you. You can grab the Illustrator's Weekly Challenge button if you like from the right column. 

This week's prompt is PUMPKINS~!! 

Post below, I can't wait to see yours--I can't get enough.

To join the brand new Illustrator's Weekly Challenge Facebook group just CLICK HERE! A new prompt weekly--show us your work.

You can find us on Instagram too at @IllustratorsWeekly. I am on Insta at @dealenihan