A snapshot from this morning…octo-toddler.png


Art Prompts

Exploring styles for a new book idea.

cold day.png

I found a neat site last night that provides illustration prompts: http://artprompts.org/

Also, for those of you who are members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), they provide a monthly illustration prompt and a place to submit your results for possible publication! I’ve also go a profile there, if you are interested in the books I’ve worked on.

Wishing you all a creative day!

Birthdays with Mombrain

30.pngI hear there’s a moment in life when some people go from celebrating birthdays to shuffling them carefully under the rug to avoid any unnecessary fanfare that might draw attention to their ever-advancing age.

I’m not terribly concerned with age. Maturity is more my measure of choice. Considering the open ended process of a life lived in a humble posture of learning, age doesn’t really mean much to me, so long as there is growth.

There was just something about thirty, though. I approached the day with unacknowledged trepidation. The cloud of undefinable existential angst hung, ominous, above my head. I pressed on, carefully ignoring the nagging sense that somehow my youth was over.

The day itself was a good one. I received a veritable flood of love and encouragement from all those wishing me well. There were texts on my phone and joyful messages covering my Facebook wall. But even these couldn’t entirely shake my sense of finality and loss… The sage ladies in whom I confided my disquiet, offered empowering anecdotes of “coming into their own as women” in their thirties. And as the day progressed, I began to own this new badge of “woman in her third decade.” I felt more confident. Taller. Somehow emboldened by the experiences and achievements of those who had gone this way before. The best years of life were just beginning!

Now, I was born in the 80’s. 1989, to be exact. If you just did the math, you’ll understand why at lunch on my second day as a thirty-year-old woman, I found myself laughing hysterically. Thanks to the sleep deprived haze of my toddler-rearing mom-brain, I’d forgotten my own age. Yep. I’m 29. For another whole year.

It makes you think… what would you do with an extra year you didn’t know you had? Maybe I’ll take up underwater basket weaving. Climb a mountain. Get a nap…


Cooking Wild, Eating Wild

wild rice.pngMy stepfather knows all the cool people in northern Minnesota. I mean, the real people. Gill Quall was one such person. He was a woodsman and an expert in wild edibles. Gill would spend his daily walks in the woods foraging. His goal: to gather enough wild foods to feed himself for a solid month out of every year. He was scientific about it, too. Before his wild foods month he would get a blood lab done – check his cholesterol, blood pressure, the works. After a month of eating wild foods only, he’d check it again. Often there was marked improvement!

In Minnesota, one of the best known wild foods is Zizania palustris, or wild rice. It can be found in lakes throughout the northern reaches of the state. Because it grows literally in the lakes, it must be harvested by canoe. It’s rich in protein and vitamins and stays with you better than a bowl of brown rice or oatmeal.

Using wild rice as a base, Gill came up with (hands down) the best breakfast recipe I’ve ever tasted. He called it superbowl. No relation to the sporting event, but aptly named: it’s a winner!

Here’s his recipe:

In a saucepan on the stove top bring the following to a simmer:

  • 1 cup ground wild rice (a consistency similar to corn grits or polenta is good)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pinch salt

Simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring frequently to avoid sticking, lumping, burning and all manner of unpleasantness.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, remove from heat and cover. Serve hot with your preferred combination of the following toppings:

  • Blueberries (wild are best of course!)
  • Toasted hazel nuts (toast in a cast iron frying pan on the stove top)
  • Maple syrup
  • Butter (optional, as it’s not a wild food. Gill never could convince a moose to let him milk it.)

Enjoy with wild mint tea and friends!

Thank you Gill!

How to Make Ice Candle Lanterns

This winter is proving COLD in many places on the North American continent. It’s a perfect opportunity to be creative with the cold. Did you know it’s possible to hammer in a nail with a banana? It is if you leave the banana out overnight at 20 below!

Other experiments include watching boiling water explode into steam when you toss it in the air. And licking the… oh, uh, never mind that one (not recommended).

My toddler and I made some neat candle lanterns out of ice. Here’s how we did it:

  1. Take one large balloon (any color will do, but the toddler insisted on red)
  2. Fill with water (ideally without washing the kitchen floor in the process) and tie off
  3. Set outside in  a pile of snow and let the arctic blasts of winter work their magic (I used a bowl for transport)
  4. Leave it for 8-10 hours (less time if it’s 20 below where you are…)
  5. Bring inside and place in bowl in sink
  6. Cut and peel off balloon (you should see or hear some liquid water still inside)
  7. Break small hole in thin end (or melt using hot water)
  8. Empty extra water out of center
  9. Set back outside to freeze
  10. Set a tea light or other small candle inside and light
  11. Leave outside as porch candle lanterns or bring inside for an ephemeral crystal centerpiece

Enjoy the winter!

19 Ideas for Creating Beauty

MakeBeautiful.pngHappy New Year everyone! A friend shared something with me last week as we approached the end of the year. It was a little comic, with two friends talking. One stood by watching as the other dug in the soil. The first friend said to the other, “2017 was nuts! What do you think 2018 will bring?” The friend digging in the dirt replied, “Flowers!” The first friend, incredulous, asked, “How do you know?”

“Because, I’m planting seeds!” He replied.

Here are a few ideas for creating beauty around you in the coming year.

  1. Meditate daily
  2. Make a cup of tea for someone else
  3. Color with a child
  4. Smell the flowers
  5. Watch a sunrise on purpose
  6. Smile at friends you haven’t met yet
  7. Recycle everything you can
  8. Make soup for a sick friend
  9. Walk to work, school or the store
  10. Host a game day
  11. Invite a friend out to coffee
  12. Learn something new every day
  13. Share what you love
  14. Bake a cake and decorate it
  15. Learn to say “hello” and “thank you” in as many languages as you can
  16. Send letters
  17. Play
  18. Take a deep breath
  19. Plant a garden with a friend

Strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!  -‘Abdu’l-Bahá

What I Learned to Draw (Better) Today!

Every year or so I realize that my skills need a brush up and I need some new inspiration. I start fantasizing about taking that month long watercolor class at a mountain retreat in Colorado… but of course I’m the parent of a toddler and I’m cheap. To the google!

My husband has the best luck finding awesome things online – he would say his “Google-Fu” is strong. This is what we turned up last night and I’m hooked!

Proko has a lot of free resources on his YouTube channel (as well as some premium courses that sound well worth the cost)!

Here’s how we found Proko: Top 5 Online Art Courses That Are Worth Paying For

Now I’m drawing hands – for fun! Something I never thought I’d do. (Hands are HARD.)