Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year 2013: Plan for Peace

Hoping everyone had a safe and happy holiday!
I'm thinking a lot about starting the new year fresh with lots of positive thoughts and energy! The new book I illustrated this summer will be coming out in 2013. I will be getting all new students at school at the end of January. The new video for Floyd and the Mysterious Night Time Noise will be wrapped up. There is a lot to look forward to!

I'm also planning a special project with my students to start in January inspired by the "26 Acts of Kindness" campaign. I think the key to our country changing is to be compassionate to others and teach our children empathy. I'd like to see what happens when we go beyond 26 acts, beyond the holiday season when there are so many opportunities to give, and really try to do something to change the way we live and think of others.
In that spirit, here are a couple of things you can do for starters in 2013. My students (along with students in my colleagues Mrs. Gamelin and Mr. Cooney's classes) have already worked on the snowflake project before vacation and our snowflakes are on their way! 

• Welcome Sandy Hook Students to a Winter Wonderland -- When school resumes for Sandy Hook, it will be in a new building. Parent-volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. We encourage senders to be as creative as possible, remembering that no two snowflakes are alike. Please make and send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to the Connecticut PTSA address below.

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

• Fairhaven, MA Remembers Newtown, CT
Saturday, January 5, 2013, 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. , Cushman Park, Green Street, Fairhaven 
Show support for the families of Newtown, CT. Join, any time between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m., in a 'Memorial Walk' around the track at Cushman Park. Stop by the donation table at the park's band stand to write or draw a message on a luminary bag and pick up a glow stick for your walk. After finishing your walk, place your glow stick in the luminary bag and the bags will be lined up around the inside of the track's fence. Donations may also be mailed in advance to the Fairhaven Town Hall, 40 Center Street, Fairhaven, MA 02719, c/o Selectman Bob Espindola. Please make out any checks to “Fairhaven Remembers Newtown.”

Letters to Soldiers -- After the holidays, the cards, and the care packages, there are still soldiers and military personnel serving all over the world, far away from their families and friends. Here are some web resources to help you get a letter or care package to a soldier and brighten their day all year long!       

If you have any ideas of things students can do for others throughout the year (random acts of kinds, community service ideas, etc.), please comment or message me at

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Favorite Childhood Christmas Craft

I have a lot of memories of making holiday crafts and things when I was a kid. We'd go in the woods behind Pope Park in Acushnet with my dad to find greens for wreaths, my mom and Auntie Ginger used to make tons of home made cookies and candy. As for me, I loved making Salt Dough "Christmas Cookie" ornaments! Last year my niece and nephew make some beautiful home made dough ornaments for my husband and I and it brought back some great memories!

Here's how to make your own:

Salt Dough Recipe (this one is from

1 cup salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup luke warm water

1. In a large bowl mix salt and flour.
2. Gradually stir in water. Mix well until it forms a doughy consistency.
3. With your hands form a ball with your dough and kneed it for at least 5 minutes. The longer you kneed your dough the smoother it will be.

Store your salt dough in a air tight container and you will be able to use it for days.
When ready, roll out and cut cookies (make sure you put a hole in the top!)
Let your salt dough creations air dry, however salt dough can also be dried in the oven.
 Bake at 200 F until your creation is dry. The amount of time needed to bake your creations depends on size and thickness; thin flat ornaments may only take 45-60 minutes, thicker creations can take 2-3 hours or more. You can increase your oven temperature to 350 F, your dough will dry faster but it may also brown, which won't matter if you are painting them.

Floyd- Approved Craft!!
When cooled/ready, paint with acrylic paint, dimensional paint, add glitter, etc. Pop a string through the hole and hang on the tree. They last for years and look like authentic cookies. But DON'T EAT THEM (Yucky!). You can decorate with real candies, but they will not last as long and should probably be thrown out at the end of the season. Another cool effect is to add cinnamon to the recipe or on top of the cookie before you bake it for a nice scent. (FYI-will affect the color of the cookie!). You can also seal them with acrylic sealer, varnish, or polyurethane spray.

This craft is Floyd approved: Although he can't eat them, it's also a great way to make an Irresistible Cookie that lasts forever!!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Merry Musical Christmas!!

Last week I posted that I'd add some more Christmas crafts in a couple of days...What was I thinking??? The Christmas season is upon us and already it is busy busy busy! So here's finally another craft using sheet music.

I can't imagine the holidays without music so creating some decorations with old sheet music is perfect.  This idea came from an epic fail trying to make paper roses. Despite that, I did figure out how to make a really cool musical garland for my tiny Christmas tree! It's really fun and easy!

1. First get some sheet music. I like old sheet music that's turned a little ivory colored, but if you can't find any, you can print these holiday songs from your computer for free on any kind of paper you like. Please don't photocopy music. It's illegal and Santa will get mad!

2. Next, cut a circular shape from the center of the paper. It doesn't have to be perfect. I like mine a little wiggly.

3. Now cut a spiral from the outside working in toward the middle of the shape. Just follow your outer shape. Cut it thinner for a small tree, thicker for a bigger tree.

4. Carefully unravel the spiral. It will twist and turn in lots of places, looking very garland-y!
This is the spiral before being unraveled.

5. Now place it on your tree! You don't really need to connect the ends together as you hang it, but you can tape the pieces together as you go (that may work better on a large tree). Here's what my tree looks like with the garland on:

Now it's time for me to hang the rest of my ornaments! Check back in for more fun crafty ideas and some Christmas greetings from Floyd and friends, too!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

DIY Christmas Decorations --"Kid Friendly", too!!

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all! The holiday season has begun and this is the perfect time to make your own very inexpensive yet impressive decorations! I'll be posting some ideas for you over the next few weeks, starting with...

 LA LA LA!!!!!!!....

Here are a couple of musical snowflakes I made today!
Festive Christmas Carol Decorations: Paper Snowflakes, Paper Chains and Ornaments

Use recycled sheet music to create some cool crafts! Try yard sales or flea markets to find these, or download and print out pages from your favorite holiday song. You can even print the pages out on classy parchment paper or brightly-colored paper, too.  Download some free legal holiday sheet music here:

Then, cut out snowflakes, make paper chains, or fold into fans or shape into candy-filled cones and turn those into pretty Victorian-style tree ornaments, or make your favorite origami shapes... I bet you can come up with other ideas, too.  Add colorful accents with paint or glitter.

To make a paper chain: Cut a strip of paper about 1 - 2 inches wide by 6 inches, loop into a circle and glue or tape together. Add each segment by passing the new strip through the previous loop before fastening. Keep going for miles!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloween (and hurricane) Fun!

Halloween is just a couple of days away and most of us in southeastern Massachusetts are home riding out Hurricane Sandy, aka Frankenstorm!!

Here are a few fun web sites with some creative online activities for kids of all ages. Charge up that laptop and have fun!

Pumpkin Mania
Printable Halloween Masks
Jack-o-lantern Creator
Halloween Coloring Game

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Frightful Reading Fun for all Ages

Available online at or Barnes &!
Just a couple more weeks until Halloween! If you're looking for a spooky story to read at your Halloween celebration, here are a couple of books in my collection, one for the older kids and one for the younger ones:

For kids ages 8-12:
 A Hallowe'een Story by Margareta Pothier with pen and ink illustrations by ME! This book is available online only so order right away if you want it in time for Halloween...

Synopsis:  Billy wants to knock 'em dead at the town Halloween Parade. Instead of wearing a costume, he decides to bring some special guests that he happened to meet at his family's grave site. Things don't go exactly as planned, but it did turn out to be a Halloween Billy would never forget!

Order your copy today from, Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million!

For the younger kids, ages 3-8:
Floyd and the Mysterious Night Time Noise by Kristine Daniels
Available online or in fine stores in Southeastern MA

Floyd and the Mysterious Night Time Noise is about a dog named Floyd who can’t get to sleep. The problem is a strange noise that keeps waking him up in the night. Floyd must find out just where that Mysterious Noise is coming from. With the help of his two canine companions, Tiny and Larue, Floyd bravely searches everywhere to find the noise. He is, as always, very determined, but is he successful? Floyd discovers that he is braver than he thought, and that sometimes the clues to a mystery are right under your nose...  Full color illustrations with funny and spooky scenes, not too scary for the really little folk!

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Books-a-million, and locally at Partner's Village Store in Westport and Baker Books in their new New Bedford location!

As always, I'm happy to sign books for anyone in my neck of the woods. Send me an email at!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Happy Spooky Season!

The Hibernating House--coming in 2013
The leaves are turning here in southeastern, MA and I have been away from blogging with the start of school and finishing The Hibernating House by Sandy Leahy and Kathy Tarentino. I am pleased to announce the book is in the hands of the publisher and will be in print in both HARDCOVER and paperback very soon. I am expecting it to be released in the spring/summer season.  Very exciting!

I love this time of year! If you are in the mood for a spooky story (I love a good scary story or movie any time of year...), check out A Hallowe'een Story by the late Margareta Pothier. It is a ghost story that any kid would enjoy. I did the pen and ink illustrations for this book in the summer of 2011, and the book is available online only!

Available online at or Barnes &!
In A Hallowe'en Story, Billy wants to knock 'em dead at the town Halloween Parade. Instead of wearing a costume, he decides to bring some special guests that he happened to meet at his family's grave site. Things don't go exactly as planned, but it did turn out to be a Halloween Billy would never forget!

Order your copy today from, Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million!

As always, I'm happy to sign books for anyone in my neck of the woods. Send me an email at!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Bit of a Stretch

First, Hibernating House book project news: I finished the small rough sketches and they were approved by the authors with a few minor changes. The last week or so has been spent on outlining and adding extra details with colored pencil. So today I will start the watercolor paint which probably takes the longest of all the steps so far. I’m hoping to have all of the paintings done by Aug. 26 when I go back to school. Not sure if I’ll meet my mark at this point since there is A LOT of detail to attend to in these illustrations, but it will be worth the time spent for sure. For now, I am keeping the art under wraps so you’ll have to wait to see these illustrations for a while...

In the mean time, here is one of the things I had to do before even drawing the full-sized pieces (they measure 11.5 x 17.5 in.) is stretch my watercolor paper. I use a good quality cold press paper (I prefer Strathmore). You want to use the thickest paper you can afford, but even with a good quality paper, when you paint the paper can wrinkle. YUCK! Stretching can help decrease or eliminate the wrinkles in your finished work. YAY!

Some artists stretch paper by submersing the entire sheet into a water bath, then hanging it to partially dry before taping it to a stiff board. I like to stretch all of my paper for a project all at once, so I tried this method and it works better for me:

1. Do this on a dry or low-humidity day. First, I use pencil to measure and draw my picture boundary and cut my paper down to about 2 inches larger than the boundary. Any marks you make will be impossible to erase after you stretch, so if you draw your image before stretching (I don’t recommend doing that, but...) be aware.

2. Next, I use masking tape to attach the paper to a slightly larger piece of corrugated cardboard to foam board. I put small pieces across the corners first, then apply long pieces all the way around the edge of the paper and press down hard.

3. I fill a bowl with CLEAN water and get myself a very clean natural sponge like a sea sponge. Kitchen sponges can leave dyes on your paper. Also, sea sponges absorb better.

4. I use the sponge to apply a generous amount of water to the surface of the paper. I let it sit for a few minutes.

5. Next, I use the same sponge to absorb as much water from the surface as possible wiping horizontally and vertically until all of the water is picked up and squeezing out the excess into the bowl. Make sure you are not leaving any puddles on the surface.

6. The paper will wrinkle at this point while drying. Don’t panic. You will never get this type of wrinkling again after this step.

7. Set the board somewhere where it can remain flat, and let the paper completely dry. As it dries, the tape will keep the paper from staying wrinkled and it will revert to flatness. You must keep the paper taped to the board while you work on the painting, then you can remove the tape or cut the paper from the board when done.

If you are using a huge amount of water for painting, there may be some wrinkling (unless you are using very thick expensive paper), but again, if taped you should see it flatten when dry. Personally, my painting method uses minimal amount of water, so I haven’t has a lot of problems using this stretching method. Give it a try!

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Little Help from my Friends

For the last several weeks I've been working on the roughs and then the final full-sized pencil illustrations for The Hibernating House by Sandy Leahy and Kathy Tarentino. So far I think it's looking great and I have just a few last details to add in before starting my color work.

When I'm teaching in my classroom, I'm always telling the kids how important it is to research images of things that you are not yet an expert at drawing. Unless we have some kind of photographic memory (which very few people actually have), our minds can't retain every detail of every thing we have ever seen.

To create believable and recognizable objects and people, I take some pictures myself, some I find in books or online, and some photos were sent to me from the authors' own family photo albums.

This is a list of the items I had to research so far (there are some things I could draw without photos, too, but I needed help with this stuff!).

houses and cottages
carousel (including the famous Flying Horses)
“entering town” signs
moored boats
ferry boat
car with bikes on top
car towing a boat
military uniforms
red white & blue banners
lawn mower
a yellow labrador retriever
ticket booth
lamp posts
marching band
fan shutters

So, if you think you are not a great or even good artist because you cannot sit down and just draw something perfectly from your head, think again. We can all use a little help once in a while. My advice: ALWAYS use photos, preferably your own if possible, not someone else's drawings.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Getting Inspired: A Day on the Island

Right now it is sticky hot and I am taking a break from drawing to do a little blogging because its too hot to do just about anything else!

I was thrilled last week to spend a wonderful day with Kathy and Sandy, the authors of my summer book project, The Hibernating House! The story is about a summer cottage near the ocean in a little seaside town (what a perfect summer project, right?). I am very lucky to live in a little seaside town myself which can give me some inspiration for my illustrations, but we also happen to live really close (under an hour by ferry) to one of the most beautiful islands in the Northeast, Martha’s Vineyard. So here’s a little peek at my lovely day on the Vineyard with Kathy and Sandy through pictures...

This seagull perched itself right at the top if the ferry, ready to sail. We set out from Falmouth, MA.
A view of MV from the Woods Hole Ferry as Kathy and I sail into Oak Bluffs. One of our inspiration houses is right in this area.

The ferry dock is unloading, and Sandy is waiting for Kathy and me to take us around the island!
Sandy's in the red shirt, waiting on the dock to take us around the island!
One of our first stops, the jetty rocks that will appear in the book.
We drove though some beautiful beach areas along the road, including this famous bridge from the scene in JAWS!!
We arrived at "Easy Breezy" the main inspiration house for the book! It is even more charming than I had imagined!
We sat on the porch, had some snacks, and looked at some of the sketches for the book. What a tough job!!

I met some of Sandy's family including Finnegan who just might find himself in the pages of the book!

The tour continued through beautiful Edgartown...
The 4th of July parade route through Edgartown, still festive!

We watched the shortest ferry ride ever to Chappaquiddick....
And we visited a pretty farm stand...
... and then found our way back into Oak Bluffs to see the famous campground gingerbread cottages... I love this front porch!!
Like walking through a fairy tale...
Then around the park...
... and to the carousel...
After a yummy late lunch it was time to catch the ferry back. What a beautiful day!
Here we are on the front porch, Kathy in blue, Sandy in red, and me with my sketch book.

Now, how could anyone not be inspired by all of that? Time to get back to my drawing!