Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A brief history of the many and varied Bendio sister hamsters

Ted illustrations are done.  Yay!  I have few digital tweaks/kinks to work out and then figure out just who is going to print and bind it.  Yes, I (as it turns out) wisely decided it would be a really stupid, time-consuming, and anti-cost effective idea to print and bind the books myself.  Even though I have the ability to.  It would look cool, and handmade and bohemian and artsy.  But just not worth it.  Besides, it would look so much more legit if they're printed professionally.  And then I can market them farther.  And so with the Ted book nearly complete, I thought I'd give some Bendio sister hamster background.  So, here you are... the real story of the hamsters.

Ted was an actual honest to goodness real hamster.  My sister Meg at the tender age of oh, 14 ish (?) or so acquired a golden hamster by the name of Theodore.  I honestly don't remember many real details other than his love of chocolate, taffy and peanuts.  He was definitely Meg's pet.  But he was adored, and his many imagined adventures chronicled literarily by my thrice elder sister.  There are many.  I first illustrated one in which he pilots a bi-plane and finds dragon guarded treasure when I was in the 5th grade.  After his demise at a contented ripe old hamster age, he was replaced with Gloria, another golden hamster.  Apparently Gloria was a dull and boring replacement after the brass and adventuresome Ted, and Meg grew bored of her stench and bequeathed her and Ted's old cage to me.  I re-tamed her being the animal-phile that I was and she was replaced with many more hamsters that followed.  Gloria was followed by Flossie, a long haired, peach colored Teddy-bear hamster who was much more amusing.  Flossie would do tricks by hanging off of one side my hand and then climbing back up the opposite side.  She was cool like that.  She was then followed by Clyde, who became, hands down my very favorite.  He looked like a triple stack chocolate ice cream cone with vanilla in the middle and a chocolate drip running down his back.  Clyde was intelligent and so very tame.  He knew me, preferred me, and missed me when I was gone.  He loved me as much as his furry little heart could.  I would block escape routes out of my bedroom and let him run free as I would do my homework.  Sometimes he would fall asleep in my hands.  He would often be carted around in my tucked in tee-shirt (come on, of course my shirts were grossly tucked in, it was the 80's) or running up and down my long sleeved shirts.  He was far too polite to dream of biting or peeing on me.  When alas he too passed out of this world and was laid to rest under the cherry tree, I was heart broken.  He was meant to, but could not be replaced by a similar looking Poki, who cared not a whit for me, but was a well meaning if slightly daft and aloof hamster.  After Poki I moved onto frogs and snakes and newts and turtles.  But that is another story for another time that has more to do with the animals and story in my next book, in which I am both the author and illustrator of.  Or, you know, rather will be, eventually.  I'm going to go and get on that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Has It Got In Its Pocketses? (Finger Hugs Tutorial)

Max recently started all day kindergarten and has been lonely for his mommy.  He can't have a picture, because it is distracting to others in his class.  But he needed something.  The idea developed after my oldest sister suggested something he could leave in his pocket.  Max and I brainstormed and came up with this:

original idea doodle

Then it ended up as this:

pocket hug

I like when an idea goes from concept to finished product fast and actually turns out better than I envisioned on the first try.

I don't want to make tons for everyone (though I'm sure now Max has one, I'll have to make ones for Sohvi and Lucy).  Soooo, I'll post the pattern and instructions so you can make your own.  Just don't be a turd and sell them en masse or anything.  That would be lousy of you.  Give them away as gifts all you want though.  Share the love!

Print out this:
print out full size (sorry I don't know how to attach the PDF file...)

fabric scraps (I used two different minky fabrics)
sewing machine (although he's small enough, you could stitch him by hand)
black embroidery floss (or thread)
embroidery needle
Use 1/4" seam allowance 

Cut pattern.

embroider eyes and mouth as shown on pattern.  Make sure to stay inside the seam allowance.  If using thread instead of embroidery floss, use four strands of thread (it will look exactly the same, I promise).

sew with 1/4" seam allowance all the way around, leave opening along bottom of one of the arms to turn.

clip curves in corners and trim off seam allowance around hands and thumb.

turn inside out.  I use the end of a paintbrush (skinny and smooth and not sharp..) to help turn it inside out.

stuff.  (do small amounts at a time).  don't make it super tight because the arms still have to bend, and you have to fit a finger in there to hug.

stitch the opening closed with a blind stitch (or slip stitch).

stitch the ends of the hands together with a blind stitch  (or slip stitch).

You're done!  At school put in pocket and when you put your hands inside, slip your finger through the arms and get a pocket hug!  At home you can wear it on your finger (or thumb) like a fat ring.  Feel the love.

You're welcome!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Genetic Narcissism: or the post in which I shamelessly tout my parental vanity

My kids are the most adorable mini humans ever. Seriously. (I am also fully aware of just what an incredibly original concept that is) What parent doesn't think that? Really though, MINE are!  (and so, begrudgingly are yours) I have a sneaking suspicion that it stems from one's own Freudianally suppressed vanity. Apparently you can't stuff things away in the closets of your mind without it eeking out somewhere else. The scientific data are as follows:

1- Obviously I think my husband is one sweet piece of man candy (as one can hopefully assume does everyone else at some point, so as to have agreed to marry them) The glint in his green eyes, his dimples when he grins, overshadowed by his mass of chocolate curls and all brought home with his fit bum and sweet, sweet calves.

fit bum and sweet, sweet calves not shown for your own protection

2- I also think everybody is vain to some extent or another, myself included. How can you escape it in our culture's appearance driven obsession. But seriously people, everybody at one point or another looks in the mirror and thinks "hey, I'm sexy." Sure its not everyday, or even once a year, but you always have the one or two pictures of yourself where you know you had it going on. (probably taken by Tracy) What could exhibit more of your faded youthful charm than your own personal mini me?

only infinitely cuter

3- My children are the equivalent respectively to:  Sohvi - Helen of Troy with her perfect hair and crystal blue eyes. 

Max - Adonis with a sly, ever so slightly mischievous sweetness.  

Lucy - a Reubenesque be-dimpled charm-your-pants-off Botticelli Cherub.  

And my darling Liam, well he's the baby version of Brad Pitt.  Only cuter.  I take the boy in public and teenagers swoon.  Its like anti birth control.  Dusty ovary cocaine.  

A couple of genetically-predisposed-to-be-your-own-brand-of-dusty-ovary-cocaine zygotes (and 9 months) later, you have cuteness (repeated four times and aged to perfection) that reasonably argues to be the very zenith of human evolution.   Makes you get all mushy inside and want to stuff them with goodies and lay down in front of trucks to ensure their safety and smother them with kisses and cuddles.  As you should.  It doesn't take too much wit to discern that this trifecta of scientific fact might not be such a bad idea to ensure the survival of the species.   The Powers That Be are pretty tricky like that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

kid project: growing sugar crystals

My kids are on a crystal kick such as the world hasn't seen since the early 90's.  Theirs runs more towards the cheaper plastic sort, but nonetheless just as crazed.  I thought I'd show them some real crystals.  They aren't too impressed by small ones we found in rocks, so I thought perhaps we could make some bigger ones.

Fortunately a while ago I scored a sweet Goodwill find of "How Science Works" and bequeathed it to my oldest filled with fantasies of doing science projects together and being that cool sort of Mom.  Then I got all nerdy and explained it all before we did it.

this is how:

1- we heated up water and slowly dissolved sugar into it until it wouldn't dissolve any more, and then we should have added a tiny bit more water so that all of the sugar would have dissolved and not acted as seed crystals all over the bottom of the jar.   ..and added blue food coloring

...BTW, this is AFTER the solution has sat and been poured out.

2- we poured the super saturated hot sugar water/syrup into a jar and hung a rough string (we used hemp because it was laying around, you could use yarn) into the jar (not touching the sides or bottom) 

3- waited.  Patience isn't a strong point in children, but they held off for two whole days while we were growing a seed crystal. 

3- we took the largest seed crystal (that Lucy didn't eat) from off of the rough string and tied it to a nylon string (fishing line works) and hung it from newly resaturated sugar solution. 

And then whilst on vacation, we grew bigger ones.

Saved the biggest ones in cool origami-sticker boxes, and happily ate the rest. 

They taste like little naked nerds. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

On patched jeans and other atrocities

I can't decide if this makes me a nice, loving and clever Mom, or a total dork Mom (or probably both).  But I am really bored with jeans being rendered useless after a month because my kids are.. well, kids.  Their knees are constantly hitting pavement, trees, carpet, furniture, gravel, you name it and surrendering their thread count.  I hate waste, and not so much in the trendy, crunchy, reduce your carbon footprint kind of way, but a deep mental aneurysm sort of way.  Call me cheap, or a tight wad, whatever you want, because its true.  But just don't throw something salvageable away in front of me.  I'm probably only saved from serious hoarding by the fact that I'm not a big shopper.  All mental issues aside though, I've officially declared war on the pesky lower appendage ventilation duct.  In honor of the weather starting to cool off I pulled out last years leg wear in all its tattered glory.  And then got busy.

Trying out new ideas all in the name of erring on the clever-mom I-did-this-on-purpose side as opposed to the point-and-laugh-at-the-dork-kid look.

now there are
Since discovering HeatNBond *cough, stupid name I am now re-in-love with appliqué.  And no, I am not being paid for giving them a blog shout out.  And since I was in a blog stupor at the time of the frantic baby-sewing, there are no pictures of said appliqué-love.
all two of them

I also recently started working as a sewing assistant for the incredibly talented fabric/pattern designer/artist  Sandi Henderson.  So I've matriculated back to some sewing projects, having sewing on the brain, but my Ted book illustrations are still forthcoming. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

wild Montana roses

Montana is good at wild roses. And pretty landscapes. And sometimes I get ridiculously lucky with lighting and such and can pretend that I know anything technical about photography.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hemisphere Wars

My creative beastie is sick and tired of table scraps and wants something substantial to masticate, and is fed up with all of my measly little sewing projects of late. So, my left brain has had to toughen up and put the smack down on its cranial counterpart. My right brain protests vehemently that it is being unfairly stifled, and that structure is so boring! (in that awful high pitched whiny voice that kids are so proficient at). And my poor corpus callosum is stuck in between as the bedraggled referee.
The fact remains however that unless I schedule and organize my sorry tush, I don't get nearly enough (or any, lately) illustration done. So with my dominant hemisphere kicking and screaming, I dutifully cleaned my cluttered house, paid the depressing bills and cracked open my dusty planner and set me some schedule to illustrate more. Nice stiflingly specific goals with deadlines and all. (ok, ok, loose deadlines... right brain put up quite the fight and threatened to strike if things got too stringent)
Soo-o, I'm going to finish (yes, really) the Ted the Hamster book my sister Meg so cleverly wrote and gave to me to illustrate all those eons ago. Its been disgustingly close to completion for way too long. The plan is to print it out myself and hand bind it. It will have both hardback and paperback versions. And I'll be selling them through my decrepit etsy shop. And if my kids have any say in it, a Ted the Hamster plushie may show up there in the future (they really want one, I'm not horribly keen on it, so we'll see). Meanwhile I'll also keep plodding along with my "Cora's Perfect Pet" dummy book in preparation for its sacrificial offering to a endless ocean of potential publishers and multiple rejection letters. Hopefully little and consistent bits at a time will keep both beasties at bay.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

sketches of my kids..

Illustrating my book has been greatly neglected of late. Not without good excuse, I've been rather occupied with gestating and then recovering from the birth of my newest little darling boy Liam. The latest sketching started when Lucy fell asleep a while ago on the couch, a
nd looked so stinking cute it inspired me to draw her. Whenever I draw my kids, I always wonder why on earth I don't do it more often. It doesn't take much time, and I LOVE the results (I mean as much as I love anything I do that I can still totally pick apart, because its not perfect). It is however nice to have NOT done them on scrap paper at church, like half of the drawings I do of my kids.

Then of course Max wanted a picture of himself, and so he willingly posed, which I then took full advantage of.

Sohvi was the best at holding still, and I really like this picture of her. Though none of them are fantastic representations...

Liam, even sleeping wouldn't hold still for anything, so its not very good at all, but oh well. (and my scanner sometimes sucks and leaves gross dark borders on the sides..)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Darwin is laughing at us

We openly defy the law of natural selection as a species. Put any one of us in the wild for a few years, and other than Bear Grylls we'd all be dead, most of us in the first day or two. If we don't get eaten by wild animals, tumbled off a cliff or poisoned by snakes or berries, we'd starve or freeze to death. We hunt for a Big Mac in our climate controlled speeding vehicles moving over smooth roads of tiny rocks cemented in tar. Or if we are feeling really ambitious, one can hunt for frozen plucked, skinned and de-boned chicken in your freezer. Our shelters are so crazy elaborate they take an army to build, and half a lifetime to pay for. Gathering happens at the grocery store where food is in bottles and boxes and cans and filled with sugar and preservatives. And then we eat too much of it so we do pointless work of running in place that accomplishes nothing but that we can eat more without getting fat.

And what do we do in our climate controlled houses with machines to work for us and prepared food is a phone call or a fridge walk away? We are bored, and so sit in front of reflective boxes powered by millions of tiny electrons flowing in a controlled current to manipulate 1's and 0's to entertain us. That my friend is what we've come up with with our big impressive brains. Does that mean that we've eradicated cruelty unlike the big bad wild world surrounding us? Of course not!

Despite these observations I'm not all out advocating we go build bomb shelters and stock up for post-apocalyptic survival or am somehow dissing the very technology I'm using. I'm just saying its interesting, ironic and sometimes we take our own culture for granted. I think its good to be able to step outside of it and see its idiosyncrasies that we may appreciate it for its good qualities and learn what we can from it. I am glad we defy nature. I for one would probably be dead without it.

However if one day I need to fend for my own survival, I'll get one of my expert chicken snatching offspring to catch dinner for me.Hopefully, there will be an abundance of wild free-range chickens running around.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

messing around with watercolors..

My kids inspire me to play around in art just for fun, which I should do more often. I think I can take it too seriously, because with my book illustration I need to to a certain extent. But it can be bad because I scare myself away with self intimidation. These were done while watching Conference. Some I like more than others, but I'm including all of them just because. (maybe to show not just my favourites, but the mediocre stuff as a contrast..) I honestly never know what is going to turn out.

I started out n
ot liking the leaf.. but kept messing with it and coming back to it (which most of the time with watercolors will just make a mess) and I ended up liking it a lot. Leaves are a rather re-occurring theme in my art. I think they are beautiful, and are somewhat symbolic for me of the beauty and intricacy of creation.
The baby nasal aspirator ironically turned out une
xpectedly well despite the subject matter. Unfortunately it IS an indicator of the condition of my baby's nose..

The apple and orange are rather.. um, just meh. Underwhelming. But they were simple objects already... so their lack of detail isn't a problem, as much as they were boring still life subjects to begin with. Blame my kids, they were their snacks.

All in all though just very fun to mess around and have fun with art for no particular reason at all.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On why I am not the world's biggest cold cereal fan

First, honestly, how can that much processed preservatives and fake chemical vitamins cemented together with glucose be good for you at all? I'm not normally of the ultra hippie, all organic persuasion either, but have you looked at the ingredient list for cereals? I'll bet half of the chemicals listed are banned by the TSA and are on the baggage confiscation list at airports as well as being known carcinogens according to the state of California.

Secondly, it never lasts me longer than an hour or two, before I'm way hungrier than I was before I consumed said 'breakfast'. Even when its NOT a sugar coated concoction of insulin inducing craziness. You'd think a whole grain based cereal wouldn't cause the same debilitating drop in blood sugar. But it does. For me. I might as well eat a candy bar with a multivitamin. It would last as long, taste a whole lot better, and probably be just as healthy.

Thirdly, its the equivalent of a culinary time bomb. You have 1.6 minutes to inhale your cereal before it becomes an unappetizing mass of lactose suspended gelatinous particles. Don't get me wrong, I consider myself in possession of slightly above average amounts of courage and toughness than is generally thought of for my sex, and I enjoy a bit of extreme sportiness. Just not in my morning repast.

Fourthly, In a Herculean effort to expand the cereals time sensitive aptitude for sogginess, they have created indigestible clumps of mouth destroying, mastication nightmares. You literally have to build up scar tissue on the roof of your mouth to protect against the onslaught of razor edged, diamond hard, vitamin enriched, dehydrated food particles. Honestly, its like war! And this new genetically enhanced cereal gives you a mere .259 minute time advantage before it also reverts to its atomic constituents more closely resembling decomposing swamp matter.

Fifthly (yeah, that's a mouthful of grammatical incorrectitude... however I'd rather be consistent... so bite me). I don't even like the taste of most cereals. Just not a big fan. There are a few I'll spring for on occasion when amnesia gets the better of me. My favorite being Cranberry Almond Crunch... but that whole box contains about 2.15 actual bowls of cereal and is priced as if gold plated. (and you STILL need to consume in small quantities in excess of land speed records to beat its time bomb/soggy factor)

..and lastly, I am a big fat hypocrite, because despite all of these factors, it is still way too fast, too easy and too convenient, and is the only proven way to ensure my kids get a modicum of calcium every day. Thus, despite my strong feelings to the contrary, my kids (though not me) consume it every morning almost without fail.

I HAVE strong opinions and principles. I just lack the motivation and will power to uphold them.