Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween & Hand Drawn Images in Illustrator

This year, Halloween was a mixed bag. The kids had a grand time trick or treating, but for me, a shadow was cast over the event. Just as I was leaving with the kids to go trick or treating I received a call from my husband telling me that Eleanor had been puking, could not keep any food down and was on her way to the emergency room. My inclination was to send home the extra kids we had with us and scurry to the hospital, but Eleanor did not want that. In the end, it was the best choice. They sat in the waiting room for many hours. Once they finally got in there was more waiting, of course. The doctors ran a battery of assorted tests from CAT scans, blood work, the works, but nothing useful came up. They simply rehydrated her and sent everyone home around 10:30. The kids would have spent their evening in the waiting room. Our absence made things a bit more quite.

I initally struggled with staying the course with trick-or-treating, but that was overshadowed very soon. As we worked our way down the street I noticed that there was a contast buzz of three helicopters circling overhead. Up the way, about four streets up we could see six police cars with their roller lights ablaze. We made our way to the next street over, and again, more police cars. We knew something was up. We learned that there had been a shooting. Originally the rumor was that a guy was shooting at trick-or-treaters, but we later learned that an unhappy tenant shot his landlord. That was a bit freaky so we zoomed over to my mom's house, visited her, and left to go to another neighborhood. I had origianally expected to let the older group of kids go on their own, but in the end we stayed together. I felt safer that way.

In the end the kids were tired and happy. They tell me they got more candy this year than ever before. Ellie estimates that is is about 10 pounds worth. Can you imagine? They both organized their loot, first into piles of like items, then into a prioritized line. The fun thing for them will be to see what kinds of trades and bargains they can make with their friends.

And on an entirely different note...

I've been do a lot of drawings in my Adobe Illustrator classes. I thought it might be fun to share them. The girls is my interpretation of a drawing from a graphic novel, Skim. The hand with the seed pod is from a photo I took when Ethan and I spent the day with Grandma Eleanor at Hudson Gardens.

Saturday ushered in November, a quite, thoughtful response to the crazy sugar coated blaze of October. We will set our clocks back an hour and dawn new desktop wallpaper. Smashing Magazine has put out a lovely collection of 50 designs to choose from. I am not sure which I will dispaly.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trick or Treat Street & Fun Halloween Links to Enjoy

Halloween is near and the end of our holiday frenzy is almost complete. My Halloween fun season seems to peak with our Pumpkin Carving Party & Potluck. The rest is just fun, but a bit more distant. Last night Ellie, her friend, Brandon and I worked Trick or Treat Street at my school. The various clubs set up booths around the school and invite the neighborhood kids in to get candy, play games, do a bit of coloring and hear a story or two. It is always a bit hit. This year the local credit union donated $200 worth of candy. That, along with what the kids from the school brought in meant that there was plenty of candy for everyone to have a large pile to take home. I think the high schoolers love it.

This evening is the Halloween party at Ethan's and Ellie's school. It has been more than a week of a meeting/event every single night, so our contribution to the potluck will be light. We made fun, edible eyeballs. I saw the recipe originally on and followed the link to LaFujimama to find the recipe. The photo here is from her website. Ours are not as pretty, but the kids had a lot of fun making them.

I've also enjoyed a number of websites that I think are worth sharing:
Artsy Mama is at the tail end of her 13 days of Halloween. Her photos are inspiring, exciting and make me feel like I am a bit behind. It is worth following the link here and exploring a bit. I especially love her count down calendar;
Bakerella has a feature of wonderful cake balls. I've never done them,but I might just have to give it a try. I originally found it when checking out today's cooking link on;
A fun virtually pumpkin carving site can be found by following this link;
Smashing Magazine usually has stuff for the graphic artist, but at this link you will find a whole host of computer wallpapers and background to upload. You don't even have to have much skill to get it to work. I picked the one from American Greetings with the pumpkins carved with holes. I love it, my students thought I should pick something more scary!
There are also lots of other fun ones. What ones can you introduce me to?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I Am Reading - Building, Creating & The Plague

I just finished this book on Tuesday. I loved the intricate details, the stories of the lives of the characters and the information about building bridges as well as cathedrals and palaces. A large portion of the book is about how the plague impacted the towns and the people, sometimes driving them to do crazy things. After I finished it I decided I had to go back and reread Pillars of the Earth, one of my top five favorite books of all time. I think Ken Follett is brilliant! I especially enjoyed the new preface to the book.

I read this book a while back. It was a fascinating read. The story is about a town that decided to "close its doors" in an attempt to stop the plague from spreading. It is based on a true story. The style of writing is amazing. I can't wait to see what she will write next.

Following the theme of books that feature elements of how interesting things are created or built, I might read Devil in the White City next, especially if I can find in audio book format.
I am knee deep and lovin' what we are doing in my Adobe Illustrator CS3 class. This series of books is well written and easy to follow if you have some idea of how the programs work or you have a computer programmerish type of brain (which I don't).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cousin Type Fun at Bass ProShop

My children are lucky that most of their cousins live within driving distance of where we live. In fact, all of my siblings and their families are within 15 minutes of my house. This makes it somewhat easy to get together on a regular basis. It is only somewhat easy since we all have complicated schedules, mine (ours) being the most difficult. Sometimes that means that celebrations get strung out. While Ethan's birthday was on Labor Day and we had a grandparent's party and a friend's party, we had not yet celebrated with the cousins. Ethan was not at all worried. After all, it is really just an excuse to get together.

This time we went to Bass Pro Shop. My kids were the only ones who had been there. The boys, Angelo and Lando James, were taken in. We had a lovely lunch at the restaurant in the store, got to ride on the glass elevator that goes down next to the side of the giant fish tank, they got to see the fish being fed and they got to try out some of the gear. The fish feeding was a bit of a highlight as a scuba diver goes into the tank. Many of the fish take on eager dog-like personalities, waiting to be fed, following the person around, getting in her face and acting thrilled when they finally get a morsel to eat.

The kids thought it was a lot of fun to try out the boats and the ATV. It was especially fun to snap a photo of my mom on the big, aggressive beast of an ATV!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Party Pizzazz

One of our favorite evenings of the year is when we have the Pumpkin Carving party. We invite our friends over to share a potluck dinner, good conversation and pumpkin carving. Each year is a little different. Last year it was a bit more ruckus with the younger teens breaking into a pumpkin gut flinging play fight. That made a mess that was still evident a month after the party was over. I was certainly not up for that happening again. This year the kids were more self monitoring and all we had was a lot of fun. I think we had about 35 guests over for the evening.

We cover every table on the main floor with a plastic table cloth. We use our decoration storage boxes like tables and many people simply use the floor. We put out our buckt-o-carving tools and others bring their own. This year the pumpkins tended to have a more scary bent than in the past. I tried a new way to carve my pumpkin, using a variety of brass tubes to create a lace pattern. I did not finish it yet so I will wait to share that in another post. A kid or two were also very clever with tooth pics.

The evening was colder than usual so I made spiced apple cider and had hot chocolate with whipped creme. My Thia Curry Pumpkin was a great hit. I intend to post that recipe soon. We started out with a huge pot and it was gone before the evening was finished.

It is wonderful to see the kids having such fun. Ethan's pumpkins get more intricate each year. Ellie is more into the silliness she and her friends are having. Having our party makes it seem like fall has really arrived.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ethan's Day withe Grandma Eleanor

Just as Ellie's day with Grandma Eleanor's day was perfect, so was Ethan's. Each child's day with her was of the very flavor of their relationship with her. Ethan and I decided on a more intimate breakfast and opted to make crepes at home. It would afford more causal conversation. Following that we spent the afternoon at Hudson Gardens. It is a lovely little botanic garden in south Denver. When one of her fellow gardening friends decided to start his own botanic garden Eleanor had gone down to check out the land. When the kids were younger we used to go at least once a month. Our favorite feature being a lazy little stream which was home to lotus flowers, vibrant green lily pads and a host of noisy frog, and perhaps a few toads. We would delight in finding the mud huts on the edge of the stream where they would winter over and counted ourselves lucky when we could observe them emerging. Today we made a much slower, deliberate tour of one part of the garden.

Ethan took the opportunity to ask more questions about botany and plant propagation. Her love of gardening will live on in her grandson.

No frogs or toad were around to attract our attention. We focused on the seedpods we found on many of the plants. Some were discreet and sneaky, hitching a ride home with us by catching onto my skirt as we drifted past. Others, like the Queen Anne's Lace floral pod featured here, were ornamental and royally stunning.

The benches by the little pond were some of our favorite. At 15 Ethan is aware of what this time could come to mean to him and he soaked in as much as he could. The colors this fall seemed to be the most resplendent that any of us could remembers.

The most touching part of the day was when I would linger behind Ethan and Ellie, watching him hold her hand, amble down the walk and ask intense questions, seeking knowledge that would allow him to stay connected to her even after she will have left us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ellie's Day with Grandma Eleanor

Ellie's day with Grandma Eleanor was perfect as could be. I am so thankful for that. I hope that once Eleanor is sick, Ellie will remember the day with fondness. We started out at Mimi's Cafe and had a wonderful (albeit noisy) breakfast. We went all out. We had juice,Ellie had hot chocolate with real whipped create, and we had tea. Then we ate enough that none of us needed to eat again until dinner time. Eleanor got the stuffed french toast with a nice berry topping. I got the same, but without the berries and potatoes on the side. Ellie got Belgium waffles with lots of stuff on the side. She love bacon and ended up eating every piece that made its way to the table.

Next up was putting up a few Halloween decorations, including Guy, Grandma Eleanor's scarecrow. This was the first year that Ellie was big enough to bring it upstairs on her own. Then we carved pumpkin, or rather, Ellie carved two pumpkins and I carved one. Eleanor was happier just watching and admiring instead of carving. I think we might have worn her out at that point. After I was done carving I whipped up a Spiced Pumpkin bread with a maple cream cheese ripple through the center. Ellie declared it the best pumpkin bread ever and asked that we have it on Thanksgiving. Don loved it, too. I will post that recipe as soon as I have time to make it into a nice little recipe card.

The last thing we did was play an intense game of Scrabble, Ellie's new favorite game. She asks to play EVERY time we go to Grandma Eleanor's house. She usually ends up winning. It was a tough game, I'll tell you! We had a blast. By the time we went home Ellie and I were pooped out, too. It was a great way to spend the day!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Craving for Latex and Brains - The Denver Zombie Crawl

We had a crazy, busy weekend. It was a bit much, but also a lot of fun. I thought I would feature one event at a time. Today the topic is the Denver Zombie Crawl. I thought it sounded rather odd, but my kids and their friends, were totally jazzed.

On Saturday we had a race, a party and the Zombie Crawl. Here's how it goes. You meet at the east end of the 16th Street Mall (an outdoor mall in the heart of down town) and "zombie" your way to the other end. You could come dressed for the event or you could get help becoming zombiefied. (We had some good instruction and a bit of theater make up background, so we did our own at home.) If you wanted to be "attacked" you placed a duct table "x" on your chest. Groups of zombies were then free to launch themselves at you, seeking to take your "tape brains." Thankfully my kiddos did not hanker for the group grope that occurred during an attack, though the girls did plenty of attacking. At the west end of the mall you could have "pizza brains" at Two Daughters Pizza, a truly grungy fun, heavy metal hole-in-the-wall of a restaurant with great pizza. The fun of the event was seeing all of the other people lurching down the mall. They were expecting about 700 people to show up for the event. I would not be surprised if there were even more. It was quite a spectacle. There were tons of people standing on tables and light poles snapping photos. At one point we passed a wedding party just out of their reception. What an odd turn of events that must have been, going from a class restaurant to gawk at a horde of theater zombies, many of whom were spewing fake blood.

There were a number of corpse brides. One woman had a fun do with plastic spiders and a plastic snake in her up swept hair. There were also a number of doctors and nurses turned zombies, complete with fake blood on their face masks.

A few girls were REALLY creepy! One set of twins went all out and wore contacts that made their eyes look green and murky. Another one had expertly painted eyes on her eye lids. The result is that she always looked like she was looking at you. Another girl had figured out how to create fake drewl. You can kind of see her in the photo where Ethan is lurching down the mall. We also really enjoyed the movie character zombies. A fun one was the Jack Sparrow fellow who was ahead of us in the line for pizza. So of the people gave out gummy body parts. The girls thought that was great.

So, you say this sounds fun and that you want to become a zombie, too. It is easy. I will tell you how. First, you get some old clothes that you can tear up. We distressed ours using mud, dirt, garden shears and a bench grinder. Then you do the hair. We mixed conditioner with hair gel to get a "lovely" grimy effect. We then matted it with a combo of dirt, corn starch and flour. After all, what self respecting zombie washes its hair?!

Next comes the liquid latex. This part was kind of stinky. The kids said it smelled like kitty litter and made their eyes sting. But, they forged on. Oh the things we do in the name of beauty! Okay, so you paint on a base of the latex. Before it dries you lay on bits of toilet paper. Once this is done you add another layer of latex and let it dry for about 15 minutes. Next we begin paining. We started with a light grey base applied with a large sponge. Then we added highlights of green and pink. Next we did the eyes. We started with wet red that I smeared with my finger and dapped at to remove some of the color. Then we did a ring of black and repeated the process. It also got a touch of green. It took a lot of fiddling to get it right. Once that was done we did the ears, neck, arms, any flesh that was exposed, making sure to accent the veins. The last step, once we had actually arrived, was to apply the "blood." I made stuff that was actually tasty enough that I had to keep them from eating it. It was made of 2/3 c. Corn Syrup, 1/3 c. Water 1/3 c. Chocolate Sauce, A lot of Red food coloring, 10 drops of green food coloring and a touch of orange extract. We dribbled this from their ears, their noses and so one.

It was a night to remember!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Of Cancer, Party Invitations and a Squirrel

Of Cancer...
I appreciate the support I am receiving from people I know in person and online. I am especially thankful for the comment left by Determined Wife. I wish I could thank her directly and ask some more questions. Most importantly, I want her to know that I appreciate her taking the time to offer us hope and some new resources. I will quickly have three of us working on what you have sent!

Of Party Invitations...

Next Wednesday will be our 6th annual Soup Potluck and Pumpkin Carving party. It is a real blast. We invite a ton of people over. We move around the furniture and cover every table with festive plastic table clothes and people come over to carve. We have lots of tools to loan. Some people bring patterns with them. We eat, we visit, we create and then we take photos. Once the pumpkins are gutted I wash and roast the seeds. Towards the end we take photos of all of the pumpkins lit up in the back yard. This year Ellie joined me in making the invitations. I usually come up with one idea and duplicate it. Ellie made each one special and unique. I know our friends will enjoy receiving them.

Of a Squirrel...

And of course we must offer an update on the goings on of two hand raised baby squirrels. The older one is now released. He spends the day playing with his friends in the trees and the garden. At night he goes through his squirrel door and into the house. Thankfully none of the wilder squirrels have followed him. James and Midge are keeping an close eye to make sure he is warm and eating enough. So far, so good. The younger one is developing splendidly. He is full of fur, but still quite a baby who prefers to be snuggled in a warm, close space to seeing the world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Feeling the Love- The Value of Your Community

Monday was an exhausting day. Out of respect and need, I decided I would tell all of my students about my mother-in-law's illness. They were supportive, empathetic and wonderful, just as I knew they would be. It can be hard to bare your soul so often, but when you do you allow others in and those others can help you feel so much better. By the close of Tuesday I had received many supportive, lovely and weep inducing letters.When my grandmother died my students were some of my best supporters. I even had a student whose family ran a business where they would move the person's body from the hospice/hospital to the mortuary. He helped me understand what to expect and reduced my fears. He said to call him, no matter the hour, when she died and that he would personally manage her transfer. It was a special kind of peace to know who would help us with that part of her death. I will forever remember him for what he did for us.

My colleagues got together and figured out a schedule of how my classes could be covered in the event that I needed to leave once the school day had started. Several people had lost their father's to pancreatic cancer and told me what to expect. I got some surprising advice, most of which I will try to take. Most notably, Karen suggested that I take some of my sick time from work ( I have over a month's worth of sick leave saved up) and spend it with Eleanor while she still feels good and is herself. Thus, I will be taking Friday off so that Ellie, Eleanor and myself can have a fun day together. I think we will have breakfast at Mimi's Cafe, play a ton of Scrabble and maybe even get a portrait taken. We'll have to see what she is up for. The following Wednesday I will do something similar, but with Ethan.

Over the weekend I decided that I would begin to try and cope by making a small photobook. I went through family photos from 2002-2007 and created a 20 page 8X8 book. I had a coupon code for a free book from Shutterfly. The coupon expired today so I stayed up way too late last night finishing the book. I ordered it this morning. I can't wait to see how it looks.

These small things will help me cope with my feelings. Support and creating things always help me regroup and find internal peace.