Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 is coming to and end, and so are the crazy Xmas days. We bought ourselves a wall full of shelves and consequently have been going through a complete house overhaul. Oh My, will I ever get through this mess? My desk and drawing table are covered with piles of stuff I don't know what to do with, the xmas tree is raining needles, and there are toys EVERYWHERE. Help!
But, that's not want I want to focus on here. I want to thank all my good friends, family, and the lovely new people in my life, for a great year. You made 2009 very special and inspiring for me. I wish all of you good  health and happiness in the new year.
An image from one of my very favorite illustrators, Elizabeth Zwerger. Cheers!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

January 21 is National Hugging Day!

Can you believe it?
It is the perfect day to give my book,  "Hugging Hour" as a present to all your friends! ; )
Keep an eye on my blog, I will be giving away three "Hugging Hours" myself that day! Details will follow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Fair follow-up

It was a success!
Our booth looked great.
Set-up completed. 

We had a lot of fun, and we sold well.
Adrienne Patrick had these beautiful marionettes. Her birds and my pastries were a hit!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Winter Fair

For the first time ever, I will have a table at a fair. I chose the fabulous Brooklyn Waldorf School Winter Fair to be THE one. In fact, I am happily sharing a table with Adrienne Patrick, who makes incredibly wonderful things. You can find some of her creations at Takashimaya.
If you are in Brooklyn on Sunday December 6th, definitely stop by!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren

The scandinavian Tomten are gentle gnome-like little men, who take care of and protect homes, animals and people. They live for a very long time and stay with the same family for generations. We follow this particular Tomten on his nightly visits around the farm he protects. We visit the animals in the barns, the dog in his little house and the sleeping family. Everyone is blessed with an encouraging message that caries them through the cold winter night and beyond.
This gentle, ageless book, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen award, is so soothing and full of wonder. Astrid Lindgren wrote many other favorite childhood books, one of which is Pippi Longstocking. The  watercolor illustrations, Harald Wiberg created for The Tomten, are all masterpieces, in perfect harmony with the text. I grew up with this outstanding book and I am so happy to be able to share it with my daughter and now, with you. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009


This year we are the ghosts of xmas past, present and future.

 A Happy Halloween to all of you pumpkins out there!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting Better

My mother in law is out of the ICU after three long and scary weeks. Soon she'll be going to rehab and we hope she'll be better than ever in no time. Positive thinking, right? I am very much looking forward to having my husband back in NY with me, and to life resuming it's usual course. There has been very little time for work, but this morning I was finally able to finish the dummy for one of my new books, Flower Girl. Here is one of the test color test illustrations.
Tomorrow, I am dropping it of at my agents office and hopefully she will find it ready for shipping off into the wide world of publishing. 
Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Little Gnomes and the ICU

We are over the middle of October and I haven't had a chance to blink yet. It took us a while to smooth out the process of getting my daughter ready for school every morning, preparing her healthful lunch and making sure she has the required clothes/classroom contributions in her bag before 8:00AM. We chose the Brooklyn Waldorf School for our daughter, and we are very happy with that choice. The school however, is not around the corner. Dropping off and picking up takes time. I quickly got sucked into the school craft committee and I am using most of my creative energy to create little treasures for the big annual Winter Fair. (Little gnomes and felted mice in picture) Consequently, my personal work time has greatly been reduced. Then, my husbands mother, who lives in another state, had to have surgery and has been in the ICU for a week now, dealing with complications from the surgery. My husband is with her. That leaves me and my daughter at home, school continues... Needless to say, we are all a little over extended, and anxiously waiting for little bits of good news. This month will not be a big blogging and tweeting month for me. I'll be back though!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fu Finds the Way

My husband, John Rocco's newest book, Fu Finds the Way is coming out tomorrow! We have an advanced copy and it looks gorgeous. I am so proud of him. The book is bound in cloth and has a golden teapot on the front, all protected by a beautiful dust jacket. The story is very zen and the art is breathtaking. He also made a really cool trailer for Fu. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Feeling Fall

The end of the summer has been a whirlwind. Rearranging my city workspace, preparing a little one for nursery school every morning, and finding a new rhythm in it all. The beautiful fall weather has been luring us out of the house, which has taken its toll on my work time. We are starting to get ready for Halloween and are trying to find a creative way to make a less typical, more spooky princess costume. I did make some skellington inspired earrings for my Etsy shop, and a fall color necklace that put a smile on my face. I hope it does the same for you!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Duck Tents

Our newest picture book acquisition happens to be Duck Tents, by Lynne Berry, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata. Five little ducks go on a camping adventure in the backyard. They each set up their own colorful tent, grab their poles, tramp through the woods, go fishing and toast marshmallows. These ducks are going for the whole camping experience. When the owl starts the nighttime sound symphony with a loud 'Whoo-whoo'  five little ducks change their tune.
The cover of this book immediately caught my eye, brick red with a plaid spine surrounds a charming watercolor painting. They story is cute although somewhat predictable. The inside illustrations however, completely live up to the beautiful cover. Nakata's use of color is superb, her details super cute without getting too sweet, and her page layouts are refreshing. A welcome addition to our picture book library.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Polymer Clay Beads

Over the last year, my daughter and I have been making miniature candy out of polymer clay, to diffuse the desire for real sweets. It worked. 
A few weeks ago, while in California I started thinking of making beads out of the clay. 
I knew we would be spending 3 weeks in the country upon returning to the east coast, and a beading project seemed appropriate for the rainy days and the TV free evenings coming up.
On our last day in L.A., my dear friend Julie watched my daughter, who was asleep in the car, while I ran into an art store. The store didn't have much clay left, but I found a few colors, enough to mix and make more. I couldn't wait to get started and once we got settled and unpacked in our house in PA, I got dove right in. 
Making beads turned out a lot more complex than I anticipated and it took many days for me to get to a place where I was happy with the results. It has been two weeks now and I finally completed three necklaces, check them out!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mrs Nelson's Bookstore visit

Mrs. Nelson's Bookstore was new to me, but what a pleasant surprise! We arrived early and walked around the entire store looking into every red trimmed window. 
What a wonderful, big and very comprehensive store! The people from Mrs. Nelson's were welcoming and very sweet. They had a gift basket for me with  water, fruit and a scone. How great is that?
A quilt was spread out for the children to sit on, in front of a comfortable armchair, framed by a window streaming early morning sunlight. Children and parents started trickling in. 
The reading was pleasant, relaxed and much fun. 

Someone from the store had downloaded a free coloring sheet from my website, and coloring time for the kids was scheduled after I was done reading. Another brilliant idea.
My book Hugging Hour sold out immediately. Unfortunately they had not received Bella & Bean in time for the event. 
My dear friend Michael also didn't make it in time for the reading; he drove an hour to La Verne. But let me tell you, the store alone is worth the drive, and I was very happy to see him for a little bit anyway. 
Overall we had a great experience at Mrs. Nelson's, and we are sure to go back there whenever we can.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vroman's Bookstore visit

I've always liked Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, so when Marla Frazee and my publisher both told me about the bookstores weekly story time, I knew I wanted to be part of that. 

The story time organizers were so nice. They had provided a great space to sit, flanked by books.

 Vroman's had ordered a lot of my books, both Hugging Hour! and Bella & Bean.

Attentive kids and thoughtful adults showed up and listened happily as I read.

I recognized many dear faces in the audience. 

The whole trip to California turned out to be much fun. Story time at Vroman's was a highlight. Oyher highlights were the Pecha Kucha at Big Buddha Baba, the Book Party at Sue's, and the reading at Mrs. Nelson's. The photo's from Story Time at Mrs. Nelson's will follow shortly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A short week in Los Angeles

So far our trip to L.A. has been a whirlwind: parties, a Pecha Kucha, book readings and visits with dear friends. I have one more reading coming up and soon I will have plenty of pictures to post.
It never seems long enough; I never seem to be able to spend as much time with my friends as I would like to. My husband likes to refer to this week as my West Coast Book tour. Call it what you want, it's great to be here and to see everyone.
Pictures and more coming soon!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Week 1 in PA

It is POURING today. Millions of nature's teardrops are playing a rhythmic tune on the red metal roof. Leonard Cohen is singing in the background, offering to be my man and next to my luminous screen, a cup of cherry tea sits steaming .

Wait a minute, isn't it supposed to be summer right now? I should be sitting by the pool with a watermelonade in my hand, squinting at my dark-looking screen. The crickets should be singing their summery serenade in the background.

But, to take a look on the bright side. We only have had two rainy days this last week, and the waterfall across the street will be wonderful tomorrow. And I am sending good weather vibes out there right now. Next week will be bright and sunny. I'll be sitting on the back porch with my computer and sewing machine, surrounded by art supplies. I will be making many a beautiful thing.

So far, the lawn is mowed, garden furniture pillows are being recovered, cookies have been baked, and a workspace has been carved out. I am ready for week two.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Moving to the country...for 6 weeks.

It has been a crazy summer so far, driving back and forth between the country and the city, packing, unpacking, planning, driving, catching up on mail, emails, etc. Again and again. Consequently I haven't been able to get much else done. I want to work on my books! I want to make crafts! Blog! Tweet! We decided to try another way, so we found someone special to live at our place in the city for a while.
The big day has arrived: tonight we are driving to North Eastern PA and staying there until the beginning of September, except for a 7 day interlude, a trip to Los Angeles. So, here I am packing up half the house. No time to blog much longer, but I wanted to give you a warning. The next few blog posts might center around frogs, snakes, birds, a vegetable garden, the weather, cooking and baking cakes. Yum!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lonely Moose by John Segal

Every night we pick three books to read. Both my husband and I love picture books, so we have a lot of them. Yet I find myself reaching for the same few books again and again, partly because my daughter enjoys them, but mostly because I like to read the books to her. The Lonely Moose"", by John Segal is one of those. A reluctant loner moose rescues an injured bird. The bird follows the moose and ends up living on the big animal's antlers until it can fly again. When the bird finally takes off, the moose feels lonely. Suddenly, being alone is not that much fun anymore... 
Segal tells a simple, sweet story with an unlikely grumpy hero. The watercolor paintings convey the atmosphere of the story perfectly with their simple beauty.
When my husband came home with the book, I thought it looked a bit boring but it immediately grew on me. My daughter laughs out loud every time we read the part where the bird convinces the moose to eat a worm. I know we will keep reading this book often for years to come.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Waldorf Doll

My daughter was in one of the local Waldorf parent-child classes this spring.  The program focussed on a slow separation process between parent and child. Towards the end of the school year, the parents could leave the children alone with the teachers, but had to stay close. That is how I happened upon a parent craft circle that was happening weekly in another room. Everyone was making Waldorf dolls. The basic pattern for each doll was the same and the technique very specific and meticulous. There were three different skin color fabrics, and after the head and body were done, everyone chose how to make their own hair texture, color and style. The clothes and accessories were also endless and much fun to explore.Here is the doll I ended up making. The mornings went by too fast. We all had a lot of fun, and I can't wait for school to start again in the fall.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Weaving of a Dream, Marilee Heyer

For this post I decided to review one of my favorite NOT new picture books. I have quite a few. When I looked some of the books up on Amazon, I saw that many of them were out of print. How disappointing. These are fantastic books; they should NEVER go out of print. Why do books go out of print that fast? Luckily, Marilee Heyer's The Weaving of a Dream, is still available, even though only in paperback. The book is a retelling of a Chinese folk tale. The water-color and color pencil art is breath takingly beautiful. Heyer's attention to detail is unbelievable and she is a master at painting fabrics, patterns and texture. I heard Marilee Heyer speak at an SCBWI conference years ago. She has a background in fashion illustration, and has a strong interest in history, antiques, and combining Eastern and Western themes. These interests are represented in her work in the most wonderful way.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What Makes Us Happy?

I just came across this wonderful article on a study done by Dr. George Valliant.
He has been following the lives of a group of men for decades, hoping to find out what makes a happy life.
The article is fantastic, the embedded video is endearing, eye opening, and wonderful to see.
Enjoy, and be happy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Paper Flowers

Sorry for the hiatus. It’s been a busy two weeks. But I am back and it’s time to talk about Flower Girl. Where I grew up in Belgium, children exchange flowers for shells on the beach every summer. 
It’s been a tradition for as long as anyone can remember. The flowers are made with crepe paper, thin metal wire and plant sticks. The paper comes in all different colors and the sticks in many different lengths. The result is a colorful array of personal creations. I went back there not so long ago and there were bright little flower shops all over. My childhood beach memories washed over me like a big wave and I came up spitting bubbles and a new picture book idea. I did research, then started sketching and writing.  Here are a few images I want to share with you.   
I tried out a few different approaches. This image is watercolor and china ink. The image below is painted on newspaper covered wood.    

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Story Blanket

I picked up a picture book at our local independent bookstore. The Story Blanket, written by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Elena Odriozola. I am always on the lookout for new and fresh looking illustration styles and the cover of this book, immediately jumped out at me.
I leafed through my new find and was happy to see that the cover wasn't the only lovely illustration there. Believe me, it happens often that a book doesn't measure up to it's cover, but not this time. "You didn't read the story?" you ask me, "It's a picture book, a quick read!" I have to admit a little secret of mine, I didn't read the story, and it's certainly not the first time I buy a book just for the art. Last night I read The Story Blanket to my 3 year old daughter. Oh, what a nice tale. I loved it. The main character Baba Zarrah unravels her beautiful story blanket piece by piece to secretly knit warm clothes for the villagers. There is a lot of snow and no way to go to the town for new yarn. The story is sweet and warm and good. And, as I said before, the illustrations are great. Every single page is beautiful. Elena Odriozola, I am a big fan. The layouts and use of white space in masterful, the bright colors complement each other fabulously and the character design is original and fresh. A new favorite book in our picture book library.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Knit Bella & Bean Hat

I know, it's been a while... What can I say. I have been knitting. After being asked a few times if the Bella & Bean hats were available somewhere, I decided to knit a couple of sample hats. You know Bella & Bean, from the book Rebecca Kai Dotlich wrote and I illustrated. The one that is at the top of your shopping list! Anyway, so here it is the hat as Bean sports it in our book, and below is the knit version.

It's a pretty tall hat!
I am planning to make some in different colored stripes. Maybe I will have to open that Etsy shop I've been thinking about, after all.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Lovely Mayfest

In between rain showers, in a nearby park, we celebrated the coming of spring, with people from my daughter's school. Everybody brought flowers to share for making crowns, we danced around a Maypole holding ribbons and we shared a delicious picnic. We had a lovely time and I wanted to share some pictures with you on this dreary NY day.