Friday, December 21, 2007

Wishes for Peace & Hope...

I had such great plans for 2007, especially how I wanted to celebrate the season on the new website and make it an exciting place for stitchers to visit. I also wanted to launch two exciting new ideas on New Year’s Eve so that when people visited our site on January 1st, they’d discover that the world of Dragon Dreams had expanded even more...

But all that is going to be put on hold for now.

All these tests I’ve been going through have picked up a few concerns that need to be addressed with a few rounds of more detailed exams that are going to take place fairly quickly in the New Year. I am just going to need to focus on a few less things for a tiny while, my health being the biggest one. The website newsletter will NOT be updated until after I get through the next round of tests in mid-January.

This has been going on for such a very long time and it is starting to wear the dragon down just a little, both physically and magically. 5 months of pain has been a long quest to endure, especially since they still aren’t exactly sure what is causing this or how to fix it! There are days when I wish I’d broken my drawing hand instead... because at least I’d have been out of the cast by now!

Your thoughts and prayers have been appreciated as well as the kind words or cards that keep popping up on days when I seem to need them the most. As a thank you, I wanted to send some wishes, prayers and goodies back to all of you, especially since I missed doing the fun stuff on the site all month long.


For all those of you who entered the contest to name the illustration and needlework dragons on our website, I have some winners.

The needlework dragon’s name is now HOOPER (hoop-er) because it sounded so cute and WAY too many of you suggested Flossy. It was a natural choice, but it was also the name of the cow in too many fairy tales that I read as a child to win. Beth P. Skott was the clever person who came up with that name.

The illustration dragon’s name is PIGMENT. Several of you (including Beth) submitted that entry, so I had to do a random draw and Elaine Long was the winner for that suggestion.

Thanks to everyone who submitted their great name ideas!


I have learned over the past few months to treasure those moments of peace whenever they land in your lap. A sunrise, a quiet moment with someone you love, staring in wonder at the falling snow or the beauty of the decorated tree. I’ve also had moments when a sense of peace was shattered suddenly by a stab of pain. I know that there are many of you out there going through things that are FAR worse and corners of our world that are in far more turmoil than my life. My wish is that PEACE could spread a little farther this year, anger dissipate a little quicker and healing happen where it is least expected.


I’ve tried to keep some things normal in our family this holiday season and the chance to bake has been one of them. I’ve actually adapted one of my favourite recipes and given it a new holiday twist which I share with all of you here to enjoy. These squares are VERY rich so they can be cut quite small. Feel free to pick other toppings that your family will enjoy.


INGREDIENTS: • 2 cups of margarine, melted
• 1 cup of sugar
• 4 cups of all-purpose flour
• 2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
• 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips
(whole 12 oz. pkg.)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

TOPPINGS: • 5 crushed Candy Canes
• 1 cup white chocolate chips
• 1 cup Skor toffee bits
• 1 cup Chippit caramels
• chopped nuts, coconut or anything else fun that
you are hoarding!

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Melt the margarine in the microwave and pour into mixing bowl. Add sugar and flour and mix with fork until crumbly and well combined. Press most of the mixture into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass baking dish or baking pan (slightly different results. I use the pyrex/glass one) to form the bottom crust. Save just under a cup to crumble on the top.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk and the chocolate chips. Stir over low heat until the chocolate melts completely and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla. Spread evenly over the crust and then crumble the remaining crust mixture on top of the chocolate filling. Sprinkle all of your hoarded toppings on there as well until very little chocolate filling shows.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes or until topping is golden. Cool in pan on wire rack. DO NOT CUT into squares until completely cool. If you need to speed up the cooling process, you can put the pan into the fridge once it has cooled for about 20 minutes at room temperature. Makes 40 - 50 squares when cut small.


We all need to keep hope alive and burning brightly in our hearts, no matter what. I am writing this on the darkest night of the year with candles lit to celebrate that light, like hope, can shine in the darkness and not be overcome.

Whatever this season holds, whatever you are facing, do not give up hope. That is one of the things that sets us apart from all other creatures... our ability to dream and imagine and pray and hope.

I hope that the New Year waiting just around the corner is filled with more adventures, more wonder, more creativity and more love than you can imagine. That the answers you seek will be found, that the dreams that inspire you will be shared to make this world a better place and that no matter what may lurk around the corner or under the bed, you will keep hope with you on your journey, like a magical, friendly dragon to scorch all your troubles to ashes and curl about you on cold, bitter nights to keep you warm.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cookies Taste Better Than Barium!

It was still dark and bitterly cold when I left the house this morning. That kind of deep, crisp cold that almost steals the breath from your body. I’d been fasting since last night and headed off to the hospital for yet another test. This time, I had to swallow the chalky-tasting barium for an upper GI. I got to the hospital, slid into a parking spot, dumped lots of coins into the meter and headed in. I got dressed in one of those flattering gowns that are never quite long enough and always seem to be on the verge of a wardrobe malfunction. The perky nurse told me that I could keep my boots and panties on... so I am sure that I made quite the picture; a 6’5” dragon in a short robe and clompy winter boots knitting a scarf as she waited for the radiologist to arrive. I bravely downed the fizzy gas crystals and the huge barium milkshake, then climbed on the table. At least this time, the machine was on was long enough... though I did almost have a Janet Jackson moment when they told me to roll over completely to coat the inside of my stomach! I “vogued” all my poses and mistakenly thought that was it. The next thing I knew, they were giving me ANOTHER cup of the icky white stuff (though not nearly as horrid as the lemon flavoured battery acid stuff from two weeks ago!) and told me to go sit outside for 45 minutes to let it move through me.

Apparently, dragons have slow digestive systems. Every half hour, they kept putting me on a different table and taking another X ray to see if things had moved “far enough through”. After being there for over 2 hours, I scooted out with my johny shirt under my coat, my jeans barely zipped and my hat askew to pump more money in the meter. Had I realized I was going to be there for over 4 hours, I would have parked the van in the lot!

Finally, the powers that be decided that perhaps tall dragons needed more vile stuff in there if they were slightly taller insides too... so they brought me another milkshake which I bravely downed. By this point, the nurses could see that I was shivering slightly and brought me a nice warm blanket to put over my long legs while I knit more on the scarf. Thank goodness for knitting to keep me sane! I even got 3 other ladies hooked on the possibility of just picking out some cool wool, casting on 16 stitches and just knitting again for the first time in years. Heh! Heh!

At long last a very HUNGRY dragon climbed back on the original machine and let the radiologist maneuver the strange pod down to press on my belly and peer deep inside the well coated, frothy insides of the dragon. With a wink and a smile, they told me I could go home and get some breakfast at last!

A quick glance at my watch revealed that it was now 11:30 and that the parking meter had probably expired about 4 minutes earlier, so I scrambled back into my clothes and raced out into the cold. Luckily, the subzero temperatures also made it uncomfy for the meter men to be out ticketing people, so I leapt in the van, drove home, opened a tin and bit a cookie’s head off to make myself feel human again while I fixed lunch. The sun even came out amid some dark clouds, and I felt my mood lighten.

Cookies taste SO much better than barium. They even smile at you while you eat them!

Our family has a fond tradition of icing all our cookies at once in an evening of madness. I make up royal icing from the Bulk Barn mix and put it into lots of ziplock bags with food colour to give me the broadest range of icing colours possible, then we all sit down to ice them.

Being a rather OC traditionalist, I usually ice my sugar cookie trees and gingerbread men the same way every year because I love how they turn out. Wouldn’t Martha be proud??

Nick, on the other hand, has a unique style and sense of humour that is a madcap blend of Monty Python and Mister Bill... but colourful and lots of fun!

The girls always insist on decorating a batch of cookies for their homeroom teachers and bus drivers, so they come up with unique designs that are all their own.

Erin made this adorable reindeer from one of the candy cane shapes and I have already told her it is MINE... MY cookie! (I’ll consider it one of my Christmas presents!)

Icing all these cookies last night also kept my mind off the test today and gave me something to chew my frustrations out on when I came home at last! I even got Nick to pose in front of the tree with the trifle his Mother made before she left for Ireland to be with her sister for the holidays. It was a taste of his childhood that he had fun sharing with the girls and I after supper last night before I had to start fasting. It was good, but not as good as cookies.

Cookies taste SO much better than barium!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Winter arrived in one fell swoop! Yesterday’s storm dumped almost 2 feet of snow (46 cm or 18 inches) on our city. Everything ground to a halt. Schools were canceled, meetings, buses pulled off the roads...

So why didn’t I blog, get the website updated etc.?

Well, I had three excited people bouncing around the house about having a snow day and I was a bit giddy myself since I had to cancel both meetings at Weight Watchers. I won’t get paid... but that’s OK.

Then, it took Nick almost 2 hours to clear out the driveway. I shoveled a little emergency path from our back door down off the deck which you can’t even really see in this picture.

It was frustrating not to be able to attack the snow with my usual gusto... but I don’t want to make anything worse. I can’t even strap on my cross country skies for a run which is just about driving me crazy!

Lastly, when that many people in our city are stuck at home with nothing to do, the Internet usage spikes to a crazy high and even high speed internet slows to what feels like a crawl.

So guess what? I just stayed cozy, baked my grandmother’s Oatmeal Brown Bread recipe (which only seems to work properly in a snowstorm) and drew the next batch of sketches for the book.

It won’t be a green Christmas this year!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Up and Around Again...

OK. I’m up and moving again after yesterday’s adventures and the horror of getting ready for the test. My kids will NEVER be able to get out of taking icky cough medicine again in their lives, because they have watched Mommy be brave and drink something that tasted like lemon-flavoured battery acid and burned all the way down.

The preparation really was worse than the procedure! They took a few samples to double check one area, but nothing really bad showed up, so one more thing to cross off the list! I am thankful that the doctors are being thorough and careful... but I truly hate being the case that is baffling them! The one funny part was not being allowed to go home until I’d had some big farts... I’ll have to cartoon a dragon fart sometime!

Someone sent me this link in an e-mail to make me smile and it worked! Can you imagine putting the costume on in the first place?

This weekend should be fun as we put up the decorations as this year’s Advent season gets underway. The Josh Groban Noël CD arrived just in time!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Busy and Sore...

When I’m quiet for a while on the blog, it usually means that I am either sore or busy. This past week has been both!

I went for another CT scan of the whole spinal area and again, did not fit the machine so much of the dragon’s long, long legs suspended out into space as I tried to brace my abs and hold the legs up as they ran me through the scanner. Now I know what a pattern feels like when it’s being copied! No unauthorized extra copies of me please!

I’ve also been working hard on a set of drawings for Owen and the dinosaur. I went through 2 or 3 days of hating what my hands were producing because I decided to go with coloured pencil and brush marker instead of watercolour. To me the differences are VERY obvious! I was mourning the loss of some of the things I can do with paint while savouring how much faster each drawing could go together because I didn’t have to wait for everything to dry before adding my ink details.... I’d worked myself into a lather when I met with the author to see which he preferred. He sat at the dining room table, looked at both... peered at them closer and told me that until I pointed out the details, he couldn’t see much of a difference!

Artists sometimes get so obsessed with detail that it gets in the way. I bet all creative types can be like that. Some stitchers worry so much about a mistake that seems glaring to them, they forget that most people won’t ever notice unless they point the mistake out.

This week is the most invasive test thus far and I go off all forms of pain medication tonight, eat lightly tomorrow and basically purge the dragon completely on Wednesday before the test on Thursday. I won’t go into details or doodle any cartoons unless something totally twisted comes to mind, but I might show off some of the drawings later this week, just to put some pictures up here. It always feels so naked when there are only words!

Friday, November 16, 2007

How Do Single Parents Do It?

I just don’t know how single parents do it.

Bethany was home sick today, so I adapted my schedule around her and tried to get done what I could. Nick is away until tomorrow night and I never really sleep well with half of the bed empty. I hope I never have to adapt.

The house is too quiet, even with both my girls sleeping soundly.

He sent me flowers and the dining room smells wonderful. Bonus points in the “He can do no wrong club” again. A present to make me miss his presence even more.

I’d forgotten just how much company the other adult in my family can be! Someone to talk to, decompress with and make a stand with. I find myself wanting to hold deep conversations with the dwarf hamster at almost 1 in the morning. Time for bed!

Kudos to all single parents out there who do this alone all of the time!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back To Reality... and it's only taken me 3 days to blog about it!

There’s nothing like being away from it all to make coming back to reality a bit harder than usual!

Retreat was WONDERFUL! Nick drove Mom and I, with all our bags, up to Camp Wildwood on Friday night having left the girls with their grandfather, 2 pizzas to bake and some movies to watch. Friday night is always fun as stitchers stake their claims, set up their circles of chairs and pull out a project to work on that isn’t too hard on the head.

I decided that I was going to PLAY for this year’s ornament exchange. I’d been into Because You Count to pick up a wonderful array of buttons from Just Another Button Company. Here’s what I picked out:

I got out some fabric and just started to stitch, designing as I went. They fed us snacks, we got caught up on all the news and I just settled in to enjoy myself. Whenever I got uncomfy, I just got up and walked around a bit.

Saturday morning, we woke up to SNOW! Mother Nature decided to gift us with a little dusting of snow to put everyone in a holiday mood. We had breakfast and some of us drove off to a tiny local craft show. I bought a pair of wool socks to keep my dragon toes warm, some wonderful tole painted items and two Holiday pins made out of FIMO.

Once we got back to retreat, I taught my mother how to cross stitch. Most people were amazed that I hadn’t taught her before this...

I also autographed a few copies of Santa’s Dragon...

One of the ladies had made up stitching accessories to sell with an incredible variety of fabric. This one called to me. Is this my Mission Statement or what??

After working on my ornament for the rest of the morning, I needed a change. I pulled out the amazing Dragon Needle Felting kit that I bought at the CreativFestival in Toronto a few weeks ago created by Wendo van essen. Here’s how my dragon took shape...

First, I bent the wire and the pipe cleaner as the instructions told me to.

Next, I began to add the coloured fibre (wool fluff) around the wire to make a bit more of a dragon shape. Using an INCREDIBLY SHARP needle, I began to poke in and out of the fluff to turn it into felt. Is is a FUN sensation. Because of the little grooves in the Felting needle, you can almost feel it crunching as you poke into the fluff. The needle pulls out clean and then you stab it back in again. Wendo thoughtfully provides a piece of foam in the kit so that there is usually something between the fluff and your body parts to stop any over exuberant stabs through the fluff. USUALLY being the key word. Did I mention that the needle is very, very SHARP?

Slowly, but surely... my dragon began to take shape.

I had one moment of panic when he started to bear a slight resemblance to a purple dinosaur that used to be very popular in our household....

Adding the scales down the dragon’s back was fun!

Stitchers kept drifting over to see what I was up to or to check on my progress. One of them snapped this photo for me.

I tried to zoom in here to show you the needle, but it was mostly hidden by my hand. I’m probably not demonstrating the proper grip... but anything that lets you stab fluff without hitting your own flesh is probably a good grip!

Wendo does a great job of describing how to make the feet and hands for your dragon out of separate pieces. Mine ended up with less toes on each foot than her version, but each dragon is unique.

Her red dragon looked nice and fierce on the cover of the kit, but in the end, mine ended up looking very cute, cuddly and quite bottom heavy...


If you feel the need to felt a dragon of your own, just drop by Wendo’s Website!!

I also managed to finish my ornament for the exchange the next day and decided to call it “Snowy Wait”. The chart and instructions will be on our website (accessed through the newsletter) in December.

Sunday morning, we woke up to even more snow. Maybe calling my ornament “Snowy Wait” wasn’t such a good idea!

A fire was lit in the main hall and we all just curled up with our projects after a brief worship service. We paused at the eleventh hour for a minute of silence in honour of our veterans and recited the poem “In Flanders Fields” together.

Here’s a picture of Mom with what she got done on her dollhouse rug over the weekend... not bad for a first time stitcher! She’s MUCH faster than me!

We held our ornament exchange and had our last meal together at lunchtime. Here's Elizabeth, who has run the retreats all these years, beside the tree before the ornament exchange.

As soon as lunch was done, stitchers began packing up to head home on the snowy roads. The circles disappeared, the bits of floss and fluff were swept from the floor and we all headed back to reality.

Sorry that it’s taken until this afternoon to post about my adventures. I can already find myself dreaming about the next retreat!

Friday, November 09, 2007


My bags are in the hall, my sleeping bag is out of the shed so that it won’t be freezing cold and I am just sorting through what projects to bring along for the weekend retreat at Camp Wildwood with some of the most awesome stitchers I know.

I brought lots of little things to work on this year because I’m not sure how long I can sit at a stretch in the camp chair. I have also promised myself that if I want to go and take a nap, I’m just going to do it!

I have lots of stuff that isn’t even stitching (knitting, felted dragon, sketchbook, journal etc.) but that is all part of the fun. Best of all, I won’t have to answer a phone, cook a meal, mediate a fight, drive anyone to an activity or other such commitment until Sunday after lunch. WhooooHoooo!

Part of being creative, is giving yourself time to recharge and just play. I brought along an assortment of my favorite Just Another Button Company Buttons to play with. If my camera weren’t already packed, I would take a picture of them now... but instead I will take one once I get to retreat and get settled in.

Did I mention I don’t have to cook any meals until Sunday at supper time?

Did I mention that I could sleep in tomorrow morning or take a nap if I wanted to?

Whooooooo Oho!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One more test down...

Having all that icky stuff to drink for the CT scan certainly didn’t agree with me! I was in such pain (and VERY bloated) by Monday night that I went and sat in the Emergency department hoping to be seen. I thought perhaps that they could feel something different when I was all puffed up like that. However, there were several cases that came in on the acute side and after 6 hours, I gave up and went home!

Yesterday, I was still uncomfy but not as “puffy” (No jokes about PUFF the magic dragon, please!) and I managed get a hold of my doctor’s office. They squeezed me in and she managed to pull up my CT scan results.

The good news is, aside from the slight beginnings of some bone degeneration in one of my spinal disks (common in tall people but I’m going to take more calcium just in case!) the CT was absolutely clear of anything strange or startling going on with my liver, kidneys and intestines. Given my Dad’s battle with colon cancer right now, that was VERY good news indeed.

The bad news is, that means they still have no idea what is causing all this pain... which keeps getting steadily worse. After her examination yesterday, my doctor said that perhaps we needed to take a second look at the possibility of a small hernia or tear in one of the muscles, especially since the 6 sessions of physio didn’t improve things.

So... one less thing to panic about, one more silver lining of good news to be thankful for, but I’m still getting a bit cranky from not being able to sleep well at night or get comfy during the day. Having been a VERY active person the past few years, I’m also finding it hard being a more idle dragon.

The good news is, this gives the dragon lots of time to think up twisted ideas, fun stuff, crazy illustration ideas etc.

I can’t wait for the cross stitch retreat this weekend either. I am going to work on the felted dragon kit that I bought in Toronto, take naps whenever I feel tired, be free from cooking any meals for almost 48 hours and spend time with my Mom. She’s coming along to her first retreat! I think she’ll be hooked!

Time to go dig some more Why Hoard Gold patterns out of the self store for my Hoffman order (not lifting too many at a time) and then pick up something that’s NOT mine to stitch on at retreat!

Friday, November 02, 2007


Dragons do NOT like CT scans!

Let me back up a bit.

Halloween was fun, even though I was feeling kind of yucky. I brought back these COOL heart and brain growing things from Toronto that you put in water for 72 hours and they get bigger. Ours didn’t just get bigger, they got HUGE! Halloween night, we put them on top of a box in the front window which was lit up from underneath. It looked VERY creepy and GROSS! My kids tell me I am a cool Mom to bring them slimy things!

Speaking of the dragonlets... I had a pirate and a teenage witch to escort Wednesday night. Apparently, Swiffers get better mileage than brooms. Who knew? Since the cold metal pole began to freeze Erin’s hands after a while... guess who got to carry it? Yup... the MOM. I just got her to add a bit to my “mom tax” from her treats to make up for being her Sherpa. The tax is my favourite part of the night. Just enough tiny chocolates to make the dragon feel like she’s had fun and then I don’t raid their bags later... well... maybe not much.

One of the highlights, this year, was being able to Trick Or Treat at Nanny and Grr’s house for the first time in their lives! Now that my Mom and John live a block away, it was easy to hit their house on our rounds. Nick drove the girls across town to Grammy’s house as well, but alas... they were out for the night! John answered the door all night with “Hennery”, one of his puppets. Their street is much busier than ours, so I ran my leftover candy up once we decided to turn our lights off. I really didn’t need the temptation around!

Another cute sight that night was this teeny dragon skipping around our neighbourhood. Wouldn’t it be fun if they made a costume like that in MY size? It wouldn’t be as cute, but it would certainly stand out at Trade Shows!

Today, I went for my CT scan. Nothing to eat after breakfast and a totally icky drink to chug two hours before I headed to the hospital.

Here’s the proof that the dragon swallowed it all, nose pinched to avoid the taste. I forgot that wouldn’t help for burps afterwards! YUCK!

I got to the hospital, took a number, stood in line and then followed the red dots on the floor as instructed until they ran out. I sat patiently while they hooked up my IV, drank a smaller glass of the icky stuff (berry this time instead of banana... but not much of an improvement!) and then headed into the room with the machine. That’s when the problems started.

Apparently, they don’t often try to scan 6’5” dragons! They had me scoooch as far down on the bench thing as possible so that just my bum to head was on there. Which was fine until the machine slid me through and most of me just hung out there in midair!

There wasn’t anything to rest my feet or legs on, so I just had to tense my ab muscles and hold them tight as they ran the dragon through the machine... several times.... holding my breath each time.... legs dangling behind...

Definitely not one of my more graceful moments!

Now, I’m home and drinking lots of water to flush my system like they told me. With every test, I hope they either keep ruling stuff out or find out what is causing all this pain and discomfort. I am getting a bit grumpy after 4 months of this!

The kids should be home any minute from school. Nick, bless his heart, is taking the girls and our godson to a hockey game tonight and I am just going to stay curled up here at home.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Trick or Treat from the Dragon! There’s a calorie-free treat to enjoy on our website’s newsletter for the next 48 hours. Just click on the word FANG in our NEWSLETTER and you can get your claws on this little chart to stitch!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

CreativFestival Decompression

I’ve been at Weight Watchers most of the day teaching 2 classes, then racing around to pick up the girls with Nick from 2 separate Halloween events- a school dance and Explorers’ party. No wonder I just wanted to sleep and hide from the world yesterday, I knew how crazy today would be! The little white snowflakes falling this morning at the bus stop didn’t help either... ACK! Winter is on its way!!

So, what did I think about Toronto?

Dwaggy loved all the soft pillows and the cozy bedspread.

I really loved the shower that could be adjusted WAY up and the cool rainmaking disk in the ceiling. I got a little confused with 3 faucets to turn and a temperature dial to boot, but no serious freezings or scaldings of Dragon to report.

Toronto is big and busy! All the car accidents, sirens, homeless people, rushing bodies that don’t make eye contact etc. made me realize that I’ve gotten very used to living in a friendly little city of just over 110,000. I kept smiling at people and chatting with people at stoplights just to see if they’d answer back. It became a bit of a game... I also find the contrast of historic buildings and ultra modern ones very fascinating, so I kept pulling out my camera to take pictures...

I must have looked like a total tourist...

But how can you not be in awe of views like this?

This is one of the reasons I want to be able to upload photos and blog about them in the immediacy of the moment instead of having to wait until I get home!

The black squirrels are SO much more aggressive that our little red ones.

See the beady eyes on this one? Ok, so it’s just the camera, but I am sure this one kept checking to see if my ankles looked tasty!

The stitchers in all of my classes were totally awesome again this year. Many of them I now consider friends more than students and they are such totally fun people to hang with. I tried some smaller projects this year to see if I could push them out of their comfort zones by making teeny, tiny treasure chests out of perforated paper which we then filled with special beads and a tiny sleeping dragon with a teddy bear that we tucked into wonderfully unique felt beds.

I taught a class in beadpoint and encouraged stitchers to make designs with beads instead of Xs. We had more than a few beads go flying and some colourful language, but great results.

This is Andrea... she beadpoints REALLY fast.

She finished her project just 45 minutes into the 1.5 hour class and impressed everyone. Others told me to award a prize for the slowest person in the class, but then I worry that everyone might go slow on purpose!

We also played Monster Mix-up and I ended up doodling a communal monster near the end. It was designed by consensus... ie. Is it going to be cute or scary (show of hands). Can you guess that CUTE won?

I also LOVED the two lectures I gave. One was a huge blast and totally fun... the other was really important information to pass on. Honest... it had nothing to do with the power to make over 120 people “bow down” their hands like a giant game of Dragon Says. I was teaching stretching exercises at the time. They were a great crowd that laughed in all the right places. Maybe next time the mike won’t cut out halfway through the lecture though. I can feel how tired my voice is tonight after talking most of the day once again!

The CreativFestival truly is a unique event that combines so many crafts and classes in one space. It brings a huge variety of crafters together for 4 days, many of whom don’t venture beyond their comfort zone, but when you can get them talking about what makes them passionate, you can tell that deep down, we’re all the same. We love to make things and have them appreciated, which a Walmart-mentality world sometimes doesn’t value.

I truly needed to get away and get re-inspired. This festival made me realize what wonderful people there are in creative fields, how important good friends are (no matter what adventures you end up on), that I still need to be deeply involved in creating things with thread and that making people feel GOOD about the time they spend crafting beautiful objects is very important to me.

But it is time to make a mug of something warm and crawl into bed. The halloween treat is already up on the website early... share the link and SPREAD THE WORD!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Back... Tired... Smiling like an idiot!

OK. I’m back from the CreativFestival in Toronto. I slept until almost noon after a brief foray out into the freezing morning to put the kids on the bus then back inside to redose the sick husband with cold medicine and go back to sleep.

I have now unpacked both suitcases, tucked them back in the shed, answered or deleted over 195 e-mails, downloaded things from my camera and put away 90 percent of the post show mess. I will blog about everything tomorrow afternoon, but here are the highlights:

1) I really need to get some kind of portable device for doing Power Point presentations with, updating blogs, checking e-mail and uploading photos to or taking pictures with. I’ll have to start investigating whether a laptop or blackberry device would be better and how cheaply I can get one for.

2) Stitchers are REALLY fun people to spend time with!! All of the classes this year were really fun ones to teach and I think I may have inspired a few people to be more creative, try new things or combine techniques in new ways. Just wait until NEXT YEAR!

3) I love giving lectures and had a total BLAST when a room full of people “bowed down” to me. Ok... it was a stretching exercise, but it sure looked like that from the podium!

4) Laughter is very healing!

5) Good friends are worth their weight in gold, especially if you start feeling yucky or just need a hug!

6) Creative people need to be reminded about how FABULOUS their creativity is when the rest of the world tries to tell them it is a waste of time.

7) Dragons LOVE sparkly beads, new materials to play with and getting new ideas!

8) I have a kit to make a felted dragon.

9) ANY taxi ride in Toronto is a bit scary!!

10) I can’t wait for NEXT YEAR!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Off to the CreativFestival!

I’m packed...

I think I have everything...

I’ll probably get to Toronto and still have to buy something...

I’m OFF!

I’ve discovered a new song called “Slow Me Down” by Emmy Rossum that is the new theme song for my life... AFTER the Festival!

This is a crazy, whirlwind adventure that I am VERY much looking forward to.

I’ve even got my camera along so that I can add photos to my blog about it once I get home!

Monday, October 22, 2007

How a Dummy Works...

The title refers to the book dummy overview that I promised a few blog entries ago and not in any way to the dragon at work, though I am sure on certain days, my family might argue the point.

The floor of my office is hardly visible, I am still tracking down a few things and I need to make up more of DD-98 Santa’s Dragon for the show since Because You Count keeps running out of it here! Yet in the midst of all this preparation, I must also remember to get birthday presents for the parties that the girls are attending while I am away, make up some chicken soup for another meal and get laundry done on this glorious, summer-like day. If Nick hadn’t offered to take the girls to choir tonight before he heads out to play basketball, I might have gone quietly mad.

So.... what is a book dummy? In the simplest of terms, a book dummy lets an illustrator plan out the book from the manuscript so that you know how many pages you will need, how many illustrations and what types of illustrations each page will contain. Not all illustrations are created the same way. Some of them are spot illustrations that appear on white space near the text, some fade out or wrap around the text, others have text go on top of them and still others are full bleed illustrations with no text anywhere on the page.

I always try to create my dummies about half scale or 50 percent the size of the book. I know of some artists who prefer to draw their dummies actual size, but since I have to make the final illustrations at least 10 percent BIGGER than actually size, that seems a bit frustrating to me. There’s more energy in the sketchy drawings I make while planning out a story when it’s a cute set of folded pages I can hold in my hand to flip through.

The dummy is also a fun and challenging stage of the illustration process because you actually have to figure out what goes where, how to break the story down into manageable chunks that make sense to illustrate together etc. Since we are printing this story ourselves, the author and I have a bit more freedom and control to decide exactly how we’d like the book to look. Even though we’ve planned out the full dummy and how many illustrations it will need, there may still be some surprises along the way...

Here’s the dummy lying next to the manuscript. You can see how marked up that copy has gotten as I planned layouts and played with the text.

One of the biggest challenges for an illustrator is how to make sure that your drawings support the story instead of competing with the words. The pictures don’t have to duplicate everything that the words are saying, but rather compliment them. This is especially important near the beginning of the book when the characters and setting are still being established. I made sure that the pictures here will wrap around the text, giving the words plenty of room. This book contains a lot more story and a lot more text that the first one I did for Nanny Kay, so it has been a fun challenge to use the space creatively!

Here’s how a page in the dummy gets closer to being a finished illustration. First, there was the dummy version of page 15 where Butch the dinosaur finally reveals himself to Owen. This page has a fair bit of text, but needs to convey the astonishment that dinosaur-loving Owen feels when meeting a real, but much smaller, dinosaur in person. You’ll have to buy the book to find out why!

Here’s the pencil sketch of the layout done LARGER than the final illustration needs to be so that the artwork will tighten up when sized to the page. Note how I have the borders of the page marked in Sharpie, but some parts of the rocks may be drawn outside those lines. Since this will be a wrap bleed illustration, some of the image will “bleed” off the page, but I still need to paint in there in case the page trim is a bit off. By doing my sketches this size in an area defined as the same shape as the book, I can make sure that the composition works and still leaves room for the text.

Here’s a close up look at Owen...

and at Butch (his real dinosaur name is unpronounceable!)

So there are the steps of how a dummy works and how it moves one step closer to being a final illustration.

Needless to say, the drawing and painting are on hold until I get back from Toronto. I want to go play with floss instead!