Monday, October 14, 2019

Jack Skellington inspired Halloween Project

Have you ever wanted to decorate for the holidays? Well, I always want to do something spectacular but somehow time always seems to get away from me and I have to settle for whatever I can do at the last minute.

Like this year, I wanted to have a Jack Skellington inspired ghoul in my yard by October 1st for all the neighborhood kids to enjoy... but, like I said, time slipped away too fast and by the middle of October I was suddenly aware that the month would be over in a flash. So I  recruited my sons and husband to help me out. And with their help, my Jack  was up and "grinning" at the neighborhood in no time. Well...maybe I should say grimacing over the neighborhood ;D

Anyway, here are a few photos of the process.

The guys started with a sketch of what they were going to do. Then they went to work building the "bones" of the figure out of 2 X 4's.

Once they had the basic structure put together, I went to work painting.

After all the wood was painted a dark gray, Jacob put the head on the top (which was over 15 feet in the air) and then I started dressing him in a thin sheet of black (weed barrier) cloth. The reason I used this was because water will run through the fabric without weighing the character down. This is an important piece of the project in Portland, Oregon. But before I got all his clothes on, Jacob had to light him up.

Jacob put one large red light bulb inside Jack's skull and hid the wire and the bulb (with a little work).

Then Jacob had to help me get his shirt on because, like I said, my Jack is super tallllllll. But even  after all that he still wasn't finished.

Next, I had to make his hands and get those attached. I wanted his fingers really loooooong and spider legs. So with the help of duct tape (that miracle material) I think I did it. The only problem is that the guys think his fingers are too long (what do you think?)
I also strung together a few skulls for Jack to carry back to his lair and then I laid out some bones in the yard around Jack's feet.

All-in-all, this was a very fun family project to kick the holiday season into gear. 

Now to finish my witch....Mwah-ha-ha! But, before I go, I just want to wish all the ghouls and goblins out there a....


Thursday, February 14, 2019


So almost every year I run...the Shamrock Run in Portland Oregon - because it is a Fun-Run...

People  dress up--they run in tutus and all sorts of garb, but it's always green! And at the end of the run there's green beer and some hearty Irish food to re-carb-load up on.

Plus runs are always more fun when you do them with friends. And we have a group of gals that get together to do a few fun runs...

But this year. . . I got injured running with my dog and pulled my meniscus--in 3 places

So, this year, we're doing a shortened version of our usual run. We'll be doing the 5k this time around and hoping we'll be able to build up over the next few months. Anyway, here are some of the fun photos we took from Shamrock runs over the years. And oh my gosh!!! The years have flown.

And 2012
And 2013


I guess I forgot to take photos for a couple years but I remember I ran them with Blanch

Maybe she has some photos I can grab...Blanch...?

here's 2017

 And 2018

I'll have to add some after this year's run. we come!

Monday, October 29, 2018

THE TURNING - an interview with Emily Whitman

A selkie boy’s quest for a seal pelt takes him into the bewildering world of humans. When you’re born between worlds, what does it mean to belong?

Emily Whitman is a true Portlandian. She uses myth and magic in her stories for kids and teens. Her latest book, The Turning, is based on Celtic folklore and  is a Junior Library Guild selection. 
When I heard she had a new story to share, I had so many questions I wanted to ask her that I decided  to do an interview so I could share it with all my KidLit friends, both readers and writers.
So, here it is, my interview with the awe...mazing Emily Whitman, a local Portland author (and her answer to #7 is my favorite). 

Tell me something unique/unusual that isn't in your bio.

I was raised on so much poetry, I can talk in rhymed couplets off the cuff. Dactyls a specialty!

 Tell me how you drink your coffee (or what you drink instead)

Black. Or with cream. Or, for special writing outings, a cappuccino. I’m a little hard to pin down.

Then I asked Emily to answer the following:

1. Tell us about your novel's main character.

Aran is a selkie boy raised at sea, but he’s different from the rest of his clan: he was born without the pelt that will transform him into a sleek, powerful seal. His quest for a pelt really takes him out of his element! He encounters humans for the first time and has to reevaluate his preconceptions about them, and about himself. He finds bravery and self-discovery in a totally unexpected way.

Why did you want to write about him?

I was entranced by the mystery and magic of selkies. They’re both animal and human, ocean and land – the essence of constant change. But to be a selkie without a pelt! To think you’ll never truly belong unless you can be like everyone else, and then to have to find your own way of belonging! I experienced every step (and stroke) of this journey with him.

2. Do you write with an intended audience in mind? ie levels of violence or romance.

I try not to impose any self-censorship when I’m writing a first draft—I just want to let the story come. I can trim things like the violence level later. This book takes place over the year when Aran is 11. Honestly, the hardest age-related challenge was finding the places I used my words instead of his! For example, I loved a line where Aran described human clothes as “a travesty of a pelt.” As perfect as it was to capture the feeling, “travesty” had to go. As for romance, I enjoyed that in the two YA novels I wrote, but with this book I was eager to explore the friendship between Aran and a human girl, Nellie. The nuances of that deep, profound connection. How friends help us both survive and become strong enough to be our true selves.

3. Once the first draft is written, what do you do next?

It’s so hard to say it’s done enough to call it a first draft! I finally force myself to that point, and then I take a break. After a bit, I pull back and look at it from a wider story lens, asking bigger questions. How does the pacing move across the book as a whole? What are the moments everything changes—are they the right ones? Have I made the most of them? What’s getting in the way of the story? Do the important story lines ring out at the right places and does each have its own arc?

4. How much rewriting or self-editing takes place?

So much! Too much! Perfectionism is a curse. I can hone a paragraph—a phrase—a word!—over and over again. There’s a fine line between redoing it because it’s not quite right, and beating it into a bloody pulp. I’m so obsessed with getting the words and lines right, it’s hard for me to step back and say: Now look at the big stuff! Another problem with rewriting so much is the words wear grooves into my mind so it’s harder to imagine it differently. I try to remember that old saying, “The best is the enemy of the good.” I made it to the first full draft by chanting “Don’t get it right, just get it written!”

5. Do you use beta readers?
Yes. Before I start digging in on the revision I get feedback from a trusted reader or two. I’ve learned to limit the number of readers, no matter how amazing and gifted they are, so I don’t have too many other voices swirling around in my head!  At the end of the day I have to hear my own voice, and find and trust my own vision.

 6. Do you use promotional materials? swag, bookmarks, etc.

For The Turning I have bookmarks and stickers.

7. Are they effective?

I have no idea! I just know I like having something to put in someone’s hand. Especially for school visits. Not every kid can buy a book, but I want them all to walk away with something—a connection both to the book and to the time we spent together.

 8. Do you have places you recommend (this can be any place bookstores, travel sites, restaurants)?

The spark of this book came to me on a visit to the Skellig Islands off the coast of Ireland. You climb 670 steps to the top of a steep pinnacle and enter stone huts built by monks who were there as early as the 700s! Nature, spirit, and beauty combine in an awesome experience. And there are puffins. If you ever have a chance, go!

10. Quick answer questions:
a. What are your top 3 favorite tv shows: The Avengers from the 1960s with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, The Great British Baking Show, and dark Nordic mysteries
b. If you suddenly couldn't write anymore, what would you do instead? I’m loving teaching writing workshops. I do workshops on writing MG and YA novels at The Attic Institute in Portland. I’d do more of that.

c. Favorite season of the year: Autumn. Crisp, cool bright days. Shimmering golden leaves. And I get to bake and make soup.
d. a book you could read over and over: Skellig, by David Almond.
e. favorite kind of ice cream: Vanilla—because of how it melts on berry pie and pear tart and pumpkin pie and blueberry shortcake, and… You get the idea!

Keep connected with Emily:

Social Media Links:, Instagram: @emilywhitmanbooks
 Amazon Page:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Thor and Sif - DIY Viking Halloween Costumes - here's how we made them

So anyone who knows me, knows I love holidays. I love to decorate for all of them. I might even decorate  for Ground Hogs Day, if I could think up something cute and fun enough to spend my time making the decorations because decorating does take a little time. 

And, one of my favorite holidays to decorate for is  Halloween. This year I thought, "How would Lars and I like to dress up ...?"

Quickly, Thor popped into my head and Sif wasn't far behind.  I thought, "that should be EZ-Smeazy to do".

First I needed a couple of capes but I didn't have  a pattern sew I thought - again - "that should be EZ enough."

I pulled out some  butcher paper and started sketching what  I was thinking. Then I cut out the fabric, leaving a little extra fabric for the seams...just in case.

 Of course the Nordic people live in a cold  climate so I figured we needed a little fur to keep us warm.

But I only bought one-fourth of a yard because that fake fur is expensive ($60 a yard). I figured $15.00 was plenty to spend on an accent. But even thought it was expensive for only a touch of the fur fabric, I think it was worth it because that fur added a lot. Luckily, the fleece for the capes was only $5.00 a yard and I had a coupon for Joann Fabric and Craft so the capes only cost me about $10 a piece to make. Then I needed some armor and there was no way I was going spend any money on metal I'd use once.

So, I bought this cosplay fabric also at Joann Fabrics. It was spendy too but of course I had another coupon.  Still, I had to spend $30.00 for the material but split between two costumes it was only $15.00 a piece and I thought that was reasonable enough. 

Then we needed a few a hammer, which Lars made using some Styrofoam and a dowel. 

Then he painted it and added some tennis racquet tape to the handle.

Still, it seemed a little one-note in color, so he dry-brushed some black paint on the "stone" and touched up the edges with a faint hint of gold to give it a three-dimensional effect. Still I needed a shield and a sword. So I took a floor tile and with a little help from my son and his heat gun, I had the beginnings of a shield.

I added some embellishments that I stuck right into the thick foam and with a little paint and a handle (that I duct-taped on the back), I had a shield. Then, the morning of the party, I asked Lars if he could make me a sword. "No problem," he said. I've got some extra 1X3 CVG (clear vertical grain) out in my shop. And, lucky for me, he can make things fast. 

With a few jewels glued on and a little Danish Oil,  I had a sword in my hand.

I still wanted some wrist guards and I used some leather-look-alike ribbon with studs on it and simply sewed some snaps on the edges of the ribbon. I think that ribbon gave a neat effect.

And then there was the hair that needed styled. Thanks to Fatina and her skilled braids we were in business.

 I also picked up two child-size armor breast plates at the dollar store for $1.00 a  piece and with my son's heat gun again, we had some shoulder armor for Lars to wear. 

All in all, I think this was a fun project that we really enjoyed doing together and the final effect was so much fun. 

So tell me, are you dressing up? Do you make your own costumes or do you rent or buy them? Or do you even celebrate Halloween?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Making, Baking and Creating

I love to bake and when one of my kids' birthdays rolls around, I'm all about baking,  making and creating. It's not to say that I'm great at it but I love to do it. So, whenever there's a birthday, you can find me in the kitchen trying to make something sweet for one of my kids, my husband, or a friend ;D

I think baking is easy. All I do is run to the cupboard--like Old Mother Hubbard--but instead of bones, I pull out cake pans and I don't always know what I'm going to make in the beginning but once I get going, something pops in my head.

It's easy to do. All I do is stack layers and cut and shape or simply decorate until I have what I want.

And, I have a BIG family so this fall I made more than a few cakes.

Here's how I did it.

I started with a couple layers of cake (this one was two pineapple upside down cakes that I stacked  together) because my son loves Pineapple... then I covered them with fondant.

And started to decorate.

I was only thinking of this is where I began. But then I had  to add a little bit more.

But Luke's birthday is in October and this didn't seem very Halloweenie . . . and I was thinking of scary on the backside I added a couple of Oreo eyes

But that still didn't seem like I baked a couple more small little cakes...just in case
And I stacked those together to make pumpkins. Then I frosted them with some orange cream cheese frosting.

And to top it off, I used a PayDay Candy Bar as the stem. I guess I shouldn't have added the fondant leave because my husband said that made the cake look like an orange apple. Oh well, I never said I was  great.

And then we sang and ate and ate...oh, but first,  Luke had to blow out his candles.

I think this photo makes him look like he's breathing fire... and that  inspires  me  to make a  dragon time, I think.

Anyway,  I'd  love to hear about the cakes  you make,  bake  or create. 


Friday, October 12, 2018

GHOST GIRL - How to Make One "Appear"

I’m still working on my Halloween decorations. I'm trying to create a Spooktacular Shoctober.
I have my Ghost Girl haunting the front lawn.  But this wasn't enough so I had to do a little bit more.

She’s made out of chicken wire to make the shape of her dress. Then we draped cheesecloth over the frame. I’m still working on her. I’m thinking of making arms and a head from chicken wire and draping more cheesecloth over the frame to create the illusion of a woman in white floating through the yard.

Any other Halloween lovers out there? What do you think? Any ideas on what else I could do to make the Ghost Girl “appear” ?