Monday, March 31, 2008

The North Star: Book Review by ChristineMM

Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The North Star
Author: Peter H. Reynolds
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Format: Hardcover book, 120 pages
ISBN: 9781891405006

How this book came to my attention: I saw this book on the Creative Mom Podcast blog. I didn’t understand enough about the book to know if I should buy it sight unseen. I borrowed it using interlibrary loan.

Peter Reynolds is a children’s book author and illustrator who also owns a bookshop, and also is an “educational media developer and publisher”. He formerly worked with special needs children at camp and worked in the classroom with children as well.

This lovely book is designed picture book style, with one or two illustrations on each two-page spread. The illustrations are in pen and watercolor paint. The story is told largely through the illustrations. The book could be read to young children but it is also a book with a message for people of all ages. The message is one that preteens and teens need to hear also, but I’m not sure if they would be willing to read through a book that is as cute as this, and looks and reads like a picture book.

The story is a fable with a pretty direct message. The message is that the world has a one right way path laid out for people, but that not all people thrive on this path and some will find great rewards by intentionally leaving that routine path to follow their own intuition, and watching for other, more subtle sign points along the way. By deliberately ignoring some direct orders, the little boy in the story makes some unique discoveries that he would not have experienced if he just stayed on the normal path. Also of benefit is changing course along the way, being flexible and open to change as the process of the journey unfolds. This book is not about pre-planning, setting routines and doing what others want you to do. It is about going with the flow, putting aside analysis and worry and just continuing forward along a not-always-predetermined path.

Not only is this message good for children to hear, but it is good for adults to remind themselves about too. In fact some young children may have the bulk of this message ‘go over their heads’. Some parents may enjoy reading this book to their special needs children. Wise adults will recognize the importance of this message and may immediately think of a few people who would benefit from hearing the message (even other adults). For that reason this book would make a good gift book.

The illustrations are cute and whimsical. If you love watercolor paint and hand drawn illustrations you may enjoy these very much and for that reason alone, you may desire to own this book.

Teachers will also appreciate the message in this book, especially those touched by students who don’t follow the cookie cutter norms, or special education teachers.

The biography of the author/illustrator says that Reynolds has his “passion to help children began at age twelve when he volunteered at a special needs camp. There he saw the profound power in truly understanding the unique gifts and abilities of every child.” Also noted in his biography is that he creates fables that will “reach ALL children”. It goes on to say “Peter’s personal mission is to help others on their journeys of self-discovery.”

I really enjoyed this book and hope to own my own copy someday. It is a keeper.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

What I’m Doing Today

Original plans for 3/29/08: Declutter and clean the house, catching up on household duties I’ve been too busy to do.

Revised plans for 3/29/08: Doing a creative project. I have joined a photography competition at the last minute. Doing this with my seven year old son as I think it will be more fun to do it with him than alone. Older son and husband are busy at a Boy Scout event.

We’re going to compete in Film Speed 2008 to be held in New Haven, Connecticut.

I am stepping outside my comfort zone by doing this project.

Thursday evening my parents phoned me to say the local TV news talked about an event happening on today in New Haven. They thought it was right up my alley and said that they imagined that I should do it with my kids.

This is photo scavenger hunt project. They didn’t even know that I’ve done photo scavenger hunts via the web, on in the past. This event is a competition in which “professional and emerging photographers” will participate. I love that “emerging photographers”—also known as amateurs or hobby photographers.

The event works like this. We will be handed a disposable camera with 27 exposures available on it. We will have a scavenger hunt list of 24 items. We are to leave the race line (at an art gallery) at noon and try to find the items on the list. We have to do this on foot or on bike. I will choose to be on foot as it is in the low 40s today and that is just too cold for biking. I also don’t think that city biking is safe for a seven year old.

Some of the items on the list for the last Film Speed event were:

A Good Leaf
To Hide
Feel Excitement

At 2pm we can meet at a local restaurant to pick up a boxed lunch. At 4pm we have to be at the gallery to hand in the camera. They will develop the film and give us the photos back, and we will submit the ones we want in each category. We will also be served Irish food and beer (and soft drinks I imagine). We can hang out there as long as we want to socialize. (I do not envision hanging out long with my seven year old nor will I be drinking beer then driving.)

At a later date a reception will be held to announce the winners and to display their artwork in the gallery.

I think this will be fun.

My main concerns are:
1. I don’t want to be cold.
2. I wonder if we can find good stuff to shoot within walking distance. I don’t know that area of New Haven very well.
3. Being on foot would prevent us from accessing some of the best spots in New Haven. I wonder if the very serious photographers will be zipping around on bikes or even skipping the lunch.
4. I hope we are not mugged while walking the streets of New Haven.
5. I hope my son does not complain of being tired while we’re out and about.

I pre-paid the $25 entry fee so we are locked in to go.

I am curious about what the scavenger hunt items are.

I need to go pack a backpack with water and snacks. I’m taking my digital camera along and will snap some other photos with that.

I consider this an artistic pursuit and plan to actively engage my son in this process.

Wish us luck.

Internet links about this event

Capturing New Haven From the Best Angle article in the Hartford Courant

Film Speed 2008 New Haven

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

History in Graphic Book Format

When I first heard of this book I placed it on my PaperBackSwap wish list. After waiting a number of months, I am thrilled that yesterday’s mail delivered this book to me.

Graphic novels, that is, fiction books or “illustrated novels” set entirely in comic strip format are getting more and more popular among teen readers, it seems, especially. Libraries near me are expanding their collections of Young Adult graphic novels and one library even has an entire alcove dedicated to the genre.

The book that I am talking about today is actually non-fiction content: United States history to be exact. It is “The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation: Based on the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

I plan to read this and later on I’ll have my sons read this too.

This brings to mind a recent article in Home Education Magazine in which the writer explained something that I’d never heard before. (If I can put my hands on my issue later I will share the article title, author and the issue number with you. ) She said that children’s brains are more geared toward visual (graphic) images and interpretation and later on make the switch to more easily relying on text only. I had never heard that before. That would explain why children love comics, especially it seems, boys aged 8-12. As I read it I also realized that when I read comics I read all the text and barely notice the images. It is hard for me, a fast and good reader of text, to slow down and force myself to look at all the images and small nuances in the comics to interpret the whole scene and ‘get it’. I tend to quickly breeze through the text only and ignore most of the imagery. After I read the article I realized that my brain has shifted to being able to easily comprehend text-only so to read comics is not enjoyable to me nor it is easy or fast to read as I have to force my eyes to stop reading and to look around at the images. It is also ‘not flowing’ for me to do that, compared to my ability to read only text quickly and with ease.

I find this a unique medium and wonder how many non-fiction books and history books have been published in graphic adaptations? Can we reach today’s teens with history content by starting to publish more graphic books (illustrated books) with real history stories and biographies?

July 2006 blog post of mine: About

(On PBS, people swap paperback, hardcover and audio books. Membership is free.)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Participated in a Homeschool Creative Arts Fair

Last August I was at a planning meeting for a local homeschool support group when one member presented an idea, it was a twist on an existing program the group runs. The group is a classical method homeschool support group. The group has a monthly presentation event, which they call the Kids Forum. Usually at the Forum, homeschooled students stand in front of the group and make a presentation of some work that they’ve done in the course of their homeschooling studies. This ranges from playing a piece on the piano or guitar, reading a research paper aloud, reciting a poem that was memorized, or talking about a topic and showing illustrations on a presentation board. The new proposal was to have a Creative Arts Fair which would be run more like a typical Science Fair but would showcase items not as conducive to the typical Forum: poetry, handcrafts, and artwork. Each student would have half of a table to display their creations. The mother offered to plan and run the event and the decision was made to go forward with that new event.

I signed my boys up immediately. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Let me say also that we usually do not participate in the monthly Kids Forum as both of my boys resist public speaking. In the past we had issues with a conflict with nap time and we still have a conflict with it overlapping into our Cub Scout meeting time. Since both my husband and I are Den Leaders we can’t just blow off Scouts for our children that day---we have to be there. It is a real stretch to attend the Forum, get home, eat something and get out the door to get to the Scout meeting on time.

As the Creative Art Fair approached I began to dread having signed up. To be honest at that point my kids had not been making much art. They didn’t have much new to show. I have not been using the art instruction curriculum which I did purchase as it always falls off the schedule at the end of the day. So the things my kids create are just for fun. Also my boys have not taken formal art classes or attended any ‘art camps’. I then figured that some time before the Forum we’d spend some time making some stuff.

September and October were about adjusting to the new homeschooling year and worries of the health of my dying father-in-law. November was spent grieving his passing. As it is for everyone, December was a busy month with holiday prep, and there was no time for making art. January began with a trip to Maine to visit my grandmother then buckling down and getting back to homeschooling lessons. February continued to be busy and then I realized, whoops, we had not spent any time making anything to show at the Fair, and it was just days away. I did not want to do a mad dash project in the last few days, thinking that would be insane and stupid, and anyway, we had plans all weekend and were not home anyhow so it was impossible.

The week before the Forum I was getting nervous. I imagined kids showing work on par with professional artists. I knew some of them take art classes with professional artists and I figured they’d show spectacular work. I worried that my own kid’s creations would pale in comparison. I considered backing out, knowing it was full and that there was a waiting list, knowing someone else would be happy to get our two spots. But I didn’t. Since my kids don’t even like the Forum, I had not even told them about it, so if I backed out my kids would not even have known about it. I decided not to back out, and I finally broke the news to them just days before. They were not so thrilled but they didn’t complain. I told them that they would have control over what was shown. I’d not force them to show any of their work that they didn’t want shown.

I didn’t take this so seriously, after I got over worrying about my kids being judged or being embarrassed if their work was inferior compared to the other kids. I didn’t think much about what to show. It was not until the night before and the day of, that I went around the house and gathered up items that they made in the past. In fact I had planned to also bring some detailed unique LEGO creations but I forgot them. And I was disappointed that both boys refused to allow their drawings to be shown, out of embarrassment that they were not ‘good enough’. They think that all drawings should look like a photograph and be perfect; they give themselves no leeway for the fact that they are young children. And as an adult I can say that some of their drawings are just fine. In the end we had less things to display than I had planned on.

We headed out to the Forum. I didn’t have a display board, I just laid the items on the table and I did make up a few cards to explain what some of the items were. This is what they showed. (I forgot my camera so only have my friend’s photos to share.) I will also share that I didn’t make my kids dress up in fancy clothes. A part of me wanted them to look great like that but I allowed them to just wear their normal clothes that they were wearing that day. As it turned out most of the kids there were wearing casual clothes too.

Older son:
A walking stick he hand carved and stained and finished
An acrylic painting he completed for a church competition with a challenge theme
Model of Earth showing geological layers made of polymer clay (he made this on his own not forced by me as an assignment)
Small items made from polymer clay
A pottery piece (plate) he painted upon (factory made piece which he decorated)
Pinewood Derby cars from three events, designed, carved and painted by him
Comic book, story written in collaboration with another homeschooled boy, illustrated and written b the other boy and then hand colored by my son

Photo above: older son's display
(I don't have a photo of my younger son's display.)

Younger son:
A pottery piece (a mug) he painted upon (factory made piece which he decorated)
Small things made out of polymer clay, including beads
Two Pinewood Derby cars, designed, carved and painted by him
Chalk pastel drawing of a landscape

When I saw two children with LEGO creations I realized we had forgotten our LEGOs. Oh well.

The Fair was organized so that the students would rotate, at times sitting at their station and greeting visitors and being available to speak to and ask questions of. It was rotated in a way so that all the students had enough time to go around and see everything. Perhaps the best part was that each student had an envelope at their station where people could write notes and leave it for the children to take home. In that way praise could be left if the student was not at their station to hear it directly. I spent some time writing notes to children and if the child had sibling I made sure to leave a note for that child also. I didn’t want one sibling coming off as getting more praise than another. (This ended up not being done by all as my younger son got one note and my older son got seven. I could tell this was uncomfortable for my younger son.)

My whole fear of my kids stuff not being good enough was all for naught. In the end I realized that my kids had a decent range of different projects. They had some art forms that other children did not have, and the fact that they had a variety of things left me feeling that my boys are creative after all. While we have not spent time doing paid formal lessons as some of the other children have, I realized my kids have dabbled in various mediums and that they are doing ‘just fine’, great in fact.

My fear of my children’s work coming off as inferior quickly faded. The show was not either a way for me to ‘show off’ my children’s work, like bragging. Believe me if it was I would have had them do special projects just for the Fair and I would even have made a presentation board to make it look better. The reality is since most of my boys’ work was three dimensional the board would not have worked anyway. Their heavy paintings also would not have hung on the foam core display board either so there was no choice about laying those flat. My boy’s work was what it was, a true reflection of what they do for fun and creative play, dabbling in various mediums and doing what they want.

I was very impressed with the range of items shown by the other students. There were all different things around the room and it was so inspiring.

Here is a sampling of the type of things shown, a partial listing:

Victorian Valentines and poetry written by a 10 year old girl
Photographs shown on a slideshow format on a laptop, photos taken with a digital SLR and altered digitally, by a 13 year old boy
Large selection of knitting, finished projects and works in progress by a 16 year old girl
Clothing for an American Girl doll designed by a girl (about eight years old) and sewn by her mother
Matisse inspired collage including some very unique modern items like an iPod and a Mac laptop by an eleven year old boy
Watercolor paintings of flowers by a nine year old girl
Poetry by a nine year old boy
Large selection of hand drawings, paintings and chalk pastels by a ten year old girl (she watches no television and makes art for one hour every evening instead)
Paper bag masks made by a seven year old girl
Recreation of a scene from a Star Wars movie in LEGO (very detailed) by a twelve year old boy
A medieval scene in LEGO created by a nine year old boy
Model of the solar system made of colored beeswax by an eleven year old boy
Detailed pencil drawings of medieval scenes by an eight year old boy
Detailed pencil drawings and watercolor paintings by an eleven year old boy
Photos taken with a zoom lens of birds at the family’s feeder, fourteen year old boy
Watercolor paintings of birds at the feeder, nine year old boy
Paintings of a pet beta fish and of a snake, three year old boy

Other items:

Paper Mache sculpture
Hand made dolls out of cloth
Decorated plates
Miniature LEGO house made by a girl
Masks from paper Mache, decorated
Three dimensional watermelon wedge made of Paper Mache
Poetry about nature
Acrylic paintings
Lots of collage

Such Great Art!

I was so impressed by what I saw. I really enjoyed seeing how the children all had their unique perspective on things. One boy loved turtles, his mother told me, so he had several turtle paintings that I’d frame and display! The bright colors in a painting of a red, fire-breathing dragon was so excellent I’d copy that onto a transfer and put it on the front of a shirt! Seeing the collages of things like a skiing scene, made by a girl who I know loves to ski, and the unique items selected to make Matisse inspired collage were just precious. The poetry written by the children was amazing, really descriptive words were used and they were all so impressive. One girl put down her watercolor flowers, and I tried to boost her up by explaining that watercolor is tricky and takes patience and that her works were lovely. I really, really enjoyed seeing all the art that everyone made.

I was speaking to a mother, who works as a public school teacher, about her two son’s artwork. She explained this is their first year of homeschooling, after being in public schools until now (they are in 4th and 6th grade homeschool now). They finally left the schools due to unhappiness with the academic rigor of the public schools in the town. She said when they went to select work to show at the Fair she was surprised at the large quantity of work that they had done just since September. She said that less time away at school and no homework to do allowed them to have more time to create. Seeing all their stuff gathered up at home she realized for the first time how much they had actually made just in these last five months and she was surprised (and happy). On their own they had experimented in various mediums and crated a wide variety of work. She said that in the past at school they would come away with mostly canned projects, with the teacher telling the students what to make and each step and how to do it. Then they would have an art show and show one piece from each student, chosen almost at random. That school boasts of its rich art program but the parents now think it is weak compared to what the boys are doing all by themselves at home with just materials and time on their hands.

My children ended up enjoying showing what they made too. They received oral compliments and written compliments. They were not embarrassed to show what they had. They had fun seeing their friends. My boys were happy that they went to the Fair and didn’t want to leave. The time flew by and I couldn’t believe that we had been there nearly two hours.

I think the event was a success and I hope the group does it next year.

I highly encourage all homeschool groups to do a Creative Arts Fair show, it is a wonderful experience.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Hooray! Art & Life #11 Arrived

I was surpsired on Easter morning to see the envelope containing the magazine Art & Life #11 sitting on the kitchen counter. It had arrived in Saturday night’s mail and my husband hadn’t told me that I’d received stuff in the mail, let alone something as good as this. If I had known I would have spent all of Saturday night reading it. Instead, in between and after Easter celebrations I read the whole issue. Hooray!

I love this art magazine which is published quarterly by Teesha Moore. It is sold through her website. What I like the most is that we are never told WHAT to do but just to make art and do what we want to do. There is no judgment that a person’s creations are good or bad. The focus is not on trendy and being ‘in’ with making whatever is hot at the moment. The overall attitude is to do what you want and make what you want. There is more of a concern with the process of creating and the wonderful flow experience that happens. In other words the focus is on the process not the product.

The publication is so non-judgmental that I love it. There are written articles, by Teesha and other contributors, as well as in the recent issues, full-color reproductions of artwork made by Teesha, her husband Tracy and other artists.

I was so inspired to go make some paper based art that last evening I sat down and did 16 pages of collage work in a blank journal. I plan to continue embellishing these pages and then will use them to write in, in between and on top of the collaged items. My main focus in this last month has been on making fiber based creations and Art & Life inspired me to go play with paper and glue.

In Art & Life #11 Teesha shares photos of some of the handmade things she purchased or saw at Design Festa in Tokyo. She also wrote about the reproductions of her art journals which she made while in Tokyo and is selling on her site. I think I’ll have to go buy Teesha’s Tokyo journals.

Since I am teaching myself metal crafting I was curious about the book review that Teesha did on "Making Connections: a handbook of cold joins for jewelers and mixed-media artists" by Susan Lenart Kazmer. The review is glowing and dubbed a ‘must-have’. I went on Amazon to buy it today, figuring it would cost at Amazon’s price, $15-20 at most (and no tax and I get free shipping). I can’t find it on Amazon. Instead I found it on Kazmer’s website, selling there for $48 plus shipping. YIKES. That is more than I had wanted to spend, especially because I am new to metal crafting, am a beginner and not good at it, and am not sure if I want to put that much money toward a book on it at this point in time. Then again, the book’s cost is cheaper than taking a workshop, so I could look at it that way…

"Making Connections" book description on Kazmer’s site

Preview of Making Connections on Kazmer’s site

I found this book on Amazon which may be a suitable alternative for a beginner like me. It is called "Semiprecious Salvage: Creating Found Art Jewelry" by Stephanie Lee which Amazon is selling for under $16.

In my Amazon surfing I also learned that Giuseppina Cirincione is coming out with a new book this year, available with an Amazon pre-order discount, called "Bent, Bound And Stitched: Collage, Cards And Jewelry With A Twist". I already own her book "Collage Lost & Found" and I enjoyed that.

I see that Teesha reviewed “How to Make Books” by Esther K. Smith which I was interested in and blogged about, and which I purchased last month. I love the book too and plan to review it soon. I laughed when I read that Teesha plans to make the cake box book as that is in my plans too! (Imagine the cover and spine of a book beign made from a cake mix box. That is what it is. I also plan to use little jello boxes and jiffy muffin mix boxes to make miniature books.)

Another book already on my wish list is here too, "Acrylic Revolution" by Nancy Reyner.

I just wanted to share with you how much I love Art & Life magazine! I find it so inspirational.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Amazon Beefing Up Gold Box Offers?

Yesterday I was on the Amazon site looking for a certain kind of book for the first time. I was browsing books about traveling to Washington D.C. and books about traveling with children to Washington D.C. After reading through some product information and customer reviews I placed some books on my wish list (whose titles I didn’t want to forget). I was unsure which to buy so considered checking the local bookstore to browse them in person, but planned to buy them for the discount price on Amazon (plus no sales tax and no shipping fees). I rated some books with some high star ratings.

I then glanced at some craft books and gave some high rating marks, placing some on my wish list.

I saw a Gold Box offer on a teaching history book that I already own and so I rated that book series with high stars and marked those that I owned. I then saw a science book in the Gold Box related to a gift book I recently purchased and rated that with high stars.

Today’s Amazon Gold Box discount offer contains both books about Washington D.C. travel and the exact craft books that I flagged with 5 star ratings, and the history book and exact science book that I just rated with five stars. Wow.

I have never seen the Gold Box react like that before. The Gold Box deals that I am being offered are 2% lower in price than their regular price.

I am just amazed by this. Perhaps before I plan to buy some books I should rate them high with star ratings then check back in the next 1-2 days to see if they appear in my Gold Box.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Busy Creating But Too Busy To Post

Just popping in to say, yes, I have been creating. My boys have been doing a lot too. I just am too busy to blog about them yet. I have been snapping digital photos in hopes that I can share those when I tell you what we have been up to.

Sneak preview:

more embroidery being done (the kids and me too)
kids doing latchhook now
made paste papers (the kids and me)
over 4 hours of Easter Egg decorating (mostly the kids doing it)
I am hand carving art stamps again.
I am half way through reading a book on screenprinting (Simple Screenprinting) and am working out a way to design a graphic for a shirt.
I tried creating a blog banner and failed, so far.
Half way through reading The Creative Life (book) by Rice Freeman-Zachary.
Taught myself felting
Re-reading books I bought in 2000 about feltmaking (two Waldorf books: Feltcraft and Magic Wool). That was back in 'the day' before YouTube, before craft blogs, back when felting was mainly done in Waldorf education circles and when we had to buy a book to learn about it.

Other creative pursuits probably not worthy of blogging entire posts about:

Older son making bread from scratch
Younger son making chocolate chip cookies from scratch
I'm trying a new Easter recipe (bread with eggs in shell in it)
My husband tried a new Asian turkey burger recipe
Might share our family's Italian Ham Pie recipe

I have finished reading and would like to blog reviews of these books:

Confessions of a Slacker Mom
The Zen of Knitting
Mixed Emulsions

I still need to do:

Make one ATC for the CMP ATC exchange for March. Theme: Perspective.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Yes I Changed the Template

Okay so a certain someone I know blogged do's and don't in blog design. I then felt guilty for having a dark background which makes reading difficult. I did know that but since the blog was to be heavy on graphics that did look good on the black backgound I used it.

So now I changed it.

After reading Artful Blogging I felt I need a custom blog banner. I tried teaching myself how to do it using a free tutorial on the Internet and have failed. I guess it is because that tutorial used Photoshop and I have the cheaper, less fancy Photoshop Elements. I guess I have no time for such a project, one that does not come easily to me. Hey, I have to pick and choose how I spend my time...

Signs of Spring: Bird Citing Summary

We’ve had interesting bird citings in the last week so I feel like blogging them.

I believe it was Tuesday March 4th that we were doing our homeschooling at the kitchen table. Whilst I was reading from the teacher’s manual of our language arts program my ten year old excitedly told me to look up. A Robin and an Eastern Bluebird were perched on the top of the swing set. It was the first time this year we’ve seen either bird.

Sunday March 9th the kids and I were driving home. We pulled off a busy main road onto a wooded road. A fresh and gory road kill opossum was in the road in front of me. When I got very close, a Red-tailed Hawk landed on it. I jammed on my brakes and stopped. I nearly hit the thing. I put my hazard lights on and we watched it. The opossum was too heavy for the hawk to lift up. Then a car came down the road (speeding and never slowing down for the hawk), and then hawk flew to a nearby tree. Just then a second hawk came to watch over the road kill from the tree. Then cars started coming up behind us and coming down the other side of the road. We gave up our watching and went home.

Tuesday March 11th we were driving past that spot again. I spotted a Turkey Vulture sitting about fifteen feet in from the road, in a field. It was eating the last remains of a bloody road kill. This must be the last of the carcass of the opossum. On the next swing by the spot, I told the kids about it and slowed down and they saw it. The feathers were very black. I hoped it would fly so the kids could see the large wingspan but it did not.

Today while out and about we drove down some highways. Numerous times we saw large flocks of American Robins searching for worms in on the wet, grassy ground next to the highway. These robins must be migrating north and stopped along the way to fill their tanks.

It was 44 degrees today. The tons of rain we have received melted nearly all the snow. The wetness has melted the upper parts of the ground, so it is soggy and muddy if you walk on the grass. It is still frozen underneath. I am hoping winter is nearly over, meaning not just the date but I hope no more snow will come.

It is still pretty quiet; there is not much birdsong around here yet. Still not a peep from the peepers that live across the street. Our peepers are gray tree frogs. I know this for sure as my neighbor had one living in their gas grill (!) so she saw it up close and personal frequently and she identified it using a nature guide.

I love the sound of the peepers at night. I wish I could record that sound and listen to it all year long. I heard a commercial on the radio last week for the tourism department of Barbados. They used the sounds of the tree frogs to tempt we consumers into booking a trip to Barbados so we could fall asleep to the sound of the tree frogs. I don’t need to go there or pay money to enjoy the lovely sounds right here in our neighborhood. I am grateful for those peepers, can you tell?

The peepers are at the pond next to my mother-in-law’s vacation home in Cape Cod. One night lots of them covered the sliding glass door. It was surreal. Instead of seeing the tree frog exhibit at the museum, they were right there on the slider. They are so tiny, about a half an inch at most.

Anyhow, I know when I hear the peepers that spring is really here. So I am waiting for the news of spring’s arrival from the peepers. I’ll let you know when they give me the good news.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Two Venues for Sharing Art and Photographs on the Web

There are two main ways for people to share their art images (and photographs) on the web.

One is blogging, the other is using

The way this blog was born was this. I was already blogging on my other blog, which focused on written material. When I wanted to write and share images of my creative exploration I chose to make this second blog on Blogger. I chose Blogger because I already knew how to use it. I was not interested in learning to blog on a new platform. I also wanted to do as little work with HTML as possible. I didn’t want the art sharing to be yet another new project because I had no time for that.

After I had been blogging for a while I realized Flickr existed, so I began a Flickr account.

I have been using both and wanted to share a little about how they are similar and dissimilar. I think that depending on the user's desires, one platform is better than the other. I am finding that keeping active with both is just something I don't have time for. Maybe knowing this can help you think about which is best for you.

One last thing I want to share is that blogging on Blogger is simple. You don’t have to know HTML (computer programming language) to use it. I keep hearing some people say they’d like to have a blog but don’t because they think they don’t know enough about computer programming. The point of was to have a ready-made platform for users who didn’t know how to do programming. And Blogger is free too, so money is not an issue.

Also to explain my situation and preferences regarding things I create, my main goal is to actually create the things I create. Secondarily I blog about the stuff I created, and share the images with the world via the blog. Thirdly I may put some of those images on Flickr. Lastly I discuss art making with others on the web. I have time only for one group, right now.

The one art related Yahoo Group! I am a member of happens to have Flickr groups attached to it. So I am using my Flickr account mainly to interact with the women on that discussion group to share my images. In other words we discuss things via email through the Yahoo Group! then we share the images of what we are making and chatting about on Flickr.

This blog and my Flickr account don’t show all the work I do, just what I find time to share with the world. The blogging and art sharing comes secondary to the making of stuff and the living of life that happens outside of making art for fun, for me. And lastly, for me, is the online discussion of art making.

What I've come up with for a compare and contrast of blogs and Flickr accounts is this:

1. Flickr is more image based. Each “entry” is an image. If you want to write about that image there is limited space to do so. You may not have enough room to write all that you want to write.

2. Blogs have unlimited space to write. You can make very long blog posts if you want.

3. If you just want to write about something (not share an image), you can’t do that on Flickr. Blogs would be necessary for that.

4. With a blog you can put multiple images inside of one blog post. For example if you wanted to talk about a project you did with a lot of words then show multiple images in that post, the blog format is perfect. It would be disjointed to use Flickr for that type of entry as each image is separated from the other and your writing would have to be split up underneath each image.

5. With Blogger your files are stored in reverse date order with the most current post at the top. You can use a category or label to cluster entries by topic such as “artist trading cards”, “collage” or “journal pages”. A reader must click on the label name, which is displayed in the sidebar, to ‘get to’ those blog entries.

6. With Flickr each image can be put into a ‘set’ which has a label. Sets are displayed as a little box with the word label and one image showing. To view a set the viewer would click on the set and then view the contents.

7. Flickr is more like a slideshow. It is more about looking at numerous images. You can quickly move through the images, by manually clicking to view the next one or if you set it to the slideshow mode, it moves along from image to image by itself.

8. Blogging could be more like reading if the blogger wrote more in text, or it could be more like viewing images, if the blogger chose to mostly only share images. It all depends on the blogger’s choice.

9. At Flickr you can join groups and upload your images to your groups. Then you can spend time viewing images based around a topic. For example one user may be in a group for landscape photography, scrapbooking pages, drawing with pencil and keeping an artist journal. If you want to sit and view lots of photos of landscape photography you can look through a group’s entries. Many groups are set for public viewing so you don’t have to be a member of that group to view the public images. Then if you find a Flickr user whose art you like, you can click on their personal account and go view anything and everything they have shared in their public account.

10. Both Flickr and blogs can be set to public viewing or private viewing only. In other words if you want your images or posts private, to share with private groups of people or even your own family only, you can do that. (A cool thing would be to create a Flickr account for family photos and having family across the country or world viewing lots of your latest photographs.)

11. Those who mainly want to share images or a lot of images may find it easier to have only a Flickr account. Those who mainly want to write may find a blog better or use a blog for their primary activity account.

12. If you want to be part of a community about the topic you are interested in, you can first join Flickr then after exploring, find groups that interest you and then join them. Joining Flickr can be a good starting point to begin getting connected to others who share your creative passion.

13. If you start off by blogging, you are not as connected to other people, it can seem like you are blogging in a vacuum and you may even wonder if anyone ever visits your blog. The Flickr community is a bit more of a social networking site based on image sharing which is conducive to as much social networking as you desire. If you don’t want to do any social networking on Flickr you can just be a lurker and no one would even know! However I do think that if you see something you admire it would be nice to leave a comment with your positive thoughts.

14. Viewers may leave comments on your Flickr images. If you allow it, your blog readers may also leave comments. The two platforms are pretty equal regarding viewers leaving comments and the degree in you respond back is up to you. I personally sometimes don’t have time to monitor the comments left on my Flickr account as that is yet another project and a way to spend my time which is already limited!

15. If you want to build other information, such as having a link list to your favorite artists or reference websites, a blog allows that. That type of information is not stored at Flickr (to my knowledge). In other words a blog can hold more general information that is like your own little place on the web. Flickr is a bit more targeted at just the image for the content.

16. Blogs can allow you to (try to) make money from them. Flickr is not set up as a money making platform. I have tried various ways to make money off blogging and it has not panned out as well as some users brag about or as some companies tout. For me blogging is not about making money, but if I can make some money while not spending a lot of time dedicated to ‘money making’ work with the blog I’m happy. In other words, I blog to blog and that is my goal. If money is made as a secondary occurrence then that is fantastic. I just have not found that the hours spent on trying to turn my (other) blog into more of a money-making venture have not panned out and take too much time for not enough money. On my other blog I am currently experimenting with BlogHerAds which are brand new to me, I wonder how that will pan out.

I could spend hours and hours looking at images on Flickr. One person I know from an email discussion list looks at Flickr images for entertainment and artistic inspiration, setting her laptop on “slideshow” mode, while running on her treadmill. I love that idea!

So if you have never looked at Flickr, I recommend it. If you want to share images via the web maybe this article will help you decide if image sharing on Flickr is best or if a blog is a better platform. Don’t be afraid to try either one! You never know what good things may come your way as a result of being a Flickr member or becoming a blogger…

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Haiku 3/08/08

Woke up early. Was reading and in reaction to the below events, at about 6:00 a.m. today, worked this haiku on the back of my bookmark.

Black tree shilouettes
Pressed against the purple sky
Hawks' call echoing

The call was the only sound I could hear, prompting me to look up from the book and notice the purple, pre-dawn sky. It was overcast with storm clouds and for some reason the sky was a solid purple color. Seeing my tall oak trees against it was amazing.

Simple pleasures...

(Note this is the first time I'm writing hiaku spontaneously and not related to the Monday Haiku challenge for the Creative Mom Podcast Circle. I take that as a creative jump.)

Water's Edge (Photo of the Day)

Photo taken by ChristineMM at Race Point Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore, Provincetown, Massachusetts in February 2008.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Race Point Beach Looking North (Photo of the Day)

Standing on Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts, looking north.

Photo taken in February 2008 by ChristineMM.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Race Point Beach Looking South (Photo of the Day)

Standing on Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts, looking south.

Photo taken in February 2008 by ChristineMM.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Thumpertown Beach (Photo of the Day)

Thumpertown Beach, Eastham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts as seen from the parking lot. This is on the bay side of the Cape, looking toward Wellfleet.
It was 27 degrees with a very strong wind. It was absolutely freezing and all my batteries died so I couldn't take more than a handful of photos, unfortunately.

Photo taken by ChristineMM in February 2008.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Haiku Monday 3/03/08

Two a.m. surprise
Horrifying sounds were heard
Coyote attack

I do love the woods
But this is a little much
The food chain is real

Written by ChristineMM for Haiku Monday on the Creative Mom Podcast Circle Yahoo Group.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Dune (Photo of the Day)

Dune at Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Photo taken by ChristineMM in February 2008.

My Kids' Gingerbread Project 2006

Here are photos of the gingerbread house the kids and I made in December 2006. This is a family tradition of ours.

Come to find out I guess I never took a photo of the house when it was totally finished. These are the best I have to share.

As you can see making gingerbread from scratch at home is a messy endeavor. I don't mind the mess.

The three of us enjoy the process. The PROCESS is what counts.

(My husband has no role in this other than eating a few Twizzlers. Oh and if he sees it, he raises his eyebrows at the mess.)

I love my children so much. We have a lot of fun together. We do a lot of projects together, stuff like this. They think this is all fun and good. They don't think of this as work or anything special, they think all families do stuff like this.

Below, older son is talking about something!!

Younger son (aged 6) gives a reply.

Older son, then 9, on his own constructed a mini-manger scene. Unfortunately it fell apart while baking and was wrecked. This is the raw dough shot.

Someone had blogged that they don't scrapbook. Either do I. As you can see I take a lot of photos. As I look over these photos taken 13 months ago I see lots of clues to our lives back then. The non-scrapbooker was saying that she felt that trimming out the backgrounds of the photos would take away important reminders of their memories. I agree.

Another tradition is that we put up a German Christmas Pyramid every year. This photo shows that. You can see my younger son is happy. This is a weekday, at breakfast time, at 8:40am. This is the type of relaxed morning we have with homeschooling, as on this day the other kids in the neighborhood were on the bus on their way to school.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lichen on Granite (Photo of the Day)

Lichen on granite rock on the jetty at Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Photo taken by ChristineMM in February 2008.