We're feeling a little punchy tonight: it's the end of Spring Break and we enjoyed a staycation. Which is to say we searched desperately for free or low cost things to do each day with three kids of varying ages (8, 5 and 2). Anyhoo, tonight's meal was stir fry whipped up at home and supplemented with delicious potstickers from Thornton's own Heaven Dragon. Plus: gigantic slices of navel oranges. Bring on that weekend! Here's a cute illustration from Jonathan's latest picture book project called STUFF. He's been working on this character this week and he says he's finally there. Have a great weekend, ya'll! And thanks for stopping by.
We're still working away on our special projects, so again, please excuse the stillness here. I am *THISCLOSE* to finishing my middle grade novel, so close ICANTASTEIT. My heroine is making her journey home--for now, insert sinister laugh--and I'm tying up all of, well, everything. And this makes me nervous but also grateful. I am so very happy with this book. It has been a delight to write. And I can't say that about every book I have written (this is my 4.5th; two were published; one wasn't; and one was halfway completed before I realized it wasn't a book I could write.) And now, since you dropped by: here's a cat illustration Jonathan did today for a local client. It's a Kat Karnival!
We were delighted to see that Laura Purdie Salas posted a review of Love Is in the Air yesterday on her blog. Thank you, Laura! She is the author of BookSpeak! Poems About Books and Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, both with Clarion, and a rhyming nonfiction picture book from Millbrook Press called A Leaf Can Be.
Here's an excerpt of the review (we love her writing!):
"Drama! There aren’t many easy readers where I think, “Oh, no, how is this going to work out!” But I did with this one. When Kite floats to Earth and Balloon is going up, up, up, it’s very foreboding. And it seems hopeless..."
Read the rest of the review, here.
Also, we have learned that Love Is in the Air was nominated for a Cybil, the children's and young adult bloggers' literary awards. This is terribly exciting to be honored by bloggers in this way because literary bloggers were the first people to embrace Love Is in the Air. We have such a place in our heart for the bloggers who reviewed Jonathan's first book. Thank you to Katie Fitzgerald at Secrets and Sharing Soda for the nomination. We're also thrilled to see Jodie Rodriguez from Growing Book by Book on the judging panel, as well as Katie. She reviewed Love Is earlier this year. All three of these bloggers have been such an encouragement!
We have this thing in our home where little pink and polka-dotted socks roll inside-out and then beach themselves all over the house, apparently in a last-ditch effort to enjoy life before succumbing to a long, slow journey to the laundry. I find these socks, these mournful little piles of cotton, in all rooms. It's heart-breaking. Who will take a stand and care for their lost plight?
Sometimes, pedestrians walk past without a second glance. Cold, unfeeling monsters. In cute pajamas.
Oftentimes, the socks stick together against all odds, defying the inevitable, and link hands, for one last fling.
This is life from here. Lots of little girl socks. All over the house. And a lone woman crying, "I am not the maid!" This falls on deaf ears. And naked feet.
We painted our family room and kitchen (they are one continuous room) a seedling green in 2007. I was into gradients back then, so the color in the family room was lighter and the kitchen was a darker version of the green. I liked the color for years, but lately, I knew I wanted to go gray. At first, I was thinking a dark gray but Jonathan said that would be like living in a storm cloud in the most used room in our house. I knew he was right, so I went on the hunt for the perfect gray. Sadly for the gray color chips of the world, I was asking a lot. I needed the Perfect Gray to be smart, sophisticated, not purple, not blue-gray, unassuming, farm house honest, city loft cool, reassuring, a little brash, not too arrogant and neutrally neutral. That's not too much to ask out of a gallon of paint, right?
I have a bad habit of picking a paint off of a swatch, painting a room and later ending up hating it. So, this time around, I knew I needed to pony up a little money for paint samples. I headed to Lowes with three kids in tow. I poured over a lot of paint cards while piloting one of those ridiculous race car carts. The girls were their usual rambunctious selves, so I just threw fruit snacks at them from time to time. Luckily, Lowes is huge, so my children were able to blend in a little bit more.
Not so much at Benjamin Moore. It's a standalone store, and since I wanted to see their colors (I'd never used them, but had heard good things about their paint on Young House Love), we headed over there. I met the coolest mom who was also looking for her perfect gray, so we bonded over that while her girls played with mine. Sadly, my loud, boisterous and hungry children (it was near lunchtime) were a little much for the staff there, so we made a hasty retreat after I paid for two paint samples.
Now that I've gone the paint sample route, I have to say I will always do it this way. A sample is $2.98 and I ended up purchasing a total of four. The samples at Lowes are larger, but even Benjamin Moore's smaller samples give you enough to paint a huge section of wall if you want to.
Here's what we ended up with:
The pattern thingie at right is our hanging panels over the sliding glass door.
At first, I was sure Gray Horse was my dream color. But then I remembered Jonathan's storm cloud warning. I think he was right---it would be too dark. So then I fell in love with Silver Spoon because I felt it gave the the punch I wanted. I painted Silver Spoon everywhere. And then I returned to it over and over, like a hopeful lover. We had to be together, right?
Alas, it was not to be. Silver Spoon was, well, kind of a Purple Spoon. And I knew if the wall looked purple, I would despise it with a white-hot fury.
So, I turned to Moonshine and you know what? It is a genius paint color. Absolutely perfect. Really. I first read about it on Young House Love and didn't think it would work because we have trim that's a warm putty, not white like YHL 's John and Sherry. Their Moonshine pops with that white trim. But Moonshine being the lovely lover that it is...well, it did the trick. And I do feel more sophisticated. And about five pounds thinner. This is some paint, I have to tell you.
Here's the week's most unflattering picture. And this is the best painting pic we have. Egad.
I love, love, love this gray! For the record, we color-matched Moonshine by Benjamin Moore to Olympic's Premium No VOC in satin. I have painted a lot over the years, and I have to tell you, this paint doesn't smell at all. There is zero odor or "new paint smell." As a mom of three small children, I blow kisses to Olympic. It's like we never painted. But oh, yes, we did.
The kitchen picture looks a little shiny...I think I took the pic when the walls were still wet.
So, I'm really happy with our new gray. I've also been busy grabbing a few things here and there, stretching my makeover budget. I bought pillows and baskets for throws at HomeGoods. Oh dear, I love me some HomeGoods.
We're getting there! Little by little. Can't wait to show you the shelves...I'm over the moon about them. Love how they turned out.
We're Jennifer (novelist, mom, blogger) and Jonathan (children's book author/illustrator, dad, runner and artist). We also have a line of affordable modern art canvases for children. Thanks for stopping by!
For our family room makeover, I knew I wanted gorgeous new bookshelves to replace the battle-scarred, petulant unit that we placed on Craigslist last week. (Update: it's sold! Score one for Team Honest. We told it like it was and still, a really sweet lady bought it. I think of her every day. Did she get home and as various parts fell off of it, did she slap her forehead and say, "Oh, now I get it!" I hope not. Maybe the old bookshelves got their act together after I publicly shamed them. Maybe? Probably not.) Anyway, back to the bookshelves. We didn't have the stomach (or budget) to purchase another set of bookshelves, so I decided to make them. I read a ton of blogs and settled on open wooden shelves with wooden shelf brackets. After checking out the shelf brackets at Lowes, I felt there was something else out there. I didn't know what, exactly, was out there, but I figured Mr. Google would tell me.
My searching led me to Tyler Morris Woodworking in Fort Collins, less than an hour's drive from our home. Tyler makes gorgeous shelf brackets and so I called him (probably babbling) about how I loved his brackets and I couldn't wait for the mail and could I drive up there today, like in four hours, and oh yeah, I'm bringing three children under age eight to your workshop filled with dangerous tools?
Tyler graciously agreed to allow us to crash his woodworking shop. The first thing I noticed: it's really clean and organized. I thought to myself: Jonathan would loooove this place. My man is so organized and the chaos of four women drives him crazy. True story: he just bought a plastic tub for all of our shoes we kick off in the garage. Our scattered shoe piles were pushing him over the edge. So now we have a shiny new tub that is brimming with eighteen colors of Crocs.
But anyway, back to the wood shop:
Tyler and his team make shelf brackets, corbels (a fancier bracket for countertops), recipe boxes, serving trays, cutting boards and a branch tray that is out-of-this-world pretty. This is the cabinet where he grabbed our order. Look at that neatness!
While we were in the wood shop, my two older girls made up a gruesome game why the baby wasn't allowed out of her stroller. Basically, the game was all of the ways Baby Fenske could be injured if she were to climb out of her stroller and toddle around. (Of course, everything in the shop was safety protected, turned off and otherwise harmless to well-behaved children. My girls were, thankfully and unexplainably, good for our visit.)
We chose the "Straight 10 Wood Shelf Bracket" which is gorgeous. There are four woods to choose from: Oak, Maple, Cherry and Paint Grade (which is American Poplar). Since we planned to paint our brackets, our choice was easy: Paint Grade. They are $18 a piece and feel like a mini-woodworking miracle. I had to restrain myself from petting the bracket and calling it "My Precious."
Saturday, I lined up the shelf brackets for painting. They come pre-sanded, so it was a pretty easy job to cover the kitchen table with newspaper, grab the primer, brush and go.
I applied one coat of Valspar Bare Wood Primer to each bracket. It was a little tricky getting under each part of the bracket. You also have to hold the bracket, so that part doesn't get painted at first. I ended up laying each bracket down and painting over the part that my hand covered. I'm sure there's some more proper woodworking way of doing this, but I just went with it.
I let the brackets dry and then lightly sanded them. I took a damp cloth and wiped off any sanding debris. Now it was time to paint!
I chose a deep gray because I wanted contrast with the new wall color which will be a light gray. (I'll do another blog post on the gray wall color.)
This gray is "Storm Cloud Gray" by Benjamin Moore, color matched to Olympic's no-VOC Premium in semi-gloss. I love the way they turned out. As I went, I would sometimes miss a spot and the white primer would blaze on through. I got better as I painted all nine brackets, but it was dicey at the beginning. If you look carefully at left (above), you can see one of our gray paints we sampled on the wall.
I adore these shelf brackets and can't wait to see them on the wall of the family room. Thanks so much to Tyler for his good-natured patience with our visit (and my pesky questions). We'll post more pictures soon!
Next up: Can a gray wall color battle insecurities, make me feel designer-ish and generally produce a peaceful feeling of well being? I certainly hope so!
When you are writing a book, some scenes don't make it in for various reasons. For my second novel, my editor wisely cut about 20 pages that were truly terrible involving a cult-like artists' colony (bless her).
Here's a fun illustration that didn't make the cut for Jonathan's children's book, Guppy Up! (Penguin USA). He ended up writing some other rhyme, which left this scene with no place to go. Enjoy!
http://youtu.be/-Kw0tP_9ees If you've never seen our app trailer for Healthy Creatures, I wanted to share it with you now. Making this was probably the easiest thing we did related to the app. We worked with the talented Thomas Webster of Denver and we love what he created!
You can find Healthy Creatures (for iPad) on the App Store.
We're just back from the library. A chicken psole cooks in the crockpot, courtesy of my sister-in-law who is visiting from Santa Fe. The house is full with six kids, 10 and under. To say things are in an uproar would be an understatement. But it's a good kind of chaos, the kind where adults carefully plan an outing to Which Wich, Starbucks and then to Anythink. I love Colorado. I don't think I've ever written that here, but it's true. For several years, we longed for the South, our home. But now, six years in, we are Coloradans. We have found the right neighborhood, school, church and we are blessed with more friends than we can carefully tend to. And then there's the beauty that is Colorado. In about an hour, we can be in Rocky Mountain National Park, flash our annual pass, and be off into the wild.
Last month, before we were laid low with influenza, strep throat and pneumonia, we took visiting Fenskes to RMNP. Here are a few shots of the snow, the hike and the gorgeousness that is Colorado. Happy and blessed to be here.
Paintings are funny things---they live in your head (in Jonathan's case) and in your home while they are coming into existence. I often get attached to certain works Jonathan does and it's a little bit sad when they leave us, whether it's to the gallery or for a commission. I don't get too sad though---after all, the baby's gotta have new shoes! From time to time, though, we hear about where a painting ended up and it's like meeting an old friend. This month, we met over email some collectors who shared with us a glimpse of where a handful of Jonathan's paintings landed after they left the Matre Gallery several years ago. The couple, who live in Atlanta, graciously allowed us to share the pictures with you. I adore their home and their style. And the paintings? I have to admit I was a bit moved when I saw them again. I remember the vintage toys and the fresh canvases Jonathan built in our old bungalow near downtown Atlanta.
[youtube=http://youtu.be/-Kw0tP_9ees] Healthy Creatures should be live in the App Store this week (hurray!). We're super excited to debut our app trailer. It was made by the talented Thomas Webster of Denver. We love how he captured the Pop-art feel of the app and added some fun, creative touches that give it a real Fat and Appy vibe. Enjoy!
We're on a deadline today for a fun project (we'll share it soon!) and there's stress and decisions and more work than we can handle sanely. But then I remember that nothing in life is easy--not parenting, not making books and paintings, nothing. Not one thing. And for that reason, I can smile and laugh at the crazy.