Buzzy Buzzy Creative Hive

Things are a little quiet on the blog lately. That's because Jonathan and I have both entered a season of writing and illustration projects. We're cranking to meet completely self-imposed deadlines for our literary pursuits. I am back at work, six days per week, on Magical Raintree Daughters, a middle grade (ages 8-12) fantasy adventure novel. I'm about halfway through with it. I'll be finished at the end of the month. I posted the first two chapters on the blog a while back. They have been revised a good bit but you can see where I am going. Here's a little hook I am working on: Cassiopeia Raintree can cheat death with her hands and feet. The middle child of three magical sisters, Cassie is a climber. But she’s always had to hide that gift until the night a smoak kidnaps and drags her to the land of the evil Aramynes. That’s when Cassie finds out the Aramynes were turned to monsters years ago…and it’s all the magical children’s fault.

Chapter_One_Dragoblin-novel-by-Jennifer-Fenske
Chapter_One_Dragoblin-novel-by-Jennifer-Fenske

I love writing again in novel form. As much as I enjoyed writing my first two novels (and publishing them..that's really fun!), writing for a middle grade audience is completely a blast. Each day, when my eldest daughter comes home from school, she reads the latest bit and tells me her thoughts and offers suggestions.

Some people have asked if I am going to post more of the book. I plan to sell it (hopefully) so at this point, I'll probably bring it back inside the studio and not post more of it for now.

Jonathan is working on a new children's picture book. He's not ready to release the title yet, so I'll just include one illustration here. I love this book and can't wait to share more with you. That hyena illustration really cracks me up. He is also excited to finish the illustrations for Poor Peter Burke (the manuscript is complete).

An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

When Life Punches Your Pumpkins

Someone out there needs to read this, right now: your creative dream is worth it. We believe in you, even though it seems no one else does.  A picture of some rotting pumpkins in Colorado

What you paint or draw or write matters. It's creation, it's beauty, it's art.

The world needs what you make. Otherwise, the cesspool that is currently passing for our entertainment culture will continue to devolve. You need to fight the good fight.

So, hear these words, friend: Lift up your head and keep going. Write another page. Sketch another character. Write another verse. All of us in the creative community, we're rooting for you.

Jonathan and I know creative disappointment. People ignore our emails; editors take months to respond to proposals; often the answer to our labors of love is "no." We get it. But we keep going, and you need to, too. Even when you are exhausted and discouraged.

Take a deep breath. We recommend a good walk (Jen) or a thrashing run (Jonathan) and then get back at it----the screenplay, the novel, the poem, the picture. Your dream is so valuable to this world.

Don't hide it; keep going, dear dreamer. We're with you, all the way.

Love,

Jennifer & Jonathan

We're Jennifer and Jonathan Fenske and we write children's books and novels, and once, we made an app for iPad. We also make baby girls, with some regularity. Visit our online store for modern art for kids, FatandAppy.com. 

Buy Brick: A Jonathan Fenske Illustration

Jonathan has always been fascinated with fairy tales. Here's a recent illustration of the Three Little Pigs, with both the industrious Pig #3 and the Big Bad Wolf thinking that bricks come in pretty handy. An illustration of the Three Little Pigs by Jonathan Fenske

Jonathan is a Penguin USA children's book author and illustrator available for commissioned work. He's collaborated with some fabulous agencies and creative firms. For more information: jonathan (AT) jonathanfenske (DOT) com. 

Family Room Makeover: It's An "After"

We're done with our DIY family room makeover! Well, I guess you can never say "done" because there's always something, right? We would loooove to install hardwoods one day. And we'll always arrange art around our house. And I did just order a Threshold side table on Target's "Clearance on Clearance" online sale. Target, you vixen! Anyway, we all know decorating a home is an ongoing process. This summer's project, however, has come to a close. You can get caught up on the beginning and our open shelf building and even our desk construction. Other readers will remember this is where we started in June: too much kid clutter, a green wall color I was beginning to loathe and bookshelves that were falling apart:

A family room

And here we are now. This is our "After."

A modern family room

We arranged the chairs and couch to create (we hope) a welcoming space that says, "Sit down and relax." Before, the couch faced all of the toy mess and I always felt like sitting down was something to do in a hurry, on my way to pick up a toy. I rarely ever sat on my couch (that I love!). I would despair of the kid junk, too. We don't have a toy room or spare room for kiddie flotsam. I just couldn't figure out how to fix it. And then I did.

Two orange chairs with a yellow coffee table

We ended up donating most of the baby's toy bin. Rattles and teethers were all tossed, since she's past that stage. Toys she never played with (even if I thought they were so cute or so German or so eco-friendly....all donated because if a child doesn't play with a toy, then why keep it?) After all of that purging, we were left with a basket worth of awesome baby toys. Then, we sold the bins on Craigslist. The second toy bin was curated down in the same manner, although our 4 and 7-year-olds had veto power over most of the save-toss decisions. We placed that bin in the basement and if they want a toy that they can't live without, they can go down there and get it. This has happened exactly once.

Pillows from HomeGoods

The yellow table was a surprise. I originally wanted an ottoman in front of the couch and even started a jam jar fund (when I want something that's outside the household budget, I start a glass jar with a picture of the thing I desire. I sell stuff on CL until I have enough funds.) Anyway, as the jar fund began to grow, the ottoman started looking pretty indulgent. For the cost of a well-built fabric ottoman, I could do a lot more with my decor budget. So, I shifted gears and went the coffee table route. But I wanted rounded edges, no cold stone or rough wood. I found an inexpensive Queen Anne-style coffee table for $40 on CL and then purchased about $21 in paint. I used Valspar's Oatland Daisy after I sanded the table and did some very minor repairs.

A living room makeover with Petrie sofa

The open gray shelving combined with the mid-mod dresser is definitely my favorite part of the entire room. You know how you want something to go in your head sometimes? And it hardly ever turns out that way? Well, color me happy, because this time, what I envisioned actually worked out. I hope I'm on a roll.

Modern shelves with wooden shelf brackets

I won't lie, the baby knocked over this vase of zinnias after she woke up from her nap. We do not keep anything delicate at her height. (I held back the other two girls by drawing an imaginary line behind the couch while I took pictures.) I'm just keeping it real, folks. This room does not look like this now. It won't ever look this way again. That's why there's a stack of library books in the next picture. The only thing we can keep down low are books and usually, they are strewn around the room. We don't do knick-knacks. Or balls of pretty HomeGoods twine. Or jars of sea urchin skeletons. Are you kidding me?

A vase of zinnias on a coffee table painted with Valspar Oatland Daisy

The art on this wall is work by (clockwise from top); Robert Matre, Matre Gallery, Atlanta; Near and Deer from Fat and Appy; and Katie Fenske Bridges. You can see her amazing Etsy jewelry shop here. The chair is vintage.

Jonathan Fenske art and other artists

I posted this picture the other day (it's from last week). I love my desk and I'm thrilled it cost a fraction of a store-bought desk. Hurray!

A picture of a family room makeover with Jonathan Fenske art

A DIY wooden desk

I thought the coffee table might be too hard at first for our rough-and-tumble girls. All of the girls have rolled off the couch and hit it at least once. But they are learning to avoid it. And I placed a few extra pillows under the coffee table for fort building. It's funny...now that they don't have all of their broken and abandoned toys living in the family room, they use my stuff to play: baskets, pillows, blankets, cushions.

A Petrie couch with a yellow coffee table

Whew, that was some summer! You can't see it, but the girls are panting around the corner, dying to be released to trash the room once more. But that's living with kids and I'll take it every day of the week. The best part of the new room? I "enter" by walking past the couch and snuggle into the cushions. Within minutes, at least one child has piled on top of me. Babies climb up, 4-year-olds nap and 7-year-olds talk theology and pranks on that couch with their mama. It's heaven. So, I would say my main goal of making the room fit our family better has been achieved. And I don't have to paint anything anymore...at least for a while. Happiness!

Sources:

Wall paint: Benjamin Moore "Moonshine" color-matched to Olympic's No-VOC in satin; Couch: "Petrie," Crate and Barrel; Mid-mod dresser: Mod Mid Century; Orange chairs, ottomans: Storehouse; Wooden desk: custom; Open shelves: "Straight 10" shelf brackets by Tyler Morris Woodworking, Fort Collins, CO; Paint on desk and open shelves: Benjamin Moore "Storm Cloud Gray" color-matched to Olympic's No-VOC in semi-gloss; Rocking chair: vintage; Coffee table: Craigslist, painted with Valspar "Oatland Daisy" spray paint in flat (legs and sides) and same color but with liquid paint in satin (top); desk chair: a store in Atlanta, I've forgotten the name, sorry!; Media cart, curtains, trash can and silver shelf: IKEA; Pillows: HomeGoods; White pouf: Crate and Barrel; Art: most is FatandAppy.com or Jonathan Fenske; also, Robert Matre, Katie Fenske Bridges; Bruce Clark; Emma Klingbeil. We're Jennifer and Jonathan. And we're parenting three girls and making art. Thank you for visiting our blog! Please stop by again. 

A New Wooden Desk in the Family Room

I'm happy to report our family room makeover is complete. Today, I'll show you the corner desk Jonathan and I collaborated on. A little backstory: I don't have a proper desk in our house. We have a desk in the living room where Jonathan works, and I mooch off of his space when he's not working. It's an arrangement that we started once I quit my social media job back in April. So, we've kind of limped along, me working when he's not. We know we need a permanent solution (finish the basement? rent a studio offsite?) but for now, we're winging it. That's how I came to the "what should I do with that corner in the family room?" You might remember that the "Before" family room looked like this:

A family room

Check out the back corner on the right---that space to the right of the red rocking chair. I knew I could put something there special, and it finally hit me: a DESK! My own desk, lah.

Jonathan is Mr. Frugal and when he heard I was looking at $300 West Elm Parsons desks (he heard because I said, "Honey, I think I'll put a Parsons desk here!"), he went into DIY mode. Love my man.

We picked up a cheap piece of oak plywood from Lowes (about $15) and some thin oak strips to give the cheapie board a nice edge. Then, we used the paint we had for the open bookshelves, Benjamin Moore Storm Cloud Gray color matched to Olympic No-VOC Premiere paint in semi-gloss. (You can read all about those shelves in our recent shelf bracket DIY post.)

First, Jonathan attached the thin trim strips to the front and one side of the desk (the back and other side would touch the wall, so they didn't need trim.) He pre-drilled the holes (to keep the wood from splitting) and used deck screws and wood glue. Then, he propped it up in our indoor/outdoor woodworking shop. (Otherwise known as a "garage.") It was now my turn!

A picture of a DIY wooden desk being built

Jonathan countersunk the screws for me, leaving a little hole to fill with Plastic Wood. I scooped some up with a spackle knife and swiped it on. The Plastic Wood tends to sink, so I did this twice after letting the first application dry. We did all of this so the trim edge would be smooth with no bumpiness from the nails.

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After that second application, the hole was nice and flush. I sanded it well.

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I then brought the desk top into the house and primed it, using the Valspar Bare Wood primer we used for the open shelves. I also primed the two Parson legs I bought from Lowes. They were about $9 a piece and are made of a solid hardwood. Pretty and simple. We just needed two because the back of the desk was designed to rest on little rails. More on that later.

DIY-desk-how-to

The next day, I moved on, painting the legs with the gray paint. This is my favorite picture. Of course, we have peanut butter on the floor. Don't you? (True story: Our 17-month-old toddler will go into the pantry, take out food and leave it on the floor. She'll sit down beside it, as if to say, "I like to eat, people. So, why aren't you feeding me NOW?")

DIY-desk-how-to

I painted the desk top, using the roller. I like the even coverage and it's faster (for me, anyway). Gray happiness!

DIY-desk-how-to

At this point, Jonathan jumped back in and attached the leg brackets. This was pretty cheap---I think a few dollars each. We bought two, of course.

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And here's a shot of the table leg, masterfully painted, don't you think?

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Jonathan carefully measured and mounted the poplar support rails, pre-drilling the holes before attaching them to the wall.

A how-to-DIY desk project from I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske

Using a level, he made sure the desk top was level before attaching the desk to the rails (from underneath, so the screws wouldn't show, and, once again pre-drilling the holes).

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And after drying and arranging, here it is:

A picture of a family room makeover with Jonathan Fenske art

Sources:

Orange chair: Storehouse

Desk, custom: (read this post!)

Art: Sweet Pea in Blue and Fast Car, both by Fat and Appy™ Modern Art for Children (this is our line of modern art prints on canvas). Canvas of rock and tree with silver frame: original still-life painted by Jonathan Fenske.

Paint: Benjamin Moore Storm Cloud Gray color-matched to Olympic Premiere No-VOC in semi-gloss.

Chair: Modern furniture store in Atlanta---can't remember the name

Trashcan, curtains, silver shelf: IKEA

White porcelain votive holders: Target

Sitting fox: Zsolnay

Stained glass window: Vintage

And another shot, from the left.

A corner wooden desk tutorial from I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske

You know me, I like to get all artsy.

A picture of a colorful birdhouse from I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske

This is a tincut from the Georgia folk artist R.A. Miller. This is the first piece of art I ever bought. I was 18. I still adore it.

An RA Miller tincut in artist Jonathan Fenske's family room

So, that's the path from boring blah spot to my own little corner and my own little chair! I'm really happy to sit there, work, organize and kind of just daydream sometime.

What's next? Pictures of the entire room so you can see how our family room makeover turned out! I was held up a little by some long days of cloud coverage (photos with a flash drive me crazy, and I wanted to spare you that). Also: I picked up a Queen Anne-style coffee table and painted it, so that took a few days. It's in the new room and I wanted to debut that cutie pie table here. So, soon and very soon!

Darling Gray: In Which I Ask Way Too Much From A Can of Paint

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:

A selection of gray wall paint from Fat and Appy Modern Art for Children

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.

Jennifer paints the walls gray with Benjamin Moore Moonshine

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.

Moonshine on kitchen walls

The kitchen picture looks a little shiny...I think I took the pic when the walls were still wet.

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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.

A bag of items from Home Goods

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! 

The Magical Wood Shop: Tyler Morris Woodworking

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:

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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!

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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.)

Tyler Morris Woodworking

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Tyler Morris Woodworking Fort Collins CO

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.

Tyler Morris Straight 10 shelf brackets

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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.

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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.)

Straight 10 shelf brackets from Tyler Morris Woodworking

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.

Straight 10 shelf bracket by Tyler Morris Woodworking

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! 

Family Room Makeover: It's On Like Donkey Kong

Bad things happen when husbands travel. Things like reading one too many posts on Young House Love. Adding images to my Ideabooks on Houzz. Trolling Craigslist for mid-modern furniture.

So, while Jonathan traveled for work for eight days, I diligently tended the homefront, the Fat and Appy front and the three girls under age seven front (including two ballet classes, three gymnastics classes, one drama camp performance, untold grilled cheese sandwiches, three playdates plus a bottle of wine shared with my neighbor, Felicia. But who's counting?)

And while the little angels slept, I plotted big-time about what to do with our child-friendly family room that makes me want to surrender my Dwell subscription. We have good furniture (minus the bookshelves); we have great art. The room is light-filled. It's just never, ever come together. So this week, I Googled, trolled, schemed and dreamed.

You can probably see where this is going: It's time for a Family Room Makeover!

This morning, I purchased a mid-mod dresser on Craigslist that will anchor the new family room back wall. It's gorgeous, wonderful, amazing. We'll (and by that I mean, Jonathan) build shelves. He's even going to make me a corner desk since I don't have a proper desk but kind of drift all over the house with my iPad. A wall color change is also in need. Our seedling green was pretty in 2007 but I am over it, yo.

Here's what we're working with:

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Tons of toy overkill...would love your suggestions about what to do with that. We'll need to replace the floor lamp bowl at the back right that was broken twelve hours after an all-family IKEA trip. Also, we'll probably rearrange art because we like to do that. The rocker at right will stay---my parents redid it as a gift and I love it. The antique hutch at far left was my grandmother's and I adore it, staying. Have to figure out what to do with the television. We're not big tv watchers, but we like to have a set for Netflix DVD's. I can't imagine spending money on a flat-screenie-thingie. But that honkin' tube-style set is kind of ridiculous.

The bookshelves are already on Craigslist. You can read how I tried to warn potential buyers what they are in for with these pretty, lying shelves. They've been ridden hard and put up wet. We tried to love you, O Bookshelf, but you would have none of it. Farewell, farewell.

So, it's on! We'll share the journey with you as we go. And this will probably be the last time Jonathan travels for quite some time, don't you think?

Hello! We're Jennifer and Jonathan and we're tickled you stopped by. Sign up for our Fat and Appy emails at left or follow us in the normal places. Welcome! 

Fat and Appy at the Farmers' Market

We did something new-to-us Saturday: we set up shop at the Bradburn farmers' market in Westminster, CO. Having a Fat and Appy table was a new experience, as was talking to other moms and dads about our modern art canvases. You see, I'm so used to looking at the canvases, thinking about the canvases, and working to share the canvases with the world, that it was a little strange to have to explain that, well, we sell modern art canvases. Most people thought they were looking at an original painting.

That's a tribute to our trusted vendor who uses a Giclee method to print our canvases. The quality of the canvases is stunning. They look like original paintings.

Jennifer Fenske talks to a customer at the farmers' market.

So, I found myself stumbling over the words a few times. I'll have to get smoother and less flustered.

While we were at the market, we made new friends with Daniel and Kristen from the Early Bird Restaurant in Bradburn. I enjoyed their wonderful coffee and a delicious piece of banana bread. I love discovering new indie restaurants, and I know we'll come back and eat breakfast at their restaurant in downtown Bradburn.

A vase of flowers

Big Idea was also at the market and they set up the best kids' creative activities. Our girls painted with foam and water for over an hour. They also decorated empty cardboard boxes.

The kids take turns drawing their versions of the guppy from Jonathan's book Guppy Up!

I loved the bustling nature of the market, the neighbors all stopping to chat and catch up, and of course, I loved the food.

Fresh organic strawberries.

Carrots at the farmers' market in Colorado.

Cupcake from the farmers' market.

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Jars of homemade jam from the farmers' market.

Jonathan read Guppy Up! to the kids at the market. This always cracks me up...kids really can say some hysterical things.

Jonathan Fenske reads the children's book, Guppy Up!

After he read, Jonathan drew his guppy character for the children and then they made their own versions.

Jonathan Fenske draws the guppy from his children's book Guppy Up!

Going from "online" to real-time was definitely a first for our new business. Maybe we'll try art fairs or other festivals. I'm not sure yet. I like the convenience of selling online...the store is open while I'm asleep! But there's something to be said for talking with parents and hearing their feedback and what they want for their children's decor. I would like to find a way to balance both. Either way, banana bread must be involved.

Welcome! We're Jennifer and Jonathan, and we make art, books, canvas prints and other fun things. Check out Fat and Appy to learn more. We are so glad you stopped by!

The True Tale of the Millionaire's Silver Chandelier

Our story begins like all good tales do: with a mystery. What would await us at the millionaire's home?

A little backstory: Three Thanksgivings ago, my brother and sister-in-law invited us to their house in Santa Fe for the holiday. We love visiting their very lively family which includes my three young nephews. There is always punishing physical activity to enjoy: hikes, skiiing, mountain biking; even one year, hula hooping.

As we prepared to leave our Denver suburb, my brother Eric casually informed us by phone that he had found us a really great place to stay. We were intrigued because normally we would crash at his house (at that time, four of us plus dog). It turned out that Eric's wife had family who were leaving town for Thanksgiving but really wanted someone in their house to keep an eye on it. We would be that someone, and I was happy to help. Eric said only: "They have a really nice house. We don't bring the boys over."

{We made the trip to Santa Fe, stopping as we normally did for the girls: sippy cups, potty breaks, screaming breaks (us, not them). Looking back, we thought two kids were hard, hah!}

We followed the directions to a swanky area of Santa Fe and then turned into the drive of a lovely home. The houses in Santa Fe kind of run together in my head (adobe, adobe, blue gate, adobe) but I could tell this home was gorgeous and a cut above the rest. But it was when we walked inside that we did the jaw-drop thing. The house was a stunner. A huge, long gallery connected both wings of the house. The gallery was like an art museum with paintings, southwestern artifacts, indigenous instruments. We broke into an immediate sweat, glancing down at our two little wild-child girls (who were 3 and 1 at the time).

The zebra-striped leather chair: off limits.

The fragile glass vase on the coffee table: super off limits.

The 100-year-old drum skinned with something priceless: so, so off-limits.

The master bedroom was huge, spa-like and uber gorgeous. The two pre-teen girls rooms were fantastic and gave me ideas for our girls for the future. The garage floor was heated and painted. I couldn't figure out how to use the coffee maker. Our absent hosts thoughtfully left us the password for their Mac. All in all, it was a wonderful, pampering and out-of-this world experience. Miraculously, we broke nothing.

Our second day there, we drove away from the house and spied something plopped on top of a neighbor's trash can. We're frugal people, so we did the usual double-take and discovered some swanky-type neighbor had thrown out a silver chandelier. Brakes applied, Jonathan got out and gave me the thumbs' up. The chandelier was dirty, but we could see it was very, very pretty. We decided to grab it, and none too soon, as a garbage truck rumbled down the street toward us.

It's been almost three-and-a-half years and this week, we finally decided to hang the chandelier. I had almost forgotten what it looked like. When Jonathan got it out of the basement, I was dazzled. It's really, really lovely with curved arms, delicate-yet-strong decorative finishes and a luminous silver glow. Jonathan took it apart, rewired it, added a chain and the chandelier was ready to go.

But first, we had to say goodbye to the chandelier that came with the house six years ago. Nothing against this light fixture, but it's not really our style.

Jonathan on ladder

Then Jonathan spent a little time getting the new chandelier to hang just right. It reminds me of old Hollywood glamour. Kind of fun for our suburban home.

Silver chandelier

The chandelier is really well made. The screws are straight screws and the UL tag looked very vintagey. Anyone know how old it might be?

Detail of a silver vintage chandelier

At our next house (someday, the Dream House!), I want to hang this in our bedroom. It wouldn't work there now---there is no light installed in the ceiling and to do it retroactively would be kind of nuts (we've looked into it).

Silver vintage chandelier

And, so there you have it: a true tale of a chandelier destined for the trash heap but recycled into a certainly more humble abode. We love  it, every sweet silver curve.

Cost of chandelier project: 

Chandelier: Free

Assorted parts to rebuild chandelier including six new socket covers, six bulbs, wiring kit with silver chain: $32

Ladder: Borrowed from neighbor, free

How to Be Creative When You Are Exhausted: 3 Things You Need to Know

When people find out you have written a book, they often will share that they, too, have a book idea. It's in their head, this book, and one day, they will write it down. I get it, I really do.

Colorado artist Jonathan Fenske

Most of us--all of us, really--have something creative inside that's yearning to get out. We have been blessed with a gem of creativity and before long...it starts to rattle and roll around our heads and hearts until we just know that it must come out. Maybe it's a new recipe, maybe it's starting a blog or a book, maybe it's taking a photography class to finally master that new DSLR.

Whatever it is, this creative nugget can wither in the face of life. In the face of reality. The just getting up and getting on can smother even the most elegant and eye-popping ideas.

I know tiredness. I know messy houses with clean laundry piled high waiting for the folding fairies to show up. I know the exhaustion that comes from starting the day early with small children, commuting to an office, doing good, hard work, and then returning to love those children with dinner, baths, books and prayers.

After that, what's left? A scrap of an hour? But what of bills, organizing, phone calls with sisters, or a quiet chat with your spouse? How does anything creative get done in a home like this? 

I'm only an expert in my own life (and Jonathan would say his, as well, ha!) but here are three things that have helped us. I hope they can be of use to you, too.

1. Communicate to the people who live in your house what you will be doing. 

I have a persistent child who loves to draw out bedtime so it's about two hours long. If I give in to her nightly demands, I would never write another word in my life. So, I say to the older girls: "Mommy is putting you to bed at 7:45. You can read for a while, but I am going downstairs and writing." They hardly ever argue when I set up the evening like this.

You have to draw the line in the sand for your time to be creative. Protect that space. Maybe your time is your lunch hour when you walk to a coffee shop and bang out some words on your tablet at a dented coffee table (I've done this). Or perhaps you trade babysitting with another mom so you can attend a Craftsy class while the house is quiet.

I know some of you are thinking: "But I am tired and you're telling me to work more!" Yep, I sure am. Trust me on this one: when you step into that magic hour, you will work hard. But you'll come out jazzed, energized, more alive. And the best part? You won't be resentful or snippy because you are doing what you are supposed to do: fulfilling your calling.

2. Accept that you cannot do everything. And then do just one thing. 

We are launching an online store to sell stretched canvas prints of some of Jonathan's designs. My to-do list is a mile long as we get ready to roll out the store to bloggers, designers and our art supporters. My head could spin, but I learned long ago that today only has a few things on the list. Maybe five, sometimes just one. You'll get better at figuring out what goes on the list, but here's a hint: When it's on the list, it gets done. That's because you've given it a sacred place on the list, and you have focused your heart and mind on it.

It does no good to make lists that you cannot do. If you cannot devote an hour to writing a blog post, then don't add it to the list. Instead, your list should include the things you can do. Maybe it's Return Liz's email and Send invoice to client.

3. Never, ever compare yourself with anyone else's success. 

You've finally stepped into that magic hour. The work is happening and you take a moment to read a favorite blogger. She's just announced her new book contract, her development deal with a cable network and she tops it off by sharing glamorous photos from a recent trip to New York (sponsored by Glade!)

This is what you must know: you will drain away your last resources if you waste a moment of jealousy on someone else's success. 

You don't want her troubles, and she doesn't want yours.

Let it go, wish the wonderful writer/artist/actor/mom well and go back to your journey. Your gift is something the world needs and even though you are exhausted, it's up to you to make it happen. Being resentful or spiteful or envious only hurts your creative offering because we might not get to see it. Discouragement is an ugly step-sister to jealousy.

Guard your time well. Be grateful for your opportunities, even when they happen quietly, out of the public eye. Give thanks for each spark of genius you have. And may you have many more.

What about you? How are you creative even when exhausted? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Criminal Reshelving and Other Seedy Book Details

The first few weeks since Love Is in the Air published have been super fun, super exciting. We receive great pictures texted to us from friends and family around the country who have so kindly ventured out to bookstores to pick up a copy. Here's one from our dear friends, the C----- family who may or may have not engaged in a little "criminal reshelving." That's the practice of artfully promoting your loved one's books to the front row. Ahem, totally not condoning the practice but....thanks ya'll! http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

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http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

Other Fenske news: Jonathan heads into the studio tomorrow with Room 214 for some visual scribe work. That's where he sits and draws and they take like a million pictures of him and then editors stitch it all together into something really cool. He's also doing painting commissions, per usual. He's currently working on a commission of an Andy Warhol portrait and the other day, Jonathan had a slip of the tongue and called it an "Einstein portrait." We both giggled because there's kind of a big difference.

Jennifer (that's me!) is scheduling children's book blogger visits for Jonathan. Jodie from the awesome young readers blog Growing Book by Book has graciously agreed to post about Love Is in the Air; writing coach and all-around awesome author Rochelle Melander will also have Jonathan do some guest posts in February and then again in May.

I also work on Fat and Appy each day. Still find it crazy that we have an iPad app for sale on the App Store. Wild! People ask me what our next app will be and I think definitely ebooks. We both love children's books so much and it would be a cinch to take Jonathan's orphaned books and turn them into digital wonders. First, though, we have to get through promotion for Guppy Up! which comes out next month.

 

 

Love Is in the Air: Jonathan's New Children's Book Is Published!

This week was a fun one in the Fenske household. Jonathan's first children's book that he wrote and illustrated published Dec. 27. Love Is in the Air (Penguin USA) is the story of a lonely balloon and a lively kite and their special day in the park together. Jonathan is pretty excited and I am over the moon. It's not every day you get to walk into Barnes and Noble and see your sweetie's new book on the shelf. Proud of you, baby!  

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

Love Is in the Air is available in soft cover, hardcover and (soon!) it will be an enhanced ebook, produced by Penguin's awesome ebook partner.

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

What's next for Jonathan? Penguin will release Guppy Up! Feb. 7, 2013. Plus, he always has new children's books in progress, and Penguin is interested in some new titles for 2014. So, stay tuned!

Art Party!

Our middle girl turned four Sunday, which of course is a terribly big deal. We hosted an art party and Jonathan took the kids through a lesson in painting their own "Pop-art"-sicles. It was an adult joke, but some of those kids were pretty smartypants and I think they got it. We were overwhelmed with the kids' creativity and powers of concentration. Cake, presents, art...color us happy! (and completely exhausted.) http://www.jonathanfenske.com

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

www.jonathanfenske.com

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

 

Heavy Odds: We'll Take Them

Yesterday, we woke up to fun news and several "congratulations!" emails: Healthy Creatures, our children's app for iPad was featured in the Denver Post. We were interviewed by technology reporter Andy Vuong; Aaron Ontiveroz took our portrait. Both journalists were awesome and couldn't have been easier or nicer to work with. I liked Andy's angle in the story about the hard road ahead of us as indie mobile app developers in a crowded market. He's absolutely correct---finding mobile app success on the App Store without Disney or Dora in your name is really, really tough. But here's the thing: working our tails off in the creative world is all Jonathan and I have ever known. It was tough when Jonathan was a talented painter in search of a gallery. He walked in and out of galleries in Atlanta until he found one that believed in him. Jonathan's paintings now hang in collectors' homes across the U.S., a museum, foundations and currently, Santa Fe. His commission backlog is months long.

It was tough when I wanted so badly to publish my novel, I could barely step into a bookstore without being overcome by longing. I wrote query letters and was rejected by everyone on my list--until an agent took a chance and asked me to rewrite my first novel. That one didn't sell, but my agent sold the next one to St. Martin's Press. And the next one.

It was tough when I wrote novels at the kitchen table after working all day at my marketing job. Both times, my belly was swollen with a kicking, nutrient-sucking daughter. But Jonathan would not let me give up. When the development dragged on for Healthy Creatures, Jonathan told me to dig deep and keep at it---that we would see it through, together. And we did, with a third newborn daughter kicking on the floor beside me as I worked.

And it was tough when Jonathan kept rising to the top of the slush pile for his children's books that he wrote and illustrated. He came so close several times before a major publisher offered a contract. We rejoiced, champagne flowing, and then plummeted to earth when the publisher shuttered the imprint, dumping all of the recently acquired titles. I watched in awe as Jonathan picked himself up and headed back out there, pitching his books on his own. In December 2012 and then again in February 2013 Penguin USA will publish Jonathan's children's books Love Is In the Air and Guppy Up!

Do you have a dream? Of course you do. If you've read this far, let me tell you: it will be tough. You'll never work harder. But don't you dare give up.

The odds are heavy? Of course they are. You are short of money? Time? Connections? We are, too.

But here's the thing: the alternative is not trying. That's not an option for so many of us. So, for that, I'll take a longshot any day.

What's your longshot dream? Tell us in the comments so we can encourage you.

Sunday at Home: Flying Cars

Around the suburban manse today: making mixed berry crisp with my 6-year-old while the other two girls sleep; trying vainly to clean a curtain that has yogurt splatter-patter; also, lots of lazy reading and skipping around the backyard that now has sad-looking flowers and tomatoes, hardened by last night's cold snap. And of course, the whispered wish of a 3-year-old: "I wish we had a flying car."

Have you heard of Gumroad?

Just saw this on LinkedIn. It's a way to sell things to your friends and followers that you create. I've often thought it would be fun to just sell small things and gain awareness for a newbie project without having to go through such hoopla to do it. For instance, to get a book on the bookshelves, you have to have lawyers and contracts and then wait a year to see it. And you get a tiny cut of the price. Sometimes, I just want to write a story or publish a coloring book without all of the fuss. Or the expense.  

Gumroad, Pinterest, Etsy...we are living in a magical age!

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