Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Inspiration Wednesday: Hop on Pop

"Up Pup, Pup is Up". And with that we're off with Hop on Pop a book short on words but big on wordplay. And when we get to "No, Pat, no. Don't sit on that!" my daughter is so wrapped up in the book that she says a mournful "No!" before I finish turning the page.

I'm not under any delusions (other than the stereotypical new mom belief that everything Juliet does is BRILLIANT!!!) that she's reading at 18 months but love that she's interested enough in books to chime in when she knows what's coming next.

Dr. Seuss could (should?) have a whole month of Inspiration Wednesdays all by himself. He lived many lives before writing children's books - a Massachusetts native son, former ad man before Don Draper made it cool, creator of cartoon Navy training films in WW2. Check out (caution, like many kid's sites, the music is LOUD!) to read about his life and work.

He tried his hand writing children's books but found huge success only after writing a reading primer commissioned using a 220-word vocab list. That book, The Cat in the Hat, became not only a classic but also helped children both learn to read and love to read.

Dr. Seuss/Theodor Geisel/Ted to his friends, whatever his name, he knew how to take the sometimes frustrating process of learning to read and brought humor and rhythm to combat it. His later work touched on war (The Butter Battle Book), environmentalism (The Lorax), anti-materialism (How the Grinch Stole Christmas) and other weighty but universal themes without preachiness. His early-reader books - like Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish - may have lacked big plotlines but helped raise a generation to value books.

I grew up reading his books and watching cartoons & movies (The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T is a trippy masterpiece) based on his imagination. But now I'm more interested in checking out a couple books on Geisel. Donald E. Pease just published brand new biography, Theodor SEUSS Geisel (Lives and Legacies), but I'm more interested in his work than his life. So I'm looking forward to flipping though Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel
His drawings - despite or maybe owing to lack of training - show chaos, catastrophe, mess and most of all fun as commonplace in childhood. His villains are often just closed-minded or snobbish and can be redeemed though expanding their heart a few sizes. His heroes mess up and get scared but generally everything works out OK, even if the house gets trashed. You know, like a typical day with my daughter.
What's your favorite Seuss classic?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Inspiration Wednesday: A Monster at the End of This Book

Watching Sesame Street (warning: loud! NSFW!) now is surreal compared to when I was a child 8 million years ago. Gone are the scruffy Muppets that looked handmade & the city streets that were believably run down. The kids and even grown-up actors could have been our neighbors and the occasional guest star flew right over my head. Clean/shiny/new/technocolor Sesame Street just makes me long for that grit. Plus you rarely see a kid walking his llama.

Of course NYC in the late-70's/early-80s was a very different place than now too.  But there were no pink fairies, gag. OK, I'm old. Get off my lawn!

But my daughter loves Elmo so we'd occasionally check in for the last 20 minutes of the show. I kinda love Elmo's World too - probably because it's a blatant ripoff of Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Our flat-screen broke last month and while we decide on the replacement we've just been using our computers to keep up with our favorite TV shows. Hulu has a lot of Sesame Street clips but not enough Elmo for Juliet's appetite so we've expanded to my old-time favorites. Turns out she hates Kermit but loves Grover. Probably due to reading The Monster at the End of This Book.

Grover is one of my favorite Muppets - he's brazen but easily scared, adventurous but messes up a lot, goofy but lovable. You know, like your own little monster. This book is a whole lot of fun packed into a short story. I don't want to ruin the ending but the title is not a lie!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Fun: Oh, you're THAT Kristin Burns aka Googlegangers

 Happy just THINKING of all my new Googlegangers - Big Pink Photography

Like many people, when I married, I changed my last name. It was a decision I didn't take lightly but I'm glad I made the switch since now my husband, daughter and I all share a family name. But one consequence was going from a much less common name to a more common one. Sure, that makes things easier when spelling it or pronouncing it. But I also gained a whole bunch more Gogglegangers.

What the heck is a Googlegänger? Glad you asked. Basically a person with your exact same name & spelling who may come up in a simple web search for you. I am certain someone has lost a job prospect (or worse, been falsely arrested) due to someone confusing their Jim Smith with the ax murdering Jim Smith. But some people, like those profiled in this funny 2008 New York Times article, embrace their namesakes and their inevitable similarities.

My matches run the gamut, but if you're looking for me online, where are a few detours you may take along the way.

 Marketing & Communications Manager for Undergraduate Admissions at UC Davis
Kick-ass rock photographer & chronicler of the Smashing Pumpkins
 Realtor in Northern Virginia

Hartford CT Radio DJ & bulldog rescuer

I don't know any of these women personally, but I find myself rooting for them. Yes, even the one who has the coveted URL of our name. Who knows? I may someday need a house in Northern Virginia and why wouldn't I call on my Googleganger.

But my favorite namesake may be the fictional character, Kristin Burns, in James Patterson's You've Been Warned. I have not read this book yet, but next time I'm heading to Cape Cod I might have to throw it in my beach bag. This quote alone from the plot description is just like looking in the mirror:

"Kristin searches desperately for what's real through the lens of her camera, only knowing two things for sure: that no place is safe and the fate of everyone she loves lies in her hands."

Words to live (or die!!!) by. And pass on to my other Kristin Burns's.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inspiration Wednesday: A Little Prairie House

buy the series of "My First Little House" books at Powell's Books

Honestly, my daughter loves the whole collection of "My First Little House" books - adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories of growing up in Wisconsin and moving out to the Kansas prairie - so picking just one was difficult. Living in New York City, I have a hard time understanding how tales of covered wagons, sewing patchwork quilts and building your own house are so entertaining to my citified baby. But I'd go beyond entertained to transfixed.

Why A Little Prairie House over equally beloved Dance at Grandpa's or Going to Town? While Going West - where Pa decides (apparently without Ma's input which will provide a lesson on equality of the sexes soon enough) to move the family out to Kansas - is the biggest tear-jerker of the bunch, A Little Prairie House combines the best qualities of Ingalls Wilder's writing in one short story. By focusing on Laura - the 5 year old middle daughter - the wonder, fear & excitement of venturing into unfamiliar territory are easy to identify with even years and miles apart.

Plus it has Mr. Edwards who can dance like a jackrabbit and spit farther than Laura could imagine. Nice!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Fun: Child-friendly Street Art

Playful posies patch potholes - Photo of Pete Dungey's project, "Pothole Gardens"

 I realize municipalities are forced to do more with less. But the crumbling infrastructure leaves cities looking worn and sad. Leave it to 2 artists working on other sides of the world to find beautiful ways to shore up some cracks in the surface.

Over in Britain, Pete Dungey is planting miniature gardens in potholes. The Pothole Gardens project encourages others to fill in the unfilled potholes in their area with pretty little bunches of plants. After reading about him on Apartment Therapy, I checked out Pete's website to discover that he's a design student in Brighton whose work tends to the site specific provocative bent. Depending on your feelings on the word "Rabbit," you'll probably enjoy his other work too.

Legos line ledges - photo of Jan Vormann's Dispatchwork 

 Back stateside, artist Jan Vormann is filling in holes of a different sort in New York City buildings with Lego bricks. Gothamist posted a few photos, but check out Vormann's site for several more of his Dispatchwork project. I especially like the jaded city folks' reactions. 

I'm going to be on the lookout for more artists dealing with public spaces creatively. There's something sweet and optimistic about the 2 installations - both in the childlike materials and the colorful designs.  Let me know if you've seen more examples in your city.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Newborn love

Mmmm, sleepy sweetness

Nothing quite says Spring like all the little newborn creatures. From lambs to chicks, the fuzzy babes are up there with crocuses (croci?) as harbingers of renewal and new life. Newborn babies come year-round but who says they can't help us welcome Spring too?

I have a photo shoot this morning with a family who just had their second daughter only last week. It's been a little while since I've been lucky enough to photograph such a tiny baby and I'm pretty excited. Plus 2 of my daughter's friend's moms (aka my friends) are due with their 2nd babies within the month too and I can't wait to meet them.

If you know someone who is due soon and would like photos of the newborn, send them to my website or email me to book a photo shoot in their home. Those first sleepy/crazy/milky days pass so quickly but those sweet photos will last for many more Springs to come.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inspiration Wednesday: Caps for Sale

 You monkeys you! - buy it from Powell's Books

This month, Inspiration Wednesdays is dedicated to children's books. One of my daughter's favorites (and thankfully mine since it's a daily read) is Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Subtitled "A tale of a peddler, some monkeys and their monkey business," the simple picture book was the first to illicit a big response from Juliet. Sure, it was shaking her fist in fake anger at those naughty monkeys. But since we're all trying to show our kids the joy of reading, what's better than when they catch the bug?

She now grabs books off the shelves and climbs up on the couch saying "oooooh" to entice us to read to her. Luckily, when the stories are as sweet and funny as Caps for Sale, my husband and I happily oblige. Even the 79659th time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Trinkets: Five O'Clock Crows Textiles

All future baby shower gift shopping, done!

I have mentioned Sara Hopp Harper's work before in this blog, but now I can share some photos I recently took of her new line of baby quilts. When I cut open the big brown cardboard box fresh from the postman, I was blown away by the goodies inside.

Sara is the brains & brawn behind 5 O'Clock Crows, hand-dyed batik cotton linens and textiles. She designs the patterns, paints on the wax, concocted lusciously-named (cherry pop, peacock, gold sand) colorways and dyes the fabric in big vats all by her VERY talented self. The fabric alone is artwork. But then - the overachiever - she uses the fabric to make gorgeous tea towels, quilts & other practical masterpieces. You can buy it on Etsy, 1000 Markets or email Sara for commissioned work.

When she started a baby line, she naturally turned to me for photos of her wares. First little bundles of joy? Baby quilts. They are super-soft as well as brightly colored to stimulate your budding genius's spongelike mind. You are all getting the first look at my photos which will soon be expanded to include photos with real live babies cavorting on the quilts. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 5, 2010

March goals: In like a lion

All about the Benjamins (or in this case, Sophies)

Whew! Made it through February into an already crazybusy March. Yes, that's a word now.

A look back at my goals for February :
1. Focus on Bakery's Half-Dozen business course - Very much so! Did business plan, press kit, marketing plan (although I think this has to be redone), added Press section to my site, generally kept up with the Bakery assignments 
2. Take photos for our local wine bar's website - no, and I really should because I could use a drink
3. Reach out to people I admire for more support & ideas, including adding a blog-roll here - done!
4. Blog ahead more - done!
5. Schedule 3 in home shoots - done! Although 1 was a party, it counts.

February was pretty exhausting, work-wise and life-wise. The shortest and bleakest month (in NYC anyway), I dealt with 2 big snowstorms, job interviews, photographing a corporate portrait shoot, a friend/former co-worker's sudden death, movie contest, and grandparent visit. Short month my arse. I'm very glad it's over.

One goal I hadn't listed but accomplished was to find a new photo editing assignment. As of Tuesday, I've been working for Frommers doing some travel photo editing for their site. I'm trying to compress the 30 hours per week into 3 days onsite and so far so good. It gives me 4 days home for hanging out with my daughter & husband and OH YEAH scheduling photo shoots.

On to March & my more time-limited goals:

1. Focus on end of Bakery's Half-Dozen business course & organize all the material they provided
2. Take photos for our local wine bar's website
3. Reach out to people I admire to guest blog
4. Blog ahead more
5. Schedule 4 in home shoot (one down already)
6. Enjoy my office work even if it triggers insane wanderlust

Hope everyone has a fabulous month!