Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Coloring Sheet

"I've got my eyes on you!"

Print them out, color them in, send me a photo, and I'll post them on my blog! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Upcoming Autograph Party

I'll be signing books at 4Kids Books & Toys, a super cute little store, on Saturday, Nov 10 with some other nice children's book authors. Please stop on by if you're in the area - it'll be a great time to buy personalized books as Christmas presents and to chat. Our SCBWI region is hosting this Autograph Party to celebrate our members' books that were published in 2011 and 2012. I love that we get to celebrate each others' books! Help us spread the news by copying this announcement to your own blog or Facebook:

I just created a Facebook page for my art and books:

Time to put on a snuggly sweater and make some hot chocolate!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Illustration Friday - "Sky"

From book #4, THE ONE AND ONLY WILLA BEAN, in a chapter book series called Little Wings that I'm illustrating for Random House. This series is super sweet and fun! Here's the summary for book #4:

Every cupid has a one-of-a-kind flying friend, right? Wrong! Willa Bean has Snooze, an owl, but the new girl in school, Lucy, has an owl, too! And Lucy's owl is bigger, and maybe even smarter, than Snooze. What if Mr. Wingston overshadows Snooze at Noble Nimbus Day? Nope, nope, nope-ity nope. Willa Bean has to make sure Snooze is the best owl at Cupid Academy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mom's Pumpkin Pie Recipe

My mom's pumpkin pie recipe is in my recent interview on Jama's Alphabet Soup blog, but I thought I'd copy it here too, since it's the time of year to eat, eat, eat pumpkin pie. Pumpkins play a role in the picture book I illustrated called THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN, and pumpkin pie is one of my all-time favorite foods. Not just any pumpkin pie, though. It has to be my mom’s recipe. The spices are just perfect in hers, and seem off to me when I try other pumpkin pies. I may be a bit biased, but try this recipe and see.
1-1/3 cup sifted regular flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco shortening
3 tablespoons water
Spoon the flour lightly into measuring cup. Combine flour and salt in mixing bowl. Add Crisco. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in Crisco until uniform; mixture should be coarse. Sprinkle with water, a tablespoon at a time; toss with fork. Work dough into a firm ball with your hands.
On a floured surface, roll dough to a circle about 1.5” larger than inverted pie plate (9-inch deep-dish for pumpkin pie). Gently ease dough into pie plate without stretching. Fold under the top edge to make it double thickness around the rim and flute it with your fingers.
“Pie pumpkins” are sweeter and less grainy than the usual jack-o-lantern type pumpkins. Grocery stores or your farmer’s market should carry them during pumpkin season. One pie pumpkin yields more than enough for one pie; I’ve gotten over 5 cups of pumpkin out of a bigger one.

Cut the pumpkin in half. I’ve found the best tool for this is a cheap, little, jack-o-lantern carving knife. Scrape the insides out using an ice cream scoop. If you’d like, save the seeds and roast them in the oven with a bit of salt, oil, and/or cinnamon or any spices. Mmmm…
You can cook the pumpkin several different ways: steaming, baking, pressure cooker, or microwave. I stuck mine in a microwave bowl on high for 15 minutes or until it’s soft enough to scoop out easily.
Scoop it into a blender or blend it using a stick blender until it’s smooth. Use 15 oz for the pumpkin pie recipe below. It comes to about 1 2/3 cup if you don’t have a kitchen scale.
15 oz puréed pumpkin (you can use fresh or canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix well sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl. Beat eggs briefly in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake 40 minutes or until butter knife inserted near center comes out clean. Sometimes it takes a lot longer to bake if you use fresh pumpkin. Refrigerate leftovers. Yum…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interview & Book Giveaway

Have you seen Jama's Alphabet Soup blog? It's a blog combining food and children's books. What could be yummier!

I've illustrated a picture book called THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN by Janna Matthies. Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jama interviewed Janna and I on her Alphabet Soup blog about the book.

The interview is full of photos, heartfelt questions and answers, a video of Janna singing at our Bookfair, and of course recipes (including my homemade pumpkin pie!).  There's a delicious giveaway you can enter by commenting on the post - the publisher will give away 2 new copies of THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN. Head on over!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Highlights Illustrators' Party

Every year Highlights invites their illustrators and our families to their headquarters in Honesdale, PA for a delicious weekend. It's a lovely little town, and this is a gorgeous time of year to hit it with the falling leaves. The folks at Highlights magazine and Boyds Mills are so friendly and generous - what a neat company to illustrate for!

They fill our weekend with fun activities, but the highlight is definitely the costume party. These are illustrators creating costumes, right? So the costumes are creative and fantastic and totally overboard! This year the theme was Superheroes, and boy, we illustrators sure fancy ourselves Superheroes.

My last name is Valiant, which means we are Superhero Royalty.

When contemplating our outfits, I knew I wanted custom capes, belts, masks, and so on, but I don't sew. Instead, I found this magic tape called Stitch Witchery to secure the edges of the fabric without sewing; you iron the seams together. It can be washed, but I doubt it would hold up to too many washings. It worked great for all 4 of our belts and the girls' capes.

I cut our V logos from stiff felt and sparkly gold foam (about a dollar per sheet at Michaels) and hot-glued and hand-stitched them to our capes, belts, masks, and crowns.

For our masks, I bought a couple soft microfiber washcloths from the dollar store and used that instead of elastic - so much softer! I downloaded a free template for the shape of the masks.

To get double wear out of the costumes, we used them a couple weeks ago for our daughter's first birthday party and made it a Superbaby party!