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1. App of the Week: Superimpose

Title: Superimpose
Cost: .99
Platform: iOS or Android

superimpose logoThere are a lot of photo editing apps available. But, sometimes I find that they are confusing to use because they offer a wide assortment of tools for accomplishing a variety of tasks. With Superimpose that's not the case. This app gives users the chance to do one thing - superimpose one image on to another. And, it makes it pretty easy to do that without adding lots of extra bells and whistles.

The basic way that it works is that a user selects a background image. Then selects a foreground image. And then marries the two by creating a mask for the foreground image and using filters to blend things together as much as desired.

The 10 minute screencast below shows you the basics of how Superimpose works. You can then read on to learn about even more features and possibilities.

As briefly shown in the video, along with the "smart brush" that erases unwanted parts of an image, there are other tools that can enhance the photo that you want to superimpose. This includes creating gradients and superimposing text over an image. Filters allow users to change hue and saturation as well as add special photo effects to the superimposed image.

The YALSA "Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action" report highlights the importance of supporting digital and media literacies as a part of 21st century library service. Using Superimpose with and for teens, and giving teens the chance to learn about this app, will help teens to achieve key skills in these areas.

The 99 cent price tag makes it within reach for many libraries. Give it a try.

Have a suggestion for an App of the Week? Let us know. And don't forget to check our App of the Week archive for more great tools.

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2. SPX Photo Gallery — fun times

Posted by Small Press Expo on Saturday, September 19, 2015 I’ll have a longer write up and thoughts on SPX a bit later, but for now I’ll just share SPX’s photo gallery, because I was too darned busy having a good time and talking about great comics to take blurry Hipstamatic photos. I love the above […]

2 Comments on SPX Photo Gallery — fun times, last added: 9/22/2015
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3. Goodbye, July

…she says, half a week into August.


We had family in town and spent a day hanging out with them at their fabulous beach hotel, and another afternoon touring the harbor on a boat cruise. Glorious weather. At one point, we were approaching Point Loma for a glimpse of the lighthouse when my nephew’s phone buzzed—it was Verizon Wireless texting him a “Welcome to Mexico” message. That was just about as far as we got before turning around to cruise past the downtown area. We saw dolphins and sea lions and pelicans—a perfectly satisfying day, according to Miss Rilla, who spent much of the boat ride standing in the wind with her arms spread wide and her grin even wider.

One of the nicest things about living in San Diego is that so many friends wind up vacationing here, and we get to join in.

Back home, I’ve been in blissful planning mode. I adore low tide; low tide is a deep delight; but my little listmaking heart glories in the voyage-charting of high tide just as thoroughly. I spent a morning gathering books from all over the house to fill a shelf for Huck—treasures I want to be sure my last six-year-old (sniff) doesn’t miss. I’ll try to get a picture and a post up soon, because I know some of you enjoy comparing notes that way.

Plans are afoot for Rilla and my two high-school-age girls too: more booklists, more shelves filling up. Every August I do this massive rearranging of the tomes, shifting high-tide resources to the living room where we do indeed do the bulk of our living. Twentieth-century history for the teens this year, and earth science, and Shakespeare of course, and a fat list of literary texts, and the languages they are studying separately. All juicy stuff. Beanie is forging ahead with German, which is extra fun for me, since I’m fair-to-middling in that language myself and always longing to improve my skills.

And loads and loads of art—along with poetry, perhaps our most constant occupation these days. At Comic-Con, I tried out my (brilliantly talented) friend Zander‘s pocket brush pen and was thoroughly intimidated by it. The next day, our (also staggeringly talented) friend Mark Chiarello showed us art from his forthcoming book (his first since his gorgeous book on the Negro Leagues), and he too was working with this pen, whose merits the extraordinary Roz Stendahl is always talking about. Between them, they convinced me to give it a try, and ohhhh, it turns out I’m in love. It is loosening up my line so much. I have a tendency toward a very careful and nervous line, and I’m feeling much freer about taking chances and using my whole arm, thanks to a few weeks with this pen. My book is filling up with a lot of messy, not-so-lovely pages, but in a good way. And every now and then I draw a line I really like. That’s progress.

Meanwhile, Rilla and I are about to dive into Sketchbook Skool’s “More Playing” klass, which started yesterday. We had a ball with “Playing” in July. Our favorite project was the drawing where we took turns for thirty seconds at a time, filling a page with nonsense. Much hilarity there. This, too, is something I’d like to post more about in the week ahead.

I’m overdue for a books post, too. Got on an Anne Shirley kick in July, following my Betsy-Tacy kick in June. Read the series through House of Dreams (skipped Windy Poplars, because I don’t have it on Kindle). I swear Dreams is better every time, even a dozen or more times later.

I also revisited Pudd’nhead Wilson for the first time since high school—shaking my head in bed at Twain’s audacity the whole way through. Oh, how I love him. I’m deep into Mansfield Park right now. No particular reason; it just decided I needed to reread it. I’m a Persuasion person first and foremost, and then P&P, but I do enjoy Mansfield. The urge to smack Mary Crawford upside the head is such a satisfying sensation.

Well, that’s the news from these parts. What’s your August looking like?


Oh, and I met an owl.

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4. As promised


Rilla’s pocket handiwork.

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5. SDCC ’15: How was your Activation?


As many have noted, this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was a success in that, unlike years past, no one got run over by a car, fell off a gate, got stabbed in the eye or died trying to get into a Twilight panel. The last few years of the Con, everyone has gotten used to the whole “It’s too big and crazy!” mindset so they’ve figured out how to deal with whatever logistical nightmares need to be overcome to experience Peak Con Moment. I wasn’t even hungry once this show, for reasons I’ll explain in down below. (Spoiler alert: trail mix.) However I joked around with the original “eating scraps” crew, filmmakers Jordan Renneart and Patrick Meaney about the bad old days many times. I think everyone joked about the bad old days when we didn’t know how to survive Comic-Con. We’re Navy Seals now, trained and elite.

The con was a little bit smaller than last year, and last year was a little bit smaller than the year before. I don’t mean in terms of people—there seemed to be more look-e-loos than ever milling around the Gaslamp. No, smaller in terms of movies, sure, but also pop-ups, parties and massive marketing pushes from studios. Now granted the “activations,” as “they” call the events and booths and Giveaways and experiences, were huge and complicated, from a Scream Queens vertical drop ride, to the hellish Adult Swim theme park our behind the convention center. People slept outside for 24 ours to get into the Star Wars panel and they were rewarded with a once in a lifetime concert march and complimentary lightsaber. That was a very big activation, and I’m sure people will be talking about it for years to come. All the X-men on one Stage taking a selfie with Stan Lee. Warner Bros.’ $600,000 surround screen and Batman v Superman trailer. These were big things. But it’s a thrifty time in Hollywood, and studios now realize that just because a movie is boffo at Comic-Con doesn’t mean it will be boffo in real life. The big promotions were all for films coming out far in the future, not next week, as with notorious underperformers Scott Pilgrim, Cowboys and Aliens and even Snakes on a melon-farming Plane.

When I say Comic-Con was a little smaller, I mean just that: a little smaller. In years past every pedi cab was decked out with Dexter or Comixology. Not any more. The party scene was much less extravagant this year. Float was as busy as ever, but no giant parking lot bashes. (One popular empty lot is being turned into another hotel.) Fewer storefront conversions as well—the rising costs of renting out these venues caused even Hollywood to say, hm, maybe not. Additionally, the Comic-Con model is being exported to D23, Star Wars Celebration and CinemaCon, with maybe a little SXSW thrown in, although I hear that has peaked as well.

And here’s one fun fact that really stunned me: The Wired Cafe only ran for ONE DAY this year, Thursday. Formerly the place to be seen milling around like a nerdlebrity in training, it got too crowded last year, and I guess Wired decided that one day was enough Game of Thrones beer guzzling for the Entourage set. Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.

Not that there still wasn’t plenty to do! Off site video game lounges, Funko fests, parkour courses, zombie runs, and the TV Guide yacht are all still there. And what wonders will the new Marriott Hall hold when it opens next year? Comic-Con is going to stay wild and exhausting and too much to see and do for the foreseeable future but it’s going to evolve, like everything else.

The other big question of the con was what place comics hold in it. Yes yes, comics are the HEART of Comic-Con, but as I reported for PW, it’s become a total brainer for some people. Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan announced they aren’t doing big shows any more; Eric Shanower gave up his long time booth for an artist’s alley table because of the costs. I’ve seen a lot of quiet grumbling on FB and in person about sales not being enough to offset the costs and headaches. Of course a lot of people had great shows, but it really is all about the exclusives and show specials now and those are mostly toys and art prints.

The biggest change at Comic-Con isn’t the cosplayers or the celebrities, but the Collectors. Since getting a badge is a lottery, the people who are most motivated seem to be people who want those exclusives and the overall “activation” not people who want to buy comics, what with about four comic cons every weekend to choose from, and great shows like TCAF and Emerald City for more hard core comics people. I think the fretting I heard from people was about this demographic change and not the show being “too big.” I’m not sure how to change this. You can’t set aside a bunch of tickets just for people who want to see Sergio Aragones and David Aja, although that would be nice. CCI itself does as much as ever to make sure comics are included, and the programming is the most comprehensive in the world, but comics folks may need more motivation to brave the craziness…and I have no idea what that would be.

And littler or not, it is still crazy. I’m sitting here two weeks to the day after I left for Comic-Con, but that doesn’t count the month of intense planning before hand, the mad rush to get everything done just for those five peak days, or the literal months of planning that go into exhibiting at the show for publishers and studios alike. The last six weeks were an insane sleepless grind, but as I sit here I can’t believe it ever happened. I always say Comic-Con marks the end of the fiscal year for comics. For whatever reason those of us caught up in the experience spend the whole year building to it, imagining what might go wrong, or right, how to accomplish everything in the time allotted short of a Time-turner, then blam it happens. Decisions must be made: do that thing you like that you’ve been doing every year for 20 years that you only get to do once a year…or try something else? It’s the ultimate FOMO of YOLO.

Since everyone else has written their con report and no one cares anymore, rather than shape this into a majestic essay, I’m going to go to the bullet points for further observations, then to the Travelog of pictures and then WE’RE DONE. I have exactly 365 days to plan for Comic-Con 2016. Better get started.

• The Eisner wins for modern comics stars Gene Yang, Raina Telgemeier, Ed Piskor, Noelle Stevenson and so on was rightly seen as a watershed but I haven’t seen as many people including Comics Alliance’s win for Best Journalistic Presentation included in that group. CA has been at the forefront of promoting this “modern” view of comics, and when they won early in the evening that should have been a clue as to what was going to happen. It’s about time they won and congrats to the whole crew, especially Beat prodigal Steve Morris.

• I kept hoping to run into people like Michael DeForge and Chip Zdarsky just to hear how they liked Comic-Con. I saw DeForge and Patrick Kyle checking out the Marriott pool early on and he seemed to be having a good time, and then I moderated a panel he was on, but perhaps his twitter feed was the best indication. I glimpsed Chip once but the crowds kept us apart.

• So many people leave badges at the front desk of the Marriott Marina that they have an entire log book just for badge pickup. That kind of blew my mind. I stayed at the Marriott for the first time since…oh the 90s, and it was awesome. My room happened to be the one closest to the elevator so I could get from a much needed lie-down to a panel in room 23AB in 13 minutes! (I timed it.) Marriott 4 life.

Congressman John Lewis cosplaying as himself was probably the most awesome thing at this year’s show.

• While the show was generally smooth, the Funko booth has turned into the New Hall H! It was a hotbed of dissent and chaos. Normally I drop by there late on Sunday just as the show closes to get a thank you present for our cat sitter, but they wouldn’t let me in! Turns out, there were problems all week, as the Unofficial Comic-Con blog reports

According to Funko’s Marketing Coodinator Cameron Deuel, once the convention kicked off, Funko was “noticing a disturbing amount of people lingering around [their] booth before the floor was even open,” which likely meant that exhibitors were swapping badges with regular attendees and hanging around the booth, an unfortunately common occurrence at Comic-Con. This led to frustrating situations for fans who had been lined up for hours, as that combined with the already mad-dash to the booth made it one of the most frustrating lines of the convention.

“My friend and I got into line for Preview Night at 9:15AM on Wednesday,” Stephanie Kariott said. “We were one of the first 10-15 people near the escalators at the G Hall entrance. When we were let in, I booked it to the Funko booth, and as I’m sure you know, by then it was already a madhouse. I jumped in line and spent about 45 minutes not moving at all and not even knowing if I was really in line or if they were going to cap it off in front of me.”

To avoid the camping out in front of the booth Funko started giving away tickets for each day, but didn’t announce it. You can read about how it all worked out in the above post. Some people didn’t get their toys—including The Beat! Here’s just ONE account:

My friends and I tried getting Funkos three different days. The first day (Friday), the security guards told my BFF and I that the line started at 1pm, and we couldn’t hang out around the booth. They said, “If you hang around here, we’ll remember your face and will kick you out of line.” That put the fear of God in us, so we went and hung out at a nearby booth (luckily we knew someone working at the booth). We kept seeing the same people hanging out at other booths and circling around like sharks. Another friend tried to sneak up a little closer. As he describes it, Funko announced that the line was open. In the time it took for him to reach for his phone in his pocket to let us know, they immediately announced the line was capped. Pretty disheartening, but I tried again Saturday. That’s when I found out about the ticketing. Decided it would be worth a shot to ask if anybody in line could buy for me. I lucked out, and the first person in line was only getting one or two things, so they bought most of what I wanted. When I talked to my larger group of friends that night (we had a full group of five), we discovered that there were two different stories for ticketing, according to the security guards: 1. They would be passing out tickets in front of G. 2. They would be passing out tickets at the booth. We decided to shoot for G first on Sunday. Nobody was there, so we went immediately to the booth. Our group attempted to fan out amidst the ever growing mob, and of the five of us, two managed to get Group 2 tickets. So our experience wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but it was definitely a lot of work.


• Artist Ben Templesmith is one of those who decided to host his own offsite, Squid Con, held at the Hilton Bayfront Bar, as reported on by the LA Weekly’s Liz Ohanesian:

The Seattle-based artist describes SquidCon as an “experiment,” a chance to manage his presence at the massive pop culture convention the way he sees fit. “I’m doing it my way this year,” he says. Templesmith, who is from Australia, but has lived in the U.S. for seven years, started attending SDCC in 2001. Two years ago, though, he called it quits on a convention that had ballooned into a major destination for people with a greater interest in blockbuster films and television epics than comic books. “It got too expensive,” he says.

That’s a complaint that plenty of people have had about SDCC. Attending the convention can be a complicated, and pricy, ordeal. Whether you’re going for fun or work, the process of getting a badge requires a rush to the online registration site months in advance of the July gathering. Status as a media professional is not a guarantee for a badge, let alone a spot in one of the hotels that take reservations by lottery. Lodging comes with a hefty price tag too. Even if you are part of a large group crammed into one room, you can expect to pay at least a couple hundred dollars to stay the duration of the con. Then there are the fees for parking and other transportation-related needs, plus food. If you’re an artist, you can add the cost of getting your work to San Diego and running a booth from Wednesday through Sunday to your budget. Even for someone like Templesmith, who has enough of a following to have run several successful crowd-funding campaigns, that’s big pressure to produce sales.

While one man in a bar isn’t the SlamCon that Tr!ckster once seemed to be about to become, is this an idea that may someday catch on? Marriott Hall?

• One venue that was set aside to be comics centric was the San Diego Public Library where panels were held for three days. Unfortunately, from what I heard it was under attended. This is a great venue that should be part of the show — and it isn’t THAT far away as you can see its dome just beyond Petco from the skywalk over Harbor Drive. Hopefully this will be implemented again next year but maybe promoted more.

• You’ll read more about this below, but one of the signature moments of con for me was during a preview night tour of the AMC booth where the women who runs activations told me about how they plan the zombie stuff around iconic scenes from the previous year’s show. “WE don’t have much room to work with,” she said. “Our booth is only 20×40.” That’s 800 sq. ft. Pretty big for a NYC apartment but small for a major booth by one of the hottest properties in pop culture. “Have you ever tried to get a bigger booth?” I asked. With a wistful expression she said “Oh we’ve been trying for that for years. Maybe some day.”

That really brought home to me the real estate crunch on the show floor. Now granted, AMC also had the whole Hilton outside area for a Fear the Walking Dead activation, and parties every night, and a lot of space, but the show floor is super super crowded not just for comics but for EVERYONE. A lot of people have been suggesting that the under the sails area be turned into something more practical than autograph signing, but that would mean my shortcut from the mArriott to room 24AB would be gone, so I’m not sure I like that idea. Anyway, everyone has the same space issues at Con.

• SPekaing of WALking Dead, even though he had THREE TV SHOWS—Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead and Outcast—and a movie—Air—being promoted, Robert Kirkman was the biggest no show. I’m told he’d had throat surgery and in some cases you just can’t talk after that or you have permanent irreversible damage. I hope he’s feeling better and back up to chatting with Chris Hardwick real soon.

• The CBLDF Party was OFF THE HOOK THIS YEAR. So many people! I barely got to talk to all of them, but it was so wild and great and fun. This has really become THE comics party of the year, and it doesn’t even need free drinks.

• During my one trip to one of the major media hotels I was invited into the nerve center for one of the BIG BIG BIG websites and holy shit, it was like NASA mission control with a couple dozen guys at computers. Made me sitting in the press room with a laptop feel naked and alone.


• A Cat Cafe opened on Island just off Third St!!! I never got to go, alas, but one comics pro who I told about it cancelled her plans and raced off immediately.

• The Lion cold brew coffee at the Lion Cafe on 1st St. is great every year.

• All during Con I kept thinking “When this is over I need a massage” and when we got to ur friend’s house in LA where we were saying she announced she was getting a massage the next day. OMG. Little House Spa. It was a real James Bond massage with the ladies walking on my back and I was sore for two days but it was amazing. A new con tradition.

• Probably something I’m forgetting. Anyway. PICTURES.I’m going to split this into a couple of pages to prevent browser crash.




Conan O’Brien’s four night stand hosting his show was the most promoted thing when I arrived, as the luggage belt advertising shows, and I thought it would be the biggest thing at the con. Henry went to one of the shows, and I heard Conan himself was seen out and about on the street enjyoing the scrum, but this soon got lost in my own scrum.


The first night in town we stayed at the Horton Grand for old times sake and had an amazing room right on the corner of Island and 4th. The only problem with the room was that it was very far from the wireless router and the internet was appalling. I had to sit in the bathroom to get a signal. Oh well.


Here’s where I was standing in the above picture from the street.


On Tuesday before the show I went to visit IDW and got a tour from Alison Baker. As I think I told her and Ted Adams, IDW may just have won the office space race among comics publishers. Granted I have a lot to go to, but it will be hard to beat the clean-lined high ceilinged vibe of this former army barracks.


Perhaps the best part of the office tour was this authentic Kevin Eastman Habitat!® Not an office, a habitat.,


Eastman was also the subject of the first display in the art gallery attached to the offices. This is a great space, and the area itself is something of an up and coming arts space for San Diego. A lot of potential!





This is apparently the Dirk Wood habitat? There is a little band rehearsal space to let off steam. If any other publisher has such a space please let me know.



Outside time




So many instagrammable moments. After the IDW visit, I went to the nearby Trader Joes and stocked up on trail mix, Kind bars and a bottle of wine for emergencies. That was really all I needed. I never set foot in Ralphs and I never got hungry!



Speaking of Ralphs, everyone is in the spirit of the con now.



After dinner and a party at a haunted loft, we walked back to the hotel and discovered a gang of feral cats living in this little park on the opposite corner. Every time I passed by for the next five days we’d see some of these cats! Hope they are being taken care of. They looked pretty happy.

he first line, on Tuesday, apparently just to get in and get those exclusives.

3 Comments on SDCC ’15: How was your Activation?, last added: 7/22/2015
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6. SDCC Week: Monday

My calendar this week makes me laugh. A perfect representation of the many disparate segments of my life. Today: Full slate of appointments at the children’s hospital. Tomorrow: Frantic cranking-away at my novel revision. Wed-Sunday: SDCC madness. And somewhere in there I need to find time for a Damn Interesting article edit and a grantwriting assignment. And will MAKE time to start the new Sketchbook Skool “Playing” course with the kids. Because priorities.

I haven’t yet done my usual scouring of the SDCC schedule to see which panels I’d like to hit. Er, attempt to hit—the con has a way of swallowing up intentions with spontaneous developments, which of course is part of the fun. As always, the part I’m most looking forward to is the reconnecting with faraway friends: the lunches, the dinners, the late nights chatting over drinks.

Jenni & me at Wondercon 2011

annual lunch with jock 2014


Scott and Gene 2013

Jenni and Jonathan 2010

Scott and Chris 2014

hanging with the GeekMoms 2011

Dinner with Raina 2011

Meeting Ozma at Winkiecon 2014

my favorite person to hang out with ever

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7. The Dystopian world of Special Edition NYC photos

If Special Edition: NYC was a comic book, probably Warren Ellis would have written it and Brandon Graham or Geof Darrow would have drawn it. It was a perfectly fine show, with a great guest list and good time, but the venue, Pier 92, was…picturesque. I was last there five or six years ago for a Wizard show and  in the intervening years it became even more decrepit, with plastic bags collecting yellowing rainwater, as giant air ducts throbbed like the Alien Queen’s thorax, and damn river air curled pages and hair. I had a perfectly good time (I was only there on Saturday) and here are the pictures!


As I mentioned to everyone, Pier 92 was straight out of a dystopian SF comics from Image or Dark Horse. This is actually the Image panel.

The main reason people lined up for SENYC was to buy tickets for NYCC, which was kind of dumb since SENYC had most of the same people in a far less crowded and more relaxed setting. BUT WHATEVS. Here’s a video of the line at about noon. I heard people had camped out since the night before and stood in line for four hours to get NYCC tickets. The line ws capped for a bit and then opened up again, but I don’t know how happy people were. It seem they came got tickets, walked around a bit and left by 4 or so.


More air ducts!


This is an accidental picture of the floor, but it was concrete and my feet hurt.


If only there had been more Mad Max cosplayers!


I vowed to walk around and take photos! Here’s artist Andrew MacLean of Apocalyptigirl and Head Lopper. He’s blowing up as they say.


Writer Frank Tieri of all the comics you read.


Artist Rodney Ramos and Elite Beat Operative Edie Nugent.


Michael Golden doing what he does.


And Jeff Parker (Batman ’66 etc.) I miss the old con reports Parker and steve LIeber used to do. They were hilarious but they wouldn’t fly nowadays I guess.


Artist Natalie Nourigat, who has a project upcoming from Oni.


Everyone loves this book!


And here are the creators, Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin. I meant to ask Paul for some Plants. vs Zombies tips but forgot.


Artist Ron Chan who also di dnot give me any PvZ tips!


Oh crap,I forgot this artist’s last name! Help me!


Ryan Dow (Captain Sadness) and Josh Gorfain (Meatspace). They shared a table and have many projects between them, but not together if that makes any sense.



Eric Palicki of Red Angel Dragnet which I meant to go back and buy but I forgot. Lovely art by Anna Wieszczyk


I wanted to get a nice shot of Annie Wu but she had a huge line and was too busy signing.


OMG! YOU GUYS! I met Simon Roy! This guy is soooo talented. You must buy Tiger Lung!


Gwendolyn from Saga is such a great character to cosplay, but it’s also a testament to Fiona Staples’ incredibly talents as a character designer — her characters are instantly unique and iconic.


Random steampunk shot of the dystopic venue.


And another.


The People in Comics panel, moderated by Calvin Reid, presented by Publishers Weekly, with Regine Sawyer, Calvin, Dylan Meconis and Natalie Nourigat


I went to plug in my phone and found this China Mieville tableau.


Artist Ramon Perez of Hawkeye, etc.


Vera Greentea!


Brandon Bird and one of his creations. Bird is among the most imaginative and skilled of the
of culture mash-up” school of artists. Check out his website for reals.


Kaare Andrews successfully balances a career as a cartoonist and a director! And he’s fiesty.


I don’t remember the name of this guy but he had by far the tallest banners in the joint. All that height and I don’t remember his name. Pro tip: put your logo on the giant banners.


Artist Jason Howard of Trees. we had a nice chat about coloring which will help inform a future article here.


I really wanted to get my picture taken with DMC but I was too shy but that was dumb because he was mad friendly and smiling the whole time.

Flash forward to Sunday night. I slept all day but crept out for Korean barbeque with a great bunch of folks.

And we’re done!




3 Comments on The Dystopian world of Special Edition NYC photos, last added: 6/9/2015
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8. The Month That Ate My Brain


Oh, May. You beautiful, terrible month. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of you. Massive workload, plumbing woes, multiple trips to the children’s hospital (which sounds more alarming than it ought to—here in San Diego they send your kids to Children’s for every little thing; for example: a chest x-ray when your child has pneumonia even though there is an x-ray lab RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the pediatrician’s office, AHEM, and a four-hour wait and a three-second x-ray later the radiologist will say, all right, I’ve just sent these to your doctor, zap)…but it’s June now, let’s put all that behind us.


I suppose, though, that May did have its moments. Scott surprised me with a trip to a big art supply story downtown, a wonderland full of pens singing at me. I came home with a metal brush pen, aka my new best friend, it feels amazing when you pull it across the page; and a tube of raw umber paint because I have been unsuccessful in mixing a shade the color of chocolate with my basic color palette. Rilla’s birthday breakfast is still waiting in my sketchbook to be painted. Since April, sheesh.

In May my boys’ writing class wrapped up—this was a group of nine homeschooled boys ages 10-14 whose mothers approached me about putting together an eight-week writing course. We had us some fun, let me tell you. A highlight of my spring was watching our freewrites transform from “TEN WHOLE MINUTES??!!?” to “Oh wait can I please have a bit more time?”

final freewrite

Other highlights:

Huck discovered the delights of the Oz books—specifically the Eric Shanower/Skottie Young graphic novel adaptations that Rilla loves so much. He spends a lot of time like this:


blurry photo but it’s all I got

He’s also enjoying the Magic Tree House books, like so many of his siblings before him. Scott read him the first one to get him started. The corresponding nonfiction volumes are particular favorites, and I am once again being treated to daily factoids about sharks and pirates. Never gets old.

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9. Photos Framed

Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World's Most Memorable Photographs
by Ruth Thomson
Candlewick Press, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher
"When photography began, it was an elaborate, expensive, time-consuming, elite activity, using heavy, cumbersome equipment. Today, taking photographs can be instant, cheap, and accessible to anyone. Despite the enormous changes in photographic equipment and technology since the nineteenth century, the purposes of photography have remained essentially the same, whether immortalizing, exploring, documenting, revealing, or showing us what we can't see with the naked eye." -- from the introduction of Photos Framed
It's amazing, isn't it, that in less than 200 years, photography has become a universal art form? Children can take photographs before they have learned to hold a crayon. I think I can confidently say that every student in my class has taken a photograph. And because of that, I can't wait to share this book with them and dig into the history of photography and the art of photography.

Photos Framed is divided into four sections: Portrait photography, Nature photography, Photography as art, and Documentary photography. Each of the sections features examples from the 18th through the 21st Centuries. And each of the photographs is explored in the same ways: there is a section of text describing and discussing the photograph, a section that tells about the photographer, three questions ("Photo thoughts") for the reader/viewer to consider, a sidebar ("Blow Up") that features one tiny bit of the photo and a question to consider, and another sidebar ("Zoom In") that helps the viewer to consider the photo as a whole. Finally, there is a quote from the photographer that accompanies the photo.

I'm thrilled to see that there are multiple copies of this book available in our metro library system. I am imagining a whole-class study of this book in the first weeks of school which would lay the groundwork for students to build a photographic/visual portfolio alongside their digital portfolio/notebook (folder in their Google drive) and their pencil/paper writer's note/sketchbook.

Writing that last convoluted sentence made me realize that there just about isn't such a thing as a plain and simple Writer's Notebook anymore. All of these digital and non-digital spaces need to be developed to provide students with opportunities to capture and hold creations of all kinds at all stages of the process.  Maybe it really is time to stop calling it Writers' Workshop and call it Composing Workshop.

Hmm...the wheels are turning...

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10. School Visits Galore: Trondheim, Norway & Ellensburg, WA!

April is a busy month for author visits, but things were a little more exciting than usual this year with a long-awaited excursion to the Fagerhaug International School (FINT) in Stjørdal, Norway -- followed VERY closely by an excellent 3-day trip to nearby Ellensburg, WA. 

My 11.92 year-old daughter came along to Norway (via Iceland as you will see!), and the entire experience was second-to-none. A little tiring... because of the nine-hour time change and man those Kristoffersen's can stay up late :) but we were so pleased to be guests, teachers, and students for the week that a little sleepiness hardly seemed to matter. I love what I do in my work as a writer/illustrator (sometimes teacher) and experiences with people both near and far make me love it even more. Best wishes to all and please enjoy the following snapshots of our trip. Its not TOTALLY comprehensive, but it'll do!

6:45am in Reykjavik International Airport. Very slick -- and about 20 degree with blowing snow on April 1.

After an excellent 2-hour walking tour, we did some touring on our own including the climb up Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral for this most excellent 360 degree view of the city. 

April 2nd. We have arrived. Two thumbs up!

A few important names in the following shots. 1.) The Kristoffersen house. Our home base in Stjørdal and some most excellent hosts!

2.) The Stjørdal train station. Site of two departures into Trondheim -- the first on a VERY quiet Good Friday afternoon, and the second on a much more bustling Saturday at the end of our school visit week. Two thumbs up, again!!

3.) The Fagerhaug School. Our true destination and reason for the visit. Most of my time was spend with the upper and lower elementary school students at FINT, but the greater Fagerhaug Christian school houses many additional students k-10.

And finally, 4.) Litjfunnsjøvollen -- the original destination for our Easter weekend ski with the Kristoffersen family. As you will see below, even on April 4 the skiing was still excellent. Although reflected here at all, there were MANY people out n' about. Blankets spread on the snow. Little fire pits for warmth. Young. Old. Fast. Slow. All sort of folks. Really great!

About 3k up the trail at Litjfunnsjøvollen was a little warming hut/cabin with pancakes (svella?) and hotdogs for treats.

On Easter Sunday, we expanded out ski horizons just a bit more and spent half of the day on nordic skis and the other half on the downhill slope at Fagerlia. Much thanks to Maria for being our excellent guide and for all of the time she shared with Keeley on the entire trip. Tussen Takk!

Pretty typical of most breakfasts and lunches -- at least in our experience. Lots of open-faced breads with meats and cheeses plus a vegetable or two to snack on...

...and then there was the pretty obvious fascination with all things Salty Licorice. Hard candies, gummy candies, and as seen above, even a Salt Lakris sauce for ice cream. Pretty good actually!

Now for a little work :) Before leaving Winthrop, I had a few of our local elementary classes prepare "postcards from the Methow" so that we could bring along a little glimpse of our life at home to the kids at FINT. Everything from the wildlife that you see in these two examples, to a few recent experiences like last summer's wildfires and favorite seasonal activities (skiing, swimming etc.)

It was fun to share a few thoughts of home in this way...

...to assist in creating a set of Norwegian postcards to bring back home to Winthrop.

...and then to realize in our walking, and talking, and visiting, that certain things are similar and certain things are certainly different :)
On the workshop front, one of my favorite projects was the "alligator emotions" book that we constructed on the final day with the lower PYP (primary years program). After spending several other hours on drawing expressions and writing about a feeling, this final project combined things together AND drops a serious hint about my newest work in progress. Stay tuned for future posts about LATOR GATOR (Sterling Books, 2016)! Below: 1-3rd graders (and teachers) creating their very own "instant books" and alligator emotions.

For an earlier drawing workshop, we practiced some line variety and dressed up some pretty excellent owls!

Very near the school, a church in Skatval. And while we did have a few partly sunny afternoons, this about sums it up for most of our springtime weather near Trondheim. A little grey. Quite damp. Not BRRR! cold, but chilly enough if you didn't dress for it. 

In another "lay of the land" image here -- also just outside of Skatval. A still-frozen lake, a farm house, and the rolling hills and winding roads...

...quite near, in fact, the Kristofferson farm where I was testing out this small tractor in the sheep barn at about 11:45pm. Again, excellent hosts, and not to worry, I didn't have a key.

April 12: A few final shots from our Saturday return to Trondheim. LOVE the color on these old warehouse buildings on the Nidelva riverfront. 

One fine and awesome traveler posing near the Nidarosdomem Cathedral.

And the same said traveler playing detective in a local bookstore. You can't be a children's book author in a foreign country and not visit some local bookstores :)

And last, but not least, our final goodbyes to Niclas, Sarah, and Cherise (taking the photo) at the airport. 



And now MANY fewer images from an terrific three days in ELLENSBURG, WA! With many thanks to Lincoln, Mt. Stuart, and Valley View Elementary schools for being so well-prepared for my visits and for perhaps tolerating a slightly baggy eye or two due to the change in time zones :)

Lunch with the super hero contest winners at Lincoln - photo courtesy of the Daily Record.

Positively PERFECT pajama designs from Mt. Stuart elementary!

And this is great! Also at Mt. Stuart. Each year they select several pieces of student artwork, frame them, and hang them in the halls. Its awesome! A lasting and colorful record of student creativity and art/design across many spectrums and over many years. Seriously, every school should have such a gallery!

The library aide at Valley View made these most excellent Practically Pefect Pajamas inspired sugar cookies too. A first in 15 years of publication :)

And finally, the sunset as I hit the road to return to Winthrop. The schools in Ellensburg really rocked, and I enjoyed meeting everyone who came with a books to sign and questions to ask at Jerrol's Bookstore on the final night as well. Thanks again to all and I look forward to coming back!

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11. All in a blur

Nine years, can you believe it?

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006




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12. MoCCA 2015 in Pictures and memories

The good news is that the 2015 MoCCA Festival moved to a new venue—Center 548 in the heart of Chelsea’s gallery district—and it was ideal! Windows, flattering white walls, three floors of comicksy goodness, tons of foot traffic, and a rooftop lounge where you could sit in the sunlight and  look out over the Hudson to the far lands of Jersey. And the panels held at the Highline Hotel wee a hop skip and jump away. It was smooth sailing!

The bad news is that MoCCA will never be there again(h/t Daryl Ayo) The building—once the home of the prestigious Dia Arts Center—has been sold and will be converted to condos, like everything else in New York. When all these people move into these condos will there be anything fun left to do in NYC except shop at the Stella McCartney store? I sure hope so. 

I’ll have  a more detailed report on the show for Publishers Weekly, but here’s a picture run down of the week.

One quick note: while today’s multi-faceted comics publishing world  doesn’t really lend itself to a “book of the show” Jillian Tamaki’s “SexCoven” in Frontier #7 was definitely the book of the show. It sold out on Saturday but you can order your copy here.


My MoCCA Week kicked off on Thursday with a VIP party for Aline Kiminsky-Crumb with a performance by Eden and John’s East River String Band with special guest R. Crumb sitting in. But first I surveyed the Alt.Weekly cartoonists show downstairs which is amazing. This 30-year old Life in Hell strip by Matt Groening is as true today as it was then. The show is up until May 2 — see it! IMG_2914.jpg

It was a lively hoe down. Crumb plays with verve. And I can scratch that off my bucket list.



The hallway to the restroom is an exhibit of original art from the LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM anthology. Art by Farel Dalrymple, Bill Sienkiewicz and more. I love this page from Carla Speed McNeill for obvious reasons.


On Friday night I moderated a panel consisting of Daryl Cunningham, Penelope Bagieu, Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio Garcia Sanchez, shown above. It was a rather unattended event, sadly, but the panelists were great. Here Sanchez shows us someof his experimental comics which use space and storytelling in very unusual and beautiful ways. He teaches cartooning in France and I hope to have more with him in a few weeks. That’s Bagieu on the upper left, and she’s a pistol.


After the panel, I trained over to the Productive for Drink & Draw Like a Lady. Every year there are more ladies! Seriously the place was jammed, and I saw a lot of names on tags that I knew from Tumblr and Twitter. This is the NOISIEST party I attend every year.


Saturday morning I got into a cab with a driver who saw a bit of crosstown traffic and decided at Fifth Avenue that he wasn’t going to take me any further. “It’s a beautiful day! You’ll enjoy the walk!” he urged. For this I had to pay him $5. I got to the Highline Hotel—a former seminary which could easily stand in for Hogwarts—just in time to see Bill K. interviewing Scott McCloud. I know other people have better pictures of this, but it’s my photo essay! With these two smart people, the panel breezed by.


I love all the details that the SOI staff puts into making MoCCA run smoothly, like this signage on 10th Avenue directing you to the venue.


Inside I made a beeline to say hi to Seth Kushner here with his heroic wife Terra. Kushner fell ill after last year’s MoCCA and he’s still recovery from the leukemia that nearly took his life, but he’s leukemia free. It was wonderful to see him, and pick up his new comic, and I think his being there was the highlight of the show for a lot of people.



Band photo with Dean Haspiel and Chris Miskiewicz



A selection of books from Atlantic Press a UK based imprint that publishes experimental and student comics. The book in the foreground, Beyond the Wire by Alys Jones was my find of the show—using hand cut holes in the pages to show the claustrophobic and deadly world of the trenches of WWI.


Steve Vrattos at the Fanfare/Ponent Mon table has a ton if imports from Knockabout and other UK publishers. While I was chatting with him, he helped someone pick up their first book by Jiro Taniguchi, so job done.


I ran into Matt Loux and Abby Denson, one of my favorite comics couples, coming out of the elevator.

Oh yeah the elevator. It’s moot now, since the 548 Center is going bye bye, but getting up and down the floors was the one thing that might have been a hindrance for the venue. The elevator held four people and took 15 minutes to make a trip.  The stairs were super steep and narrow, and while they weren’t really dangerous, per se, let’s just say that if you had a little bit of vertigo, things become more challenging. But like I said, that’s all moot.


After you managed to get up four flights of stairs you were greeted with this view on the roof top.


Saturday night I went back to SOI for the Awards of Excellence presentation which were given this year to Greg Kletzel (above), Kris Mukai, Daniel Zender, Tyler Boss and Keren Katz.


Here’s Keren with her trophy. (Keren is so talented and also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, even in a business filled with nice people.)

This party had some free beer from Lagunitas and was so much fun. The patio was open, and after this long winter, just to be outside again was a joy.


On Sunday I tried to take pictures like I always do. Alice Meichi Li


Birdcage Bottom’s JT Yost


Hic and Hoc’s Matt Moses and Sam Henderson


And then I got distracted and stopping taking photos. As you can see it was a light, airy place. Too bad we’ll never be there again. Enjoy your $5 million condo that you visit once a year, oligarch.


Javier Cruz Winnik and Sara Wooley


Julia Gfrorer and Sean T. Collins. Later on we got a picture of Sean along with myself and Brigid Alverson, as shot by Johanna Draper Carlson for a Bloggers of the Aughts reunion.


At Conundrum, Kat Verhoeven, Andy Brown and Joe Ollman take their band photo. Verhoeven’s Towerkind is just out and I talked to her about it for the PW podcast this week.


The woman of the year, Jillian Tamaki.


This is the Highline Hotel. Inside it was decorated with manual typewriters and dark wood fixtures  reminiscent of a century ago. When I leave New York, I want to come stay here when I visit, except rooms are $400 a night. Also you had to stand in line 20 minutes for a $4 cup of Intelligentsia coffee.  They were out of cold brew and pastries by the time I got there. The barista told me they’d had an insanely busy weekend.


I checked out this panel with editors from various print and online magazines—the New York Times, Rookie magazine, Autostraddle and Tablet—and what they look for when hiring cartoonists. I took notes and will write it up in a bit.


SeflMadeHero publisher Emma Haley and Dutch artist Barbara Stok.


Ghetto Brothers, a true life tale of gang life in the South Bronx, was one of the lesser heralded books at the show, but I heard a lot about it on the floor. Here’s Benjy Melendez, subject of the story, and artist Julian Voloj. I think you’ll here more about this in the coming weeks.



Calvin Reid and I did the Buddyback!


Another view of that wonderful rooftop lounge as Brian Heater and Calvin confirm their world domination plans. Tears in the rain, baby


For those who could not binge watch Daredevil, there was a water tower.


The other Leigh of Top Shelf. I’m terrible with last names.


At the end of the day I got to ride down in the freight elevator which is bigger than my entire apartment. Sad face.


I left the show and walked over on the Highline with Marie Javins, Shannon Wheeler and Brian Heater. Here is their band photo.


And we walked off into the sunset. Seriously, comics, rooftops, Highline, sunsets…this was all so wonderful and I couldn’t ask for better people to reflect on the show with.


So yeah, MoCCA 2015 was pretty swell. I’m for Anelle Miller and the other folks at SOI will be able to wrangle a new venue for 2016, but I’ll always remember this one. It was a special time.

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13. Happy Birthday to my Mom!

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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14. Why SpaceX photos aren’t public domain (yet)

Sometimes people who license their digital content aren’t really thinking it through. They may have something else on their minds or copyright nuance may not be their thing. I think it behooves us copyright advocates and activists to (at least) politely try to push the envelope towards more open content licensing. Here’s the example I enjoyed from today.


This is interesting especially because Flickr uses Creative Commons licensing, but does not use CC-0 which is an intentional choice. Photos from cultural heritage organizations which are in the Flickr Commons have an additional “no known copyright restriction” option that is only available to specific accounts, not any Flickr user. There are many ways this specific issue can be resolved but just the fact that it’s generally a hurdle that has to be overcome indicates that there is still a good role for copyright reform advocates to play. More supporting links: Original article & SpaceX photos on Flickr.

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15. Kickstarter alert: Comic Book People 2: Photographs from the 1990s by Jackie Estrada


Somehow I have neglected to mention until this moment that Jackie Estrada is crowdfunding a second book of photos taken at conventions over the years, this one focusing on the 90s.

The first volume was a roaring success. This second one (Despite not having me on the cover) looks to be just as good. And the perks are excellent.

This volume covers youthful looks for most of today’s superstars.

That’s Frank MIller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson and Dave Gibbons from 1991.


And Chris Ware and the late Kim Thompson from 1993.

There’s also a very rare photo from an event that I didn’t think any photos existed for, the VERY FIRST Freinds of Lulu Meeting at the Cafe Lulu in San Diego:


That’s Cat Yronwode, Lee Marrs, unknown, the late Kim Yale, Martha Thomases and Maggie Thompson. Veteran warriors all.

Anyway, this kickstarter is at the “halfway done 50% funded” spot, so it could use a little kick.

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16. Photo: {My Crazy Family By Marriage}


We may be crazy, but MY GOSH we have fun!

Filed under: Photos

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17. Photos from my NYC trip (includes #NY15SCBWI pics)

Simon & Schuster meeting about my illustrations in SEA MONKEY AND BOB (author: Aaron Reynolds)

I had SUCH AN AMAZING TIME IN NEW YORK! Huge thanks to the SCBWI Winter Conference organizers, volunteers and faculty for a fantastic event.

Eventually, when I get more free time (hahahah), I hope to post some highlights. The next couple of weeks are going to be superbusy for me so instead, I'm sharing some of the photos I took with my iPhone during my trip. 

Feel free to share or repost any of my photos; including a photo credit would be much appreciated (or tagging me). Here are some of the photos from my adventures in NYC, including after the SCBWI conference:

On Facebook:
Part 1: SCBWI-NYC - Part 2: SCBWI-NYC (cont’d)Part 3: Curtis BrownPart 4: Random House Children’s - Part 5: Simon & Schuster Children’s 

On Flickr:
Part 1: SCBWI-NYCPart 2: SCBWI-NYC (cont’d)Part 3: Curtis BrownPart 4: Random House Children’s 
- Part 5: Simon & Schuster Children’s 

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18. five Thursday moments

• Rilla came to me with a paper cut. Not that I’m happy she was hurt, just–it struck me so sweetly that she still comes to me for little hurts like that, still believes a kiss from mommy can help

• good IEP meeting—they all love him so

• cleaned up the side yard, threw out two bins of junk, pruned the pepper trees

• daffodils in the neighbor’s yard

• Huck wearing the old cloth barn on his head like a jolly little hat.
Hilarious! Also nice to see how beloved it still is, 16 years and 5 kids later

ikea barn and speckled band

Well, what do YOU wear to read The Adventure of the Speckled Band?



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19. Merry merry

As of this moment, my 2014 Cybils work is done. Well, except for hauling a metric ton of books back to the library. Whew!

Since October 15th, I have read 79 young adult novels. Seventy. Nine. So now you know why this blog has been so quiet. But ahhhh, here I am, ready to settle back in and, you know, put the B in CYBILs. (Children’s and Young Adult Blogger Literary Awards.) Consider yourselves warned. :)

For now, though, today, the day after Christmas, I’ll content myself with a few thousand words’ worth of pictures.

christmas morningChristmas morning

birdbook20 Ways to Draw a Tree: the bird page

bongoboywatching TV with his new best friends

monopolyChristmas night: gaming like the olden days

Hope your holidays are happy and restful, friends. And filled with good books!

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20. Schmesolutions

January 1st
I’m going to blog every day this year!

January 3rd
Well, obviously I didn’t mean weekends.

January 5th
::mutter mutter:: Look, that Downton episode was over 90 minutes long. These things take time! A LOT of time. Like, I’d have had to start writing in 1924 to have a recap ready to publish by Monday morning.

January 7th
It’s ready to go live! Now I can get back to regularly scheduled blogging.

::small boy appears, wants to cuddle::

Hmm, maybe not quite yet.


(Photo taken by Rilla on New Year’s morning. Thanks again for the excellent gift choice, Godmother.)

I’ll be running the Downton posts at GeekMom this year. Episode 1 should go live today; I’ll post the link here when it’s up.

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21. Photo: {Vancouver Pier}


Kevin took this picture while we were waiting to board our cruise ship in Vancouver, Canada in October 2013. We were cruising to Alaska. And though I had to talk Kevin into this cruise it actually ended up being the best cruise we’ve been on so far. (And judging by my flushed cheeks, I was having a hot flash).

Filed under: Photos, Remember When ...

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22. What recapping looks like



That’s two viewings plus a bit of rewinding during the writeup. Today I discussed Billy Collins’s wonderful poem, “Marginalia,” with a small group of girls, and I when I got home and flipped open my notebook, I had to laugh at the way I wreck a page. That’s not a self-criticism; I’m used to myself now and the chaotic way my mind works as it wrestles a narrative into order. I write my novels the same way: a chunk here, a chapter there, jumping forward and backward in the story until the bones are intact enough that I can settle down and work on muscles, skin, heart.


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23. Photo: {My Work Peeps}


I truly love the people I work with. Everyone has a sense of humor. Everyone takes her job seriously. We all work as a team.

I couldn’t ask for a better work family, truly.

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24. Photo: {Sexy Son}


Blake is so sexy. LOL

Bring on the girls!

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25. Photo: Vancouver, You Have a Lot of Glass and Boats


October 2013 – we’re in Vancouver, British Columbia. We flew into Vancouver the day before our cruise was scheduled to leave and we spent the day sight seeing. It was a GORGEOUS day and this is one of my favorite pictures.

One. Because there is so much glass! And boats!

Two. Because I think I look pretty good leaning up against that post. Note to self: wear dark clothing – it hides the chunky monkey.

Filed under: Cruise 13, Photos

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