Monday, May 31, 2010


My baby is two next week. I should rephrase; my little girl is two next week. We just concluded her second birthday party, and it was just amazing to see my little lady actually entertain her guests.

She gives her books kisses and runs up to give us spontaneous hugs. She stops during walks to splash in the water, feel grass, and check that her baby doll is strapped in the stroller okay. It is such fun to see life through the eyes of a child. Her excited gibberish while 'reading' books and manic giggles fill what used to be silence in the house. Her trail of toys, books, and food crumbles clutter what used to be a clean house. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. Happy birthday sweetheart. We love you.

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Illustrator Review: Laura Ljungvist

Last year I was working on a children's hospital design (which, sadly, never came to fruition; it was completely reworked design-wise). The inspiration was a linear element which would carry throughout the hospital as a wayfinding element. Each floor of the hospital would highlight features of the city; one floor highlighted parks, another bridges and water, another the cityscape. We wanted a clean-lined, sophisticated graphic style using bold colors that would appeal to children of all ages.

When I stumbled upon Laura's book "Follow the Line" it was like déjà vu. The sketches we drew were eerily similar, and the concept of a line which carries you through space? Wow. It was like she read our minds. And not a single person on the design team had ever seen her work.

Since I first saw Follow the Line, I have collected almost every one of Laura's books. The graphic style is a unique combination of colors and geometric forms. Each page of the three book series not only follows the story, but has activity questions such as "How many cars have their headlights on?" in Follow the Line, or "What shape is the swiss cheese?" in Follow the Line through the House.

As you can see in the illustration below (example page from Follow the Line through the House), there is a line which comes from the left hand side of the page (which is a continuation of the line on the previous page) and becomes the form of the drawers, then becomes the form of stove, the form of the chairs and table base, to finally carry off the right hand side of the page and into the next. I love how the line pulls the reader through the story, while showing the reader how everyday objects can be broken down into simple geometric forms.

If you are interested in seeing more examples of her illustrations, where to buy her books, or information on Laura, check out her website here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Phase I: Complete

As I mentioned earlier, Little Tomato and my cousin Eva are sharing a birthday party this year... and it is next weekend! I still have *loads* to do, but as of now, I can draw a nice big check mark next to the "garland" on my To Do list. Once husband gets home tonight, we can officially hang it up in our living room, but until then... I am eagerly anticipating it!!

Tissue Paper Garland: Complete!

The garland is made of 6" diameter tissue paper puffs tied together with cream organza ribbon. Since we have a tall ceiling in our living room, the BIG puff is going to hang from our ceiling fan in the center of the room. There are four garlands coming off the center ball which are going to attach to the four corners of the living room to give a 'tented' feel in the room. I calculated that I needed 11 puffs per garland, which is a grand total of *45* puffs (counting the big one in the middle).

As it is a spring party, I loved the idea of celebrating everything in bloom. I designed the invitations with a garland of flowers in the upper corner, and printed them on plantable paper so the invitations can be planted and grown into flowers of their own!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Nature Explore!

Nebraska City, home of Arbor Day, has an *amazing* outdoor play area for children called "Nature Explore" at their Arbor Day Farm "Tree Adventure."

Tree Adventure Path

The Tree Adventure has a wide (read: stroller friendly) trail which winds along a wooded path. As you walk through the 'forest', you will find different animal tracks stamped into the concrete, signs describing the various plants and animals, and interactive sculptures which children can play in/ on along the way. The 50 foot tall tree house is also a great feature to get a stunning view of the forest.

What I call an 'interactive sculpture'

However, as wonderful as this trail is, the vast majority of our time is spent in the Nature Explore play area. This features a "nature's treehouse" (see photo below), a messy play area, a nature's art area, and a gi-normous wooden xylophone / music area for children to demonstrate their budding musical talents.

Nature's Treehouse

The treehouse features multiple levels of platforms with wood railings and a cubby full of play silks. The messy play area is a zone full of large limbs and sticks for children to stack, configure and climb on. And the nature's art area features large cubbies of natural wooden building blocks, shells, pine cones and other natural elements to organize and create designs. 

Nature's Art Area on "Giant Tree Cookie Flooring"

Not only is this sensory smorgasbord my favorite playground, but there is a duplicate of this classroom in a 'toddler friendly' size for the wee babes to experience the same outdoor fun as their older counterparts. 

If you are not within feasible driving distance of Nebraska City and want a Nature Explore for your own city (or yard, if you so choose), the Arbor Day website has been updated with a "Nature Explore Sourcebook" which boasts a cheat sheet of all of their unique outdoor play materials. Click here for the link.