DIY Thanksgiving “Craft”

Consider the Blue Hubbard Squash.


Do you see a Thanksgiving tradition?

Perhaps a savory side dish?

How about a centerpiece for the table?

How about the Mayflower?

Mayflower al22451

I scoured the web looking for another example of Blue Hubbard Squash turned Mayflower ship, but this was as close as I could come.

My dad had different ideas. He took a huge squash, hollowed it out and carved it into a ship. He made dowel masts and paper sails.

My mom filled it with tangerines and nuts and the Blue Hubbard Mayflower sailed out on Thanksgiving tables in the early 1960s.


Thanksgiving in Ripton, VT 1962

And the next year, same sails, different squash!


Thanksgiving 1963, Ripton, VT

You can see me, smiling, directly to the left of the Mayflower, on my dad’s lap.

Time passed, I grew up, and when I had children I wanted my own Blue Hubbard Mayflower centerpiece.


San Francisco, 1997


Tutorial not included. This is truly DIY!

Happy Thanksgiving!





It’s late November here in Vermont ~ the time of year for hibernation.

Who hibernates? Bats, Bears,skunks, bees, snakes, and groundhogs to name a few.

Since moving from a mild California climate to the stricter seasonal progression of northern New England, I’ve become much more sympathetic to the concept of hibernation!


On the last day of Baby Bear Counts One, Mama and Baby Bear are ready to curl up and sleep the winter away.

Showing the process of sleeping is relatively easy, but showing dreaming was a challenge in Only The Cat Saw.  When I was a child I often dreamed of being near the ocean or swimming when I really needed to get up to urinate!


Enter a caption

Holly Taylor modeled as the sleeping Amy, way back in 1984


Amy, dreaming in Only The Cat Saw. Acrylic on paper

Of course, we sleep all year long, and humans enjoy it as much as animals. Mostly sleep happens when it is too dark to draw, but sometimes a nap overtakes us, and when it does I seize that moment of daylight stillness to draw.

Since the late 70s I’ve drawn people and creatures I love while they were sleeping.

Here is a selection.


watercolor sketch of my sister Peregrine, asleep on the couch after wisdom tooth removal..


watercolor sketch of my sister Peregrine.


this drawing of Rowan reminds me of Amy’s pose. Colored pencil on brown paper


Brennan, asleep. Colored pencil on brown paper


Rowan, asleep. Colored pencil on brown paper.


Sabin, asleep. Marker on brown paper.


Tula napping. Watercolor on brown paper

Cat sleeping page

Nutkin, sleeping. Acrylic on paper.


Wildridge kitten, sleeping. Gouache on brown paper.


Making a Homemade Advent Calendar ~ Part 1

A couple of years ago I wrote about creating this advent calendar.

In my recent move I unearthed the original sketches so I thought I’d update with a process post.


The full size sketch of the front, done in colored pencil.

My first Advent Calendars were completely handmade: cover image printed and hand-colored, window openings cut with a knife, window images printed and colored–all somehow fastened together to make a functioning calendar.

handmadeoriginal copy

the original 1983 calendar, given to Charlene Smith, and kept framed and displayed all year round. This one is less colorful a bit more austere.

I made fewer than 10 to give to friends, and I sent one to my editor at E P Dutton Children’s Books. She loved it, and suggested producing it to sell.

She asked me to show her sketches for the window images that had a more holiday feel than the original. Some of her suggestions were “Knitting Christmas Stocking?” and “kitten playing with ornament or pine spring?”

Following her suggestions, I revised the sketches.


Finally I carved each tiny scene, colored it and glued it into place


Once the 2 layers are aligned, the scenes show up in the doors and windows.


The finished calendar.


Although this is out of print and no longer sold in stores. I have a stash to sell.

A Tree of Books


I know–Waaaaay too early for Christmas, but that’s when these things get done. And it’s kinda fun making tree decorations on a blustery November day. And, of course, it’s for a good cause!

My fantastically talented and philanthropic neighbor, Warren Kimble, urged me to join him in creating a tree for the Sheldon Museum Christmas benefit, so of course I said yes.

It took me forever to think of a fun way to decorate my very attractive faux tree, but with the deadline looming, I finally made up my mind.

I make books for a living, so why not a Tree of Books?


I followed the directions for the no sew, no adhesive book and made a whole bunch of these. I did use a glue stick to paste the letter to the  mini books.

I began with plain copy paper for the pages. I’ll show some of my steps, but follow this tutorial for all the details. I found this video tutorial for a more elaborate book too. It uses a little bit of glue.


Fold your pages according to the directions.


Then trim a piece of decorative paper for the book jacket. All it takes is some careful measuring and folding–no glue!


I added a contrasting strip of washi tape to the spine.



Finally I glued a letter from a sheet of decorative alphabet letters to the front cover.


Once I tied on strings the little books spelled out:

M E R R Y  C H R I S T M A S and H A P P Y  N E W  Y E A R



Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead


Knowing Dawn for the past year has strengthened my affection for the traditions and rituals of Southwestern culture. For a New England girl, I am strongly attracted to that desert light, color, and imagery.

Enjoy Dawn’s Dia de los Muertos post and I invite you to follow her blog.

Originally posted on Dawn Wink: Dewdrops:

Pan de muerto - decorated by Wynn Pan de muerto – decorated by Wynn

Calavera masks Calavera masks

‘Tis the season in our family to celebrate Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead. Time to honor loved ones who have passed. Time to lay out a trail of marigold petals for the spirits to follow back home and to the altar. Time to create the altar with photos, foods, drink, and treasures. Our house fills with calaveras (skulls), even more than the usual.

Noé's parents, Amadeo y Manuela Villarreal Noé’s parents, Amadeo y Manuela Villarreal

A time to remember loved ones and the gift of their presence in our lives. Photos of Noé’s parents, both of our grandparents, and dear friends who have passed grace the altar. Noé tells stories of his parents, who raised five children while working as migrant farm workers throughout the U.S.  “No matter where we were working,” Noé says, “and a lot of times we lived in abandoned barns or…

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Dia de los Muertos

A year ago I lost my beloved Tula to lymphoma-@*&%$#@Cancer!



I was hit by the triple whammy of mourning, autumn and the dreaded “Falling Back!”

It was dark, rainy and cold.

So what does an artist do to raise her spirits?

Paint skeletons!


My 1st painting was done in acrylic on an old board with appliqued, dried, ferns.

I painted several memorial images of Tula, and other dogs and cats.




The ghost of Seabiscuit


Northern Pike


The solstice sheep

This year my Dia de los Muertos altar will be packed with color and light to honor my beloved dead.

It’s Halloween Season


Having a border collie as my alter ego has always been useful and fun, but never more so that at Halloween. All three of my dogs have been black and white, though Tula had a little brown too.

This color scheme lends itself so beautifully to the imagery of this season.

skeleton spiderweb

And blends beautifully with pumpkin-orange.





Even in disguise, we’ll always recognize that tail!



Even an alter ego needs her own familiar–a cat just won’t do, so an owl it is!

Happy Halloween from Ashley, Pumpkin, Lucy, Tula and the owls