My love affair with Mary Blair

My love affair with Mary Blair

Let me tell you a story about a trip to Disneyland. Well, really it’s about one tiny moment during a trip to Disneyland. We were about to leave the park when we happened to stop into a gift shop near the front entrance that I never normally would have entered. It was in this gift shop that I had my first encounter with Mary Blair. I saw one of her paintings, the one that is practically synonymous with her name. It was colorful and bright and geometric and full of pattern, and at the same time simple and perfect. Although now I wished I had, I did not by anything from the store, but instead tucked her name away in my brain for later research. I went home and learned all about how she was the designer of Its a Small World, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland. I love it for its amazing colors, cheerfulness, and the fact that it looks like a giant arts and crafts project. And no, I do not think the song is annoying — charming and fun rather. I learned that Mary Blair was the concept artist for numerous Disney movies like Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland. I leaned that she illustrated many of our beloved Golden Books. I became mesmerized with her unique artistic style — striking, bold, colorful, fun, and absolutely one of a kind. During our next visit to Disneyland, I marched right up to the art store in California Adventure and purchased three large prints of Mary Blair’s work. One for our office, one for our bedroom, and one specifically for the future nursery of a little one who was nothing more than a twinkle in our eyes at the time. And in case you were wondering, the one for the nursery was that very same colorful, geometric print I saw those years ago.

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Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the temporary exhibit on Mrs. Blair at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco called MAGIC, COLOR, FLAIR: the world of Mary Blair. I hate to be overstated but it was life changing. Absolutely awe inspiring. Each painting around every new corner blew me away more than the last. I took tons of notes and about a million photos. I’m so so grateful to have these to use as constant inspiration whenever I need it. Mrs. Blair, YOU ARE AMAZING.

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There is much more to Mary’s designs than just the surface look, or unique appearance of them. Contained also within her designs is an expression of Mary’s own response as a sensitive artist, to what the thing is — or the creature or the person is — not just how it looks.”  - Wilfred Jackson. I love this quote. What the thing is, not just how it looks. I know this is something we strive for again and again in our wedding photography work.

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Even from her early watercolors created while she was in school are undeniably hers. So colorful and expressive. Those shadows…are you kidding me!? Ahhhhh…Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 015

I loved the mood of this one. Mary could simplify something so much, while at the same time expressing a feeling and mood deeply.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 014a

One of the things that impressed me so much was her use of painting techniques. I adore how the sky in this image is created using watercolor. While I am a huge fan of digitally created art, there are some things that can only be done by hand, using real tools and materials.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 016

“Walt said that I knew about colors he had never heard of before.”  –Mary Blair

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During her trip to South America with Walt is where she truly blossomed into the artist she is known as today. It really inspired me to take a trip somewhere and just spend time CREATING. Drawing, writing, absorbing. My artistic soul yearns for this.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 020a

I have been really wanting to learn watercolor for a long time. Mary’s work seems so effortless! I can imagine her making each stroke of the brush. The colors here are just wonderful.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 001 2

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One of my big takeaways was how simple things can be. In the images below, I love the broad areas of color with simple line art over the top. I saw this repeatedly with her work and it is something I cannot wait to experiment with.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 032

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Her mastery of brushstrokes was astounding. Look how a simple swish of a dry brush creates so much depth and shading in these children’s faces. Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 035

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Then we got to the sections of her work on some of the more well-know Disney films. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I am huge Disney fan. These next pieces were such a treat to see. Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 042a

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YOU GUYS. Her work on Peter Pan was mind blowing. These photos do not do them justice at all. They were so vibrant — and I mean that in more ways than just color. The shapes and movement she created — what an ability to create a magical mood.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 050a

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This one below was one of my favorites of her Disney work. So dynamic and colorful.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 056

Her work on the Golden Books and advertising was also such a delight to see. I was surprised to see some pieces that I recognized that I didn’t even know were hers.
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So true…Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 065

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I thought this stone rendering of It’s a Small World was so cool.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 071

When I saw this written on the wall, I stopped in my tracks. I was moved. If this described the rest of my life, I would be a happy lady. As I went through this exhibit, I was nearly brought to tears of gratefulness for being able to experience seeing her artwork so close in person. Not kidding, my face was practically pressed up against the glass studying each piece. I felt incredibly inspired and also thankful that I am able to create everyday and do what I love and support myself and my family doing just that. Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 070

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If you are anywhere near San Francisco before September 7th, and love art, illustration, color, or Disney, GO see this exhibit. I’m planning on getting one of the two books about her: Magic Color Flair: The World of Mary Blair (about this exhibit specifically) or The Art and Flair of Mary Blair. Oh who am I kidding, I will probably get both! If I have the time I’ll probably go back to see it all again! Museum date anyone?

Bear eats “people food”

It was time. It was the big blue eyes ogling our plates. It was the nursing sessions shortening. It was the constant gnawing on everything. Bear was letting us know he was ready for big kid food! Dad bought some delicious orange and yellow carrots from the farmer’s market. Bear is so lucky to have a dad that is an amazing chef! Geoff makes the most delicious food and he is so excited to introduce all of it to Bear. I’m a notoriously terrible cook, so it is a win-win situation.

I plan on continuing to nurse him in-between as long as he’ll let me. Hopefully we can make it to a year. I know I will miss that when it is all done, even if it IS a pain in the butt boobs sometimes. I told Geoff it would be a good idea for Bear only to eat food during mealtimes and that we should follow suit. Snacking between meals is definitely my downfall and it would be wonderful for all of us to establish good habits together. One of the values I love about the French is that they do not really snack. That’s probably why French women are so skinny! BUT they do partake in a  le goûter (pronounced “luh goo tay”), an afternoon snack. In Paris, we always ate dinner really late (we still do, really) so it made sense to have a little something something around 4:00. I love this ideas in relation to children too. It teaches delayed gratification and patience. When you are at the grocery store and your little one is begging for a treat, it is okay to say yes, as long as they wait for goûter to eat it. A little tip I picked up from a wonderful book I read, Bringing Up Bébé, I highly recommend this book for parents.

Another milestone in the books. It’s so fun watching him through all of these new experiences (for both of us!)

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My daily joy

I’m feeling so thankful for all the time I get to spend with my little buddy. I know I get frustrated when I have work to do and he needs me and I am feeling pulled in two directions, but I love hanging out with him on the family room rug, watching him inspect his toys, and play him songs on my ukulele. Pulling him close in my arms and cuddling as we fall asleep together at night or for a nap — that is my happy place. 

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Picnic Wednesdays

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One of the major takeaways from our month spent in Paris is the importance of relaxing. Being self-employed it is all too easy to work endless hours at the sacrifice of leisure time (or cleaning, or spending time with friends). We went on our first Parisian picnic beneath tall shade trees with a view of the Eiffel Tower. We were invited to picnic by our internet-come-real-life friends, a couple of lovely Texans now living in Paris. It was delightful. A blanket, some cheese, meats, chocolate, snacky foods, and wine, of course. Good friends and conversation made for a wonderful, relaxing afternoon. We’d been working really hard photographing our book for the couple weeks leading up to that day and it was the kick in the pants we needed to tell us, “STOP! You are in PARIS for goodness’  sake, relax a little!” We went on a few more picnics that trip, one of our favorites being in a rowboat on the Grand Canal of Versailles.

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We so appreciated that special time as a family and we made a promise to have weekly picnic as a family once we returned. We got home on a Wednesday, so on the very next Wednesday, we had our first of many picnics at the park down the street from our house. We loaded up a picnic basket I’d found while thrift shopping and the three of us headed out. Every time we are picnicking, I always think to myself, “This is what life is all about”. Moments just spent relaxing with the ones you live, enjoying some delicious food and a summer breeze.

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Our picnic promise did come with a few rules, we decided.

  • Picnic as a family every week
  • It does not have to be fancy! A blanket and some food are all you really need.
  • Sometime you get too busy but never miss two weeks in a row
  • Picnic dinner if it’s too hot for lunch
  • Living room picnic if it is raining
  • No cell phones (this is a hard one, we really like to instagram #picnincwednesday)
  • After you are done eating, spend some time laying down, talking, and starting at the trees and clouds. This is the best part, trust me.
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Really, it is all about stopping everything (as lives tend to get very busy), relaxing, and appreciating life. I really hope we can keep this tradition alive through the years. We are lucky to work from home and can take an hour and a half for lunch in the middle of the week. But if you work, that does not mean you can’t participate in Picnic Wednesdays! It’s as simple as driving your lunch to the nearest park, or just eating your lunch outside. If you are a stay at home parent, the kids would love to picnic with you every week — what kid does not love going to the park? Or maybe you can meet your spouse at his or her work for lunch? If there is a will, there is a way. Try to figure out how to work picnic into your life — you will not regret it!

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Gotta go, we are off to Picnic Wednesday!

One year ago today

One year ago today

One year ago today I helped a lost doggie find his way home to his mama, and I found out I was going to become a mother myself. Looking back over the last year, this journey was surprisingly way better and easier than I could have imagined. When I first found I out I was pregnant, my first thought was, “well, here we go!”. It was the beginning of our third year of trying to have a baby, but I still found it so difficult to imagine myself being a “mom”. I had so many questions and doubts about how I would handle my new identity. I was excited too, of course, but still felt unsure. I feel so completely lucky that I had an easy pregnancy. Aside from some 1st trimester nausea and getting a subchorionic hematoma, things were smooth sailing. Life pretty much went on as usual, and I got to make all kinds of plans about decorating and crafty baby projects. I had a truly wonderful birth experience and fell into motherhood with ease. Taking care of Bear in the beginning felt like second nature. And now I have an adorable and surprisingly easygoing baby boy. He fits so perfectly into our crazy lives. I still feel like myself, but with some new experiences under my belt and a lifetime of watching this little man grow ahead of me. It’s crazy how the littlest squeaks and sighs from him make me light up with joy. Calming him down and singing him to sleep are some of my favorite moments. I used to think I would somehow lose some of my creative self once I became a mother, but instead I found a new source of inspiration. What a year this has been.

Above are the Polaroids I had Geoff take of me in our backyard through this crazy journey.

We’re back from Paris (with a book update!)


We are back home, settled in, first wedding of the year photographed, and back in the office working. Crazy how fast 5 weeks can go by. There is so much I could say about our trip. In fact, the last week we were there, I wrote a really awesome post that I was really proud of while we were on a train to Blois. Unfortunately I found that it did not save on my iPad once we got back to Paris! So sad! So today, I will focus on one (very big) part of our trip and that is our books! They are coming along so well — all photographed and about 75% designed too. We thought it would be fun to share a little sneak peek!


To say things went well photographing this book would be an understatement. They went great! It was actually pretty weird how certain things just came together. For example, struggling to find a good word for the letter “K” we decided to go with “key” because people still use those antique-style skeleton keys on the old doors in Paris. We came up with a plan to buy some cool old keys and photograph them hanging from one of city’s beautiful doors. Well that very evening while walking around leisurely, I spotted a set of keys hanging from a lock through a shop’s glass door. It even had an Eiffel Tower keychain! Too perfect. I have an even longer story for our umbrella photo, but I’ll spare you. :)


Photographing the ABC book was more of a scavenger hunt, searching for or creating the images we had in our heads for each letter. We’d either go out and find them, or set up styled shoots by the window in our flat — thank goodness we had a top floor apartment with lots of great light! Although walking up five flights of stairs everyday was not that fun! Photographing the color book was more like an explore and discover-type situation. We’d choose a neighborhood and simply walk around, literally hunting for color. Paris is not the MOST colorful city in the world, so it was not as easy as you might think, but I think that made it even more fun.


I’d like give you a little better idea of what these books are all about. As you know there are two books, one on the ABC’s and one based on colors. It is a fun way to explore a city through photography (kind of unique in the realm of children’s books). But these books are also a way to learn a bit of the French language as well! They feature the subject of the photograph in English and French with a phonetic pronunciation that will help parents with how to speak the word to their child too. Our hope is that the books can foster a love of travel and exploring all the wonderful places in the world for parents AND their children. More to come!

Bear is really starting to smile a lot. It’s getting to a point where he’s so distracted by smiling that he forgets that he is eating. Get it together kid! :)

– March 23, 2014 from Paris –

Ow ow ow ow

On our very first night abroad, I woke up in the middle of the night to a sore boob. Uh oh, I thought to myself. I think I know what is happening. I came down with Mastitis about a month ago and went through a weekend of horribleness, so I feared the worst. I woke up in the morning and the soreness persisted and worsened after my shower. When I fed the baby, the feeling was absolutely unbearable. I was literally brought to tears from the pain. Geoff had his aunt make me a doctor appointment. I was getting so achey and had the worst headache. The doctor checked me out and confirmed what Geoff and I suspected. Mastitis. For those that have not had the pleasure (ha.ha.), Matitis is an infection in the breast caused by a blocked milk duct. You get a sore red boob and flu-like symptoms. It sucks. The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics and reccomended taking Paracetemol (essentially Tylenol) for the pain.

Side note: Citizens of the UK (like my husband, but not myself, get their healthcare cost covered by the government through the National Healthcare Service. So if you are like me, you have to pay for it yourself (they call it “private”). Still, being uninsured in another country, my appointment and prescription cost me about the same as my co-pays would have been in my home country where I pay hundreds a month in premiums for insurance. Kind of unbelievable. Ugh, back to the story…

I took my pills and a nap (after one more excruciating nursing session) and I was feeling a bit better by dinner. By the next day I was still weary but getting there and the day after that, well enough to head out to Worcester for the day. Today I’m feeling pretty good, aside from a little soreness. Luckily we were with family in England when it happened.  I feel like there is a sentiment that applies to this, and all of life’s unpleasantness — it sucked but I am getting through it.

For those confused by my title, that is how I sound while nursing during recovery. :-/ And for a photo, a cute one of Bear with his adorable second cousins Laura and Lucy who could just not get enough of him.

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How was the flight?

We are finally in Paris! We arrived by train this evening through the Chunnel. I told Geoff it was Bear’s first time in the ocean. Hehehe. The trip so far has been pretty great. Our flight travel across the pond could not have been better.

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We had a quick first flight from San Jose to LAX which went very well. I nursed Bear on takeoff and he slept pretty much the whole rest of the way there. Fairly uneventful (in a good way). We got to LAX and had a bit of time to nurse the baby, feed ourselves a quick bite and relax a tiny bit. When it came time to board the plane we were making our way to our seats when we noticed we were not placed in the seats we had chosen at the back of the plane. In fact the airline assigned us to the bulk head row, meaning when I sat down, I could extend my feet out completely without touching the wall in front of us. Amazing.

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When I saw that they gave Geoff and I seats not next to each other, I state rated to worry momentarily, until I noticed that the intention was to give us an empty seat between us. Can you imagine the smile plastered on my face yet? The icing on the cake was when the super nice flight attendant Colleen, who adorably kept calling me Bernard’s mom, brought us a bassinet for Bear. I couldn’t believe it. It attached to the wall in front of us so he could sleep (and so could we!) Again I nursed him on takeoff and I placed him in the bassinet starting at dinner service. I changed him and swaddled him and Geoff and I fell asleep.

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He barely made a peep the entire flight. He got hungry about 1:45 am our time, which is fine since he had missed his usual “midnight snack” as Geoff and I call it. I fed him once more around six am which was only a couple hours until landing anyway. Even when he woke up hungry he only ever shifted around in his swaddle which was I guess enough to wake me with my super mom hearing. Truth be told I was really afraid that without him in my arms I would not know when he was waking up hungry and he would start wailing. No such thing happened. He slept calmly in my arms during the landing, after one last feed.

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Once we landed I packed him into his carrier and we made our way through the airport. We picked up our rental car and Geoff drove our little family to introduce Bear to his family in Droitwich, a couple hours away.

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The journey was better than I ever could have imagined and our flight to England with our 11 week old baby was actually the best one I’ve ever had. We are so lucky to have such an easygoing little guy.

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