Chef Vincent’s vegan Neapolitan Ice Cream

Chef Vincent’s (100% FAT-FREE!)

RAW VEGAN NEAPOLITAN ICE CREAM

Summer is coming and Chef Vincent is in the kitchen creating fun and healthy
summer treats.

His raw Neapolitan ice cream is going to wow you and your kids, for sure.
This is so tasty that you might start eating it for breakfast or put it into your
morning smoothie. Try it out and let Vincent know what you think!

Chef Vincent Facts : Nutrition and Health Benefits of Eating Carob

  • Carob improves digestion and lowers cholesterol level in the blood.
  • It is used for treating diarrhea in children and adults alike.
  • The vitamin E content in carob helps in treating cough and flu.
Vincent recipes cards ice cream by sparkheadkids.com
click to enlarge or save

Monthly news letter Sparkhead Kids for April 2016

It’s been a busy month at Sparkhead Kids and we are excited to share
everything we’ve been up to with you!

It’s always a thrill to introduce new characters and this month we introduced two. First up is a character sure to tickle your taste buds. Chef Vincent D’Rhino is a world-renowned celebrity chef and he loves to share his unforgettable healthy delicacies with you. Try his coconut snowballs and stay tuned for more of his easy no-bake recipes like his raw Neapolitan ice cream.

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Our second new character is sweet little Kiwi Mara, a girl birdie discovering her way in the world as she grows. Every day she learns a bit more about herself. She also unearths inspiring quotes that help motivate her as she makes her way down the sometimes bumpy road of life. She’s a generous bird who wants to share these quotes with you to help you through your own life experiences.

Kiwi Mara by sparkheadkids.com

 

Sparkhead Kids donated two cushions for the Open Arms fundraiser event on April 6 at the Gladstone Hotel. The event was sponsored by the West End Friends to raise money to sponsor a Syrian family of three. It was a fun night with the Boon Daddies and The Neil Young’uns rocking the house. We saw many old friends from the animation industry and were excited to be part of an event that was deemed a total success.

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Ah, spring! No matter how mild the winter, we always anxiously await its arrival, don’t we? As flowers began blooming and the temperatures rose, bright and joyful colors crowded our design dreams. The result is our Fiesta Flowers duvet and curtain collections. This pattern will surely rock you to sleep with a pleasant spring breeze and make sure a happy garden is the first thing you see when you open your eyes in the morning.

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Sparkhead Kids Animation
We are hard at work on the animated nursery rhyme “Here we go round the Mulberry bush”.  While working on this project we saw the beautiful Oscar-nominated animated feature film from Brazil, “Boy in the World”. “Boy’s” rich color palette inspired us to create a whimsical world in which joyful kids play and run around the mulberry bush in autumn’s golden morning light.

Nusery rythme by sparkheadkids.com

 

See this and other animated nursery rhymes designed and animated by us at Sparkhead Kids by checking out

The Nursery Rhymes Channel on You Tube.

Have a great month!

Annellie

Chef Vincent’s raw Coconut Snowball’s

  •  Chef Vincent has been busy again! Creating the very best healthy coconut snowball. Yummy!
  • He has chosen a selection of nutritious ingredients for these dense, slow, energy releasing balls. So not only will your kids want more, these snowballs will keep them going in a Vincent D’Rhino healthier way.
  • Try them out and come back and let us know if you have fallen in love with them as much as I have. These tasty, melt in your mouth bites of deliciousness!

coconut snowball recipe by sparkheadkids.com

Click to enlarge or save

 

 

 

Chef Vincent’s No Bake Easter Fun for Kids

 

Chef Vincent is very busy getting ready for Easter. Of course he loves planning his menu, after all, he is a chef.

This year Chef Vincent found some wonderful no bake Easter ideas and he wants to share them with you! You will just need some chocolate chips, chow mein noodles and mini chocolate eggs! Sound interesting? Click below!

Now let’s get cracking and let’s make this Easter eggstra special!

Continue reading Chef Vincent’s No Bake Easter Fun for Kids

A letter from Sparkhead kids for February 2016

Hello,

We’re wrapping up Valentine’s Day and Family Day celebrations here at Sparkhead Kids. This year for Valentine’s Day Dimitri and I visited Yasu on Harbord Street in Toronto. Yasu is a high end sushi restaurant that seats only 12 guests at a time. Its a very cool experience as you are watching two master chefs practice their craft in front of you. Only one piece of sushi is served at a time and you can savour each flavourful bite. There is something incredibly peaceful about watching culinary experts at work – almost like a meditation. The atmosphere inspires you to talk about love and relationships. For Family Day we met up with the kids for the day and went for a long walk, shared a meal, chatted and relished much laughter. Love for family was in the air!

One of our Sparkies designers, Jessica Bartram, had her own show of her installation world “The Rise and Fall of Cordycepts“, the exhibition ran from Jan 21 to 24 and was at Toronto’s Historic Gladstone Hotel and was set up in one of the hotel rooms. In this room Jessica exhibited her post-apocalyptic future that features a biotech company that sets out to do good in 2025 but ends up destroying the world, with a company collapse by 2074. The sci-fi world is complete with a full-length book (that Jessica wrote and designed for the project!), company annual reports, marketing evidence and artifacts from the era, and an interdisciplinary installation that’ll make you feel like you just read Brave New World within the space of an art gallery.

We are excited to announce our very first activity book. Now your little one can be part of the Sparkhead Kids creative team with our new Campfire tales Activity Book. Just add coloured pencils, crayons or markers and your child can enter the world of Campfire Tails, adding his or her own touch to each page. This high-quality keepsake activity book offers varying levels of engaging projects so it’s perfect for parent and child quality time.
Activity book web 2
Just in time for the first buds of spring, our latest design theme is Forest Foliage leaves. Our inspiration is the rich palette of colours that are on display through most of the year in the amazing North American Forests. You can choose a background of calming forest green or rejuvenating summer gold and let the flurry of colourful leaves that adorns each item energize and excite your little one (or you!)

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Sparkhead Animation is working on “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” the fourth of 10 nursery rhymes for BGM Music in the UK. We have completed the designs for this one and are now busy working on the animation. This version of the rhyme calls for a crocodile. In the real world, crocodiles aren’t known for their cuteness, but in this animated world they quickly became not only our favourite, but everyone’s favourite. What do you think? We are very fond of this project and excited to be part of it.

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Have a great couple of weeks!

Annellie

It’s time to get cozy and snuggle

The last of autumn’s leaves are letting go and the chilly days ahead mean we’re pressing the pause button on many outdoor activities. But that’s o.k. Nature encourages us to catch our breath over the winter. The great outdoors wouldn’t be nearly as brilliant and cheerful without taking a long winter’s nap courtesy of Jack Frost and Mother Nature.

Many of the animal friends created by the artists at Sparkhead Kids power down over the winter. Which animals are the poster children for hibernation? Bears, of course. Sparkhead Kids’ own Emerald Bear may also look for a cozy place for seasonal slumber. He likes to get cozy as much as any of us do. Since humans usually sleep more soundly in colder temperatures so we have our own version of hibernation.

Other animals, like Golden Moose, Rascal Racoon, Friendly Beaver and Happy Bunny will grow a soft, fluffy undercoat that will keep them warm through the winter. We humans add overcoats, wooly sweaters and thick socks to keep ourselves warm enough to venture out during winter.

Hot beverages like cocoa and toddies, rich, thick soups and stews, and fresh baked breads warm us from the inside and make us appreciate the value of a colder season. We also add extra blankets to our beds and if there’s one thing we understand at Sparkhead Kids, it’s snuggling. We hope that when you’re cuddled close with a loved one, sipping on hot cocoa and watching the snow fall, you’re under one of our soft duvet covers that’s keeping you warm.

The perfect excuse for reading

Shorter days offer the perfect excuse for turning in early with a big pile of books. Maybe you’re snuggling with a little one and that pile includes Sparkhead Kids’ The Fable of Frog and Coyote. Maybe – after the aforementioned little one has drifted off to sleep – a different pile includes the latest thriller, a book club novel and an accumulation of magazines.

If you love reading and you’re kids love to be read to and/or also love to read, you’re on the road to success, according to many research studies. Children who love to read typically are successful in almost every academic endeavor. Even picture books with no words teach problem solving. If picture books transition to early readers and storybooks, math (particularly algebra) and science will be familiar concepts.

Also, if you love to read, it’s more likely (but not a slam dunk) that you’ll raise kids who love to read. Toddlers enjoy time spent with reading adults as well as the rhythm of a book being read out loud. The post-toddler era is where readers are made. An easy way to pave the way is to teach by example. Make time to read and offer explanations of why you love to read.

The next step is to encourage your little one to choose her books on her own at the library and bookstore. Even if your child chooses only books with read covers, don’t stand his way. Like all things with kids, pushing your own tastes on them never achieves the desired result. When it comes to creating happy readers, it’s best to stand back and let the reader blossom!

Exciting news from Sparkhead Kids!

You’d have to look pretty far to find two more entertaining characters than Sparkhead Kids’ Frog and Coyote. They’re each featured on their own cushion and – drumroll, please – they now star in the first of our new series of animal fable picture books!

The first book is (not surprisingly) called “The Fable of Frog and Coyote” and it tells how Frog outwits Coyote, which is not particularly easy to do. Coyote is known far and wide as a trickster. But Frog has a few tricks of his own up his… well, not sleeve, exactly. Let’s just say “The Fable of Frog and Coyote” has a lot of shenanigans to tickle you and your little ones’ funny bones. But don’t worry, there’s a lesson to be learned by the animals in each book and by your kids, too!

The Sparkhead Kids artists are thrilled to have completed work on their first book and are super excited to get busy on the next one: “The Fable of Bear and Moose.” They (the Sparkhead Kids artists, not Bear and Moose) have worked in animation for more than 20 years and they love storytelling. There’s nothing they enjoy more than creating stories for kids about loveable animals.

Our new chapter book series is based on animal fables and each includes a gentle moral that is perfect for youngsters’ developmental stages. Collect them all to introduce your kids to the world Campfire Tales and support your favorite artists at the same time!

Our friend Trickster Coyote

Poor Wile E. Coyote, Looney Tunes’ hapless pursuer of Roadrunner. He never achieved his goal and he never grasped the futility of his efforts. In our more activist-centric present, coyotes around the world might unite to protest Wile E.’s portrayal of their breed. Because, as most native cultures show, it’s coyote that’s the trickster. Or, in Norse legend, it’s Loki the wolf. And according to U.S. essayist Henry Ward Beecher, “The dog is the god of frolic.”

Many Plains Indian tribes have legends that feature coyotes as spirit guides, often teaching lessons through pranks that end with their humans laughing at themselves. Some legends just end with coyote laughing, though. As far as coyote’s concerned, it’s all good as long as he’s the one enjoying himself.

Sometimes coyote is featured in darker stories, revealing the uncomfortable truth about a situation. But coyote’s intentions are almost always good even if his methods can occasionally be unsettling.

Sparkhead Kids’ Trickster Coyote is true to his legacy. He is frequently up to mischief and often outsmarts his fellow animals. His big smile is happy, though, and he’s quite the joker. Our Trickster Coyote, like his dog cousins, is all about fun and games, which means he’s just as loveable as our other Forest Friends. So your little one can snuggle up with a cushion that features Trickster Coyote or add his print to a wall to ensure frequent chuckles during play.

The story of storytelling

Storytelling was and is everywhere.When writers refer to prehistoric times, they mean before history was recorded – on cave walls, on clay tablets or even on vases. But evidence suggests storytelling itself was part of prehistoric times. Identical symbols scratched into prehistoric tools found thousands of miles from each other indicate a shared communication about a particular concept.

Through the middle of the 20th century, social scientists believed that storytelling was the mechanism that humans used to explain the unknown and instruct and control the masses. But but as any ancient Greek could tell you, storytelling was also entertaining. And with strife and conflict as old as humankind, entertainment is often the distraction people need to keep on keepin’ on.

Some of the best storytellers understood the value of multitasking and they combined a lesson (or moral) within an entertaining tale. What came to be known as fables capitalized on children reaching both an age when they were considered morally responsible and where they had an extended attention span so they could pay attention all the way to the end of a story where the moral was introduced.

Sparkhead Kids is introducing the first chapter of their Campfire Tales, The Fable of Frog and Coyote on Oct 24. Our next blog will tell you all the fun details of not just the story, but also how it came about.

Very clever of us, isn’t it? We tell you just enough about our Campfire Tales to entice you and then leave you hanging. That, ladies and gentleman, is one of the greatest inventions of storytelling: The cliffhanger!

The gratitude attitude

Sometimes it’s just 30 days, other times it’s a whopping 100 days. It’s usually referred to as a gratitude project and the object of it is to pointedly express gratitude for a certain number of days as a way to shift focus to the good things in life. Studies have shown that even the tiniest positive or happy thought has a far-reaching ripple effect on our psyches. It’s why I love videos of naughty cats bopping over-friendly dogs on the head so much. That type of image is a special additive in the fuel that propels me through every day.

What doesn’t seem to work, however, is a forced effort to go through your mental filing cabinet to find the most altruistic things to be grateful for. Turning gratitude into a sort of penance can have the opposite effect. You may become sullen or feel unworthy when you can’t come up with something in your life that is at the Gandhi level of gratitude. You’ve seen those posts on social media. They go something like this: “I’m grateful that India achieved her independence in 1948.”

It’s o.k. if the things you’re grateful for include a co-worker who confessed to you that she signed her name to a group birthday card but didn’t contribute toward the gift. It’s certainly not Gandhi level and you can probably expect the same from her when it’s your birthday, but it was audacious and sassy and your gasp when she told you felt so good. Ready for the season of gratitude to get real? I’ll start: I’m grateful for cinnamon-sugar donuts, binge watching The X-Files on Netflix and rockabilly music.

Your turn!

The great and mighty yes

Some of the planet’s most creative people were trained to say yes to whatever came their way. Actors ranging from Laurence Olivier to Julia Louis-Dreyfus to Johnny Depp are of the “yes” school of performing. They were trained to react affirmatively to the stimuli presented to them. The result is a more authentic response and an audience that connects to that authenticity.

Albert Einstein was definitely a yes-man. A scientific theory is neither proven nor unproven. It’s an idea that starts as a yes and keeps other scientists busy for decades. Einstein was delighted to say yes to possibilities over and over.

Thomas Edison was also fond of the yes. He was so sure that yes was the destination that he didn’t mind the thousands of “no” answers (sometimes referred to as failures or mistakes) he encountered on his journeys.

Everybody has dozens of opportunities to say yes every day. You know how it happens. You’re walking your dog or you’re in the shower or you’re making the macaroni and cheese recipe you know by heart and – Shazam! (as Captain Marvel would say) – creativity hits you right between the eyes and you say yes… or you say no.

Yes, according to New York Times columnist Tony Schwartz, is the difference between merely surviving and thriving. Yes opens the door to creativity, vitality and innovation and can turn the mundane into the spectacular.

We’re very pro-yes at Sparkhead Kids. Yes is why our group of adults spend hours drawing and creating imaginary worlds. Ideas visit us regularly and we choose to say yes to almost all of them.

Try it– there’s always room for a little more yes!

Emerald Bear and Golden Moose standing by

We definitely don’t want to rush anything, but there’s a certain season, whose name shall not be mentioned here, on its way. That season features climatological phenomena like cold temperatures that can lead to frozen crystals falling from the sky.

During this unnamed season, some animals – like bears and moose – grow an extra thick coat that they’ll eventually slough off by rubbing against trees, fence posts and, occasionally, the rusty Chevy in your neighbor’s backyard.

With Sparkhead Kids’ Emerald Bear and Golden Moose cushion covers, your little ones can snuggle through any season with a Forest Friend who would love nothing more than to spend time indoors. Emerald Bear is shown rubbing his backside against a tree, maybe to remove some of that extra hair or maybe just because he has an itch. Golden Moose is knee deep in water, one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

We’re very excited about the fabric printing method for our super soft 100% polyester velveteen cushion covers. We use water based pigment inks that are both safe for the environment and children. So humans – and bears and moose, too – can snuggle to their hearts’ content with these cushions.

Summer is a season that very few people like to see end. But if you listen closely, you’ll hear an almost inaudible sigh of relief as our bodies and minds greet the natural deceleration that follows summer’s transition to autumn. Nature is entering her reboot time and Emerald Bear and Golden Moose are ready to assist your little ones (and you) with well-deserved quiet time.

Silly is as silly does

Parents want to do whatever they can to prepare their kids for joyful, purposeful lives. New research suggests that a well-developed sense of humor is connected to happier and more optimistic children with strong self-esteem. Furthermore (please say this out loud in a formal British accent a la Monty Python), additional research indicates that a sense of humor can be learned.

You don’t have to introduce a slapstick routine into your family’s life to help your little ones learn to laugh. Giggling when your dog steals a pancake from the breakfast table or chuckling when your spouse says something that, if you weren’t in such a rush, really is funny teaches your kids that humor is everywhere and if they take the time to look for and notice it, life is a lot easier.

Another way to encourage the development of a sense of humor in your kids is to take time to be silly (Note: being silly with your children will accelerate the learning process in your kids, but, by all means, be silly on your own!). Funny voices, inside jokes, goofy selfies, singing REALLY loudly in the car and frequently shaking your groove thing are all great ways to take life a little less seriously with your child. Instant – and long term – positive results are guaranteed.

Humor, like empathy, kindness and tolerance, can be learned. And, like each of the aforementioned (once again, please assume your best formal British accent and say this word out loud) attributes, humor makes the world a much happier place.

Your place in the universe

Ah, the African dung beetle, so lowly and yet so well regarded. Even though they’re situated very near the bottom rung of the food chain, scientists are quite fascinated by African dung beetle behaviour and new findings are frequently announced. Most recently, it was determined that African dung beetles are only able to find their place in the universe when the Milky Way or clusters of bright stars are visible.

The means the African dung beetle has quite a bit in common with explorers like Magellan, Vespucci and you. Maybe you don’t turn your face skyward every night and determine where you literally or figuratively stand based on the location of the Big Dipper, but you probably could. With thanks to whatever grade school teacher who taught you basic astronomy, you probably know how to find true north (or a close approximation) and where home is relative to it.

Have you ever considered that all it really takes to determine your place in the vast universe we inhabit, is to look around a clear night sky? Even the briefest period of stargazing encourages most people to think beyond them selves and toward the infinite.

Sparkhead Kids’ Campfire Tales collection now includes our new Magnificent Stars comforter, curtains and two sizes of cushions. The deep blue night sky is populated with the bright stars of the constellations of Leo, Big Bear and Little Bear so your little one will always know where home is when he or she returns from exploring dreamland. All products are comfy, lightweight and perfectly printed.

The Magnificent Stars design is not age specific, so older explorers can be guided in their dreams, too.

Sleeping under a universe full of stars

Cloudy or clear, northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere – technically, we all sleep under the stars. With heavy cloud cover or bright city lights, we may not see those stars, but they’re still there, ready to offer navigation across wide seas or through miles of wilderness.

The night sky is a fathomless blue, but sometimes, without moonlight or twinkling stars, there’s not enough light to stimulate our cones (as in rods and cones) in our eyes, which are sensitive to colour. Then the sky seems black, which is not nearly as luxurious and inviting as its natural blue. A sky so endless and far away, but you can imagine how soft and velvety it might feel to be floating out there. And you’re not alone in your desire to be part of it all. Artists have tried to render the wonder of a night sky since small fires illuminated cave walls.

Sparkhead Kids’ newest design in the Campfire Tales collection is our Magnificent Stars comforter, curtains and two sizes of cushions featuring the true blue of a night sky and a universe full of stars with the constellations of Leo, Big Bear and Little Bear are included to guide little ones to dreamland, just as they guided early explorers to new lands. All products are comfy, lightweight and perfectly printed.

The Wonders of the Universe design easily crosses over to adult slumber, so now is your chance to find your way in your dreams with the help of an always clear night sky.

Lucky Frog and lucky us

According to many cultures’ storytelling traditions, all water rites belong to frogs. They’re considered rainmakers and they teach us to honor the tears that cleanse our souls. Because water is so important to survival, frogs are considered good luck in many cultures.

You don’t get to be in charge of something as important as water rites without also having a reputation for being pretty smart. Because they slip so easily from egg to tadpole to a fully formed version of themselves, frogs symbolize transition and transformation. Although every living thing experiences transformation, frogs are instant visible proof that letting go of what no longer serves you and moving to the next stage in life brings great reward. Lucky frog, indeed!

And if you’re a fan of Sparkhead Kids’ Forest Friends collection, lucky you, too! Lucky Frog is featured on one of our super soft cushion covers and in our print collection. He’s ready to share his lessons in life with you and your little ones.

Lucky Frog can also tell you a few things about working with your strengths. Frogs’ back legs are a miraculously engineered combination of muscles and tendons that allow them to jump an average of 150 times their length. Or maybe Lucky Frog will teach you that sometimes it’s not physical strength that is important. Sometimes you can accomplish your goals with the gift of your tongue.

They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince (or princess) but even though Lucky Frog is kissable, we think you’ll see his inner and outer beauty right away.

Tricks and treats from our friend Trickster Coyote

Poor Wile E. Coyote, Looney Tunes’ hapless pursuer of Roadrunner. He never achieved his goal and he never grasped the futility of his efforts. In our more activist-centric present, coyotes around the world might unite to protest Wile E.’s portrayal of their breed. Because, as most native cultures show, it’s coyote that’s the trickster. Or, in Norse legend, it’s Loki the wolf. And according to U.S. essayist Henry Ward Beecher, “The dog is the god of frolic.”

Many Plains Indian tribes have legends that feature coyotes as spirit guides, often teaching lessons through pranks that end with their humans laughing at themselves. Some legends just end with coyote laughing, though. As far as coyote’s concerned, it’s all good as long as he’s the one enjoying himself.

Sometimes coyote is featured in darker stories, revealing the uncomfortable truth about a situation. But coyote’s intentions are almost always good even if his methods can occasionally be unsettling.

Sparkhead Kids’ Trickster Coyote super soft cushion is true to his legacy. He is frequently up to mischief and often outsmarts his fellow animals. His big smile is happy, though, and he’s quite the joker. Our Trickster Coyote, like his dog cousins, is all about fun and games, which means he’s just as loveable as our other Forest Friends. So your little one can snuggle up with a cushion that features Trickster Coyote or add his print to a wall to ensure frequent chuckles during play.

Thoughtful Turtle (and thoughts about our creative process)

Not since the Renaissance has creativity been such a hot commodity. The likes of Da Vinci, Copernicus and Shakespeare were innovators in the worlds of the arts, literature, philosophy and science and were publicly praised and rewarded for their creativity. The rich environment supported the risk-takers and dreamers and the world continues to benefit from that era.

Sparkhead Kids is our own little salon d’arts where we are immersed in inspiration and we develop our ideas. Everyone should be so lucky to work in a community  of such talented designers, illustrators and artists!

Thoughtful Turtle is our latest design for the Forest Friends collection. We’re inspired by international animal fables and the turtle shows up in so many of them where it is often associated with… creation! In the oldest legends of ancient Greece, the whole world rests on the back of a turtle. For many North American indigenous peoples, the turtle also represents longevity. In modern folk tales, the turtle is often depicted as being very wise (the wisdom of slow but sure wins the race helped the tortoise beat the hare, after all!).

The best way for us to process ideas out of our imaginations is to first manually sketch our designs on paper. It allows us to fine-tune details so the design is exactly how we want it to look. Then the image is scanned and opened up in Photoshop. This digital process allows us to create clean outlines and perfect the colors so that what we originally saw in our mind’s eye is what you’ll see.

When we’re happy with the result – when a character like Thoughtful Turtle comes to life – we know you’ll be happy with the result. And, ladies and gentlemen, here he is, our very own Thoughtful Turtle:

What’s happening in there?

Has it ever suddenly become quiet in your home and you instantly panic? Mom or dad senses go on alert and you wonder where your little one is. As your search begins you hear a tiny voice coming from your child’s bedroom and you realize he or she is just enjoying some alone time.

Kids, just like adults, need time away from it all – it’s hard work learning a new language, appropriate behaviors and socialization, not to mention all the energy required to run, jump and play. Kids, just like adults, also enjoy a good night’s sleep and an occasional nap (or two). No wonder your little one finds a haven in her or his own bedroom – it’s a place of comfort.

When left to their own devices, kids will determine the perfect amount of alone time for themselves. It’s during that time that imagination and creativity are sparked. Kids also learn self-sufficiency and problem solving as they create scenarios with their favorite toys and sometimes even mediate conflicts between two characters. Playing alone also builds a child’s comfort with him- or herself, which can lead to stronger self-esteem.

We’re all artists at Sparkview Kids and we are never lonely when we’re alone because we’re often creating loveable children’s characters that are full of personality. We love sharing those characters – like Fiona and the Forest Friends – with your kids and you. We paid special attention to every detail – friendly facial features, vibrant colours, nature-inspired whimsy – to help inspire children as they enjoy their very important alone time in their rooms. Because we know how happy our own creativity and imagination makes us!

A preschooler’s take on colour theory

For a child, there is no such thing as too much colour. Even without the scientific research to back that statement up (and such research does exist), colour is so vital in a child’s development, that even as adults we can remember favorite colors from childhood. Quick, which colour gumball was your favorite?

Now, back to science. According to a University of Oregon study, children under the age of five are calmer and more secure in the presence of one bold colour, such as one boldly coloured wall in a preschool classroom or a bedroom. A jumble of colours has the opposite effect – and not just on children!

One way to provide the colour your child craves without creating a jarring environment throughout your entire home is to create a colour utopia in your child’s bedroom. And here’s where Sparkhead Kids can help!

Even without research studies, the artists at Sparkhead Kids know about little ones’ attraction to colour. Even though we have practical experience as parents, the real reason is that we’re also kids at heart. That’s probably why we became artists – where else can you play with so much colour?

We also take colour seriously, combining intense hues with handcrafted images to create the perfect bedding, curtains, cushion covers and lampshades for your little ones’ bedroom. And, for a preschooler, perfect almost always includes colour. If a boldly colored wall is more of a design commitment than you want to make, don’t worry, we’ve got you (and your child’s bed, window, cushions and lamp) covered!

Let’s talk about snuggle quality

Snuggling is so amazingly, wonderfully, fabulously good for you! If you don’t believe me, maybe a few dozen scientific research studies about snuggling will convince you. Yes, somebody got paid to study snuggling. And what did these studies prove? That, among other things, snuggling releases the natural feel good hormone oxytocin, boosts your immune system, reduces stress and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Oh, and one more thing: snuggling defies definition. That’s right – there’s no right or wrong way to snuggle. Elephants snuggle by wrapping their trunks around each other. Groups of three or four dolphins swim close together and move in and out and over and under each other in their version of snuggling. Cats are famous, but often indiscriminate snugglers. They’ll snuggle with other cats, dogs, humans, even soft plush toys.

And human mamas and papas and little ones… well, there are as many versions of human cuddling as there are humans. Often a favorite blankie or other soft item is a child’s favorite snuggle accessory.

Sparkhead Kids loves a good snuggle. That’s why we made sure that our bedding and cushions have a high snuggle quality rating. No, scientists didn’t devise that. The artists at Sparkhead Kids and their own children determined whether our products were snuggle-worthy. A nap here, a story time session there. It wasn’t long before we knew what worked and what didn’t. Only the most snuggle-worthy materials made it into the items available to our customers, so purchase with confidence and snuggle away!

Here’s to imaginary friends, Forest Friends and the creativity that keeps everybody happy

Ah, the imaginary friend! Hiding in the laundry basket, laughing at naughtiness and the real culprit behind spilled juice. There are varying statistics that prove how common imaginary friends are, but in most cases, parents have nothing to worry about. It’s usually brighter, innovative children who introduce invisible companions like Mac, the mouse who wears a vest, or Courtney, the girl with curly hair, to their families.

Sparkhead New Media is rolling out a new line of characters – called Forest Friends – who are identified by an personality trait instead of a name (OK, OK – you talked us into telling you what we call at least one of the characters: Happy Rabbit). The Forest Friends aren’t invisible and we don’t consider them imaginary (fueled by imagination, yes; imaginary, no), but they will give your kids plenty of opportunity to develop creativity. A character like Happy Rabbit provides at least a couple details for a backstory, to be enhanced and embellished by your child.

As a small business, our approach is all about inspiring kids with fun and colorful designs that reflect our environment. The first seven of the eventual 20 Forest Friends is available in cushion case and print form. We’re also planning a series of short children’s books that showcase the Forest Friends’ adventures, on their own and with each other.

So ask any existing imaginary friends to scooch over and make room on your child’s bed for a new friend or two visiting from the forest!

Getyourguide.com

My latest find on the web is Get your guide.com

Guided tours. Cooking classes. Sightseeing buses. Canal cruises. There are a lot of things to do when you’re discovering a new place. The hard part? Figuring out where to start!

GetYourGuide collects and categorizes all the world’s things to do so you research less and do more. Africa to Oceania and back again, they make it simple for you to find and book an activity that will make your trip — or your day.

Getyourguide.com

A place where anyone can explore, book and organize unique things to do, anywhere in the world! Here you can find after-dark tours of Saigon on a vintage Vespa, or attend a two-hour gladiator school in Rome. You can also become a Gidsy guide and share unique experiences in your own hometown.

Time to go exploring!

Monkey Portraits

We walked into our local second hand bookstore today and came away with this Gem. Monkey Portraits by Jill Greenburg.

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We were deeply moved by the human, beautifully moving portraits. Looking at these pictures, you cannot deny the soulfulness of these primates.

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Commercial and celebrity photographer Jill Greenberg spent five years photographing monkeys (and some apes) who she met through animal agencies and trainers, ending up with this collection of 75 spectacular primate portraits. The photos are not only technically beautiful but also truly amazing in the way that Greenberg so perfectly captured the expressions and emotions of these creatures.

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“For anyone who doubts Darwin (ahem, Mr President) look in the monkey mirror and think again” Introduction by Jill Greenberg

Jill has had an enormously successful exhibition of her Monkey Portraits at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles winter 2004.

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Each of these 76 amazing anthropomorphic photographs will remind readers of someone they know after all humans share over 90% of their DNA with their primate cousins

 

The Worlds Smallest Postal Service

I came across the cutest web shop

Leaf cutter designs,

a company run by artists Lea Redmond and her brother Devin and calls itself the world’s smallest postal service – and it means that literally.

The Berkeley, California based company sends tiny envelopes and tinny packages filled with itty-bitty gifts to whom ever you think could use a little something.

I just was so charmed by this company, truly adorable!

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 Check them out:  Leaf Cutter Designs

 

“Le Chateau des Etolies”

“Le Chateau des Etolies”

We were in Montreal browsing the bookstore “Debede” and came across this gorgeous graphic novel by Alex Alice and published by “Rue de Sevres”.

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What first caught our eye was the unusual newspaper print format.

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As soon as we came back to our apartment we opened up our laptops and went into research mode.

“Le Châteaux des Etoiles” written and illustrated by Alex Alice had its debut in February 2014 at Angouleme Festival – Belgium. Alex Alice is already known for his previous work on “Siegfried” and “The Third Testament” published by Dargaud.

“le Chateau des Etoiles” is a science fiction adventure story told in french which takes place in 1869 in Bavaria where our hero 16 year old Seraphin Dulac spends the summer with this father. The story is told in 3 parts.

To us we were captivated by the beautiful water-colour illustrations and cinematic way of presenting the story.

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Check it out! Le Chateau des Etoiles

Book shelf series: interview with Robert Sabuda.

There are so many great, talented artists out there that we follow, who inspire us with our own work and creative visions. Our latest purchase was an exceptional piece by leading pop-up book artist, Robert Sabuda, called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The minute we came across it, we were in awe.

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Beginning with the mesmerizing colours; they are lively and vivid, you immediately become enchanted. The stylistic drawings illustrate the magical tale we are all so fond of, in the most delightful way. And of course, the added feature of the pop-up images, which embrace the adventurous story and allow the reader to literally become absorbed. Without this addition, the book would be just as expressive and charming. But the pop-ups make it a particular and unique work of art.

Finally, for the finishing touch, there is a special pair of green glasses included when you purchase the piece. When the reader puts them on, the depth of the pages becomes even greater. We found this so amusing and extraordinary. The incorporation of traditional drawings with new and unique paper engineering methods is what we as artists appreciate, admire and aspire in our own designs.

After enjoying this book, we were so intrigued by this brilliant artist, we had to research and find out more about him. We ended up getting in touch with Robert Sabuda by email and he was nice enough to answer a few highly anticipated questions. Here is how our exchange went:

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Q: Have you always been an artist?

RS: I do not recall a time when I did not have a pencil or crayon in my hand! Even as a young boy I enjoyed making little books that I could fill with stories and pictures.

 

Q: What inspires you as an artist?

RS: I think that inspiration comes from the experiences of my everyday life. I’ll read about something (or someone) and say “wouldn’t that make a wonderful book?”

 

Q: What artist inspired you?

RS: I’ve always been inspired by the work of artist Tomie dePaola.

 

Q: What was the first pop-up book you ever had?

RS: The very first pop-up book I ever owned was The Adventures of Super Pickle. It was about this crime fighting people who lived in a vegetable town. It sounds a little silly today, but I LOVED that book when I was a boy.

 

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Q: Some of your pop-up books seem like they might be too delicate for young readers. Are your pop-up books for children or adults?

RS: Sometimes pop-up books can be delicate, but that’s what makes them so wonderful. The more delicate it is, the more fantastic it usually is. If a parent is concerned about their young children handling a pop-up book, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to sit down and SHARE the book with the child, turning the pages carefully. This also teaches a child to respect a book and not treat it like a toy.

 

Q: How did you learn to make pop-ups?

RS: After receiving The Adventures of Super Pickle I set out to learn how to make pop-ups. There were no books at that time to help me, so I got more pop-up books and began to carefully examine them, trying to figure out how they worked. Eventually I was able to teach myself!

 

Q: What makes for a good mechanical book?

RS: I always feel that if when you turn the page there is a great “WOW” moment when the pop-up explodes, you are on the way to a great mechanical book!

 

Q: What, in your opinion, causes the reader’s fascination with mechanical books?

RS: The element of surprise contributes greatly to the success of a pop-up book. Not knowing what to expect on the next page takes the reader back to their childhood experiences with book. They become like children again when they see a pop-up. They are experiencing the book as if they were children again.

 

Q: Can you talk about your selection process; what sections of text you decided to remove and what sections you decided to leave in, and why?

RS: The original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a novel so I definitely needed to leave some things out or my pop-up book would be too thick to fit on a shelf!  I make my selections by asking myself what are the most important moments or aspects of the story.  Are some scenes more dramatic than others?  If so, then the more dramatic ones would probably make better pop-up scenes.

 

Q: The Wonderful World of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have a similar illustrative style, but Gods and Heroes has a different illustrative style. How do you decide what illustrative style you will use, what does this depend on?

RS: Just like a traditional two-dimensional picture book’s art style, a three-dimensional pop-up book art style is usually dictated by the manuscript.  I preferred to use a heavy black line in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because this style is similar to the original style of the novels.  Some of my other pop-up books allow for a more free artistic interpretation.

 

Q: What inspires you to choose the stories you chose to present in your specific way?

RS: I really only create books based on stories, subjects or themes that interest me personally.  Most people tend to think that children’s book creators are making their books for children when, in fact, that is rarely true.  We’re actually creating them for the child within ourselves.  I know that may sound a bit selfish but it’s true.  All my friends who are children’s book creators have told me they feel the same way.  If the subject doesn’t interest me personally, then I’m not interested in making that book (and I’d probably do a bad job anyway!).

 

Q: Since you work with moving pictures, your books are a form of animation. Did you ever consider working in animation or creating your own animated projects?

RS: Who knows what the future holds, but for now, books and paper are the way I express myself creatively.

 

Q: Who are the artists that inspire you?

RS: Tomie dePaola, Barbara Cooney, James Marshall.

 

Q: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

 Website: www.robertsabuda.com

Twitter: @robertsabuda

 

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Learning how to use social media for the business

The process of setting up the online business has been a challenging and rewarding learning experience. For someone who knew very little about social media and its different resources, I can definitely say that’s now changed. I had no idea how useful it can be for a company, not to mention vital.

Through research and help, we found our way, and now we want to share (in brief) the important steps we took in developing our social media plan:

1- Define your goals

What will you be using social media for? What are you aiming for? Be clear of your mission and use social media to foster engagement, interaction and recognition of our brand. It can be a way of reaching out to followers not only entertain them through carefully thought-out posts, but to also give back.

2 – Research, research, research!

I cannot stress how important this is, before doing anything else. Know what’s out there, what already exists and what companies already successful. Why not learn from the best and apply it to your own practices?

For example, Ikea has an excellent blog. Instead of posting products, they share helpful insight on what you can do with certain spaces, where they got the inspiration for some of their designs, and even some humorous comics. This is instantly appealing to their vast audience.

3 – Define your key audiences

Through your research you should discover who your target market is based on age, demographics and psychographics. This is an extremely important component, because everything you will be doing on social media should be tailored to your audiences.

4 – Find the right tactics for each platform

First you’ve got to know the different platforms that exist, and what each of them has to offer; look into the ones most commonly used by businesses, as a start. Next, through further research you should determine which age groups use which platforms most, and create your posts while keeping this in mind. Pew Research came out with results showing that Facebook is the most-used social-networking platform for adults Internet users. Conversations on this platform should be tailored to suit such users and engage them.

Twitter is also a useful platform for businesses to build relationships with their customers, and the best way to engage followers is to inspire them through creative and captivating tweets. On Pinterest, posts should be visually appealing since users are on it for this feature.

5 – Create a content calendar

This is a simple calendar that keeps you organized and keeps track of when you will post what onto what platform. It’s simply a schedule. The reason why it’s so important is that you can look ahead and know when it’s best to make certain posts of engagement and start conversations.

6 – Start evaluating

Once you start posting, tweeting, sharing etc., you should start evaluating your influence to know what is working and what isn’t. Measure your conversation influence using useful analytics sites like Topsy and twittonomy. On Twitter you can also check the amount of tweets and retweets. It’s important to keep track of this in determining your reach and interaction.

With social media, it’s best to experiment and try new things, especially once you’ve already established your online presence. The most successful tactics have been ones where companies took risks aimed in a positive direction, and in turn sparked lots of engagement.

Backing up My WordPress Site

I was having some issues with my breadcrumb links on my site and found out that this issue was fixed in a later version of WordPress and what I needed to do was to update my WordPress site. As I am new to WordPress, I thought I had better double check regarding what to expect with doing an update. I’m so glad that I did because when you update WordPress, you must have your site backed up in case the updated version is not compatible with plug ins or programming of your version hence you can come across other issues and the only way back is to restore your site from your backup. Makes sense and also based on what I was reading, it appears that this does happen! And further more the best way to back up your site is to do three different types of backups…wowzer! Okay, so now, I’m paying attention to how many backups, where and what I do. So this morning, my main job for the day was to get my site backed up and to update and resolve my original issue. WordPress is relatively easy, so I was reading up on backing up when I came across a company called BlogVault (http://blogvault.net). The service they provide is simple and marvelous. BlogVault is a backup service that enables you to backup, restore, migrate or download your WordPress sites. It performs daily automatic backups and real-time backups of your entire WordPress data, including themes, plugins, images, posts, comments, etc. How does it work? BlogVault includes a plugin that must be installed on all the WordPress sites that you want to be backed up. Once this is done, their server automatically contacts the plugin every day for new changes to your site. It stores multiple backups on its own as well as Amazon S3 servers. BlogVault maintains up to 30 days of backup, enabling you to revert back to any older version easily. It provides excellent tools that help you recover you site whenever needed.

As a newbie to the world of WordPress, websites and running an online shop, I thought that for the small fee required, this was worth peace of mind and went ahead and used this company. Once my site was backed up, I did a test restore, and everything went smoothly. Then, I went and updated my WordPress version. To my utter surprise, the update did indeed have issues, and my site was missing the sidebar and my product images were smaller and not aligned. So I got hold of BlogVault, and within 30 minutes, I had my original site back up and running! I am grateful for these companies I am finding that provide such important services for those of us who do not have a tech background or a tech department, and the price of the service is so very affordable. Now, I feel safe knowing that my site is backed up and it is also not another detail that I need to remember to do as it is out of my hands and in the hands of BlogVault and I can move ahead with finding out why the update did not work and fixing the issue.

 

“Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Today Im thinking about the upcoming date of our website launch. Everything that has taken me to this moment. The last years with parents and family members passing, the illness of sight that comes with such profound painful loss. How I have found joy in working away at getting our website running, designing our products, looking at tests, approving and the final stage of posting to our website. Ive been thinking about all the different lives I have lead and now this new unexpected one unfolding in front of me.  I look at it as a new opportunity, a chance to enjoy an exciting change, a way to learn and meet new people, an avenue that leads to personal success. While there is always a lot of anxiety that comes along with starting something new I am grateful to be part of this new upcoming adventure and to see where it all leads!

Time is what clocks measure

“Two contrasting viewpoints on time divide many prominent philosophers. One view is that time is part of the fundamental structure of the universe – a dimension independent of events, in which events occur in sequenceSir Isaac Newton subscribed to this realist view, and hence it is sometimes referred to as Newtonian time.[20][21] The opposing view is that time does not refer to any kind of “container” that events and objects “move through”, nor to any entity that “flows”, but that it is instead part of a fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number) within which humans sequence and compare events. This second view, in the tradition of Gottfried Leibniz[15] and Immanuel Kant,[22][23] holds that time is neither an event nor a thing, and thus is not itself measurable nor can it be travelled.”