Fairytale Friday : La Petite Ballerina and her TuTu Cute Frenchies


Petite Ballerinas: Theresa, Odelia & Alice custom illustration © Shell-Sherree
{Petite Ballerinas: Theresa, Odelia & Alice custom illustration © Shell-Sherree}

Until recently, I had only once illustrated a ballerina, inspired by the ever-glorious window displays in Repetto, Paris.  Then, I met budding ballet dancer Theresa Szafranski @lapetiteballerina and her mum Dixie via their beautiful French bulldogs @odelia_and_alice on Instagram.  My Repetto illustration struck a chord {more Tchaikovsky than Stravinsky} and lo and behold, a custom illustration was soon in the making for this beautiful family.  Come with us behind the scenes.

Theresa with Alice (left) and Odelia (right) Photos © Luis Pons
{Theresa with Alice (left) and Odelia (right) Photos © Luis Pons}

Dixie, thank you so very much for engaging me to create something special to capture the essence of Theresa’s love of ballet and her gorgeous French bulldogs, Odelia and Alice!  One of my previous illustrations - the Repetto window in Paris - helped spark your brief to me.  Have you and Theresa ever been there?

We have been to Repetto in New York City.  It's a charming boutique where Theresa purchased two beautiful leotards for her summer intensive and a lovely fragrance. {Theresa also adores wearing her Gaynor Minden pointe shoes.}  We would love to visit Repetto in Paris one day.

Theresa photo © Luis Pons - illustration © ShellSherree
{Having fun with Odelia & Alice for their illustrated ballet performance with mum Theresa}

You and Theresa are currently living in NYC for Theresa’s ballet studies – and how lucky that her sister lives nearby in Brooklyn!  What does your typical day look like ?

Currently Theresa is attending a summer intensive which is 9am to 5pm, but a typical day would start with Theresa feeding the dogs breakfast and leaving for school.  Then I take Odelia and Alice out for a walk in a nice park near home. We go for a few more walks during school hours before Theresa’s home for a quick change before ballet.  The dogs and I usually accompany her to ballet class and I push the dogs in their stroller.  Then we go home and I feed the dogs their dinner. After Theresa's ballet class is over, we walk and pick her up, and on occasion we’ll go out for dinner and take the dogs with us in their stroller. Once home, Theresa starts her homework then we take the dogs out together for one last walk.

That’s a lot of walking!  I imagine the pups are happy to rest their paws during their stroller rides.  So adorable.  Theresa looks every inch the ballerina.  When did you start to get an inkling that her talents and heart lay in that direction?

We first noticed that Theresa had a passion and a talent for ballet when she was around the age of 8. She never missed a ballet class, and always got to ballet early to stretch. Theresa was also chosen for many special parts in ballets her dance school held.  When she performed, we could see her gracefulness and her love of dancing.

Theresa swan-like by the lake © Luis Pons
{Theresa swan-like by the lake © Luis Pons}

Theresa, you must have an extremely gruelling schedule.  I’m guessing Alice and Odelia help you immensely with unwinding and managing that?

Yes they do! They are always there to cuddle and give me kisses when I come home from school and dance. They love me very much and they are always curious about what I am up to. They are the funniest, entertaining and most lovable dogs in the world.

You seem to spend a bit of time by the ocean, which must help everyone relax now and again from the rigorous routines.  Theresa, how are Odelia and Alice’s sea legs when they are out on the water ?

I love the ocean and we are lucky to live near so many beach locations. The beach is one of my favourite places to go because it’s so relaxing and beautiful. As for Odelia and Alice, they aren't such big fans! Odelia always tries to eat the sand, Alice doesn't like the seagulls, and they both dislike the water.

Enough walking, mum.  Push faster, please --- Keeping sand and seagulls at a safe distance Photos @odelia_and_alice
{ Enough walking, mum.  Push faster, please --- Keeping sand and seagulls at a safe distance Photos @odelia_and_alice}

Heh!  They must keep your hands full while you’re there.  Theresa, let's say you could turn any movie into a ballet. Which one would you love to dance in the most and who would be your leading man?  

One of my favourite movies is Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn. I would dance Audrey’s part and my dream partner would be the principal dancer named Roberto Bolle, who happens to be Italian.

If Odelia and Alice were principal ballerinas, which ballet and character would suit each of them best, Theresa?

The best ballet for them would be Swan Lake. Either of them could play both swans, because they both have a sweet side and a naughty side, but Alice would most likely be cast as the white swan (Odette) and Odelia as the black swan (Odile).  Fun fact: Odelia is actually named after the black swan!

They would make beautiful swans, as would you!  I look forward to seeing where your love of ballet leads you, and the ongoing adventures of your beautiful pups.  Thanks so much, Dixie and Theresa.   

And on that note …

Happy Fairytale Friday to you!

Glorious photography © Luis Pons @ponsphoto   Used with permission and my deepest thanks

Theresa © Luis Pons
{Theresa © Luis Pons}

Fashionable Friday : Vintage Violet and the Happiness Weed


Paris fashion illustration: Violet and Vintage Dior with Fluffballs  © Shell-Sherree
{Fashion illustration: Violet and Vintage Dior in Paris  © Shell-Sherree}

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  A purple weed foraged amongst foliage on my studio desk would not.  Most unfortunate.

Regardless of its rejection from the perfumer's arsenal, it is cheerful, humble and really rather lovely.  I'm sure the vase is at least half full.  And our thought for the day, even more so.  Always choose happiness.

Today's illustration rewinds us with a nod to vintage Dior and has me wondering where Agent Violet has got to.  So come, let us scoop up our skirts, sip medicinal brandy from our gold monogrammed hip flasks and ...oh.  Perhaps therein lies the problem.  And on that note ...

Happy Fashionable Friday to you !


Francophile Friday : Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité


Flowy and Frenchie fashion & fluffballs illustration © Shell-Sherree
{Flowy and Frenchie fashion & fluffballs illustration © Shell-Sherree}

Today's illustration of flowy, sweet goodness upholds my steadfast determination to shine the light of happiness, peace and love in the face of things that are ~ well, the opposite of that. Stubborn, I know. {Often, I've been told.} If I ever succumbed to a tattoo, it would most likely read, "Though she be but little, she is fierce," ~  though clearly not when it comes to the desire to have a tattoo.  Perhaps a nice tea towel instead ...

While I skate on the fluffy snow of my happy place and pray the ice below is thick, I believe from the top of my head to my pink-polished toes that we create more of what we focus on.  Do I always succeed in choosing wisely?  Nopedy-nope nope.  But I keep having a darn good crack at it.  {Let's hope the ice does not do the same.}

So come, let us talk of what makes our hearts soar and our boats float, and tap dance courageously in the face of banana skins.  Where there's a banana skin, there's a monkey.  And on that note ...

Happy Francophile Friday!


Francophile Friday : A Tale of Frenchies Cosette, Rue and mum Alexandra


{Rue & Cosette's Tea-Time in Paris custom illustration © Shell-Sherree}

Today's post continues our interview series where I chat with the mums behind the lens of gorgeous pups on Instagram.  Last week's Paris illustration included sweet French bulldogs Cosette and Rue of @cocoandkanga so let's meet their beautiful mom Alexandra!

Alexandra, Cosette & Rue of @cocoandkanga
{Alexandra, Cosette & Rue of @cocoandkanga}

Cosette and Rue are such little ladies, often photographed in their flowers, pearls and hats, taking tea and looking as if they are about to head off to church in their Sunday best!  So cute.  Do they have a larger wardrobe than yours and are you ever tempted to borrow from it?

Oh, absolutely! I hate shopping for me.  But shopping for Rue and Cosette is so much fun! Since it’s hard to find pet clothes that fit Rue, I’ve started having fun in the baby section at Target. I could spend hours going through onesies and dresses and hats! Every closet in the house now has a section for the dogs’ clothes!

If you could invite any three people {alive or past} to a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party along with your pups, who would they be and why?

Oh, my! I’ll have to think hard on this one. Well, I’m definitely inviting Frederic Chopin. Hopefully, he’ll talk all about his glorious music and perhaps even play if a piano is nearby! Fingers crossed! Next, I’ll invite William Shakespeare. It would be such an experience to discuss Romeo and Juliet over a cup of tea. And lastly… we’ll have to invite you, Shell! You’re such a fun, imaginative person. Who better to invite! Then we’ll have our favourite musician, our favourite writer, and our favourite artist. What an amazing 'Tea Time with Cosette' that would be!

Cosette and Rue @cocoandkanga being the little ladies they are
{Cosette and Rue @cocoandkanga being the little ladies they are}

Aww, aren't you gorgeous!  I’d be there with bells on and a piano in tow if needs be!  Our first custom project together was whisking Cosette and Rue away for an illustrated daydream in Paris.  Why is Paris so special to you? 

Oh, what can I say? Paris is … Paris. I think it’s the most beautiful city in the world. I’ve never been one of those people with a big desire to travel, but Paris, I want to visit one day. My mother and I  have been infatuated with her for as long as I can remember, and Rue and Cosette have grown that love. Rue was our first French bulldog. Then, when we got our second Frenchie puppy, my mother and I had no idea what to name her. We threw names around for days. Olive… Minnie… Nothing seemed right. Then, we watched Les Miserables when it premiered on HBO. By the end, we had a name for our puppy: Cosette.  It was so beautiful. And it was French. It was perfect.    

It's very pretty!  I was touched when you also asked me to create a memento of the love between Cosette and your grandma.  When did you first notice their special bond?

Right away! Before we got Cosette, my grandmother got very ill and was in the ICU for a long time.  We still thank God every day that she’s with us now, recovered. But when she was sick, it was a very difficult time. We got Cosette to bring some much needed happiness into our lives. By then, my grandma had been home from the hospital for some time, but she was still having some issues. Every Monday night my mother, grandmother, and I would run weekly errands together. The first Monday with Cosette, we didn’t want to leave her home with the rest of the dogs. So we put her in the back seat with my grandma. And that was the beginning of it. Cosette never stays home on Monday nights with the rest of the dogs! She comes along and rides in the backseat with Grandma, who stays in the car and cuddles with Cosette while we do the shopping. We have dinner at my grandmother’s house often, and Cosette will scratch my legs until I put her on my grandma’s lap. It’s her favourite place to be. She just gazes up at her with this look of sheer adoration. She’s never looked at anyone else like that. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit jealous! They love each other SO much! It’s really a very sweet thing to be able to witness.

Cosette Loves Grammy Loves Cosette custom illustration © Shell-Sherree
{Cosette Loves Grammy Loves Cosette custom illustration © Shell-Sherree}

You have a beautiful gift for storytelling in your Instagram captions.  I was misty-eyed reading your post about how Rue came to live with you.  Could you share that here?

I would love to! My neighbour introduced me to a woman who needed somebody to tend to her Frenchie puppy in her house a few days a week while she was at work. I happily volunteered. When I first opened the door to her house. I was greeted by this crazy energetic puppy who had a really tiny body and really humongous ears!! She was the cutest thing I had ever seen! Her name was Babe. I remember thinking that that wasn’t the name I would have given her. After I fed her and let her out, I would always play with Babe. My mother came with me and she sat on the couch, holding her in her arms like a baby. It was so precious, and so hard to put her back in her kennel and walk away. She would watch us go with such sad eyes and we always looked forward to seeing her again. One day, we walked in to find a note from Babe’s owner, saying her young son and Babe weren’t getting along well and that adopting Babe hadn’t been what she’d expected. She was going to sell Babe. I looked up at my mother and said, “The only person she’s selling her to is us.” When we went over to take Babe home, I remember thinking it would be the last time she would ever have to sit in that kennel all day and stare at the door, waiting for someone to open it. Instead, we would shower her with love. With her huge ears and the way she jumped up and down excitedly, she reminded us of a kangaroo! But we wanted to rename her something more feminine than Roo. So we took a hint from The Hunger Games and spelled it R-U-E. We love our Kanga-Rue so much! She has the best personality ever! My mother and I both love our “Kanga cuddles” so much! And since I don’t know any people who are more loving or more loyal than her … well, she’s pretty special.

While Cosette and Rue are your pups with their own Instagram account, they have two more sisters, Daisy and Emme.  That's a handful !  Did they all settle in together quickly or were there 'teething' times? 

When we brought Rue home, we had Emme, Daisy, and our late Boston Terrier, Bella. After Bella passed away, we got Cosette. Rue drove Emme and Daisy crazy before we got Cosette. They were like, “we’re too mature for your puppy antics.” When we brought home Cosette, Rue finally had a friend she could wrestle with and play with all day long. They are best friends. I wish I could say all four dogs get along perfectly. But if you have more than two dogs, it becomes a pack, and sometimes there’s tension over who is alpha. Like real sisters, though, they’ll snap at each other and then a minute later they’ll be playing together and cuddling. Every dog we’ve ever had has been involved in a pack scuffle at least once except Cosette. She’s so sweet! Our little Coco is like “screw instincts,” and she runs out of the room until everyone’s calmed down. Sometimes, they make me want to rip my hair out. But it’s such a joy to be able to take care of them all. They each have such unique and wonderful personalities. Every day my dogs amaze me.

Rue, Cosette, Daisy and Emme @cocoandkanga
Rue, Cosette, Daisy and Emme @cocoandkanga 

Along with your pups, what are your other big loves in life?

Well after the pups have been fed and played with and are taking their first of twenty naps, I like to play the piano. I’ve been playing for 11 years now, mainly classical, hence my earlier tea invitation to Frederic Chopin. But I also dabble in a little pop. Chopin is undoubtedly my favorite composer. I recently played his Polonaise in A flat at a recital. I almost had a nervous breakdown over playing it because I think it may be the most difficult piece ever—or at least the most difficult piece that I can actually play. Haha…

It's a mammoth of a work ~ you're very courageous!  If you could open your cupboard and put on an Abilities Suit and be whatever you wanted to be in the whole wide world, what’s the first thing you’d try on and why?

Oh my… This is definitely the hardest question of them all… I feel if I truly had such a suit it would be expected of me to become something amazing or magical so I could help the world. And I'm afraid I don't really imagine becoming something amazing or magical.  That doesn’t really appeal to me very much. The only thing I ever dream about {and have for as long as I remember} is being a writer. It’s funny because after school work, piano practice and taking care of the dogs, it’s hard to find time for writing which is my favourite thing to do in life. Nevertheless, I think about things I want to write every day. So if I had an Abilities Suit right now, I would want to be a writer with the ability and time to write down every story that’s ever been inside my head. And I would want these stories to greatly influence people and change their lives for the better! I think writers are the best teachers in the world. And they can keep on teaching even after they die because their words live on after they’re gone. That’s why I want to be a writer so badly. And it would definitely be nice to have an Abilities Suit to help me along!

Your Instagram for Cosette and Rue is already something that changes lives for the better with its humble warmth and delight!  You have a great start with your writing there.  Can I give you a challenge and ask you to sum up Cosette and Rue in three words each?

Oh, this is a tricky one. I hope I can do them justice. Here goes.

Rue: loving, fun, loyal….
Cosette: sweet, shy, caring…

And both adorable!  Thank you so much, dear Alexandra.  You and your pups are a joy.

You can follow the ongoing adventures of @cocoandkanga here.  And on that note ....

Happy Frenchie Friday to you!

Francophile Friday : Au Nom de la Rose with a Frenchie Reprise


Au Nom de la Rose Paris and Frenchies Love illustration © Shell-Sherree
{Au Nom de la Rose Paris and Frenchies Love illustration © Shell-Sherree}

With my penchant for petals, anyone would think I'd love to be a lady in a flower shop.  Ah, how peaceful that sounds.  Gladly, a hayfever sufferer I do not be.

Today's illustration whisks us away to Au Nom de la Rose in Paris.  It's not the first time we've visited but last time, there was a notable and regrettable absence of four-legged fluffballs.  It's time to make amends.  And better yet: it's allergy-free!

Voici, fetching French bulldog siblings Rue and Cosette of @cocoandkanga {their lovely mum is one of my most prolific customers} are enjoying people watching from their perch while we take a casual approach to the wardrobe and a pair of scissors to our jeans.  Feel free to join us.  And on that note ...

Happy Francophile Friday to you!
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