Wednesday, December 31, 2008

All New

New snow is falling, drifting quietly on this, the last day of a tumultuous year. The New Year is now only hours away--minutes away in Tokyo. New hopes take shape in the hearts and minds of so many.

On this day, we pause, we reflect and we celebrate.


Happy New Year, Mamas! May it bring you much love, laughter and abundant joy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Widow Cliquot

Most of you know that I'm a sucker for a good story about a strong woman who succeeds against the odds. Most of you don't know, however, that I'm also a big fan of a crystal flute filled with a sparkling French brut, especially at this time of year.

Imagine my elation when I found this book review in Sunday's New York Times, praising Tilar J. Mazzeo's latest literary cocktail, "The Widow Cliquot." It's the story of the woman behind the ubiquitous bottle of bubbly with the yellow label: Veuve (widow) Cliquot.

Widowed at the tender age of 27, Mme. Cliquot took over her late husband's successful winery and, with a business acumen that Donald Trump would envy, created the world's first Champagne Empire. Sneaking her bubbly around naval blockades, winning the heart of the Russian Czar and the loyalty of the London clubgoers, Mme. Cliquot created a tradition and a name that have spanned centuries. Not bad, for a 19th century widow.

So, as you pop those corks tomorrow and those tiny bubbles tickle your nose, raise a glass to the Widow Cliquot. And while you're at it, take a bit of her advice as well: "One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity."

You Say You Want A Resolution

Reading yesterday's crisp, wry and very funny piece by Guy Trebay in the New York Times Fashion and Style section got me thinking. I don't make New Year's resolutions. I've never participated in the seasonal, fantastic, champagne-fueled promise-making at year's end. There's much about myself that could use changing, don't get me wrong. I've just failed to see the effectiveness of swearing an oath of self-improvement en masse.

But this year, I choose to fly in the face of my own reluctance and Mr. Trebay's understandable--and witty--scepticism. This year, I have some promises that just might merit taking the leap and drinking that holiday punch once and for all.

For 2009, I resolve:

To give myself a big, fat break. To stop measuring myself against so many unrealistic benchmarks, choosing instead, to delight in my imperfections.

To laugh more. And louder.

To make sure the people that I love have no room for doubt just how much they mean to me, and how lost I'd be without them.

To commit multiple, creative acts of charity regularly. And to teach my daughter the joy of doing so.

To live free of judgement--as much as possible--judgement of myself, my friends, my family, and the person in the car in front of me driving 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.

To embrace the joy of each morning, even when it begins with a sharp, irritated "Mommy!" over the monitor at 4:30 am.

To live the miracle of every day that is given to me, because I never know when my luck will finally run out.

I know. It isn't an easy list. It might not even be particularly realistic. But this year, I think I have some things that are worth reaching for, some things that matter. All this at far less a cost than my underused gym membership.

Friday, December 26, 2008

So Long, 2008.

This year has been a wild ride, to say the least. Marked by spectacular economic collapses, crippling oil prices (Remember paying more than $4.00 a gallon this summer? I sure do.), increased hunger, and more toxic products, 2008 will not find many who will mourn its passing.

And yet, as we turn back to view the path we have just traveled, rays of light emerge from behind so many dark clouds: An historic election, which shattered glass ceilings, shredded prejudices and catapulted us into the 21st century; record-breaking, inspiring physical achievement; and an inclination toward charity (even if my evidence is only anecdotal), despite a perilous economic landscape.

Looking ahead to 2009, much is uncertain. Will the economy get worse before it gets better? Will the new president be as effective as millions have hoped? Will we surface from these depths and begin to breathe freely again?

No one knows, of course. But there is always reason to hope. Reason to hope because we've come this far already. Reason to hope because, this holiday season, every time I tried to put a few dollars into the familiar red canister next to the bell-ringing volunteer, I had to wiggle and shove the money into a full-to-capacity bucket. Reason to hope because hope feels so much better than despair. Reason to hope because we are intrepid.

As we close the casket on 2008, we must do so without eulogizing. In stead, we should enumerate our hopes for the infant New Year. We must invest ourselves in the future because you never know what's just around the corner. Let's close this door already, so we can climb through that open window.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Very Merry







Wishing all of you wonderful readers bountiful blessings of the season! May we bring peace and love to one another and do our best to spread joy and hope.

1. Hand stitched "Peace" ornament, offered by pillowhappy at Etsy.

2. Hand stamped bronze clay "Hope" dove ornament, from Kvossdesigns, at Etsy.

3. "Joy" photograph, from JenniferDennisPotter's Etsy shop.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Soundtrack

This is it. The Christmas anticipation around our house has reached a fever pitch, the likes of which I haven't seen since I was drafting my own letters to Santa. Fueled by winter's blustery, scene stealing entrance (and a fair amount of holiday baking), my daughter can barely contain her joy and expectation. Even if she isn't exactly sure of what it is she's waiting for.

As with other holidays, we have our preferred soundtrack painting a musical backdrop for our fun. This Christmas, we're loving:

1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) U2
2. Christmas Blues Eric Clapton & John Popper
3. St. Nicholas Sheryl Cormier & Cajun Sounds
4. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer The Temptations
5. Happy Christmas John & Yoko
6. Do They Know It's Christmas? Band Aid (I know, I know.)
7. Silver Bells Stevie Wonder
8. White Christmas Los Reyes
9. Oh Holy Night Traci Chapman (Possibly my very favorite version.)
10. What Child Is This Dan Crary (Gorgeous acoustic guitar.)
11. Gabriel's Message Sting

Fa la la la la, Mamas! Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

She's Crafty

Have a house full of little ones this week on Winter break? Looking for a few last minute gifts? Keep the kids busy with some of these great DIY ornament ideas.

These beaded ornaments are simple and cute. They'd also dress up your already wrapped packages. Find out how to make your own over at the crafty Plum Pudding.



Elegant and easy to make, these doves will dress up any tree. Find out how to make them yourself over at mint.


Domestic diva Martha Stewart delights with this sweet button wreath. Directions here.




Domino Magazine offers up these darling snowflakes. Find out how to make them here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Wonderland

We're bracing for the winter storm all the news outlets are so enthusiastically predicting. They assure us that, by this evening, we'll be snowed in for sure. While the "snow event" will not likely be as dramatic as the meteorologists would have us think, my little one and I will, nevertheless, use the weather as an excuse to have a snuggly, winter day at home.

In honor of the first true snowstorm of the season, we will: bake Christmas cookies and decorate them with abandon; curl up with some good books; break out the paints, brushes and sponges and get to work on some inspired art; make our very own Rudolph; and, at some point this afternoon, we'll probably settle our brains for a long winter's nap.

Happy Winter Friday, Mamas! Have a festive weekend.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Little Bites

Have a mini gourmet at home? Or perhaps a picky eater you'd like to reform? A kiddie cookbook is the perfect gift!

A few I like:

Kids in the Kitchen, a Gooseberry Patch gem. In addition to the yummy meals, this book will instruct your little one on the art of cooking up some crafty recipes as well, like DIY play goop and face paint.


Kids' Fun and Healthy Cookbook, from DK publishing. This one's a must for the picky eater. It doesn't just teach kids how to cook healthy food, it teaches them why.

The Kid's Cookbook, from Williams-Sonoma. It's spiral bound and full of great photos and greater tips for budding chefs.


The Everything Kid's Cookbook, by Sandra K. Nissenberg, chock full of all the classics, from pasta to pizza and cookies to cupcakes.


As I was preparing this post, I came across a terrific list of "foodie fiction" over at eensies. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Reading

We're knee-deep in holiday reading around our house. And truly, what's better than snuggling up with a great book and your little one on your lap while snow falls, glittering and silent, outside? Not much, in my opinion.


Here are a few of our favorites:

Because my little one is half French (and because I miss Paris, desperately) Madeline's Christmas, by Ludwig Bemelmans.


It's Jane Chapman's adorable illustrations that have turned us into repeat-readers of Karma Wilson's sweet, rhyming story Bear Stays Up For Christmas.



I've always been a fan of Dickens. His classic A Christmas Carol is the perfect way to introduce Dickens to a new generation, especially when it is a version as beautifully illustrated as this one, with moody, mysterious illustrations by P.J. Lynch.


We love just about everything Robert Sabuda does, and his pop-up version of the eternal Night Before Christmas is no exception.


We're also still enjoying Olivia's previous pick of the week, The Polar Express by the prolific and talented Chris Van Allsburg.


And, of course, there's this week's pick, The Nutcracker, by E.T.A. Hoffman, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shopping Guides

CNN reports this morning that millions of you have not yet begun your holiday shopping! Tick, tock people!

If you're looking for a special little something and you're on a budget, Cookie's got a great list of 25 gifts for under $25, and they haven't left out anyone.


Or what about some pretty, handmade Etsy items? Here's a little list of some of my favorites, also all under $25.

Like this gorgeous cowl from JustessDesign.



Or, for the romantic on your list, this dreamy Parisian photo from SnappyChic.



For your Tiny Dancer, from DanburyLane.


Or these elegant hammered silver and green grossular garnet earrings from jdeandrade. (Alright, they're over the price limit, but barely.)


Happy hunting!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Perfect Gift

Still have some people on your holiday shopping list that you just haven't found the right gift for? Look no further. There's a movement afoot to encourage us give "better" this year, to give with a purpose, to "Redefine Christmas." Redefine Christmas is an organization with a clear message: "It's not about reinventing the holiday. It's about changing the way we look at gift giving and receiving. It's taking money we usually spend on obligatory gifts with little meaning, and creating gifts of charity that give in multiple ways, to the receiver, the giver, and people who truly need."

This year, more than ever, people are in need. With our collective generosity, we can make things a little better for millions of women, men and children. And we can do it all in our pajamas, sitting at our computers.

Redefine Christmas also helps you spread the message to your friends and family that, this year, you want a gift that's always the right size, always in style and that you never need to return.

You can also check out Changing the Present and Just Give, sites that make it easy for you to make Christmas wishes come true.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Good Mother

Yesterday's New York Times column by Judith Warner hit me like a small bag of bricks. She's a terrific writer and often she uses her skills to examine motherhood in its current, 21st century incarnation. Yesterday, she shot straight to the heart of an issue that has plagued me from the moment a tiny plus sign appeared on the plastic stick: How do I do this without screwing up?

Like Warner (and many, many other Mamas I know) I have an inner voice who is constantly observing--and criticizing--my mothering skills in action. Daily, the voice will admonish me: Why did you say that? You need to be more patient! And, sometimes, You're a lousy mom. It's hard to be present for your kid (or anything else) when you're busy berating yourself for the dozens of ways you've "screwed up" on a given day.

Warner has written extensively on the idea of "enmeshment parenting" and how damaging it is to our children when we can't separate ourselves and our identities from them. This particular affliction, I think, is greatly amplified within the mother/daughter relationship. There is so much that informs this relationship, more than most of us probably realize.

By wanting (needing?) our daughters to be smarter/happier/more successful/all-around better than we are, we do them a double disservice. Firstly, we deny them the chance to become who they are, independent of us. They should and will become whole, separate people, not just superlative versions of ourselves.

Secondly--and perhaps most importantly--our self-directed criticism, which is, almost without exception, overly harsh and unfair, denies our daughters the opportunity to find their own, positive, healthy ways to identify with us. By pointing out to them all the ways which we screw up and all the ways in which they are--or should be--better than we are, we're introducing them to that inner voice, the eternal critic. When we ignore our daily successes, when we give our "mistakes" more attention, we fit our daughters with the same lens through which to view themselves: a negative one.

As Warner so perfectly put it, "If your dream of yourself is a bit of a nightmare, you owe it to your kids to let it go." Indeed, if we want our daughters to clearly see the wonderful, beautiful people we know they are, then we need to start seeing the good in ourselves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

TV Free Snow Day

Cookie Magazine has a terrific online exclusive right now, outlining all kinds of TV-free ways for your kids to have fun. From green crafts (recycled Rudolph anyone?) to instructions for building a terrarium (I loved those when I was a kid), Cookie has mapped out hours of creative fun for you and your kids that doesn't involve a minute of channel surfing. Don't miss their list of indoor games and activities for when you get snowed in or their comprehensive list of the best children's books, organized by age group.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Picky, Picky

I have multiple picky eaters in my extended family. And while I'm not going to out anyone here, (you know who you are), I am proud to say that my 2 1/2 year-old daughter is not among this group. She's actually a lot of fun to eat with because she'll try anything and, more often than not, she'll like it.

But I know that many, many parents struggle at mealtime to produce something healthy that their kids will actually eat. Meals end up being a source of frustration, rather than a chance to spend time together as a family.

And what happens when picky eaters grow up? Tara Parker-Pope's New York Times blog, Well, answered that question yesterday: They become picky adult eaters. Parker-Pope interviewed author, educator and reformed picky eater Jill Bloomfield. Bloomfield describes overcoming her gastronomical handicap as "not impossible, but difficult." It was more than just embarrassment (disapproving looks from colleagues at restaurants) that caused her to change her ways; it was also the ramifications her eating habits had on her health. She has high cholesterol.

Bloomfield's solution? Learn to cook. She has and since then, she hasn't looked back. Now she's writing books aimed at getting kids involved in food preparation and empowering them to make better food choices. She offers up some tasty recipes as well, like the Chickpea and Couscous Salad in the article. It's a process, undoing the damage of unchecked picky eating. But Bloomfield is living proof that it can happen.

So hand your picky eater a paring knife and get cooking.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside

A few ideas to warm up a lovely lady on your list.





Toggle armwarmers from Urban Outfitters.






Alpaca convertible mittens from DebzCreations on Etsy.




Diamond snow poncho from Anthropologie. (Psst! It's on sale!)



Grey wool cowl from Urbanknit's Etsy shop.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wrap it Up

CNN's homepage this morning is no surprise: 67 percent of their poll respondents are cutting back on holiday spending this year. This Mama is certainly pinching pennies this Christmas.


But scroll down CNN's homepage a bit and you'll find a great list of resourceful gift wrap tips from the very clever Real Simple. With great ideas like using newspaper, fabric remnants and even dishtowels as gift wrap, this list could save you some real cash. It's also a great way to green up your giving.

Another favorite gift wrap money saver around my house: I use my little one's penchant for painting to pretty up my presents. Her ubiquitous drawings and paintings make lovely--and heartwarming--gift wrap, no matter the recipient.

Friday, December 5, 2008

C'mon Get Happy

A new report in the British Medical Journal (as reported by Time) asserts that happiness is as contagious as a virus. These scientists (from Harvard and the University of California at San Diego) studied "5,000 people and their nearly 50,000 social ties" and determined that happiness spreads and that its ripple effects spread out to three degrees of separation from the original happy individual.

This is, in my view, big news. "Viral happiness" can be a powerful, joy-spreading tool in our families and our communities, especially in uncertain times. No matter how bleak things appear, if we look hard enough, we can usually find something that makes us happy: a hug from our kids, a great song on the radio, or the morning sunshine flooding through the windows the way it's doing at my house right now. The light is bright and winter white. It's almost blinding if I move my chair just a little to the right. It's a glorious, hopeful, beautiful light that makes me very happy, indeed.

I hope you catch my disease this morning, and then get out there and spread it around.

Happy Friday

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cafe Johnsonia

I recently stumbled upon this delicious blog, Cafe Johnsonia. Written by the talented and inspired Lindsey Johnson, this blog is brimming with scrumptious-ness! Just check out this recipe for Linzer Sable Cookies.

I wish we lived in the same time zone! I would totally try to score an invitation to dinner at her house.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now You're Cooking

As Tara Parker-Pope points out on her New York Times blog, Well, challenging economic times mean that people eat out less and cook at home more. So, she's compiled multiple lists of new and noteworthy cookbooks that would make great gifts this holiday. Happily, she links out to a "Top Ten Cookbooks of 2008" list from NPR, which includes the intriguing The Spice Merchant's Daughter: Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen, by Christina Arokiasamy. Browse through this eclectic collection of epicurean delights. You'll find something for everyone from the novice to the Cordon Bleu.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jingle Bell Budget

In case anyone missed it, the National Bureau of Economic Research has announced that the U.S. is officially in a recession. Happy Holidays.

As we navigate the most expensive month of the year in this climate of economic uncertainty, the going can get a little rough.

The video below is an interview with Jennifer Openshaw--a MarketWatch columnist--from WSJ.com. She outlines some ideas of how to manage the holiday season in the midst of economic distress. Surprisingly, Americans are expected to spend close to $800.00 each on gifts this year, a figure higher than last year's estimate. Openshaw's advice? Cut that number in half. Then cut it in half again. Then, stick to your budget.


Monday, December 1, 2008

No Sweat

Listening to the local NPR station this morning, I heard about a great online resource for holiday shopping. It's a shopping guide compiled by SweatFree.org, an organization dedicated to promoting products made in "good working conditions"--not sweat shops. The guide includes links to companies that make everything from clothing to sporting goods. So as you get ready to point and click your way through Cyber Monday, take a minute to browse the guide and see if you can't find a gift that you'll feel great about giving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

We made it to Grandma's house, and with reasonably limited difficulty. We endured broken airport elevators (stroller + carry ons + escalators = broken limbs), a plane the size of a Smart car, and the airline failing to produce two seats next to one another for me and my little one. (After boarding the entire plane while my little one and I waited on the sidelines, waiting with bated breath to see if we would even make it to Grandma's house, the ladies behind the counter worked some kind of magic and conjured two seats with a shared armrest in the front of the plane).

And all of this without a nap!

It was, of course, completely worth the minimal hassle and we are already snugly installed at Grandma's house, adjusting to the slow, Midwestern rhythm. We have many people to see this week, cookies to bake and stories to tell. And so this Mama is taking the week off, to play, to bake and to collect a whole new set of childhood memories.

Have a peaceful Thanksgiving, Mamas! See you next week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Small Miracles

The winter edition of Small magazine has arrived in my inbox and, as usual, it does not disappoint. Packed with delicate illustrations, arresting photography, reviews of unique and unexpected books and, of course, some fun ideas, you'll want to set aside some time to flip through it.

Some highlights:


Dreamy, sartorial images from The Black Apple.

A review of the classic and decidedly macabre fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, retold with depth and affection by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by the deceptively simple work of Jen Corace. Her haunting images are a perfect fit for this creepy tale.


Playful, ethereal photography by Steven Visneau.


And a festive craft idea to help you ring in the new year with all the flair of a comedia del arte troup: confetti eggs, brought to you by the inspired woman behind maya made.


Enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hunger in America

I received some very touching emails in response to my Hunger Artists post, about hunger in America's schools, specifically the school for the arts where my mother teaches. Several people even offered to send money to buy snacks for my mom's classroom, which is unbelievably kind.

Sadly, my mother's school is not the only one in this country dealing with kids distracted by their growling stomachs. Earlier this week, the Agriculture Department reported that in 2007--that's prior to the current economic downturn--close to 700,000 kids in America went hungry. That figure is up more than 50 percent from 2006, and probably much smaller than the number for 2008 will be. These figures are heartbreaking. And shameful.

The theme running throughout the emails I received was "How can I help?"

There are a few terrific organizations out there, who make a real difference for struggling people across this country, like Feed America and Save the Children. Additionally, most churches and synagogues have food collection baskets, which are a simple way to make sure your assistance goes to help your own community. Being aware of this issue and how it affects your community, your school district is the first step in combating the problem. If you're determined to affect change, band together with a few like-minded Mamas and brainstorm about ways to help. I believe unequivocally that motherhood is the mother of invention. Get a few smart, determined Mamas together and there's just about nothing that's impossible.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Give a Little Bit

We all know that giving feels better than getting. But in a season filled with extended shopping hours and every kind of abundance, how do you bring a little balance into focus for your kids?

I've written before about volunteering as a family. And Cookie Magazine has put together a terrific online guide to help families get started. The benefits of family volunteering are just about innumerable. Volunteering gives kids a real sense of accomplishment, while also offering them a new perspective. Perhaps best of all, it teaches kids (and adults!) that they can effect change in their world simply by giving of themselves, something that no amount of hours in front of a Wii will ever accomplish.

It isn't about feeling guilty, or making less merry at this time of year. On the contrary, it's about spreading the joy of the season just a little farther. You'll make some meaningful holiday memories for your family, and maybe for someone else's, too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recipes That Will Make You Thankful

I'm a sucker for most holidays and Thanksgiving is among my favorites. I love everything about this holiday, the food, the family, even the football. Last year, I searved my first Thanksgiving dinner and, despite the amount of work, it was incredibly fun. It was fun to play Holiday Hostess in my own home, lay a beautiful table and cook a delicious meal for my appreciative houseguests.

This year, we're going to grandma's house. But that doesn't mean I'm not still busy searching new and delicious recipes to add some sparkle to our holiday menu!

Oprah has collected some celebrity chef recipes that you'll be thankful for, like these Pomegranate and Cranberry Bellinis from Giada De Laurentiis to get your party started. Mark Bittman's Bacon-Nut Stuffing sounds like heaven in a serving dish. Giada's Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale are a great way to bring a side dish front and center. And David Waltuck (the wizard behind the divine Chanterelle) offers up a Pumpkin Mousse with Crunchy Gingersnaps and Maple Creme Fraiche that I swear is bringing happy tears to my eyes.

If any of you decide to serve all four of these on your holiday table, can we skip grandma's and have dinner at your house? We'll help with the dishes!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hunger Artists

My mother is a teacher. She teaches high school English at a school for the arts in Northwest Ohio. Her students span the socioeconomic spectrum. And the halls between classes are an artist's palette of colors and hues. Diversity reigns at this school; it is celebrated. These kids can dance, sing and act. (Remember Fame? Yeah, kinda like that.) It is a vibrant place.

And yet, these kids are also facing real inequities, the school serving as a to-scale stand-in for our country as a whole, now chin-deep in recession. Perhaps the most debilitating of these inequities--and arguably the most heartbreaking--is hunger. A large percentage of the students at this school qualify for the government sponsored "free lunch" program. And for many of these kids, especially in this time of crisis in our country, this is the only meal they eat.

I know this because my mother is a phenomenal teacher. She's the teacher whose room the kids want to hang out in after class. She's the Michelle Pfeiffer character in "Dangerous Minds" (only she was never a Marine). She pushes these kids to succeed, to learn for learning's sake. They learn to trust her, to respect her and, ultimately, a few learn to truly trust and respect themselves. These kids, many of them, are brutally honest with her.

But her job is a lot harder when these kids arrive in the morning, with growling stomachs, tired because they haven't eaten. How bad is it really? Well, she has several students this year who, she says, only talk about food. They write essays about it. About mashed potatoes and ribs and biscuits. They write essays about Taco Bell. Many ask her daily if she has any crackers, or snacks in her room, grateful for even a two-pack of Saltines you get free with a salad or soup and often throw away.

Her school does not currently participate in the government sponsored "free breakfast" program that many other schools utilize, but there is some discussion about it. In today's New York Times there's an article, by Javier C. Hernandez, about a new twist some New York City schools are putting on the "free breakfast" program.

That these programs exist is both encouraging and discouraging. It is some kind of relief to know that there are resources available and people willing to help when our most vulnerable citizens are not getting enough to eat. But it is also shocking and sad to know that, almost a decade in to the 21st century, we cannot feed our children.

I know that this issue is complex, that it is a disease with multiple causes. I know that it is politically charged and that some feel compelled to point fingers and place blame. But while this goes on, there are children arriving at schools across the country with empty, growling stomachs. There are children writing essays about eating the kind of meal many of us take for granted on a daily basis.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we do well to acknowledge every way in which we are blessed, to take nothing for granted, if only for a day. And we do good by making some room at our proverbial tables, for those with less. Charity makes us human and feeds our souls.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Full Blown

My favorite job ever (besides my current position as full time Mama) was one I worked many years ago, in my hometown, at the Toledo Museum of Art. (Yes, Toledo, Ohio has an art museum. And it is surprisingly terrific. I can say this with confidence, having spent countless hours since then inside the hallowed walls of the Met, the Louvre, the MoMA, etc., etc.). I was paid minimum wage to watch over a small gallery store, packed to the gills with the work of some very talented regional artists: Ethereal photographs of endless cornfields threatened by menacing skies, whimsical pop art like painted bicycles and mixed media murals, hand thrown pottery, delicate jewelry and, the belle of Toledo's ball, hand blown glass in just about every shape or color imaginable.

Toledo, located in Northwest Ohio, spent the bulk of the 20th century known as the "Glass City." And the Toledo Museum of Art is a direct and lasting consequence of this glass boom. The Museum was started by glass magnate Edward Drummond Libbey, and it carries on the Toledo glass tradition, highlighting this utilitarian, changeable, delicate yet durable medium. It was there, in that small gallery store in Ohio, that I learned to appreciate the beauty of hand blown glass. I have a small collection of blown glass ornaments that hang every year on my Christmas tree, sparkling in the lights, shining against the green branches, proud of their status as unique, singular works of art.

Nostalgic, I searched and found a few lovely hand blown works of art that I thought I'd share with you.

From AskesisArts Etsy shop.



From Lokiglasswork's Etsy shop.


From AllGlassDesigns, also on Etsy.



And from James Yarrito, one of my favorite Toledo artists, who I was fortunate enough to meet through my work at the museum.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Finali Design Winners!

Congratulations Stace and Jennifer L! You ladies are the lucky winners of this fabulous Finali Design giveaway, Sugar & Spice and Mommy Mommy collections respectively. I can't wait to send you your winnings so please, email me your information and I'll have these pretty cards off to you!

Thank you, Ali, for the generous giveaway!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pants On Fire

"My daughter is a compulsive liar," my friend said to me last week. She was speaking about her kindergartner, whom we'll call Lucy.

"What?"

"I was at a parent-teacher conference and Lucy's teacher asked if we had a snake."

It seems that during a classroom discussion about reptiles (or pets?), Lucy's teacher asked if anyone had a snake for a pet. Lucy raised her hand. When pressed further by the teacher, Lucy told the class that she has a pet snake, named Sparkle, who lives in a drawer.

"Would you bring in a picture to show the class?" Lucy's teacher asked.

"Umm, Sparkle doesn't really like to have her picture taken," Lucy explained. No cheap paparazzi shots for Sparkle!

My friend was horrified. I laughed. I told her I didn't think it was a big deal. And I admitted to her that I told my entire 4th grade class that I had a cousin who lived in Paris. (Hey, I was just a girl in Northwest Ohio looking for a little street cred!) My point was that I don't think she's raising a con artist, that Lucy's fib sounded more like a wish than a conscious effort to deceive.

A day or two later, I was flipping through the November issue of Parenting Magazine and came across this article, by Juliette Guilbert, about the big fibs our little people tell and why, in many cases, it isn't cause for grave concern. Guilbert breaks things down by age and discusses the types of lies each age group usually tells and how to handle it every step of the way. And she relates some great advice on raising honest kids from some childhood development experts.

Sparkle the reclusive snake has likely already coiled herself up in a forgotten corner of Lucy's memory. Lucy remains a vibrant, sweet and (mostly) honest kid. But the story of their brief, imagined cohabitation will be a funny one to tell the grandkids someday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Finali Design Giveaway!

Remember the delicate greetings of Finali Design? Well, this Seattle Mama is not only a talented artist, but she's also a lovely person. And generous, to boot! She's offering not one, but two sets of her custom design greeting cards to two lucky Mama's Cup readers.

Printed on quality card stock, these silhouette greetings are "just right for a note or sweet enough to frame." Up for grabs are the "Mommy Mommy" and the "Sugar & Spice" collections. You'll be the only Mama on your block whose greetings are this unique.


Post a comment here and I'll draw two winners at random. You have until 5:00PM Eastern Time tomorrow to enter. Good luck, Mamas! And don't forget to tell your friends.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Books, Books, Books!

Just in case you missed it over the weekend, I am drawing your attention to yesterday's New York Times biannual section devoted entirely to children's books. The section includes a list of the Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2008, a list of books to spark the imagination, a whimsically illustrated introduction to poetry and a book about a cat who discovers and embraces his own form of feline Taoism.

It is a compiled treasure that you will have fun unpacking, searching for your little one's next favorite book. And don't forget, books make great gifts, too!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh Deer


I'm having a blast finding unique and creative holiday items and sharing them with all of you. This "bedazzled deer" set of greeting cards is from the lovely little Etsy shop Wren & Chickadee. All of the handcrafted items in this virtual shop are created by a Mama and her daughter.
Don't forget to check out her blog as well, Creature Comforts, a favorite destination of mine that never, ever fails to inspire.
Happy weekend!

Hand Me Downs

I always say that all of my best information in life comes from other Mamas. A beautiful Mama I know recently introduced me to HandMeDowns.com, and it is fast becoming a favorite site of mine! HandMeDowns.com is like "classifieds for moms." It's a place to buy, sell, give away or donate to charity everything from your old maternity jeans to that exersaucer taking up more storage space than you can spare. They find the best listings on the web, combine them with their own and the result is a virtual tag sale that you can shop in your slippers.

Happy shopping, selling and donating!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

'Tis the Season

The holidays are officially right around the corner. As you begin making your lists, consider buying some gifts that will give twice as much. Unicef has some lovely, fair trade items on their site that are very affordable. Get the most out of your gift giving this year by purchasing with a purpose.
Kapula candles from South Africa.

Silk dove ornaments from India.


A kid-friendly cookbook filled with recipes from around the globe.




Wrap up your surprises with some charitable paper and matching tags.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Brand New Day

This morning, my little one, privy to my hours of NPR listening, is happily padding around the downstairs of our house saying "Barack Obama, Barack Obama." It is a chorus finding a global voice.

Obama said, "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

McCain said, "I call on all Americans...to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here."

And Time has compiled the thoughts of world leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and French President Nicholas Sarkozy on this historic win.

Indeed, everyone, it seems, has something to say on the dawn of this new day. And you, Mamas? What do you have to say?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Make History and Lasagna

Tonight, as families gather to watch the returns, anticipation will rule. But a family still needs to eat, right? How does a Thousand Layer Lasagna sound? Like it might get you through the polls closing on the west coast?

It's a vegetarian recipe from the inspired 101 Cookbooks, but it would be easy enough to add some meat to it, if you felt compelled to do so. Then, crack open a bottle of Montepulciano for the grown ups and watch the future unfold.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Early Registration

The teacher-bloggers over at eensies have come up with some cute ideas to get your kids involved in the excitement tomorrow when you head out to vote. My favorite? Help them make buttons that say "I'll be voting in 2020" (or whatever year they'll be of age) that they can wear to the polling place with you.

Any other great ideas you Mamas are employing to get your kids involved?

On the Verge

Tomorrow, history will be made. Tomorrow, we will go to the polls in record numbers. Tomorrow, we will decide the future. Tomorrow, this country will either elect our first African-American president, or our first female Vice President.

If you're not clear on your polling place, find it here.

Then get out there and make history, Mamas!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair

First Witch: Round about the cauldron go:
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelt'red venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' th' charmed pot.

All: Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble...

...Second Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

--William Shakespeare, Macbeth IV i

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Season's Greetings

After tomorrow night's tricks and treats, the holiday season will be upon us. And it's certainly not too early to be looking ahead. Nothing like a custom family greeting card or family portrait as a gift for grateful grandparents. Finali design puts an artistic twist on the idea. (Via Tangled & True.)
Just send in a photo and this talented Seattle Mama will turn your photo into a keepsake card for the holidays. Visit her etsy shop, and do it fast! Santa is waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Child's Play

It's been a while since I posted anything that belongs on my "Wish-I-Had-Time-To-Read-This" List. Recently, a lovely Mama recommended to me a book that's shooting straight to the top of said list. The book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., examines what children need to grow into happy, healthy selves, while also looking at common stumbling blocks parents sometimes place in their paths, namely focusing on achievements and placing unnecessary pressure on kids for early success, academically or otherwise. It also touches on the value of imaginative play, and all the ways modern society infringes upon this integral component of childhood.

It looks like an interesting read and a nice reminder to slow down and let our children experience all of the magic and hope of childhood. It is an investment as much in their present as it is in their future.

Ed. note: A wise Mama had a hard time purchasing this book but finally found it in stock here, at Borders Books. Thanks Ruth!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kidney Stones & Kindergarteners

Kidney stones, once an affliction of the aged, have begun plaguing American children, says a report in today's New York Times. Doctors have seen a significant rise in the number of kids--some as young as 5 years-old--who develop this painful disorder.

What's causing it? The consensus seems to be that it's the much maligned diet of the American kid, which includes a lot of sodium, much more than their little systems seem to be able to handle. From fast food to processed meats to "power drinks" kids these days are ingesting more sodium than ever before. And they're not drinking enough water, say the experts.

The article, by Laurie Tarkan, does a good job explaining the biology of kidney stones and the fix for kids unfortunate enough to develop them. Tarkan also highlights the symptoms, which can be difficult to diagnose in children.

So, Mamas, keep reading those food labels, cook fresh as much as you can, and push that water.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Treats

We shifted into Halloween high gear this weekend with a trip to the home of Washington Irving (author of the quintessential spooky story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). We enjoyed the music of a hammer dulcimer and haunting tales sung by a masked balladeer. We watched as shadow puppets played out the drama of Irving's much beloved story. We made a scarecrow and played with a hoop and a stick. All of this under an azure autumn sky along the banks of the Hudson River.

After coming home and carving our own pumpkins (our roasted seeds turned out perfectly!) I was looking for some last minute fun treats to make this week with my little one.


How cute are these?

The "Witch on a Stick" looks particularly easy to make. Find the recipe here. And the "Frankentreats" are just Rice Krispy treats in costume. You'll find those here.