Friday, January 30, 2009

Cabin Fever

Yesterday evening, I put on my ice skates so I could glide down my driveway gracefully, garbage cans in tow.

OK. Not really. But I should have. The cold, the snow, the ice...I feel like I need a team of sled dogs to run out for a gallon of milk.

Suffice it to say that, like so many of you, we're spending a lot of time inside these days. Lucky for all of us, Cookie has put together a list of 101 Indoor Activities. Papier-mâché? Check. Weird Science? Check. Role play? Check.

Now if they could just come up with a way to get my kid to clean my house. Oh wait. They did.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice Marbles

Leave it to some Canadians to take playing in the snow to the next level. Actually, the Canadian I'm referring to is Dawn, a So.Cal. native with a keen photographic eye who made the move "To The Outskirts" of Nova Scotia. And believe it or not, she and her family are making the most of the long, cold Canadian winter.

Check out these gorgeous "ice marbles" she made with her kids. All you need are balloons, water and a drop or two of food coloring. Stick your balloons outside to freeze and voila!--you've got some whimsical wintertime sculptures to dazzle and delight. And don't they photograph beautifully?

Diary of a Child Therapist

Ever wish you had a trustworthy, knowledgeable, even-tempered behavioral expert on speed dial? Yeah. Me too.
But here's the next best thing! Diary of a Child Therapist is a blog written by a California family therapist, and it is literally packed with all kinds of advice on topics like discipline, the importance of play and how to deal with the stress of parenting.
Bookmark it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Note to Self

Every Mama needs some inspiration, some days more than others. This little book, Note to Self, conceived and edited by the talented Andrea Buchanan, is big on empowerment. A compilation of essays by 30 powerhouse women, this tome is filled with stories that will make you laugh, give you pause and break your heart. Raw and real, these stories give full voice to all women who, sooner or later, must rise from the ashes and take flight, like the Phoenix.

Do yourselves a favor, Mamas: Buy this book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sick Day

Sorry, Mamas, but I'm feeling a bit under the weather today. But never fear! I'll be back and better than ever tomorrow!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Snow Stories

The weather man says that today, we will get a bit of a reprieve from the bitter cold we've been experiencing. Our little coastal Connecticut town might actually see 40 degrees Fahrenheit by this afternoon! But balmy day notwithstanding, we still have many weeks of winter ahead of us. Might as well embrace it, rather than curse our fate, right?

What about some good, snowy books to curl up with in front of a fire? Paul O. Zelinsky of the New York Times has reviewed two snowy masterpieces for kids.

Snow, by Cynthia Rylant, is a twisting, turning poetic essay, spinning words and imagery like snowflakes on the wind. Illustrator Lauren Stringer brings to life a snowy day in a little girl's life.

The Snow Show, by Carolyn Fisher is a silly story about a chef snowman with his own television show. He's cooking up a big batch of snow for all his viewers--and readers.

So for now, we can curl up with our snowy stories, whiling away frigid afternoons. But if today's temperature is any indication, Spring can't be too far off now, can it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Valentines On The Cheap

Last week, I told you about free, printable party invitations, perfect for a scaled-back, recession-style soiree.

This week, I found these adorable, "school style" Valentines at Up Up Creative's Etsy shop (via the sublime Design Mom).
For $5.00, you can download the template for these sweet Valentine greetings and print as many as you like! The mod mammal motif is clean, cute and classy. And the price is right when you need to produce dozens of Valentines for schoolmates, teachers, grandparents and babysitters.
But get printing, Mamas! Valentine's Day is right around the corner!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Into The Future

That yesterday was a momentous and historic day goes almost without saying. Yet world leaders have marked the inauguration of America's first African-American president with eloquence, expectation and exhilaration.

Here's what some have said:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy: "With [Barak Obama's] election, the American people have vigorously expressed their confidence in progress and in the future, as well as their resolve to have an open, new, strong and caring America that you embody."

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "The greatest democracy in the world has again proven that it is a beacon and example for many countries. The entire State of Israel rejoices with the United States and welcomes President Obama, who took the oath of office this evening. Barack Obama's journey to the White House has impressed and inspired the entire world. "

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called President Obama "a man of great vision and moral purpose."

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd labeled him the "hope of our time."

Many millions have pinned their hopes and dreams to President Obama. The world over looks to him to solve problems that are clearly beyond the scope of one human being. And yet, the fact that Mr. Obama is, in his own words, a “man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant,” must give us pause. The distance we have travelled as a nation and the differences we have overcome stand as clear beacons of our values.

Our country's heart was on display yesterday. We are stronger than our differences. To move through strife and hardship, we must walk together. Our future is bigger than one man or administration. But our future also hinges on the opportunity and possibility of every single one of our children, regardless of creed, color, religion, political affiliation or other arbitrary difference.

Yesterday proves that this country remains one of hope and possibility for all who are eager to achieve.

God bless America.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies

Yesterday, on NPR, I heard a story about DC Central Kitchen, a 20 year-old charity that got its start by collecting leftovers from inaugural balls. Today, DC Central Kitchen not only combats hunger, they also provide culinary training--and the chance at a better future--for the homeless.

This year, their students are preparing--under the close watch of Jerome Giradot, the Ritz-Carlton's pastry chef--some very special treats for the Ritz-Carlton's inaugural guests. This year, the DC Central Kitchen students are preparing Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies, about 8,000 of them.

Mrs. Obama was kind enough to share the recipe, and so was NPR, so I'm passing it along to you. If you're looking for a fun way to observe the remarkable, peaceful transfer of power that happens in this country every four or eight years, these cookies sound like a tasty way to do it.

Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 teaspoon each orange and lemon zest
2 tablespoons amaretto (almond liqueur)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg white
Chopped nuts or dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.Mix together butter and 1 ½ cups of sugar.Add egg yolks one at a time and beat until smooth.Stir in flour, zest, amaretto and salt, and mix only until everything is incorporated.Spread dough evenly onto baking pan and brush top of dough with egg white and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle with nuts or fruit if desired. Bake until golden brown, approximately 25 minutes. Cool for a short time, then cut while still warm.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hold The Peanut Butter

Over the weekend, health officials issued a warning against consuming products containing peanut butter--products like cookies, cakes and ice cream. Scientists have apparently linked an outbreak of salmonella poisoning to processed foods containing peanut butter. The outbreak has affected 43 states and sickened more than 470 people, with close to 100 requiring hospitalization. Six people have died as a result of this salmonella outbreak.

For the time being, actual jars of peanut butter seem to be unaffected. The Kellogg company has chosen to recall 16 products and the Peanut Corporation has recalled all peanut butter and peanut paste produced in its Georgia plant since mid-September.

For more information, visit the FDA's website.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I Heart NY

And Chesley B. Sullenberger III.

Nothing's better than a good New York story, and yesterday's flawless landing in the Hudson River is one of the best I've heard in a long time. Hailed as a "Miracle on the Hudson," Mr. Sullenberger managed to safely set down the U.S. Airways jet--and all 155 people aboard--in the Hudson River after losing both his engines.

Mayor Bloomberg, get this man a key to the city--or season tickets to the Yankees and a lifetime's supply of Katz's pastrami sandwiches. That's the least you can do for the angel who saved the City That Never Sleeps from another waking nightmare from the air.

Thank you, Mr. Sullenberger, from all New Yorkers, past and current. Thank you for saving so many lives, and giving us a helluva story to tell.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Party On

The "experts" keep telling us that this recession will get worse before it gets better. Great. Nothing like reports about joblessness and speeches about general "malaise" to reinvigorate the populace, right?

Well, in case you're managing to fight back the gloom and doom, Cookie Magazine has found a cute way to save you some cash when planning your next party. They're offering these pretty, printable party invitations from Egg Press. They're bright and colorful and a great, low-effort, DIY way to save some cash.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Portrait of Courage

Yesterday, I read this story by Dexter Filkins in the New York Times. I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.

It's a story about Afgan schoolgirls, girls whose parents have little or no education, girls who don't have electricity or running water in their homes, girls who--in many cases--walk several miles to attend classes. And when they arrive and pass into the sanctuary of the school walls, they shed their shapeless burkas like so much dead skin, smiling and laughing together in their momentary oasis.

Unfortunately, these girls are facing a more sinister roadblock on their paths to a life-altering education: intimidating, disfiguring and potentially attacks. There are roving groups of men on motorbikes, who thus far claim no group affiliation, who are spraying acid into the faces of girls on their way to school. Posters are appearing in mosques, urging parents not to let their girls go to school.

Yet the community is resisting. Students, parents and local government have come together to denounce the attacks and ensure the continuing education of Afgan girls. One girl, Shamsia, 17, badly scared from an acid attack, said that her parents told her to "keep coming to school, even if I am killed." It is difficult to imagine facing a mortal fear in one's daily pursuit of an education. It is even harder to imagine persevering against such aggression.

But these schoolgirls and this community are fully aware that if their lives, their community and their country are to improve, then they must, without question, educate themselves. They must continue to battle these small-minded and brutal individuals with everything they have. And it is clear that the most potent weapon in the Afgan arsenal is a new generation of brave and educated women. Their courage may just save their country.

Free Kids Coloring

While we've been here in the Midwest on a family visit, we've literally been dumped on with snow. I mean, we've got snow for snow over here. And there's only so much sledding you can do with a little one before you start worrying about losing fingers and toes to Old Man Winter's bite.

Sometimes a Mama just needs an indoor activity.

That's where comes in! This site has all kinds of printable coloring pages, arranged by topic. And the topics are extensive! They have nursery rhyme pages, maps, dragons, fairies--even ancient Egyptian gods!

So if you're stuck inside and looking for something to do, peruse these coloring pages with your little one and let him make his own coloring book. Just point, click and print. Then let your little artist go wild.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fairy Tale Etsy

I love a good Etsy find, and today I found a dreamy, beautiful little shop run by Victoria Vusova, a Ukrainian-born artist and Mama, now residing in New York City.

Just look at these gorgeous watercolors. I am completely smitten.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Oh My Darlin'

Tara Parker Pope of the New York Times Well Blog has a solution for all those clementines you still have sitting in your kitchen. (Has anyone ever actually finished an entire box?) She offers a recipe for making orange sherbet with your kids. It's a fun, delicious alternative to throwing away all that fruit! And it sounds like a perfect indoor activity for a blustery winter weekend.

See you Monday, Mamas!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bringing Home The Bacon

Many Mamas I know are entertaining the idea of reentering the workforce, as I've written recently. It's a daunting thing, to return to an adult world of meetings and conference calls when, for years, your daily routine has been comprised of diaper changes, milk spills and surgically removing sticky Cheerios from clothing and other surfaces. Let's face it, daily showers and tailored clothing are almost anathema to stay-at-home Mamahood.

This week, the New York Times blog Motherlode offers some practical advice for Mamas looking to reintegrate themselves into the workforce. It isn't always easy, but, as Lisa Belkin writes, with a little effort and some good advice, it can be done.

There are many bright sides to returning to work: grown-up camaraderie, a sense of accomplishment, and, perhaps most seductively, private potty time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Words, Words, Words (And Pictures, Too!)

I was lurking around one of my favorite, handmade, artsy, cozy, creative mommy blogs, Soule Mama and I came across this brilliant innovation for little authors and artists: Bare Books. Bare Books are "hard covered, fully-bound books containing 28 blank pages" just waiting for your little Hopper or Hemingway to fill them with the wild and wonderful ideas that fill their broad and open minds. Sounds like a great way to spend a snowy afternoon, doesn't it? And at $1.75 a piece, these epics-in-waiting won't break the bank.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lovely, Dark and Deep

Frigid days and the darkened hush of early nightfall mean that we've been curling up with even more books than usual around here.

Our current favorite is this gorgeously illustrated version of Robert Frost's perennial poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Frost's perfect picture of a pristine winter snowscape is lovely and inviting, as always. But Susan Jeffers' soft, dreamlike illustrations unfold themselves like layers of cozy blankets, revealing something new with each read. They add to the beauty of Frost's words, rather than distract.

We found this little treasure at our local library. But we'll be purchasing a copy to add to our private library for sure.

Giveaway Winners!

It's Monday morning, the sun is out and I am so excited to announce the winners of the final giveaways for Mama's Month!

Myra G. and Shelly H.L. are now the proud owners of autographed copies of Andrea Buchanan's Note to Self, a collection of inspired and inspiring essays, both of them entering through Mama's Facebook page.

And Becky, you're the winner of the sand-tastic Sand Play Set from Green Toys, through your comment right here at Mama's Cup! May it bring you and your little one(s) hours of safe and eco-friendly fun in the sun!
Thanks to everyone for making the last month a fun and fabulous celebration of motherhood. Mamas make the world a better, cleaner, safer and more interesting place. Never forget it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Time For A Change

I'm what I would call a "work-at-home Mama." My friends are more or less split down the middle, with 50 percent working outside the home and 50 percent who don't. A close friend of mine, is about to return to work after a two-year hiatus, and it's practically giving her an ulcer. These decisions--leaving a career that you love and have worked for, or leaving children you love and have worked for--are never easy and the debate over what we Mamas should do with our lives, our careers and our families has raged for decades.

A "familiar" voice is weighing in on this old argument. British psychologist Penelope Leach has written a new book, Child Care Today: Getting It Right For Everyone, out this month. (Nell Casey reviews it in the February issue of Cookie Magazine, but the review is not yet available online.) Leach's perspective is not an indictment of women who struggle to make the best choices they can for themselves and their families, but rather a criticism of our system, which offers few choices and even less financial assistance for child care to women and families.

That this argument--"mommytrack" vs. "career woman"--is raging anew is, in itself, an interesting twist for us Gen-X parents. A favorite author of mine, Susan Gregory Thomas, has observed that "as a 2004 study of generational differences concluded, 'Generation X went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in U.S. history.' " (The emphasis is mine.) But instead of turning into incapable and disinterested parents, we've swung the pendulum in the opposite direction. It is us Gen-X parents for whom the term "attachment parenting" was coined. Because of our deep connection to our children and our fear of making them feel "abandoned," the stakes have been raised exponentially. And deciding to go back to work is, for many of us, a decision over which we agonize, worry and, sometimes, berate ourselves or each other.

But this is, as Leach points out, "the wrong question." No fan of crowded day care, but understanding the need or desire many women have to work outside the home, Leach offers up creative ideas for making personalized, attentive child care an affordable reality for those who need it.

I'm eager to read this book and digest Leach's ideas. There's no question--especially in the midst of a faltering and uncertain economy--that we need a change. There's no question that women and children deserve more and better options than the ones currently available. After all, we're talking about the future here. And we all know just how important our kids are to us.

Friday, January 2, 2009

It's That Time of Year

It's winter and no one knows better than a Mama (except maybe a teacher) that sniffles, sneezes and runny noses abound in the coldest months. And when tissues can't be found, coat sleeves usually serve as reliable understudies. The result, of course, is a community germ pool that supplies a formidable infectious infantry waging a daily battle with your children's immune systems. What's a Mama to do?

Well, Cookie Magazine offers this list of 10 immune system boosters to help your little ones evade the enemy this winter and stay healthy. The best piece of advice on this list is Number 1: Get enough sleep! No one can fend off winter germ assaults when they're run down and tired. So get those kids in bed, Mama! Then you can get a little extra beauty rest yourself.