Friday, August 31, 2007


Dandelion Dream, Alicia Bock

This Labor Day weekend we will be seeing family and friends, maybe going to a concert or two, taking a few last trips to the pool... fun stuff. But what I'm most excited about is that we'll be doing some serious weeding. We get rid of things all the time and really have no clutter to speak of, yet I still have that feeling of unused belongings weighing me down. So Patrick and I plan to use the girls' nap times to ruthlessly sort through toys, art supplies, clothes, kitchen items (our main clutter categories) and whatever else stands in our way. We'll also make a number of trips to Goodwill because there's nothing worse than having bags of weeded stuff sitting by the front door.

With Sabrina starting school, September once again feels like the start of something big, and I want to start it with a clean sweep. If you care to join me, you know what to do: get rid of anything that you haven't used in a year, that you (or your kids, of course) don't love, that you have more than one of, that is broken and can't be fixed right then and there.

Have a good + happy weekend!

Sometimes We Like to Match

My sister and I had a moment of revelation yesterday about how thanks to Etsy and all the talented artists whose work we now have access to we don't have to settle for shopping at the mall anymore. Not that we're not in love with some things from West Elm and J. Crew and Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie... but it's so great to find unique handmade things... they just have a different energy to them and you feel like such a winner for finding them.

As I plan our fall and winter wardrobes, I'm looking at the mall for basics but want to supplement with some original finds online. For example, these beautiful hand dyed block printed onsies and t-shirts from 1girl1boy would make a pair of brown corduroys just sing... and they take all the cheesiness out of dressing your kids alike, which I have been known to do on more than one occasion (hello photo-opps!).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rainbow of Books

Seems like organizing books by color is something I keep coming across in magazines and blogs. So Sabrina and I tried it... usually she does not like helping me organize her room, but she enjoyed pulling all the books off the shelf and separating them by color. Now she loves what she calls her "rainbow of books." An additional perk of this fifteen-minute project was that we rediscovered some old favorites we hadn't looked at in a while.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting Ready for School Memories

School starts in about two weeks. This will be Sabrina’s first drop-off experience and I'm pretty nervous about it. Last year she attended a wonderful playschool, a preschool that parents and caregivers attend with their children. But this year it’s going to be the real deal: she’ll be attending a Reggio Emilia school three half-days a week. Eating lunch there and everything!

We’re all a little scared of being apart, but also excited about all the great things Sabrina will create, learn and do this school year. The school places a great emphasis on child-led learning and the child as artist… so in line with Good + Happy Day!

It feels a little weird to me that she’ll be on her own for this big step… we’ve taken almost all her big steps together! So I’ve been thinking of ways to mark and document this milestone as well as help us all feel connected. Here are some thoughts I’ve had:

*Keep a school journal. Every school day write down what Sabrina tells me about her day, add a picture of the work she brings home, a photo of her on that day, or any other visual that comes up.

*Sabrina loves it when we all have the same thing, so I was thinking of getting some small objects like charms that we can each have with us—Sabrina can take hers to school, Patrick and I can have ours and we’ll leave one in Cassandra’s nursery.

*Of course we’ll take that traditional picture of Sabrina in front of our house on her first day of school.

*Give her a small album of pictures of us she can look at if she misses us.

*I’ve already ordered a little gift for her: Ashley Goldberg’s lovely Hello May print. I know Sabrina will blossom as an artist this year and because of that I want her to have her own small piece of art. This print just kind of makes me think of children in school. I hope Sabrina will like it… I know she’ll appreciate it because she knows art is a big deal!

I’d love to hear your ideas! How do you mark the start of a new school year?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Letters Everywhere

Mommy, this little worm is trying to write my name! That's what Sabrina said when she saw this worm. I was still laughing when she followed with a very serious Can you get rid of it? Nothing is sacred, not even a literate worm.

I know it's been done before and really well, but it's kind of neat to find letters in objects. Ever since Sabrina started learning her letters she's been spotting the alphabet everywhere... an A-shaped piece of cheese, a C-shaped watermelon slice, a J-shaped poop, you get the idea. If I could remember to take a picture every time she saw a letter I'd have a full alphabet through Sabrina's eyes by now.

And speaking of letters everywhere, here's a neat tool I found via nested: Spell with flickr searches for flickr photographs of real letters on signs, storefronts, etc. and lets you spell out anything you like. You can let it be random or change the letters to come up with something new. Here's one version of Good + Happy Day. And here's another. It could be fun to print out the photos to spell your child's name, create some personalized cards or string together a birthday banner.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Beach in our Backyard

We just discovered a beach not 45 minutes from us! If you live around Washington, DC, check out North Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. It's absolutely cozy and small, perfect for a lazy summer morning with children. When we got there we had that feeling of homecoming and disbelief, like when a fabulous new store opens in your neighborhood and you can't believe your luck... except of course North Beach has been here for a long time, it's just new to us. Sabrina had a blast and couldn't believe we were heading back home afterwards--a beach without the airplane, long drive or hotel. Wow!

If you go, pack a picnic lunch or buy your lunch at Sweet Sue's Bake Shop, the little town's one gourmet coffee and sandwich shop right across the boardwalk. And if you don't live in this area but miss the beach, don't resign yourself... look for lakes, quarries and bay beaches... you may be surprised by what you find.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Setting the Table

Here's something I'm doing for my children, my family and my sanity: replacing our everyday fabric tablecloths that need washing after every single meal with Mimi the Sardine's cool vinyl ones. I love setting a pretty table but find it's nearly impossible to keep it pretty when young kids are involved. Invariably the milk spills, the yoghurt drips, the tomato sauce slides off the plate. I knew there had to be a better way and set out to find some vinyl tablecloths. Well, the other nearly impossible task turned out to be finding ones with modern, simple prints. Everything out there seems to be in Provence prints, loud fruit patterns, or boring solid colors. But finally, I found Mimi the Sardine's great products made from very cool Swedish fabric and in accordance with strict environmental laws. I can't wait to get my new tablecloths in Flower Power Blue and Solvic... I may even get the matching bibs for Cassandra to use in a few months!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Writing the Book

I love it when this happens:

I get a sweet comment from Marta.

I visit Marta’s blog and recognize her handmade journals, which I have been admiring via other blogs. I think the neat connections end there.

I spend some time looking through Marta’s blog and shop and come across some wonderful quotes, one of which is by Annie Dillard, whose book The Writing Life inspired me when I first started writing.

The quote reminds me of a little notebook of quotes I used to keep in college.

I dig my little notebook out of the attic and find the exact same quote: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Dillard’s words capture exactly why I started Good + Happy Day. Fifteen years of living and growing are neatly tied together and for a while my life makes sense the way a great book does.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

National Gallery of Art Online

Another awesome online tool for the little and big ones to enjoy, this time from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The NGAKids website allows you to experiment with all kinds of artistic techniques and subjects, from painting to collage to 17th century Dutch interiors. Having just professed our love of collage art, you can imagine we are crazy for the digital collage tool.

Also, don't miss the free download of Teaching Art Since 1950, a book filled with resources for teaching children about art.

I love that the Internet gives another dimension to the range of activities I can share with my children. But I'm realizing that it's easy to get carried away by these neat tools... online fun can quickly become addictive. I far prefer it to television because it is so interactive, but after Sabrina started asking a little too frequently if she could play on the computer, I started to limit the amount of time she was allowed to play on my laptop. Something tells me that unlike manual art, hours of online art can be too much of a good thing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We Love To Collage

You may have noticed that we spend a lot of time making collages. Here’s why:
  1. We do it together—Patrick and I cut, tear, flip pages, while Sabrina selects images, decides on colors, and takes care of all the gluing action.
  2. Some of our favorite books—Pie in the Sky by Lois Elhert, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Pezzettino by Leo Leoni—feature collage art.
  3. You can get really creative with what you’ll use: leaves, string, beans, pompoms, tissue paper, newspaper, photographs, postcards, old stamps, stickers, construction paper, magazine cutouts. Really, your imagination is the limit.
  4. While we flip thought magazines looking for images Sabrina wants for a collage, we have great conversations about what we see.
  5. Depending on the magazine you select, you get a whole different window into your child’s mind—consider Wondertime vs. Dwell .
  6. It’s magical to see what catches your child’s eye.
  7. Glitter glue makes everything more fun.
  8. We love Joseph Cornell and Rex Ray .
  9. When you’re out + about you can collect treasures to use in a collage.
  10. We have some inspiring books on the subject: You Can Make a Collage by Eric Carle and I Love to Collage by Jennifer Lipsey Edwards.
Our Family's Hands by Sabrina

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Fair Was Here!

Summer just isn't summer without a day at the fair. Over the weekend we spent some time at our local county fair... it's the first time since we moved here that the weather was on board--it was neither unbearably hot nor raining. The rides tend to be a little much for Sabrina, so after a few goes on the merry-go-around she was most interested in petting the baby animals and tasting the exotic fair food--chocolate-covered bananas, funnel cake and corn dogs! Don't miss your town's county fair!

Baby Massage

Cassandra loves her little baby massages, and I love giving them. I especially love touching every little part of her body... seems like she's all covered up in adorable baby outfits too much of the time! I recently found a few great online sources about baby massage... I especially like these voiced-over instructions. Until now I was just doing what felt right to me and her, so these resources have given me some new ideas and more confidence. I sometimes like to use some Mustela massage oil, which to me just smells like baby, warm and a little sweet. design mom recently featured all kinds of tempting baby products that would also make the massage experience even nicer for baby and parent.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mad about Matryoshkas

Anyone who has grown up with a matryoshka doll in their home knows the irresistible need to pull it apart down to the teeny tiny doll at the center. My mom brought Sabrina two matryoshkas from Poland, and they are some of my favorite playthings of hers. At first it was all about taking them apart and putting back together, but now Sabrina actually plays with them as if they were little action figures. Lately I've been seeing matryoshkas everywhere! Here are my favorite sightings.

Lovely paintings from tsktsk

Felt doll from wapita

Adorable felt bag made by summer salt design and shown on scissors paper glue

Stamps from Small Object

Fabric dolls from runamok

Annushka by little red caboose, who also blogged about matryoshkas... in fact, those yellow ones are just like the ones I grew up with!

More great dolls from runamok

The start of a beautiful project by Sarah London

Thomas Paul russian doll platter from nonchalant mom

My Little Matryoshkas book with actual nesting dolls inside

Wee pincushion from zakka

And if you're looking for the real thing, look no further than The Russian Store's selection of hundreds of nesting dolls.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Big Girl Flowers

Whenever I’m feeling blah about my home, I tidy up a bit and run to the store for some inexpensive bouquets that I deconstruct to suit me. There is nothing like flowers around the house to bring in freshness and energy. I like simple bouquets of all one flower or color, and try to stick with varieties that last through the better part of a week like mums, irises, tulips, roses or gerbera daisies. After Sabrina moved to her big girl room I bought a little vase for her (it’s made of unbreakable resin) and started to put flowers there too. She loves this detail in her space, and often has strong opinions about what flowers she wants to get. At times Patrick or I surprise her with a bouquet. Like old-fashioned suitors we hold the flowers behind our backs and spring them on her. “You brought me flowers, thank you!” she’ll say, little charmer that she is.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Brunch Playdates

My mom friends and I have an ongoing joke that we no longer socialize with people who don't have kids. It's true mainly because we only socialize with our kids these days, and no one except another parent understands why you never finish a sentence and keep disappearing in the middle of a conversations. All jokes aside, I love catching up with friends and family while Sabrina plays and Cassandra sleeps in my arms. And I know Sabrina prefers this over being left behind while we go out with friends. So, I think it's great to add some adult food, a few adult drinks and jazz music to turn playdates into a way to catch up with friends, family and neighbors.

Here are a few great ideas for playdate brunches. I love modern mom's basic and classic brunch. I also very much liked the backyard brunch featured in Blueprint a few issues ago. For more inspiration, see Chocolate & Zucchini's mouthwatering musings on brunch, especially how to host one effortlessly.

The key to a fun and relaxing time for all, in my opinion, is to make as much as possible in advance (frittata instead of individual omelets), buy much of the food already prepared, and provide food kids can eat unassisted. Scatter some toys around and you're all set. Cheers!

Photo via You Gonna Eat That?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Decorating Books for the Whole Family

I'm a decorating magazine junkie and live for that special time of month when all my subscriptions start coming in and stacking up on my nightstand. When a new one comes in, I always follow the same routine--first, I flip to the second half of the magazine to see if the real homes shown are any good. Then I take a quick look at all the pages hoping for some good interviews and product reviews. Finally, I get around to reading the articles and inspecting all the details of the homes I like.

Over the last three years I have become very particular about what I enjoy: if the issue doesn't feature any homes that actual children live in, forget it. I really can't relate! I want serene and luminous nurseries, fun big kid rooms, exquisitely organized playrooms, cozy family rooms, backyards outfitted for toddlers, shelves loaded with modern toys and classic books. Unfortunately, most issues will only feature one or two family homes at most. And I'm still waiting for a "Metropolitan Home Kids" or "Elle Decor Mini" to come out!

That's why I love our collection of Judith Wilson's wonderful books about kids' spaces and family homes. The three books we have are: Babies Rooms: from Zero to Three, Children's Spaces: from Zero to Ten and Family Living: Creating the Perfect Family Home. The books are filled to the brim with wonderful photos and descriptions of rooms that are simple and airy, modern and cozy. They also feature lots of pictures of children, which Sabrina adores to see. In fact, Children's Spaces was a present I gave her to inspire us in putting together her big girl room. Her first decorating book! She calls it just that and loves it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hello Mr. Piggy

Sabrina had a piggy bank that broke in an unfortunate accident when she was showing off how heavy and full of coins he was. She's been keeping her money in various bowls and bags ever since. Last week she got to paint a new piggy bank. It was a lot of fun and now Mr. Piggy is proudly displayed in Sabrina's room, already half filled. A tip: if you buy the kit, get some extra acrylic paints because the ones supplied are not enough for children who are notorious for loading up brushes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What We Did During the Heat Wave

Seems like the awful heat we've been experiencing in the DC area for over a week now is finally gone. Being inside most of the time has its ups though... it gave Sabrina lots of opportunity to be artistic. In our home selected new art is always placed on the fireplace mantel. Here's what it looks like today after five days of fun and work. A number of other paintings, drawings, collages and crafts are scattered around the house. From left to right, the "best" pieces include:
  • Stripes and Orange Circle, watercolors inspired by a recent visit to The Phillips Collection
  • Vase made of toilet paper roll and yellow flower made of construction paper
  • Various construction paper collages
  • Airplane, a watercolor painted for Daddy, who "loves helicopters, airplanes, and cars."
  • House made of cardboard and construction paper
  • Modern collage using images selected by Sabrina from Dwell magazine
  • Kaleidoscope made of toilet paper roll
  • More construction paper collages
  • A 3-D paper flower piece
  • Painted piggy bank (more on this another day...)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Lego Mosaic

Sabrina made up a new (to us) art form, a mosaic using lego and its chunkier cousin duplo bricks. Her pieces were abstract, but you could recreate just about anything if you have enough blocks and this platform. Again, it's not a permanent form of art, so we take pictures of the final product.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ten Books

Yesterday Sabrina turned in her completed Summer library program sheet and received her prize for being such a great "reader." As promised, here are short reviews of the ten books we discovered.
  1. Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Frances has more tricks up her sleeve to ward off bedtime than Sabrina. We were impressed!

  1. A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban

When new big sister Frances runs away, her parents use the old “poor baby misses her big sister” line to lure her back from under the dining table. Thank you Courtney at two straight lines for recommending this classic big sibling book.

  1. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Charming adventures of a growing family of ducks looking for a home in Boston. Sabrina loves saying the ducklings’ names: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.

  1. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

We loved this classic about a little girl and bear cub who get all lost while picking blueberries. Sabrina’s favorite part of this book though is the detailed illustration on the inside cover of Sal helping her mother can blueberries. It just so happens that two of my favorite blogging mamas at design mom and the heron's nest have also discussed this book recently.

  1. Beach by Elisha Cooper

Lovely watercolors of all the things that happen on a beach during one single day, from dawn to dusk.

  1. McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss

Another great rhyming tale by Dr. Seuss. It’s about fishing and has great pictures of fish. Like all Seuss books, it’s lots of fun to read.

  1. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

I read this when I was little and remembered the whole name right away: Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo Chari Bari Ruchi Pip Peri Pembo. Patrick started calling Sabrina “Tikki Tikki Sabrina” and now she has started calling us “Tikki Tikki Mommy” and “Tikki Tikki Daddy” for fun.

  1. Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root

Fun summer read about resourceful children and their father trying to make it to the lake to cool down from the heat.

  1. On the Day you Were Born by Deborah Frazier

This beautifully illustrated poem about welcoming a baby to the world has become one of my favorite children’s books. I bought this to read to Cassandra, but of course Sabrina loves it too. I challenge any parent to read this out loud and not have a knot in their throat by the end.

  1. Love You When You Whine by Emily Jenkins

I mentioned this book recently, and although I got it for Patrick and me, Sabrina has enjoyed it immensely. She loves the silly pictures and laughs when she recognizes some of her own behaviors.

The proud reader and her library program prize, a toy puppy.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

More Alphabets

Since posting about alphabets I keep coming across new great ones… letters are a never-ending source of inspiration.

One very lucky girl has an alphabet all of her own. Luckily, we can all enjoy Sweet Juniper’s abc's graffiti.
Alphabet on stretched canvas via apartment therapy: the nursery

Type the Sky by Lisa Rienermann via dezeen

Not wall art, but a fascinating animated alphabet art at Bembo’s Zoo

Monday, August 6, 2007

Giving Thanks

We’ve been saying grace on and off for a few years now. Sometimes we forget, other times we’re so rushed to finish dinner and get on with the evening that we just skip it. For a while Sabrina did not want to hold hands and refused to say Amen, and she almost never wanted to add to what we were thankful for. What started off as a lovely way to begin the one meal we have as a family was turning into just another thing to get through on the long path to bed, kind of like brushing teeth.

But just a few nights ago as we started to eat, Sabrina said, “What do I want to say thank you for?” She often asks questions she wants to be asked as a way of introducing a topic. I asked her, and she had a whole list of things… ending with “thank you for all the suns, all the moons and all the stars in the night. Amen.” Nobody in our home has ever said it better. Grace is back on the table.

I’ve witnessed families handling this custom in different ways, some religious and others not. We’re still figuring out what will work for our family, and what works will likely change over the years, but here are some inspiring ideas:

  • Family members take turns saying grace
  • Everyone says the same prayer or expression of thanks together
  • Every person at the table says something they are grateful for
  • Every person at the table says one good thing, one bad thing that has happened that day
  • The parents take turns saying the same prayer
  • After the prayer, everyone together says a little cheer about the family
  • Family members take turns selecting and reading prayers and poems from a book, like the charmingly illustrated Saying Grace: Blessings for the Family Table edited by Sarah McElwain

Friday, August 3, 2007

Good + Happy Mornings

Drawing by Alberto, from the archives of
The International Children's Digital Library

There’s nothing like finally getting it right… especially when the solution is simple and the effort required minimal compared to the peace it brings. Here’s something I just figured out: to achieve morning bliss I need to get up an hour earlier than my children. Sure, every parenting magazine tells you this, and in most picture books the mom wakes her kids, not the other way around… but it just never rang true for me until I started to wonder how my husband and I would get two children off to a good start and be out the door by 8:45 am once I went back to work.

Before Cassandra’s birth I used to get up early to mediate and write, and that was nice. But once Sabrina awoke the morning often turned into chaos as I tried to make breakfast, keep her entertained and get myself looking decent. This was not going to work in our new life with baby since I needed to add 30 to 45 minutes of nursing time to the morning.

So now Patrick and I get up at 6 am to shower, get dressed, make coffee, make breakfast, prepare Sabrina’s lunch and check the news before getting the girls up. I try to meditate during this hour too. The next hour and a half we spend as a family, cuddling, nursing, having breakfast, chatting, and playing before the nanny arrives. It's been so nice that I am keeping the same routine even on Fridays and weekends when I don't work.

I’m sure there are lots of parents out there saying Hello? Of course you have to get up an hour early! But if you aren’t one of them, give it a try… it’s one of those simple things that just work.