Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Grateful Heart

Green Pastures by AzureGrackle.

A grateful heart is a blessed one. And I am oh so grateful this season.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my home and heart to yours.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Busy Hands

I have not written much about our plans for Thanksgiving or little things I'll be doing with the girls and family. But you can catch up with all that at, where you'll find out about my packing trials (all done as of a few minutes ago!), crafting plans, and favorite Thanksgiving reads and dishes. I hope it all adds some extra inspiration to your weekend.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Judging a Book by its Pictures

Without knowing a thing about the stories, I'm very excited to get our hands on all 10 of the books selected by the editors and judges of the New York Times Book Review as Best Illustrated Children's Books 2007 .

Bedtime Wishes

I just ordered these Bedtime Wishes Cards from Magic Cabin. I’ve been wanting to add just one more little thing to our bedtime rituals, a little prayer, a wish, I wasn’t sure what. But I want the evening to end on a sweet note, not with bedtime negotiations (about brushing teeth and hair, wearing PJs, reading just one more book, not wanting the lights off…) and Sabrina calling me back in and possibly waking CC. So I am hoping that reading and looking at these cute cards, one each night, will help us end the day with good wishes and lead the way to sweet dreams for Sabrina and a few hours of peace for Patrick and me!

Monday, November 19, 2007


You never feel worse for taking a walk. This weekend we took lots of walks. In fact, I think we walked to every single place we went. We walked to the grocery store, the toy store, the coffee shop, to a friend’s house, to have dinner at a restaurant and just around the hood looking for nature treasures to add to Sabrina’s collection. It’s definitely the season and weather go ion walks with the streets covered in crunchy leaves and the air so clean and crisp. It felt great to be out, our cheeks rosy, CC babbling away, Sabrina chatting nonstop, Patrick and I carrying children or holding hands. A walk is one of those things that will never fail you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Sharing Feast

The days are crisp, the nights chilly, I'm reading again (I started Water for Elephants last night and am completely absorbed) and we're going to spend Thanksgiving weekend in NYC. Just when I thought the days couldn't get any cozier, today Sabrina's preschool invited us for a sharing feast, and now I have enough warmth and fuzziness to last me through 2008.

How just a little over one hour of time can translate into such lasting energy, inspiration and joy is almost a miracle. Here are the highlights of the event:

--The younger children, including Sabrina, performed Stone Soup, a fable about villagers who make a delicious soup by combining their ingredients and efforts. Sabrina contributed celery to the pot. Her first performance, and she did great! I have been looking for books to read with Sabrina about sharing and giving beyond the obvious ones about Thanksgiving. This story is perfect!
--The older children sang several songs and a beautiful blessing. I cannot remember it exactly but it included words like "Thank you for my family. Thank you for my friends. Thank you for this food. Thank you for it all being right here where I am." This touched me because not all our friends and family are right where we are; in fact, much of our family is scattered all over the place, including heaven. But I think the point of the blessing is that truly, they are where we are. They are in our minds and hearts, and that is a blessing.
--The feast was simple and delicious: soup, cornbread, pumpkin cupcakes and applesauce. Each of the four parts of the meal was prepared by a different class of children and their families. While enjoying this meal with my small family and the new friends we've made through Sabrina's school, I realized (not for the first time) how community and sharing has so little to do with fanciness or formality or impressing anyone. It made me resolve to work less on the production side of gatherings and more on the building community side.
--The children had decorated the stage and room with all sorts of art projects. Sabrina's class made a wreath out of the outlines of their hands, and on each hand were written things the children are grateful for or love. Sabrina's said: "I love it when my parents watch movies with me." We JUST started doing this more regularly--about once a week we pick something to watch together. I thought she enjoyed it just because it was something new and because she almost never gets to watch TV. But her message let me know that there's more to it than that--it's about togetherness and family for her.

And now, I'm off to hug my children one more time and curl up in bed with my book!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What I'm Not Reading

storytime by ashleyg

We're a family of readers, some would say voracious readers. We love books, bookstores, curling up with nice books. We love the library, we always borrow too many books and almost always renew them. We sometimes buy books just for the cover knowing full well we may never read them. We love book catalogs and websites about books. Patrick and I are always reading something and always know what we want to read next.

We read to our babies in the womb, not for the benefits to them but because it was an excuse to get lost in the treasures of our childhood. We could not wait to start on bedtime stories with Sabrina. There's a picture of her, age 3 days being read to in Patrick's arms. CC, lucky girl, just fell right into our reading routines and has the attention span of a preschooler when it comes to listening to stories. We buy our girls too many books and read to them past bedtime too often.

We belong to a kind of informal family bookclub where my mom, my sister and I often read the same books at the same time, then pass them on to our husbands.

We have given boxes and boxes of books to libraries and still our shelves are bowed and our attic (I know, books should not be in the attic) is filled with books.

But for the last months, I have not been reading. Yes, there have been magazines, blogs, the news online, the occasional parenting or how-to book, and certainly lots of children's books. But the novels, the books of short stories, even the ones by my favorite authors, remain stacked on my night table, untouched. Some wait unfinished, and will probably have to be started from the beginning because I can no longer remember what they're about. But reading is part of who I am, and it's important to me that my children know this and see me reading, not just to them, but to myself, for myself.

So after finishing this post, I'm off to bed at what is super early for me these days--9-ish. I don't yet know what I'll be reading next, but I do know it's already on my night table.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Simple and wooden

I love Soule Mama's thoughts on what makes a good toy. I've been dreaming of making some wooden pin dolls so this is just the little push I needed. Those neat little blocks she links to are something to keep in mind too while I'm shopping for the holidays.

Keeping it simple is certainly something Sabrina reminds me of often when she foregoes her toys' conventional uses and decides to upend them, stack them, deconstruct them and pretend they are something entirely different. Blocks become food, beads are paint, toy carts are strollers. Mind you she has real play food, paint and a stroller.

Amanda Blake Soule, aka Soule Mama, has a book coming out next year and I cannot wait to get it. As awesome as the blog world is, I often find myself wishing I could make my favorite blogs into books so I could get cozy with them. Propping my laptop on my tummy in bed is not the comfiest thing I can think of! If the book is anything like the inspiring and thoughtful blog, The Creative Family will be just what I have been dreaming of.

Picture from Nova Natural Toys and Crafts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tis the Season

Is your mailbox spilling over with toy catalogs? Mine has been for about a month now. Other than getting the same one over and over with a different cover each time, I do enjoy receiving them. I like the memories brought back by seeing toys I liked as a child, I like marking playthings my girls and nephews might like. I admit I even like looking at the toys I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. Yes, I get a little boost from knowing that I am not the type of parent who would get a toddler a "My First Video Game" for Christmas.

My favorite toy catalog, from Nova Natural Toys & Crafts, only comes this time of year. If you haven't received a copy, you may want to order it now. This catalog is one to keep on your nightstand as a book of inspiration. The children, the toys, the art materials, the photos... it's all wholesome and lovely and, well, natural. Like childhood should be.

I flip through it whenever my children's rooms and things seem out of hand, when I feel the vision of a simple imaginative afternoon escaping me as I tidy up yet another mess, when my mind is buzzing with colorful plastic stuff (of course we have colorful plastic stuff!), when Sabrina has been talking nonstop for hours and the idea of introducing her to her first video game seems a tiny bit tempting. The toys and pictures bring me back to what I know I want her childhood and my parenthood to look like and inspire me to pursue that vision.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mommy's First Cupcakes

Today our home saw its first ever batch of cupcakes made from scratch. Yes, it's true. Not only had I never made cupcakes from scratch before, I had never made cupcakes period, despite the fact that Sabrina has a cupcake fetish and will choose that over any other treat anytime.

My inspiration? A three-year-old with a bad cold and a sweet raspy voice. I asked her what would make her feel better and she answered not "eating cupcakes," which would have sent me to the nearby bakery, but "making cupcakes."

So, guided by Martha (who else?), we made Vanilla Cupcakes and Quick Chocolate Frosting (we halved both recipes). And we can never ever go back. Sorry Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles... your cupcakes may be pretty but they don't stand up to homemade.

On my list of mommy milestones, making cupcakes from scratch ranks pretty high right now.

Friday, November 9, 2007

My Madeleine

It's been a cozy afternoon: rainy and cold outside, bright and warm inside. Perfect for special after-nap treats, like these apple fritters my grandma used to make. These were my favorite snack as a child, and I have a very vivid memory of her telling me they were made from the same batter as crepes, which she taught me to cook and which to this day are my favorite food to eat and make.

This was my first time trying to make Jablka w Ciescie (Apples in Batter), and rather than finding a recipe, I just followed my grandma's words and made crepe batter (4 tablespoons flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk) then mixed in 4 small thinly sliced Fuji apples. I fried each fritter in butter in a small pan and sprinkled with sugar before eating. It warmed my heart to share these with Sabrina while telling her about my grandma and my childhood. It was a total madeleine de Proust moment.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

It's Not too Early!

I have my first Christmas purchase! It's a print for Sabrina from belle and boo, the shop of one of my favorite illustrators. A long long time ago, pre-etsy and pre-handmade craze, Patrick gave me a sweet card of a little girl... and I instantly recognized the style when I came across this British artist's work a few months ago. Her "Madams" and other children so capture that magic moment when children are still our babies and already our kids, wise beyond their size, when they can be sweet and sassy all at once and get away with it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

An Inspired Collaboration

Best idea I've heard of in a while: a mother and daughter mailing drawings back and forth over years, each woman adding a little something to the pieces. It sounds like something out of Borges. It's actually the story behind doodlespark, and the collaborative drawings by mother and daughter artists are available for sale as notecards. I found this concept so inspiring... not sure what it's inspiring me to do yet. But just the idea of it!

Found via one of my favorite design blogs, Bloesum.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Watercolor Mysteries

My fellow momformation blogger Molly has the best ideas on things to do with children that also get your adult fingers itching to take part. Everything she writes about I can't wait to do, as much for Sabrina as for myself. I helped Sabrina work on this fantastic little art experiment this evening and as she set about finding images in the paint I wished I had made my own series of blobs to draw on. It was all I could do not to snatch the marker from her hand and say, there, there's a sheep!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bopping to the Beatles

I realize my blog is heavy on visual arts and not so much on musical ones. But it's something I want to focus on a little more, because we do listen to music, really! We've even been playing a different type of music during each of our family happy hours in an effort to expose the girls to new sounds. Well, after hearing Yellow Submarine Sabrina now only has ears for the Beatles. Strawberry Fields, All You Need Is Love, Piggies and Yellow Submarine seem to be the favorites. But we tried some other Beatles-like tunes and those were a hit as well. Mr. Blue Sky by ELO in particular. My parents and Patrick's met and fell in love during the Beatles era... so how neat is it that a third generation is bopping to the same music? And Sunday morning Sabrina surprised us with an awesome drawing of us living in a yellow submarine. Can you spot the toilet?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Big Girl Books

Just the other day I was thinking that Sabrina might be ready to listen to some chapter books... yes, the kind with no or few pictures, the kind you read a little at a time, a chapter a day, over a week or two. Can this be true? Seems like we just put down Goodnight Gorilla (which has all of, what, five words maybe?). In fact, we DID just put it down because Sabrina does not outgrow books the way she outgrows toys or clothes. She just adds on to her favorites and a simple board book is as interesting to her as a complicated text laden narrative.

My suspicions were confirmed when Patrick said a few days later, without me saying anything, that he thought she might be ready for some real books. So we agree. But now comes the tricky part: finding something wonderful that will hook her and be memorable for us all. This is a big deal and big decision. Some options we're thinking about, most of which we have vintage copies of from our own childhood bookshelves:

Peter Pan
Charlotte's Web
The Wind in the Willows
The Little Prince
James and the Giant Peach
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking

What was your child's first "big kid" book? I really need some ideas!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is It Really Fall Now?

The Halloween craze has left us a little bit dazed. Our home is a mess of Halloween decorations that now need to be put away, our craft boxes are a mess, the floor is covered in little bits of paper and string from crafting, I haven't cooked anything substantial (lollipop cookies don't count!) in a week, and we all have too much sugar running through our veins.

But November 1 seems like the perfect time to get ourselves back into a nice cozy routine, start some new rituals, pick up some good books to read, try some fall recipes. And I think the cool weather is here to stay, so I am officially embracing fall.

The rest of this week and over the weekend my goal is to get organized, restock the pantry and fridge, tidy and clean, weed. Turn my home into a cozy cocoon ready for a peaceful month. I have a feeling I am not alone... are you feeling this way? At preschool they've shifted from bats, cats and pumpkins to a new theme on friendship, family and sharing. I like that theme.

It is also All Saints Day, so I am thinking about departed family, saying some prayers for those we miss and thinking of ways to make sure my children know who they come from even if they will not meet them in this world.

The image is from Nikki McClure's 2007 calendar.