Feb 12 2015

This Old Stuff: Grandma’s Linens

My mom recently called to say she “put a little something” in the mail. It’s my grandma’s never used linens from the late 1940s. I mean. I just want to use them and not use them and frame them and tuck them away for Loie.

I’ve been thinking a lot about old treasures and when/how they should be used. My friend Johanna says that it’s in their use that objects find beauty and meaning. And I totally agree and am also tickled I have friends who think big things like that.

I am both mystified by my grandma’s desire to not use nice things and then totally realize I am doing the same thing.

In my head it’s that NOW they are old and nice and maybe, just maybe, that gives them enhanced need for protection? But to what end? So I can hand them off perfect to Lo? So she can never use them?

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Jan 30 2014

An Approach to a Year

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I asked Brett to make me this. It’s kind of how we plan to do things this year.


Nov 11 2013

Best Mom Ever: Fizzy Collage

Can we talk about baking soda? It’s like this thing you use a bit of but always have so MUCH of and then you wonder why your baked goods are so sad saggy and then you realize it is because your baking soda is 100 years old. So you go buy more. And this horrific cycle repeats itself.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

When I saw this pinned on my pal Sarah‘s board, I nearly high fived her through my computer, through Pinterest, and through space/time. (I would also high five the person who posted it initially but it’s a link to a photo and not a blog. So thank you random awesome person.)

Lo’s been sick on/off all month and there is only so much Yo Gabba Gabba I can watch. So doing something fun, that also lets her mix colors “like Foofa does!” and didn’t require getting out of PJs was ideal.

I took all the expired baking soda. I took apple cider vinegar. Not because I wanted to but because I recently did an angry clean of our coffee maker using all the white vinegar. And I figured Lo would give two flips about whether the blue was the bluest blue. I used a 9″ round cake pan and an eyedropper purchased that morning at Walgreens.

 

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Explaining how to use an eyedropper was a thing. I was not good at explaining it.

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The basic premise is the kid sprays colored vinegar into a giant vat of baking soda and it fizzes. And the kid thinks it is awesome. I can attest that both these things happen. And even better? The first thing (fizz) doesn’t have to be all that impressive to achieve the second thing (kid thinks it’s awesome). Really, she thought this was just about the best thing since sliced Gabba.

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The delight as she leaned in to watch the fizz was worth whatever mess would come.

Fotor1106130634And…it came. Eventually she realized the fizz power of putting the baking soda directly in the vinegar.

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Which was only made more awesome by the amount of baking soda being dumped.

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Did it go totally as I expected? Better. Did the colors look beautiful? No, they were super pukey heinous. Did it make a bit of a mess? Yup. Add it all up and the fizzy collage makes me the best mom ever. Snow days and sick days await, my friends. Get to it.


Nov 6 2013

Test Kitchen: Premade Parfaits

We’re all about testing out some pre-made meals for Thanksgiving  week, when we’ll have a ton of people here on different time zones. We want them to eat well and feel welcome but also don’t want to be trying to cook breakfast all day long. Here’s a solution we’re excited about.

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We returned to our dear San Francisco this past weekend for an utterly charming wedding. And while we happily brought the CopperTop with us over the summer, for this quick trip we opted to exercise the Grandma Clause.

The Grandma Clause is the magic truth that, most of the time, Grandma wants you to go away so she can develop secret languages, break established rules, fiddle about with bedtimes, and otherwise cause good-natured trouble with the grandbaby. We get a weekend with friends in a great city, Grandma gets a weekend of merry and mischief making, and Loie gets more fun that she knows what to do with.

As a thank you, and to ensure my mom took care of herself, too, Brett suggested getting her yogurt parfaits. My mom loves her some yogurt parfaits.

Instead of picking some up at the store, I decided to make use of the ample mason jar selection we have (At some point, Brett will can stuff, I know). I started to Pin and search and, for once, decided I’d just wing it. Though, this blog has some tips on freezing them which would make it even more family-invasion friendly.

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They made for such pretty additions to the fridge and my mom genuinely gasped when she saw them.

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I opted to make some with vanilla Greek yogurt and some with plain. In most I added either blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries or dried cherries (I wanted to do blueberries but none were available). I also did a couple smaller mason jars with just yogurt and granola.

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We have a great grocery store, Caputo’s, up the way that had big containers of granola. The bulk option at Whole Foods would also be great.

I filled the jars a bit between 1/3 and 1/2 full with yogurt. (The vanilla poured much, much smoother, hence the vanilla leading the photos). Then a hefty layer of granola and enough fruit to fill to just below where the jar narrows. It felt like making those sand sculptures from summers past that are now all the rage in weddings (but definitely NOT the wedding we went to).

I’ve since seen options that include putting the granola in a separate, smaller mason jar. The key, to me though, was to allow it to be edible in the one jar so you’re not washing MORE stuff. And, the clinking of the spoon against the class is a special kind of satisfying.

My mom didn’t even wait for us to leave before getting her parfait on. Cheers to Brett for the idea and my mom for gifting us a weekend away.

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Aug 23 2013

Something I Love: Kid O

Oh Kid O, I love you.

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Kids stuff. You feel me?

It’s an f’ing mess. An inherited toy vacuum is now sentient in our living room and sings in Spanish at all hours of the day. There are pieces of things everywhere. And pieces of things missing that are, apparently, critical to the future happiness of the 2 year old. And the moment I swoop in and pack stuff away because the 0-6 months play range is long gone is the moment Lo asks for the wrist rattles. WRIST RATTLES.

Whenever I see or we get a toy that is not rage inducing I get joy weepy. And I want to share. So, here we are.

I’ve been pleasantly put in place several times now by non-kidded friends picking out rad, rad stuff. It’s like they pick what is cool to them and therefore it is just cool. I miss being cool.

So, when an industrial designer friend gave us two puzzles that weren’t ugly or loud I sighed in both relief and in missing coolness. After reading about Kid O, I’m so not surprised their puzzles lured in a cool non-dad guy. Kid O has colorful but not eye-scorching toys. Their hook is toys that are “simple, modern and educational.” Y’all know I love me a serial comma but I can still get behind that sentiment. Simple. Please. More of that.

The site features four collections that are all quite lovely ranging from wooden toys to party favors and including those Bilibo turtle shell type seats from Moluk that I am kind of obsessed with but don’t totally understand but may buy immediately. I also love the blog for the line which focuses on play and learning and creativity. Like, I love it.

But cool toys are only cool if they appeal to the wee ones. A mid-century mock toddler-sized cocktail station or a make-your-own-mini-folksy-music-fest kit isn’t any good if the kid won’t play with it.

These two puzzles, one which has her sort by height and one by width, keep her happy and occupied.

Lo, who is obviously a genius, is not great with subtle size differences right now (nesting is a hot, hot mess of frustration, stacking a bit less so) but is great with following repeated steps we’ve modeled for her. These puzzles have proven a low-risk way to practice and not once has she done the standard frustration response of throwing everything everywhere forever. I figure the Pavlovian puzzle doing will, in turn, foster a better understanding of size differentiation. Maybe.

Maybe even better, I’ve found it’s excellent practice on my part to speak clearly to her. I get wildly confused myself when trying to explain that she needs a smaller piece, and then a MORE smaller piece. Or I’ll say “that one is too big” and she looks at me like I’m an asshole because, really mom, do you mean the piece is too big or the hole is too big?

Thinking about what I can learn from playing with her or watching her play has been pretty great. I always think about metacognition on her part but hadn’t really started thinking about play-based metacognitive stuff on my part. It’s been limited to how I respond to a freak out or how I model civility or compassion for her.

As I sit here and reflect on it, maybe trying to explain how to sort the lovely blue shades of tall to small will make me a better writer while making me a better mom and her a better size difference noticer. Clarity and conciseness are two things toddlers need and they’re two things writers need too.

So cheers to Kid O, a toy company doing it right and getting it right. Hip hip.

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Aug 21 2013

A Will Signing Party

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We were sitting at an Indian buffet. To paraphrase, Adam said something like, “It can take on an almost celebratory feel.”

An almost celebratory feel. I could get behind that.

I remember asking my mom where we, meaning my sister & I, would go if something happened to her and my dad. We would go where I thought we would go, to an aunt whose home was like our second home and who made us feel like her own already. I don’t remember how old I was but I’d hazard a guess at 4th or 5th grade.

When we, meaning Brett & I, moved in together and eventually married, we did all the stuff you can do easily and online. Made one another our emergency contacts. Made one another beneficiaries of things and stuff. As a teacher and a know-it-all, I had long wondered what the hell took people so long when they had kids. Why didn’t people, like, just have their wills done already?

And then we had a kid.

When she was a newborn(ish) we sent a letter to my sister asking her to act as guardian because clearly we were about to start AND complete the process. I was all over everything like the amazing new mom I knew I’d be.

And she turned one. And then two. And we’d talk about it every once in a while. Inertia is a powerful thing.

And then a few months ago, our dear friend Adam Salzman started a law firm focused on estate planning.

You know when you can’t really ignore the universe anymore? The only person who would be closer to us would be either Brett or I opening a law firm. I sheepishly mentioned to Adam that we, you know, kind of still needed to do this.

We filled out some paperwork on our assets and answered a questionnaire. We met, first at our house and then at an Indian restaurant to nosh and talk.

The process was so much easier than I thought because we worked with someone who took the time to listen and who knows the law.

The process was so much more important than I thought. I hadn’t known much about probate courts and the bogged-downed-ness if wishes and plans weren’t explicitly mapped out.

Adam wasn’t just interested in completing our will. He was interested in us understanding what we were doing. I assumed we’d sign things with the same “Um, ok” feeling we had when we did and redid our mortgage…that things would be pointed at and glossed over. Nope. Not this time.

As a couple, we had already discussed guardianship so it wasn’t wrought with all-family Thanksgiving debates about Lo’s future. Thinking about the logistics of time and geography and our wishes and her interests, talking about those frankly and honestly and without blame or future blame, and mapping it out before we sat down was a smart step. It can be impossibly hard, I realize that. I can say, though, that no hard conversation is ever made easier by just not having it.

It is, also, an incredibly hard thing to think about someone else raising this little person we love so so much that we can’t wait to see what she does tomorrow, let alone in 15 years.

It’s also an incredibly powerful thing. It gave time and space for us to discuss what we want for her in broader and longer terms, in ways far more concrete than the wistful conversations we had when I was newly pregnant. It was beautiful to hear her dad talk in ways that showed what a wonderful father he is, even as we wrapped our collective head around our potential absence. It was good to affirm our initial thoughts about guardianship. They were still accurate and felt right. It was important to do.

Because of those conversations and ones we had in our consultation, Adam helped us craft two provisions specific to our family (not that we’re inventing any wheels here folks, just sharing what we thought about).

First, we asked for specific gifts to be set aside for any children who would become Lo’s de facto siblings, should someone else raise her. In all instances of her care we mapped out, she’d become the third and youngest kiddo for a family to care for. To honor the love we know those other kiddos would give her, we wanted to set aside something as a thank you. We think so much of the children of her potential guardians and they factored into our decisions. Our choices impacted them, too. These young people? They’d rock as big brothers and sisters to our little Lo.

Second, we wanted to empower her guardians to make her world interesting. We want so badly for her to see things and try things and do things. We’d never want a guardian to feel crippled by concern that they are offending us by spending “our” money. We wouldn’t have picked the people we picked if we thought their lack of discretion would be an issue. If anything, we want to empower them to think bigger. If that means using some of the money to fly the whole family somewhere or to send Lo to some awesome camp I can’t even fathom? We think that’s a wonderful honoring of us. Go. Do. Please.

Adam crafted a smart, sound, thoughtful estate plan. I exhaled about as deeply as I ever have. For so many moments as a mom I feel doubt or second guess my choices. The blogs and the articles make questioning nearly everything an automatic part of motherhood.

This, this legal and non-huggy thing, was something I could be completely confident and happy about. I rocked motherhood in that moment.

And so, when it came time to finalize the will, it felt like a thing to celebrate. To celebrate the couple we are, the family we have, the people around us who we know would rally around Lo if we were gone. The people who rally around her now. We wanted to cheers as we checked off this thing that we had meant to get done and had, really, been downgraded in the family triage till the universe kicked us in the pants.

We needed three witnesses. Our neighborhood playgroup, so important to us as parents, was summoned. Could a few of them come over for a quick thing? I’d make it worth their time. I’d make it celebratory.

I got some prosecco and I bought a cake. I had intended to bake…perhaps something with mint so I could riff on “last will and testament” but the kid wanted to go to the park. Since we are doing all this for her and her future happiness, it seemed a bit silly to deny her present happiness when a Whole Foods vanilla with vanilla 5″ cake is so damn good anyway. (Seriously, they are good. They have a lemon one too. Also v. good)

And you know what? We had four witnesses. One who biked over simply because he said he knew if it was at our house it was going to be fun. Yes, our will signing was fun.

Surely, you say, I must realize this is a topic fraught with complexity and layers and messiness for many individuals and couples. Grandparents and aunts and blended families and having kids younger or older or not at all. Pets. People plan for pets! You’re right. I do realize. I don’t mean to be flippant or braggy. We have one kid. It makes things easier. We agreed about guardianship. That made things easier. Our estate attorney knows our family history. Man, did that make things easier.

Instead of saying “But it is SO EASY,” I just want to encourage the start. And the second step. Whether it’s a “Hey, we should talk about this.” or a “Hmm, we need to update that bad boy now that we are so wildly successful.” or a whatever it is. Hard conversations and hard things are usually not made any easier by endlessly delaying their start. We triaged much of our life for two years and thankfully they were two years when Brett & I stayed relatively healthy and earthbound. Estate planning is one of those things that if you don’t do and suddenly need, you’re kind of in a jam.

And, however messy it gets, it has an end point, and I don’t mean someone’s death, though this is certainly all about the end of my mortal days. I mean the end point of the process. At some point the decisions are made, the document is drafted, and that sweet relief IS cause for a lil’ celebrating.

We signed and then we toasted (for reals, no sip was had before those beasts were signed). We ate cake and told stories and had another glass. Because here’s the thing. This is an incredible thing we’ve got. This life. With this kid and these friends. And as we plan for a time we might not be here for, you can be damn sure I’m going to enjoy the time I’ve got.

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Jul 11 2013

The Kindness of Neighbors, Not Strangers.

We are, you know, not living in our home this summer. So we are not, you know, with our neighbors and community. We love Oak Park, the community and friendships and co-ops and goodness. I wrote about the powerful impact of a neighborhood a little over a year ago and stand by every sentence in that post (minus the upkeep of the soup exchange).

It’s hard to leave for a month. To have the playgroup talking about outdoor concerts, to have Loie ask about her beloved music teacher, to know our garden will (again) be shriveled up and sad because we’re gone for so long. We miss an annual BBQ at a friend’s, marching in the July 4th parade, and at least two of our beloved tot’s birthdays. Saturday donuts at the Farmers’ Market and all those summery delights.

It can be hard, too, to figure out our place with our temporary neighbors when away.

But leaving and coming are both part of the process, both important for us and both processed and talked about.

I love when a good anecdote brings those concepts, or any concepts, into high relief (especially when it comes with relief at the end of the anecdote).

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And thus:

Noise travels in our San Francisco home. We have next door neighbors who are in the same building, as opposed to the next house, here. We try to keep jumping, crashing, and cavorting to the second story to spare our downstairs neighbors. Instead, we reserve that space for sleep. Because sleep should be quiet.

Lo’s had a few rough nights this week were she’s woken up at 3:55 on the dot and yelped. A quick back rub, snuggle, and song gets her back to sleep fast but I’m incredibly sensitive to disrupting the sleep of people who call this building home. For one, I have a terrible time falling back to sleep so I empathize with the jolt of a toddler pre-dawn alarm clock.

And (more importantly) two, we’ve not yet been able to prove our worth as neighbors and likely won’t have time to in our brief stay. We can’t get anyone’s mail while their away or feed a fish, pour a hefty glass of wine while watching Mad Men or bring something over in celebration or comfort.

The give and take, back and forth, relationship piece of neighboring is harder, maybe impossible, when it’s a temporary measure.

So yesterday, when a downstair’s neighbor passed me on the street it took me a moment to recognize and place her: Ah, YES, a neighbor.

When she said “Oh! I have a note I’ve been meaning to drop off at your door,” it took me less than a moment to fully panic. To brace myself for the comment about being woken up, the question about what I was going to do about it, the sigh that implies “You are not my neighbor, I am allowed to be only annoyed with you, not compassionate.”

Blood rushed to my ears (and I imagine my cheeks). I squeaked an “Oh! Really?” as Lo hopped up and down next to me.

The note?

It came with two children’s books. And kind words about being a grandparent and a correct spelling of Loie’s name.

The neighbor had a book about San Francisco and a book about Chicago she thought Loie and the children of our friends might enjoy. She though that Loie might like seeing things familiar and be introduced to things she’ll meet. And she wanted us, as Chicagoans, to take that book home with us.

I damn near wept on the sidewalk. With relief, yes. But also with a sense of the power of neighborliness and a wee bit of shame that I assumed the worst.

Might she be frustrated with the yelps? Sure, she wouldn’t be the only one.

Might I need to keep a more open mind about how long it takes to build a dash of community and neighborliness? Sure, and it seems like I’m the only one.

 


Sep 16 2012

Something I Love

Oh, Victorinox bread knife. I love you.

When registering, we wanted a bread knife. A good bread knife.

I stumbled across the insanely good Amazon reviews of this knife after being whisper-guided that way by a clerk at a store. The clerk pointed our way to an under $50 knife that would serve us very, very, very well.

The wavy cut of the 10 1/4 blade works beautifully on baguettes and we also came to learn tomatoes. No more shirking tomato cutting duties for this girl.

And the best? The best is that it has made easy work of chocolate cutting. I read about it in a cookbook and it was a game changer.

First time I tried it is the photo above. We needed a ton of dark chocolate for raspberry stracciatella ice cream. The perfectly chopped chocolate hits the cold ice cream, re-hardens and is “torn apart” which is where the term stracciatella comes from. Love me some etymology. And some ice cream.


May 12 2012

Something I Love

Oh, Authentic Models, I love you.

We were wondering just what to do with a girl’s room that we didn’t want to scream GIRL’S ROOM Y’ALL!

At Bellini Baby we saw these beautiful vintage-looking balloon models floating high above us. I went home and began to Google like a madwoman.

The Red/Tan quickly became the design inspiration for Loie’s nursery.

Over her head float five hot air balloons in primary colors.

Their globe mobile was a changing table coup d’etat.

Her nursery quickly came together. A vintage-Paris-not too Frenchy-nursery.

More, another time perhaps, on this room I love.


Apr 22 2012

Something I Love

Oh ViaBoxes, I love you.

ViaBoxes are module storage units. They are 15x15x15x15 (or however many 15s you need to describe a box). They fit with their fellow ViaBoxes and can be customized with fun cut-out shapes in the front. You can add recessed doors and a shelf inside, which is what we did to create shoe storage.

We needed a mudroom type space since our old mudroom type space is now my much-beloved baking center and smack dab in the new kitchen. Our goal was to make it look like a custom built in without having to, ahem, pay for it. Our incredible -guy- David merged them all those Vias together and melded three different pieces of wood, staining them each slightly different shades because of their base colors for the bench, and built us some serious awesome in the bench/mantel department.

We also added mercury glass knobs from Anthropologie and reclaimed wood from Rebuilding Exchange, a cool spot on Ashland that sells just about everything ever from old buildings.

I sent the picture to their website because I like people doing good work to know their good work made me happy. I got this back: “That IS awesome! I must share this. That is a great ViaBoxes “hack”.” Well, well! A hack! How domestically subversive of us.